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Wednesday, 05 September 2007

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mrh

Sad? Creepy?

It's a two-fer!

Adam Kotsko

I feel like genital intercourse has been downgraded to the equivalent of "third base" for some, with anal as the new "home run." It appears to be a matter of conquest rather than (strictly speaking) pleasure -- and perhaps also a reenactment of various porn scenarios. For instance, in the thread you quote, it seems like the implied message is, "If she is going to try to convert me to her dumb religion, I at least deserve to be compensated by being able to tell my friends I did her up the butt."

SEK

That's what confuses me. I mean, isn't sexual pleasure supposed to be, you know, in the moment, and, um, sexually pleasurable? When that moment's deferred until, say, "when I can tell it to my friends," that makes these likely homophobes sound, I don't know, kind of gay. Or homosocial, which to them is just as bad.

More seriously -- or, quite possibly, less -- I think much of this is an outgrowth of the "surprise buttseck" movement. I mean, if someone as cool as presidential hopeful Joe Biden is into it, you know it's just a matter of time before it sweeps the nation.

Kerry Wendt

I'd like to posit that normal and creepy (or sad) are not mutually exclusive.

Sisyphus

Aaaaaah! You stole my whole evening with the comment thread that ate my life! I want it back!

Evidently Work Bird is watching _you_ procrastinate. And possibly more.

Sisyphus

PS: The answer to your question? YES.

SEK

I didn't read that whole thing. Scroll waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down and you'll see me apologizing for not reading it all. So, um, GOTCHA!

T.S.

I'm picturing a NOW ad, a few years from now:

VAGINA: THE OTHER HOME PLATE.

And this Adam fellow, I think he's worried because he's like, "I keep having sex, but I can't get laid, you know, like BUTTSECKS!" Dude, don't worry, you'll reach the promised land someday.

WildlyParenthetical

Actually, I was kinda surprised at how that whole conversation went on the Unfogged thread. Everyone seemed to be focussing on the very best ways to have teh buttsecks. Which is, of course, fine... great, even, given the balance BitchPhD's and AWB's good-humoured and blunt contributions brought to the whole thing. But it does seem to ignore the point SEK raised above when he said: "When that moment's deferred until, say, "when I can tell it to my friends," that makes these likely homophobes sound, I don't know, kind of gay. Or homosocial, which to them is just as bad."

How is the conversation Ogged recounts *not* about masculinity and homosociality - and, I might add, its tendency to be aligned with homophobia (both in the anti-homosexual sense and the fear-of-other-men(-finding-out-they're-not-manly-enough) sense)? My reaction was to wonder why it might be that this conversation between two men about a woman played out in this way, and the ways that it *might* (but may not necessarily) function to reinforce particular ways of thinking about/relating to women, which most of that thread was more concerned with; and not only women, but to themselves and sex (I think someone said something about feeling that semen was dirty at some point.) Maybe Ogged's friend is totally fine with and around women, and actually doesn't think that her having been sodomised or had semen spurt all over her face would be necessarily defiling-in-the-nasty-sense, in which case, what does it say about men relating to men that these conversations are 'normal'? AWB pointed out that conversations about sex amongst her friends tend to make their sexual relationships healthier, so how and more importantly *why* is the conversation Ogged recounts so different? I almost piped up at some point, but once the thread had passed 500 I figured it was all over red rover. So clearly the answer is to post a really long response here. ;-P But the Spencer thread seems to show that these blokey ways of relating not only make the digital transfer (like most stuff) but might even be heightened...

And I'm with Kerry - I reckon that just because the conversation was normal doesn't make it not creepy...

Sisyphus

Yeah, WP (can I call you WP?) That's how I read the original conversation, and everyone pointed that out, and then it was only up to comment 16, and Ogged made some comment about how that's not what he wanted them to talk about (you all are being too boring or some such) and then the thread went off in all 20 different directions that it did.

The original conversation reminded me of Freud's notion that a joke is told between two men and it's always on a woman, that and the Cuaron film _Y tu Mama Tambien_. No one seemed to want to think about how this sexual banter between men instrumentalizes the women, and why that might be bad for society. You know, if Teh Menz would get over themselves and have sex with each other rather than try to use a woman as a vehicle or go-between, maybe they'd have time and energy to see us as, you know, people.

PS, Scott ---- that's what you _say._ Hrmfh.

WildlyParenthetical

'Course ya can, Sisyphus (I'm a little chary of shortening that one... sis seems presumptuous! ;-)).

Yeah, it was a strange shift of gear. If what Ogged actually wanted - which his later whippings of the thread-horse would seem to suggest - a discussion of how and why defilement, hotness and sex are often bound up together, this wasn't the way to try to provoke that conversation. But interestingly, saying the conversation up to comment 16 was boring shifted everything back to a 'men and women the the dynamics of coming on someone's face and anal.' Interesting, I say, because I could be a little bit pointy and suggest that it's a way of avoiding engaging with his (Ogged's, but others' too) investment in the homophobic homosociality which actually does a lot to contribute to contemporary modes of masculinity, femininity and relationships (especially but not only het ones).

I very much like your plan, though - more man on man action wouldn't hurt anyone (and would be quite good for women, if the huge numbers of straight girls who like watching QAF is any indication). It might actually do something about the sense that anal sex is defiling, since, as a friend of mine says, so many guys have a 'not in the bottom! not in the bottom!' anxiety and I suspect this is a massive part of what feeds into the 'new home plate' thing. You should see my straight male students freak when we discuss straight male receptive anal eroticism in the classroom...! :-)

Adam Kotsko

Is there a coming-out memoir entitled "Surprised by Sodomy"?

Another project: rewrite the Wordsworth sonnet to fit Sen. Craig's story. Text here.

CR

rewrite the Wordsworth sonnet to fit Sen. Craig's story.

Not sure it needs to be rewritten at all. Think it works already.

"....Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?"

etc

Rich Puchalsky

Anyone who thinks that it's about conquest, not pleasure, or that the main enjoyment is in boasting about it to friends afterwards, probably isn't doing it right, or with the right person.

And I don't see what's so unique about this particular example of "sex = forbidden, therefore anything forbidden is sexy". People who think that defilement is sexy probably think so because they think that defilement is wrong. It's not that then one in general has to convince people that defilement is in fact wrong, or that consensual sex of whatever kind isn't defilement.

Admittedly, the presence of the religious right in the U.S., which is completely getting off on mixing up and literalizing these categories, complicates things. I certainly wouldn't let an obviously religious U.S. Christian watch my child, for instance. But applyinng that same caution to the unexceptional (though somewhat adolescent) phenomenon of one guy liking to hear about another guy's sex life seems like overkill.

Jeff

I like the way you think, Sisyphus. I'm very much in favor of improving society through male-male sex.

As far as defilement goes (and maybe this is just because I've never been straight, and so never had those particular anxieties about things that come from other guys' bodies), I've never understood the idea that semen is dirty, or that there's something fundamentally gross about getting it on you. (Perhaps this isn't an appropriate place for me to try to understand it, or perhaps it came up in the comment thread; don't know.) I mean, "de gustibus" et cet., but to declare it *intrinsically* disrespectful or degrading is alien to me. Is that something that came out of feminist porn studies?

Rich Puchalsky

Oh, don't blame feminists, Jeff. Just about anything that comes out of someone's body is considered dirty in most cultures.

Since this topic is probably the cue for everyone to turn to their most boring, personal object of fascination, I'm going to turn to science fiction. I remember reading the utopian post-scarcity anarcho-socialist novels of Iain Banks, in which superintelligent machines did all the work that needed doing using some tiny fraction of their attention, and the function of human beings was basically to have fun. Sex in this universe was of course supposed to be casual and of great variety. But somehow, I realized, no one was depicted as enjoying anything very far from vanilla. Banks seems to have implicitly assumed that sexual interest in power and domination was a product of a capitalist, limited-resource culture, and that people growing up in his Culture wouldn't feel that way, except for the most eccentric misfits (who make up a large proportion of his protagonists, seemingly). Skimming the Unfogged thread, I saw similar ideas there. And Ogged echoed the typical critique of utopian thought when he presented the idea of gentle, unaggressive, "perfect" lovers as boring.

So sex, which I assume that many people think of as being an expression of ideology, in this case becomes one explicitly. I suppose that in theory one could do a cross-cultural study of sexual attitudes and see whether certain ideas more or less universal in our culture really are universal, but the long history of people looking outside and seeing what they ideologically want to see -- or of people confusing the issue -- complicates that. Look at what happened with Margaret Mead.

So it really becomes a literary matter. No matter what the answer "really would" be -- if that question has any meaning -- how can an answer be created that sounds right, and that doesn't mindlessly replicate existing ideology? CR, this should be your area of work somehow, shouldn't it?

Sisyphus

You know, I went to see if anyone had added on to this thread while on campus and then the dept. computer guy walked in. Didn't wanna have to explain that post title, heh.

I have a friend over in the gender studies dept. who did a whole paper on this in relation to that show _Jackass_ --- that there is an immense male fascination with the butt that is expressed on that show in this half-joking, half grossed-out way.

I'm not sure that I'd want to watch all that man-on-man action, though. Definitely not if they're still working through their "eww! you touched my _butt!_" juvenile behavior and generally freaking out. Maybe they'd need to practice a lot first.

And Jeff, it wasn't the women on the thread claiming that coming on a woman's face, for example, was "degrading" and the "ultimate" gesture of power and exploitation, it was the men, quite a few who said they'd think a woman had very messed-up desires if she asked them to do it. Which led to the women saying basically WTF, it washes off, guys. It's not like acid.

I think some feminist science fiction (just to answer as many people as possible here) has some attempts to think through what sex would be like without domination and exploitation. Maybe ... Marge Piercy? Shari Tepper? Some other names too I'm forgetting.

I've got to go now but when I return I'll find the titles of some non-sci-fi queer novels that try to work through these knots of domination and sex and power.

Kerry Wendt

I'm confused. Are you creeped out by babies?

Rich Puchalsky

"the titles of some non-sci-fi queer novels that try to work through these knots of domination and sex and power"

I don't think that non-sci-fi really can do it, Sisyphus. The hidden premises of all non-SF fiction include a cultural background that is something like either some culture in the present day or some culture in an imagined history. People in such a book can certainly react against e.g. late capitalism. But you can't really depict them as being unaffected by it (or rather, you can, but the reader is not likely to find this convincing if they are the kind of reader who thinks that culture affects sex in this way.) I suppose, though, that this could lead to a whole subsidiary discussion about whether utopian novels are now subsumed into SF or not (I think that they are).

I also think that it's important to distinguish this kind of thing from what the "feminist SF" or "queer SF" novel does. Given SF's historically adolescent-male style, those can hardly help being pushbacks, in general: attempts to reclaim space.

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