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The ‘precious vagina’ can easily become the ‘shameful vagina’.
June 5, 2012 1:26 PM   Subscribe

One thing I am going to do differently as a parent is go easy on the ‘save sex for someone special’ rhetoric with my kids – both with my daughter and my son. Feminist and mother Blue Milk on the downside of encouraging young girls to "save themselves."
posted by Kitty Stardust (82 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
What year is this again?
posted by Potsy at 1:38 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll always be a little rueful that I came of age in the dark gulf between the sexual revolution and the new sex-positivism. Stupid AIDS.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:42 PM on June 5, 2012 [32 favorites]


This is great, especially considering the current media tizzy over Lolo Jones.
posted by purpleclover at 1:43 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't want my theoretical daughter holding a "Point your erection in my direction" sign any more than I would want my theoretical son holding a "show me your tits" sign.

I'm also confused as to why she seems to think that the only path to female enjoyment is vaginal intercourse. Regardless of personal morals, I think it's a smart decision to avoid doing things that might get someone pregnant until you are mature enough to take the necessary precautions and deal with any consequences.
posted by fermezporte at 1:48 PM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


I am well over 50 but have never met a parent who told a child to save it for marriage but rather to be careful about having sex...and it was clear to those parents that no matter what they told their child, the young one would do as he or she decided to do. The stats for sex education that tells girls to save their virginity are clearly saying that such advice does not work
posted by Postroad at 1:52 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


What year is this again?

It's 2012, but I always enjoy watching re-runs from the 1970s.
posted by three blind mice at 1:54 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's the generational divide? How about this: create a Facebook event, and then they'll get a notification that says, "[Mom's name] has invited you to SAVE YOUR VIRGINITY. Would you like to join this event?"

At least then the kid would have the option to click "Maybe."
posted by hermitosis at 1:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm also confused as to why she seems to think that the only path to female enjoyment is vaginal intercourse. Regardless of personal morals, I think it's a smart decision to avoid doing things that might get someone pregnant until you are mature enough to take the necessary precautions and deal with any consequences.

I don't see where she said anything about not using protection. You are aware one can have sex without getting pregnant nowadays?

However, one of the absolutely necessary steps to female empowerment is the right to own our own bodies and use them as we deem fit. This may or may not include "vaginal intercourse", or other kinds of sexual activity. Or none at all. Or none till a certain age. The point is that it's not something you "save" like a limited resource, an attitude that hearkens back to Virginity Ideals of Yore, but merely an action you decide to take, that involves your body. What other people think of it, once you are of age and everyone involved is consenting, is utterly irrelevant.

Women have historically been controlled by using our own bodies as the tool of oppression. Reclaiming those bodies as our own, in all their aspects, including sexuality, is utterly central to women's rights.
posted by emjaybee at 1:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [37 favorites]


Lolo Jones, bah. A.C. Green was a virgin for 38 years, including when he was a World Champion Los Angeles Laker.

Now there's an iron man.

One thing I am going to do differently as a parent is go easy on the ‘save sex for someone special’ rhetoric with my kids – both with my daughter and my son.

Kind of a "no duh" decision, eh? Or at least if you want to be sex positive. Which you should. Or what Ser Potsy implied.

It's obviously an interesting subject, but this writer sorta glosses over it in a breezy blog post. I agree in general, but there's not much to discuss ...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2012


8th grade Health class should consist primarily on instructions on how to give and ask for handjobs. Also, teenage boys should be instructed to wash their hands before and after "explorations."
posted by ColdChef at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's 2012, but I always enjoy watching re-runs from the 1970s.

Love. Exciting and new.
Come aboard. We're expecting you.

posted by srboisvert at 1:58 PM on June 5, 2012


srboisvert: How come John Ritter and Jaclyn Smith were down the pecking order from three people with obviously made up names?
posted by biffa at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2012


Things I Simply Cannot Tell My Students (Because My Society Is Stupid): "I'm not saying you have to wait for marriage. I'm not even saying you have to wait until you're 18. I'm saying wait until you're with someone you genuinely trust and care about, and who feels the same about you, because your first time is bound to be weird and awkward and clumsy. And use a condom. If the guy doesn't care enough to use a condom, he doesn't care enough to deserve to be there, so the hell with him."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:04 PM on June 5, 2012 [38 favorites]


I am well over 50 but have never met a parent who told a child to save it for marriage but rather to be careful about having sex

That seems remarkable. I'm 36 and my own mother and many of the mothers of my friends expected us to save ourselves for marriage. None of us were particularly religious.
posted by peep at 2:04 PM on June 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


I am, by Metafilter standards, anyway, kind of sex negative. I mean, I don't have any problems with sex itself, but I'd rather my hypothetical children confine their sex having to committed relationships. That said, from that perspective, the fetishization of your first time is still counter productive because it puts all the focus on that one choice (when and with whom you first have sex) and not the numerous decisions about when and with whom to have sex after that first time. It's not a big leap from "losing your virginity is super important" to "you're no longer a virgin, fuck whoever you want, no big deal."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:05 PM on June 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


Women have historically been controlled by using our own bodies as the tool of oppression. Reclaiming those bodies as our own, in all their aspects, including sexuality, is utterly central to women's rights.

Yeah, ejb gets it and could maybe be even shorter.

The notion of "saving" your virginity (saving for what?) is inherently anti-feminist.

I'm also confused as to why she seems to think that the only path to female enjoyment is vaginal intercourse.

I thought she was mostly identifying the mistake in conventional thinking about sex - that vaginal intercourse or the existence of a hymen defines whether or not you are "virgin." I mean, what if I use my hard cock to tease the wet pussy lips of my partner (what did Six Feet Under call it? ... grinding the corn?) but never shove it in ... are we still virgins?

because your first time is bound to be weird and awkward and clumsy.

I think this is bad advice too. My first time was nothing like that, nor does it have to be if you have people for which you feel comfortable asking advice.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


srboisvert: How come John Ritter and Jaclyn Smith were down the pecking order from three people with obviously made up names?

First off, Love Boat always did guest stars in alphabetical order.

Secondly, your knowledge of classic black sitcoms fails. George Jefferson + Aunt Esther > Jack Tripper + Kelly Garrett.

Dennis Cole - soaps
Tovah Feldshuh - soaps, various failed pilots
Sherman Helmsley - George Jefferson!
Lawanda Page - Aunt Esther!
posted by mrgrimm at 2:18 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


My first time was nothing like that, nor does it have to be if you have people for which you feel comfortable asking advice.

Unfortunately, most kids don't have people like that (or they think they don't).
posted by asnider at 2:18 PM on June 5, 2012


My first time was nothing like that, nor does it have to be if you have people for which you feel comfortable asking advice.

Unfortunately, most kids don't have people like that (or they think they don't).


Yeah, that's what I'm saying. Now it's very complicated for teachers like scaryblackdeath (I would have loved a teacher with a nickname like that!), for whom saying nothing is likely the best tactic professionally, but I'm saying be that person for teenagers, if you can, particularly your own kids (my girls are still toddler/baby age so we'll see how that goes ... ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:23 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That article launched itself on a wrong note. I truly agree with not telling my daughters to save it for marriage, but I really don't think that encouraging thoughtful sexuality should be equated with young girls acting like obnoxious frat boys.

And oh, lord, my older daughter has crushes on all members (no pun intended) of One Direction. I'll have to ask her if she's seen signs like this and then talk about why it's stupid.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:27 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Have sex early. Have sex often. Be safe. Learn to get awesome at it, and then when that 'special someone' comes along, you will be ready to rock their world.

*If you want to, of course. It's fine if you don't, and you can wait as long as you want to. But, if you do, know that your first time is almost certainly going to be terrrrible, so it's probably for the best if it isn't with that 'special someone.'

Really, nobody should be in their 20s, and terrible at sex. If we're talking about things that are 'natural' and 'unnatural,' abstinence falls firmly in the latter category, and most (if not all) of the positive benefits of abstinence can now be achieved through contraception. If two consenting adults want to fuck, they should fuck.

For the first time in history, we have the technology to let ourselves give into our animal instincts, enjoy it, and walk away from the experience with no lasting or negative repercussions. Why are we not collectively ecstatic about this?

Talking from my own experience, this is ingrained in our culture far beyond (heterosexual) girls, and parental influence. I'm a gay man who learned early on to ignore my parents' advice on sex and dating (no matter how well-intentioned it was), and I still remember growing up simultaneously lusting after and being terrified of sex, even long after I was happily out of the closet. I'm pretty sure I'm still carrying some emotional baggage relating to that, even though I now realize just how stupid and unnecessary that mentality was.

Oh, and the state of sex-ed in the US is seriously pitiful, which doesn't help things either. I lived in a pretty liberal state that wasn't strictly abstinence-only, and yet the treatment of the subject matter was still pretty much identical to the anti-drug propaganda presented in the same classroom. Mean Girls (once again) summed it up the best: "Don't have sex. You'll die. Now, take these free condoms." Safe sex was presented as a euphamism, and gay sex was something that would almost certainly kill you. (And yet, no mention of nonpenetrative sex, or say, an honest presentation of HIV transmission rates, which are a lot lower than you'd think, and almost completely nonexistent for oral sex).
posted by schmod at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


I just think kids should grow up and act like adults.
posted by srboisvert at 2:32 PM on June 5, 2012


I'm mostly with scaryblackdeath on this one. What makes me laugh (kind of) about the whole "save yourself" brigade (and Postroad, apparently you've never been to middle America) is the idea that it's important to have a wistful, nostalgic, idealized view of one's first time. Does anybody actually do this, or care, when looking back? Everyone I know just looks back at that time of their lives to laugh at themselves.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:32 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The point is that it's not something you "save" like a limited resource, an attitude that hearkens back to Virginity Ideals of Yore

As you pointed out. reliable contraception is a relatively recent innovation. Prior to the advent of reliable contraception, staying a virgin was the best rule of thumb for not getting pregnant. All social mores aside, pregnancy is still a life-changing event (sometimes terminally so) and better entered into knowingly and voluntarily than accidentally and unwillingly. And for that matter, it's a lot easier to carry, nurse and look after a newborn if there's some else around to take care of other tasks. So the 'virginity ideals of yore' were an eminently practical response to the relative unpredictability of pregnancy and the attendant medical risks.

Women have historically been controlled by using our own bodies as the tool of oppression. Reclaiming those bodies as our own, in all their aspects, including sexuality, is utterly central to women's rights.

True, but it's not the fault of men that later stages of pregnancy tend to be disabling or dangerous for some women, and exhausting for most. Again, we haven't had reliable contraceptive methods for very long in historical terms.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:33 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why are we not collectively ecstatic about this?

Because, religion.

Because, social and cultural structures that die hard.

Because, the patriarchy.

I mostly agree with you, but there are real and difficult-to-overcome social constructs that prevent many (most?) of us from being collectively ecstatic about this.
posted by asnider at 2:35 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really don't think that encouraging thoughtful sexuality should be equated with young girls acting like obnoxious frat boys.

No, but on the other hand, we also shouldn't condemn them for acting like "boys being boys" for, well, ever.

"Point your erection in my direction" is funny to me, fwiw, and non-offensive in a fairly witty fashion. I might not be "proud" if my daughter made that sign, but I wouldn't be offended or "ashamed." It's kids being kids. (My 3 y.o. (girl) and one of her (male) friends constantly talk about peeing in each others buttholes, but I'm not too worried.)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:40 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


So the 'virginity ideals of yore' were an eminently practical response to the relative unpredictability of pregnancy and the attendant medical risks.

Hm, no, actually they were an artifact of a system that viewed a woman in possession of a fertile and still-unused uterus as a marketable commodity. Her medical health didn't really enter into it, unless you think being pregnant constantly, regardless of your own wishes, once married, often from early teenagerhood onwards, was healthy.

Even without contraception, it is possible for women to space out pregnancies through extended breastfeeding (which suppressed fertility a bit) and non-procreative types of sex.

Which, strangely enough, practices like the insistence on sex only for procreation, the reaction to homosexuality, the persecution of anyone who used herbal methods or abortions, and the introduction of wetnurses seem custom-made to circumvent.

In other words, I don't buy virginity fetishization as safety. Though women certainly did use it as such, making nunnieries quite popular for those who didn't want to risk death from constant childbirth. They had to because the risk was only circumventable by other, more pleasant means that were unfortunately systematically forbidden by their society.
posted by emjaybee at 2:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


This truly creeped me out:

Shortly before I became a teenager I suddenly started receiving unwanted attention from older males (sometimes much older males), which I found alarming and uncomfortable and it didn’t give me a hell of a lot of room for being assertive and playful. It was a relief when I got far enough into adolescence that boys my own age were showing interest in me instead of just older males.

I guess I didn't realize how many dirty old men like to go after preteens.
posted by francesca too at 2:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I take a different stance on this issue. I think that everyone- male and female- should be encouraged to wait to express their sexuality until it's in a meaningful context. Not from a shame perspective, but from a sacredness perspective. I think that sexual intimacy can be a very powerful and beautiful thing, and I think that hookup culture tends to devalue that. I'm not saying that hookups are bad- at all- and I've certainly had meaningless hookups with no emotional consequences (Once. In the 10 years that I've had an active sexual identity), but I do think that hookup culture as a whole tends to make it very difficult to retain that sense of sacredness when it does matter (for me, every other sexual experience in that 10 years- whether the other party agreed on the importance or not).

It's been my experience that pop culture and the media exerts a HUGE influence on young girls and women (probably men, too- I don't know, I'm not a man) to be sexual, sexy, sexually active as a means to get power, love, respect, acceptance, belonging. The freedom to be sexual had become an obligation to be sexual. I wish that someone I trusted and respected and admired had taught me as a young girl that there was another option, that I didn't HAVE to be sexy, that my body was more than just meat- something beautiful and sacred and precious to be respected. That sex was an expression of love, not a guarantee of it. That it was ok to want to wait. That humans are not just rutting animals. Taught me not just through words, but through example. And that the media and culture I was exposed to had supported that teaching.

The author talks about being young and only being exposed to the unwanted sexual desire of significantly older men in a way that made her uncomfortable. It seems very strange to me that she thinks the appropriate way to deal with or prevent that kind of discomfort is to over-sexualize her children rather than protecting them from that kind of exposure.

There are much more important things than sex, there are much greater things than sexy. Hard to believe, but true.

Another thought that I have about this is how valuable it is for people to be well developed emotionally and have a strongly formed personality before they start exploring the sex and/or romance waters. I think that having an unformed sense of self and being sexually/romantically active is like trying to navigate without a map or a compass. You have no idea what your "true north" is.

Everyone that I know who wasn't allowed to date until they were older (granted, not many people) has been significantly more confident, assertive, healthy, emotionally developed, well-rounded, and strong in their relationships, because they spent their formative time forming around other things than being sexy or being loved. It's really easy for teenage girls, full of emotions and hormones, to "fall in love" with a boy- or series of boys-, form their identities around that person or experience, and wind up in a very unhealthy, dependent place.

It's nice to BELIEVE that sex and emotions can easily be separated- and sometimes they can, particularly among adults. But the reality is, that's often not the case, especially with young girls. Of course, the emotions aren't always romantic- sometimes they're about fitting in or being cool or a million other things. Nonetheless, if the girl doesn't have a strong anchor on those emotional high seas, a lot of damage can be done.

Oh, one last thing- "point your erection in my direction"? Come on! I wouldn't encourage that kind of vulgarity in either gender of person, adult or otherwise. Call me a fuddy-duddy if you must.
posted by windykites at 2:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: " "you're no longer a virgin, fuck whoever you want, no big deal.""

Well, you got one part right.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:13 PM on June 5, 2012


Hm, no, actually they were an artifact of a system that viewed a woman in possession of a fertile and still-unused uterus as a marketable commodity.

Which in turn is derived from certain biological factors. You could remove the patriarchal aspect of society entirely and pregnancy would still be a disruptive medical event, more so in eras where the state of medical knowledge was primitive. Biology is not a good excuse for patriarchal oppression, but it's not incidental to people's lives either.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:16 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


windykites: "It's nice to BELIEVE that sex and emotions can easily be separated- and sometimes they can, particularly among adults. But the reality is, that's often not the case, especially with young girls. Of course, the emotions aren't always romantic- sometimes they're about fitting in or being cool or a million other things. Nonetheless, if the girl doesn't have a strong anchor on those emotional high seas, a lot of damage can be done."

You realize all this, but you don't realize that the "wait for someone special" attitude is largely what's to blame for this vulnerability? Of course emotional damage can be done when young girls are brought up to think that it's all so sacred and special and perfect and there's a guy out there who's 100% perfect for you and you should wait for him and not "give" yourself to anyone else.

Because that's not true, and when fairytale expectations crash head-on into reality, damage is done.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:16 PM on June 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


As a mother of two daughters I think about this a lot.
What I'd like for my girls is a happy and relaxed life with sex (well, that's not my first thought, but after years of reflection). That needs me to be OK with them experimenting and engaging with sexual partners. This implies risks, and it is really really difficult to talk with them about these risks. Oftentimes, they do not appreciate it.

On the other hand, I am a university professor, and I have close (semi-parental) relations with many students. I see how they naturally deal with sexual relations on many levels and cross genders, and are actually far better than my own generation at setting out boundaries when it comes to undesirable relationships.

At the end of the day, I have no sharp conclusions, but I do have a feeling that extensive information and support are the key factors. Wether it be my children or my students, the fact that they feel comfortable talking to me about their worries is essential. Whatever I need to do to achieve this comfort, I will do
posted by mumimor at 3:17 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Even without contraception, it is possible for women to space out pregnancies through extended breastfeeding (which suppressed fertility a bit) and non-procreative types of sex.

That's exactly the kind of bullshit my wife told me, swiftly resulting in child number 3.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:18 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am well over 50 but have never met a parent who told a child to save it for marriage but rather to be careful about having sex...and it was clear to those parents that no matter what they told their child, the young one would do as he or she decided to do.

Postroad, I have to assume that either you are not an American or you are not a woman. I am a 56 year old American woman, and I got to say that sounds like what my brothers heard. My sister and I, as well as every woman I know over the age of 40, were told in no uncertain terms that we were expected to remain virgin until the wedding, if we wanted to have a wedding at all (and of course every woman wanted to get married because what else was there in life for women except marriage? Being a spinster teacher or librarian?)

"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" "There are girls men have fun with and girls whom they marry and never the twain shall meet." "No matter what he says tonight, he won't respect you in the morning. And neither will anyone else, the rest of your life." Ever heard any of those? We did, over and over, and lots more besides.
posted by pbrim at 3:37 PM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Human sexuality is a mess of contradictions and irrationalities. It will never be explainable or logical or make any sense at all. People in the process of developing and finding their bearings in the midst of that maelstrom should be encouraged to do what truly feels right--safely, with full consent of their partners and without others influencing their decisions.

Part of that is learning a little self reflection and being able to at least glimpse the absolute horror that is the number of people--known and strangers--who want to define and control your sexuality.

Including the "save yourself" people.

Including the anti-"save yourself" people.

If there's anything I think might truly be helpful advice regarding sexuality, it's to realize that almost no one fully shares the same outlook on sexuality, that the emotions and feelings associated with it are nearly infinitely varied from the very shallow to the very deep and learning to respect that so long as everything fits the criteria of Safe, Consensual & Uninfluenced.
posted by byanyothername at 3:38 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


My mother was very sex-positive. I learned about the biological processes by age 10, the emotional involvement by 12 and tips to both give and receive great sex by 15. She never shamed me when she caught me masturbating or viewing porn and when I got my first boyfriend, she knew before he did that I wanted to have sex with him.

What was her advice about losing my virginity?
"It's really not that special, but it gets better."

Her emphasis was on my safety from disease, violence, and heartbreak. I knew that intercourse could make me very vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, and that the partner I chose should be someone who I could trust to respect my needs, my body and my mind.

What did this result in?
I initiated a panicked and awkward "first time" that was neither wistfully romantic nor particularly satisfying. But it was powerful. I "lost my virginity" on my terms, with someone I trusted, and only did the things that I wanted to do.

My mother granted me the benefit of her experience, both positive and negative, and then the freedom to use it as I wished. The best thing she ever did for me was not to make me afraid of my own sexuality. I lost my virginity, not because I wanted to feel sexy or to be loved, but because I wanted sex and I knew that was okay.
posted by Vysharra at 3:46 PM on June 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


That's exactly the kind of bullshit my wife told me, swiftly resulting in child number 3.

That's why you ALWAYS WEAR A CONDOM.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:51 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not from a shame perspective, but from a sacredness perspective.

Which, if you dig down far enough, is the same perspective. Because if anything is considered sacred only within a limited set of conditions, outside of those conditions, it is shameful. Then again, many people consider two people having sex on the hood of a car to be shameful, but almost EVERYBODY considers two people having sex on the hood of THEIR car without their permission TOTALLY WRONG.

I'll leave you with the we-thought-it-was-just-a-joke-but-now-we-know-better quote from Woody Allen: "Is sex dirty? Only if you do it right."
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:57 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have nothing to add here, except that my 6-year-olds (one boy, one girl) have stopped calling penises "penises" and begun calling them "tallywhackers", for no reason I can ascertain.
posted by davejay at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


have stopped calling penises "penises" and begun calling them "tallywhackers",

as well they should. I look forward to 10 years later when the term is cool and hip, with teens yelling "Hey tallywhacker face..." etc.
posted by edgeways at 4:30 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


>>That's exactly the kind of bullshit my wife told me, swiftly resulting in child number 3.
>That's why you ALWAYS WEAR A CONDOM.


With your wife?
posted by msalt at 4:47 PM on June 5, 2012


"Tallywhacker" is one of the best words, to me, because I think I've only heard it spoken once, when I was 9 years old and in the Louvre, and staring at these weird four naked gargoyle-like statues, and my mother came over and said, "huh. it looks like they're trying to scream their tallywhackers off."

So I might be the only person who, upon hearing that word, pictures the Louvre.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


…your first time is almost certainly going to be terrrrible, so it's probably for the best if it isn't with that 'special someone.'

It is sad that so many people have a bad first experience. It's not all that complex. We must need better sex education.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:00 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is bad advice too. My first time was nothing like that, nor does it have to be if you have people for which you feel comfortable asking advice.

While I get what you're saying here, I think you may be misinterpreting what I mean about first times being clumsy, awkward and/or weird. There are a few dozen things a first-timer might never even know to ask until they're actually there:

If I'm on top, should I support my weight on my elbows, or just crush my partner & expect (s)he'll dig that?
Hey, wait, side-by-side looks so cool in the movies! Why is it that we really only have room for three of our (collective (hopefully)) four arms?
In fact, how come neither of us is as slick as the movies make it look?
Is it okay if I bury my face in the pillow next to her once we're goin' for it, or am I supposed to try to keep kissing her?
Crap, (s)he has my arm pinned and it's falling asleep! What do I do???
Hey, wait, isn't this "insertion" part supposed to be a lot easier than this? Why is it taking so much effort? Is that right?

posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:30 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I want to say, for what it's worth, that my first partner (at 19, but not for lack of trying) was experienced, and patient, and once she'd decided she wanted to have sex with me was very gracious about coaching me through the few awkward speed bumps while trying not to blow the mood--not the least of which was my own worry that I was being too presumptuous in taking things to that level. But that's what I mean about finding someone you trust and care about; too many other people out there aren't so lucky in who they're with for the first time.

(I'll also state, for the record, that she felt the earth move... but that may have had more to do with it being the day of the Northridge earthquake.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:37 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


…your first time is almost certainly going to be terrrrible, so it's probably for the best if it isn't with that 'special someone.'

It is sad that so many people have a bad first experience. It's not all that complex. We must need better sex education.


While I agree with the need for better sex education, I'm not sure lack of theoretical education can be blamed for people being awkward when engaging in a physical activity for the first time. It's not like people are bad at dribbling or swinging a baseball bat for the first time because no one has explained the theory to them. For good reason, sex education will never involve having sex, so there's only so good that people can get at it.

I also find the interest "sex positive" people have in the quality of the sex lives of teenagers to be a little creepy. Teach kids what to do, how to be safe, and don't make them feel bad about wanting to have sex; they can figure out how to enjoy themselves without your help.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:43 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


You realize all this, but you don't realize that the "wait for someone special" attitude is largely what's to blame for this vulnerability?

I heartily disagree. I posit that many teenage girls are highly vulnerable with or without this attitude.

I'm not going to say that you're entirely wrong- there are many instances where what you say is probably right. It's pretty easy to confuse your infatuation with "the special one" and wind up pretty badly hurt. I feel, though, that this is more the fault of the current pop-culture ideas about "the one" being someone that you select in a passionate frenzy of powerful emotions and a haze of lust. A perfect special person that will rescue your life and complement you perfectly and everything will be glorious forever and ever.

Obviously, that's absurd and flawed and self-indulgent and unrealistic -and it's what a lot of people expect and the cause of a lot of heartache and breakups. Many people, especially young adolescents, can't see the difference between this kind of lustful infatuation and something genuinely special; and when they attribute the emotions of one to the experience of the other, people get hurt.

That's what I mean when I say that meaningless hookups are a lot more likely to work out for adults; we often can see the difference. When I get a powerful crush on someone, I know what it does and does not mean. I'm capable of realizing that it's eventually going to fade, and that I need to discern the person's character and compatibility while I figure out whether it has a future, or potential to be a fling, or nothing at all.

As a notion, waiting for someone special is, like anything else, imperfect. But if we're taught that waiting for someone "special" doesn't mean "the one, the magical one who is the perfect solution to all of my problems, that I love and worship", but rather "the one that has proven through consistent behaviour that they can be trusted to treat me well and respect me", a lot of people would be a lot better off. And I'm not entirely convinced that most teenagers are ready to make those distinctions- although that is something I could very well be wrong about. I don't really think that the experiences that the author spoke about were examples of respectful, mature sexuality though.

if anything is considereds shameful sacred only within a limited set of conditions, outside of those conditions, it is shameful

again- I disagree. I see your point. I think it's a valid one, but I don't think it's always true or that it needs to be true.

Just because holy water exists, doesn't make regular water profane. And if you view all water as at least somewhat holy, you're likely to treat it with a lot more deference and care. I think most of us can agree that deference and care are pretty clearly lacking in a lot of human interactions, not the least of which being sexuality.
posted by windykites at 5:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I feel, though, that this is more the fault of the current pop-culture ideas about "the one" being someone that you select in a passionate frenzy of powerful emotions and a haze of lust.

Every time I see Hollywood perpetuate the myth that your high school sweetheart is your One True Love Forever I want to find the director and producer responsible and punch them in the face.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:20 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was originally going to make my earlier post a direct quote-and-response conversation thing, then decided I'd try to be as general and universal as I can, but I kind of want to add my agreement to some of what windykites is saying. Mainly: a lot of (most?) people (women? I have no idea if or how this skews) have vulnerability and emotional openness as an essential part of their sexuality. You have to respect that; you have to realize that a truly sex positive outlook is going to have to take more into account than the physical act itself. Universally glorifying sexuality can be just as damaging as universally shaming sexuality.

And shaming sexuality can be complicated. The basic rule for me is pretty much, if someone tells you their outlook on sexuality--and it's not something, like, actively harmful--just accept that. If their sexuality is intrinsically inseparable from their emotions, that's fine. If it isn't, that's also fine. If there's an aspect of spirit to their sexuality, that's great. If there's not, no big deal. This is an area where people have wildly differing attitudes and experiences, and it's just not helpful to question someone else's beliefs either way.

Personally, I feel like I've grown up in this bizarro world of clashing influences that want to be the be all, end all authorities on human sexuality, where on one side of me exists this intimidating but crumbling monument telling me I should be ashamed to be sexual at all, and on the other side of me is this terrifying mob telling me I should be ashamed not to be sexual with absolutely everything.

And I'm in the middle, waiting for the two tidal waves to crash into and cancel each other out.
posted by byanyothername at 6:27 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


>>>That's exactly the kind of bullshit my wife told me, swiftly resulting in child number 3.
>>That's why you ALWAYS WEAR A CONDOM.
>With your wife?

So what if she's your wife? If I'm not actively trying for a kid and the woman I'm sleeping with isn't on REAL birth control (like the pill or an IUD) then you bet I would be using condoms. Ditto if there's any doubt whatsoever about the effectiveness of said birth control. I think the fact that you're married is irrelevant - unless you're both 100% cool with the idea of conceiving a kid, either she goes on the pill or you wrap it up (and if you're REALLY unsure, do both).

Just a thought but then again, I've never been married so maybe I'm missing the point.
posted by photo guy at 7:15 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


With your wife?

Absolutely, if she's not using birth control and you don't want another kid. Breastfeeding as a form of birth control is unreliable.
posted by chiababe at 9:04 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel like the "sacredness" of virginity can be so damaging because let's face it, almost everyone I know had nothing but just shitty relationships in their teens because it's hard being that young and inexpierienced in love and everything else. And the problem is for many people their first love is the first person they have sex with and that's all well and good, but at least from my own observations the importance of maintaining that relationship is so important because they *gave* their virginity to that person. It adds a level of shame and despair about moving on from that first love, which is already difficult enough to do. And it's even greater if the other person was a cheater or an abuser or just your run of the mill total asshole because then the person feels like a fool or an idiot for giving their virginity to that person, but of course that's all bullshit. It's just an added layer of negative emotion and shame that society shoves onto young people who are already going through the difficult process of growing up and all the pain and trials that entails.
posted by whoaali at 9:05 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think it needs a ton of rationalization or debate. There's nothing sacred about being a virgin and even the idea that there is "virginity," or a "pre-virgin" and "post-virgin" existence, sets up PIV-specific intercourse as a more significant moment in anyone's sex life than it really has a right to be.

"Saving yourself" implies that you are "wasting" something if you are sexually active before the person you were supposed to be "saving" yourself for. In reality, we've all got plenty. There's no need to "save."

It's a passel of patriarchal BS, has been forever, and this blog post is kind of a stumbling-around approach to the topic that isn't cutting any edges. Kids should start having sex, with appropriate partners, when they're emotionally ready, interested, informed, and prepared.
posted by Miko at 9:21 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


The author talks about being young and only being exposed to the unwanted sexual desire of significantly older men in a way that made her uncomfortable. ... Everyone that I know who wasn't allowed to date until they were older

The article didn't go into detail, but I know in my case, the unwanted sexual desire I received first had nothing to do with dating. I got offers of oral sex from strange older men (likely twenties) when I was in junior high. Offers of sex were common, all the way through high school, usually from strangers on the street. The creepiest was a man in his forties or fifties who wanted my telephone number (I lied and when we got on the same bus, I got off at a stop not my own and caught the next bus - I was scared he would follow me home). I was ...maybe fourteen?

Yay street harassment.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:00 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


With your wife?

Absolutely, if she's not using birth control and you don't want another kid. Breastfeeding as a form of birth control is unreliable.


Aye. It was partially a joke (i.e. my wife wants another kid and I do not), but it's also just good advice I think.

The thing about breastfeeding and ovulation is that it can start up at any time, and you probably can't tell when it does (only when you get your first period back ... if you're not pregnant again).

So, yes, barring any other sort of strong birth control (I think the pill is usually considered a bad idea during breastfeeding? not sure ..), absolutely fucking WEAR A CONDOM when you are fucking your breastfeeding wife. (Unless you want two kids under 2 at the same time, that is.)

Sometimes I wear two, just to be safe.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:12 PM on June 5, 2012


this blog post is kind of a stumbling-around approach to the topic that isn't cutting any edges.

well put.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:13 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which in turn is derived from certain biological factors. You could remove the patriarchal aspect of society entirely and pregnancy would still be a disruptive medical event, more so in eras where the state of medical knowledge was primitive. Biology is not a good excuse for patriarchal oppression, but it's not incidental to people's lives either.

The driving factor in patriarchal oppression is the lack of a reliable paternity test until relatively recently.

It takes a village to control women's sexuality strictly enough for men to feel relatively confident (though vigilantly paranoid) that their money and property aren't being inherited by some other man's child. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the medical danger of pregnancy.

The ugly consequences for women who did not conform to these standards was just repackaged slightly as love marriages became more commonplace and class strata blurred. With a lot of babies born fewer than nine months after the wedding night.
posted by desuetude at 12:00 AM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Aye. It was partially a joke (i.e. my wife wants another kid and I do not)

It was kind of a joke on my part too. My wife wanted to get them all out of the way at the same time. I knew it wasn't a rock-solid form of contraception.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:40 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It takes a village to control women's sexuality strictly enough

While what you say is quite true, even the concern for inheritance/support presupposes patriarchy, in that it presupposes that all wealth belongs to men to control and direct.
posted by Miko at 6:18 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that everyone- male and female- should be encouraged to wait to express their sexuality until it's in a meaningful context. Not from a shame perspective, but from a sacredness perspective.

I would second this, also from a health/psychology perspective. Not only are young teens easily manipulated (by older people or people their own age) into doing something they don't really want to do, but vaginal sex isn't that easy for young women - and it's all the harder if they aren't ready and/or their partner isn't careful. The psychological effects of vaginal sex when you're not ready (physically and emotionally) can leave you with problems for years afterwards.

I'll be frank with my children (probably more than they'll ever want), be masturbation positive and supply them with birth control anytime they want -- but if they chose to wait until their 20s or whenever to have sex, I would respect and even cheer that. I want their first time (and second and third...) to be so much better than mine.
posted by jb at 9:14 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact is that very few truly matriarchal societies exist. Patriarchy is *not* from what ever you want to call your higher power. It is from the hard-wiring of primates in general.
The main difference being that primates don't care about virginity,
or honor or family trees.
These things only matter on this earth to humans.
If a society is going to care about virginity, then it ought to be economically and socially feasable to marry young. Making people wait for marriage, and then jumping all over them for their NORMAL human urges is unfair and wrong. Also why should girls have to put up with creepy older guys taking an interest in their bodies when say, they are 13? That's how old I was when some old guy gave me my first wolf-whistle! I was not the usual definition of 'hot' for those times at that age. I barely had breasts, I was thin, and had not grown into my arms and legs. I also had boyishly short hair, in a French razor cut. Granted I had nice eyes, granted I never was chopped liver. But hot? No.
My mother told me it was a 'compliment'! All I could think was, 'From that ugly, unclean, wart-covered old man? Who needs THAT?!' I wanted to be noticed by someone at least kind of nice-looking who could enjoy talking about history. At 13 I wanted someone fairly smart, I wanted someone at least a little cute. He could be older than me, my own age or 10. I was in Junior High and knew that I wasn't going to 'find Mr. Right' just then. In short, I was a little more practical than a lot of girls my age and actually, a lot of women older than me.
Another damaging thing about how our society handles sex and love is not realizing that you can love deeply more than once in your life. For me two relationships I had over a long time never were sexual. Not that I would have objected in either case! The opportunity just wasn't there at all in one case, and in another, the man was expected to be in an arranged marriage and did not want to take on polygamy (he was a very good Indian Muslim guy. I hope he was happy in his life! ) if it had gotten sexual both our hearts would have been broken, because his return home was inevitable.
The other times I loved, I was rather taken advantage of. Presently, I am with someone who was badly treated in his past. He and I are very happy. We get along well in our daily life, we make each other smile and I sure can't complain about the sex. It's great too!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:19 AM on June 6, 2012


It is sad that so many people have a bad first experience. It's not all that complex. We must need better sex education.

Which won't really help unless said sex education has a practicum -- and that's kind of creepy. (Though maybe mothers should buy dildos for their daughters? That would be a good way to improve their first time.)

PV intercourse uses muscles that you rarely use for anything else. Even having intercourse after a long time of no sex can be physically stressful for a woman (don't know about men). If those muscles are stressed, intercourse can be unpleasant or downright painful -- and that puts a real damper on your enjoyment.

as for young men -- well, fitting tab A into slot B isn't really as easy as it looks on TV. There is a reason that couples from very conservative cultures sometimes have problems consummating their marriages.
posted by jb at 9:26 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Patriarchy is *not* from what ever you want to call your higher power. It is from the hard-wiring of primates in general.

Highly contestable and not particularly meaningful at this stage of human development.

I kind of had the opposite experience of many. I heard so much "Your first time suxxxs!" that I expected all sorts of discomfort, pain, blood etc. No such problem, I found it all quite exaggerated, at least from my point of view.
posted by Miko at 9:34 AM on June 6, 2012


That seems remarkable. I'm 36 and my own mother and many of the mothers of my friends expected us to save ourselves for marriage. None of us were particularly religious.

Maybe it's just a midwest vs coasts thing or something, but look at pop culture over the last couple decades - the idea of waiting until you're married seems awfully quaint in most depictions of relationships in TV and movies. There's more often a question of whether to go for it on the first date than whether to wait until the wedding...

Moms in the 1970s may have been a pretty culturally diverse group - some more hippie-ish, others trying to maintain traditions. It seems clear which way the larger culture ultimately went, though.
posted by mdn at 11:48 AM on June 6, 2012


That seems remarkable. I'm 36 and my own mother and many of the mothers of my friends expected us to save ourselves for marriage. None of us were particularly religious.

I'm 42 and really didn't get that message, explicitly or implicitly. My mom was a bit of a women's libber, maybe that's why, but really I don't even think anyone in my extended family was so terribly enamored of marriage that they went on a lot about "saving" anything for it.
posted by Miko at 12:23 PM on June 6, 2012


Postroad: "I am well over 50 but have never met a parent who told a child to save it for marriage but rather to be careful about having sex...and it was clear to those parents that no matter what they told their child, the young one would do as he or she decided to do. The stats for sex education that tells girls to save their virginity are clearly saying that such advice does not work"

Literally millions of Christian and Muslim parents teach their children that they must not have sex before marriage; to do elsewise is a sin. (I cannot speak with authority for other religions, but there are likely more.)

I disbelieve that you've never met any of them.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:52 PM on June 6, 2012


francesca too: "This truly creeped me out:

Shortly before I became a teenager I suddenly started receiving unwanted attention from older males (sometimes much older males), which I found alarming and uncomfortable and it didn’t give me a hell of a lot of room for being assertive and playful. It was a relief when I got far enough into adolescence that boys my own age were showing interest in me instead of just older males.

I guess I didn't realize how many dirty old men like to go after preteens.
"

It doesn't take many to be noticeably greater than zero, which is the sexual attention she was noticing before that age.

"A few" is still far "too many", of course.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:07 PM on June 6, 2012


I read all these comments and realize, foremost among other unfortunate things, that our "save it until marriage brigade" does a crappy job of communicating why we think sex should be reserved for marriage.

We teach our kids, and those who come to our classes, that our bodies are wonders of creation and should be treated as incredible, holy gifts. We cannot separate our bodies from who we are. So we must treat our own bodies and the bodies of others as holy because each person has inherent dignity.

The body can communicate many things. We teach our kids that their physical actions speak to others, so be careful what you say. Certain gestures are appropriate for certain levels of relationship. It is not appropriate in this culture to walk up to a stranger and give them a big hug. I am having to reinforce this with my school aged children right now. The more intimate the physical gesture, the more intimate the relationship, if all is in balance. Genital activity is special in that it intersects with reproductive capability. Intercourse encompasses the potential to tie one's past (genes) to one's future (progeny). If an act, in its best form, says, "I give my whole self to you, including my whole past and my whole future." it needs to be in the context of a relationship where that can be true. Every act communicates something.

So, in my house, reserving sex for marriage is a matter of waiting until the gesture of intercourse can be spoken meaningfully as truth and not a lie.

The other thing I teach my kids is that they should not stand for being objectified nor should they objectify anyone else. When they treat others as an object of their pleasure or desire, they are separating someone's physical attributes from the rest of what/who they are and are using them for their own agenda. My sixth grade son is just starting to encounter pornography and I tell him, "You do not know that young lady. She has a mother and a father. She most likely has hopes and dreams. You don't know whether these pictures are good for her long term or not. And most of us men do not care. We just want to look at this or that bit of them, not them as a person, but for our own pleasure. That's objectification. People are people, not objects."

So in my house, reserving sexual activity for marriage is about focusing sex on the whole mystery of the person, not just pieces you wish to borrow.

And yes, other-centered love requires a good amount of self-denial and self-mastery. Sexual love should be focused on loving the other person, speaking to them whatever will make them feel most loved and accepted. Which means that in sexuality, as in the whole rest of life, you put your needs after the one you love.

So in my house, reserving sexual activity for marriage is about being able to say "I am the boss of me" and "I will devote myself to loving others selflessly even if it means denying my own desires."

And, sure, we teach these things in a context of gentleness, forgiveness, mercy, and kindness.

All this by way of saying that not all of us in the "save it for marriage brigade" are as mindless and repressed as you think we are. I'd rather have me and my house aim for something higher and miss occasionally than simply give in to the "we're nothing but mammals" view of human sexuality.
posted by cross_impact at 2:16 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Katjusa Roquette: "The main difference being that primates don't care about virginity, or honor or family trees. "

Mostly true - except that most animals care very much about family trees. After new rogue males drive off the existing males from a monkey pack, infant mortality skyrockets. The new troupe fathers are instinctively trying to avoid raising any infants they are not related to.

So, perhaps it's not as unique to Homo sapiens as a cursory look would suppose.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:17 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno. This discussion makes me think of the XKCD where they hoped to simplify all the rules around sex: http://xkcd.com/592/...

As such, I wonder if we could all agree to redefine the meaning of, "wait for someone special," to be shorthand for, "wait until you're ready, physically and emotionally, and can be safe, and when you're with someone who treats you kindly and respects your decisions to this end."

One possible unintended consequence of flipping the convention could be that it could empower lame, pushy guys in as much that the logic becomes, "If it's not special, may as well get it over with and shut him up in the process." On the other hand, these messages don't exist in a vacuum and many young men also subscribe to the idea of first time specialness. Encouraging mutual respect and communication is the only real solution, instead of just flipping conventions on their head.

Of course, no one is advocating anonymous, one night stand first time sex for everyone.

Likewise, I hear a misunderstanding about the idea of sacredness in this discussion. I don't think anyone is advocating here that virginity is sacred. Many people are saying that sex is a sacred experience for them. That does not mean that there are rules or judgement or shame attached for those of us who describe sex as a sacred experience. Quite the opposite: The sacred is intensely personal, imbued with personal meaning that transcends rational explaination to other people.

As such, if a young person falls into the subset of people who experience and then describe sex as sacred, being with a "special" person may be important to them. The problem is, most people don't know how sex will affect them until they've had it and their personal alignment and views of sex will likely change, grow, evolve.

I guess what I'm saying is that that growth may be stifled when exposed to strong views prematurely. Pro and anti-sex are strong cultures that ask you to define your own identity with respect to an experience you've never had. Furthermore, you'd better define yourself *before* you've have it. "Don't worry, take care of yourself and you'll figure it out in your own time, on your own schedule and in your own way," is an universal message and it has the bonus of not being so heterocentric.

Heck, that's a pretty good litmus test of a stifling message right there: if your advice to youth is dependent on the youth having the same sexual orientation and gender alignment as you (or having those things figured out) it's too narrow.
posted by Skwirl at 2:45 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


So we must treat our own bodies and the bodies of others as holy because each person has inherent dignity.

I don't disagree with this, but it seems to argue for (respectful) sex, not against it. (Good, caring) sex is a pretty wonderful thing to do with and for each other, inherent dignity and all.

Genital activity is special in that it intersects with reproductive capability.

Not for everybody. That point of view ends up being relentlessly heteronormative and assumes a desire to procreate, which not all of us have.

If an act, in its best form, says, "I give my whole self to you, including my whole past and my whole future."

You have a nice construct here. It really does sound lovely how you talk about it wiht your childrem. But it partakes of the over-romanticization of the whole thing that I really do just find a foreign thing and something worth rejecting. We are mammals, after all. Our drives to feel sexual come from the drive to procreate, but it's no longer 100% connected to procreation (in fact it never was fully connected, it was just likelier than not for enough people for the species to survive, but we didn't understand that as well in past times).

I'm a religious person, but I really don't buy into this stuff. IT's something separate from spiritual thought and has more to do with a defense of what some current idea of a "proper family" is. The same spiritual underpinnings have been (and are) used to justify multiple marriage, marriage where one partner has no legal identity, marriage to minors, and so on. No matter what the current definition of "proper family" is -- and it has changed dramtically through the milennia - some "but it's sacred" theology can be ginned up to cover that condition and suggest it is God-dictated.

I don't believe in this "giving of the whole self" to anybody, not a life partner, not a parent, not a child, not anybody; it's your life to live and be responsible for, and you can't cede that responsibility away, nor can anyone else ever be as good a steward of your own life and soul as you can. You can't give your whole self; it's not possible. And having sex certainly doesn't represent the "whole self."

You can conceive a child with someone and be a good parent and raise a great kid without "giving" the whole self forever. And you can enjoy a full life of sexual activity with many partners without ever having a kid. I think what you describe is a nice way to teach something that a lot of people can reasonably ultimately reject, and even if you don't want it to seem repressive, in the way it recognizes as legitimate and worthwhile only one specific type of relationship and family structure as honorable it is repressive of other structures and relationships.

And the talk of "denying my own desires" gets downright concerning - what does that mean in the context of the monogamous relationship? How much "denying" do you do while you're privileging the partner's needs so extremely above your own? There's got to be a reasonable balance to this. This is what I mean by finding the "sacred" talk a bit creepy.

Mostly true - except that most animals care very much about family trees...

It's a mistake to extrapolate much from primates when there's so little evidence that control and domination were even a significant part of early humanoid societies. The social organization of primates is pretty far from the various approaches to social organization among humans. It's also a mistake to generalize about primates - their behavior isn't consistent species to species.
posted by Miko at 3:27 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


In my monogamous marriage of 25yrs or so, I have not felt I'm "denying" myself, nor has it been difficult. Why would it be?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:14 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Miko, when I say that genital activity intersects with reproductive capability, I am not being heteronormative. I'm just observing physical reality. The same parts used for intercourse are the same parts used for reproduction. Our technology, and our will to change how our bodies were designed to function, can break that connection for sure. But we cannot change the fact that sex and reproduction, by plain physical fact, are naturally connected.

And of course there must be balance in self-denial and giving of one's self in relationship. The Trinitarian God ("three persons, one God") is the very model of such balance. A perfect blend of self and other that all of us Trinitarian Christians should try to imitate. Even (especially) in loving and sexual relationships.

From reading your response, well, I can tell we are simply from different religions. So, I get it -- you don't agree with mine. Okay. My point wasn't that "everybody should love my religion" but rather that at least some of us "save it for marriage" types have a coherent philosophy and are not all knuckle-dragging fundamentalists.

Look, I could respond point-by-point to your point-by-point breakdown of my original comment, but this is not 1998 and we're not on Usenet. Let's just say that wherever you think I am over-romanticizing things, I say that I am trying to be faithful to an image of man created in the image of God. I believe it is our brokenness that tempts us to resign ourselves to settling for mere "mammalian" standards of sexual behavior. Though I know that at times I am broken, I will be damned if I will give up shooting for something more.
posted by cross_impact at 6:25 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Miko, when I say that genital activity intersects with reproductive capability, I am not being heteronormative. I'm just observing physical reality.

But you're overlooking that not everyone uses these physical parts for procreation. Just because they are connected by nature doesn't mean they are connected in culture or connected in our behavior. That part of your assumption is heternormative.

at least some of us "save it for marriage" types have a coherent philosophy and are not all knuckle-dragging fundamentalists.

I believe that is true, but the coherent philosophy is one that enforces a particular family structure and outlook on the uses of sexual behavior. What if one of your children turns out to be gay? Will you still counsel "save it for marriage?" Why?

resign ourselves to settling for mere "mammalian" standards of sexual behavior

Let me be very explicit that I don't mean to say that I would ever "settle" for biology as a dictate. I certainly don't; that's entirely my point.

You seem to be trying to have it both ways: you argue that sex is necessarily meant to be procreative and heterosexual because it's "natural," yet when it comes to behaving "naturally" you're not content to follow the lead of "nature" because you want "something more." Which one is it - are we natural mammals, or are we decisionmaking creatures who can use our sense of fairness and kindness and understanding and morals to make good decisions about when and where and with whom to be intimate with, without relying on an outside authority to dictate those decisions on a fairly arbitrary and entirely cultural basis?

I want to be and have "something more," too -- don't get me wrong. I also don't believe we simply the product of biology, beholden only to instinct. It's patently clear that we are not.

But my "something more" involves the development of an individual moral sensibility and the responsibility to make decisions as to when and where you should participate in intimacy, including sex -- without shame and without the imposition of outdated and repressive structures that don't suit all individuals. "Something more" involves being able to grow, develop insight, make choices, and learn from those choices while sharing with others along the way, in all ways. I wouldn't presume to dictate decisions about sexual activity using categorical prohibition, because it puts undue and unrealistic expectations on that one "special" forever relationship (which all too often turns out to be not so special, or not so forever), removes the opportunity for so much growth and appreciation of others and development of insights and relationship skills, and extrapolates from a currently popular outlook on what a family structure should be to assume that's the right direction for everyone. We are so much more than our biology; that's why we have so many more choices, and the ability to grow and learn through them to become more whole, compassionate, and well-developed beings.
posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on June 7, 2012


In my monogamous marriage of 25yrs or so, I have not felt I'm "denying" myself, nor has it been difficult. Why would it be?

You're assuming everyone has functioning sexual marriages? Or that both partners are as lucky as you and yours to have the same sexual needs? It's not always simple.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:39 AM on June 7, 2012


Miko, so what I hear you saying is that I do have a coherent philosophy, but it is "outdated and repressive." Which means that in your particular value structure your ways of thinking are better for everyone? My original point was that there are many ways of looking at sexuality, some of which go against this post-modernist liberalism which has become so popular. What's your point? That all world-views must be subject to post-modernist liberalism or they are wrong? Just who is the fundamentalist here?

I am not a follower of the Rule of St. Benedict, but I can understand why some submit themselves to its considerable strictures. In what you would likely find to be an "outdated and repressive structure" others find a certain spiritual peace and freedom. I, like those in that Order, voluntarily follow a similar "outdated and repressive structure." And I only teach that structure to those who come to us asking to be taught, seeking a similar spiritual peace and freedom. I would never try to convert you from your free-thinking liberalism to my religion.

Normally I just hold back and let folks here on the interwebs bash away at us religious folk with abandon. Every once and a while I try to interject that there are other ways of thinking that pre-date the current modernist worldview that are valid, coherent, and life-affirming. That and we don't all breathe through our mouths. I get that we are at odds with the current post-modernist liberal hegemony and those in with this hegemony clearly see themselves as superior thinkers. But yet here we are. So now what? Is liberalism so universally great that you would force it on everyone?
posted by cross_impact at 9:22 AM on June 7, 2012


what I hear you saying is that I do have a coherent philosophy, but it is "outdated and repressive."

Well, two things. First, it's coherent if you're heterosexual and believe that marriage is the best kind of relationship for adults to maintain and to raise children.

The philosophy doesn't extrapolate to other kinds of relationships, though. That's why I call it "outdated" - because there are more models than this one in existence - and "repressive," because if someone isn't heterosexual, the philosophy loses coherence because it's built on this idea of procreation.

Which means that in your particular value structure your ways of thinking are better for everyone?

No, not at all. I just wanted to point out that yours aren't better for everyone, either, and just because you're uncomfortable with this philosophy being called repressive doesn't mean it isn't repressive. By its very nature, it is. It seeks to repress the expression of sexuality in all but one explicitly condoned way.

What's your point? That all world-views must be subject to post-modernist liberalism or they are wrong? Just who is the fundamentalist here?

I don't believe that all world-views must comply with "post-modernist liberalism" (whatever you mean by that). I don't have any kind of ideological reaction to those views and I think that people should absolutely follow their own path and respect that they do.
Only in this sort of forum do I even engage the topic, and that's because that's pretty much what we're here to do. As I said, you have a very nice way of teaching about and expressing this belief. But you also seem to be asking for people to understand that the views aren't "repressive," and I think it's fair to point out that the reasoning doesn't hold in all situations, and that it has areas of weakness, which can legitimately be disagreed with without the disagree-ers being immoral.

Is liberalism so universally great that you would force it on everyone?

The point of liberalism is that we don't force it on everyone. You do what you choose to do. But I also believe we must recognize that differences in belief and action are not going to go away, and can't all be chalked up to moral failure on the part of those who act differently. We always seem to leap to this, when in fact no one asked you to adopt their sex life. I'm just asking that you recognize we might not all find this is a fantastic approach and that there are many people - indeed, people who grew up in families just like the one you're trying to lead - that find that this reasoning ultimately fails them. I'm sure there are others who find it works. People are different.
posted by Miko at 9:45 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Miko: "
Mostly true - except that most animals care very much about family trees...

It's a mistake to extrapolate much from primates when there's so little evidence that control and domination were even a significant part of early humanoid societies. The social organization of primates is pretty far from the various approaches to social organization among humans. It's also a mistake to generalize about primates - their behavior isn't consistent species to species.
"

I didn't extrapolate from primates. I generalized about Animalia.

It's probably a bigger mistake to assume that anything Homo sapiens does is a unique case for Animalia.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:53 AM on June 7, 2012


Ah, but Animalia is nothing if not full of unique cases, despite evolution's efficiency. The world is so full of a wonder of things.
posted by Miko at 12:20 PM on June 7, 2012


And cross_impact, I'm not replying to you just to be nasty or just to start an argument. This isn't about trying to make you adopt my views. You say that posted your explanation so that you could encourage everyone to take the view that "not all of us in the "save it for marriage brigade" are as mindless and repressed as you think we are." In general I think it's a good thing for people to present other points of view and explain how they got there.

I don't think you're "mindless;" you write well, you think about things, you're clearly a smart person. But because you asked not to be seen as"repressed," I also wanted to note that there is legitimate reason to think that your approach is repressive. To advocate something that is repressive of some family structures and some forms of sexuality, while saying you're not repressive is just a contradiction which it's fair to point out. Had your comment actually ended "This is what I believe, and though it may be considered repressive by some, this is where my values lead me," I don't think I'd have had anything to say at all. It's the bid to both want the respect from others for not being repressive, while asserting that only one family type and sexuality are OK which is repressive, that makes the clanging noise in some of our heads.

Thanks for your responses.
posted by Miko at 12:30 PM on June 7, 2012


I'm not sure where the notion of "saving one's self" originated, but it seems a bit related to restricting sex for women for only procreation, i.e. "don't burn your good eggs on this crappy sperm."

What else is being saved? There is a physical condition of virginity, sure, but nobody cares about that--even Margaery Tyrell can claim she was riding horses ...

Genital activity is special in that it intersects with reproductive capability. Intercourse encompasses the potential to tie one's past (genes) to one's future (progeny). If an act, in its best form, says, "I give my whole self to you, including my whole past and my whole future." it needs to be in the context of a relationship where that can be true. Every act communicates something.

So, in my house, reserving sex for marriage is a matter of waiting until the gesture of intercourse can be spoken meaningfully as truth and not a lie.


What bugs me here (and may confuse your kids) is that there are a plethora of sexual activities that do not involve intercourse or reproduction.

- handjobs
- blowjobs
- footjobs
- 69
- anal sex
- mutual masturbation
- cosplay
- bondage
- s&m

Which are worth "saving" and which are not? Is a blow job equal to a fuck?

I think all this talk about "saving" puts INCREDIBLE pressure on kids, even open-minded ones, because there's this (false, imo) impression that SEX IS SERIOUS IMPORTANT BUSINESS AND DON'T SCREW IT UP, when, as you mention, pregnancy is the important business, not sexual activity.

That sort of pressure can fuck people up for YEARS. Some women in their 30s and 40s and later are only now learning their sexual preferences or even having their first orgasm. That should have happened years ago! How many men get to 40 without knowing what turns them on?

I am curious how the "gesture of intercourse can be spoken meaningfully as truth" and I am genuinely curious, not making fun. It's a very different worldview than mine. I don't even know how to parse that statement ...

So in my house, reserving sexual activity for marriage is about focusing sex on the whole mystery of the person, not just pieces you wish to borrow.

See, this just seems incredibly fucked up to me. You are trying to define your children's sexual preferences. Let's say you've got a child who gets off on watching large bouncing female breasts while getting fucked in the ass by a man ... Does she (or he) try to change her preferences into something that incorporates "the whole mystery of the person" rather than what gets her wet?

Sexual love should be focused on loving the other person, speaking to them whatever will make them feel most loved and accepted. Which means that in sexuality, as in the whole rest of life, you put your needs after the one you love.

I guess I'll stop now, because I think that's a horrible mistake. Someone who ignores their own sexual desires in favor of their partners? That's what we usually call "wife." That's a good motto to push on your boys, but girls get WAY too much of it already. When I was in high school, it was a common rumor that high school girls could not orgasm yet, or it was very, very hard, but c'mon, we all know that's nonsense.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:16 PM on July 2, 2012


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