I stood in front of the bathroom mirror running my hands over the marks he’d left on me. Little nibbles and scratches, like sexual graffiti on my skin. Flashes of his flesh surged through my mind and I smiled as I fantasized about what we could do the next time.
And then it hit me.
A knot of post-sex shame tangled inside of me. I’d violated the most primary tenet of female sexuality: Continue reading →
Yesterday I did a take down of the myth of the sexually aggressive male using science. Now I want to share some stories as further proof that we’re buying into a harmful lie.
In my teen years I regarded romance as something created by men to convince women to have sex with them. My very few unsatisfying sexual experiences combined with a rabidly sex-negative culture reinforced my viewpoint that sex was solely a man’s prerogative.
Despite pervasive public images depicting men as violent, sex-crazed, idiotic, irresponsible louts, I can never believe men are somehow inherently bad.
I’ve met too many good ones.
Not just friends, family members, lovers and boyfriends. Perfect strangers who could have done any number of unspeakable things to me if they wished. Yet the overwhelming majority of men showed me nothing but charitable kindness.
I started traveling through North America when other kids my age were wrapped up tight in comfy but suffocating blankets of homework and high school drama. With no money and no job I made big tracks in big rig trucks. For two years I spent time in the male-dominated world of long-haul trucking, learning as much about CB radios and swearing as I did about the basic decency of most men.
Out of hundreds of rides, the overwhelming majority talked to me about their lives, their families, what they had seen in the world and swapped some really good dirty jokes and limericks. Often they bought me food or gave me an extra pair of socks when the weather began to turn cold. One guy was hauling a shipment of canned foods and gave me several cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew from his haul when we parted.
Outside of the truckers, other men I met on my travels showed similar hospitality. Men invited me into their homes with no other motive than to provide me shelter and have some company around. My collection of bawdy jokes and one-liners began to come in handy.
So, for me, the fact that so many perpetrators of sexual and physical violence are men is an uncomfortable truth. But I don’t think sexual and physical violence is so much urged by biology as it is encouraged by gender perceptions. The few men who tried to hurt me were always from geographical areas where the population adhered to traditional mandates of gender, an interpretation I’ve found to be backed by research. (This is only one study, but if you wish to see more studies about masculine gender ideology and behaviors, I will be happy to provide others.)
What I find more amazing is that, in a culture that still echoes misogynistic sentiments, the majority of men I have known are good men. They’ve heard the same messages but through experience (and maybe that simple human desire to be a good person) they make the decision to act decently towards others.
I dedicate this post to all the good men in my life, past, present and future. Please know how much I adore you.
People love explaining human sexual behavior with evolution. If a behavior exists, it must be because of evolution…right?
In a recent study, among 827 women who self-reported on sexual behavior and fantasies, those women in the 27-45 age range reported the highest frequencies of sex and fantasy. The study authors explain this with evolutionary theory: older women compensate for their aging uterus by being hyper-sexual. Essentially, they’re saying an aging female brain incites more sexual desire in order to compete with younger (and ostensibly more attractive) females.
Here are my critiques of this analysis:
Nulliparity. If the evolutionary explination is correct, you would find that nulliparous women (those that have never borne a child) would have higher rates of sexual fantasy and behavior than women in their age cohort with one or more children. Pregnancy and childbirth are hard on the human body so it makes sense to level off sexual desire with age if a woman has already had children and women with no children would have more of an impetus to be hypersexual. An earlier study by the same researcher found no difference on account of having children or not.
Does not account for fecundity. Women with higher fecundity (fertility) would be less likely to need this adaptation because they get pregnant easily.
Fails to address social factors. The social taboo against female desire for the sake of desire can compel younger women to avoid sex and actively resist fantasies. Factor in roommates, ability to assess or obtain a sexual partner and sexual confidence, and an argument for social conditioning emerges.
Simplifies evolutionary theory to explain one strategy. Multiple mating strategies and behavioral adaptations exist within the same species. I’ve written about oversimplification of evolutionary theory in media before.
No cross-cultural or longitudinal comparisons. If the “cougar” approach to mating is indeed an evolutionary adaptation, you would find this phenomenon in many locales and points in history. I checked into data from the Kinsey Studies and the evidence is a bit muddled concerning frequency. Women reported a gradual rise in solitary sexual practices (ie jillin’off) but the website summary does not state when that behavior begins to level off.
I freely admit my bias when it comes to evolutionary explanations, especially concerning desire. The biggest reason is that the evidence is contrary to my experience as well as many of my female friends. When I was a teen my sexual desires came into conflict with basic social acceptance. I felt horny but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even realize that masturbation was an option for me. Instead, I supressed everything I felt between my legs and was constantly frustrated. One time, at 16, I was so horny I actually cried.
And no wonder. If the recent public outrage and ridicule of Taylor Momson’s vibrator comment is any indication, young women are still being shamed about their sexual desire.
I’m not in Time’s “old lady” category just yet (27-45, WTF?) but I definitely fantasize more and have more sex. Why? I don’t feel ashamed about it. Simple as that. Cheers to getting older and learning when to not give a fuck about others’ opinions.
Note: I am not saying that biological factors are meaningless in this case. Rather, a completely biological explanation is insufficient to explain human sexual desire.
I have a confession: most porn bores the hell out of me.
When I was a teenager, porn was exciting and titillating because it was forbidden. The shaky camera and dubious acting did nothing to damper my adolescent enthusiasm for flesh-on-flesh visuals. Now I get more of a rise out of a Jeffry McDaniel poem or an Oglaf comic strip (NSFW) than a Vivid production.
What happened? Nothing, which is exactly why it bores me.
Most porn I see is the same linear progression appendage-in-orifice mêlée as in my high school years. The only apparent novelty is how many people can shove how many dicks/toys/vegetables into how many holes. Some people get creative with cinematography and context, but that’s still the same anal sex scene behind the glitz.
I realize I may be desensitized. Years ago, I organized a group called “Girls Watch Porn” where ladies got together to watch and review smut. We found some great films by Shine Louise Houston and Eon McKai along with the 1970s classics. But mostly, we found tired and uninspired videos of sex along with some disturbing and unhygienic scenes. (The raw chicken porn is forever burned into my retinas.)
But overexposure isn’t the best explanation. Porn itself is partially to blame.
“doesn’t encompass the range of human experiences and desires anymore than a handicam and a handful of people having sex encompasses the range of human sexual experiences and desires.”
Porn (to me) should be about fantasy and possibility. How much fantasy and possibility can you express through low-budget formulaic porno flicks that spend less time in post-production than in filming? Not a whole lot.
Some people find porn horribly offensive. As with any offensive media in the world, the best bet is simple avoidance.
But I’m not offended. I’m unsatisfied.
I know I’m not alone in this either. This Best of Craiglist from Boston summarizes my feelings perfectly:
You suck, dude.
And I’m not trying to make some sort of cute pun here – you really do suck. You’re awful, horrible, poorly made, and I can think of a whole list of huge problems that you have. (more…)
I wish pro-good porn crusaders had half the psychotic dedication and passion of anti-porn crusaders. What a world that would be.
“The fact is that women have been trapped. Reproduction is used, consciously or not, as a means to control women, to limit their options and to make them subordinate to men. In many societies a serious approach to reproductive health has to have this perspective in mind. We must seek to liberate women.”
Dr. Nafis Sadik Executive Director, UN Population Fund
I graduated with a Master’s degree this year. My own intellect was the source of success, supported by insane dedication and amazing friends. But without condoms and feminism I could not have gone this far. Continue reading →
Yesterday, WordPress caught me with my pants down. I posted some partially formed thoughts on nice guys vs. bad boys in the bedroom. Namely, the pervasive idea that nice guys are duds in the bedroom. Or that any nice person will not be good in bed because sex is naughty and only bad people can be good at naughty things.
Sometime ago, I found myself in a bar, engaging in a verbal struggle with a soon-to-be ex-lover. He stirred his Mai Tai and told me why I liked him. “I’m an asshole. Women like assholes. Why do you think the sex is so good?”
Yes. Because all 3 billion plus men on the planet fit into two categories: nice guys and bad boys. No complexity to their personalities, no context to their actions, no mistakes leading to growth. Just wusses and studs.
Why do we deem nice behavior as incompatible with sexual skills? A friend of mine sent me a link to a PUA (Pick-Up Artist) blog where the author asserted that men were either good boyfriends or good lovers. Never both.
The ex-lover I mentioned based his sexuality on the false good guy/bad boy sex norms. In his mind, being highly sexed meant he was secretly an asshole, despite any acts of kindness: Bringing me a bottle of wine and chocolate when I was dying from cramps. Mixing me drinks. Making me dinner.
What a blatant jerk.
Underlying the alpha and beta male mindset is that hot sex is incompatible with kindness. We think nice girls can’t be sexual or that sexual girls are bad and bitchy. Is this just a logical fallacy rooted in demonizing sex? If sex is bad then all sexual people are bad people?
Let’s drop this sexual construction like the bad habit it is. Sure, some jerks are good in bed. But lots of perfectly nice people can fuck like madmen. There is no real correlation between social kindness and sexual satisfaction. The only sure thing we can say about bad boys is that they have more sex partners, but a high number of sex partners does not equal sexual skills.
In fact, it might mean the opposite. Jerks could be so self-obsessed that they are awful in bed and so flip through partners quickly. Just because you get someone into bed does not mean that you will get them off.
Edit: If you think this post is a little underdeveloped in the idea department you’re right. Want to read an expansion of these concepts? A follow up post can be found here or by clicking the “Kindness and Hot Sex are Not Mutually Exclusive” link at the top.
In my first year of graduate school, I spoke to an undergraduate class about life pursuing a Master’s in Sexuality Studies alongside an alumni from my program.
While we waited for the professor to introduce us, she leaned over to me and whispered, “Are they still teaching sexuality but not sex in that department?”
My eyes went wide and I only managed to utter a small “Yes” before the professor called the class to attention. Sitting next to that polished, astute woman, all I could think was, “Holy Shit. Sex is taboo in sexuality studies.”
I often feel straddled between two worlds.
On one planet, populated by the smart kids from high school, everyone talks about structural violence, theory, race, sexual identities, gender and queer politics. The denizens of this planet worship ideas.
On the other planet, populated by the weird kids from high school, everyone talks about cock rings, lube, blow jobs, anal sex, genital sores and Pedobear. The denizens of this planet worship acts.
I want these two worlds to collide but only if they fit together post-collision. Why can’t we talk about cock-ring use as a part of sexual identity? Lube access as a structural impediment to sexual happiness? Anal sex as it relates to gender?
Academia shies away from sex. We only talk about sexuality, not because academics in this field are prudes, but because we want funding for research. People with lots of money are prudes. They will sponsor HIV/AIDS prevention research but not studies on women’s attitudes towards blow jobs or condom use in the porn industry.
In a rather testy final essay for a professor, I wrote the following on academia and sex:
One major thing I have learned, in general, is that many academics like to skirt around the topic of sex as if the act were something crass, best left to the plebes. I am now absolutely certain that change cannot come from an institution so bent on removing its hive mind from that of the general population. Wherever I have seen organizations doing great change to make people feel comfortable with their own and others’ sexualities, academia is suspiciously absent.
On the flipside, community organizations struggle for funding because they seem unprofessional. Part of this is due to the heavy sex talk but the other part is because they don’t do the polished professional dance practiced by academics. I wonder if this is unconscious distancing.
So I sit in both worlds, always feeling a bit on the outside. Too sex-minded for academia, too theory-minded for grassroots sex ed.
Ideas and action must come together to be effective. Sexual theory and sexual bodies must be understood as inherently linked. I am one of the only people in my cohort with a good grasp on physiological and biological aspects of sexuality.
Go ask someone from my department how an erection works. I would expect an incredulous blank stare for that kind of question. Go ask someone in the streets about queer theory and you will get the same weird stare. Bodies matter when talking about sex. For most people sex = physical.
You can’t spit sexual theory to the general population without relating thoughts to their visceral experiences. And mental masturbation does not count as a sex act.
I raise my mimosa this morning to bid adieu to 2009, the worst year ever. The world seems at its lowest right now, so things can only get better. Right?
Many of my friends mark 2009 as a learning year. I sure as hell hope so. If we as individuals, cities, nations, cultures and subcultures stroll into 2010 padded with willful ignorance and blind to the lessons of the last decade, there is no hope for anyone.
But I’m an optimistic cynic. Here are my hopes for the world of sex in 2010. Continue reading →