Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Feminist Approach to Sexuality

Sadly, a coherent feminist approach to sexuality hasn't yet been worked out. Dedicated feminists often slip into the most tired of patriarchal stereotypes when discussing sex. A great example is "Professor Foxy's Column" on Feministing. I have been reading the column for a while and my sense of bewilderment has been growing with every passing week. The only goal of this quasi-feminist author is to make women and female sexuality as convenient as possible and as available as possible for the consumption by the patriarchal system. Here are some shocking examples.

1. A woman has been married for 18 months but hasn't been able to have sex with her husband because of how uncomfortable and painful it is. This young couple was part of the "abstinence movement", so both of them were virgins on their wedding day. The expected feminist answer to this woman should be to suggest she figure out whether she desires this man physically at all. Without asking this crucial question, P. Foxy plunges into very detailed advice on where and how and by what means the husband should put 1, 2, 3 and up to 4 fingers into her vagina. The conclusion to this piece is absolutely mind-boggling: "Stop taking it so seriously and eventually, with the love that you clearly have, it will work. You've made a commitment to him and he to you and you have time to make this work and you can discover great things along the way." So, we need to come to a feminist blog to hear that "commitment" will guarantee good sex? That love and sex are the same thing? Who is P. Foxy kidding here? Of course, doing everything possible to fit female sexuality into the confines of a monogamous patriarchal marriage is an all-important goal. But aren't Conservative media offering enough advice of this caliber?

2. On faking orgasms, this "sex specialist" says: "This feminist is ok with the occasional faking. Our partners, regardless of gender, have egos. And many people have the desire to keep their partner's ego intact." In other words, female pleasure should be sacrificed for such an important thing as male ego. Congratulations, this is where centuries of feminism have led us. Let's suffer through unpleasant sex just so that our men don't discover that they are bad in bed. Their feelings might be hurt and we can't allow for that to happen.

3. A woman asks advice on how to talk to her 7-year-old son about sex. The response is couched in profoundly ideological terms: "You can describe it as something that two people do when they are older and when they care about each other (emphasis mine). He may very well be satisfied with this answer for the beginning. If he presses further, you can give more details: sex is when two people (you can say adult if you want) who care about each other are naked together and touch each other." Notice the insistence on caring about each other which consistently (twice within the same paragraph) tries to inculcate the idea that sex and emotions are somehow connected. Imagine what the poor guy raised in such a rhetoric will feel when he discovers that many of the women who sleep with him don't give a damn about him or his feelings. (I've met such men and, believe me, the picture isn't pretty.)

4. A woman asks how to inform her parents about her polyamorous relationship. P. Foxy suggests that she prepare herself to a third-degree interrogation where she will have to answer questions and field commentts like: "Honey, do you think you can't get a man who really loves you? He is getting his cake and eating it too. Darling, you know you aren't actually ok with that." The woman has to take into account that the parents "may need to end up explaining this to their friends as well" and as a result she needs to "answer their questions with patience." The idea that a woman does not have to justify her sex life to her parents - as well as to their circle of friends - does not even enter this "feminist's" reasoning.

In short, female pleasure should always take second (third, fourth, etc.) place to such all important things as commitment, emotions, husband, marriage, parents, male-egos, and even the parents' circle of friends.

104 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Female sexuality has been so colonized by male-dominated society that not even feminist discourse can create a liberating alternative.

Natalee said...

Clarissa, I think you just found your female Douthat. :-)

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of feminist discourses that create a liberating alternative to sexual repression. I am not an expert, but Benoite Groult back in the 1960s wrote about sexual emancipation for women. It still rings truth.

The problem is the actual wave of feminism, as Clarissa consistently pointed out in her blog.

Ol.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering - why is it that female sexuality SHOULD trump absolutely everything else (commitments, emotions, the self-worth that partners feel)? Did I miss something?

The assumption that sexuality should trump everything else is a rather dangerous one, I think. When the shoe's on the other foot, that assumption could justify an awful lot of things I think we'd rather avoid.

Do you honestly place your personal, individual pursuit of physical pleasure above your friends, your social commitments and your emotions? Perhaps you do. That would explain the maladjusted tone of certain lines in this entry: "the women who sleep with him don't give a damn about him or his feelings." I get the point, but it's a little disturbing that your dwelling on the separation of sex from emotions suddenly turns into "ha! We never even cared about you, men!"

Worrying that you think an individual's pursuit of sexual pleasure should trump everything else. I wonder what would happen if everyone behaved that way?

Anonymous said...

There's also this line which has me confused: "... tries to inculcate the idea that sex and emotions are somehow connected."

Eh, I'm sure if you asked most people in actual relationships, they'd tell you that sex and emotions are certainly connected. That's surely one of the fundamentals of a 'relationship' of any kind, as vague and undefined as that term may be; there's also nothing anti-feminist about that. Actually, I'd consider an emotional attachment to be a particularly feminist basis for sex, as an emotional connection would preclude the use of the partner as a means to an end. Physical relations to express mutual love seems fine to me. I'm pretty sure that sex and emotions are 'somehow connected'.

This is not, of course, to say that casual or non-emotional sex is bad. Just that your assertion that sex and emotions are not connected is ridiculous, and - without meaning to sound personal - anyone who has been in a committed, emotional, physical relationship will attest to this.

Clarissa said...

"Do you honestly place your personal, individual pursuit of physical pleasure above your friends, your social commitments and your emotions"

-I place my pursuit of pleasure over my parents' desire to interrogate me.

Clarissa said...

"Benoite Groult back in the 1960s wrote about sexual emancipation for women"

-The 60ies, you are right. There was also a lot of good feminist discourse in the 70ies. It all died since then, though.

"Clarissa, I think you just found your female Douthat."

-I think that might be true. :-)

Clarissa said...

"Just wondering - why is it that female sexuality SHOULD trump absolutely everything else (commitments, emotions, the self-worth that partners feel)? "

-I am discussing a certain feminist website that often avoids putting any value on female sexual pleasure. It promotes the idea that women should be convenient and ready for use by the patriarchal society. Nobody is proposing that sex should 'trump" everything else. I wonder where you saw that idea being promoted.

"Worrying that you think an individual's pursuit of sexual pleasure should trump everything else"

-Can you show me where I said that? If not, then where are you getting these ideas and why do you choose to ascribe them to me?

Clarissa said...

"Eh, I'm sure if you asked most people in actual relationships, they'd tell you that sex and emotions are certainly connected"

-I'm not talking about relationships. I'm talking about sex. Can you forget about relationships for two seconds and just discuss human sexuality? It is possible to care about someone deeply and have horrible sex with them. It's also possible to not care about someone at all and have amazing sex with them. Describing sex as "something that people who care about each other do" is wrong.

"Physical relations to express mutual love seems fine to me."

-Yes, it's perfectly fine. It's also perfectly fine to have sex for other purposes when no mutual love is involved.

"Just that your assertion that sex and emotions are not connected is ridiculous, and - without meaning to sound personal - anyone who has been in a committed, emotional, physical relationship will attest to this"

-They are connected for some people at some points in their lives. But they are not for other people at other points in their lives. I was criticizing P. Foxy's attempt to give "caring" as a definition of sex.

Tammy said...

Wasn't this column also the place where the whole asexuality debacle came from?

I wonder how you still have the presence of mind to read the column after that kind of advice.

Clarissa said...

Oh, yeah. I didn't want to get into that whole insanity once again but it was the weirdest thing ever.

Anonymous said...

Although I agree with you on most points, you somehow lost me on number 3... Are you suspecting that when people speak about caring for each other as desirable prerequisite for sex they actually mean "have to love each other till death do them part"? Are you sure everybody means the same things when they speak about "caring"? Because if one adopts a very black-or-white approach, then it becomes difficult to imagine how purely physical pleasure should trump not caring about each other whatsoever? I thought physical pleasure involves at least caring about partner's physical pleasure...
V.

Laurel said...

In regards to the woman trying to "come out", as it were, to her mother about her polyamory....

I would have to agree with you (Clarissa) that the woman shouldn't have to, under any circumstances, justify her sex life or sexual choices to her mother (or anybody!) in any way at any time. She may, however, want to please her mother (by answering the question of why said boyfriend still is listed as in a relationship) whilst still being honest with her. That doesn't make it the right thing to do, but I can say personally that I often find myself wanting to justify/explain/have my mother approve of me when I know for a fact that her approval or understanding of the given situation doesn't actually matter in any way. It's unfortunate that this woman feels the need to explain herself when it's obviously going to be a difficult and ultimately unnecessary thing to do, but I don't think that Professor Foxy was wrong to try and explain a way for this woman to do so. The woman did ask for advice on that, so Foxy gave it, without lecturing her on the fact that she doesn't actually have to explain herself (though a mention that she doesn't have to do that would have been a good addition, I think).

I'd like to make it clear that I'm not defending Professor Foxy's other entries as well; this example you mentioned just hit a chord with me, is all. You made a great point about these articles that I hadn't really noticed before; I am new to really thinking in feminist terms and appreciate a more seasoned insight into everyday writings and situations such as this. If my opinion on this point is showing ignorance on my part, I'd love to hear more from you about this situation and what you'd think of what I had to say.

Clarissa said...

"Are you suspecting that when people speak about caring for each other as desirable prerequisite for sex they actually mean "have to love each other till death do them part"? "

-No. I only suspect that it's a very weird definition for ALL sex.

"I thought physical pleasure involves at least caring about partner's physical pleasure..."

-Would you agree that there are many people who don't care? And they still have sex. As they should have a right to do if everyone consents.

I think that defining all sex as caring is very limiting and wrong.

"She may, however, want to please her mother"

-I believe that this is very unhealthy. I don't think that you are being ignorant or anything like that. I just think that women are conditioned by upbringing to please before anything else. So we try to be pleasing to others in all aspects of our lives, including sex.

In reality, if WE are pleased with our personal lives, that should be pleasing enough to our parents. If it isn't, then it's time to question what their love for us is really about.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you have found a forum to bash people on. Through out all of your rantings (here and on the other website) you have never once offered what your advice would be. What would you tell your kid about sex? Fuck any and everyone, doesn't matter how you feel about it?

Would you be providing the same advice to a LGBT person coming out to their friends and family? Are people just suppose cut everyone out of their lives who don't agree with them?

These people are asking for specific things that just happen to go against what you believe in. It doesn't mean that it's wrong, it's just different?

What would you do if you went to a therapist to work out your shit and they just kept jamming what they wanted you to do down your throat? How does that help you?

Maybe you should spend more time using your skills at reading and comprehension before you start making comments.

Oh and great use of other website to promote your own. I hope it's successful for you.

Clarissa said...

"What would you tell your kid about sex? Fuck any and everyone, doesn't matter how you feel about it?"

-Yes.

'Would you be providing the same advice to a LGBT person coming out to their friends and family?"

-Yes.

"It doesn't mean that it's wrong, it's just different"

-Yes.

"Oh and great use of other website to promote your own. I hope it's successful for you."

-Yes and thank you.

"Maybe you should spend more time using your skills at reading and comprehension before you start making comments."

-No.

"What would you do if you went to a therapist to work out your shit and they just kept jamming what they wanted you to do down your throat"

-And if I went to a dentist, I would expect something different too. So what's your point? I'm not writing as a therapist, a dentist, or a heart surgeon.

I wonder why when I mention that women should have the right to their own bodies and aim to please themselves before thay start pleasing any one else some people begin to foam at the mouth.

Maybe their therapist can help them.

Natalee said...

Have you noticed how weirdos always come from one and the same website? It's uncanny. And they all say the same thing. This last argument about LGBT and therapists needing "to meet the client where they are AT" is something I read in the 'Asexuality' topic from an equally angry person. Maybe it's the same person? Or maybe they are both members of some club for frustrated angry individuals.

Clarissa said...

Wow, you might be right! I knew I heard the same weird argumentation somewhere. I sincerely hope it's not the same person, though. Nobody can be so unhealthy as to follow you into every topic where you happen to mention sex producing the same unrelated and meaningless arguments no matter what's being discussed.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you are the angry frustrated individuals because there was nothing angry in what I said at all. Maybe I just try to be rational instead of using being a feminist as a weapon to get back at people who have hurt me. I am fully aware and appreciate who I am as a woman and don't need to push it on others to feel validated or alive in this society.

It's funny how the only way to be a feminist in your mind is to be militant. I thought the whole point was to just own who you are and live it proudly.

Clarissa said...

I'm sorry, Anonymous, you lost me again. This is not about anybody being hurt or getting back at anybody, or feeling "validated" or 'alive". I disagree with the kind of sex advice offered by Femenisting. Many other people, as you can see from this discussion, for example, don't like that advice either. The point of expressing opinions is just that, expressing opinions. I don't call it a "militant way" of being anybody. I have opinions, I express them. Then a discussion ensues. It's fun, it's entertaining. Then some people start taking it way too seriously. But that I can't help.

Thank you for your contribution!

Anonymous said...

"Femenisting"

I c wut u did thur.

Also, I think you're just trying to get traffic for your poorly designed blog, lol.

Oh, in before "if you don't like it get your own blog"

Clarissa said...

If my blog is so bad, then why do you keep returning? It's your third time here, if I'm not mistaken.

The Internet is full of better designed blogs with no typos, why aren't you going there?

Anonymous said...

It's got this funny trainwreckish quality to it. I love it!

Anonymous said...

Clarissa,

You have a lot of interesting points here, but your expectations of Professor Foxy seem poorly construed. Foxy is simply addressing the concerns of her questioners, whereas you expect her to tell the questioners that they often have the wrong concerns.

For example, you seem to harp on the fact that sex is not inherently connected to emotional commitment. This is true--it would be wrong to essentialize sex this way. However, this is a separate point from the fact that, for many people (including many of her questioners), sex is intimately associated with emotional commitment. This isn't wrong, as nobody is saying it's objectively so, yet for these people, such care is important for their pursuit of happiness and/or sexual contentment. (It also seems fair to say that this connection of sex and care is not unique to women; many men also connect the two in their minds.)

Professor Foxy seems to get this. Consider the entry on faking orgasms. She doesn't simplify the matter; both her and the questioner say it's an extremely complicated issue and that women should not sacrifice their pleasure for another. Yet, she also addresses the fact that the questioner does love her boyfriend and feels good knowing he feels good; ultimately, for the questioner, the pleasure in her care for him may outweigh the pleasure of receiving a difficult orgasm. You strawman Professor Foxy here when you paraphrase her argument as "female pleasure SHOULD be sacrificed for...the male ego." Foxy isn't making categorical statements like that, she acknowledges that sexuality is an individual thing that varies from person to person. Shouldn't feminism be about accepting differences like these instead of decreeing "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not"? Foxy says that, if faking feels right sometimes, she should do it; you say that the orgasm should be every woman’s top priority, sexually. Which is more accepting of individual differences?

A similar situation here applies to the poly questioner who wants her mother to understand. You say in the comment thread that "this is very unhealthy...women are conditioned by upbringing to please before anything else." Yes, women face greater pressure to please than men do, but 1) this pressure is not absolute and 2) pleasing other people is not necessarily wrong. As a man, I also feel a desire to please people around me. I've had conversations with my parents about girlfriends they don't like, not because I want their approval or because I need to justify it but because I love my parents and want them to understand.

Similarly, I don't think a desire to sexually please the other is bad; I've pleasured my girlfriend sometimes when I haven't been in the mood, and vice versa, because we get pleasure from each other's pleasure. The Ayn-Rand-approach to sexuality you’re advocating may work for you and many others, but to universalize it is disturbing, and you should be careful to make sure that you recognize the difference between subtle, societal pressures on women's sexuality and a simple joy in pleasing others.


Kyle

Clarissa said...

Thank you for your contribution, Kyle. It's great to have well-argued respectful responses.

"Foxy is simply addressing the concerns of her questioners, whereas you expect her to tell the questioners that they often have the wrong concerns."

-You are absolutely right! I respect people enough to be honest with them. I don't think people are brainless fools who need to be coddled by the endless repetitions of "Everything you do is right, as long as it's your choice."

"this is a separate point from the fact that, for many people (including many of her questioners), sex is intimately associated with emotional commitment"

-I don't remember the woman who asked the question about her son saying anything like that.

"Shouldn't feminism be about accepting differences like these instead of decreeing "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not"?"

-That's exactly the problem I have with third-wave feminism. I wrote about it extensively on many occasions. I do not support the idea that "all choices are valid and should be celebrated." I think it's possible to make stupid choices. And I also think that people should have no fear of expressing their opinions about the poor choices of others. Which is what I do.

" don't think a desire to sexually please the other is bad; I've pleasured my girlfriend sometimes when I haven't been in the mood, and vice versa, because we get pleasure from each other's pleasure. "

-Of course, it isn't bad, it's great. But for other people at other points in their lives, it's different. Andd everybody is right because this is what their sexuality demands at this time.

"Foxy says that, if faking feels right sometimes, she should do it; you say that the orgasm should be every woman’s top priority, sexually. Which is more accepting of individual differences?"

-My goal is not and never has been to be "more accepting of individual differences". My goal is to be honest and to express my opinions.

Clarissa said...

"It's got this funny trainwreckish quality to it. I love it!"

-Wow, I've got my own troll now. I feel so important. :-) Thank you, troll, I feel flattered.

Anonymous said...

Hey Clarissa,

Your criticism of third wave feminism is interesting, and it helps me understand the nature of your concern with Professor Foxy. (I should add that I'm a Feministing reader who saw your link in the comment thread, so I only skimmed through your previous posts before responding here, so I appreciate the explanation of your stance.)

While I can't say I support third-wave feminism without reservations, I do think that your criticism stems to the root of our disagreement. In other words, while you say you want to express your opinions about "the poor choices of others," you don't explain on what grounds your opinions of Foxy's questioners can move from a mere "here's what I would do in your situation" to "you're wrong." Foxy's method is to prescribe answers she believes will make the questioner happiest in accordance with their desires. Let's take the faking orgasm as an example. Foxy says that if the questioner believes she's making the right decision (a choice that must be tough for any woman who considers herself a feminist), then she should not worry about pressures to pursue an orgasm she doesn't always care to get. You're saying this is the wrong choice, and your original post guesses that she's letting herself suffer through unpleasant sex (something that probably isn't true, as she indicated that she enjoys her sex but just has a tough time orgasming). Yet, while your response to my comment said you feel free to say people are making bad choices, you haven't yet (in this post or in any of your comments) said how this choice and comparable choices by other questioners are bad, instead of merely one you wouldn't choose.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that last post is by me. (I feel like I should attach my names to these things so you dont get confused with all the anon posters.)

Kyle

Clarissa said...

"and your original post guesses that she's letting herself suffer through unpleasant sex (something that probably isn't true, as she indicated that she enjoys her sex but just has a tough time orgasming). Yet, while your response to my comment said you feel free to say people are making bad choices, you haven't yet (in this post or in any of your comments) said how this choice and comparable choices by other questioners are bad"

-I thought it was obvious, but if you are saying it isn't then I'll explain. There is no "just a tough time orgasming." If sexual intercourse doesn't lead you to an orgasm on a regular basis, you have serious sexual and psychological issues which eventually will translate into physiological ones. Sexual excitement that does not lead to any release is uncomfortable and can be a little painful. The blood rushes to the genitals during sexual excitement and obviously it should lead somewhere.

People who are constantly frustrated sexually become weepy, hysterical, over sensitive. They suffer from migraines. All those sitcoms about women who are super sensitive about the toilet seat being left up, the anniversary date, the lack of commitment, appreciation, etc. hint at the reality of female sexual frustration. All those mothers who breastfeed children old enough to go to school, hover around their children like helicopters, butt into their personal lives are, once again, victims of sexual frustration.

Nobody wants to talk about it because it's such an unpleasant reality. It's much easier to dismiss people by saying "Oh, whatever you do is right and good." But that is not my way. Women who fake sexual satisfaction are destroying their health and eventually will start destroying people around them.

Anonymous said...

Clarissa,

I don't think you're taking into consideration how incredibly sexually diverse people are. As that questioner explains, "Sex is about the process for me, not the result, and orgasms are just the icing on the cake." Similarly, everyone seems to be able to handle pleasure in different ways; some women get frustrated more easily than others, as do some men more than others. So she says she doesn't mind having sex without orgasming on some occasions. We have no reason to believe she's lying (after all, she seems pretty honest if she's writing an anonymous note to a sex-advice blogger). We have no reason to believe she has "serious sexual and psychological issues", as many women are in the exact same position. (On a side note, I see you're reading Foucault, and should point out that your comment may be unreasonably stigmatizing people on the basis of sexual differences.) We are therefore without a reason to not take her at her word, and, in that case, I don't see why her chosen course is either wrong or detrimental to her.

Finally, I should point out the dangers of not accepting people's sexual diversity. Your last comment appealed to an old, horrible stereotype, popular among too many of my male friends, that if a woman is grumpy she just needs to get some sex. I don't know if those sitcoms are hinting at a biological reality or are just appealing to other baseless sexist stereotypes by turning married women into comedic laughingstock. (In any event, I see no situation where sitcoms can be used to defend any biological or sexual reality.)

I should also point out that you haven't addressed the wrongness of any of the other cases, for example why one is wrong to want her parents to understand her poly relationship.

Kyle

Clarissa said...

Kyle, as I said in other discussions, I believe that sex is a basic physiological necessity for every human being. Like food, sleep, water. Eating preferences and sleep patterns (as well as the actual manifestations of our sexuality) can differ a lot. But hunger, constant lack of sleep and clean water (as well as a constant lack of sexual fulfillment) are bad for our health and general well-being. The ways we get to sexual fulfillment are, indeed, different for everyone. But the basic necessity remains.

If someone says "she doesn't mind" not having an orgasm, I feel the need to analyze why she says that. What societal forces make other things more valuable to her.

Look, I have known women who said "they didn't mind" being abused by their partners. I'm sure they weren't lying either. Is that also a choice I need to respect?

As for the other examples of P. Foxy's advice, I would do the following.

1. To the virgin couple I would say that it is possible sex will happen for them and they will discover mutual desire. But it is also possible they won't. Loving each other, caring about each other and being great friends do not translate into sexual desire. That's just a reality of life. So they need to be prepared for it.

2. To the mother of the 7-year-old I'd suggest she just tell him the truth (in age appropriate language, of course). I'm sure she knows that sex does not always entail 2 people caring about each other. Sometimes, it involves 8 people who don't even know each others' names. And that's also good, as long as every one is a consenting adult.

3. To the poly woman I'd say that if she tells her parents about her sex life and they start giving her the responses listed by P. Foxy, she should tell them that it is not their place to question her sexual preferences andd leave. They can glean all the information about her sexuality from a variety of sources. She does not, however, need to explain and justify herself like a little girl who's done something wrong. Nobody has the right to question the ways in which their sexuality manifests itself (which, as you point out, are incredibly diverse.) Of course, as long as everything is consensual.

Anonymous said...

There are significant problems in defining sex as a basic physiological necessity, in that you're still not addressing the diversity of sexual needs. Some people do perfectly fine without pleasure. Many of my friends (including one of my closest, a hetero male) don't care to pursue partners or casual sex, and don't masturbate or watch porn (I'm close enough to him to know and believe this). To say that sex is comparable in need to food or sleep is entirely extreme--so many people get along perfectly well with no or next to no pleasure, yet comparable situations for food and sleep are simply impossible. (This excludes situations of malnutrition or certain eating disorders, yet those who are content with minimal pleasure seem to get along just fine, physically and emotionally.) I would agree with you if you were to say that sex is a psychological necessity for some, but the claim that it's a physiological need for all seems to run counter to scientific research and evolutionary theory.

I can grant you that societal forces may play a role in her decision. Some of them can be sex based (a woman must please her man), but others are more generalized (one enjoys helping the people one loves). It's hard to discern which forces are which, so you're faced with an impossible task here. Further, regardless of why she feels that way, that's how she feels. The most reasonable goal for the feminist seems to attack the causes of the problem (media portrayal, cultural stereotypes, etc.) rather than to confront the effects (telling her she doesn't feel what she feels, or that she's wrong to feel that way).

The abuse comparison seems faulty, too; I was afraid you would employ it. Abuse is, by definition, not consensual. This questioner happily accepts sex with her boyfriend and feels totally comfortable telling her boyfriend that sometimes she just can't orgasm. The questioner loves the attempt; do you know of any non-masochistic abused women who say they actively want to be beaten?

Regarding the virgin couple, I think Foxy doesn't address the idea of being ready for it to not work because the couple has already decided that they love each other and that they want to give it a shot. Foxy is only giving ideas about how to try sex. You're right in that loving and caring do not necessarily translate into sexual desire, but it can and probably does for them. It seems reasonable to say that Foxy treats reconsidering sex (and, probably marriage) as an unspoken last resort. While very optimistic in tone, I don't see how Foxy's answer is incorrect or inappropriate.

The situation with the seven year old seems interesting, and I'm actually inclined to agree with you here. I give Foxy props for encouraging a view of sex that is neither aimed at procreation nor is heternormative, and while I'm not sure if she's wrong for encouraging a view that incorporates love (presumably part of the way the mother values sex), I agree with you that a more inclusive definition is preferable. How exactly do you think that can be made age-appropriate? If you haven't already blogged a post about this, it would be an fascinating topic.

I don't think the poly woman feels that she needs to "explain and justify herself like a little girl who's done something wrong," and that kind of straw-manning certainly seems unfair. However, she wants to explain it to her parents. Her parents, it seems safe to say, come from a more conservative perspective where they just don't get it; yet she loves her parents, and for her taking the time to engage in debate to change their minds is a worthwhile pursuit, and one more desirable to her than cutting ties with her parents. As a blogger who responds to commenters, wouldn't you also agree that debate and disagreement can be productive? :)

Kyle

Clarissa said...

Kyle,

we have had many discussions here about whether sex is a basic human necessity. I absolutely think it is. I have discovered, however, that for a variety of cultural, social and historical reasons it is very difficult for American people to accept this idea. Too many social structures will be endangered once we start treating sex as a basic human need.

"the claim that it's a physiological need for all seems to run counter to scientific research and evolutionary theory"

-I don't know which science you refer to. Are you familiar with psychoanalysis?

"but others are more generalized (one enjoys helping the people one loves"

-I wouldn't call faking an orgasm "helping." I call it lying and manipulating. Would you want somebody to demonstrate this type of "kindness" towards you? I'd hate a person who did it to me. And I'd ask myself what they were trying to gain by making a fool out of me.

Clarissa said...

"Regarding the virgin couple, I think Foxy doesn't address the idea of being ready for it to not work because the couple has already decided that they love each other and that they want to give it a shot."

-The quote was: ""Stop taking it so seriously and eventually, with the love that you clearly have, it will work. You've made a commitment to him and he to you and you have time to make this work and you can discover great things along the way." She is clearly saying that love will necessarilyy lead to sexual desire. We all know that's a lie. Of course, it sseems kinder to tell these people what they want to hear. But what happens when they discover how things really are?

My own first marriage was exactly like this. I wish somebody had been honest enough with me at the time and told me that sex and caring about someone are different things. Then I wouldn't have wasted yeras of my life following the kind of silly and harmful advice people like Foxy distribute so freely. I was traumatized for life by these idiotic techniques. Annd this is why it angers me to see such advice dispensed so freely to young, innocent people.

Clarissa said...

"How exactly do you think that can be made age-appropriate? "

-I think it's a good idea to use the same words with a child that you wish your parents used to talk to you about sex at that age.

"for her taking the time to engage in debate to change their minds is a worthwhile pursuit, and one more desirable to her than cutting ties with her parents. As a blogger who responds to commenters, wouldn't you also agree that debate and disagreement can be productive? "

-Of course, but not about your sex life and not with your parents. I don't understand thee point of debating sexual preferences with any one, actually. What would be the point? It's not a matter where you can convince somebody that your preferences are good. Here, people are very different and this kind of difference can just be accepted.

The examples of questions that F gave in the advice seemed very disrespectful to me. I believe that when such statements begin to be made, the only recourse is to ask for your boundaries to be respected.

Clarissa said...

"To say that sex is comparable in need to food or sleep is entirely extreme--so many people get along perfectly well with no or next to no pleasure, yet comparable situations for food and sleep are simply impossible."

-I believe they don't. But we've had a huge discussion about it here in the past\t and I don't want to reiterate it.

"Further, regardless of why she feels that way, that's how she feels."

-I know women who sincerely feel that they are inferior to men. Am I justified in trying to persuade them otherwise? I think I definitely am.

Sorry, for multiple comments. It's easier for me to write answers this way.

Anonymous said...

Clarissa,

You've made three points in response to my claim that sex is not a physiological need. Your first (I don't know if I'm listing them in order) is that this was talked about before--can you send me the link to the thread? I'm curious. Your second is that psychoanalysis is a science which claims sex is a physiological need. The claim that psychoanalysis is a science is a highly suspect one, however; it does not employ the scientific method and relies on unproveable premises like the Oedipus complex. (Can you include a link to a psychoanalytic text which proves that sex is a physiological desire? It would provide a little more background for this aspect of our discussion.) Your third point is that people who claim they're fine without sex simply aren't. This is your most vulnerable point, though. I think the homosexual is right in saying that his/her feelings are natural and that the homophobe is wrong in saying that deep down, everyone's hetero; I think this because ultimately people know their own feelings best. It's best to give people the benefit of the doubt in situations like these, as nobody can prove that one's wrong in this way about oneself.

Your point on faking as lying versus helping seems to distort the issue here. The problem of lying is one for individual couples to work out. Your original point, as explained in your post, was that Foxy is saying that it's okay to sacrifice the orgasm for the pleasure of the partner (this is the point I'm discussing). You still haven't explained how her prioritizing her partner's pleasure over a difficult orgasm is wrong (as opposed to merely a choice she considers worthwhile).

Nowhere in the quotation you provided from Foxy to the virgin couple does it say that love necessarily leads to desire. She's saying that, if this is what they want, they have the potential to have a romantic and sexual relationship. Foxy isn't making any sweeping statements about sex; I don't see how she isn't keeping the situation particular to the couple. Further, sex isn't inherently independent of love, just as it isn't inherently connected with love; that connection depends on individual perspective. Turning sex into some kind of Platonic ideal is an impossible task; the lack of absolute truth on the matter allows us to weigh on the side of individual perspective.

Lastly, while you say that debating sexual preferences isn't a worthwhile pursuit for you, that clearly isn't true for many other people. Many of my gay friends have worked hard (and still do, sometimes) to make their parents understand their sexuality. Many, like you, don't find it worthwhile (and that's fine), but the ones that do see in their parents otherwise good, loving people. Wanting to share perspectives and teach others to be tolerant is a noble goal for some. The questions Foxy provided probably would offend you (they would offend me, too), but they're precisely the questions Foxy's questioner wanted to face from her parents, and Foxy was helping her to educate her parents and broaden their perspectives. What's wrong with this?

Kyle

Clarissa said...

Here is the asexuality discussion: http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2009/06/asexuality.html. You will see that there people also tried to make the analogy between asexuality and homosexuality. I believe it is a false and an offensive analogy and there is no point in discussing it in this particular context.

As for "people know what they feel", you can only think that if you discount the existence of the subconscious altogether. I cannot do that and I know that in sexually repressive societies (such as ours) people's instincts are often so beaten down that they don't even dare verbalize to themselves that soemthing is wrong. If you are interested in psychoanalytical texts, maybe a collection of essays would be a good place to start.

"You still haven't explained how her prioritizing her partner's pleasure over a difficult orgasm is wrong (as opposed to merely a choice she considers worthwhile)."

-First of all, you have to agree that faking involves lying. So this woman is supposed to be lying to her partner and making a fool out of him for his benefit. As for a "difficult" orgasm, the question to ask is: why is it so difficult with this particular partner? Women are conditioned to choose partners based on how well they will serve relationship purposes. Sexual compatibility often comes last in the list of desirable characteristics. Even then, we are constantly told (by Foxy as well) that if there is love and commitment, sexual desire will eventually appear. So women dupe themselves into living pleasure-less lives. Of course, that makes us more convenient to society.

To understand what this does to a person, you can try this experiment on yourself. Have sex regularly but only take it to orgasm part of the time. I promise you that your level of well-being will start suffering pretty soon. Now imagine spending your entire life this way.

Clarissa said...

P. Foxy says: "eventually, with the love that you clearly have, it will work".

She doesn't say it might work, or there is a possibility it will work. She just says it will. Period. I don't think it can be any clearer that the suggestion is that love always leads to sexx working.

Once again, the most shocking thing to me was that on a feminist site the advice about inserting fingers into the vagina was not preceded by the question: "Do you physically desire this man?" This is the central question to ask before you start making your vagina open wide enough for his penis. Does nobody care? What if she simply doesn't want him? Obviously, this is a woman from a very conservative background who never even knew that one can ask such questions. Shouldn't someone tell her?

"The questions Foxy provided probably would offend you (they would offend me, too), but they're precisely the questions Foxy's questioner wanted to face from her parents, and Foxy was helping her to educate her parents and broaden their perspectives. What's wrong with this?"

-Sharing one's perspective is a great thing. I do not, however, believe that there can be a respectful dialogue in the kind of terms outlined in this dialogue. Parents often believe they own their children's sexuality (this is particularly true as to daughters). I do not believe that any dialogue is possible when people start talking in the condescending manner described by P. Foxy.

If the woman in question simply requests that a conversation be couched in more respectful terms that aren't aimed at belittling her, only then is a conversation possible. I think that "Don't you think you can find somebody who'll like you?" is only aimed at hurting the person's feelings. This isn't part of a dialogue. It's a belittling technique.

You obviously do not have controlling disrespectful parents, if you don't recognize such statements for what they are. :-) Good for you, but many other people are not similarly lucky. Even the fact that the woman's mother keeps asking why her boyfriend does or doesn't emove someone from his internet profile shows that this is an extremely controlling parent. A healthy parent would neither notice nor care what's in someone's profile. They wouldn't go repeatedly to check. The entire situation sounds way too unhealthy.

Anonymous said...

Awwww, I'm glad i could bring a bit of joy to your otherwise dull and dreary life! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending the asexuality discussion. As long as your argument against asexuality depends on the belief that sex is a physiological need, you have not yet proved that in either the asexuality or this thread. In fact, you have not even attempted to prove it; you only repeat that you believe sex is a physiological need. I'm asking you to prove it (via scientific findings or simple logical reasoning). Through philosophy and history of psychology classes, I've read plenty of psychoanalytic texts. I have yet to find something which demonstrates this notion of sex. Further, while behavioral psychology and neuroscience have discovered that humans do make unconscious decisions, there is absolutely no proof that there exists some subconscious mind anywhere near close to how the psychoanalytic thinkers present it to be. I have yet to see a psychoanalytic piece appeal to the scientific method, scientific research or even basic logic. In the absence of this, the discussion about asexuality can only move three places. 1) You point to a specific scientific text that validates psychoanalytic findings and proves that sex is physiological. 2) You make the argument yourself. Or 3) you admit that you cannot do either 1 or 2.

Further, the closest thing to arguments you have provided are based in universalizing your personal experience. In the asexuality thread, you point out that when you have sex you get high blood pressure and other things, and in this thread you invite me to try something comparable. The fact that other people feel entirely different on the matter shows that you simply cannot look down and tell them that they're wrong. The analogy between asexuality and homosexuality I've made is perfectly correct, especially the way I constructed the analogy. Until you provide scientific facts, you have no basis for saying that the connection is offensive.

Harping on the issue of lying with faking is still changing the subject. Of course I agree that it involves lying, and of course I wouldn't want my partner to do that. My argument is against the one you wrote in your post--is that piece no longer defensible to you? Even if I grant you that certain societal factors pushed her into liking the relationship, you haven't bridged the fact-value distinction and told me why specifically the desire to please her partner is wrong.

Yes, Foxy tells the virgins that their love will help make things work. That's because that's how the couple views sex. The virgins' beliefs make certain outcomes more likely than others, and if they believe their love for each other turns them on sexually, I don't see how that can't help them have sex. You still haven't explained how Foxy universalized the statement.



"I do not believe that any dialogue is possible when people start talking in the condescending manner described by P. Foxy."

Of course it's possible; that's why we study rhetoric, and communications (and, for that matter, real psychology). The tactics from these studies help us break down barriers, and millions of people who have worked hard to make people understand often succeed. Part of how to cope with difficult people is to see past this disrespect. Because task of changing disrespectful minds is at least possible, you're entirely unreasonable in telling others that what they find worthwhile simply isn't.

Anonymous said...

Last post is me again!

Kyle

Anonymous said...

---Would you agree that there are many people who don't care? And they still have sex. As they should have a right to do if everyone consents.
---I think that defining all sex as caring is very limiting and wrong.

Yes, indeed, defining all sex as caring is wrong. Would you agree, however, that most sex in this culture occurs between partners who, to certain extent, care about each other? It does not mean their sex always equals caring, sometimes caring partners just f*ck for the sake of good f*ck because it is a lot of fun.

But we are talking about answering a question of a seven-year old, who does not know much about sex and definitely does not have any experience. He is not another +-30 year old who can meaningfully discuss the differences between sex as expression of caring, sex for the sake of sex, sex for the sake of mental turn-on like D/S, etc.

Yes, one can pretend sex is purely physiological process and answer his question in (age appropriate) purely technical way (then why not take issue with "naked" as well, one does not need to be naked to have sex either? :) ), without mentioning any caring. But wouldn't that be also limiting? Just a different kind of limiting?

Speaking of socialization - I do not think it is more harmful to give the boy the idea that caring is a prerequisite of sex than "Fuck any and everyone, doesn't matter how you feel about it? -Yes.". There is nothing wrong with separating caring and sex, but this has to be done in a responsible fashion when the boy in question grows up enough to do so. In the beginning of his sex life - let him care because he was told to. :)

Anyway, I concur with Kyle(?) that this issue of talking to kids about sex may warrant separate discussion.
V.

Clarissa said...

"you have not even attempted to prove it; you only repeat that you believe sex is a physiological need. I'm asking you to prove it"

-Seriously? Wow. This is very shocking to me. You really need "proof" of that? From scientific texts, no less? Doesn't your own body give you proof?

As for the "sources" of sex as physiological need, if you really wanted them, you would have found them a long time ago, Kyle. I'm sure you are familiar with Maslow's hierarchy. I'm sure you have had a chance to familiarize yourself with Freud's teachings. If not, here is a random explanation of Freud's attitudes to sex I found online: "Freudian psychological reality begins with the world, full of objects. Among them is a very special object, the organism. The organism is special in that it acts to survive and reproduce, and it is guided toward those ends by its needs -- hunger, thirst, the avoidance of pain, and sex. "

Link: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html

If you read many texts on psychology and missed this crucial part, I think you definitely need to ask yourself why. Of course, maybe your teachers were subsconsciously censoring your readings. This is, in fact, a very Puritanical society.

"The analogy between asexuality and homosexuality I've made is perfectly correct, especially the way I constructed the analogy."

-I'm sorry, I don't want to rehash this old argument again. I have said already that I find the analogy between asexuality and homosexuality extremely offensive. Being gay doesn't prevent any one from having a very rich and fulfilling sex life.

I do not want to enter into any more discussions with or about the "asexual" crowd because I have never encountered such an extremely aggressive bunch of people who try to prove their asexual happiness by screaming insults at any one who dares to have an opinion.

They have so little to do with their lives that they started anti-my blog communities online where they would spread lies about me. DON"T want to attract these people back here, so I'm asking you to avoid menntioning asexuality any further.

"Even if I grant you that certain societal factors pushed her into liking the relationship, you haven't bridged the fact-value distinction and told me why specifically the desire to please her partner is wrong."

-Now you are changing the terms of the problem mid-way, which is a common mistake in constructing an argument The desire to please your partner in and by itself is not wrong The desire to please your partner to the detriment of your own needs is wrong. A build-up of sexual excitemennt that doesn't lead to a logical conclusion is obviously not good for the body. Anybody who has ever experienced it knows how unpleasant (and often even painful) it is.

Clarissa said...

"The virgins' beliefs make certain outcomes more likely than others, and if they believe their love for each other turns them on sexually, I don't see how that can't help them have sex. "

-This made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my chair. Kyle, you cannot be serious. You cannot make yourself desire a person your body doesn't want. One can recite his wedding vows for hours but that will not give him an erection. :-) If people could get sexually excited thanks to their belief systems, noboy would need Viagra. :-)

Clarissa said...

"Yes, indeed, defining all sex as caring is wrong. Would you agree, however, that most sex in this culture occurs between partners who, to certain extent, care about each other?"

-I don't have the exact numbers but no, I don't think there are that many more people who "care" than those who don't.

"But we are talking about answering a question of a seven-year old, who does not know much about sex and definitely does not have any experience. "

-So it's a good idea to lie to him? Why? For what purpose? He'll fidn out the truth eventually. He'll probably find out that very day from a new episode of "Law and order." Why not just exclude this whole issue of "caring" from the explanation Whom will that hurt?

"In the beginning of his sex life - let him care because he was told to. :)"

-Seriously? If we were discussing a little girl, would you say the same? What if his first partner feels differently? Wouldn't the boy's feelings be hurt? What's the point of setting up unreasonable expectations that will be trashed to the ground?

Then you have these human tragedies where people are destroyed emotionally after a casual sex partner disappeared for good and never called. And they already started caring and expecting it back.

Clarissa said...

"Part of how to cope with difficult people is to see past this disrespect."

-These are not just any people. These are parents. Their task is to love their children and accept them 100% always. If they aren't doing them, they aren't being good parents. So they need to be left alone with that realization for a while. The judgment pronounced upon us by a stranger can never be as painful and harmful as that pronounced by a parent. Do you not know that? If you have read those psychoanalytical texts you mention, then you should. If you do know it, then why you keep talking about "people" when initially the story revolves around parents is a mystery to me.

Anonymous said...

"Doesn't your own body give you proof?"

Please respond to my criticism of universalizing personal examples. Further, I'm perfectly familiar with Freud's teachings, but you still haven't explained 1) how it's science (specifically, how it's falsifiable or how it uses the scientific method) 2) how it proves definitively (with either science or logic) that sex is a physiological need. It's generally agreed upon that psychoanalysis is not a science, and attacking my education on insufficient grounds does not help you prove that it is. (Further, your link provides no proof that sex is a physiological need, either.)

I understand that you do not wish to continue the asexuality debate, and I have three points on this. The first is that you, as the blog moderator, choose how to respond to commenters. You do not need to respond, or you can call them out (calmly and logically) on the flaws in their argument. My second response is that I'm not extremely aggressive; we've been talking pretty intelligently so far about this subject for quite a few posts now without hysterical interruptions, and I hope that the logical rigor of our discussion can serve as a model for our angry friends. Third, my criticism of your stance on asexuality is less focused on your conclusion (that it isn't healthy) and more on your premise that sex is a physiological need (though surely I also disagree with your "You don't feel that way" approach). You haven't yet addressed my argument and proven that it's a physiological need. I'm willing to be convinced, but I haven't yet read any real game-changers here.


"The desire to please your partner to the detriment of your own needs is wrong."

You haven't yet explained how her actions are to the detriment of her own needs, as you haven't proven that she's wrong in valuing her partner's pleasure (which, no doubt, gives her pleasure) more than a difficult orgasm. Nothing's changed about my argument here; you're saying she's wrong, I'm saying she makes her own choice.


"This made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my chair. Kyle, you cannot be serious."

Comments like this may provoke hostility among certain commenters you don't appreciate. Tact is crucial when moderating blog comment-threads.

"You cannot make yourself desire a person your body doesn't want. One can recite his wedding vows for hours but that will not give him an erection. :-) If people could get sexually excited thanks to their belief systems, noboy would need Viagra."

They seem to clearly want each other, by virtue of the fact that 1) they tried a lot and 2) they emailed a sex-columnist about it. Oftentimes a woman is so tight that phallic penetration is simply impossible at first. Many of my friends have encountered this problem when having sex for the first time. That clearly seemed to be the questioner's problem, too.



"Their task is to love their children and accept them 100% always. If they aren't doing them, they aren't being good parents."

Yes, exactly! And part of parenting is learning, in turn, from the children. The children can therefore help the parents to become better and more loving.

"The judgment pronounced upon us by a stranger can never be as painful and harmful as that pronounced by a parent. Do you not know that? If you have read those psychoanalytical texts you mention, then you should. If you do know it, then why you keep talking about "people" when initially the story revolves around parents is a mystery to me."

1)I haven't disagreed with you that parental opinions can hurt. Many psychological studies (using empirical research and the scientific method) have proven this. 2) You haven't been reading my comments thoroughly. I've mentioned gay friends of mine who have worked to convince their parents. One of my closest friends worked very hard to make her parents accept her girlfriend. She was successful, and she created a more inclusive family in doing so. The argument you're implying here seems confusing; just because something is very hard doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

Anonymous said...

-Kyle

(I need to stop forgetting this!)

Clarissa said...

Kyle, I didn't say you are agressive. I said that these people have a tendency to descend in droves whenever the word asexuality is mentioned. And I want to avoid that at all costs. I haven't deleted one single comment on this blog (although the asexual crowd keeps accusing me of that.) I also believe it's rude to leave questions addressed to me without answers (although the asexual crowd condemns me for that).

As for your name, you can enter it in the "Name/URL" portion of "Choose an identity." You won't have to enter URL if you don't want to. Then you won't have to explain it's you in subsequent posts. It took me some time to figure it out and I'm very proud of my discovery. :-)

If you don't think Maslow and Freud are science, that's your right. I have a general feeling you are a grad student, am I right? Could you tell me your area of specialization, so that I understand what your view of science is. I, for example, so literary criticism. And, of course, I believe it's definitely science. Would you agree?

If your understanding of science only includes exact sciences, then, of course, Jung, Freud and maslow will not convince you. Since my understanding of science is broader, I don't think we can reach an agreement here.

Clarissa said...

"You haven't yet explained how her actions are to the detriment of her own needs, as you haven't proven that she's wrong in valuing her partner's pleasure (which, no doubt, gives her pleasure) more than a difficult orgasm. "

-I have answered that before. What this woman should worry about (if she were to privilege her own needs) is why an orgasm with this man is so difficult. If a person's need to please is stronger than a person's need to orgasm, then that testifies to profound lack of physical and sexual health on that person's part.

Now, faking an orgam doesn't intensify her partner's pleasure (I hope). So it's not his pleasure she values, it's his ego. As was stated by Foxy as well. Why any healthy man's ego would suffer in this case is also a mystery to me, though.

Clarissa said...

"Comments like this may provoke hostility among certain commenters you don't appreciate. Tact is crucial when moderating blog comment-threads."

-I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, Kyle, but seriously, you can't believe what you suggested there.

"They seem to clearly want each other, by virtue of the fact that 1) they tried a lot and 2) they emailed a sex-columnist about it."

-This demonstrates they want it to work. The fact of physical desire or lack thereof is completely independent from our conscious desires and the needs of our marriage. Physical desire is demosntrated not by writing to a colunist, etc. but ONLY through certain physiological things that happen to our bodies. Often, our bodies refuse to serve or social needs. The marriage needs sex but the body refuses to give it. No amount of writing to columnists, reading books, talking about it, etc. will provoke an erection where the desire just simpply isn't there. You can't make yourself want what you don't.

Clarissa said...

"One of my closest friends worked very hard to make her parents accept her girlfriend. She was successful, and she created a more inclusive family in doing so. The argument you're implying here seems confusing; just because something is very hard doesn't mean it shouldn't be done."

-There is an easier way of accomplishing this than all this hard work, justifications, explanations, etc. You just tell your parents 'If you respect me, you will respect my partner. Until you can do that, we will not communicate. Thank you, good bye.' It really works and you have your dignity intact.

Anonymous said...

----So it's a good idea to lie to him? Why? For what purpose? He'll find out the truth eventually.

It is not a lie, it is a half-truth. Which you suggest to substitute with another half-truth. And you haven't convinced me yet your half-truth is better than Foxy's. Everything "age-appropriate" is a half-truth anyway. When kids ask about sex, it is parent's choice, based on his or her worldview, how to interpret that question. Your interpreting it as a purely technical question is a choice, not a necessity. And there is nothing wrong in not only answering it as a technical question, but also translating the attitudes of the society in which the kid will have to live.

---He'll probably find out that very day from a new episode of "Law and order."

??? You mean he will see references to some sexual violence? I hope it will teach him that some people are assholes, not that sex SHOULD have nothing to do with caring.

---Why not just exclude this whole issue of "caring" from the explanation. Whom will that hurt?

Hopefully nobody, if the boy will get the idea that it is preferable to care for the sex partner from elsewhere. Otherwise, it may hurt his future partners, who most likely will be educated according to prevailing attitudes of the society, which Foxy translated. Yes, society may need some change in this respect. But I am not sure you will help achieving that change by setting the boy up as selfish person in the eyes of the majority.

-Seriously? If we were discussing a little girl, would you say the same?

Of course, I do not see a big gender difference here. I do not want neither boys hurting girls feelings nor vice versa. I just think it would be not very honest to not inform the kid (of any gender) about the society's expectations. When they grow up enough, they will learn to separate... Before they mature, it is better they both care. Of course, as I already stressed, "caring" does not mean "till death do us part".

V.

Clarissa said...

"It is not a lie, it is a half-truth. Which you suggest to substitute with another half-truth."

-OK, we can say: 'Sometimes, it's done by people who care about each other, and sometimes by people who don't." Then we might also add that sometimes it's done by blonds and sometimes by brunettes. Just to be on the safe side and cover every possibility. :-)

"Your interpreting it as a purely technical question is a choice"

-I'm sorry, I don't get that. What's "purely technical" in my interpretation?

Kyle said...

I'm a senior at a liberal arts college; I have a double major in Government and Philosophy (I should note here the I'm equally comfortable in both the analytic and "continental" traditions). My definition of science is much narrower than yours, and I'm sure that getting into a debate over how to define science seems unnecessary, so let me instead narrow my point to the inability to prove that sex is a physiological need. Simply replying "psychoanalysis says it is" is not sufficient, as 1) you would be relying on premises that still are questionable, unprovable, and unfalsifiable, 2) that response fails to provide an argument that proves that sex is a physiological need. Providing this argument (or pointing to a source that clearly does so) is crucial to proving your conclusions about asexuality and faking orgasms.



"What this woman should worry about (if she were to privilege her own needs) is why an orgasm with this man is so difficult."

Professor Foxy precisely addresses this issue when she writes, "Consistent faking arises from a combination of factors: the aforementioned need to please, a fear of asking for what we want sexually lest we be judged, how regularly women judge and censor themselves, a lack of knowledge of our bodies and a fear of exploring them. I am ok with faking if you have thoroughly dealt with all of these things." By this standard, Foxy's answer should be okay with you. Now, let's say the questioner already has worked these issues out, decides she's perfectly aware of the nature of her own body and can therefore move to Foxy's next step, which is that it's okay to prioritize other people's happiness (see next paragraph for explanation of "happiness") over a difficult orgasm. You're saying that she cannot successfully work through these issues because prioritizing sex this way "testifies to profound lack of physical and sexual health on that person's part." Your argument here, again, depends on your premise that sex is a physiological need. You still must prove this premise.


"So it's not his pleasure she values, it's his ego."

We should avoid psychoanalytic terms like "ego" (assuming you're using "ego" in the psychoanalytic and not vernacular sense of the word) until you prove that psychoanalytic findings are true. Until then, I suggest we replace "ego" with "happiness." I don't see how we can disagree here. Further, his ego doesn't suffer by her not orgasming, but he may be disappointed in his inability to make her orgasm (something we've established bothers her sufficiently) and he's happier thinking he can make her orgasm (something we've established she prioritizes sufficiently).

Kyle said...

"This demonstrates they want it to work. The fact of physical desire or lack thereof is completely independent from our conscious desires and the needs of our marriage. Physical desire is demosntrated not by writing to a colunist, etc. but ONLY through certain physiological things that happen to our bodies. Often, our bodies refuse to serve or social needs. The marriage needs sex but the body refuses to give it. No amount of writing to columnists, reading books, talking about it, etc. will provoke an erection where the desire just simpply isn't there. You can't make yourself want what you don't."

This response does not address my full point. Nowhere does the questioner say the problem was his erection; she does, however, explain that the problem was her being too tight. Your entire point here therefore does not apply.


"There is an easier way of accomplishing this than all this hard work, justifications, explanations, etc. You just tell your parents 'If you respect me, you will respect my partner. Until you can do that, we will not communicate. Thank you, good bye.' It really works and you have your dignity intact."

1) It's easier to some, but if we've already both agreed that parental condemnation is often devastating, then it shouldn't be hard to agree that, for many people, working to change the parents' minds is emotionally easier than giving up on the parents. 2) I don't see how one loses their dignity when persuading others. 3) You've only shown how giving up on the parents is easier for you, the choice you would make. But your argument is that the poly girl (and, by extension, Foxy) is wrong; you therefore have failed to explain how this is objectively so.

Kyle

(Thanks for the name advice!)

Clarissa said...

"??? You mean he will see references to some sexual violence? I hope it will teach him that some people are assholes, not that sex SHOULD have nothing to do with caring."

-I can see you are not a fan of the show, my friend. :-) "Law and Order: SUV" is about rapists and pedophiles. I was referring to the original series where many episodes explore people using sex for economic, political, etc. etc. gains.

"if the boy will get the idea that it is preferable to care for the sex partner from elsewhere."

-Preferably for whom?

"it may hurt his future partners, who most likely will be educated according to prevailing attitudes of the society"

What if they won't be like that?Also, it's a weird parent who educates a child to make him more convenient for his future partners than for himself (not the parent, that is, the child). The "previling attitudes" you mention only prevail in some talk shows and self-help books. In real life they do not prevail over anything. How can they? Do you think that caring is triggered by sexual intercourse? How does that happen physiologically? Or do you think people should only have sex with people AFTER they started caring about them? If so, then you must be a Nina Atwood supporter. :-)

"setting the boy up as selfish person in the eyes of the majority"

-I don't think it's healthy to regulate your sex life by how some unidentifiable majority sees you. You are not performing for a huge audience in bed (or if you are, that's a whole different thing :-)). Should I care, for example, about what Atwood and her followers think aout my sex life? :-)

"it is better they both care"

-Better for whom?

Clarissa said...

"I'm a senior at a liberal arts college"

-I'm very impressed, Kyle. Have you thought about grad school? I'm sure you'd do great.

If you do not agree that sex is a physiological need, could you give your own definition?

" suggest we replace "ego" with "happiness." I don't see how we can disagree here."

-Once again, I don't think any body can be made happy by a person lying to them in such a disgusting way. As for the word "ego" in this conttext, it was initially used by Foxy to explain why people want to fake. Faking in itself is a completely fictitious thing. You can only do that with a partner who is extremely inexperienced and has never been around a female orgasm or with a partner who just doesn't give a damn. If he doesn't give a damn, then one's compulsion to sacrifice herself for his "happiness" is unhealthy in the extreme.

"and he's happier thinking he can make her orgasm "

-I'm sorry but who needs a partner that is SO self-deluded?

Clarissa said...

"This response does not address my full point. Nowhere does the questioner say the problem was his erection; she does, however, explain that the problem was her being too tight."

-Which means she is not lubricated. Her vaginal muscles shut down when he approaches. This is a sign that this woman does not feel sexual desire for this man. If this has been going on for 18 months, chances are she just simply doesn't want him. At all. No amount of wishing, working it out, writing, asking, and praying will change that.

"working to change the parents' minds is emotionally easier than giving up on the parents"

-And who suggested giving up on the parents??

Kyle said...

Thanks! I'm actually in the process of applying to law schools; I've interned a couple of summers at a civil rights law firm and think that's what I want to practice.

I would say that sex is a psychological want, something we, for reasons rooted in evolution, often feel driven to pursue. This seems to be the understanding I've encountered in my psychology (and biology) classes, and it seems to take into account how some things aren't necessary. For example, if the reason people have sex drives is for the evolutionary purpose of procreation, the fact that it's a want and not a need makes homosexuality seem less (or not at all) unreasonable. Similarly, the fact that it's a want also makes those who simply don't want it less/not unreasonable. It simply becomes a preference which results from a variety of genetic and behavioral conditions.

You moved again to discussing the issue of faking as one of lying. I continue to concede that the lying is something highly undesirable. My concern is with the contention from your original post, that she's wrong to prioritize his happiness/ego (the vernacular context Foxy uses for ego is fine) over a difficult orgasm, and with your criticism of Foxy's advise which seems to take into consideration the factors you mentioned. I also don't think a woman can "only" fake in the contexts you described; the questioner seems perfectly happy with her sex, and the orgasm is only the icing on the cake to her (whereas for many of us, the orgasm is the cake).


"I'm sorry but who needs a partner that is SO self-deluded?"

I don't think it's about being self-deluded. It seems fair to say that almost everybody would very much like to be great at sex, and the questioner's partner is no exception.



"Which means she is not lubricated. Her vaginal muscles shut down when he approaches. This is a sign that this woman does not feel sexual desire for this man."

Or, more likely, they didn't do enough with foreplay. People raised with all this abstinence stuff are excruciatingly ignorant about sex (I'm sure you can attest to this with more knowledge than I can); it's entirely possible that the questioner here hardly (or even never!) masturbated before. Foxy's advice here also seems perfectly reasonable; Foxy's helping them try a foreplay that would help her widen enough to have a more comfortable first time.


"And who suggested giving up on the parents??"

I didn't mean to strawman or oversimplify your argument--sorry! (Substitute "giving up on parents" with your original point of leaving when they act ignorantly, and I think the rest of what I said stands.)

V said...

---Do you think that caring is triggered by sexual intercourse? How does that happen physiologically?

Come on, you know that's not what I said.

---Or do you think people should only have sex with people AFTER they started caring about them? If so, then you must be a Nina Atwood supporter. :-)

I do not think in terms of "shoulds". However, I do believe that for young immature people, who do not know very well what they are doing, physically and psychologically, it is better to get their first sexual experiences with a caring partner. And being caring partner in return. Caring does not have to be a primary motive - hornyness and curiosity are just fine, but certain degree of caring could be useful.
Once people mature and can accept more responsibility for what they are doing, learn that people may approach sex with very different ideas without fully understanding (or openly expressing) these ideas, and can emotionally handle larger variety of situations - I do not have any problem with sex in any (not legally forbidden) combinations per se.

V.

Iliana said...

I can;t believe people are arguing whether sex is a physiological need. Come on, guys, there is always Internet!

The Hierarchy of Needs model of Abraham Maslow


Hierarchy of Needs - Physiological needs
These are the very basic needs such as air, water, food, sleep, sex, etc. When these are not satisfied we may feel sickness, irritation, pain, discomfort, etc.
These feelings motivate us to alleviate them as soon as possible to establish homeostasis. Once they are alleviated, we may think about other things.

(http://www.12manage.com/methods_maslow_hierarchy_needs.html)

Iliana said...

And some more:

Physiological need: Man needs foods, shelter, sex, heat, water, air, and cloth. These basic elements are commonly known to be essential for being alive. There will be no progress in other areas of life if these needs have not yet to be fulfilled.

(http://ezinearticles.com/?Five-Basic-Needs,-Motivation-and-Visualization&id=571267)

Here is a definition of sex as a physiological need from 'Foundations of Psychology.' (author Hayes):

http://books.google.com/books?id=2m1UQI4QpVsC&pg=PT442&lpg=PT442&dq=physiological+necessities+sex&source=bl&ots=qKPCJtJ0GO&sig=1wzgz8-yJqM6zlRfjd4mH2vIj_E&hl=en&ei=1I2lStjxKaid8QbLy_jVDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#v=onepage&q=physiological%20necessities%20sex&f=false

LILGRL said...

"I believe that this is very unhealthy. I don't think that you are being ignorant or anything like that. I just think that women are conditioned by upbringing to please before anything else. So we try to be pleasing to others in all aspects of our lives, including sex."

How do you suggest we ensure that our children are not brought up with such an unhealthy mindset (i.e. that of needing to "please" parents)? Throw them out on the street when they do something that pleases us?

Kyle said...

Iliana,

Saying something is true because Maslow said so doesn't prove it to be true. Maslow's hierarchy receives plenty of criticism from psychologists for its inability to be falsifiable (as well as the ontological needs of ranking needs). Further, none of the links explain why Maslow defines sex as a physiological need; they simply say that he does so. I'm asking for a logical argument that proves definitively that sex is a physiological need (and, therefore, that millions of people are objectively wrong about their own sexual preferences). Nobody in this thread has been able to do so.


"These basic elements are commonly known to be essential for being alive."

I haven't heard of asexuals or monks dropping dead because of a lack of sex. Further, please address previous comments of mine about people who are perfectly content going without sexual pleasure or orgasm.

Clarissa said...

"I'm actually in the process of applying to law schools; I've interned a couple of summers at a civil rights law firm and think that's what I want to practice."

-Good for you!

"I would say that sex is a psychological want"

-I don't think you will find any scientist actually saying that, Kyle.

But for the argument's sake, let's say you are right and sex IS a psychological need. This only supports my argument. The woman in question is supposed to forsake her psychological need (for sexual fulfillment) for the sake of her partner's psychological need (not having his self-esteem hurt by a realization that he is a bad lover). Somehow, his psychological need is expected to trump hers. This is a very patriarchal worldview. When promoted by a feminist website and not by books like "How to be a good Christian wife", this point of view sounds rather shocking.

"For example, if the reason people have sex drives is for the evolutionary purpose of procreation"

-I absolutely do NOT believe in this, so let's not even bring it up. Procreation has been divorced from sex as its only purpose in human beings for an extremely long time.

" also don't think a woman can "only" fake in the contexts you described; the questioner seems perfectly happy with her sex, and the orgasm is only the icing on the cake to her"

-I'm sorry but you are turning a woman into some weird Other. An orgasm is the only point of healthy sex. It is not any kind of an icing. I wonder why we never see any men content to sacrifice their orgasms on a regular basis for their girlfriend's self-esteem. Why do you think that happens?

"I don't think it's about being self-deluded. It seems fair to say that almost everybody would very much like to be great at sex, and the questioner's partner is no exception."

-Then the girlfriend is doing him a huge disservice by concealing the reality from him, doesn't she? So even the excuse that she's faking for his benefit is now out of the window?

"Or, more likely, they didn't do enough with foreplay."

-18 months isn't enough??? All this time together, kissing, hugging, touvhing each other, and it's still not enough? There is just no desire here, it's as simple as that.

"Substitute "giving up on parents" with your original point of leaving when they act ignorantly, and I think the rest of what I said stands"

-I didn't mean leaving them forever. Just remove yourself from the conversation until they can collect themselves and proceed with more respect.

Clarissa said...

"it is better to get their first sexual experiences with a caring partner. And being caring partner in return."

-OK, let's say we have managed to condition our children to care and expect caring. How do we condition their partner to do that? There is a huge probability that the partner will not be conditioned in this way and our poor caring child's feelings will be hurt.

"certain degree of caring could be useful"

-Why do you want to decide for other people what kind of sexual motivation would be useful to them? These are other people, it should be up to them.

"Once people mature and can accept more responsibility for what they are doing, learn that people may approach sex with very different ideas without fully understanding "

-That is not going to happen. Mommy's brainwashing is way too strong to just go away so easily. I know a guy, 32 years old, still a virgin. Mommy had been dumped by Daddy, so she spent her entire life talking about how men hurt women. Now he can't approach any woman at all. It's sad when parents try to solve their own sexual problems by indoctrinating children.

Clarissa said...

"How do you suggest we ensure that our children are not brought up with such an unhealthy mindset (i.e. that of needing to "please" parents)? Throw them out on the street when they do something that pleases us?"

-I'm sure you know that there is a lot of middle ground between throwing them on the street and creating little robots who aim to please at all costs. Imagine a child who never learned to say "no" to Mommy being approached by a pedophile. Will that child even be capable of saying "no" if the pedophile wants to take him away? Or will he be complacent out of the desire to please an adult?

Clarissa said...

"I haven't heard of asexuals or monks dropping dead because of a lack of sex. Further, please address previous comments of mine about people who are perfectly content going without sexual pleasure or orgasm."

-Asexuals and monks are never entirely without sexual fulfillment. Our body doesn't allow for that to happen. Things happen in our sleep, for example, to compensate for what we are deprived of while awake. So living without sex iisn't like living without food at all. It's like living with limitted, bad quality food. Or little amounts of dirty water. That's actually what psychoanalysis is all about. See Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams."

"Further, please address previous comments of mine about people who are perfectly content going without sexual pleasure or orgasm."

-I have no idea whether Iliana has, but as for me I definitely have not met any such people. I don't think they exist. I have, however, met crowds of people who make everybody else's lives into a living hell because they are unfulfilled.

Kyle said...

"I don't think you will find any scientist actually saying that, Kyle."

Maybe not in those terms, and I'll admit that my use of "psychological" instead of "physiological" is suspect so we can scrap that if you'd like, but the fact is that sex isn't something we need in that an individual's attaining sexual pleasure simply is not necessary for the continuation of that individual's life, even if the individual may want it.


"But for the argument's sake, let's say you are right and sex IS a psychological need. This only supports my argument. The woman in question is supposed to forsake her psychological need (for sexual fulfillment) for the sake of her partner's psychological need (not having his self-esteem hurt by a realization that he is a bad lover). Somehow, his psychological need is expected to trump hers. This is a very patriarchal worldview. When promoted by a feminist website and not by books like "How to be a good Christian wife", this point of view sounds rather shocking."

You're use of the word "need" here prevents you from even supposing I'm right; I'm saying it's "want." Further, the questioner isn't "supposed to foresake," she chooses to based on her priorities. It's not about some needs being objectively more important--that would be patriarchal. You need to show me how her personal priorities are wrong (not merely that you disagree with them, but that they're wrong), and you still haven't done that.



"I'm sorry but you are turning a woman into some weird Other. An orgasm is the only point of healthy sex. It is not any kind of an icing. I wonder why we never see any men content to sacrifice their orgasms on a regular basis for their girlfriend's self-esteem. Why do you think that happens?"

I'm othering nobody. In fact, I'm using the questioner's own words. For her, sex is more about the process than the orgasm. Just because her views differ from yours doesn't mean I'm turning her into an Other. (I also know of men who are remarkably resilient to being "blue-balled.")



"Then the girlfriend is doing him a huge disservice by concealing the reality from him, doesn't she? So even the excuse that she's faking for his benefit is now out of the window?"

You're showing me how your argument about lying is connected to your argument against her priorities, but this doesn't explain why the priorities are objectively wrong.



"18 months isn't enough??? All this time together, kissing, hugging, touvhing each other, and it's still not enough? There is just no desire here, it's as simple as that."

It's not enough time if they never tried enough. Foxy's advice (the thing you're criticizing and I'm defending) works on the assumption that they haven't tried fingering, or anything close to the kind of fingering she describes. If this is true (and you still haven't given a compelling reason for why it isn't), then her advice is fine.

Kyle said...

"Our body doesn't allow for that to happen. Things happen in our sleep, for example, to compensate for what we are deprived of while awake. So living without sex iisn't like living without food at all."

Your strongest argument so far. The problem here is that there's no conclusive evidence yet that such sleep emissions have any correlation with the frequency (or lack thereof) of orgasms.



"...I definitely have not met any such people. I don't think they exist. I have, however, met crowds of people who make everybody else's lives into a living hell because they are unfulfilled."

Again, the way you're universalizing personal experiences draws upon the popular stereotype that if a woman is angry she just needs to have sex; I'm fairly certain this devastating patriarchal misunderstanding is not true. Finally, saying that you don't think these people exist doesn't prove anything, you're merely restating the view you're already holding. I'm asking for a logical argument, or one that relies on irrefutable empirical (and falsifiable) data, that proves what you're saying. Until you do that, I don't think you can claim you know more about a certain person's own sexuality than they know.

Clarissa said...

"You're use of the word "need" here prevents you from even supposing I'm right; I'm saying it's "want.""

-Kyle, we are going in circles. Let's say "want", that still doesn't change anything. Her "want" of sexual fullfilment vs his want of thinking he's a good lover. Why should his wants be prioritized over hers? Male wants (needs, desires, wishes, whims, etc. etc.) are more important than female in patriarchy. Feminism is against patriarchy. Ergo, a feminist website should look into the reasons why women keep sacrificing themselves for male "wants." A feminist website that applauds and promotes such attitudes among women is not feminist.

"Further, the questioner isn't "supposed to foresake," she chooses to based on her priorities."

-People often make choices inspired by dominant ideologies.

"It's not about some needs being objectively more important--that would be patriarchal. You need to show me how her personal priorities are wrong (not merely that you disagree with them, but that they're wrong), and you still haven't done that."

-These "priorities" are wrong from my feminist point of view because they are deeply patriarchal. Women's interests always come second after the interests of men and children. Feminism is all about fignting against that.

"I'm othering nobody. In fact, I'm using the questioner's own words. For her, sex is more about the process than the orgasm. Just because her views "

-The only reason anybody can have such "views" is because of the millennia of patriarchal oppression. Once again, this self-sacrificial discourse is common among women. But somehow not about men.

"this doesn't explain why the priorities are objectively wrong."

-I wouldn't use "objectively wrong" in this situation. For chauvinists, this woman is absolutely right. Her place in life is being a doormat at the boyfriend's feet. She herself agrees. Feministing agrees. I happen to diisagree because I see women as valid human beings. We all think we are "objectively" right.

"It's not enough time if they never tried enough. Foxy's advice (the thing you're criticizing and I'm defending) works on the assumption that they haven't tried fingering, or anything close to the kind of fingering she describes. "

-Kyle, I hope you are not suggesting that ANY woman can desire ANY man with enough foreplay. Because that's a scary idea to entertain.

'The problem here is that there's no conclusive evidence yet that such sleep emissions have any correlation with the frequency (or lack thereof) of orgasms."

-Not "sleep emissions". I'm talking about orgasms people experience in their sleep.

"Again, the way you're universalizing personal experiences draws upon the popular stereotype that if a woman is angry she just needs to have sex"

-Urm, why "a woman"? I said "People". This is a non-gender-specific thing.

You want me to believe in things I've never seen, I admit it's hard for me to do that. Recently, I have been proved right by the discussion you read on this very blog. Sexless people can be happy and peaceful if they have some extremely powerful compensatory mechanisms. Otherwise, I'll keep looking around, maybe I'll meet an exception. :-)

Clarissa said...

Now a good question to ask - from a feminist perspective - is why the woman who fakes does it. For the sake of a boyfriend who cares so little about her that he fails to notice there is no orgasm? For the sake of a relatiobship where lying and cheating is so easy?

The reason why she does this is that for a woman, the only way to achieve social validation is to be "in a relationship" at all costs (see my recent post "Marriage.") Everything gets sacrificed to this "sacred" purpose. I have dedicated years of research to figuring out how priority systems for men and women areestablished by ruling ideologies. If you know the basic tenets of the theory of ideology, you know that nobody can ever be completely free of their ideological conditioning. Saying "This woman just has this set of priorities" is a way of thinking that avoids any kind of deeper analysis. "It happens because it happens" is not my approach. I analyze why people want what they do, why they make the choices they do, and how these things depend on the ruling ideologies.

You cannot call yourself a feminist and avoid doing this. P.Foxy's place is not on a feminist site. She would, however, do great in Ladies Home Journal.

Kyle said...

"Male wants (needs, desires, wishes, whims, etc. etc.) are more important than female in patriarchy. Feminism is against patriarchy. Ergo, a feminist website should look into the reasons why women keep sacrificing themselves for male "wants." A feminist website that applauds and promotes such attitudes among women is not feminist."

See, you're still assuming that the questioner's priorities are rooted in patriarchy as opposed to a desire to please others that is found in both men and women. This is an unprovable assumption, and without being able to prove it, you still fail to show that her priorities are wrong. A feminist website shouldn't be about telling people to conform to certain beliefs because something said so, a feminist website should encourage people to make their own decisions. Just because she decides to do something patriarchy approves of doesn't mean she's doing it because of patriarchy. You're assuming that the correlation equals causation. This seems issue is at the center of your entire argument regarding her personal sex choices.

You go on to say that, "The only reason anybody can have such "views" is because of the millennia of patriarchal oppression." Yet, I've already posed the counterexample of how my girlfriend and I frequently practice similar things out of a desire to please each other. Does patriarchal oppression cause me, a man, to please my girlfriend when I'm too tired to want to be pleased myself?


"Kyle, I hope you are not suggesting that ANY woman can desire ANY man with enough foreplay. Because that's a scary idea to entertain."

Er, no. I meant exactly what I said, which is that it's likely that they did not attempt enough foreplay. I've been working to ensure that everything I've written in this thread can be taken at face value without hidden implications.


"Not 'sleep emissions'. I'm talking about orgasms people experience in their sleep."

Sure. The phrase I used was male-exclusive, and I should have said sleep orgasms. There's still no conclusive evidence here.


"You want me to believe in things I've never seen."

No, I'm asking that you don't universalize personal examples. Of course you saw real things, but what's true for those people isn't necessarily true for everyone. Personal examples make great counterexamples, but it's logically infeasible to infer generalized truths from them.


"If you know the basic tenets of the theory of ideology, you know that nobody can ever be completely free of their ideological conditioning."

Perhaps nobody can be completely free of it, but that doesn't prove that people are completely enslaved to it, either. Weren't many feminists raised in oppressive, patriarchal households? This seems undeniably true. You're argument about the questioner who faked assumes that she must be incapable of independent thought on the matter, but you haven't proved this.

Clarissa said...

"See, you're still assuming that the questioner's priorities are rooted in patriarchy as opposed to a desire to please others that is found in both men and women. "

-Kyle, you can enter the words "women conditioned to please" and see the thousands of links explaining how women have been conditioned historically to please as part of female identity. Men please women too but for men it's much more of a choice than for women. There is so much research done on this topic that I don't know where to begin. I would expect a feminist website to show SOME tiny little marginal awareness of this fact.

"Just because she decides to do something patriarchy approves of doesn't mean she's doing it because of patriarchy. You're assuming that the correlation equals causation."

-No, I'm not. I'm saying it's possible. And that possibility needs to be pointed out. We are talking about a feminist resource here. Advice such as "fake to please your man" and "insert 3 fingers to save a marriage" is plentiful. If as feminists we can't offer anything that differs from the suggestions presented by Cosmo or by Ladies' Home Journal, then who needs a feminist website at all?

"I've been working to ensure that everything I've written in this thread can be taken at face value without hidden implications."

-I'm a literary critic, so EVERYTHING has hidden implications. :-) Would you agree that it's POSSIBLE she simply doesn't want him? All I suggest is that this possibility be offered before the advice on inserting fingers. What's wrrong with suggesting several possibilities to a person?

Clarissa said...

"You're argument about the questioner who faked assumes that she must be incapable of independent thought on the matter, but you haven't proved this."

-My criticism was addressed at Foxy who presumes to offer advice on a feminist website when all she has to offer is the same drivel we read in ladies' magazines and fundamentalist Christian books on how to be a good, obedient wife.

V said...

---OK, let's say we have managed to condition our children to care and expect caring. How do we condition their partner to do that? There is a huge probability that the partner will not be conditioned in this way and our poor caring child's feelings will be hurt.

So, your suggestion is to make your kid the one who does the hurting? Because there is a huge probability that the partner will be conditioned to expect caring and therefore will get hurt...

---Why do you want to decide for other people what kind of sexual motivation would be useful to them? These are other people, it should be up to them.

They will decide what motivation is useful for them based on their own experiences. Which may be more or less pleasant. But I still fail to see why indoctrination "sex is just a physiological process which has nothing to do with emotions" is more beneficial than "for many people sex is related to emotions and caring about each other one way or another". I'd rather not indoctrinate children in any of the above ways, actually, I'd indoctrinate them to always be open about what they want, whatever it is. (So potential partners could decide if it fits their agenda or not.) And to understand "NO"...

---That is not going to happen. Mommy's brainwashing is way too strong to just go away so easily. I know a guy, 32 years old, still a virgin. Mommy had been dumped by Daddy, so she spent her entire life talking about how men hurt women. Now he can't approach any woman at all. It's sad when parents try to solve their own sexual problems by indoctrinating children.

Of course it is a very sad story, but its connection to the previous discussion is rather remote. I dare say that there are thousands of times more people who one way or another connect sex with caring, than there are 32 year old virgins completely brainwashed by their mothers. Therefore, indoctrination about caring, if done in moderation, is not a likely cause of such negative effects.
V.

Clarissa said...

"So, your suggestion is to make your kid the one who does the hurting? "

-If some people choose to be constant victims of their unreasonable, unhealthy expectations, it's their problem.

"Because there is a huge probability that the partner will be conditioned to expect caring and therefore will get hurt"

-I can't imagine any parent risking their child's emotional well-being out of caring for some hypothetical people out there who might have some expectations.

What I suggest one could say is "for many people sex is related to emotions and caring about each other one way or another and for many it isn't. Both attitudes are perfectly ok, but the first group tends to have pretty lousy sex lives (in my experience). Maybe your life will teach you somethinng different and then you'll tell me all about that". I think this sounds cool enough. :-)

"I dare say that there are thousands of times more people who one way or another connect sex with caring, than there are 32 year old virgins completely brainwashed by their mothers. Therefore, indoctrination about caring, if done in moderation, is not a likely cause of such negative effects."

-And how many women there are who live without an orgasm but with plenty of caring for their partner? have you seen any recent statistics? My theory is: you start to privilege caring, you can forget about good sex. It's just a theory, though, I don't insist on anything here. :-) It's the same with food: as soon as you start privileging emotional aspects of eating, welcome to an eating disorder!

BAYMAN said...

About others's comments:

If I want to comment on a blog, I read through all of the posts before doing so, but I had to stop after a few of Kyle's posts. For him to state that there is no proof that sex is a physiological necessity is beyond the pale. For anecdotal evidence alone, we have thousands of years of priests taking vows and then violating them. Does Kyle think they have done so out of whimsy, or perhaps boredom? Priests violate their vows nearly always, I'd posit, with great pain. They do because to go without sex isn't possible (except for those whose biology is compromised). (As for the Vatican, they're simply in denial.)

Further, if he's close enough to know the sexual habits of his male friend, no masturbation, no porn, I'd question whether or not they're in a homosexual relationship, acknowledged or not. I've been exceedingly close to some women friends, I'm a lesbian, and I have no idea whether or not they masturbate.

My comments:

One of the things I've seen over and over in Clarissa's blogs and consequent comments is that people read into her blogs all manner of things she doesn't say. The way most people talk is as if they're sofas. Their ambiguous language is padded with all manner of unspoken sub-text, implication, reference, and suggestion. This isn't true of Clarissa. She says what she means, no more, no less, as if her words were a chair like one of those skeletal stripped down minimalist Breuers, made of stainless steel rails and a strip of leather. Nothing extra, no padding, no room for hidden meaning, all of that stuff people ascribe to her. It's no wonder she gets irritated. It's like people come into her carefully crafted living room and dump their mess of verbiage, their "confusion worse confounded" [Milton]

Full disclosure: I'm not a friend of Clarissa's; more, I have no idea who she is.

Having had impossibly difficult circumstances, it took years to come out. Sex with males, as was expected of me, occurred. The unpleasant aftertaste lingers, but at least I can talk about heterosexual sex with the sure knowledge that I'm entitled to an opinion about it.

If there is a relationship with "caring", I can't begin to see what value there is in lying to the partner about one's sexual experience. To fake an orgasm is, in every way I can think of, a violation of the relationship, of trust, of honesty, and a violation to one's own body. If caring is not involved and if the partner asks, why ever would one lie?

I'm a mother. I talked to my son about sex from the time he could ask about it, in age appropriate language using age appropriate concepts. At one dinner party, we put our youngsters, all the same age which was three, in the kitchen with their dinners. I'll never forget what my son later described as an argument between him and his then best friend Rachel and its aftermath, the resolution. My son and Rachel came flying into the dining room, my son yelling, Mommy, boys have penises and girls have vaginas, right?? I didn't think much of it. I thought even if the kids were obviously kind of wound up, it was a perfectly simple question, if funny, so I laughed and said, Yes. They went back to their dinners. What took me aback were the looks on my friends's faces. We had known each other for years, in fact, had gone through school together and married each other, from within the group, and had our babies at almost the exact same time. I thought they'd react much the same way as had I, which was to laugh, but not think much of it. Instead, they were, some of them, deeply embarrassed, or shocked. After a brief attempt to talk about what had happened, I turned the conversation to something innocuous. In the ensuing weeks, I talked to all of them about it, but it changed the way I saw them. I was shocked that they had been shocked.

I think it's common, whether in a conversation with a friend, or in therapy, to respond the way Clarissa recommends. Imagine this: [next window]

Clarissa said...

"For him to state that there is no proof that sex is a physiological necessity is beyond the pale. "

-Thank you, Bayman! I thought I was going nuts here having to offer objective proof for obvious things.

"The way most people talk is as if they're sofas. Their ambiguous language is padded with all manner of unspoken sub-text, implication, reference, and suggestion."

-This is funny. :-) :-)

"She says what she means, no more, no less, as if her words were a chair like one of those skeletal stripped down minimalist Breuers, made of stainless steel rails and a strip of leather. Nothing extra, no padding, no room for hidden meaning, all of that stuff people ascribe to her."

-Thank you so much! Coming from you, this means a lot.

Kyle said...

"No, I'm not. I'm saying it's possible. And that possibility needs to be pointed out."

This point holds no water for a variety of reasons. Of course it's possible. We've established this. But that's not evidence for her priorities being the result of patriarchy, let along straight-up wrong. Further, Foxy does point this out. I've quoted this part to you before: "Consistent faking arises from a combination of factors: the aforementioned need to please, a fear of asking for what we want sexually lest we be judged, how regularly women judge and censor themselves, a lack of knowledge of our bodies and a fear of exploring them. I am ok with faking if you have thoroughly dealt with all of these things." You have never addressed Foxy's saying this, yet it's one you've explicitly stated you want her to say.


"...the same drivel we read in ladies' magazines and fundamentalist Christian books..."

1) Feminism is a broad ideology that allows differences of viewpoint. Just because she gives different advice than you do doesn't mean she's in favor of patriarchy. 2) Fundamentalist Christian books don't tell people how to find people for threesomes.

Kyle said...

Bayman

For your anecdotal evidence to prove that sex is a physiological necessity, ALL priests would need to violate their vows. The fact that MANY (or even MOST) violate these vows is merely a testament to the their particular sex drives, but you have not yet proven sex to be a necessity. (You would also need to address the existence of perfectly physically healthy priests who keep their vows, and would need to prove that they're not actually healthy.)



"Further, if he's close enough to know the sexual habits of his male friend, no masturbation, no porn, I'd question whether or not they're in a homosexual relationship, acknowledged or not."

Thanks for speculating about the subversive nature of my sex life. People confide information about themselves when they drink (I'm in college), and they're most likely to do so to the friends they're closest to. Different circles of friends operate differently, and not all people work like your friends do.

BAYMAN said...

Imagine two women talking, one of them in a profoundly abusive relationship that the other has heard about at length. Abused woman says, I don't know what to get John for his birthday. Is buying him a Corvette too much? Friend says, Are you crazy? You can't afford a Honda. Leave his ass. She doesn't address the question, she gives advice appropriate to the situation.

I skimmed through the rest of the comments. (I'm running out of time). But I don't think anyone said anything about the parents and their obligations, except Clarissa, and her briefly. I see this situation from a daughter's and a mother's viewpoint, being both. There has been much discussion about what the daughter should/should not do, but little about the parent's obligations. Their job, given that the child is over 18, is to love and ACCEPT the child, and if it happens, the child's spouse/partner and the child's family (in whatever form that takes) and to honor boundaries. That's about it. No commenting, no questioning, just absolute unequivocable support of the child's choices and behavior, no matter how difficult it feels. If there's an enormous mess, the child is in trouble, get help. It's a Don't try this at home situation. Unless their life is in jeopardy and even then it's a professional's job, not the parent's.

Getting to comment on the child's life ends about when they're 18, excepting requests from the child.

V said...

Clarissa,
---What I suggest one could say is "for many people sex is related to emotions and caring about each other one way or another and for many it isn't. Both attitudes are perfectly ok, but the first group tends to have pretty lousy sex lives (in my experience).

Obviously, we are just talking past each other. You are apparently talking about "caring in the very process of having sex". And here I agree with you - this kind of caring indeed can cause lousy sex if people involved are all the time anxiously thinking about how they care not to hurt their partner, physically or psychologically, by offering something which the partner will be offended about. (It is of course an interesting question if that means they care about the partner, or about themselves, about not having to encounter partner's reaction.)

But I was talking about a different thing all the time. I was talking about "caring as emotional background", which does not pop up every time partners have sex, and does not interfere with engaging in various fun activities, which fundamentalists may consider blasphemy and radical feminists - patriarchal and degrading... :)

Kyle, you will make an exceptional lawyer. :):)

Are we going to reach the record length of the comment thread? :)
V.

Kyle said...

Thanks, V!

Do you know the maximum number of comments that can be posted, or if there's a maximum? It would be cool to reach it!

(Side note, every time I've seen your comments I think of V for Vendetta. Just sayin'.)


-Kyle

V said...

Kyle,
---I think of V for Vendetta.

:) It is just a first letter of my real name... Which is not Vendetta. :) I knew Clarissa before this blog, so I just let her know that the author of certain comments is me and not some random Anon...

V.

Kyle said...

That makes sense, though I am disappointed. I was hoping you were a vigilante in a Guy Fawkes mask. :)

Kyle

V. said...

---I was hoping you were a vigilante in a Guy Fawkes mask. :)

Not a bad idea for Halloween though... :)
V.

Kyle said...

Bayman,


Your last comment it seems interesting, though, with all of the sub-discussions in this thread, I was wondering if you could situate it.

In particular, I'm not quite sure what you mean to say with your opening story. Does this prove that Professor Foxy's advice is inappropriate (as Clarissa seems to argue)? Are you arguing that Professor Foxy's questioners are being profoundly abused?

Kyle

Clarissa said...

Wow, I can't believe the great discussion that has been going on while I was stuck in Atlanta airport.

I don't think there is a limit on a number of comments, so the discussion could go on and on. It's funny that the most active discussions always have to do with sex. :-)

Clarissa said...

"For your anecdotal evidence to prove that sex is a physiological necessity, ALL priests would need to violate their vows. The fact that MANY (or even MOST) violate these vows is merely a testament to the their particular sex drives, but you have not yet proven sex to be a necessity."

-Since women in this thread insist that sex is a necessity and men here and in the previous discussion insist it isn't, maybe we can agree that it is a necessity for women and not for men. :-)

Clarissa said...

"There has been much discussion about what the daughter should/should not do, but little about the parent's obligations. Their job, given that the child is over 18, is to love and ACCEPT the child, and if it happens, the child's spouse/partner and the child's family (in whatever form that takes) and to honor boundaries. That's about it. No commenting, no questioning, just absolute unequivocable support of the child's choices and behavior, no matter how difficult it feels."

-This exactly what I was trying to say. And this is exactly what was missing from the advice I was addressing.

That's why I say the column in question represents a "toothless" variety of feminism. These constant efforts to keep everybody happy (and avoid losing blog visitors in the process), to tell everybody exactly the kind of boring thing that has been chewed over by every talk show host on the planet, the fear of saying anything even remotely controversial for fear of (God forbid!) making people think is what feminism is becoming today. Sad.

Kyle said...

That's so true; sex always seems to provoke the most interesting talks.

I just read your recent post. It's good that the department chair was so understanding. I've only flown Delta once but had a horrible experience, too. I hope your semester goes well!

Kyle said...

"Since women in this thread insist that sex is a necessity and men here and in the previous discussion insist it isn't, maybe we can agree that it is a necessity for women and not for men."

But what about the girl who wrote to Foxy claiming to be asexual?

As for the argument with parental responsibility (your response gave me a lot of context for what Bayman meant--thanks), I really don't think anyone can say one choice (between challenging the parent to change or refusing to "justify" it) is more toothless or courageous than the other. I don't think the poly girl is explaining it to make her mother happy (though shared happiness doesn't seem like an unreasonable goal to ultimately strive for), but to make her mother understand the choice and become broader. (In the event that we cannot definitively prove whether she's doing this to please her mother or to make her mother more tolerant, we should err on the side of the questioner's claims, because those provide the context for Foxy's answer.) Bayman may be right that a parent's role is just to accept the child's choices on the matter (I happen to agree with that), but that doesn't mean the child is making the wrong decision by trying to broaden the parent's understanding.

Clarissa said...

"I hope your semester goes well!"

-Thank you, Kyle! It's going great so far. I love my students, they are the best.

"But what about the girl who wrote to Foxy claiming to be asexual?"

-I am sooo not getting into the asexuality debate all over again. I was just trying to make a joke. Take into account the fact that I hadn't slept for 40 hours, so maybe the joke wasn't perfect.

"make her mother more tolerant"

-You cannot "make" another person be anything they don't want to be. I believe that explaining your personal choices to your parents does nothing other than reinforce the adult/child relationship. If a grown woman wants to play the part of a little girl with her parents, that's her right. But she should expect disrespect from them as a result.

Yay, we broke the previous 94 comment record! Thank you, everybody who participates in this discussion.!

Clarissa said...

I just discovered that this post has been copied to some semi-pornographic website. This is very funny.

Kyle said...

"I was just trying to make a joke."

Ahhh, sorry!


"You cannot "make" another person be anything they don't want to be."

But people can be convinced to change their minds all the time. I think we've each framed the discussion in different terms: you've been using words like "justifying" and "explaining," and I've been using terms like "informing" and "persuading." Both of us are trying to weigh in on her intentions, which neither of us can completely discern; in that event, our best bet is to go with what the questioner says.



We broke the comment record here? :) You're welcome. *bows* That's weird with the semi-porn site. How did you find that out?

Clarissa said...

Somebody sent me a link to the weird semi-pornographic site. I have no idea why they decided they need my text. Maybe they think that when the word "sex" is repeated several times that makes a post semi-pornographic too. :-)

Kyle said...

Haha, they must have been disappointed.

profacero said...

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as is said where I live! There were a few uptight people on this thread, and people interested in splitting hairs, n'est-ce pas? Uffff.

I live in a very conservative area and I have for some time, and what I've found out about some peoples' attitudes toward sex and sexuality still amazes me.

Story from 90s. Conversation while having sex.
Man: You are enjoying this, aren't you?
Me: Yes.
Man (getting freaked out, going into a bit of shock): Uh, I'm not used to that idea, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. The idea that you would be here because YOU want to be at least as much as, or maybe even more than, because I want you to be. Uh, no, I definitely cannot do this.

This really happened.

profacero said...

Story from this century.
Proposition: Since you're not married or Catholic, I'd like to ask you ... I mean, we've gone out and I can already tell I'm not going to fall in love, but I really like your looks ... but since you're not married or Catholic, maybe I could call you sometimes just to have sex ...?
Me: Well, we've gone out, yes, and although I wouldn't have put things as baldly as you, I also don't think we're going to develop either a romance or an interesting sexual relationship, let alone both. I like you as a person, though, and I think we'd be much wiser just to be friends ... and I do mean that, not "friends" but friends.
Man: Even though you're not married or Catholic, you truly not interested in casual sex?
Me: Look: I am not overwhelmingly interested in sex with you. I might be moreso in the context of a certain kind of relationship, but we're obviously not going to develop such a relationship. I am not interested in occasional, casual sex with you, and I am even less interested in providing sexual services for you. (In fact, you should realize that sexual services on demand, at times appointed by you, no strings, etc., that is a product you can buy from professionals.)

Man: You actually feel this way even though you're not married or Catholic?

Me: Yes. I really do believe in having sex only when I actually think it's a good idea.

Later on I had an affair with a Player, it couldn't be taken seriously or last because this man was a Player, but it was fun. The man above asked me about it, because he was jealous ... why would I do for someone else what I wouldn't do for him. Again, I explained -- in part just so I could see what he'd say and come to understand better the attitude people have here.

Me: Yes, I knew this was a Player and it would be Casual Sex. But, I could tell that it would be fun and that he would abide by certain best practices so that things did not get out of hand. And I knew that since it would be satisfying sexually, I wouldn't be caught up trying to get emotional or social satisfaction/pleasure to MAKE UP FOR sexual disappointment; nor would I be vulnerable to getting guilted into sticking around if anything deteriorated in any area of the relationship that mattered. This would be the case because I would not have started the kinds of patterns I notice I and others get into when we're having sex we don't really want to have, or that isn't really good enough.
Man: I still don't understand why you were able to do that with someone else but not with me.
Me: Perhaps if you understood what attraction was, and understood how unattractive it is to try to whine your way to getting laid, you might have a clue.

Clarissa said...

Profacero: you made me laugh. :-) :-) You are such a kind and patient person trying to educate these Neanderthals. I'm sorry to say that I had very similar stories happen to me. What does that say about the general level of men out there? Sad.

Thank you for sharing!!

G said...

No need to post this, Clarissa; just can't control myself, having skimmed through this mass of discussion. (How ever did you find the patience?)

Sex as physical need: this has been established by medical science. People need sex. Sex (by which I mean, ending in orgasm) promotes health. If you stop eating, it will take 40 days or so to kill you. Stopping sex won't kill you as quickly, but eventually....

Faking orgasms. Here's a little scenario:

Boyfriend: Hey honey, do you like my new shirt?
Girlfriend (thinking, my god that's the most hideous thing I have ever seen): Yes sweetie, looks good on you.
[Next evening]
Boyfriend: Hey honey, I'm ready to go out and meet your best friend from home! I'm even wearing my new shirt for her!
Girlfriend: Oh, great, she'll love it.
[Next year]
Boyfriend: I'm almost packed for the honeymoon! I can't wait! And I've got your favorite shirt!
Girlfriend: Goodie.
[Ten years later]
Husband: Hey honey, where's that shirt you love so much?
Wife: I threw it out.
Husband: What?! You love that shirt! How could you do that to me?
Wife: No, I hate that goddammed shirt and I've hated it for 10 years and I'm sick and tired of you and it and good-bye!

Is there any reason to suppose that faking orgasm is going to lead to any happier result?