Archive for sex & sexuality

What’s the matter with these kids today? Nothing, as it turns out.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 28, 2009 by Gena Radcliffe

Though it’s doubtful that it will lessen the amount of parental kvetching and hand-wringing, according to The New York Times a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that the percentage of American teenagers having sex has actually decreased in the past twenty years.  These results may come as a surprise, given the media’s insistence that teenagers are insatiable, uncontrollable animals who constantly engage in reckless sexual activity with multiple partners; that is, if you have not yet discovered that the media tends to embellish such alternately titillating and alarmist “news” for ratings.  Remember Oprah’s deep concern over “rainbow parties”? Tyra Banks’s behind the scenes look into the “secret lives” of teenage girls? New York‘s now mostly debunked expose on “cuddle puddles” at Stuyvesant High School, where apparently its brainiac students were spending less time splitting atoms in class and more time engaging in same sex fondling in a mysteriously abandoned wing of the school? The “sex bracelet” urban legend, a legend that has been around in some form or another for years, that somehow, amazingly, led to hysterical banning of them in schools in Florida and Ohio? Or the newest trend of “sexting”? These are just but a few examples of how parents are constantly inundated with evidence that their children are budding sex fiends who can’t be left alone for even a minute, because that may be just enough time to engage in a blowjob or a quick orgy.

However, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the amount of high school students of both genders who have had sex went down from 54% to 47% since 1991.  The decrease is also significant with younger teenagers: the number of girls under the age of 15 who have had sex dropped from 20% to 13%. This means that, despite all those panicked ‘What Your Kids Aren’t Telling You’ articles magazines like Good Housekeeping like to run, teenagers aren’t having more sex at a younger age now than they used to; in fact it’s quite the opposite, teenagers are having less sex and waiting longer to have it.  The only bit of disappointing news is that the rate of teenage pregnancy has risen slightly, however this can be more likely attributed to a lack of birth control education rather than promiscuous sex.

While I am pleased to see actual good news when it comes to teenagers and personal responsibility, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised.  It’s been a while since I was in high school, but not so long that I don’t find the perpetuation of today’s teens as sexually sophisticated, debauched vixens and studs rather laughable.  I realize that with the internet and the inexplicable celebrity of people like Paris Hilton the world is a different place now, but if you honestly think that shows like Gossip Girl are an accurate “art imitates life” reflection of the teenage experience, you need to have your fucking head examined.  Teenagers for the most part are still just as awkward and socially inept, particularly around people to whom they’re attracted, as they were twenty years ago, and forty years ago, and sixty years ago.  On any given Saturday night, it’s not likely that the typical American teenager is engaging in some sort of loveless, kinky sex act that would make his or her mother’s face peel off in shock.  They’re more likely slinging burgers at Wendy’s, or hanging out at the mall, or waiting in line to buy tickets to see My Bloody Valentine 3D, or playing Dungeons and Dragons, or chatting online, or listening to The Cure while writing bad poetry.  Except for the chatting online part that’s not at all different from what being a typical teenager was like for my generation, and believe me my teen years would have been a hell of a lot better if Al Gore had invented the internet a decade sooner.  Also, keep in mind that that 47% cited above only answered that they “have had sex,” not that they’re “sexually active.”  There’s a difference.  A 17 year-old who has had sex once, or even one sexual partner, is hardly a damning reminder of society’s crumbling morals.

Let’s face it, straight-laced, virgin teens with bad skin who get sick on half a can of beer are kind of boring.  Dateline isn’t going to score high ratings on stories about cute high school girls who bake cookies for charity.  Claim that those same girls are holding wet T-shirt contests to buy themselves Coach purses, and how this is a “trend” that will soon make its way to your hometown and you have a smash.  It’s partly due to the eternal fetishization of teenagers, particularly teenage girls, as both mostly innocent yet somehow still playfully slutty nymphets, and parental fear and guilt.  Parents are encouraged to raise their teenagers in an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion, and magazines and TV always come up with new ways to make you paranoid.  If your kids speak to each other in a weird code or slang, especially on the internet, you should probably assume that it has something to do with sex or drugs, possibly both at the same time.  A text message your child receives has a 75% chance of either being an invitation to a gangbang or a picture of someone’s cleavage.  Wearing certain colored socks is some sort of indicator of what kind of sex acts your precious baby is open to performing…and you bought her those socks, this is your fault! Parenting advice books called Hey Mom and Dad, You’re Doing Great! won’t sell.  On the other hand, one called Your Daughter is Doomed to Become a Meth Whore if You Don’t Buy This Book Now, preferably with a picture of a sullen young girl in smeared eyeliner on the cover will sell millions.  Parents are always being told that they’re doing something wrong, that they’re not watching closely enough, that something terrible is going on behind their backs, when most likely that terrible something is their kid pirating the latest Nickelback album.  Which is pretty terrible, but all things considered not quite so alarming.  It seems so obvious to simply take your kid’s, or anybody else’s kid’s word for how much sex they and their peers are having, with the grain of salt that must be allowed for the fact that young boys tend to lie about such things (that being that they have had sex, rather than not), over the media’s boogeyman perspective, and yet we believe that people like Oprah and Tyra Banks and Bill O’Reilly have a much better idea of what goes on in our own homes than we do.

Ugh. Oh god, ugh.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 22, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

I apologize for the monosyllabic, overly simplified title of today’s post, but this is a rare moment in which I’m utterly at a loss for words.  Found by way of Feministing…if you’re stumped on last minute gift ideas for your husband and boyfriend, why not purchase an Artificial Virginity Hymen?

No more worry about losing your virginity. With this product, you can have your first night back anytime. Insert this artificial hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate, it will ooze out a liquid that look like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable.

Please forward your compensation requests for brain bleach, I’ll do my best to fulfill them as soon as possible.  I don’t know what’s more jarring, the product description written in Engrish (it’s made in Japan, which, I hate to say, doesn’t surprise me in the least), or the fact that you’re supposed to insert something that will “ooze out a liquid” in one of the most sensitive parts of your body, all to recreate the supposedly wildly romantic experience of losing your virginity.  This sounds like a goddamn Halloween prop.  And really, it’s not for your benefit, but for your partner’s, who either never got to deflower someone for real or wants for a few blessed moments to pretend that you never had any lovers before him.

Leaving aside cultures where not being a virgin upon marriage is a severely punishable offense, can it be possible that at the cusp of 2009, the act of taking someone’s virginity is still the end-all, be-all of sexual experiences for men? Are there still people who don’t realize how fucking creepy obsessing over that is? Any man over the age of, say, 25 or so who either covets virgins or gets pissy and jealous at the fact that his partner has had sex before him needs to be stood up against a wall and repeatedly punched in the crotch.  I don’t normally condone violence, but seriously, the only solution for these “men” consists of punch, crotch, rinse, repeat.  I don’t want to hear any nonsense about their insecurities or problems with self-identity as a barely evolved from Neanderthals red-blooded American male.  If you’re feeling insecure as a man, go lift some fucking weights.  Read Maxim or watch a football game or something.  Fetishizing virginity is FUCKING CREEPY.  This romanticization of “the first time” has to stop, because guess what? You won’t find a single woman who will say their first time was the best sexual experience they’ve ever had.  Even with the most gentle, solicitous partner it’s awkward and a little painful.  The skies parting, “angels we have heard on high” myth of first time sex is perpetuated by romance novels and pornography.  Creepy, icky pornography for creepy, icky people, and I normally have a let and let live attitude when it comes to pornography.

If you’re reading this and you have a virginity fetish, do some deep soul searching and ask yourself: why? Do you fancy young, impressionable, pure girls? Do you believe that women who have had sex are somehow tainted? Are you into the idea of “imprinting” yourself onto someone, ensuring that, no matter how positive or negative the experience of sex with you may be, they’ll never forget it? Ask yourself these questions, and if the answer is anything other than “no,” get some fucking help.  Cutesy, ersatz naughty role-playing products like the Artificial Virginity Hymen are not just condoning the issue but encouraging it.  Women who willingly play into it rather than pointing out how twisted it is aren’t helping either.

Note: the link to the website that sells the Artificial Virginity Hymen is not safe for work.

The hair/bare bunch

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 12, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

Jessica at Jezebel writes about a rather silly article in the continuously less relevant Salon, on yet more victims of the failing economy: spas that provide Brazilian wax services.   It seems that women are less inclined to spend upwards of $60 to $100 every six weeks or so to keep their bits hair-free, possibly ushering in a return to the 70s porn bush days.  Jessica posits that we shouldn’t mourn the loss of profits to salon owners, because as best as she can tell not nearly as many women go through the torture of professional waxing as fashion magazines and Sex and the City would have us believe at the best of times.  Au contraire! say several commenters, who claim that not just they but most of their friends maintain vulvas that resemble freshly polished hardwood floors.  Not surprisingly, this quickly devolves into yet another debate over the anti and pro-feminism messages behind whatever it is we women decide to do with our pubic hair.

Before I go on, let me say that I’m going to try real hard to wax philosophical (pun shamelessly intended) on this subject without specifically mentioning my own grooming practices.  It never ceases to amaze me how, particularly on the internet, “debating” consists less of backing up your position with facts than with irrelevant personal anecdata.  A good example of this occurred a couple years ago when Pandagon linked to a notorious blog post written by a woman who furiously spoke out against performing oral sex on men, believing it to be degrading and anti-feminist.  If a nickel shot out of my computer every time someone at Pandagon prefaced their comments with “I just love giving blowjobs!” I would have earned enough to buy a venti chai latte at my local Starbucks.  The same goes for the eternal waxing/shaving/going natural debate: claiming that having no pubic hair leads to better orgasms has no basis in fact, it’s personal experience.  If you love giving blowjobs, swell, rock on with your bad self, but it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not oral sex could reasonably be perceived as degrading to women.  By that same measure, claiming sex feels better without pubic hair has no bearing on how pro-feminist the decision to shave or not shave is.  No doubt women who walk around looking like they’re carrying hedgehogs between their thighs believe sex is better for them too.

But see, that’s the thing: what we do with our body hair, particularly that which surrounds our genitals, is such an intimate decision that it’s impossible to not turn debates over it into personal issues.  It’s truly bizarre that shaving or waxing off our pubic hair has become political, along with wearing makeup, short skirts and high heels.  For a lot of feminists, these are seen as traitorous acts to the Cause, being that these “fascist beauty standards” are generally intended to attract and please men.  Women who choose to go bare vehemently defend their decision, claiming that there’s nothing more pro-feminist than being able to choose what you do with your own body.  Granted, but you immediately invalidate that argument by claiming that your partner likes it that way, or worse, that you insist that he shave as well.  There’s nothing pro-feminist about insisting that your partner shave his chest or genitals; if you want the freedom to groom or not groom without criticism the same should go for him.  Taking a defeatist “well, all men like it that way, so what are you gonna do?” stance on it doesn’t work either, because, going by both my own unscientific research and otherwise, the majority of men, surprise surprise, are content leaving the decision of pubic landscaping up to the owner of said pubes.  It’s unwise to go by Cosmopolitan, Maxim and TV to gauge the opinion of the average American male on such a subject, you’d get more accurate results by simply asking friends and partners.

And yet, berating women who shave as “giving into the patriarchy” is simply unfair and melodramatic.  In the end, it really does come down to choice, and as feminists we continue to show an enormous amount of hypocrisy in regards to decisions over really meaningless things.  Staunchly anti-shaving feminists insist that women go through the hassle, mess and occasional pain of ridding oneself of pubic hair solely for the aesthetic pleasure of men; further, those men are obsessed with their partners looking eternally youthful.  While I am inclined to agree that there is a certain unsavoriness to men who insist that their partners go bare, I don’t genuinely believe that men who simply have a preference for it secretly want to fuck 12 year-olds.  The difference is with insisting and preferring: if you give into a badgering partner who treats pubic hair as a dealbreaker, sorry, thanks for playing, but there’s nothing “pro-feminist” about your decision.  No, not even if you manage to convince yourself that you really wanted to do it the whole time.  However, if your partner merely states a preference, and you’re cool with that, then the decision does become your own, and no one really has the right to belittle you for it.  There’s no need to explain that it’s supposedly cleaner, or that sex feels better, or that you can wear a swimsuit with confidence, just like there’s no need to insist that women who go natural are somehow better feminists.  Really? Honestly? No one cares.  You watch out for your own bits, and I’ll take care of mine.

Will work for sex

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 25, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

According to an article at CNN.com, the stereotypes are true: women are dirty whores who will use their bodies to get what they want, and men are slobbering pussyhounds who will do whatever you ask them to if there’s a promise of sex in it.

A recent study of 475 University of Michigan undergraduates ages 17 to 26 found that 27 percent of the men and 14 percent of the women who weren’t in a committed relationship had offered someone favors or gifts — help prepping for a test, laundry washing, tickets to a college football game — in exchange for sex. On the flip side, 5 percent of the men surveyed and 9 percent of the women said they’d attempted to trade sex for such freebies.

And although they weren’t hard up for resources, the students surveyed “recognized the value of this socioeconomic currency system,” says Daniel Kruger, research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, who published his findings in the April issue of “Evolutionary Psychology.”

Emphasis on “laundry washing” mine.  And “this socioeconomic currency system,” is that what the kids are calling it these days? Funny, I thought it was “prostitution,” but what do I know? Then again, actual prostitutes, the kind you pick up in Red Hook, receive money for their services, rather than just getting their sheets washed.

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Tune into Tokyo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 27, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

Feministing posts a segment from Attack of the Show, a TV program I had never heard of until the minute I read the article, that discusses the strange trend of videos being posted on YouTube of young women punching each other in the breasts. No sooner than in the very first comment does someone claim that they will strike in the groin anyone who attempts to treat her “fun bags,” as Attack of the Show delightfully refers to them, in such a manner. Rather than discuss what sort of deep well of misogyny and female self-loathing such a thing as “boob punching” must dip from, most of the following comments dissolve into a debate over whether hitting a woman in the chest is the same as hitting a man in the testicles.

I am reminded of the now legendary “Open Source Boob Project,” when the resulting internet shitstorm led to an amusing parody called “The Open Source Kick in the Nuts Project.” Most people got that it was satire, and that only a very few women, those who have not yet accepted that Valerie Solanas and Andrea Dworkin were a couple of raisin cakes, would honstly think it was a good idea to go around kicking random men in the crotch. However, a small but vocal minority of people protested that grabbing a woman’s breasts is not at all comparable to striking a man in the balls, because one is sexual and the other is violent.

Subsequently, as in the comments in the Feministing article, everyone misses the point.

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This just in: New Yorkers enjoy museums, unprotected sex

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 25, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

Despite their reputation for being more sophisticated and intelligent than the average American, a recent health department study shows that New Yorkers are irresponsible about their genitals.

The results are baffling when you consider that, if I’m reading correctly, the amount of condom usage decreases when one has multiple sexual partners. I can’t even begin to theorize why that is, other than maybe because condoms continue to be regarded by most people as mood killers that should only be used when absolutely necessary, such as when your partner seems to be oozing some sort of substance from his or her nether regions. Nobody likes to use condoms, but nobody likes a burning sensation when they urinate either, or an accidental pregnancy. I had thought these outweighed using a condom on the grand “how much will this fuck up my life?” scale we all have, it would appear I was mistaken. And, yes, I know that a condom isn’t a failsafe measure against burning sensations when you urinate or accidental pregnancy, but clearly it improves your chances over not wearing one at all.

I’ve often heard the complaint that stopping what you’re doing for the ten seconds or so it takes for you or your partner to put on a condom “ruins the moment.” You know what else ruins the moment? Genital herpes. If you’re a man and the mere act of putting on a condom causes you to lose your erection, the problem isn’t with the condom, it’s with you. If you’re a woman and the mere act of your partner putting on a condom causes you to immediately lose interest in sex, again, the problem isn’t with the condom, it’s you. A piece of latex thin enough that you can practically see through it should not ruin your sexual experience. It’s strictly a mental thing, adults simply just don’t like being told what they should do, especially when it comes to intimate matters. I can’t help but picture a lot of childish foot stomping over the notion, like when our parents used to make us wear coats over our Halloween costumes. “BUT I DON’T WANNA!!!!!”

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Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask

Posted in pop culture with tags , on June 16, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach

Reading about sex is almost as much fun as actually having sex (sometimes more fun, depending on your partner). It’s fascinating, it’s arousing, it’s shocking, it’s occasionally appalling, it’s even comforting (“Other people like that too? What a relief!”). Rarely is the subject treated with humor, however, or at least not with humor above the high school locker room “and then it got in her eyes!” level. Mary Roach’s Bonk takes a much needed light-hearted yet intelligent and non-juvenile approach to the topic, and is so far one of my favorite reads of this year.

Make no mistake, Bonk isn’t a scholarly text. Roach gleefully pokes fun at a psychologist with the unfortunate name of Dorcas Butt, and her frequent footnotes discuss such topics as auto-fellatio and a martial arts video called Iron Crotch. She also advises “if you know what’s good for you, you will not do a Google search of ‘scrotum’ and ‘elephantiasis.'” However, it is exhaustively researched and endlessly absorbing. Reading about the science behind sex is sort of like finding out how a magic trick is performed–it’s neat to see where the rabbit is hidden, but there’s something to be said for a little mystery as well. Nevertheless, we as the most advanced species on Earth (at least until dolphins grow those opposable thumbs The Onion warned us about) are obligated to learn as much as we can about how our bodies work, why they work that way, and what we can do to either ensure they keep working that way or they don’t turn around and work against us. That counts for the naughty bits too.

The bottom line is, human sex organs are designed essentially to make babies. Sex is a lot of fun and feels great, but virtually every aspect of it, even the shape of the penis and the female orgasm, was originally intended to aid in reproduction. The only evolution we’ve made towards the notion of not populating the world with as many tiny versions of ourselves as possible is mental (and not enough of us have evolved to that point just yet). Nevertheless, we are also one of the very few species who have sex strictly for pleasure, and what we like in that regard tells quite a bit about us psychologically, which is very likely why it’s one of the most underfunded and generally disregarded areas of scientific research.

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