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Sam is a Patsexual1 who has a foot fetish. Pat is a Samsexual who has feet gets a nonsexual enjoyment from footrubs. If Pat, not knowing Sam’s fetish, asks for a footrub, and Sam, knowing Pat doesn’t know, rubs Pat’s feet, is that adequate consent? What if it was Sam who offered rather than Pat who asked?

This was inspired by the first letter in this Savage Love column; the answer seems fine at first but when I looked again I wasn’t sure the GGG vase hadn’t become the two faces of rape apology. If the writer could only enjoy footrubs if she thought her boyfriend didn’t enjoy them—my initial understanding, and apparently Dan’s—then without prior negotiation that’s a pretty fucked up relationship dynamic. On the other hand, he did something sexual-to-him without her consent to sexual activity (though that’s more complicated if he thought she knew about his fetish, and now my head hurts). On the other other hand, she consented to the foot rub.

Getting back to Sam and Pat, is there a difference between Pat consenting to a seemingly non-sexual footrub and to a footrub Pat knows is sexual to Sam, even though it isn’t to Pat? Sam doesn’t need Pat’s permission to go off and masturbate while thinking about Pat after cuddling (laying aside the question of whether masturbation is like sex); is this different, and if so, how?

1That is, Sam’s sexual orientation encompasses an interest in appealing members of Pat’s gender.

Not from the people who brought you liquid bandages, it’s the liquid condom.

No, really. It’s actually a gel that turns semisolid upon contact with semen, preventing HIV from passing through. The idea is to give women a way of preventing HIV transmission that doesn’t require her partner’s participation or even knowledge. This is particularly important in places where cultural values prevent men from using condoms and women from insisting they do so.

Now, I gotta say, I am unavoidably reminded of those cookbooks that teach you how to sneak vegetables into your kids’ meals. It may solve the immediate problem, but it won’t lead to a needed long-term change in behavior. (For the record, I always ate my vegetables. Indeed, as a child I was an angel and a delight. Now, not so much.)

In children, the problem is that, if they discover your devious ways, they stop trusting anything you eat, leading to dysfunctions of eating, and meanwhile they still don’t like vegetables. If domineering and recalcitrant lovers discover your devious ways, then, it may lead to dysfunctional sex, and meanwhile they still don’t like or think they should wear condoms. The problem here is men who are in denial about their role in HIV transmission, about how their attitudes and actions contribute to the epidemic.

The solution, as with children and vegetables, isn’t deception—it’s education.

(h/t Boonsri Dickinson)

My Fact-senses are tingling—someone’s getting bad advice!

Found them:

I checked my boyfriend’s online history (okay, invaded his privacy) and saw he’d been looking up porn all day yesterday and the day before while home with the flu. I freaked! We’d talked about porn before. He said he watched it in his younger days, but didn’t anymore, so I was surprised. I confronted him, and he said he’d been bored and curious, but doesn’t watch porn regularly. I don’t know whether I believe him. I’ve heard people get addicted to porn. Beyond that, there are the unrealistic images of women. The fact that he initially lied makes me worry he has a problem. — Smut Patrol

Well, the first problem is that Smut Patrol looked through her boyfriend’s browser history. Unless they’re using the same computer, she has no excuse, and frankly, even if they are using the same computer she probably shouldn’t, unless it’s doing something weird and she thinks he might be to blame (that applies irrespective of the sexes of the people involved).

Now, I’m not going to say, as Amy Alkon did, that men’s penises go online to look at porn without our participation. I don’t believe I have gone to any sites with pictures of naked people in years, at least, unless you count this. But presumably he’s been doing this all along, and the relationship is reasonably healthy, so clearly it’s not causing any problems.

I too am concerned that he lied about it. Hiding something from your partner, unless only by omission, is almost always worse than whatever it is you’re hiding. But even if it’s a dealbreaker for her, she really needs to trust him when he says he doesn’t look at porn unless there’s some specific reason—”he’s male” doesn’t count as a reason—to doubt. It will make the relationship easier for everyone.

As a single American man over 30 (by nine months), I was a bit startled to learn that 30 percent of us have paid for sex. I haven’t, and I don’t expect to, if only because I’m put off by the stereotypes.

But if I wanted to, should I be able to? Perhaps.

The system is brutal to sex workers, encourages corruption in cops, and wastes tax money on useless enforcement. No matter what you think the goal of prostitution policy ought to be, the US policy fails.

That prostitution is illegal makes those in the profession vulnerable to employers and clients in a way people in legitimate professions can only imagine.

At the same time, people practicing prostitution legally can face their own forms of exploitation. While Nevada’s brothel-based sex trade ensures workers a place to practice their profession safe from legal sanction, the system does permit abuses by brothel owners. In particular, women are attached—one might say indentured—to a particular house, with little opportunity or ability to leave a bad situation. The facilities, situated in the ample Nevada desert far from cities or even large towns, allow rampant mistreatment as a practical matter.

The common justification given for outlawing prostitution is that it’s degrading and exploitative, with Nevada being held up as an example. But prostitution in Nevada is regulated, heavily, in a way that suggests the goal is to hide it from “normal people”—an approach that’s only technically distinct from outright prohibition. Exploitation simply isn’t cut and dried; arguably anyone who has to work for a living is exploited, after all, and few people would openly suggest that women (which most prostitutes are) are incapable of making decisions, either in general or about sex.

You may recall that on Tuesday I declined to talk about my sex life. Well . . . no, I’m still not going to, except to say that I have one. However, according to an interview posted to Tara Parker-Pope’s blog in the New York Times, around one in every seven married couples don’t.

Some of these, I’m sure, are happy couples. Different people have different sex drives, and it’s far more important that they match than that they be going at it like rabbits. According to advice columnist Dan Savage, “sex is a metric for assessing the health of a relationship, but it’s not the only one. When two people come together who love each other and are compatible sexually—which can mean a shared interest in sex or a shared disinterest in sex—the angels sing.” The researcher whom Parker-Pope interviewed noted that “there is no ideal level of sexual activity—the ideal level is what both partners are happy with.” However, he still found that most people in sexless marriages are trying to get out of them.

Is this shallow? Well, sex is a flimsy basis for starting a relationship, or for continuing one. But if sex is not happening and no satisfactory agreement can be reached, it is not at all shallow to end the relationship—just as it’s not shallow to walk out on someone who refuses to celebrate when you get a raise or a promotion or a contract. To say otherwise is to say that intimacy (or sharing in your partner’s successes) is not a part of a relationship, even if only as an absence.

Without even trying abstinence-only education, the Federal government has gone right to HBC to combat an alarmingly high birthrate.

This is causing a huge outcry, even though it’s not people. Rather, it’s wild horses, who roam the American Southwest, fucking*.

The outcry is . . . very hard to explain, frankly, but it appears to be over the fact that the government is involved, which is feminine. Or something like that. Real men, it would seem, deal with the problem by simply shooting the horses (don’t they?)

That’s not at all like drowning unwanted puppies; horses are much bigger. And less cute, I suppose. It’s not sporting to shoot a dog, they come when you call anyway.

Horses’ lives, however, are no less valuable

*Presumably they stop roaming temporarily in order to do so.

From Rachel at Feministe, the public comment period on the repeal of the HHS regulations preventing women from having access to reproductive care ends April 9th.

That means you have three more weeks to make yor voice heard in support of requiring healthcare workers to treat patients or refer them to someone who will, regardless of the patient’s sex, income level, or religious beliefs.

Much sex education in the U.S. is based on the abstinence-only model, the idea being that teenagers will not have sex if and only if someone introduces them to the concept.

That having been shown to work as well as you might expect (“fuck, even Bristol Palin says abstinence-only education isn’t realistic.“), Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has introduced a bill providing for Federal funding for comprehensive sex education.

This means that states can finally get Federal money for realistic sex education, of the kind that has been shown to prevent the spread of HIV and reduce unwanted pregnancies among unmarried teenagers.

Assuming, of course, that you want to prevent the spread of HIV and reduce unwanted pregnancies among unmarried teenagers.

Everything is said to be bigger in Texas, and that includes schools’ share of Federal abstinence-only education budget.

It also, according to RH Reality Check, includes teen pregnancies: one of the highest rates in the country, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion a year.

That’s because abstinence is the least effective form of birth control. While perfect use leads to a 0% failure rate, the mechanism—pure willpower—doesn’t lend itself to perfect use; many reports compound the problem by comparing perfect use of abstinence with typical use for all other forms of birth control.

Ab-only education seems to be predicated on the notion that sex is like any other engineering feat: if you don’t know about it, you can’t do it. You need to be taught at least some rudiments of architecture before you can build a skyscraper, and the same purportedly applies to sex. This is why neolithic humans didn’t have skyscrapers, or sex.

What kids are taught instead is arrant nonsense:

Sexually active teens are more likely to commit suicide; women who lubricate during sex are more likely to get pregnant; people who have sex before marriage are less able to be “intimate” later; “the divorce rate for two virgins who get married is less than 3%.”

Sex ed doesn’t need to be about the mechanics, but it is irresponsible not to teach students how to stay safe when they are drawn to doing it. Moral education is the responsibility of families; while the schools have a responsibility not to undermine that, they needn’t refrain from teaching students necessary information in the name of supporting it.

Good news, parents: your teenage girls aren’t going wild. According to the New York Times, “in many ways, today’s teenagers are more conservative about sex than previous generations.”

This is being celebrated left and right (although not actually getting much play, so to speak, if only becase it’s apparently not very interesting), so while I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, what’s wrong with sex? I’m hardly going to be getting it on with teenagers at my age, but it’s not clear to my why less teen sex is clearly a good thing.

Of course, all sex is not created equal; I wouldn’t encourage anyone of any age to be indiscriminate (whatever that means to them) or to have sex when they don’t want it1. And I don’t think anyone should be engaging in sexual acts if they’re not clear on or ready for the consequences or if they’re at a place in their lives when it would probably be more of a bad thing than a benefit—conditions that are true of many if not most teenagers and of a smaller percentage of adults. But that isn’t what was studied.

The study was about sex (in particular, probably, intercourse, but the Times didn’t say). People start to have sex at puberty. Around 13, the child is a man or woman. Teenagers want sex. And by and large we give it to them: 31 states and the District of Columbia have an age of consent at or below 16. Many have “Romeo and Juliet” laws permitting activity involving only teenagers even if one or both is not ordinarily of legal age.

There’s nothing wrong with not having sex, of course (particularly, says the cultural narrative, if you’re female, but it’s a lesson that boys should indeed be getting in school). But teenagers who do aren’t being “rebelllious,” or showing signs of demonic possession, or embarrassing their families, or embracing pagan hedonism. Nor are they re-enacting what they see on TV or read in books or that garbage those liberal teachers are fillling their heads with. It’s natural.

1This cuts both ways, of course: you shouldn’t say “yes” if you don’t want it, but you also shouldn’t have sex with someone who’s reluctant no matter what they say.

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