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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Bodies » Sex, gender and equality

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Author Topic: Sex, gender and equality
marimo
Neophyte
Member # 104421

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This is my first post here, so I wasn't really sure where to post this. Basically I have been having trouble dealing with feelings and ideas about sex and sexuality, but primarily in terms of how (cis gendered heterosexual) male sexuality is constructed within a narrative of dominance and power which makes me really uncomfortable and unhappy. I know that there is no singular or universal form of sexual expression, and that there are so many kind and generous male sexual partners out there, but its almost like...I can't get past this.
To give this some more context, I have never had any form of partnered sex, nor have I ever been in a relationship. I did grow up in a religious environment which made me feel like sex and desire were negative things, and this probably affected me more than I can know. In addition, I have not had any meaningful and positive relationships with men in my life, and I think the pressure to be heterosexual and interested in sex that is mostly defined as intercourse just makes me feel like I don't know my own desires, and that its hard for me to construct my own sexuality within this framework. Does that make sense?

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Hey, marimo: just running out the door now, but your questions and thoughts reminded me of this advice column: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/why_does_male_sexuality_seem_so_repulsive_to_me_am_i_just_too_feminist

Might have some extra places to start this conversation?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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marimo
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Member # 104421

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Thanks for referring me to that column, it is definitely on point to what Im thinking about. A lot of the things you explained there are so important and I really want to rewrite the way I am looking at sexuality, for both men and women, and to do more to believe in and encourage the things I would like to see. That gives me a lot more hope. I guess I just never really felt like I could define those things for myself. As was mentioned, the invisibility of more positive and equitable sexualities really does enable the things that I (and probably most people) don't want...
I guess I just felt so terrible that I am so unsure and fearful about sex when most people seem really carefree and confident about it. That it makes me less "liberated" or something, and everyone else feels ok with things that Im supposed to like, too, which means Im missing out or lacking something. For example Im not sure how I feel about intercourse, but because its treated as the best or most "real" sex (why is that?), I feel a lot of pressure to want it, for the sake of wanting it. In one of my classes all the statistics about sex only talk about intercourse and make it seem so much more important than anything else. This is just made worse by things like "female sexual dysfunction", which sometimes talks about not liking intercourse or not having sexual desire as dysfunctions. Is it ok if I feel differently? How do I stop this from making me feel bad about myself as a person?

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Redskies
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Hi marimo,

Of course it's ok if you feel differently.

That's ok all by itself, but also, you're not alone in that feeling, as you can tell by the fact that someone else asked that question [Smile]

It's pretty common for people to feel unsure or have some fears about sex. Somehow most of what we hear in the mainstream misses that out completely. For something a bit more real, have you had a look around the message boards here? There's lots of people expressing different kinds of worries.

I often think that this idea of "liberation" is a bit of a funny one. I suspect you're already at least half clued-in by the fact that you used quotation marks. Personally, I consider true sexual liberation to be the ability to pursue the exact kind of sexual life (very much including the absence of one) that we want for ourselves, and an openness to new thoughts. That's a different kind of "liberation" than what people sometimes seem to mean - that is, an openness to actually Having lots of sex or lots of partners, or certain kinds of sex. That kind of a sexual life is no liberation if someone's doing it without truly wanting it. Also, I'm guessing a little here, but from your post I'm suspecting you have some background in some feminist thought or literature? If you do, I'm sure you'd be able to relate very well to the thought that many feminists who've thought and written about sex in terms of gender roles and relations would consider people, especially women, going with the roles society expects of them So not liberated!

"Female sexual dysfunction" is a bit of a funny label, and it's my understanding that it can often be used to label things that really aren't dysfunction, just as you've identified. Someone, or their body, not going along with what's expected of them can't really be considered dysfunction in any real educated framework about sex. Not all people like or want intercourse, and there's nothing "wrong" with those people, and nothing that needs changing. There's a really huge range of what people enjoy sexually, and intercourse is simply outside of some people's range. Other kinds of sex are just as much sex. Not all people experience sexual attraction (asexuals, for example) or sexual desire, and if that in itself isn't distressing to the person, there's nothing wrong with them either. If someone's lost their sexual desire, it's often still very dodgy to frame that as "sexual dysfunction", because there are usually good reasons behind it like illness, stress, a poor relationship... and I would tend to think that loss of desire in those circumstances is actually rather healthy sexual Functioning, not dysfunction - and the root issue isn't a sexual one, but something else.

Why sex that's not intercourse often isn't considered "real" sex is a pretty huge question in itself, and there's a decent amount of feminist thought and writing about it. Super-briefly, the major thoughts here are about sex in its role of creating offspring, with connected religious influences, and about how sex generally seems to have been and still be very penis-centric.

Are some of these thoughts along the lines of what you're thinking about and looking for?

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 79774

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Also, have you seen these articles? If not, perhaps they might help you to know just how much you're not alone with the kinds of thoughts, questions and challenges you have about the way sex keeps getting presented.

http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/whats_sex

http://www.scarleteen.com/article/sexuality/rescripting_sex

http://www.scarleteen.com/article/politics/space_exploration_what_sexual_people_can_learn_from_asexual_communities

http://www.scarleteen.com/article/body/disability_dharma_what_including_learning_from_disability_can_teach_everyone_about_sex

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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quote:
For example Im not sure how I feel about intercourse, but because its treated as the best or most "real" sex (why is that?), I feel a lot of pressure to want it, for the sake of wanting it. In one of my classes all the statistics about sex only talk about intercourse and make it seem so much more important than anything else. This is just made worse by things like "female sexual dysfunction", which sometimes talks about not liking intercourse or not having sexual desire as dysfunctions. Is it ok if I feel differently?
I'd say there are a couple reasons for that.

Historically -- for most of history, really, particularly codified history -- sex was defined not as what people do for pleasure (even though it was often experienced that way), but as how babies get made. And intercourse was, and still mostly is, how.

As well, so many other kinds of sex -- most other kinds of genital sex -- in many cultures, certainly in the west, were considered to be sodomy: to be sinful, unacceptable, and deviant. So, for a great deal of history, most of those other kinds of sex weren't talked about, even though we know they were all happening. In other words, there was a greatly imposed silence when it came to other parts of sex until, really, very relatively recently.

With those two things alone, I think a lot of it has to do with these things only having SO recently changed: we're catching up, as cultures, to those changes, but like any huge cultural change, really getting there is generally slow.

Of course, too, for most of history, what sex was was also defined by men, which is another reason there's all that attachment to the idea that sex= intercourse. (And with things like "female sexual dysfunction," that's capitalism taking its turn mucking everything up. That's all about profit.)

That all said, there is no supposed to with sex. Some people may have the idea that there is, or that human sexuality isn't as diverse as it is, but they're most typically just inexperienced and uninformed. The notion the sex most people have in the world is intercourse just isn't sound. Human sexuality and sexual lives are diverse. Different people like, don't like, prefer and don't prefer different things: those of us who study sexuality know this.

So, by all means, of course it's okay if you feel differently about any given sexual activity than a friend does, a partner does, a magazine does, a commercial does, a given professor does, what have you.

I'm also a big fan of advising people to change the channel with this stuff. Really, when you get the idea that sex is only intercourse, and intercourse is all, what that usually says to me is that the culture and media someone surrounds themselves with is saying that. But to a great degree, we get to choose those environments for ourselves, and that includes choosing to opt out of messaging like that, and into different messaging. For example, in my own life, I rarely hear the kinds of things you're bringing up here anymore except when y'all say them.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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marimo
Neophyte
Member # 104421

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Redskies, Im definitely going to check out those links.
Also, "changing the channel" sounds like a really good idea... I think most of the channels I have seen or been exposed to are really poor ways to explore these things.
I really do appreciate your time, and thoughtful words, both of you, so thanks!

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WesLuck
Activist
Member # 56822

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All the best, and sex is the best when you do it, your way! As long as its healthy, consensual and risks of pregnancy are minimised (pregnancy risk minimisation for those not wanting to have children) then there is really nothing you can do wrong. [Smile]

[ 03-02-2013, 08:11 AM: Message edited by: WesLuck ]

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