174 posts tagged sex
I’m working on a story for NYMag.com on changing definitions of virginity, and I’m looking for real life stories to include in the piece.
The main questions I’m interested in are:
- How did you define virginity before you became sexually active?
- If you are/have been sexually active, how do you define virginity now?
- Does virginity feel like a relevant concept to describe your sexual experiences, or lack thereof? Why/why not?
Keen to hear thoughts and experiences from men, women, gay, straight, trans, cis, virgins, non-virgins, etc. You can reach me via email, or send me a message via Tumblr. As always, I’m happy to use pseudonyms if desired.
"Sex doesn’t have to define us. He’s male, but he likes looking like a girl. What else might be true of him? Perhaps he’s studying electrical engineering, but has also taken courses in archaeology and philosophy. He’s a fine tennis player. His favourite novelist is Dostoevsky. He’s a good listener. He is right of centre on the economy - and would like to see tax cuts. He is critical of government subsidies for the arts. He loves dancing, but at home he enjoys Bach. When he graduates he’s planning to take a holiday to the north of France to see the cathedrals. He’s good at saving money and likes to follow the stock market. His sister is a corporate lawyer. Mostly, he gets on quite well with his parents. Sex doesn’t have to define us.”
Image by Nan Goldin, ’Cody in the Dressing Room at Boy Bar,’ NYC, 1991.
This is guest post from Clarisse Thorn, one of my favourite writers on sex and politics. Clarisse released her seventh (!!! yes, she is a machine) book this week, the thought-provoking BDSM and Culture: Fifty Shades of Stereotype, which covers everything from the history of BDSM to its scandals and stereotypes, as well as tried and tested tips for people who want to give it a go themselves. It’s only $2.99 until Saturday, and you can learn more about it (and buy it) here.
Over to Clarisse…
I’m not a big porn consumer, but I have no problem with porn in itself. When I have a problem with porn, it’s because I have a problem with how it was made: because there are labor issues, or questions of the actors’ consent. Sometimes, I get frustrated with the context in which porn exists or the stereotypes it expresses — but there, the problem is with the context and the stereotypes, not with porn in itself. I tend to think that most anti-porn anxiety arises from irrational grossed-out reactions and stereotype-created fears, and I try to open up conversations about the ethics of making porn whenever I can.
This isn’t to say I don’t get angry because many people in our society are pressured to have sex that doesn’t work for them — but that’s not the fault of porn. I certainly get frustrated by sexual stereotypes, but I don’t think porn created those stereotypes.
One stereotype I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — one that I see expressed over and over in BDSM porn — is the idea that BDSMers don’t love our partners, or that love can’t be part of a BDSM relationship. Last month I posted a quotation from the writer Patrick Califia that touched on this … here’s the relevant paragraph (which contains spoilers about the endings of three famous BDSM novels — Story of O, Return to the Chateau and Nine And A Half Weeks):
I still remember how crushed I was when I read Story of O and Return to the Chateau and came to the ending, where Sir Stephen loses interest in O and tells her to kill herself. I can also remember being furious with the way Nine And A Half Weeks (the book, not the movie) ends. The submissive woman has a public breakdown. She begins to cry hysterically, and is abandoned by her master, so that strangers have to obtain help for her. One of the cruelest stereotypes of S/M people is that we don’t love each other, that there is something about our sexual style that makes our relationships mutually destructive and predisposes us to suicide.
This came back to mind during a conversation I had a few days ago: I was talking to a girl who really likes BDSM sex but referred to non-BDSM sex as “love sex”. Because, you know, love is just not an ingredient in BDSM sex. “Everyone knows” that — the same way “everyone knows” that BDSM always arises from childhood abuse, or dominant sadism is for villains, or everyone who likes BDSM is damaged and miserable and irresponsible, or ….
Not to put too fine a point on it: fuck that.
I’m not saying there’s no BDSM smut out there with love in it. Anne Rice’s Beauty series ends with Beauty riding off into the sunset with her loving sadomasochistic partner (although of course the characters deal with all kinds of uncaring brutality first). But even nuanced BDSM erotica seems to fall into this trap more often than not — for example, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, which is so consciously written that it includes safewords, also portrays a main character whose most compelling BDSM relationships are with her enemies and whose love relationship is with a man who can’t stand to hurt her. (Carey took a very different tack later in the series, with other characters; I’ve always wondered whether she did so as a reaction to criticism.)
It’s easier to criticize than create. And all my porn critiques could come back and bite me soon, because I plan on releasing my own BDSM smut sometime this year (if only to see if the online publishing model can actually make money) … and I’m sure that what I produce won’t even be close to perfect. Yet one thing I really want to ensure I represent in whatever I write is love. There are plenty of BDSM fantasies that partly operate on the absence of love — that even demand it, perhaps because the fantasy is all about a vicious and emotionally distant dominant, or because much of the erotic tension is derived from how much the partners hate each other, or for lots of other reasons. And yeah, they’re hot ….
But it’d be so great if those weren’t the standard.
My latest at Daily Life. Give it a read, go on.