Blogging for Sex Education

Monday was Blogging for Sex Education Day and I did not know, but I know now, and my favorite post on this topic is from Jack’s Non-Blog. It says in part that [s]ex has, for many people, an emotional impact that is rarely discussed logically in any form, and is normally reduced to saccharine conceptions of love and attachment. I am glad someone said this since I am continually told that if sex is not a part of love, which is the intention to experience spiritual transport and create a business partnership, then it is “just physical,” whatever that means.

I blogged for sex education by ranting and raving with my younger brother about the ridiculous experiences we have had, and faux logic we have heard, from Louisiana and a few other men. We do not know what they are really up to as we do not understand them, but our provisional theory is that patriarchy + guilt about sex not only ruins sex but interdicts the possibility of non-faux relationship. This, incidentally, is an excellent argument against abstinence-only sex education.

Axé.


19 thoughts on “Blogging for Sex Education

  1. I completely agree with you. Currently doing my postdoc on public discourses about teenage sexuality, I am constantly mesmerized (and mystified, and often appalled) by the categories which are used to talk about the supposedly «good» sexual experience. And indeed, it all seems to rest on the assumption that the body is non intelligent, non emotional, and even «non pleasurable» outside of the boundaries of a normative kind of relationship.

    But worse: it seems these categories are so ingrained in culture that they end up shaping young people’s experience of their own bodies.

    I wonder what will happen to those teenagers who are told again and again that they will be «traumatized» by their current sexual behaviour.

  2. On being “traumatized” – if they aren’t, they will be told that they should have been and are either in denial (and need to “get in touch” with their “true feelings”) or that not having been “traumatized” is a sign of deeper mental illness.

    The ideas that the body is non-emotional, non-intelligent, are key. Even the most liberal and advanced people seem to think this. And all the younger bloggers point out that what is called sex “education” is actually a terror campaign to keep them from having it or at least from getting pregnant.

    “Don’t get pregnant” is certainly the message I got, too. Don’t get pregnant because it will keep you from hooking a really well-paid man. After you do hook one, though, do whatever he and the patriarchy say, as long as it gets you a pleasant house in Connecticut. Fight for the house because society says it is your right, but do not even think of articulating any more personal emotional needs.

    Also – talking to the Whiteman I wrote about in March and April – was kind of interesting in that it got me to explore a certain alien mentality and also try to articulate some things I would not have thought it necessary to articulate before. This is the whiteman who wants a friends with “benefits” arrangement.

    I think the reason he wants this is that he has screwed up ideas of what a relationship would be. The relationships he seems to be aware of, that his friends have for instance, sound stifling indeed, at least as he describes them.

    I also think that his idea – that you can turn the body to an “on” or “off” mode about sex more or less at will – is really misinformed. He thinks it’s odd that I had an affair and a relationship, both with worse people than he is, but will not be in a when-HE-feels-like-it type of relationship with him. I think what he is trying to do is split mind and body apart in perhaps a very Catholic, but not a very realistic way.

    H*** – my parents are over 80 and they have a bad relationship in a lot of ways, but they still flirt all day, as they always have! One of the things people seem not to realize is that sex is in the whole relationship, not just when you are “having sex.”

    Perhaps that is why relationships which are “just about sex” can work: they are about what they purport to be about.

  3. “Perhaps that is why relationships which are ‘just about sex’ can work: they are about what they purport to be about.”

    Eureka!

    Things do get complicated when you start to throw in other realities of life like rent, having children, which city to live in and just common tastes in music or cuisine; yet, a booty call can last forever. They can even survive intermissions that are years in duration.

    All this time I have heard that sex complicates things, but have we ever tried to look at the situation the other way around. Maybe sex education needs to have a component that deals with communication, societal expectations and ways of dealing with the internal stresses of recognizing your desires when confronted with a conflicting value systems or communal culture.

  4. Baleine: “…yet, a booty call can last forever. They can even survive intermissions that are years in duration.” Yes.

    And yes, it is what is transferred onto sex that is complicated and complicates things – although I do think sex has an emotional impact and is not “just physical” (as though anything were – I think the idea of “pure physicality” needs real unpacking).

    And/but, a lot of relationships which are “just about sex” are really also about asymmetry, exploitation, power … although I guess that is part of what you’re talking about, Baleine…

    I keep coming back to the example of this whiteman because it is so mystifying and yet also indicative. The assumptions and ideological blinders he has are so … indicative, I guess. I keep trying to figure out the logic, boil it down. He wants it to be “just physical,” but on his schedule / his terms, and an important part of these terms are that there be no hint to him of the existence of that relationship except when he wants to conjure it up.

    He thinks that a woman not raised in the Church should have no reason not to accept that. What he does not realize is: 0. Not going to church does not mean I exist for his pleasure; 1. To me, having him hold all the strings like that makes the whole thing entirely unattractive; and 2. To me, even in a relationship with is “just about sex” you have to have some activities and conversation beyond f***ing, but which still refer to it, and that is key. That’s part of sex – without them, you have bad sex, or limited sex, in my opinion.

    BUT: Eureka: I think this guy, and everyone else in this state practically, has a bad case of the Madonna/Whore complex and this is what is going on. I also think a lot of the women here, and a lot of the ones he knows, act to their men in the way he wishes I would: their mission is to please and to serve, and when they are not married, they *do* in fact see themselves as sluts and, I would say, let themselves be used and see it as a compliment. That is one reason why the “Is Sex Even Fun?” article from Reproductive Health is so important and has been cited so much in the discussion of these matters.

    One could put it entirely differently. One could say that any relationship in which there is sex *should* be primarily about that so far as I am concerned. The house you might get together, and so on, is *also* about sex. If not, you might as well just be friends, or just business partners, or whatever. What about making sex the main thing and putting it in the light, rather than casting it as the mystery, or the add-on, or the reward at the center of the labyrinth?

    Anyway … it all goes back to what StupendousWoman said, the presuppositions, the way cultural messages shape people’s experiences of these things and of their bodies…

  5. OK,

    I find this topic to be irresistible.

    Men, women and relationships always bring up a cyclone of concepts and ideas that are not easily assembled.

    1st. Whiteman sounds like he is working on a very Southern rubric if he believes that just because you don’t go to church you are willing to invest in some sort of sexual adventure with him. He believes: (a) that you are free of the value system that will somehow absolve you of guilt (back to your ideas of patriarchy and society); or, (b) you are intellectually free enough to appreciate casual sex, or work out sexual fantasies. If he is not Southern then, he has some baggage from somewhere else.

    2. Do these rules of sex and the Madonna/Whore complex apply to male-male relationships or female-female relationships? Do they belong to bisexual experiences? Dominant and submissive are always used as the pan-generic word to describe physical relationships, but is there a way of talking about the emotional and intellectual state that is either (a) specific to a certain type of “getting it on” (men, women, younger, older, romantic friendships, etc . . .) or (b) addresses the fact that no ones’ sexuality and attraction is set; therefore, our relationship’s relationship to the world may always prove to be different with each partner.

    3. I think sex is both in the dark and in the light. Sex is the act of signing a contract, but on an emotional level, we never read the fine print.

    I hope I make sense. When I get abstract about sex or try to become concrete about love I always loose my pitch. There is something that can not be captured in words about all of my relationships.

  6. Oh,

    And I blame Sex and the City for inciting a riotious culture where men seem to be able to select women according to a 4 digit combination of personality types on an iced revolving platter of sexual curiosity.

    At my survival job a woman bought shoes for her daughter’s sweet 16 and referenced Sex in the City for selection of a pair of Gucci silver high heels.

    I am not sure about this sort of liberation.

  7. I know – the topic is fascinating. And I think you make a lot of sense. Tell me more about the Southern rubric or mindset … I think this is the first time I have encountered it (well maybe the second).
    I do not relate … don’t get it … can’t seem to figure out what it is.

    Sex and the City to blame for a lot, yes. And Whiteman, Southern, yes. Cajun and has also spent a lot of time in MS. The thing I cannot figure out about this [Southern] mindset he has is that it leaves out entirely the question of my interest. If I have no religion to stop me, I should be interested. This I took as an insult: what do you take me for? said I. And then: I don’t know that you can afford me.

    He said: that’s women for you, always looking for money. I said: well yes, if they are expected to produce sex on demand without any requirements of their own, or to otherwise function as a service person, then they need wages.

    Another friend of mine, a Yankee girl, says that from what she has observed, the official job and role of women in relationships in this region is to cover up sexual dysfunction, and that there is a lot of such dysfunction here compared to elsewhere.

    Point 3 is true and Point 2 I haven’t figured out. A lot of the lesbian relationships I know personally are abusive and apparently statistics bear that out – if one can believe statistics, levels of reporting, and so on. That is among people my age – the lesbian students seem to be a lot cooler.

    I *think* the Madonna/Whore thing is about women. But more generally, I note that bisexual/ gay men act in the same weirdo ways to each other as they do to women … this is what my brother and I were complaining about (he is bisexual) re men … they’re machista and therefore a**holes to their partners (us), we complained loud and long.

  8. OK.

    I should really be studying my French irregular verbs so I will make bullet points:

    (a) This is my simple idea of how the rubric works. If you are an adult, you go to “church”, to “work” and “home”. If you are a child you go to “church”, to “school” and “home”. All of the institutions are run by men, and if you are black, there is a possibility that race issues will invade either “work” or “school” in a way that it does not up here in NYC, upon which your “church” and “home” will be come a refuge from the world “outside”. To me, that made life much more limiting.

    All life happens in these three areas, with people knowing each other in each circle and everyone is identified as being a resident of a certain part of town, a member of a certain church, a follower of a certain sect of Protestantism, a practicer of a certain profession, or a student at a certain educational instituation.

    So, if you think about the nature of these 4 institutions in the South, you will see how someone’s life might be molded into thinking that if you are not a member of one of these institution, you are therefore the type of person that does, X,Y, and Z. Which in all actuality is just a projection of their dirty little minds, trying to find an escape hatch from church doctrine.

    Sex is allowable with your girlfriend/wife, and any sexual action happening outside of that schematic of the woman you bring to your “home” or to “church” is for your private pleasure or is negotiated with minimal commitment. That is a just a nutshell. There are many affairs that are based on love and mutual respect, but if it is outside of marriage there is still a view of contempt from the community at large. If I love a woman and bring her home, or talk about her with my uncles they all ask when am I going to get “serious”.

    I don’t think the South is the only place like this. Southern Germany can be very much like this in a more martial and conformist sort of way. I just think that in terms of the Southern Church, if Southern Decadence did not exsist, someone would have to invent it.

    I don’t know much about Cajuns but I do know about Mississippi . . . a little. And the “Catholic” South might be different, but from what I understand, Cajun culture keeps the institution of Rome at a distance, and are far more practical and pragmatic when it comes to mixing life and religion . . . I could be wrong . . .

    And, I could be wrong about all of it. But, that is what I see.

    But, I really will get moving on so I can get back to irregular “ir” verbs.

    (b) What did Yankee girl mean by sexual dysfunction? I need to know, and she can e-mail me on that one. I returned back to TN. after leaving 17 years ago from 2005-2006. What I saw with my adult eyes, verses my childhood memories was shocking. It was not only the judgement calls that were swirling around my head, but how people behaved in other ways. I guess what liberation meant and how it was expressed.

    Ciao.

  9. There is another issue here, as well, which I didn’t notice mentioned. Quite aside from all the societal patterns, norms, and expectations, sometimes a given individual doesn’t find a given individual attractive (in the broadest sense of that term). Sometimes individual males (primarily, I think) want to couch the situation in the context of “If you don’t want to f**k me, then obviously, you’re a frigid b***h with childhood issues” when the reality may be that his feet stink or he’s stupid or he scratches his butt in public. The issue of money is often, I think, connected to whether or not he flips that switch. (It’s interesting to note here, parenthetically — God! did I just use that term in the middle of a parenthetical phrase? — that the “sexiest” men to me, at least, are those who are more interested in their partner than they are in themselves.)

    In line with this, I think women have been taught to question their ability and the reasonable nature of their being free to reject partners at all (in either sexual or relationship senses) based on their own particularistic criteria. So they second-guess themselves when, in fact, they just don’t want that person (for whatever reason). In essence, they’re asking themselves, “Do I have a right not to want to have sex (or a relationship) with this person?”

    Damn straight, we do!

  10. Oh, fascinating! Brilliant essay, Unbeached. And yes, here it is like the Middle Ages, as I have often said – everyone is in their different orders, school, work, home, church, and Mardi Gras Krewe! -IR verbs, yes, I should be writing my article but this is more interesting, at least while I drink coffee.

    Yankee girl means, not realizing women should feel pleasure. She has apparently run into a lot of that but I only encountered it once, in Baton Rouge. What I mean is, impotence or issues bordering on it! Starting around 40. I cannot believe this is typical in the world population, 40 is too young for that in my uninformed opinion. The worst aspect of it is, not thinking it is a problem (one case) and being too inhibited to discuss it (another).

    On the Southern thing: yes, I see it. That dichotomy is in a lot of places – you have a “serious” woman or not. What amazes me is the idea that an unattached woman will *necessarily* be available for sexual service or general mayhem. But yes – that is it – trying to find an escape hatch from Church doctrine. This whiteman is amazed at my generally strong ethical sense in all things: how did you get that, being a heathen and all? asks he.

    This whiteman is actually kind of interesting to analyze, though, because he is willing to give information on his presuppositions. He has figured out that he does not want to be in a traditional marriage – at least, not of the type that he has seen – and for reasons I would not put in the terms he does, but that I understand and even agree with. He also doesn’t want fly-by-night relationships with floozies. He has come up with this middle term he calls “friends with benefits” and thinks that since I am alternative – feminist and all – I should be for it.

    But I think his formulation, although I do see the positive side of what he is striving for, is still fraught with all of the patriarchal assumptions and benefits to patriarchal men that inhere in the super traditional paradigm(s).

    Tennessee – now that is supposed to be *really* tight-ass Protestant and parochial. Catholics generally speaking are a lot more relaxed. In New Orleans they are like Latin American ones. But in the country here they seem very American to me, and freaked out like Protestants!

    CS – yes. You know, I realized from looking at threads on this topic from some of the bloggers in their 20s that things have not changed. They, like me as a child/teenager, have been taught to be sure to let men down very, very nicely, because of course you would not want to hurt their feelings – but have not been taught to protect themselves or to ask for what they want [unless it is money]. My mother did not seem think you could choose men, but only choose among those who have pre-chosen you … and you must choose one, even if you do not like the menu.

  11. The thing that is really captivating about this conversation is that as a man I still identify with Whiteman in this story. I can’t help but think that he is not communicating correctly, or maybe the type of relationship he wants is just harder to achieve with females. Or, maybe he really likes Cero, but is too much of a nerd or just not passionate enough to just say, “Let’s jump the broom and get it on!”

    I know that I can negotiate “friends-with-benefits” with some male friends, but I don’t even call it that. It just happens, or the energy is just there. And it is not that often really because there are a whole other set of issues to deal with.

    With females, it is harder to do the friends-with-benefits game. Whether I initiate it, or they initiate it, there are issues of attraction and how one sees the other. Sometimes friendship kills intimacy. Sometimes our cultural background place different expectations on the relationship. Sometimes it is generational. Sometimes I just ain’t feeling up to it, in the same way aht Cero ain’t really feeling up too it. You know, just because you are my friend, does not mean I am going to scratch where you can’t reach all the time..

    I also never thought about how I was educated to receive or give rejection. Maybe because in terms of being a male, my father basically said a man is suppose to pick the woman up and make her feel secure.

    Rejection is something to be conquered. And I have tried that scenario, with some women being receptive and others being down right hostile. But again, we are caught up in this game of flirting, even when we are trying to get over blocks in the relationship. And as a man, when it comes to a relationships, I have felt that feminist ideals dictate that life and love between lovers should be fought over as if they were in the grand arena of the patriarchal world.

    I have felt many times that that was not fair. Deal with me, and not The MAN!

  12. OK, this is far more interesting than my article – so one more comment before I go.

    Man, supposed to make the woman feel secure, you know my subjective reaction is, that is a Black thing! White guys want power and try to get it by destabilization! I could say something more nuanced, but that is my instant reaction.

    Men, feminism in relationships, yes but … people do not drop the grand arena of the patriarchal world when they walk in their own doors, this is the problem.

    This whiteman, yeah – there is something he hasn’t figured out – and of course I do not speak clearly enough, probably, because of having been trained to be so polite.

    The reason these conversations even go on is that we dated years ago. Not enough in common for a “serious” relationship, and we turned it into friends. But: he was the one who asked me out, and it was because he found me electrifying at first sight. This was not mutual … he’s a worthwhile person and certainly attractive enough to be dating material and so on, but:

    a) I’d have to be utterly electrified to be willing to enter into the kind of agreement he wants; and

    b) I think the idea of turning the affair off and on, particularly if that is done on his schedule only, would just be too much emotional work;

    c) I am far too romantic and sensorially oriented to be interested in so utilitarian a relationship.

    In the end, you know, I think this is about religion. He says that after he has sex he has to disappear, then reappear as a non-sexual friend, etc., then start the cycle again as desire builds (his, of course). I think that is guilt.

  13. And speaking of guilt, it is something the conversation with this whiteman raises for me. Not guilt about having sex, as he imagines, but guilt about turning him down. I wrote the following comment on another thread, a propos of another topic, but I think it is applicable here as well:

    It is really interesting how we are (still) educated to think of the man’s feelings but not our own safety and comfort. My mother emphasized that we must be polite, protect their egos, never hurt their feelings. All while maintaining our virginity, of course! Also, it assume that we would have to accept advances, not from all of them, but from the most acceptable of those who made advances to us – whether or not we were *actually interested* ourselves. This made it hard to imagine anything like desire. It was purely a question of obligation: we were obligated to please and serve *someone.* Our job was to figure out which person we could most easily tolerate pleasing and serving. Period.

  14. And – some time later, still considering Unbeached’s comment – I think this whiteman combines:

    a) not wanting a super-traditional relationship with all of its super-traditional expectations, including (it seems) 1. less fishing and less time alone for him, 2. relinquishing autonomy over how his house and schedule are set up, and 3. the creation of joint bank acccounts;

    b) not wanting to be around *me* full time in any relationship, I am too verbal / intellectual / urban / exotic;

    c) still being massively attracted to me.

    So, he is trying to figure out how to conjugate all of this. Me, I’d still consider him, I wasn’t the one who started the romance way back when but I wasn’t the one who ended it, either – that is to say, he tried to morph it to this FWB thing, I said what is going on, he spilled the beans, and I said that’s not a deal I’m interested in. So I opted out – but he’d already opted out of more serious dating without explaining it.

    It was by getting placed in a casual relationship like that that I discovered that they were boring and often asymmetrical. What he’s talking about might work if we had exactly the same mad attraction to each other, a clear understanding of each others’ baggage, and the same culture/habits. And yet part of what we like about each other is, we find each other exotic.

    As I keep saying, what I find weirdest is the idea of having it be ‘romantic’ on some days, and not on others. Warmth turned on and off like water! If I thought that were OK, I would still find it weird that he should be the one to say which days, and that my role should be to vote on the offers, up or down. Not a lot of co-creation there. (In fact, it looks a lot like the situation my mother imagined – except that in her scenario, the guy supports you in exchange for your availability and service.)

  15. P.S. hours later and kind of OT – more on Unbeached’s comment and southern systems. My infamous Reeducators were from this region, and out in the country too, and they had these sorts of gender problems as well, although not in a “romantic” context. It took a long time for me to see where the disconnect lay.

    It came down to this: because I was neither in Church nor in Floozy mode, but in some other mode (yes – the mode of a young well traveled assistant professor from urban West Coast), but was complaining vaguely and uncomprehendingly of emotional abuse and not knowing how to deal with it, I *must be* a sexual abuse victim. (!)

    [That would explain, according to them, my non-fear of walking in Black neighborhoods: I’d already been raped, although I didn’t remember it, so one more time wouldn’t matter to me, and I would have already learned how to repress memories. And so on and so forth, it was endless. Saying, “But this is not the first Black town I’ve lived in” only gave them more “proof.” They would say, “See! You have always been inappropriately unafraid!”]

    I saw the racism in this – it was one of the things that got me to quit Reeducation – but it has taken forever to figure out the gender dynamics of it. Now I understand one more piece. Gracias, Unbeached. Reeducation appears to have had a certain value – giving me more insight into Southern Systems, which I need.

    ***

    (I am quickly moving us OT in this thread but the OT thing I am also curious about is Southernness and Latin Americanness. They are similar, although not the same. The similarity is what makes me feel at home, because Latin Americanness, I “get.” There is an element of North Americanness in here which I don’t.)

  16. Hot damn. I totally took all Latin American Culture courses at Infamous University for graduate school.

    And to tell the truth . . . it was the rice and beans, and the fact that I recognized my cousins in the Latino men I meet somehow.

    But that is another thread. And it is worth much discussion concerning the plantation system and its pro-generate sub-cultures in this hemisphere.

    I feel comfortable with Latin American and Caribbean “things” — books, to music, to food — but there is something also, on my end, that is foreign and unsettling . . . and with time, I have figured it has something to do with the place women have in machismo cultures.

    More later.

    PS.

    This black/white male, power/security mirror image of male-female relationships deserves a closer look.

    And.

    Your relationship with Whiteman deserves a ficticious treatment in a novel or a film. It is somehow a super-representation of relationships, compromise, and the tactical setting of boundaries.

  17. On Black/Latin cultural confluences, yes, I could go on forever, especially about this region. Plantation subcultures, *yes,* I would love to write a book about this and probably should. All of these people specialize in one country and know only that and tend to think it is sui generis. And there are specificities of course but what I see is a huge continuum. One focus idea I have for such a book would be “Cane Cultures” (on cultures coming from the cultivation of sugar cane in the Americas). There is some writing on this but something far more global should be done. [I have so many good and deep research ideas in so many disparate fields, it drives me nuts.]

    Film/novel on whiteman, YES. “It is somehow a super-representation of relationships, compromise, and the tactical setting of boundaries.” Indeed.

    He is exotic. I believe the most exotic (to me) person I have ever met, combines an unusual set of things.

    AAHH I want a series of fellowships, to just write, and not about the things I am “supposed” to. !

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