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October 06, 2004

Comments

Joe Perez

djw: What you described is what I called stage two. Thanks for your comment. :)

La Lubu

Joe, I've realize that you are referring to a reading of 'masculine' and 'feminine' that is deeper, complex, and more nuanced than what is offered up as pop-cultural pablum. The problem is, we don't have any cultural space outside of say, academia, or feminist or masculinist circles to talk about the concepts at that level. How that is interpreted, or misinterpreted, by folks not from one of the above circles is (within the realm of my life), "Oh, but you're not a 'real' woman." As if my body is an illusion...that I just 'look' female, but am internally male. Nope!

And yeah, it's maddening. There is a tendency to push those of us who don't fit the first stage into a neuter box. And many people never develop their understanding past the first stage; why would they? These subjects are either not talked about, or we begin without defining our terms and parameters to begin with...and that serves to foster more confusion and misunderstanding.

Because I work in the "man's world" of construction, I deal with this on a daily basis. I have to deal with superindendents who refuse to believe that a woman would be in the trades without her main objective being "snagging a man". I have to deal with general foremen and foremen who refuse to believe that a woman is either physically or mentally capable of doing this sort of thing....I have to prove myself, over and over and over again. I have to deal with brother journeymen (at times) who think they have to tiptoe around me or I'll bite their head off (how's that for an archetype...Medusa!), because their idea of "female construction worker" is a rough, tough hombre...err, mujer. And then, I gotta deal with apprentices...apprentices that I'm old enough to be the mother of, who assume that I'm only there to fill some imaginary minority quota. So you could say, I'm a little "sensitive". I wouldn't be, if it didn't have implications for my ability to earn a living.

Aurora

Kelly: understood. Maybe I jumped the gun on your comment and read more into it than you meant, but I got the distinct impression you weren't leaving room for the other possibility. I'm glad to read I was wrong.

Within a few minutes she has gone from a whole, consenting human being to a fancy masturbation box.

Well, only if she let herself be. She could have just as easily shot back, "In a minute, I'm riding a joy pole," or something equally inane.

Those early experiences are such vulnerable places because it is so easy to degrade or mislead your partner. You don't have the personal experience yet to anticipate potential bad outcomes in the face-to-face inertia of a sexual event.

I've got news for you, Lauren: it's easy to degrade or mislead your partner regardless of age, and you'll only get better at avoiding it (if you're lucky) with EXPERIENCE. Sexual relationships can be vulnerable experiences for some people... and not for others. Bet you anything there are too many adults to count out there who still can't anticipate bad outcomes... look at the divorce rate.

One thing I won't disagree with, however: anyone who thinks they're going to have a meaningful sexual experience at a party full of drunk people really IS too young to be making the decision to have sex.

Tara

I would have thought that the third stage is where we realize that describing certian attributes as 'masculine' or 'feminine' is really useless and unhelpful, and move on to just being people who are happy and comfortable being ourselves in our bodies.

Aurora, I don't think you can say that one has to have experience to avoid hurtful situations. A lot of it is things like self esteem, wariness, emotional strength, and plain old luck. Or at least, that one needs to have sexual experience, other kinds of experience can also teach a lot about human nature and expectations and outcomes, etc.

Even if she had shouted back something derogatory that would not necessarily have made the experience less unpleasant for her. What I gather from the story is that she hadn't wanted a mutual masturbation experience but an honest, if short and temporary, sexual connection. Just because you can pretend something doesn't matter to you, doesn't mean it doesn't matter to you. Wouldn't the better outcome would be if she had gotten up, told him off, and left?

But this is a boy's problem as much as anything else. Of course we should try to empower girls in their sexual lives, but boys need to learn a whole new sexuality. That is probably a much more difficult task but it is essential.

I agree about the victimhood thing. I think it is a natural human coping mechanism to not face really bad feelings until you have a safe and secure place to do so, which adolesence really is not. Of course I don't mean that women are lying, but I do think that hindsight of experience and long life offer a truer understanding of youth than just the experiencing of it. But I also think it's true that our mystique of sexuality doesn't leave room for the small hurts. You're either a master of your sexuality or a victim of pressure and coercion. But there are tons of small hurts and mistakes along the way, I think for everybody. It doesn't start with losing your virginity, I think. For me every sexual 'stage' I pass, no matter how good an experience it is, is a little difficult, traumatic, emotional. But it doesn't kill me!! Life is about getting hurt and learning from your experiences and preserving yourself.

Barbara Preuninger

I hope I'm not giving the impression that I vastly disagree with you on this issue. I'm really quibbling over the framing of it (i.e. the "poor girls are all a bunch of sweet little red riding hoods who need to watch out for the Big Bad Wolf" thing.)

I don't think boys/men are typically being coerced into sexual activity by *individual* women or girls, or that date rapes of boys/men are very common. But what do you think happens in the few cases where boys *are* coerced or manipulated? How easy is it for a boy to reject a girls advances and not be viewed very negatively by others? He's supposed to be a sex machine, right? And be willing to have sex with any girl who offers!

Boys are pushed by outside forces (e.g. media) into being sexual & to have sexual experiences that they might not be ready for. There's a very broad permission for boys that borders on a compulsion. Starting too early can be an emotionally stunting experience for many people, no matter their gender. It does no good to pretend it's not true for boys. Both boys and girls should be saying "Hell YES", and too often this is not happening for either gender.

On the other hand, thinking about some of the stories on here made me pause. I might agree there's one "special" warning for girls: That there's a really sexist society out there which favors boys over girls in sexual matters. (Hey, what do you know, I *do* say that to them, though I usaully phrase it a little differently.) But other than the *sexism* they face, they are no more emotionally vulnerable than boys are.

Hugo

So biology has absolutely no effect, Barbara, on responses to sex? It's all acculturation?

Would women rape if society were different? That just defies imagination.

Astarte

Um... why does that "defy the imagination"?

Hugo

Rape is a crime of violence. Violence and testosterone are overwhelmingly linked. Until we start pumping steroids into young women (which is always possible), it seems absurd to ignore -- as everyone seems to be ignoring -- the essential role of biology in all of this.

Astarte

What am I basing it on? Personal experience, my own and that of my friends' (who knows, maybe we're all just a bunch of pansy ass girly-girls?) and as far as judging, that would imply that i'm imposing a value of right or wrong or good and bad, and i'm not, i'm just saying that I don't believe them.

This post hackled me from the get-go because I was one of the women who raised her hand and said, 'been there, done that, it wasn't so bad', so I hope you'll understand when I say that this offends me. Who are you to say that you don't believe me when you weren't there, you can't get in my brain, and you don't really know what happened? Because your friends and your experience were bad does not mean that everyone else's experience was bad, and just because some women had bad experiences doesn't mean that ALL women had bad experiences, or even MOST women had bad experiences.

Lauren, in regards to your anecdote, I'm wondering how much the presence of alcohol had to do with the response. Was this a response out of inebriation, and was her choice a choice made out of inebriation? Alcohol does affect judgment-making skills, after all. Under non-party, uninebriated circumstances, would she have made the same choice? Would he have acted like an ass?

I hate studies like this because they don't take into account personal, individual experiences. We also, most of the time, don't know exactly how the 'study' went. Did the person doing the study specifically ask for women who's first experiences were bad, or did she ask for women who's first experiences were bad, but they thought they were good ... or, did they ask for women who's first experiences were good, and then coerce them into believing they were bad.

In any of those situations, you have a polluted sample base. There is no way to get a perfect base for sampling. Women who don't think much about their first experiences, for example, aren't going to be likely to answer the call for a study like this. It's just not important to us.

I won't argue that the message is wrong, that there isn't necessarily anything wrong with waiting until you are older. I will, however, argue the assertion that a majority of the women who do have sex earlier wish they did so later. Based on my own experiences, and that of my friends, the shame, guilt and regret comes only AFTER someone else tells them that they really SHOULD feel that way.

That isn't denying victimhood, that's coercing someone to feel guilty.

Astarte

Rape is a crime of violence. Violence and testosterone are overwhelmingly linked. Until we start pumping steroids into young women (which is always possible), it seems absurd to ignore -- as everyone seems to be ignoring -- the essential role of biology in all of this.

There are plenty of violent women.
So that has to do with what Barbara said because testosterone is a biological thing?

So, let me ask you this. A woman walks down the street in a slinky little dress, and pumps. She smiles and flutters her eyelashes at everyone she sees. Some guy in a back alley sees this and gets a hard-on, then proceeds to rape her.

Now, based on that little scenario, is this guy's testosterone why he did it?

Hugo

No, his testosterone is no excuse. But it explains why he channeled arousal and anger into aggression.

Astarte

I didn't ask if it was an excuse, I asked if it was WHY he did it, which I guess you sort of answered.

But if it's biological, how come it is that other men who may see the same thing, don't react the same way?

Hugo

Biology is one factor -- ethics, fear, self-restraint are of course also other factor. It isn't an either/or, Astarte; it's a both/and.

Astarte

Right, so why do you find it so unbelievable when Barbara says that young boys are influenced by factors other than biology?

Amanda

If testosterone is really that big a factor, then how did the women at Abu Gharib fall so easily into the role of rapist?

Rape and other violence is caused by a willingness to go to extremes to take what you feel you deserve.

Hugo

I don't think other factors are meaningless! I think socialization and biology work in concert. I think some women can be turned into brutes, but even the women at Abu Ghraib "raped" in profoundly different ways than men raped.

And I suspect that some of the women involved may have been coerced, but I have no hard evidence of that nor do I wish to start a large tangent on the subject!

Astarte

Okay, so, then, where did Barbara say that biology had nothing to do with it?

Hugo

I didn't say she didn't. I just didn't see it acknowledged. One more time: biology and socialization work hand in hand.

Barbara Preuninger

"So biology has absolutely no effect, Barbara, on responses to sex? It's all acculturation? Would women rape if society were different? That just defies imagination."

I think biology has little effect on whether or not a person feels emotionally vulnerable about sex, or whether or not early experience(s) will be positive or negative.

If the social pressures put on boys and girls were exactly reversed? Maybe there wouldn't be an equal number of rapes (primarily because of women's upper body strength differences and just simple physical differences in genitals). But *very* probably the emotional manipulation &/or other types of coercion as we see happening from boys to girls now.

Amanda

I agree with Barbara. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the reason that girls get attached more quickly has more to do with their view of themselves as "not-sluts" than anything else. Nothing will bring out the scowling judgements of others faster than admitting to having sex just for fun--if you're a woman. The best way to avoid that is to "rewrite" history and claim that you only had the "best" intentions when going to bed with someone.

I have had, as most women have, some deeply unpleasant encounters with men who tried to force themselves on me. They didn't remind me in the least of plain old horny dudes--no, there is always a palpable anger there at being denied what they wish to believe is rightly theirs. That anger is unsexed--women attack men less than the other way around because we are not raised to believe in our own entitlement. There's no vice versa for the term "cock tease".

Lawrence Krubner

"Oh, and by the way, I think teenage boys are having a hell of a lot more orgasms than teenage girls, and having a hell of a lot more fun."

Oh, come on. We're not going to measure exploration of the sexual by quantity of orgasms, are we? That's a little warped. That's like saying if a woman isn't having orgasms she isn't having anything worthwhile. Of course, she might be having her needs met. You can't assume you know her needs. I've female friends who sometimes take a guy home just because they want to be able to put their arms around somebody when they drift off to sleep, the sex is incidental to them.

mythago

No matter how unfulfilling, unpleasant, or even non-consensual a sexual experience may have been, some young women feel compelled to recast the entire event so that they appear to have been willing and even enthusiastic participants.

Ah, the "false consciousness" argument. If a young woman's sexual history doesn't fit the way you think it *should* have been, clearly she's just aping men, fooling herself, and denying she could possibly be a victim.

Aurora

Women can rape, but it's more difficult for a woman to rape a man than it is for a man to rape a woman if you're speaking strictly in the traditional insert penis into vagina coupling. A woman does not have to be aroused for a man to rape her. It's a little difficult, I'd imagine, for a woman to rape a man if he was not aroused.

Now, if you consider forced sodomizing with... objects... that's an entirely different story.

Would women rape if society were different? Quite possibly. I won't say it can be ruled out. Is it likely? I think it's far less likely, simply because I do think the majority of women are less violent, mostly because of biology, yes. Historically, men were the hunters. They are built with more upper body strength and able to exert great amounts of strength in a short amount of time. Testosterone IS linked to agression biologically, which is probably WHY they ended up being the hunters. Raping is kind of like hunting, just with the wrong kind of prey.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

the reason that girls get attached more quickly has more to do with their view of themselves as "not-sluts" than anything else

Granting that girls often want to be seen as "not-sluts," couldn't the inverse also be true? That the reason boys get attached less quickly is that they have an investment in seeing themselves as "not-vulnerable"? When kelly was talking about doubting women's words of bravado about men, my immediate reaction was to think that I'm actually skeptical of men's words of bravado about women.

Lauren

"it's easy to degrade or mislead your partner regardless of age, and you'll only get better at avoiding it (if you're lucky) with EXPERIENCE."

I don't intend to undermine the importance of experience, if anything I think that experience with age and maturity comes from being humbled and sometimes humiliated in sexual events. It becomes less easy to hurt another if you yourself have been hurt.

My main point is that while she was in one emotional place, he was in another, probably the uber-masculine place which tells him to be "not-vulnerable."

When it comes down to it, I think the primary reason responsible for these kinds of miscommunications comes directly from not informing young people of the language and methods of navigating and negotiating sexual relations. We can frame this argument any way we like, but we can't do away with the fact that men and women are told to feel markedly different about non-committed sex. Unfortunately, I think the messages send a far more negative message to young women than men.

Victimhood? That's a name game. I hesitate to contributing to the line of discussion about recasting a negative sexual experience because after my first sexual encounter I had to do exactly that. That's what got me through my horrible, horrible first time. Once I got a bit older I was able to look at the experience for what it was: rape. Totally unconsentual. My experience is not indicative of all, I know, but I also know I can't be the only one who has had to avoid the bad to get to a place where the bad can be addressed head-on.

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