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What I Learned From the "What is Sex?" Poll - Mo's Journal
January 15th, 2008
10:07 am

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What I Learned From the "What is Sex?" Poll

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From:scribbling_elf
Date:January 17th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
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I started to fill the survey out but didn't finish. While I was doing it, I was struck by two things 1)how much I've been effected by social/parental definitions of these categories, and how hard it can be to escape that, and 2)how much emotional baggage can come with the territory of whether or not x is SEX. Growing up, I learned to associate the term "sex" with "intercourse," generally speaking only of PVI. Eventually, this expanded to mean basically anal sex for gay men and oral sex for lesbians. Outside those three categories, everything got hazier--"oral sex is kind of sex, but you're still a virgin if you do it...unless you're a lesbian." Also, living in a small conservative town where there was a certain amount of pressure to be a virgin (for girls at least), many of my peers were in the "no sex until marriage, but oral is moral" camp. Once you get into that frame of mind, then you can't believe that those practices are SEX, because that would you mean you're not a virgin.

So honestly, I don't have a consistent answer, and it's still an emotionally fraught subject. While I may agree with the majority of respondents intellectually, my knee-jerk categories haven't changed in the same way. I can see why some people feel that frottage or mutual masturbation are sex, as they're obviously sex acts, but it's hard for me to think of it as sex when it's definitely a distinct experience from PVI or other penetrative sex.

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From:mofic
Date:January 18th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)
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I feel your pain. It's a confusing topic. And when you add "virginity" into it (a concept I think we'd be better off without, personally) it gets harder. The thing about limiting "real sex" to penetrative sex is... not everybody's into penetration. It's such an arbitrary categorization, as arbitrary as saying that only non-penetrative counts, which certainly no one would.

But I agree with you that's there's a lot of emotional baggage over what's sex and it's there on the inclusive and the exclusive side. Someone upstream in comments suggested that lesbians should just accept that we can have valid relationships but what we do isn't sex. ::rolls eyes:: It's not about relationships; it's about sex and about sexuality. And our *sexuality* is as valid as anyone else's, and so is the sex we have. I think this is an area where - in general, with some exceptions - lesbians and gay men are way ahead of straight people. We typically *don't* have a single act that is "it" and the rest don't count (no matter what you read in slash fic written by straight women). We recognize that different people get off different ways. Cunnilingus is not the be all and end all for lesbians in general (although it would certainly be up there with bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens if *I'm* making the list). Some lesbians don't like it. Some like penetrative sex - on one end or both of it - and some don't. Some like it if it's finger penetration, but not dildos; some like strap on sex. Some like tribadism and various other kinds of "riding" sex; some like all of the above at different times or with different partners. It's all sex.

And for all that I think it's limiting to lesbians to define sex as PVI I think it's *much* more limiting to straight women. 70% of straight women cannot get off from PVI alone. The idea that what gets their husbands and boyfriends off is the real thing and what gets them off is just "foreplay" and something to just get through quickly causes more sexual dissatisfaction than you can shake a stick at.

I like your icon btw. Who are they?
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From:laura_holt_pi
Date:January 18th, 2008 06:52 am (UTC)
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Sexuality is not sex. Sex is not sexuality. It's you that seems to have a very limited view of both.
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From:scribbling_elf
Date:January 18th, 2008 10:52 am (UTC)
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Sexuality may be more than "just" sex, but how is sex not a part of sexuality?
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From:mofic
Date:January 18th, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC)
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That almost sounds like a riddle. And I think the answer would be:

if your view of sex is so narrow that it includes only one act, then it really has very little to do with sexuality.
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From:mofic
Date:January 18th, 2008 11:58 am (UTC)
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Actually you are limiting your view of sex to one act and seem not to understand how it interrelates with sexuality. As I said, this is about sex and sexuality. I'm sorry this is so hard for you!
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From:scribbling_elf
Date:January 18th, 2008 10:58 am (UTC)
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Yes, even just the term "virginity" connotes so many more value judgments and emotions to me. Obviously there's also a gender issue here, and I can see why you'd think the idea does more harm than good. Then we get into different cases like, is a gay man who's had sex with a woman but not a man "virginal in some sense? What about a bisexual woman who's had sex with a woman, but not a man? Ideas about virginity in fanfic could be an entire study of its own--like the "first time" or "we could die and there's nothing worse than dying a virgin!" fics.

Thanks, the icon is Tara and Willow from Buffy. :)
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From:mofic
Date:January 18th, 2008 12:08 pm (UTC)
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My friend who coined PVI decided that "loss of virginity" means "the first time one has an orgasm in the presence of and with the help of another person." It's an interesting definition but I doubt it will become widespread.

For one thing, a whole lot of *married* women would still be virgins. Also there is some significance to First Times of various kinds for most people.


Thanks, the icon is Tara and Willow from Buffy. :)


That's pretty impressive. A mainstream network tv program and they showed them kissing in an obviously sexual manner? Nice to know.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 20th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)

from L in the flesh :)

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Actually, I might even have said that loss-of-virginity could happen from
one's own orgasm w/o another person. I think it is the change in world
view that comes when a person has an orgasm. Suddenly everything has a
much er...rosier...glow to it, like sexual possibilities just open up
everywhere.

And yes, I do think a whole lot of married women are virgins. I think it
has little to do with how someone else is using your body (or it should!)
and has everything to do with how sexual you feel and are capable of
feeling. Or at least let me say that if the word "virgin" is too taken
to mean this, then I demand another word to use instead. :)

One thing I cannot stand in the sex == PVI camp is their influence on
popular culture/media. I cancelled my subscription to _Redbook_ because
in a Q&A, a woman wrote something like, "Can my gynecologist tell if I've
had sex the night before" and the answer totally assumed that she would
have had PVI without a condom. ("S/he can see traces of semen...")

As a married woman whose sex life is not so limited, I was appalled at
this advice.

(It also comes up re. "having sex" to jump-start labor...prostaglandins?
orgasms? what the heck are talking about, exactly?)

An important thing is what Mo brought up, i.e. that (especially
heterosexual, married) women are led to think that they "don't enjoy
sex" because, with their totally-normal physiques, they don't orgasm
from PVI alone. It is just cosmically insulting that the things that
make women climax would not be called "sex" but the things that make men
climax would be. Yuck.

--L (flattered that people use the TLA PVI)
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From:mofic
Date:January 21st, 2008 02:08 am (UTC)

Re: from L in the flesh :)

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Actually, I might even have said that loss-of-virginity could happen from
one's own orgasm w/o another person


You are right. I had misremembered as I discovered when I checked my copy of "Quotations from Chairman L." I really should remember this stuff. ::hanging my head::

In any event, you have taught me a great deal about sex and I thank you for it.

Edited at 2008-01-21 03:14 am (UTC)
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