Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sex Talk

Well, the one good thing that came out of the whole "blowjob" fiasco running rampant in the feminist blogosphere are a couple of threads over at Bitch PhD. She's opened up a women's and men's thread for "honest" talk about sex: what you like, what you don't.

In this case, I actually like that she broke the threads up by sex; likely, it avoids some fighting/disagreements that would undermine the whole idea of the exercise, which is to feel that you can speak honestly without being attacked for it.

One of the things I don't talk about here is intimate sexual details, because, well, that's between me and my partners. But hey, you can post anonymously over at Bitch's place...

24 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

David Moles said...

Well, that's certainly educational. :)

(Also, I’ve been thinking a fair bit, recently, about the genderedness of blog comment conversation styles — specifically, “How come so many of my blog comment threads get unintentionally hijacked by men?" And I have to say, it amuses me how much armchair philosophizing (“What is sex for, anyway?”) there is over in the men’s thread, vs. how much “My partner and I have this specific issue” there is over in the women's thread...)

David Moles said...

(And not just the armchair philosophizing, but the categorical statements.)

Kameron Hurley said...

Oh, I think it's fascinating.

I don't know what the gendering of the threads is - even on feminist blogs, there are still a significant number of male posters (cast in point, *this* blog), and I wonder if women are just more turned off by the idea of posting (even in a woman-friendly space) than men are.

It's like I was telling you about that Blogher conference where the most-attended panel is always the one about how to moderate blog comments. I wonder if women, in general, are more worried about getting into a fight, or just not as interested in posting.

I know I don't post on a lot of blogs because I'm either not especially moved to get into a conversation or because I don't feel I have anything useful to add.

I'm not a huge blog commenter, actually. Arguments tend to exhaust me. Someone mentioned this issue in the perennial "Why aren't there more women bloggers?" question (answer: there are lots of women bloggers, it's just that none of the "big" blogs link to them), and said there's also the issue of how women spend their free time vs how men spend their free time, and who has more or less free time. In general, even now, women have less "free" time than men do (particularly single childless men vs married women with children).

But mostly, I'm leaning toward the, "Threads I'm not interested in engaging in" reason.

I mean, bring up sex and blowjobs, and all of the sudden there's 300 comments and a big fight over a couple dozen blogs, soooo... When women are moved to speak, they certainly speak.

God knows *I* do...

Kameron Hurley said...

P.S. Or, bring up, say "Alanis Morrisette Albums," and we'll engage.... :)

Jackie M. said...

Have either of you ever read/heard of Norah Vincent's book _Self-Made Man_? A couple of friends of mine were telling me about it the other day, and it sounds like something Kameron would be interested in reading... and then possibly ripping apart at length.

But also... apparently the author makes some interesting observations about the way men/women talk about things in same-sex spaces. Which relates to what David's saying up there.

Kameron Hurley said...

Jackie - yup, it's on my bookshelf. I just need to find the time to read it.

I really liked her opening where she talks about how it feels to walk down the streets of NY being preceived as a man vs. perceived as a woman. I totally identified with how she felt as a woman, because it's what I feel on train platforms, out on the street, waiting for the next comment some asshat makes so I can yell, "Fuck you!" at him. It made me wonder just how much I would be able to relax if I was a guy, or perceived as one.

You're forced to be more aware of who's looking at you, how they're looking at you, and preparing scripts in your head about what you'll do if they decide to act on their impulses.

I'm looking forward to reading the book, actually. I should bump it up on my list.

Jackie M. said...

(disclaimer: I haven't read it either, it was just recommended to me by my friends this last Friday...)

Whereas she apparently makes a parallel observation about presenting/being viewed as a male in conversational situations... how, as "Ned," she's constantly having to think about and limit what she says in male-only spaces. There are a lot of modes of communication which females normally take for granted when talking to anybody, male or female, which she found were cut off when she was trying to "pass" as a male.

Another book query: Have you ever read Kathleen Lee's anthology _Travel Among Men_?

Kameron Hurley said...

Hmmmmm... No, I haven't read _Travel Among Men_, but just looking at the amazon page, it looks quite interesting.

re: Men talk

You know, I remember feeling limited in conversations with women, for different reasons, when I was growing up. But that was mainly because I wasn't boy-crazy about the boys they were, and wanted to broach other topics, which I found were better broached with male friends (this changed as I got older, so now I've got both male and female friends, and I've gravitated to people who aren't terribly gender-restricted). So I have some idea about how "shutting up" or self-censoring was a good idea if you wanted to keep having friends.

I'd think that men would feel looser in conversations with one another as they got older as well, but yea, from the look at Bitch's male readers comments, anyway, that's not the case. At least when it comes to sex. Too much fear of homosexuality/fear of being not-male?

Women have the advantage in the whole homosexuality department, which is largely cultural. Getting drunk and making out with another woman is practically expected. *Actual* lesbianism, not so much, but I think the "bi is cool" thing allows women to talk more freely about all sorts of desires.

Though I admit that I have female friends who are waaaaay more graphic in their retelling of sexual exploits than I would ever be. Generalizations are OK, but, you know, I don't want to know the size and shape of her boyfriend's penis.

Just don't.

I have to remind my sister of this a lot... "No, really, stop talking now. *Really.* I HAVE TO LOOK HIM IN THE FACE WITHOUT LAUGHING THE NEXT TIME I SEE HIM."

Yeah.

Jackie M. said...

That anthology is a lovely, almost meditative collection -- Lee goes to places I'll probably only ever dream of seeing, and you can really sense that she has all these mixed-up, ambivalent feelings about the countries she visits. China in particular.

But the reason I brought it up is because the first story in the collection, "Travel Among Men," is actually about that feeling you're describing: that tiresome, constant sensation of being watched, of never having a conversation without being aware that something else is wanted/expected/hoped for. And then, at the end, there's this sudden, unexpected sense of loss when she realizes she's getting older, and nobody's actually bothering her anymore.

re: girl talk -- Oh, totally. I know what you're talking about: I spent most of 4th-8th grade having nothing to talk about with any of my female peers, but feeling that trying to talk about my shared interests with the boys would somehow violate an even bigger taboo.

But these days I've got a large collection friends of both genders with whom I really feel I can talk about literally anything.

re: penis size/shape ... *laughs* I'm not normally susceptible to TMI considerations. But, for the record, the only person who's ever managed to do that to me was actually a man. And it was actually more of a delayed response: we were both trying to lose weight, and he and I would go on these long walks late at night... and he would end up telling me about all of his crazy ex-girlfriends and sexual exploits and whatnot. And then when he ran out of material, he would recycle stories about other people's sexual exploits. So I ended up knowing all of these graphic details about people I'd never met before... None of it bothered me at the time. At the time! But later, when I finally met these peole, I'd have to bite my tongue to keep from blurting out: "oh, you're so-and-so! The guy who prefers one 400 lb. woman to two 200 lb. women! Excellent, nice to meet you!" ...arrgh.

Kameron Hurley said...

re: and then you meet them in person.

You know, that's been the most surreal experience about being a "blogger" actually - meeting random people at cons who read this blog regularly or even sporadically who know a LOT about what's going on with me, but whose names I only know because they're wearing name tags...

Jackie M. said...

Yeah, totally... I need to re-think my name-tag strategy, actually, and just have the tag say "Jackie M." Because even after I'd been introduced to somebody, sometimes there'd be this disconnect... and then, like half an hour later, they'd look up and say, "oh, wait you're Jackie M.! I've seen you posting comments." Um. I thought we'd established that? Guess not.

And of course they still haven't connected me to my, again, fairly transparent livejournal handle... and I'm not sure if I want them to, come to think of it... and it's all just a lot of work.

Susan said...

I keep trying to have some useful comment on the male/female posting and commenting styles thing, and, uh, I keep not commenting because I'm not sure I have anything useful to say. Is that the gender dynamic in of itself, though? Women are less likely to feel comfortable just blurting out any damn thing that occurs to them to say? Because I feel like that's a dynamic we've been told to watch out for in classrooms (boys raise their hands more often than girls because they're less worried about saying something stupid) and I think it's related to fiction submission patterns (women are more hesitant to submit stories that aren't completely polished, and to markets that aren't necessarily a perfect fit). I doubt there's anything radical about the idea that women, in mainstream American culture, are socialized to have a stronger self-censoring filter.

Anonymous said...

I found the threads useful, though they've largely died out by now. I appreciated a lot of the discussion, which was relatively unique to me-- for me it's not a shallow replay of RL confidences that some of you may take for granted.

ScottM said...

(That was me; previewing kicked it to anonymous for some reason.)

Simon owens said...

::Clicks into Bitch PhD Women's thread. Presses "ctrl" and "F" and then types in "anonymous." Reads with interest::

:-P

Kameron Hurley said...

Ah, Simon....

Susan - yea, I wonder how much of it is socialization of the "my opinion isn't important enough to be counted" type, as with the classroom phenomenon you mentioned. But then you hear a lot of women get pissed off with that idea, too, and they say, "But *I* post all the time! It's just that no one notices!"

Which may be another thing: women add their opinions to discussions, but the participants, particulary if primarily male, aren't as likely to engage?

And, you know, what's the point of posting if nobody's going to engage?

La Gringa said...

The only thing that might cause a blow job fiasco, methinks, are teeth.

I'm just saying.

Kameron Hurley said...

Yea, but "blow job blowup" is just way too cutesy...

Jackie M. said...

Susan: my Dad has actually experimented with the gender dynamic thing in his classroom, and finds that women tend to start speaking up a lot more in female-only groups. Something about the presence of the guys makes them hit their mute button, though he doesn't know exactly what.

Dan Percival said...

Hi -- Jackie M. sent me. I have to mention that _Self-Made Man_ is one of the most promising, frustrating, fascinating, and casually offensive books I've run across in recent memory, and (apparently -- surprise to me!) I've been waiting like a coiled spring for someone to mention it. I think it deserves a real reading and discussion amongst people who'll take it and the topic seriously but not academically. I've read about half of it in bookstores, but I don't know yet if I want to give the author money. (I know, I know: library.)

I may or may not have more to say about it later.

*ponders* 

Posted by Dan Percival

Jackie M. said...

Well, that's a highly inaccurate portrayal of the actual chain of events, if ever I've seen one!

(Oh, dear man, don't you know that until men are finally willing to accept responsibility for their actions, we will never be able to achieve a true dialogue...? :)

Dan Percival said...

Wha?

Are you trying to say that referring me to something you said in "Kameron's thread," complete with link, is somehow not "sending" me?

(oh, did I say "superficial"? and also "moving"? No? Well, add those to the adjectives re: _SMM_.) 

Posted by Dan Percival

Jackie M. said...

I merely mentioned that there was also an ice cream shop down on Hurley St. that also sold that flavor. And then I turned around to answer the phone, and when I looked up you were standing there licking a melting ice cone. And blaming me for "making you post." Ahem!

Susan said...

Gah, I don't think I was clear. I don't think that the self-censoring mechanism translates as "my opinion isn't important enough". It's more like "my opinion isn't coherent enough."

Although, hrm, wait. For me, when I don't post responses to things that I find interesting, there are two types of reason for my silence. One type is the "I don't have time to be as articulate as I'd like to be, so I'll be quiet rather than look stupid." The other type, though, is "why am I assuming these people care about my random contribution to this discussion?" Which I think isn't -quite- the same thing as "my contribution isn't important enough," but I'll acknowledge that they might be in the same family.