Let’s Talk About Sex

We live in an era of unprecedented access to information about sex, imagery of sex and health care related to sex. Internet porn is ubiquitous. Sexual health information, though not always easily accessible, is more accessible online, in mainstream publications (hello Cosmo) and at doctor’s offices than ever before. Frank discussion of sexual pleasure is standard on television and in movies. There are entire university departments dedicated to the study of human sexuality. That’s all good, and we have early sexual pioneers and researchers to thank for it. But we still have quite a long way to go. I’d love to see us embrace a vision of sexuality that isn’t transactional or gendered or capitalist:

In a better reality, sexuality would be understood as a fundamental part of human existence, its good inherent and not dependent on how it can be leveraged. Why? Because pleasure is a good thing. We should all feel more of it when we can. And sex, for many people, is a source of a uniquely wonderful range of pleasurable feelings – physical, emotional and spiritual.

It’s a simple concept, but in a society so disordered and divided when it comes to sex, it’s a radical one. Sex should feel good. Maybe that means candles and a rose-petal-filled bathtub. Maybe it means restraints and role-play. Maybe it means feeling gorgeous when you live in a body that advertisers tell you is ugly or wrong. Maybe it means having sex with someone of the same gender. Maybe it means feeling great about not having sex at all.

Pleasure-centered sexuality means that sex doesn’t have to come with self-loathing or anxiety; sex doesn’t have to be performative or even “normal”.

Getting there doesn’t just require more discussion and imagery of sex. It requires a fuller, more diverse and more thoughtful way of imagining sex, and a recognition that better sex will only come with increased equality across the board. Sex isn’t its own thing, totally divorced from the rest of our society and culture. A cursory look through mainstream internet porn sites makes clear that how we image sex when we’re expressly seeking to titillate is like a magnifying glass for some of our ugliest social problems – misogyny, racism, fetishization, objectification, violence. We can recognize that and still feel unashamed that for many (most?) of us, at least some of those attempts at titillation work.

We’re animals who like sex. We like pictures and videos of other people having sex. We like talking and thinking about sex. The particular aspects or practices we like (or don’t) can feel inexplicable, but are at least partly informed and shaped by the culture we live in – which is misogynist, racist, fetishizing, objectifying, violent. And also increasingly liberal, egalitarian, accepting and diverse.

We’ll have a less fraught sexual culture when we have less fraught gender relations. And we’ll have less fraught gender relations when we quit positioning sex as oppositional, shameful and transactional.

The full piece is here.

Author: has written 5281 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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159 Responses

  1. Gorb
    Gorb July 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

    You imagine a future in which the transactional nature of sex (and all relationships) is gone. She appears to wish we were a different species of animal.

    Neither the female nor male version of the sexual instinct is particularly good at this. This wishing that humans were something else is part of this judgmental urge to “other” prostitutes.

    Here’s an ironically timed piece – same day – by another poster at Feministe.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/07/29/treating-tracy-connelly-like-a-woman

  2. Chataya
    Chataya July 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm |

    In a better reality, sexuality would be understood as a fundamental part of human existence

    I’ll pass.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm |

      Broadly, it is, but yeah, my reaction to that sentence was to mentally insert a “most humans’ existence” edit.

      1. karak
        karak July 30, 2013 at 7:19 am |

        Even if someone’s completely asexual–no desire for sex with others, or self-sex acts, that’s still a sexuality. It’s an understanding of your biology, physiology, psychology, and your relationship to the human act of sex.

        Sex is also an act of procreation. You have to think about sex to think about reproduction. I’m never, ever going to have children, not ever, but I don’t object to Jill saying that children are a fundamental part of human existence, because even my choice to never have children alters my existence, and lots of people around me are going to be having children and I have to navigate that.

  3. A4
    A4 July 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm |

    Let’s talk about sex for now to the people at home or in the crowd
    It keeps coming up anyhow
    Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic
    Cuz that ain’t gonna stop it
    Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows
    Many will know anything goes
    Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be
    How it was, and of course, how it should be
    Those who think it’s dirty have a choice
    Pick up the needle, press pause, or turn the radio off
    Will that stop us, Pep? I doubt it
    All right then, come on, Spin

    The illustrious Salt ‘N’ Pepa everyone

  4. Barnacle Strumpet
    Barnacle Strumpet July 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

    In a better reality, sexuality would be understood as a fundamental part of human existence, its good inherent and not dependent on how it can be leveraged.

    We’re animals who like sex. We like pictures and videos of other people having sex. We like talking and thinking about sex.

    Wow. No. I don’t even know what to say. This is some bullshit I can’t even believe I’m seeing today. I guess we can’t even get lip service paid to the idea that asexuals exist–and are readers here.

    Guess I shouldn’t be surprised. At least you’re not comparing us–and non-binary gendered people–to otherkin today. Is that progress?

    1. Chataya
      Chataya July 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

      At least you’re not comparing us–and non-binary gendered people–to otherkin today.

      wait, when was this?

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

        iirc a couple of months ago, though again, iirc, Jill did not group non-binary gendered people into that, she was talking about various ace-spectrum identities like autosexuals and demisexuals.

        (unpopular personal opinion as a demisexual is that demisexuals are not marginalised for being demisexual, ffs, but others disagree because…reasons I haven’t figured out personally. So.)

        1. Chataya
          Chataya July 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

          sounds…fun

          I must have missed that.

        2. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet July 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm |

          @Mac.

          You’re right. She lists all the asexual identifiers–aromantic, asexual, demisexual, and then autosexuals (not an ace identitiy if anyone’s wondering) and then lists “otherkin, trans-ethnic, and transfat” people as examples of the more “extreme” instances of new identities of people “co-opting the language of social justice”. I guess she couldn’t make the point that we asexuals are evil co-opters without bringing in non-sexual or non-gender identities but hey.

          We asexuals “talk too much about ‘you must recognize my identity'” (maybe because it’s the one of the few things we can talk about without ‘co-opting the language of social justice’) but hey, don’t we know we’re not supposed to talk at all about our experiences?

          That would be “self-involved oppression-hunting [that] isn’t social justice activism.”

          I’m so fucking done. I don’t even know what to say. The kind of things Jill keeps saying, like in those article, and in the previoius one, make me suspect she’s one of those people that are too cowardly to come out and say outrightly that they don’t think asexuality is real, but they’ll say the kinds of things that made me and other aces think we were fucking broken for our entire lives, the kind of shit that made me suicidal and think there was something serioiusly wrong wtih me, that I was some kind of freak and that society was like Jill paints it, humanity all sexual.

          I almost gave up on Feministe over the last post and now I’m questioning why I even bothered staying. I guess I hoped we were so unimportant and invisible that I wouldn’t have to endure any more shit on the matter.

          Jill’s previous wonderful gems of wisdom are here.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 8:11 pm |

          autosexuals (not an ace identitiy if anyone’s wondering)

          I did wonder, and thanks for clarifying. It just seemed really different from ace-spectrum.

          I guess she couldn’t make the point that we asexuals are evil co-opters without bringing in non-sexual or non-gender identities but hey.

          Yeah, I have had my issues with asexuality and its spectrum (you’ve done some educating here so you would know what issues I’ve had!) but it’s not remotely the same as saying it’s like being transethnic or otherkin (wtf).

          people that are too cowardly to come out and say outrightly that they don’t think asexuality is real

          I don’t understand what the big deal is about accepting asexuality as a thing. I mean, I’m ace-spectrum (was pretty surprised I wasn’t asexual, but what can I say, apparently there’s like five people on the planet who do it for me) so maybe it was simpler for me to get it, but still, isn’t it obvious that for every thing, there is a not-thing? o_O And sure, if someone was happily and vigorously sexual for years and then their libido tanked (to their discontent, this is important) they’re probably dealing with a medical/mental issue, but if they’re happy, what’s the big deal?

          …my personal favourites are the people who say you can’t be an asexual (or ace-spectrum) if you masturbate. Like…an orgasm just objectively feels good, ffs, whether you’re thinking of sexy people/sexy flounders/sexy lamps when you jerk off or not.

          Anyway, I sincerely hope you don’t leave Feministe over this. I’d miss your opinions, even when I disagree with them loudly.

        4. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet July 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm |

          Thanks for the encouragement, Mac. I’d like to say definitively that this post isn’t going to make me leave, but given that we’re only 50 comments in and me saying I don’t want my sexual orientation being erased is being compared to Jill not getting a disclaimer for not liking doughnuts, who freakin’ knows.

          (I should also clarify that I am not telling auto-sexual people they can’t be ace-spectrum! There could be some overlap between the groups, it’s just that i have never seen anyone, either asexual or autosexual, who considered autosexuals to be ace-spectrum, so…that’s what I’m going off of.)

        5. TomSims
          TomSims July 30, 2013 at 1:47 am |

          @Jill;

          Excellent summation counsel.

        6. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 2, 2013 at 10:23 am |

          I do dispute that asexuals face oppression and discrimination on the same historical levels as gay, lesbian bisexual and trans people.

          Jill, I really cannot comment on how asexuals were historically treated, but I can offer something. I’m asexual. I do not want to have sex with anyone. If I had stayed in the community in which I was raised, I would have had to. I would have considered that to be rape. So my choices were to submit to being raped, or to leave the community, my parents, my sister, and all of my friends. Oppression of asexuals is not uncommon in insulated religious communities.

    2. Roboten
      Roboten July 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm |

      Isn’t liking sex a prerequisite to even be a species?

      Joking aside, the piece did say one should be able to feel good about not having sex at all, which is why I don’t get why this is rubbing you the wrong way. Doesn’t the fact that 99% precent of our species aren’t asexual make the statement that our species generally enjoy sex pretty valid?

      1. TomSims
        TomSims July 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm |

        @Roboten

        Makes sense to me. Asexual wouldn’t be here, if it weren’t for sex.

      2. Chataya
        Chataya July 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

        two throw-away lines in an entire article about how “fundamental” sex and sexuality are doesn’t really make up for it.

        If sexuality is fundamental and good, then those without it are broken and bad.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm |

          If sexuality is fundamental and good, then those without it are broken and bad.

          While I agree about fundamental/broken, I don’t think there’s a good/bad dichotomy there. I do think sexuality is good. I think asexuality’s good too. I really think that whatever level of ugly-bumping people are comfortable with is good as long as it’s, y’know, consensual.

          …or maybe you mean that if “fundamental and good” are placed together then anything else is bad? I can see that reading. I just don’t know which you mean. D:

        2. Chataya
          Chataya July 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm |

          @mac

          yeah, I was going for the pairing thing.

        3. TomSims
          TomSims July 30, 2013 at 2:33 am |

          “If sexuality is fundamental and good, then those without it are broken and bad.”

          I never said nor implied that. My statement is a scientific fact. Sexual procreation has made it possible for the human species to continue. If everyone were gay or asexual, humans would go extinct.

        4. Marcie
          Marcie July 30, 2013 at 5:08 am |

          “If sexuality is fundamental and good, then those without it are broken and bad.”

          Sure, everything that isn’t blue is green.
          Also, every tree is a plant, so every plant must be a tree.

        5. Natalia Antonova
          Natalia Antonova July 30, 2013 at 6:56 am | *

          If sexuality is fundamental and good, then those without it are broken and bad.

          Nope.

        6. Jamie
          Jamie July 30, 2013 at 9:41 am |

          I think it’s pretty clear that Jill is pushing back against the idea, long baked into our culture by religion, that sex is dirty and women who engage in it outside of marriage are filthy sluts. Clearly, that view also hurts asexuals, too — it hurts anyone who doesn’t follow the path of Virgin Who Enters Into Marriage And Then Has Missionary Position PIV Sex With Her Husband When He Wants It.

          But I think ignoring the cultural context that sex-positivity pushes back at… I get that you feel ignored and excluded, but I also feel like ignoring the “SEX IS DIRTY” stuff — it just feels disingenuous. Maybe part of it is that, in the feminist-o-sphere, the “sex is dirty” stuff is considered so ludicrous that we forget it’s there? But… it’s there. It’s really, really there.

      3. Aydan
        Aydan July 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm |

        No.

        1. TomSims
          TomSims July 30, 2013 at 1:58 am |

          You are equating asexual humans to Bdelloidea ? I don’t think the OP was saying anything bad about Asexuals. The OP was about those humans do do have sex and suggesting some improvements.

        2. Aydan
          Aydan July 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |

          No, I’m answering the question “Isn’t liking sex a prerequisite to being a species?”

      4. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm |

        Doesn’t the fact that 99% precent of our species aren’t asexual make the statement that our species generally enjoy sex pretty valid?

        Generally =/= fundamentally.

        If Jill had said “people are generally sexual beings” or “most people are sexual beings” or even “the vast majority of people are sexual beings” I really doubt any asexuals/ace-spectrum people here would have issues with it. I mean, that’s pretty much fact, in the same way that the vast majority of people are religious or cis or black-haired.

        1. Roboten
          Roboten July 30, 2013 at 12:38 pm |

          Yes, that is true.

          However, I still thinks it’s accurate to say our spcies likes sex, both engaging in and looking at. If aliens would have written an encyclopedia entry on humans, it will probably say “Humans have 2 arms, 2 legs, and likes sex, alot”. This of course doesn’t mean every single individual does this, but as a species we do.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

          If aliens would have written an encyclopedia entry on humans, it will probably say “Humans have 2 arms, 2 legs, and likes sex, alot”.

          But we’re not aliens writing an encyclopedia entry (which relies on generalisations and lowest common denominators). We’re having a conversation about what an ideal world would look like, re: sex. And I really feel like I’m coming off as critiquing the article (when I really only have one very specific and small problem with it) because I’ve been posting against it, but I’m really mostly trying to push back against the commentariat’s notion that it’s okay to erase asexuals.

          I mean, to take a different example, to say “humans tend to reproduce” or “humans reproduce through sexual means” is technically accurate as a statement. However, statements like “everyone wants babies!” or “having a baby is fundamental to human beings!” would likely put some hackles up, yes?

        3. Roboten
          Roboten July 31, 2013 at 5:27 am |

          Well yes, but I guess we’re just reading different things into the “humans are animals that like sex”-thing. To me, it seems like what an outsider would say when observing human behavior, or when humans observe and study animal behavior, which I think was the rhetorical point of that statement. That is, that we’re simply animals that like to do what feels good to us, and a lot of the time that happens to be having sex. It doesn’t read to me as saying that if you don’t like sex then you’re broken or missing something fundamental to being a human.

    3. Hina
      Hina July 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |

      This sounds just like people who object to articles on women effected by rape, domestic violence, or employment discrimination because the article fails to bring up men.

      All Jill is saying is people should have sex because it’s pleasurable. Sex shouldn’t be used to boost your self esteem or lower someone’s selfesteem/worth by shaming them, it shouldn’t be done to gain acceptance, or avoided to gain acceptance, or well because of any kind of pressure. Have sex for yourself because you enjoy it and it brings you feelings of physical, emotional, and spiritual pleasure. She also says if not having sex at all is what makes you happy then that’s fine too. So if you’re asexual and have no interest in sex that’s fine, you will not be shamed for it because again sex should be something you do for your pleasure.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm |

        I’d buy that reading if “asexuals” wasn’t scare-quoted in the article.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

          Okay, Jill, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying. And I REALLY think you should put up a note clarifying this on this post, so people who don’t read comments don’t get the wrong impression. Just my 0.02.

        2. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet July 30, 2013 at 6:11 am |

          Jill, maybe you didn’t mean to imply that asexuals weren’t real, but that simply means your editor did.

          The Guardian has had over 4 article on asexuality (“Among the Asexuals” “Asexuality always existed, you just didn’t notice it” “No sex please, we’re asexual” and “‘We’re married, we just don’t have sex”). None of which have scare quotes.

          And the word itself, asexual, has been in use for almost two-hundred years now, iirc. It’s been in the dictionary for a very long time. The term’s current social meaning doesn’t even differ widely from it’s original meaning; it still means “without sex”.

        3. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet July 30, 2013 at 6:14 am |

          And the excuse that those are asexual-focused articles and that’s why they escaped scare quotes simply isn’t true.

          There’s a film review in the Guardian from two days ago that uses the term asexual non-scientifically and doesn’t get scare-quoted. (Frances Ha Review)

          Seriously. This is not okay.

        4. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 30, 2013 at 9:19 pm |

          @mac – I think AMM’s comment was more general, and I’d pretty much agree with it. Threads here do seem to descend to this sort of thing often enough. I know it’s put me off commenting for long stretches.

      2. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet July 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm |

        All Jill is saying is people should have sex because it’s pleasurable.

        Right there. You’re either doing it too or you’re paraphrasing Jill doing it. Sex is NOT pleasurable for a lot of people, and it’s erasing and makes people feel like freaks when you say “Sex is pleasurable” and act like that’s some universal experience re: sex.

        You don’t get to say a bunch of erasing universalisms and expect them to be neutralized by contradicting yourself once.

        “sex is pleasurable” “sex is fundamentally good” “humans love having and thinking about sex” isn’t wiped away by saying “asexuals have their own online communities”

        1. Aydan
          Aydan July 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm |

          It sounds like what you and Hina are trying to say, Jill, is that humans *who have sex* should do so for pleasure, and not for other reasons?

          But what’s coming across is that *humans should have sex for pleasure*, as in, all humans should have sex because it’s, supposedly, pleasurable.

        2. Hina
          Hina July 29, 2013 at 10:14 pm |

          I understand that and that’s totally fine. In that same sentence i’m also implying, you shouldn’t have sex if it’s not pleasurable for you.

          I do believe having sex for any reason other than sensual gratification is having sex for the wrong reason. I call it the wrong reason because any other reason is what causes sex to be problematic. (unless two people really want to reproduce and sexual intercourse is the option they chose)

        3. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet July 29, 2013 at 10:16 pm |

          You know, Jill, you’re right. Why is it again that we don’t apply that logic in regards to heterosexuality and minority sexual orientations like gay, lesbian, bisexual? What’s wrong with universalisms like “women like having sex with men, thinking about sex with men”?

          Why do we bother with all these silly caveats and being inclusive of 1% of the population, or 3%?

          Why do we non-binary people bother try to get people to take into account the small amount of people that don’t fit into the male-female binary?

          I guess we’re just being a little silly.

          [Sarcasm, all of it, obviously. Which you would think I wouldn't have to disclaim, but given what some people seriously promote...]

        4. Aydan
          Aydan July 29, 2013 at 10:16 pm |

          That makes sense to me, Jill.

          I mistakenly thought Hina was quoting you without quotation marks when zhe said “people should have sex because it’s pleasurable,” and like a lot of phrases that include “people should have sex,” that one’s kind of unfortunately ambiguous. But I see that that wasn’t actually your thought.

        5. Aydan
          Aydan July 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm |

          We have to be able to look at high rates of donut consumption in New York and say, “New Yorkers love donuts!” without me getting bent out of shape because actually, I cannot stand donuts and aren’t I a New Yorker?

          … wouldn’t it make more sense just to say “there are high rates of donut consumption in New York” or “New Yorkers, as a whole, eat a lot of donuts”?

          Like, if I saw the phrase “New Yorkers love donuts,” I would be kind of confused, because I know New York is enormous and really diverse and probably aggressively resists generalizations. Also, I wouldn’t know if you meant the city or the state.

          I’m not just trying to be silly or snarky here. I think generalizations, including this one and the ones in your article, often lose information, in addition to just being inaccurate.

          You say the difference between this situation and the ones Barnacle Strumpet discusses is one of oppression. But would you ever make the generalization, for example, “People don’t like sex to hurt,” without any sort of caveat? If you did, would you be surprised at push back? Because the people who do like painful sex are usually not systematically oppressed qua people who like painful sex, and yet they exist all the same. And have often been societally shamed for their desires in much the same way as asexuals have been shamed for their lack of sexual attraction.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 11:30 pm |

          I draw a line at those kinds of universalisms when there’s an actual and serious harm from universalizing — which is what happens when we assume that being heterosexual is the only way to exist in the world, for example.

          There are actual and serious harms from sincerely believing that being sexual is the only way to exist in the world, though. And sure, no one’s passing laws saying asexuals can’t marry or picketing the funerals of people who dared to have too little sex to suit the Westboro Baptist, but there’s a difference between LESS oppression and NO oppression.

        7. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve July 29, 2013 at 11:40 pm |

          We seem to be going round and round here, so I’m going to bow out and go to bed.

          I’m going to get some donuts…this thread is making me hungry….and I am a New Yorker, after all.

        8. TomSims
          TomSims July 30, 2013 at 2:02 am |

          @Jill

          “But demanding that every discussion of sexuality include caveats for asexuality at every turn strikes me as, yes, silly.”

          100% spot on!

        9. Natalia Antonova
          Natalia Antonova July 30, 2013 at 7:17 am | *

          Sex is NOT pleasurable for a lot of people, and it’s erasing and makes people feel like freaks when you say “Sex is pleasurable” and act like that’s some universal experience re: sex.

          But that’s like saying that you’re erasing people and making them feel like freaks when talking about the evolution of the human reproductive system. Obviously not all of us are capable of reproducing/not all of us are interested in reproducing. Obviously this doesn’t make anyone less evolved.

        10. Aydan
          Aydan July 30, 2013 at 8:51 am |

          But that’s like saying that you’re erasing people and making them feel like freaks when talking about the evolution of the human reproductive system. Obviously not all of us are capable of reproducing/not all of us are interested in reproducing. Obviously this doesn’t make anyone less evolved.

          I don’t think it is. I think it’s more akin to saying “We have functioning reproductive systems” and ignoring the fact that, not only is that not universally true, it tends to be non-universally true in ways that make the people for whom it’s not true subject to marginalization. Sure, most people do have functioning reproductive systems, but the exceptions are important.

        11. AMM
          AMM July 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm |

          @Jill (because we’ve exceeded maximum comment nesting)

          At some point, we need to be able to talk about culture and human experience without adding a million caveats.

          Except that this is Feministe, where you count on the commentariat to scrutinize every posting or comment for some jot or tittle that they can take offense at and thereby ignore what the article was actually about.

          In many cases they have good reasons to be angry — but usually not at the poster or commenter they’re castigating. They’re like the person who is being mistreated by their boss who goes to Walmart and blows up at the cashier for how they bag their purchases.

          I’ve seen some interesting articles here, even some thought-provoking comments. But they get buried in all the comments that seem to simply ferry in and dump resentments that were earned elsewhere, as if Feministe were some kind of emotional/political (un-)sanitary landfill.

          It would be nice if Feministe had a commentariat that was willing to give posters (and one another) the benefit of the doubt and try to find something worthwile in what is posted, at least until the poster/commenter had demonstrated that they’d gone over to the Dark Side (and it was time to Call In The Giraffes.) But that’s not the commentariat that Feministe has.

          (Reminds me of Suzy in Calvin and Hobbes: “I wish Calvin weren’t so mean to me …. And while I’m wishing, I wish I had a pony.”)

        12. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 30, 2013 at 8:29 pm |

          In many cases they have good reasons to be angry — but usually not at the poster or commenter they’re castigating.

          Every person pointing out flaws in the original post, with the exception of Barnacle, has explicitly stated approval of everything in Jill’s article except the one thing we’re taking exception to. In addition, none of us afaict are bringing in outside resentments, and discussion is focused pretty exclusively on this article, again with the exception of Barnacle bringing up a past article by Jill. So please, if you’re so sure we’re all bringing in outside resentments, do point to some comment, any comment, in this thread that discusses anything outside the immediate context? I believe the only ones doing so are the ones coming in here to get mad that an asexual had an opinion on the internet (which is the Very Worst, as we all know).

      3. Hina
        Hina July 29, 2013 at 10:33 pm |

        That makes sense to me, Jill.

        I mistakenly thought Hina was quoting you without quotation marks when zhe said “people should have sex because it’s pleasurable,” and like a lot of phrases that include “people should have sex,” that one’s kind of unfortunately ambiguous. But I see that that wasn’t actually your thought.

        Aydan I understand your objection to my comment now. I wasn’t implying that everyone should be having sex because sex is pleasurable. I know that’s not the case for everyone. I’m not trying to tell people to have sex in any way, I’m just saying if you do, it should be because you want to, because you find it pleasurable.

  5. A4
    A4 July 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm |

    I’m very averse to any top down theory of ideal pure sexuality that everyone should strive for.

    It just another version of mind body dualism in which the bodily urges are defined as base and the the ideals of the mind are elevated as pure, and the body is subordinate to the mind. I believe that construction inherently leads to a fractured self that exists in perpetual conflict.

    1. matlun
      matlun July 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm |

      I’m very averse to any top down theory of ideal pure sexuality that everyone should strive for. [...] It just another version of mind body dualism in which the bodily urges are defined as base and the the ideals of the mind are elevated as pure…

      Funny. I also find this attitude very annoying, but with the opposite analysis/impression. Ie IME it is often the opposite attitude that we should strive for some mythical, “natural” sexuality. That we should return to something that we had before civilization appeared and “corrupted” everything.

      I find it kind of interesting that we view it so differently.

      1. A4
        A4 July 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

        Actually it sounds like we agree, we’re just coming at it from different angles. Following all sexual urges because “natural” is the other side of rationally mediating all sexual urges because “pure”. Both of them are attempts to split the self into a familiar good/bad pure/dirty nature/nurture madonna/whore binary to control that perplexing phenomenon that we feel and call sexuality.

        It’s not rational, so is it good or bad?

        GOOD OR BAD?

  6. Aydan
    Aydan July 29, 2013 at 7:54 pm |

    I’m actually okay with the idea that sexuality is fundamental part of my existence, because I, personally, conceive of my asexuality as part of my sexuality. (Yes. I know. I didn’t invent the English language, okay.) But I can see how other people would feel differently.

    But, uh, why the scare quotes around asexuals, exactly? (Fourth paragraph from the top.)

    1. All Cats Are Beautiful
      All Cats Are Beautiful July 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm |

      I was irritated by the scare quotes around the word asexuals as well, and kind of feel the same way about my sexuality/lack thereof.

      I don’t identify as asexual though, mostly because I feel alienated from the ace communities (I know of) by straight aces who want to play Oppression Olympics with me and other LGTBIQ people, or believe being straight and asexual/aromantic equals being queer. I also just can’t grasp why some people would feel the need to identify as demisexual just because they’re strictly monogamous and have a little bit lower sex drive than what they assume most people have. That doesn’t mean I believe asexuality doesn’t exist or isn’t a valid identity, but I myself just can’t identify with people who claim to be asexual, even though I have little to no sex drive.

      Maybe this is just another thing I Just Won’t Ever Get about people who identify as asexual and asexual communities, how Jill’s article is hurtful to them. I feel like if society would take the things she wrote to heart, there’d be much less stigma around having a different sex drive (and that includes no sex drive at all to me) than what Cosmo tells us is the only adequate one.

      1. Aydan
        Aydan July 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm |

        That’s… not what demisexuality is, or what asexuality is centered around, but okay, this isn’t really about that.

        I think Jill’s article was good… mostly. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to point out what I think is also harmful in it. Sex isn’t a good, healthy and fun recreational activity for everyone, and some people feel really strongly about that. And not everyone wants to feel more pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, when they can. It’s not a universal. It’s very, very prevalent and is the majority experience, but so is, say, women being sexually attracted to (at least) men. Yet we as feminists don’t (or at least shouldn’t) have discussions that assume all women are sexually attracted to men.

        Referring to us all as “animals who like sex” implies that people who don’t like sex, or pictures and videos of people having sex, or thinking and talking about sex, is outside the “we.” And it kind of seems like the “we” in this article is the entire human race, because it wouldn’t make sense for it to be “people who like sex.”

        Jill, thank you for clarifying that the scare quotes were not yours. That does make me see the article in a different light, and appreciate more the caveats you included.

        1. All Cats Are Beautiful
          All Cats Are Beautiful July 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

          It’s not a universal. It’s very, very prevalent and is the majority experience, but so is, say, women being sexually attracted to (at least) men. Yet we as feminists don’t (or at least shouldn’t) have discussions that assume all women are sexually attracted to men.

          I really think that’s a false equivalent. If the article was about heterosexuality instead of sexuality in general, it would IMO say something more like “women who enjoy having sex with men, should be able to have sex with men without getting stigmatized. although not all women want sex with men”. That is not at all erasing my existence as a woman who isn’t sexually attracted to men.

          Referring to us all as “animals who like sex” implies that people who don’t like sex, or pictures and videos of people having sex, or thinking and talking about sex, is outside the “we.” And it kind of seems like the “we” in this article is the entire human race, because it wouldn’t make sense for it to be “people who like sex.”

          I agree with you on this one and I can see how these sayings can be offensive to some people. It doesn’t bug me personally because, to quote you, my asexuality is part of my sexuality.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve July 30, 2013 at 12:00 am |

          Referring to us all as “animals who like sex” implies that people who don’t like sex, or pictures and videos of people having sex, or thinking and talking about sex, is outside the “we.” And it kind of seems like the “we” in this article is the entire human race, because it wouldn’t make sense for it to be “people who like sex.”

          I disagree. Take, for example, this definition of a biped from the American Heritage dictionary:

          biped (bpd)
          An animal having two feet, such as a bird or human.

          I don’t feel this definition is saying or implying that someone who is born with one or no legs is not human. I see Jill’s comments as being similar.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm |

          biped (bpd)
          An animal having two feet, such as a bird or human.

          I don’t feel this definition is saying or implying that someone who is born with one or no legs is not human. I see Jill’s comments as being similar.

          Now, if, on the other hand, that definition of “biped” was “an animal having two feet, such as all birds and all humans” you’d be more accurate.

      2. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet July 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

        You don’t have to identify as anything. I suggest you seriously do more research about demisexuality though, if you’re going to go around and tell people what you think it is [hint: it is not what you're saying it is].

        It’s funny that you say you don’t like Oppression Olympics, when with the bashing you’re doing on aromantics, heteromantics, and demisexuals, you sound like a seasoned competitor. At the very least you’d be great at playing “Pure Ace: More Asexual Than Thou”.

        We are not “claiming to be asexual” for the record, we ARE asexual.

        1. All Cats Are Beautiful
          All Cats Are Beautiful July 29, 2013 at 11:09 pm |

          You don’t have to identify as anything. I suggest you seriously do more research about demisexuality though, if you’re going to go around and tell people what you think it is [hint: it is not what you're saying it is].

          I know demisexuality is not supposed to be what I’m saying it is about. It’s just that many of the people I personally know who identify as such do so for the reason I discribed, and don’t get critisized for it by others in their community, and I think that is wrong. That’s why I’m not and don’t want to be a part of it.

          It’s funny that you say you don’t like Oppression Olympics, when with the bashing you’re doing on aromantics, heteromantics, and demisexuals, you sound like a seasoned competitor. At the very least you’d be great at playing “Pure Ace: More Asexual Than Thou”.

          Well, I do think life sucks more for a queer woman than for a straight woman who rarely enjoys sex or doesn’t at all, all other things being equal. And I’m offended by straight people on the ace spectrum who say oppression against queer people is comparable to oppression against aces.

          We are not “claiming to be asexual” for the record, we ARE asexual.

          I’m so sorry for not having English as first language.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm |

          And I’m offended by straight people on the ace spectrum who say oppression against queer people is comparable to oppression against aces.

          Speaking as someone who agrees with you on this point (both queer and ace-spectrum, here), I think there’s a difference between comparing the intensity of oppression and the methods of oppression. I feel like there is a massive overlap in the ways, motivations and epistemologies used to oppress asexuals, other ace-spectrum people, LGBT people, kinksters, non-monogamous people, poly people etc. Clearly, the intensities of oppression are very different for, say, straight cis poly women and trans lesbian kinky women, but to say that there is no comparison is ridiculous, since there is soooo much of the same bullshit compulsory (heterocis)sexuality stuff oppressing literally everyone who isn’t a straight cis male masculine vanilla monogamous top. C’mon, people aren’t calling LGB people mentally ill anymore (at least not in progressive communities like this), why can’t we give fellow aces a helping hand to break out of the pathologisation and medicalisation LGB people were dealing with notsolongago, and are still dealing with in many places?

        3. All Cats Are Beautiful
          All Cats Are Beautiful July 30, 2013 at 12:16 am |

          C’mon, people aren’t calling LGB people mentally ill anymore (at least not in progressive communities like this), why can’t we give fellow aces a helping hand to break out of the pathologisation and medicalisation LGB people were dealing with notsolongago, and are still dealing with in many places?

          I try to be an ally to those who are pathologized for being on the ace spectrum, and I do know that people still are in many places (as well as LGBTQI people), including the country I was born. I try to be an ally to asexuals in general, or at least to those who want me to be one. But there are some people identifying as on the spectrum who IMO unjustly claim to be oppressed. I know this sounds like I’m an asshole, and I’m not in the position to decide whose sexuality gets oppressed and whose isn’t. But I personally don’t want to be an ally of e.g. some highly privileged hipster guy in a monogamous hetero relationship just because he identifies as a demisexual for the sake of being special and hip. I met people like this on- and offline and consider them to be more like ‘black sheep’ in ace communities and the majority of aces aren’t like that, but it really bugs me that these few people don’t ever get called out. It’s really alienating to me.

        4. All Cats Are Beautiful
          All Cats Are Beautiful July 30, 2013 at 12:49 am |

          Other than that, I want to take back that the way oppression works against queer people isn’t comparable at all to how it works against ace ones. I know it sucks when people with a sex drive similar to yours are hardly ever represented anywhere and pathologized. I just don’t think that’s true for everyone who identifies as ace.

      3. LemonDemon
        LemonDemon July 30, 2013 at 5:04 pm |

        All Cats Are Beautiful
        July 30, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink
        Other than that, I want to take back that the way oppression works against queer people isn’t comparable at all to how it works against ace ones. I know it sucks when people with a sex drive similar to yours are hardly ever represented anywhere and pathologized. I just don’t think that’s true for everyone who identifies as ace.

        Last I knew it wasn’t about libido. I have a ridiculously high sex drive and I’m asexual. I also quite like sex with other people. What I don’t have is physical attraction to others. Which is one hell of a conversation to have. “Hi, you know I like your brain but, fair warning, I’m not physically attracted to you. Wanna fuck?” Asexuality is defined as a lack of physical attraction, as I understand it, and the rest under the ace umbrella are some mix of physical attraction in certain circumstances. It has nothing whatsoever to do with libido.

        That said, I don’t think asexuals are systematically oppressed for being asexual. Systematically being the key word.

        1. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon July 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

          “Hi, you know I like your brain but, fair warning, I’m not physically attracted to you. Wanna fuck?”

          Functionally, what is the difference between you and a sexual person wrt interacting with the world at large, as an asexual person with a high sex drive who has and enjoys sex with others?

        2. LemonDemon
          LemonDemon July 30, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

          The difference is squat except when I’m trying to either date or have sex with anyone, ever. If you’re dating anyone or married, ask your partner if they would’ve dated or had sex with you if you told them that, sorry, you don’t find them physically attractive. You don’t find them hot, you don’t find cute, you don’t find them any more sexually appealing than that guy you saw at the grocers or the girl you saw wandering around wall mart. They are, in fact, as physically enticing as a slice of stale bread. Or hell, look at any of feministe’s past asexuality comment threads.

        3. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon July 31, 2013 at 10:31 pm |

          Why do you have to tell them? That’s the part I don’t get. No, I wouldn’t bang someone who was like ‘I find you no more appealing than a piece of stale bread’ because, come on – but if they just didn’t say anything they could probably get some. I’ve boned plenty of people I am not “attracted to” just because I wanted to get laid. The number of people in this world that actually give me pants-feelings just from the visual is a very very small number. But the number of people in this world I’ll bang is, well, considerably larger.

        4. Aydan
          Aydan August 1, 2013 at 11:20 am |

          Why do you have to tell them? That’s the part I don’t get. No, I wouldn’t bang someone who was like ‘I find you no more appealing than a piece of stale bread’ because, come on – but if they just didn’t say anything they could probably get some. I’ve boned plenty of people I am not “attracted to” just because I wanted to get laid. The number of people in this world that actually give me pants-feelings just from the visual is a very very small number. But the number of people in this world I’ll bang is, well, considerably larger.

          Judging by past threads, this suggestion would go over like a ton of bricks with a significant proportion of the population.

          And, honestly– while I’m a firm believer in the idea that people should never have to disclose information about themselves that they don’t feel safe disclosing unless it can impact the health or well-being of their potential partner(s) (like, “Hey, I had unprotected sex last week, we should use a condom”)– if you have to hide your sexual orientation in order to have sex, that’s probably not the basis for a fulfilling relationship.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 1, 2013 at 11:51 am |

          if you have to hide your sexual orientation in order to have sex, that’s probably not the basis for a fulfilling relationship

          Word.

  7. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines July 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm |

    I’m trying to word why this piece makes me feel oh so very tired and I think your words are the closest to it, A4.

    I guess part of me does not find it anymore liberating or wonderous to be told what my sex life should be like from a feminist, then when Cosmo does it. I tend to think “mind your own business” to both.

    I also tire of this idea that sex is this hugely transformational societal force, as opposed to a physical activity. I just think we need to see sex at its actual size, rather then something which, if we do it in the ideologically correct manner , will some how get us all free.

    1. Hina
      Hina July 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm |

      I think the point of the article is to see sex as what it is, a physical activity. It’s an act that is pleasurable and shouldn’t hold any deeper meaning than that.

      Unfortunately it does and because of that it is used to oppress, shame, control, pressure, scare, and objectify certain people. This is when it becomes problematic but that can be fixed if we change the views many people have on sex.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 29, 2013 at 10:43 pm |

        It’s an act that is pleasurable and shouldn’t hold any deeper meaning than that.

        That’s as bad as saying it should always hold deeper meaning and that there’s something wrong with just seeing it as a pleasurable activity. Please don’t do the mirror-image “ur doin sex rong” thing. Sex for me is an expression of love, and that’s far more important than the pleasure aspect. Or rather, the pleasure is wholly bound up in the love; without that, I don’t do sex.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve July 30, 2013 at 1:35 am |

          That’s as bad as saying it should always hold deeper meaning and that there’s something wrong with just seeing it as a pleasurable activity. Please don’t do the mirror-image “ur doin sex rong” thing. Sex for me is an expression of love, and that’s far more important than the pleasure aspect. Or rather, the pleasure is wholly bound up in the love; without that, I don’t do sex.

          That makes me feel like I’m doing it wrong, or indeed, viewing it wrong. Not to imply you’re intending to make me feel like that. It’s just that with myself and Mrs. Fat, I view everything we do together, particularly the pleasurable stuff is equally an expression of our love. When we go sailing or have a lovely meal or watch a great movie or get wasted or have amazing sex, it’s all an expression of our love. Many of our conversations are expressions of our love, but that doesn’t mean I would be offended if some one left love out of a definition of conversation.

        2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm |

          Steve, that’s exactly how Louis describes everything we do together! He says it’s all making love, but not necessarily sexually. I certainly wouldn’t say sex is the expression of love; it is, as I wrote above, an expression of love. My point wasn’t about “how to express love” but objecting to the idea that sex should be about pleasure and not have any other meaning.

        3. Hina
          Hina July 31, 2013 at 9:23 am |

          It can have meaning when done with the person you love, just as any other activity. Talking to my boyfriend over the phone or skyping with him is way more meaning full than with just a friend. Getting ice cream with my boyfriend or watching TV or playing video games is an expression of love and holds more meaning, The truth is its not those things that make it special or meaningful it’s the time we spend together. Anytime him and I spend together is an expression of love no matter what it is. Skyping holds no deeper meaning than well video chatting, eating ice cream doesn’t have a deep meaning to it other than just a great way to satisfy my craving. These things become special when I do it with my boyfriend because that time is special. That’s exactly how sex is. I’ve had sex with guys for pure physical pleasure and had 0 feelings for them but sex with my boyfriend is exponentially better because we’re not just having sex, we’re making love. It’s better in the same way everything else is when I do it with him.

      2. Hugh
        Hugh July 30, 2013 at 8:35 am |

        If sex is just a pleasurable activity, then why should it be off limits from transactions?

        1. Hina
          Hina July 31, 2013 at 9:11 am |

          because then all the people involved will not be doing it just for pleasure. Also I believe if sex wasn’t stigmatized the way it is and people were allowed to freely express their sexuality then it would be less likely to be used as a form of transaction

  8. columbusqueen
    columbusqueen July 29, 2013 at 10:20 pm |

    Thought it was a good article, Jill. Now I have a question: why do asexuals push themselves into discussions about sexuality in general?

    If you have no interest in sex, fine. However, being highly judgmental regarding others’ sexual talk is more than a little obnoxious, and really isn’t very appropriate. It’s rather like me, as a straight woman, getting high and mighty about what same-sex partners want.

    1. Aydan
      Aydan July 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm |

      To borrow a phrase from macavitykitsune, I don’t care if other people find people or flounders or lamps sexy. People can talk until the cows come home about their lamp-wearing flounder fetishes, and I will not care.

      I care when these things are positioned as universal, though, just like you’d probably care about an article that implied (intentionally or otherwise) that everyone has a flounder fetish. It’s not “push[ing ourselves] into discussions,” it’s going, “hey, we exist!” And yes– Jill did a pretty good job of acknowledging that in multiple places. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the rest of the article.

      Some people find it really painful to have it assumed that everyone likes thinking about or talking about or having sex. They’re allowed to say “ow.”

    2. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia July 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm |

      And how would you feel if someone told you all people should want sex with someone of the same gender?

    3. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet July 29, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

      Now I have a question: why do asexuals push themselves into discussions about sexuality in general?

      We are a very small part of the population and are inevitably affected by other people’s ideas about sex. I suggest you get used to the phenomenon of hearing from us.

    4. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune July 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm |

      Now I have a question: why do asexuals push themselves into discussions about sexuality in general?

      Oh no, anything but a dissident opinion!

      1. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia July 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm |

        Now I am going to indulge my FLF (flounder and lamp fetish). I suggest everybody else do the same.

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 29, 2013 at 11:41 pm |

          ::sniffs:: Flounder and lamps are inferior. Tuna and torches forever!

        2. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia July 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm |

          I had to double take, as I don’t think “torch” means the same thing to me as it does to you. I’m guessing you mean what I call “flashlight”?

        3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 30, 2013 at 1:06 am |

          Flashlight, or a flaming torch for those who like to live on the edge. :D

  9. Fishing for Insults
    Fishing for Insults July 29, 2013 at 11:38 pm |

    After reading this, I think I’m starting to agree with Jillian Horowitz.

  10. Tony
    Tony July 30, 2013 at 12:29 am |

    Sexual pleasure is just another form of pleasure. It can flow naturally from the human body, it’s one of the oldest forms of pleasure, but besides that there’s nothing special about it. If “pleasure is a good thing” justifies labeling something so fundamental, why can’t I say “video games [should] be understood as a fundamental part of human existence, its good inherent and not dependent on how it can be leveraged. Why? Because pleasure is a good thing. We should all feel more of it when we can.” After all, video games are pleasurable. For some, more pleasurable than sex. “Video games are fundamental because for most people, video games are fun and fun is a good thing! We should all feel more of it when we can!” It’s subtly chauvinistic in the sense of pushing for the privileging of a certain attitude towards the activity that isn’t shared by all.

    And I’m not just talking about asexuals, I know sexuals who could enjoy sex but prefer doing & talking about other things (such as video games). After years of reproaching my video game friend with suggestions that he might be missing out (the stigma against video games is pretty strong), I’ve finally accepted that that’s who he is and he’s happier playing video games than going out to the club / bars and looking for sex. Let me be clear that this guy leads a full featured life, but in the realm of his hobbies he just enjoys games more than sex.

    Actually the pleasure argument is stronger for video games than for sex because video games are pretty much defined as a recreational activity that is played for fun. They don’t have the alternative function of reproduction that sex has, (which you fall back on when justifying how sex is fundamental to human existence). There’s nothing that says that sexuality has to be pleasurable. Pleasure-centered sexuality is just another prescriptive formula for sexuality at the opposite pole of the reproductive-centered sexuality of social conservatives. Fortunately, no one is trying to legislate it.

  11. Bunzor
    Bunzor July 30, 2013 at 1:53 am |

    Maybe I’m beating the asexual horse here …

    But I find it very ironic that on a site where people might go the extra mile to clarify that there are men who get pregnant and give birth and women who have penises (and such and such) in an effort to be super inclusive and not exclude what is probably far less than 1% of the population (although i’m not sure how many pre-op transmen who choose to become pregnant there are, I’m guessing their numbers are extremely low), people are so willing to erase and dismiss asexuals.

    And no, I’m not going to wake up tomorrow to find a burning cross or a bunch of Westboro Baptists on my lawn. But my mom was ragingly pissed when I told her I wasn’t interested in sex. Asexuals are routinely told we’re unnatural, mentally ill, physically broken, and that we are attention whores making stuff up,

    1. Li
      Li July 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |

      I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t go about making your points by minimizing transphobia and cissexism, either as they appear in this particular space or more broadly.

      1. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet July 30, 2013 at 10:29 am |

        How are they minimizing it? They’re pointing out (as I did, in an above thread) that we often make an effort to be inclusive of even tiny amounts percentage wise of minority groups. Jill is the one railing against using caveats/disclaimer statements for small percentages of the population.

        I support inclusive language, like “abortion access for people” rather than specifying women. I’d call myself a hypocrite if I did that and then argued that we shouldn’t try to be inclusive of for any other minority group.

      2. Li
        Li July 30, 2013 at 11:36 am |

        Several commenters have been pretty willing, on this site, to make some fairly horrifyingly cissexist statements. When Bunzor writes about “people” on this site being inclusive of trans* people while “people” are conversely exclusive of asexual people, I feel that it elides the transphobia that’s popped up consistently in this space by treating the commentariat as vaguely monolithic. If Bunzor’s talking about a specific person’s behaviour (as you talk about Jill’s) then, sure, that’s an inconsistency. But that some people on this site are careful to be inclusive of trans* people isn’t even really inconsistent with other people being total cissupremacist jackfaces, let alone people being jerkfaces on other axes of marginalisation.

        And I know that other commenters are going to have readings that vary from my own, but I did check in with other people I trust over Bunzor’s comment and they shared my frustration at it. And frankly, I just really dislike the use of one oppression as a jump-in point for discussions about other oppressions unless it’s done intersectionally rather than comparatively.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune July 30, 2013 at 12:33 pm |

      Oh, right, the “this wouldn’t happen if this was about raaaaaace trans people!” whine.

      Er, no. Go away.

  12. Bunzor
    Bunzor July 30, 2013 at 2:05 am |

    Maybe I’m beating the asexual horse here …

    But I find it very ironic that on a site where people might go the extra mile to clarify that there are men who get pregnant and give birth and women who have penises (and such and such) in an effort to be super inclusive and not exclude what is probably far less than 1% of the population (although i’m not sure how many pre-op transmen who choose to become pregnant there are, I’m guessing their numbers are extremely low), people are so willing to erase and dismiss asexuals.

    And no, I’m not going to wake up tomorrow to find a burning cross or a bunch of Westboro Baptists on my lawn. But my mom was ragingly pissed when I told her I wasn’t interested in sex. Asexuals are routinely told we’re unnatural, mentally ill, physically broken, and that we are attention whores making stuff up. We have to put up with cultural attitudes that tell us sex is the most important thing ever, that it’s the reason for existing, that (particularly for women) we will be sad and lonely forever if we don’t put out, that we’re prudes or should go be nuns if we don’t have sex … and the list goes on. And if you’re religious, well, I once listened to a sermon where the priest railed against couples who don’t consummate their marriage enough. Not even the religious folks who think sex is dirty and evil are going to let you off the hook.

    My lack of a sexuality isn’t something I tend to think about until someone tries to make me uncomfortable, shame me, guilt me or erase me from existence. And I wouldn’t have so much of an issue with that erasure if the same people doing the erasing weren’t the people who make sure to include even the tiniest demographic. You say it’s okay because we’re not oppressed, but people aren’t exactly friendly toward the idea of someone who’s not interested in sex. Particularly the very-very sex-pos types of feminists who view asexuals as repressed or whatever. It’s not oppression, but do you think it’s just delightful fun to be told you’re mentally ill, sick, must have been abused, etc. and have to argue that no, it’s just like not liking roller coasters? I’m not the one who makes it an issue. I don’t go broadcasting my asexuality. But when the topic comes up it’s always the other person who goes on the attack and makes a big deal out of it …

  13. A4
    A4 July 30, 2013 at 2:08 am |

    I’d like to seriously question the narrative that most people associate sex with pleasure.

    Given the historical lack of birth control, the social acceptability and requirement for marital rape, and the various traditions of genital mutilation of varying degrees of severity and pain, I think there is legitimate doubt about how many humans really see sex as a source of pleasure and enjoyment.

    I think the narrative of “natural” (fundamental, pleasurable) sex has been heavily built around the journey and sensation of the mythical heterosexual penis and is not a narrative that is fundamental to many people nor representative of their experience of that which we call sex.

    I think there are enough cultural imperatives about what sex should be, and how we could be doing it wrong for ourselves, or our bodies, or society, or our political ideals.

    I’d love to see a world where nothing was transactional, or gendered or capitalist. I would also love a magic wand, and a unicorn.

    So if we’re doing that, I think you all need to daydream more often. Daydreaming is fundamental to being a human, and right now we are all pressured to commodify our ideas and think of things rationally. Shouldn’t we have a more open and diverse view of daydreaming?

    Won’t you daydream? FOR THE HUMANITY?!

    In the spirit of pleasure and anti-capitalist and anti-transactional sentiments, here is some free verse:

    For once upon a late I was dreaming
    of a dance through sunbeams trees were streaming
    for though the beam doth oft glance twixt the boughs
    today the twig did twirl and twinkle on the solid surface of the sun
    The water swirled as air and air flowed heavy
    And I sailed through vivid landscapes of biblical tumult
    wondering if it perhaps a chocolate chip river
    would make a better snack than a cream puff thistle

    1. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia July 30, 2013 at 4:01 am |

      Thank you for summing up exactly what I’ve been trying to say.

    2. karak
      karak July 30, 2013 at 7:35 am |

      We then need to question the assumption that humans consume food to stave off hunger and survive, as we use food for many purposes besides avoiding pain and basic survival. Since many humans, in modern times and historically, eat as (just for example) socialization, celebration, mourning, a symptom of mental illness, a way to comfort emotional pain, in order to change the physical shape of the body, in order to increase or decrease physical qualities of the body, to show status, to show favoritism, avoid confrontation, represent their culture, or challenge other humans.

      Our genitals are full of nerve endings–they’re as sensitive as our lips and hands. Orgasm in cis males is necessary for reproduction; orgasm in cis females encourages sexual behavior and also assists in reproduction. Most people can touch their genitals and experience pleasure, masturbation and sexual behavior is seen in our infants and children, it’s a species-wide behavior. Sex feels good. Or it should.

      I’m one of the many people out there who struggles for heterosexual sex to be a consistently pleasurable act (goddamn fucking UTIs). But, for some crazy reason, I keep finding solutions to the problem and tackling sex again. And my issues with PiV don’t change the porn I look at, the fantasies I have, the way I masturbate, and non PiV sexual acts I can engage in with my partner.

      Sex isn’t always a home run. But evolution has driven us to have sexual equipment and most of us have some form of sexual desires; it’s designed for pleasure, and you gotta come to grips with the fact your junk is full of nerve endings.

      1. A4
        A4 July 30, 2013 at 8:27 am |

        the humans that dont eat to survive will die. nutrition is a physical requirement.

        the humans who do not associate sex with pleasure do not have pleasurable sex.

        one of these things is fundamental to human life. the other one people just wish was fundamental because of their value system prioritizing pleasure and happiness and their construction of sex as inherently pleasurable.

        that construction does not represent the reality of many people. its aspirational.

        the construction of nutrition as necessary for survival is not aspirational. its descriptive.

        1. DP
          DP August 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm |

          A group of humans that does not have sex will die out. It’s literally the same. You need food to continue your body. You need(ed until recently) sex to continue the species.

          Sex is literally the alpha and omega of human existence, we are just vessels for sperm and eggs, from a biological perspective.

          Some people don’t like sex, just like some people have no interest in food, but on a macro level, sex, food and rest are about as fundamental as it gets.

    3. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl July 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |

      I was raised with a great deal of sex negativity by Catholic parents, sent to Catholic schools and schooled in the ways of sex is very, very bad in every imaginable way and the worst sin ever known to mankind into adulthood.

      So for me (and plenty of other people I know) embracing the idea that sex can be a very good thing, that pleasure for the sake of pleasure can also be a good thing, and that sex does not need to be bogged down in all the loaded bs the RCC puts on it was a fundamental part of recovering from my Catholic upbringing. Oh, add in all the social programming that also commonly gets put on girls here in flyover country (you know, that we have to be the gatekeepers of our sexy parts, and that good girls don’t let boys take that from us, and that we must be ever vigilant to remain good girls lest we become forever damaged goods, etc) so yeah, that’s a huge mind fuck to get over.

      Which is why I see the good, for a lot of women, in sex positivity. Universalisms always fail, because there are so few universal truths when it comes to personal feelings and sexual dis/inclinations. So I would ever, ever say that sex is always good, or always pleasurable, for everyone. But I don’t see the harm in saying all the sex negativity that religion and our society perpetuates is not a good thing. Because it was most definitely harmful for me, and lots of other people too.

      Am I articulating this well enough to make sense and not offend? Maybe I’ll come back after I’ve had some more coffee.

      1. Jamie
        Jamie July 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |

        Thanks for this. I feel like there’s this bizarre ignoring, in this thread, of how religious fundamentalism has hugely shaped how a great deal of people think about sex. Even atheist Jews like me!

        The sex positivity stuff is a pushback against fundamentalism. And the Horowitz-esque “sex negativity” stuff is a pushback against sex positivity.

        Sex-positive feminists. Right-wing fundamentalists. One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong has far more power and influence over a broad spectrum of people.

      2. A4
        A4 July 30, 2013 at 11:15 am |

        I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community and attended the same Orthodox Jewish day school for 13 years, so I know where you’re coming from. I also agree with everything you wrote here.

        They also used rhetoric of what is “natural” to justify their proscriptions and prescriptions for sex. Your comment illustrates that it’s not necessary to talk about the “fundamental nature of humans” or the “fundamental nature of sex” in order to combat other harmful views on the fundamental nature of sex.

        I think to generalize one experience or conception of sex as being the best for the Feminist Utopia is making the same mistake that religious fundamentalists do with their conceptions of the sex that will be the best for their Religious Utopia.

        Statements like this:

        We’ll have a less fraught sexual culture when we have less fraught gender relations. And we’ll have less fraught gender relations when we quit positioning sex as oppositional, shameful and transactional.

        Not a liberating statement. What if I LOVE my transactional sex? What if trying to pretend that my sex is free from all capitalist influence creates a lot of anxiety and dissonance for me because I’m policing my sexual urges to make sure their in line with an idealized free-love philosophy?

        We don’t live in a Feminist Utopida, or an ideal society, and WE NEVER WILL. That’s why I have little patience for people positing philosophies and policies based on their ideal societies where the categorical imperative is king.

        We each live our own lives. We do not need to live the lives of others as well.

        1. Jamie
          Jamie July 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

          We don’t live in a Feminist Utopida, or an ideal society, and WE NEVER WILL.

          I think this is where we’re talking past each other. I agree that we’ll never live in the *ist-free Utopia, but I think it’s useful for people to imagine what that would look like so we have something to work for. Of course, all our utopias look different, which is part of why it’s impossible to get there. But even then, I think it’s useful, to a point.

    4. Jamie
      Jamie July 30, 2013 at 10:37 am |

      Won’t you daydream? FOR THE HUMANITY?!

      I know you’re joking, but I think that’s exactly the point.

      1. A4
        A4 July 30, 2013 at 11:30 am |

        Well, everyone wants to be a magical free spirit that flies on the wind and feeds on sunbeams and wishes because then we wouldn’t have any of those messy transactional demands that mean some people have less than others.

        But the physical nature of the universe is transactional. Everyone is trying to find their free moments, and isolating sex as a place where that freedom is IMPORTANT, and REQUIRED FOR FEMINIST LIBERATION, and SACRED just serves to perpetuate tropes that marginalize sex workers and people who don’t center The Great Sex and Orgasm as a unique path to spiritual enlightenment and happiness. This doesn’t make them less fundamentally human.

        When it comes to that which is fundamentally human, I’m gonna quote Dworkin again:

        Humans, including women, construct meaning. That means that when something happens to us, when we have experiences, we try to find in them some reason for them, some significance that they have to us or for us. Humans find meaning in poverty and tyranny and the atrocities of history; those who have suffered most still construct meaning; and those who know nothing take their ignorance as if it were a precious, rare clay and they too construct meaning. In this way, humans assert that we have worth; what has happened to us matters; our time here on earth is not entirely filled with random events and spurious pain. On the contrary, we can understand some things if we try hard to learn empathy; we can seek freedom and honor and dignity; that we care about meaning gives us human pride that has the fragility of a butterfly and the strength of tempered steel.

        Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse, Chapter 7, pg 169

        That’s much more fundamentally human than “rub it until the muscle spasms”

  14. matlun
    matlun July 30, 2013 at 2:16 am |

    Btw, what is it with the idea that sexuality should not be gendered?

    1. Gorb
      Gorb July 30, 2013 at 9:36 am |

      If I’m not mischaracterizing, it’s that gender and sexual organs should have no influence on how sexuality is expressed, or that we should just be amorphously sexual – with all sexual behavior normalized. Basically, we should not consider male – female pairing normal, and any pair should be considered “normal”, and by extension, there should be no “normal” – that we should practice and experience sex completely independent from gender. Gender is an oppressive category and the root of troubles.

      This is one of those “I wish I weren’t human” wishes; trying to compensate for the fact that nature made us one way.

      In a more pragmatic sense, it’s aspirational.

      We should aspire to a social state in which gender plays no effective social role in social behavior, regulating social behavior or visualizing social behavior. We’d just be interchangeable individuals, some of whom had uteruses and some penises, but these organs would make no difference in how we experienced life, in a social sense.

      In as much as our society falls short of this ideal, we are essentially imprisoned to a greater or lesser degree.

  15. Fishing for Insults
    Fishing for Insults July 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

    What’s so great about pleasure anyway?

    1. A4
      A4 July 31, 2013 at 1:21 am |

      Yeah and what’s so great about things that are great?

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune July 31, 2013 at 1:25 am |

        What’s thing about great that is thing?

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 31, 2013 at 4:41 am |

          Yoda! :O

    2. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia July 31, 2013 at 7:15 am |

      What’s so great about pleasure anyway?

      Um, pleasure is what makes it worth getting up in the morning. Oh, wait, that’s coffee. Coffee is what makes it worth getting up in the morning.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 31, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

        And kitties! Don’t forget kitties!

      2. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom August 3, 2013 at 10:33 am |

        No, coffee is what makes it possible to get up in the morning. Kitties are what makes it necessary.

  16. Gorb
    Gorb July 31, 2013 at 3:26 am |

    [Have just directed that further evopsych derail belongs on #spillover - please repost your comment there ~ Mods]

  17. Gorb
    Gorb July 31, 2013 at 3:51 am |

    [Don't make the mods repeat themselves any more: as said upthread, evopsych derail belongs on #spillover. ~ Moderator team]

  18. Hrovitnir
    Hrovitnir July 31, 2013 at 6:01 am |

    I just wanted to point out that humans do not in fact have sperm competition. We do not have the relative testes size, sperm production in numbers or speed (multiple ejaculates over a day drop precipitously in numbers), quality sperm (species that engage in sperm competition such as chimpanzees have a far lower percentage of mutated sperm than humans), sperm motility or other adaptations for sperm competition.

    Nor do we have the appropriate mating systems for it to have evolved (thought to have evolved from primarily polygynous to primarily monogamous) – multimale multifemale systems tend to evolve sperm competition.

    Just saying. :P

    1. Ledasmom
      Ledasmom August 3, 2013 at 10:36 am |

      Note to self: Tell husband tiny hurdles and javelins are right out.

  19. Megan
    Megan July 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm |

    [CW suicide]

    I see a lot of people asking why asexual people care about visibility or trying to change generalizations. Drawing on personal experience, my depression was triggered not by being asexual, but being asexual and feeling like a freak, feeling like I was the only person in the world who did not want sex. I literally felt as if I was not human because I was asexual, and that there was no point in living anymore. I have spent years experiencing suicidal ideation because of this, and while I’m on an anti-depressant now and have seen a psychotherapist, the internalization of “all human beings love sex” will not go away. Personally, I only want to help other people who may be asexual and feeling the same way, so that they do not go through the same things I (and others) have.

    That being said, I do realize that the article in question isn’t about telling people how to have sex “the right way”, and I appreciated the idea that if not having sex is the most pleasurable for a person, then that is what they should do. However, I agree with some of the other asexual people on this thread that the generalizations and universalities proposed can and do harm asexual people (and others).

    1. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet August 1, 2013 at 6:43 pm |

      Megan, my experience has been much the same as yours, and my wish is the same.

      Thank you for sharing your experience; it is for that reason that we cannot let the erasure go unchallenged.

  20. DP
    DP August 1, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

    In a thread about how we should enjoy sex – 150 comments from asexuals about how important it is to not enjoy sex.

    Look, I get it. Being the odd man or woman out in a vast majority of other people can be alienating and sad. But seriously, none of you would be here if not for sex and 99% of the people in the world will have sex and 99% of tomorrow’s babies will be the result of sex, so can we maybe talk more about having sex and less about not-having-sex?

    Talking about not-having-sex is also like talking about not-watching-movies or not-eating-cake – it’s just BORING.

    1. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet August 1, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

      Being the odd man or woman out in a vast majority of other people can be alienating and sad.

      Two asexuals in this post have mentioned being brought to suicide by the dehumanization and your response is “Oh no, quit complaining about being erased, you’re stopping us from talking about having sex”

      If you want to talk about having sex, do it. Make a nice new little comment like you just did, and state your opinions/questions about the piece. No one is making you talk about asexuality, or about not erasing asexuals.

      Also, you can quit with the “BORING” crap. Your comments aren’t exactly riveting either, and frankly? I don’t post about asexuality to entertain your ass.

      Because I am SO damned nice I will do you a favor and educate you: Asexuality is not “not having sex” and some asexuals do have sex. The “sex should feel good” “sex should be for pleasure” is alienating to a lot of asexuals as well, because many of us do negotiate how much sex we’ll have with our partners, sex that many asexuals get nothing from or actively dislike.

      I didn’t bring that up before because frankly, that topic gets convaluted and wanky enough in ace-only spaces, and I’m not particular eager to try to talk about that while doing 101 work as well.

      Asexuals can and should be included in discussions about having sex, so I suggest you get used to seeing us in them and including us.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm |

      In a thread about how we should enjoy sex – 150 comments from asexuals about how important it is to not enjoy sex.

      Afaict there are three asexuals on the thread. I’m fascinated by this alternate-universe Feministe you read in which only asexuals have commented on this thread. Share your dimension-hopping skills with us!

      Ooh, Feministe thread fanfiction; you’re actually a kaiju from Pacific Rim who travelled here through the dimensional rift and was attracted by the other thread on Mako Mori. Yes? No? Please tick all that apply.

      1. Aydan
        Aydan August 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |

        Afaict there are three asexuals on the thread. I’m fascinated by this alternate-universe Feministe you read in which only asexuals have commented on this thread. Share your dimension-hopping skills with us!

        I think it might be as many as seven, which is scandalous, because as we all know, only a certain number of people from the same group get to talk at once! We’re clearly over our limit here.

    3. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia August 2, 2013 at 10:07 am |

      Look, I get it. Being the odd man or woman out in a vast majority of other people can be alienating and sad. But seriously, none of you would be here if not for sex and 99% of the people in the world will have sex and 99% of tomorrow’s babies will be the result of sex, so can we maybe talk more about having sex and less about not-having-sex?

      You, obviously, very much, do not “get it”!

    4. Ledasmom
      Ledasmom August 3, 2013 at 10:42 am |

      Look, I get it. Being the odd man or woman out in a vast majority of other people can be alienating and sad. But seriously, none of you would be here if not for sex and 99% of the people in the world will have sex and 99% of tomorrow’s babies will be the result of sex, so can we maybe talk more about having sex and less about not-having-sex?

      Hey, nothing like trying to erase people’s perspectives in response to people’s comments about how their perspectives are being erased.
      You win an internet entirely populated by trolls, which unfortunately only differs from the actual internet by about five percent.

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