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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » All, most, many, some and none

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Author Topic: All, most, many, some and none
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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While this comes up with pretty much everything, very often in discussions with sex we'll hear people say that all people do a given thing, that no one wants such and such, or that most people....you get the picture.

I want to keep a running conversation about these words and how any of us may choose to use them when talking about sexuality here at Scarleteen.

One big boo-boo we see a lot of here (and elsewhere) is the use of all or none. Usually when people say those words to talk about sexual behaviour, they're making very big assumptions or gestures, usually based on their personal experiences of those things. The thing is, our own personal experiences with sexuality in general or other people's sexuality are both usually very limited and usually very biased. And all the more so if our experiences have not been vast in any number of ways, and/or have only happened in avenues where people are less likely to be honest (such as, in bed, or in certain peer groups). As well, when a lot of people use words like this and talk about what other people do, it often is colored by a need to either fit in or differentiate oneself.

Most, many and some tend to be a lot more useful, especially since in sexuality, there are really NEVER "alls" or "nones." (Except maybe that all people vary widely and there is no one sexuality or person in conformity or nonconformity with everyone.) Of course, where we're getting information to quantify things that way still matters, even if we're not doing an all or none.

Can we talk a bit about these kinds of statements, what can or can't make them sound, and about how everyone can work a little harder -- and how we all benefit when people do -- by being very cautious with these words?

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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

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Devanie
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I agree with you completely, Heather. All or None can be very damaging phrases during conversations... even ones not about sexual health/tendencies/etc. (Actually, I noticed you started this thread right after I made a comment on another thread concerning those statements. Is that related? Or just a coincidence?)

Because people are incredibly diverse, huge statements that either include everyone or no one are often incorrect. For instance, saying that "All teenage girls are ashamed of their bodies" and "All teenage boys are mindless sex maniacs"... both are wrong, but the latter sentence is even more incorrect.

In society, we often will use all or none to distinguish Us, the 'good/normal/etc' guys, from Them, the 'evil/weird/etc' guys. Anyone who isn't part of the 'norm' is weird and should be shunned.

These statements are incredibly damaging in that way. They divide people.

They also can be damaging due to their inaccurate information. For instance, "All heterosexual couples enjoy intercourse, and all heterosexual men will orgasm from intercourse... Always." This statement can be severely damaging because it:
A) Isn't always true
and
B) implies that something is wrong with you if you don't fit that norm.

Because Scarleteen is a vast society filled with people from various Ethnicity/Background/Gender/Sex/Countries/etc... we have the privilege of seeing many different view points and opinions.

In order to be an accepting society, we at Scarleteen must work on our vocabulary.

Instead of saying, "Every woman enjoys oral sex"

We should say, "I've/My partners have always found oral sex to be enjoyable, but it might be different for you" Or "Some women find oral sex to be enjoyable, why don't you try that?"

Instead of saying, "All boys are like that."

We should say, "Certain people react like that"

I had some better thought out stuff, but I lost my train of thought...

If I remember, I'll come back, I guess.

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Devanie
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Also, these all or none statements are often based on sexist or heterosexist ideas. Just something I noticed.
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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Devanie: I'd very much agree that often -isms are driving the car with "all" or "none."

--------------------
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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Johann7
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Generalizations should certainly be qualified as such, with an indication of the person's sources for making the generalization. The "study I read somewhere" also makes a frequent appearance, though this isn't necessarily an indication that the statement is inaccurate. For example, most men in industrialized/post-industrial countries where pornography is not universally illegal and who are interested in sexual activity use pornography to masturbate (perhaps daily, perhaps less frequently). This is true in my personal experience (anecdotally) and I HAVE read several reports on studies that have found that nearly all men (in the sample group for the study, in the US) use pornography to masturbate. The last one was referenced in a Savage Love Letter-of-the-Day last week, although I can't remember the name.

Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for others to judge how applicable the findings of these studies are to any given situation or discussion, which means that even if my statements ARE accurate or at least accurately applicable to whatever we're discussing, there's no way for anyone else to know this. Even though I couched my statement with far more qualifiers than the oft-heard "All men look at porn," It still may not be applicable to a given discussion, and you have no way of judging that unless I can find the studies, allowing you to analyze their methodologies and sample groups.

It's also not the case that my personal experience or my partial memory means nothing or has no bearing, it's just that we can't definitively determine what the relevance IS.

The all-or-none mentality is hugely problematic, as the world, human society in particular, is made up of gradients and continua, not either/or propositions. Worse, moral debates (or assertions that are framed as moral debates) have a greater tendency to be stated as all-or-nothing positions; sometimes the two sides aren't even the two extremes.

The abortion debate is a great example of this: the sides are often given as 2 all-or-nothing extremes - either you're pro-life (and always against abortion) or you're pro-choice (for the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy at any point for any reason) with no space in between. First off, those aren't even the two extremes: anti-abortion (abortion is always wrong) and pro-abortion (abortion is always right) would be the two extremes. Pro-choice is actually more of a compromise position (with it's own problems: we can have a legal right that's meaningless without working to facilitate the ability of everyone to exercise that right; the right to have an abortion means nothing if one cannot afford the procedure), but it's always presented as one "side". I would view a mandatory abortion policy, similar to China's One-Child Policy, as the other "side", or at least the opposite extreme to an abortion ban (state-mandated abortion vs. state-mandated lack-of-abortion). I don't want to derail this thread onto a discussion of abortion, but I think it's a good example of one of these false dichotomies that's often thrown around.

As for recent topics in the Scarleteen Universe related to this, the article on VR sex-ed (by Carol King) linked from the Facebook page a few days ago contains this gem: "While I dont know anyone who thinks a 14-year old (of any gender) should be having sex, except for a breakaway Mormon sect or the Taliban, I do believe we need to equip them to handle sexually-charged situations." Granted she said "I don't know", but taking that literally would imply she DOES know people in breakaway Mormon sects and the Taliban, so I'm going to assume she meant 'I don't know OF...'. That also may be true; however I know of PLENTY of people who think that 14-year-olds SHOULD be having sex, if that's what's right for them and they're doing so in a safe, non-coerced-nor-forced fashion. Based on discussions I've had and articles/posts I've read here at Scarleteen, a lot (most?) 14-year-olds masturbate, which is of course (solo) sex, and I think that's a good and healthy way to express one's sexuality (if one is so inclined). I'm even all-for 14-year-olds having partnered sex, if it's safe, mutually respectful and fulfilling, and free-as-in-speech. Again, Carol didn't say there WEREN'T any, but the implication, via the Mormon/Taliban statement, is that only religious fundamentalists could possibly support such a thing, to which I object. I think our care in language and how we present our positions and arguments needs to extend beyond the terms listed, although those are some particularly sticky ones, and it's a good shorthand list of words people need to use with care.

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Robble Robble Robble!

Posts: 46 | From: Milwaukee, WI USA | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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