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Men-Struation
September 26, 2010 5:14 PM   Subscribe

If Men Could Menstruate.

Sociological images goes more indepth, and includes a link for Menstruation skateboards that I felt needed to be mentioned.
posted by lauratheexplorer (161 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
1986 called. It wants its divisive screed back.
posted by felix betachat at 5:21 PM on September 26, 2010 [41 favorites]


That was hilarious. Thanks!
posted by polymodus at 5:23 PM on September 26, 2010


I have always loved this essay, especially its humor and how Steinem is not afraid to poke fun at various feminist subcultures (radical feminists would exalt vampires, "cultural feminists would develop a bloodless imagery in art and literature", etc.) Thanks for posting it.
posted by transona5 at 5:26 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


My Daughter's Menarche Celebration
Reader Stories: Menarche Party Ideas


Seconding Felix on this one.
posted by pla at 5:28 PM on September 26, 2010


I'm not getting the joke because the physical biology makes no sense, men would have to look differently somehow. Why would they menstruating unless they're caring eggs? Does that mean men would have vaginas and women would have penises? Would men have breasts capable of producing milk?

The mind and fan fic boggles.
posted by nomadicink at 5:31 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


If men menstruated, there'd be a pill invented in 1945 that you took once a year that stopped it, with no side effects, and it'd be covered by the government for men of all ages.

That, and we wouldn't have this overwrought screeching diatribe. What if men grew hair on their faces and women didn't? Reformers would tape mustaches to their upper lips and pretend to shave! We'd say you needed to be able to grow a beard to go to war! What if men had worse acuity at identifying colors than women? We'd say a poorly-chosen paint scheme in the house was actually more aesthetically pleasing!
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:32 PM on September 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


What if men had wider shoulders than women? Women in the 80's would wear shoulder pads to attempt to look "powerful", only to look back on fashion in that decade with profound regret.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:36 PM on September 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


Love the skateboards!
posted by mareli at 5:37 PM on September 26, 2010


I'm the guy. The guy with a good attitude towards menstruation.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:37 PM on September 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


If men could menstruate? I've had this problem, and it was no picnic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:37 PM on September 26, 2010


"Oh God, this fucking tractor, why won't it start?!"

"You ok Frank, what's wrong?"

"WHAT DO YOU THINK IS WRONG RALPH, I rebuilt the engine to my tractor and now the fucking thing won't start, oh God, I'm terrible with machine!" *bursts into tears*

"Its ok Frank, I'm here for you."

"Thank you Ralph. It's just that time of the month, so I'm getting so emotional"

"Would a hug help?"

"Yeah, that's buddy."
posted by nomadicink at 5:38 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Margaret Cho takes some time to consider the question.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:39 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Oh man, Ralph, do you see the hottie over there!"

"Holy shit, Frank, she is HAWT, go get her!"

"I dunno, I've been trying to make eye contact all night, but it seems like she's ignoring me."

"You want to make out, see if that gets her attention?"

"Ok, but be soft kisses Ralph, not like last time."
posted by nomadicink at 5:42 PM on September 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


That, and we wouldn't have this overwrought screeching diatribe.

1986 called. It wants its reactionary dismissal back.

For fuck's sake, the point of the essay is the second paragraph: "In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it." It's no more and no less than that.
posted by fatbird at 5:42 PM on September 26, 2010 [36 favorites]


"Screeching diatribe"? Seriously? I don't even know how to respond to that.

I'm not getting the joke because the physical biology makes no sense

The physiology is irrelevant. The point is that the way we view menstruation has a lot to do with how our culture views women, and that in a different world--one where a different group menstruated--the attitudes towards menstruation would be quite different. The point is that it's not anything inherent in the physical facts of menstruation that make us view menstruation like we do; we do a lot of interpretation and those tie into our prejudices.

If you don't get it because men can't menstruate, then you mised the point by a mile.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:43 PM on September 26, 2010 [45 favorites]


If men could menstruate, we would all look like GWAR.

Thanks for this post - it reminds me of the puritan, guilt-laced atmosphere of my undergrad years back in the early 90s.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:44 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I just briefly imagined a world where men had vaginas and women had penises... it made me wonder how the language of (heteronormative at least, I guess) sex would change. Like, the language of sex kind of revolves around the active insertion and passive reception. Would be interesting if we all thought of it in terms of active enveloping and passive envelopment (or however you'd put it), but you know we totally would if dudes had vaginas.

It's actually weird for me to conceive of it in that framing. Kinda wish it wasn't so weird though.
posted by hegemone at 5:44 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mentioning Robert Blake was a nice touch.
posted by jonmc at 5:44 PM on September 26, 2010


Feh. I bet I could squirt my menses further than any other man I know.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:46 PM on September 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Men do not menstruate.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:47 PM on September 26, 2010


0xFCAF : If men menstruated, there'd be a pill invented in 1945 that you took once a year that stopped it, with no side effects, and it'd be covered by the government for men of all ages.

1951, actually. They added the one week of placebos to the standard 28-day course specifically to allow women to bleed "naturally". If they take the actual active hormone every day, women need never menstruate again.
posted by pla at 5:47 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


So in order to feel empowered, women have to either get aggressive and masculine or attack men in order to point out how hard done we are by the patriarchy? That's a really dated form of feminism and I don't think it serves either gender.
posted by Jubey at 5:48 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Divisive? Nah. Just a nice exploration of the double-standard treatment of male v. female experience in a patriarchal society. And as pointed out, she does poke fun at various types of feminists as well.

Obligatory Even the Queen link.

Obligatory menstruation may not actually be necessary or healthy link.
posted by emjaybee at 5:49 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this post - it reminds me of the puritan, guilt-laced atmosphere of my undergrad years back in the early 90s.

My reaction entirely. I was zapped back into Intro to Women's Studies, staring earnestly and with open heart at an essay so mind-numbingly banal that I feared for my sanity. I wondered how so many interesting and righteous people could be praising such wretched prose.

Having learned the lesson that good politics and good taste are not necessarily kin, I took my gentleman's C (sorry, gentletron's C) and never looked back.

Until today, I guess.
posted by felix betachat at 5:50 PM on September 26, 2010


1951, actually. They added the one week of placebos to the standard 28-day course specifically to allow women to bleed "naturally". If they take the actual active hormone every day, women need never menstruate again.

You do understand that the birth control pill is still not side-effect free for many women and is sometimes not covered by health insurance, much less available for free for people with no health insurance unless they are within the range of a decent clinic, right? I can' ttell if that was 0xFCAF's point or not, but it bears repeating, to me.

Honestly, the post is more about the juxtaposition of Steinem's dated but interesting essay [and the we've-seen-it Mseum of Menstruation, itself run by a dude if I recall correctly] and the interesting art project that is the skateboard deal. And oh hey look here's a way to re-envision how our society deals with women getting their periods, sort of interesting no?
posted by jessamyn at 5:52 PM on September 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


I just briefly imagined a world where men had vaginas and women had penises...

That's a profoundly pointless comparison, given that you've essentially swapped the defining characteristic of sex type*. The men would still be men, and the women would still be women, but we'd call them by a different name. Our fucked up human nature would continue to make the same exact stereotypes and social constructs as it already does now.

*Yes. That's a gross oversimplification of what makes up sex and gender, although it works for all but the 1% of edge cases. In any event, there already are plenty of cases where the "heteronormative language of sex" is already inverted from what you seem to think that it ought to be. If you haven't noticed, there are many places where it's actually considered pretty "hot" for a guy to be passive and sensitive. The fact that you had to include the "heteronormative" qualifier further weakens your thought experiment, given that these gender boundaries obviously aren't much of an issue in homosexual relationships. Everybody has the same equipment.
posted by schmod at 5:54 PM on September 26, 2010


Like, the language of sex kind of revolves around the active insertion and passive reception.

Well, it does in a patriarchy which thinks of sex solely in terms of penis-in-vagina and not in terms of pleasure + consent. In a gender-equal society, there would be no "passive" sex except in cases where it was nonconsensual, i.e., assault.

Or perhaps if describing a really unhealthy sexual relationship (he's so passive in the sack! Something's wrong!)
'
Perhaps in that world, the "aggressive sperm penetrates passive ova" story would have not been so popular, especially considering the evidence against it.

Male=active good / female=passive bad is more of a problem than any actual equipment possessed by either party.
posted by emjaybee at 5:57 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


This was cute twenty years ago. When I was in high school. And my best friend would swagger around doing impressions of these lines. And his ad libs were funnier.
posted by clarknova at 5:58 PM on September 26, 2010


Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free.

How I wish this were the case. Instead of the awkward, hushed, "Do you happen to have...?" you ask every woman you can find, when you realize you forgot to replace your emergency tampon in your purse after the last time. I hate having to do that, so much.

But, really, what I find interesting is the whole hushedness of the thing. How penis jokes are a dime a dozen, and no one thinks of them, but female comics are far-out and confrontational when they discuss their periods. How we can have cartoon bears with paper shreds stuck to their butts to sell toilet paper, but feminine napkins are advertised with euphemisms and blue liquid. How ejaculation is treated as something that people just do, but menstruation is part of the Cult Of Women, foreign and secret.

I know this relates to power structures and taboos and so forth, yeah. But, often times, I'm just completely struck by how crazy it is that something that happens to half the human population every. month. can manage to be such a forbidden and embarrassing subject.

I mean... It blows my mind, man.
posted by meese at 5:59 PM on September 26, 2010 [33 favorites]


it reminds me of the puritan, guilt-laced atmosphere of my undergrad years back in the early 90s.

What I took away from that era was that if there's anything the American left and right both agree on, it's that we must feel bad and guilty about sex.

/ they just don't agree on the reasons
posted by PsychoKick at 6:00 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The physiology is irrelevant.

Got that, but it's neat to imagine What If, you know? Hence the line "The mind and fan fic boggles".
posted by nomadicink at 6:00 PM on September 26, 2010


If you think the essay was a serious exploration of what it would be like if men menstruated, you missed the whole point.
posted by fatbird at 6:01 PM on September 26, 2010


"tampons would be smaller!"
posted by jessamyn at 6:02 PM on September 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm unfamiliar with any medication that doesn't have side effects.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:03 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: ""tampons would be smaller!""

Oh, don't go there.
posted by bwg at 6:04 PM on September 26, 2010


"tampons would be smaller!"

Tampons would probably be considered wimpy. Hey you're a man, men menstruate dammit, there's not to hide or be ashamed! Let it out, it's natural!"

It would be a very different world.
posted by nomadicink at 6:04 PM on September 26, 2010


fatbird : For fuck's sake, the point of the essay is the second paragraph: "In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it." It's no more and no less than that.

We call that a type-i statistical error - Failure to reject a false hypothesis. We look at the winners, and say, "Oh, she has white skin", "Oh, he makes more than I do", "Oh, he eats Wheaties", and extend that to a causative agent. And in that regard, Steinem makes a valid point for consideration.

The danger here lies in committing a reactionary type-ii statistical error, failure to accept a true hypothesis - He won the race because he has testosterone driving his body to produce far more muscle, far higher bone density, and increased aggression to motivate him to compete.

That doesn't make the winners always better people. But it also doesn't mean we can dismiss any given trait of the winners offhand as irrelevant.

(and for the record - Yes, I liked the skateboard bit, particularly the slogan, "Some girls bleed more than once a month".)
posted by pla at 6:05 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


1986 called. It wants its divisive screed back.

Well, no wonder, since it goes so well with its 2 percent women in the U.S. Senate, legal marital rape in 25 states and Newsweek printing that single women over 40 are more likely to get killed by a terrorist than marry...
posted by transona5 at 6:06 PM on September 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


Geez. I don't think it was entirely pointless... I guess my thought experiment was riffing off of Steinem's observation that, despite having relatively vulnerable exterior genitals, the idea of the superiority of the penis and, to an extent, penis-envy has enjoyed legitimacy for a long-ass time. Mostly because men possess them. So, let's just say, there's an imaginary world where men are still on average larger than women, stronger than women, and women still somehow are the ones who are responsible for childbearing (obviously I haven't thought the finer points of biology through), wouldn't the dominant language of sex change from one that focused on the penetrative aspect to one that focused on the enveloping? I dunno. Could be pointless, but I still think it's interesting to consider.

(I apologize if I gave you the impression that I don't think it's okay for men to be passive and sensitive, that's not at all what I meant to imply.)
posted by hegemone at 6:06 PM on September 26, 2010


"1986 called. It wants its divisive screed back."

And they say feminists have no sense of humor.
posted by klangklangston at 6:09 PM on September 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


jessamyn : And oh hey look here's a way to re-envision how our society deals with women getting their periods, sort of interesting no?

Actually, it did make me seriously ponder one point...

If the females of our species had more muscle mass and more aggression, would we find our social situations 100% reversed? Not so much "does might make right", but "does power dictate social status"?

Personally, I would say "yes", though I'd love to hear arguments the other way.
posted by pla at 6:10 PM on September 26, 2010


"tampons would be smaller!"

Related: I suspect douching would absolutely not remotely exist.
posted by hegemone at 6:12 PM on September 26, 2010


I can imagine the Axe commercials now. It was bad enough I saw "wash your balls"
posted by stormpooper at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2010


"tampons would be smaller!"

Well, some guy did write to Dan Savage recently about his fondness for tampons.
posted by rosebuddy at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2010


Cool, now I somehow feel guilty for being born male.
posted by abstractdiode at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The problem for this argument, actually, is that men did "menstruate." Or, at least, they did until the early twentieth century, when scientists finally figured out the link between ovulation and menstruation. Male menstruation was an anti-Semitic topos for centuries, for example (and was linked to the blood libel). Bleeding from the nose (whether the nose in question belonged to a man or woman) was considered a form of menstruation. For a late-Victorian discussion of male menstrual cycles, see Havelock Ellis.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:16 PM on September 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I'd be able to be grumpy and difficuly for one week a month. I'm like that all the time anyway, but for a week, I'd have an excuse.
posted by jonmc at 6:18 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool, now I somehow feel guilty for being born male.

Yeah... It's also not fun being raised in a society that tells you being born female makes you dirty, stupider, and valuable only insofar as beautiful.* Life sure sucks all around!

Sorry, that was sarcastic.

I'm sorry if you feel like a consideration of the patriarchal elements of our society makes you feel personally blameworthy. I sincerely doubt it's your fault. Please don't take the weight of society's failures all on your shoulders and, instead, just take this as a chance for introspection and consideration of how society functions.

*to some degree or another.
posted by meese at 6:19 PM on September 26, 2010 [31 favorites]


Honestly, the post is more about the juxtaposition of Steinem's dated but interesting essay [and the we've-seen-it Mseum of Menstruation, itself run by a dude if I recall correctly] and the interesting art project that is the skateboard deal. And oh hey look here's a way to re-envision how our society deals with women getting their periods, sort of interesting no?

If you say so.

Maybe it's just the man side of me, maybe it's because I was 11 when Steinem wrote that, but there's nothing here I can relate to. Was that funny in it's time? And bloodied-up women, skateboards? WTF? I have no idea how society deals with women getting their periods, because it never affected me, despite having a wife and daughter who both menstruate and we all seem to go on with their lives. I guess I'm not society.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:25 PM on September 26, 2010


1986 called.

1978. Don't you guys even read the article?

Men do not menstruate.

Menstruation. You do the math.

Anyway, it's a classic essay; it's slightly funny now (but probably a lot funnier back when it was new) and still makes an important point about the embeddedness of gender in culture. It's interesting to see how such a mild and classic piece can still raise such impassioned responses.
posted by Forktine at 6:26 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


How is this attacking men? That last paragraph gets some good-natured jabs in at feminists and their predictability.

Maybe this one will help make the point (a little more sobering): If Black Women Were White
posted by Danila at 6:30 PM on September 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


And they say feminists have no sense of humor.

We learned it from you, mom! We learned it from you!
posted by PsychoKick at 6:31 PM on September 26, 2010


The Kathy and Mo Show asks the same question:

"I'm doin' good, buddy -- I just started my period this morning!"
posted by PlusDistance at 6:31 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]




But, really, what I find interesting is the whole hushedness of the thing.


The thing to do, if you find yourself in need, is to yell "HEY! HEYHEYHEY! ANYBODY GOT A TAMPON?"
Quickly identify the most mortified looking man in the vicintity, point to him, and add "IT'S FOR MY FRIEND."
posted by louche mustachio at 6:32 PM on September 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Still worth it for "you have to give blood to take blood"
posted by bonaldi at 6:33 PM on September 26, 2010


Yeah... It's also not fun being raised in a society that tells you being born female makes you dirty, stupider, and valuable only insofar as beautiful.

I feel "dirty" and "stupid" are terms that are easily applied to male stereotypes as well. And as for value? Well, women can do everything as well as men can (except without the violence, of course) so as soon as we conquer the hurdle of sperm I'm told all our problems will be solved.
posted by abstractdiode at 6:37 PM on September 26, 2010


"I just briefly imagined a world where men had vaginas and women had penises..."

I just briefly imagined a world where the Queen had balls and she was the King. Or something like that...
posted by MikeMc at 6:38 PM on September 26, 2010


I'm wondering what the ads would be like for male hygiene products? Men jumping horses or playing tennis confidently? I think not.

Cue montage of man riding on a bull with a knowing smirk, man with leather chaps on a Harley revving the motor, and finally a famous NFL quarterback patting the butt of his teammate while the voiceover says: "Because he knows he's got max protection. UnderArmor Maxi."
posted by acheekymonkey at 6:39 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


If women had to urinate into a toilet through an erection...
posted by waraw at 6:43 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ha, at first I thought the link was going to lead to this, which I saw online yesterday.

(I totally want an I <3 menstruation shirt.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:43 PM on September 26, 2010


at first I thought the link was going to lead to this

It does! I <3 blood sports!
posted by jessamyn at 6:49 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Enough divisive comparison. Let's embrace body functions both genders can enjoy, like farting.
posted by jonmc at 6:50 PM on September 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm not getting the joke because the physical biology makes no sense, men would have to look differently somehow. Why would they menstruating unless they're caring eggs? Does that mean men would have vaginas and women would have penises? Would men have breasts capable of producing milk?

A thought-experiment can be illuminating without being physically possible.
posted by John Cohen at 6:53 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel "dirty" and "stupid" are terms that are easily applied to male stereotypes as well. And as for value? Well, women can do everything as well as men can (except without the violence, of course) so as soon as we conquer the hurdle of sperm I'm told all our problems will be solved.

My point really was only that our society's issues with genders isn't something that makes men feel bad about "being born men." Instead, it's something that makes everyone feel bad about who they are, whether they're men or women. I probably could have made my point better -- since you had previously highlighted the ways that this could affect men, I highlighted some of the ways that the patriarchy affects women. But, really, what I wanted to get across is that this isn't a competition for victimhood. We can all be victims!

(Of course, that's if we choose to accept the language of "victims." It seemed to fit in the above sentences, especially in response to the tone I'm reading in your posts here. But, I'd also suspect that, given this particular discussion, it may not be the best way to conceptualize what's going on.)
posted by meese at 6:56 PM on September 26, 2010


I just briefly imagined a world where men had vaginas and women had penises... it made me wonder how the language of (heteronormative at least, I guess) sex would change. Like, the language of sex kind of revolves around the active insertion and passive reception. Would be interesting if we all thought of it in terms of active enveloping and passive envelopment (or however you'd put it), but you know we totally would if dudes had vaginas.
It's actually weird for me to conceive of it in that framing. Kinda wish it wasn't so weird though.


No. Please ask me what I think about these things, instead of telling me what I think about them.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:03 PM on September 26, 2010


Enough divisive comparison. Let's embrace body functions both genders can enjoy, like farting.

Not even that is guaranteed to be unisex. It could be argued that men enjoy scatological humor more than women because a good solid crap stimulates the male prostrate gland. Then we can go into the potential gender politics of fart jokes, are women who enjoy fart jokes merely victims of "false consciousness", and whether or not the prevalence of scatological humor in mainstream society contributes to the patriarchy.
posted by PsychoKick at 7:04 PM on September 26, 2010


My point really was only that our society's issues with genders isn't something that makes men feel bad about "being born men." Instead, it's something that makes everyone feel bad about who they are, whether they're men or women. I probably could have made my point better -- since you had previously highlighted the ways that this could affect men, I highlighted some of the ways that the patriarchy affects women. But, really, what I wanted to get across is that this isn't a competition for victimhood. We can all be victims!

Let us be really clear here. There is no such thing as "society," just as there is no such thing as the attitude of "all women" or "all men." These are powerful and useful generalizations, but they have limits. We are not intellectually rigorous when we use them to discuss such things. And we are wide open to the dangers of stereotyping when we talk about things in this way.

Essentially, this has nothing to do with feminism at all. This is just weak argumentation.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:09 PM on September 26, 2010


"A thought-experiment can be illuminating without being physically possible."

You mean I don't have to make my own philosophical zombies? Guess I'll let the drifters out of the basement, then.
posted by klangklangston at 7:11 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


If the females of our species had more muscle mass and more aggression, would we find our social situations 100% reversed? Not so much "does might make right", but "does power dictate social status"?

Personally, I would say "yes", though I'd love to hear arguments the other way.


It can be argued that the existence of the current gender norms has less to do with the power and violence of males and more to do with the evolutionary and cultural pressures placed on men to seek high-risk/high-reward activites and on women to seek low-risk/low-reward activities. From the perspective of early civilization, when numbers meant more than wealth, if women were stronger and more violent then men, men would still fight wars. Even if you lose five men for every three women your opponent loses, your society is going to rebound stronger and faster by the next generation. Power would still dictate social status, but because the men in cultures that encouraged that sort of gendered system were more willing to take the risk of achieving power, men would remain the dominant gender. It just so happens that the dynamics of childbirth sets up these gendered cultures to succeed.

There is good news, though. People are becoming worth so much, especially in first world countries, that it isn't worth it to take risks with anyone. This is a trend that looks set to continue. On the flip side, it is increasingly useless to support a full human being and then expect only to use it for the purposes of low-reward options either. And hopefully, the forces of history will continue to push men and women along the long road to the middle.

Of course I would enjoy hearing arguments against this belief, it feels uncomfortably evo-psych to my mind.
posted by Bobicus at 7:12 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


My point really was only that our society's issues with genders isn't something that makes men feel bad about "being born men." Instead, it's something that makes everyone feel bad about who they are, whether they're men or women.

I now see and appreciate the point you have made. Positive outcome!
posted by abstractdiode at 7:13 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Essentially, this has nothing to do with feminism at all. This is just weak argumentation.

I agree with everything you said in your first paragraph (and I admit that I was using lazy and quick shortcuts to get across a point that I didn't think required that much nuance. But, yeah, it was a lazy method of communication on my part). But I don't understand how that counts as weak argumentation... I didn't even argue anything: I just presented a point of view with the hopes that it'd strike others as correct. I also don't understand how this topic doesn't relate to feminism.

Sorry if I'm just being dense. (I don't usually make a habit of commenting on the Blue when I'm sleepy after watching bad TV all day.)
posted by meese at 7:22 PM on September 26, 2010


Please ask me what I think about these things

Hugo Schwyzer mentioned this in a post once; he says "I use the “penetrate” versus “engulf” image to illustrate a basic point about the way in which our language constructs and maintains male aggression and female passivity. Even those who haven’t had heterosexual intercourse can, with only a small degree of imagination required, see how “envelop” might be just as accurate as “enter”. “A woman’s vagina engulfs a man’s penis during intercourse” captures reality as well as “A man’s penis penetrates a woman’s vagina.”"

It's just that, from everything I've experienced in our culture, sex is rarely framed in the "engulfing" way. I'm just positing that if men had innie gentials and women had outie genitals, we might speak of sex a little differently... but you are correct, that is what I think. What do you think about it?
posted by hegemone at 7:24 PM on September 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


It's also not fun being raised in a society that tells you being born female makes you dirty, stupider, and valuable only insofar as beautiful.

What exactly is this entity called "society" and how does it "tell" women that they are born "stupider"? That doesn't sound like any society I've lived in. If I could somehow have a record of all the times I've heard variations on the following statements -- (1) "Men are dumb," (2) "Women are smart," (3) "Men are smart," (4) "Women are dumb" -- I would guess I've heard (1) and (2) far more than I've heard (3) or (4).
posted by John Cohen at 7:31 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


"...a good solid crap stimulates the male prostrate gland."

Only lazy men allow their glands to remain prostrate.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:32 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's just that, from everything I've experienced in our culture, sex is rarely framed in the "engulfing" way. I'm just positing that if men had innie gentials and women had outie genitals, we might speak of sex a little differently... but you are correct, that is what I think. What do you think about it?

I like women. I like having relationships and sexual relations with them. I don't ever think that I am "better" than the woman or that I'm even "penetrating" a woman I am having sex with. I'm just having sex with her. I have never once considered any of these things. I just hope she likes me and wants to have sex with me.

The total extent I've ever even used language like this was when I was dating a woman who spent a lot of time analyzing our relationship in these terms. Once when she was over at my place, she was taking a shower and when she came out, I was struck by how attracted I was to her just then. I said "Do you mind if I objectify you right now?" She beamed in approval.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:35 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I said "Do you mind if I objectify you right now?" She beamed in approval.

I don't find this surprising; in fact, research suggests women enjoy being the object of desire. (Video discussion of this on Bloggingheads.)
posted by John Cohen at 7:44 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Enough divisive comparison. Let's embrace body functions both genders can enjoy, like farting.

This ties into menstruation *very* nicely, actually.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:46 PM on September 26, 2010


In some societies (apologies to those who dispute the existence of such things) along the Nile, the schistosomiasis-related symptom involving bleeding out of the dick is understood to indicate male menstruation, which I guess is seen as something both sexes/genders naturally do.
posted by clockzero at 7:50 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, I'm seeing where you're coming from better now. I feel like you might be over-personalizing what I was driving, though. Do you really not think that, as a society, we mostly frame P-in-V sex in terms of what the man is actively doing to the passive woman? And that if genital types were reversed, the active-passive paradigm would also be reversed? That's really all I'm saying, I don't think that's so out-of-this-world.

I think that it would be the case, but I also have to spend a lot of time around 18-22 year olds, and when I hear them talk about sex (which, god knows, I try not to do) I hear a lot of stuff that reinforces my line of thought here. Could be it's just the way some young guys think of sex because they haven't had enough of it to focus on what both parties are experiencing/contributing to the sex act?
posted by hegemone at 7:52 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


And that if genital types were reversed, the active-passive paradigm would also be reversed?

Well, I normally think of "genital types" as the most defining thing about males and females, so it's hard for me to even conceive of "if genital types were reversed." Do you mean if we had all the same ideas about the male and female gender except the "men" had vaginas and the "women" had penises? That would be so radically different from the world we actually live in that I hesitate to make any definitive statement along the lines of "If the world were like that, things would be like this." Are you assuming that switching the physical genitals would have no effect on cultural views? That's not at all obvious, since biology affects culture in many ways.
posted by John Cohen at 8:02 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also have to spend a lot of time around 18-22 year olds, and when I hear them talk about sex (which, god knows, I try not to do) I hear a lot of stuff that reinforces my line of thought here.

I spend more time with young guys than young women; the language I hear a lot is incredibly penetrative: "nailing," "pounding," etc. And while I've never heard the "engulfing" kind of language outside of (bad) fiction, I do hear women using very active phrasing like "after I fucked him, I ..."
posted by Forktine at 8:17 PM on September 26, 2010


Well, it is only a thought experiment, in the same way asking "how might it be if men menstruated?" or "what if black women were white?" are only thought experiments, all of which are imperfect ways to assess how things might be in different circumstances. But is it really so hard to use your imagination and just wonder? Yes, biology affects culture, and yes, of course all of those situations would be radically different, but is it so impossible to consider the way our culture's values and mindsets and reflect upon why that is by asking "what if"? I feel like this type of wondering is one interesting way in which we can all grow and learn, both as individuals and as a culture, and I'm not sure why there's so much resistance to it.
posted by hegemone at 8:19 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


"If I could somehow have a record of all the times I've heard variations on the following statements -- (1) "Men are dumb," (2) "Women are smart," (3) "Men are smart," (4) "Women are dumb" -- I would guess I've heard (1) and (2) far more than I've heard (3) or (4)."

Y'know, it's statements like these that can make you come across as a tremendously dismissive asshole. Quick, what might account for the disparity in the record? Surely not any sort of subjectivity or even sampling bias in the results, for, as a man, you of course have access to the objective truth. And the recurrent oafish stereotype of men on TV is, of course, of equal power to you directly being told that you weren't smart enough to, say, work in a lab or be a primary investigator.

Before you start throwing up your hands about how this is a straw man, and of course you never really meant any of those nasty implications that I'm imputing to you, realize that your statement comes in the context of arguing against a woman who described her feelings about institutional sexism in a quip. Taking her to task over lazy argumentation is an invitation to point out that your experience is irrelevant and that your complaints about your treatment seem petty and petulant.
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 PM on September 26, 2010 [28 favorites]


"I don't find this surprising; in fact, research suggests women enjoy being the object of desire."

Linking to a portion about how (some) women have rape fantasies and an attempt to explain them from a (controversial) social scientist does not equal "research suggests women enjoy being the object of desire."
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Interesting post and interesting discussion. It's fasinating how difficult and mind-bending it can be to challenge such strongly-held cultural constructs.

Something something fish water.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:26 PM on September 26, 2010


Fish can't bicycle underwater!
posted by klangklangston at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fish can't bicycle underwater!

But what if they could??
posted by hegemone at 8:31 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


This probably doesn't have anything to do with anything, but the two (female) nurses that I share an office with will simply not stop cracking wise about queefing. It's ruder language than I have ever heard in any locker room or hunting trip. I haven't ruled out that they're trying to get under my skin but it's funny as hell. You've come a long way, baby.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:33 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


What exactly is this entity called "society" and how does it "tell" women that they are born "stupider"?

While I should probably take this comment for the trolling it appears to be, here you go: Feminism 101: Patriarchy.

You will need a little time, seeing as you're starting at the very beginning.

It might speed things up for you to wander down the toy aisles for boys (science, engineering, building toys) and for girls (makeup, babies, fashion), as to me this sums up common expectations we place on males v. females in this society extremely well.
posted by emjaybee at 8:35 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


But, really, what I find interesting is the whole hushedness of the thing. How penis jokes are a dime a dozen, and no one thinks of them, but female comics are far-out and confrontational when they discuss their periods. How we can have cartoon bears with paper shreds stuck to their butts to sell toilet paper, but feminine napkins are advertised with euphemisms and blue liquid. How ejaculation is treated as something that people just do, but menstruation is part of the Cult Of Women, foreign and secret.

....Actually, this may be something you find reassuring:

When I was in high school, my gang would regularly all eat lunch together. The "gang" was co-ed (all us music geeks).

And...once a month, one of the girls would come snarling to the table. Invariably someone would ask her what was wrong, and she'd just glare and say, "CRAMPS." Without any fanfare, shame, or hushedness. And -- the rest of us girls? Would all chime in about how much of a bitch cramps were and how annoying periods were, and at some point someone would remind us all that DAWN'S periods were only two days long and she never got cramps, the lucky bitch, and oh my god I got caught without a tampon and I asked Cindy and SHE SAID NO, can you believe it, and...

And we'd do this completely out in the open, the guys at the table all sitting very, very quietly and looking vaguely like they thought that if anyone said anything we'd turn on them. In fact, one time someone did -- one guy started repeating some kind of joke he'd heard Yakof Smirnoff (of all people) was making about feminine hygine products, and then he started riffing on it himself -- and one of the girls stood up and read him the riot act about how HE wouldn't be joking about this if HE was the one that had to put up with HORMONES and BLEEDING and CRAMPS and ALL THAT CRAP every month and knowing it came EVERY MONTH for THE WHOLE REST OF OUR DAMN LIVES, and not only that but people thought we were WIMPS even though we DID put up with it, and if HE was coping with that he WOULDN'T be laughing at that at all, and all the rest of us girls actually gave her a round of applause.

...And best of all, what I also remember from all of this was how GOOD-NATURED it was. We weren't SERIOUSLY pissed off at Dawn, and the guy who riffed on Yakof Smirnoff was certainly put in his place but not exiled or anything. It was just part of our regular routine -- sometimes we bitched about the teachers, sometimes it was about gym class, once in a blue moon it was about menstruation and what a pain in the ass it was. No hush-hush there.

Some people actually do manage to not get weird and hung-up about this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


What exactly is this entity called "society" and how does it "tell" women that they are born "stupider"?

While I should probably take this comment for the trolling it appears to be, here you go: Feminism 101: Patriarchy.

You will need a little time, seeing as you're starting at the very beginning.

It might speed things up for you to wander down the toy aisles for boys (science, engineering, building toys) and for girls (makeup, babies, fashion), as to me this sums up common expectations we place on males v. females in this society extremely well.


Who is "we"?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:47 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you mean if we had all the same ideas about the male and female gender except the "men" had vaginas and the "women" had penises?

Let's assume that for the sake of the argument, women had a stretchy, erectile sperm scoop they inserted into the man's sperm cavity and rubbed back and forth to stimulate the suck in reflex (a pleasurable spasm like an orgasm) and men produced a constant flow of sperm, as they do right now, but with appropriate stimulation would not orgasm, the way that most women deal with. But women carried babies for nine months terms and birthed them with great discomfort and risk, and men could still father as many children as they wanted.

You can assume, depending on who you want to be better equip to rape, that the sperm scoop is always firm enough to be used regardless of the will of the owner, or that the woman had to get her scoop hard for anything to happen.
posted by Phalene at 8:48 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


"As far as I'm concerned, being any gender is a drag." —Patti Smith
posted by yaymukund at 8:58 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Scoop you!"
posted by nomadicink at 9:07 PM on September 26, 2010


Uh, EmpressCallipygos, I was totally not expecting

Some people actually do manage to not get weird and hung-up about this.


The quote you were responding to mentions how penises are ok to joke about but menstruation is edgy. So you tell a story about how this guy tried to tell a joke about menstruation and gets read the riot act. Which serves better as an explanation of the current circumstances than as an example of a different paradigm, in my reading.

menstruation is part of the Cult Of Women, foreign and secret


Also a good explanation of this.
posted by Bobicus at 9:08 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Two examples:

(a) I admit, I too announce to a particular extremely fetching gentleman that I am 'objectifying' him from time-to-time. The gentleman in question does the same in return. In private. Like any other interaction, the comments are contingent on consent and the other person's comfort and enjoyment and understanding that we are teasing each other. Because we give a shit if we hurt each other's feelings or make the other person feel uncomfortable.

(b) A group of male students hold a competition with each other as to which one of them would get a shot at nailing the 'hot TA.'* The TA in question only found out about the competition because her other students thought it would be hilarious to tell her about it. Although I appreciated the heads-up, it's amazing how it affected the amount of cheer I could muster for work for the next eleven weeks.

Only one of these scenarios denies the agency of the person being desired, and that--not the experience of physical desire for another person--is what I am talking about when I discuss objectification, outside of my closed-door conversations with the gentleman in (a). I can't speak for all women or all feminists, obviously, but those of my acquaintance do have nit-picky definition conversations, and we all seem to concur that when we discuss objectification, we're including a denial of agency--not a person's experience of attraction/desire for another person. And you know what? It really doesn't even have to include experiencing desire or attraction for the person being objectified--it just takes a mindset that regards a human person the way the young men in (b) regarded me. They could have been calling me an unfuckable hag, and I'd have been reduced and objectified (i.e., treated as an object whose primary purpose was for stimulating desire, albeit a 'defective' one) as well.

There's no real compliment in 'desire' expressed like that.

*none of them. ever.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:12 PM on September 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


It's times like these that make me grateful for menopause. Really, menopause kicks ass. If I had known when my last period was, I would have had a huge party.
posted by wv kay in ga at 9:33 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


THAT DOES NOT FEMPUTE!
posted by Scoo at 9:48 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Men do not menstruate.

I guess I'm not society.

Who is "we"?


Oh good fucking lord. Yes, you are clearly super special enlightened people who would never perpetuate the patriarchy. Obviously then, it doesn't exist.

I said "Do you mind if I objectify you right now?" She beamed in approval.

What does that have to do with anything in this thread?
posted by kmz at 9:58 PM on September 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Really, menopause kicks ass.

My mother has said she feels women become invisible as they age. She means socially, I think, invisible to society.

I wonder if this invisibility would happen to men if they menstruated?
posted by acheekymonkey at 10:27 PM on September 26, 2010


People are invisible always. They just become aware of it as they age.
posted by reklus at 11:03 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, what say we all bleed onto this pad, and the person whose flow is lightest has to eat it?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:09 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


"If men could menstruate, maybe that would mean women would buy them free drinks all the time, buy them a car and a house to live in for free, and when the guy got tired of the woman he could divorce her, keep the house and car and get a cut of her salary."

Yeah, it'd totally be worth getting paid less on the dollar for all those free drinks, which are never presented with any expectations.

"He could probably get out of traffic tickets when getting pulled over by female cops, get laid whenever he wished and always be welcome at that big party of women who don't even know him when he shows up. If he really likes to party the women will probably give him all the free drugs and sweet hookups he could ever ask for."

Being able to get laid whenever you want is a great trade-off for getting laid even when you don't want, am I right, ladies?

"He could get the day off work even if he's not cramping and claim thats why he's not showing up."

Dude, you know that you can just claim stomach flu or bad back, right, and no one can really call you on it unless you show up on the Jumbotron?

"He could get rid of a female co-worker he doesn't like by lying about being sexually harassed, and if he's really spiteful he could lie and say she raped him and have her ass locked up for good."

Yeah, I know! And if she's really spiteful, she could actually rape him!

"When WWIII breaks out he can chill at home while women get the entrails blasted out of them and he'll sit there and secretly think they just brought it upon themselves and sip some wine and watch some mindless narcissists bicker with each other on some boardwalk."

C'mon, man! This is supposed to be satire! I chill out at home and drink wine while women get their entrails blasted out in Iraq while thinking, well, not that they brought it on themselves, just that I really wish we had a way for more poor people to go to college without having to join the Army. But really, a hypothetical WWIII draft scenario is where you want to go out on your list of all the ways that women, like, totally have it easy, man? Couldn't you have ragged on the fact that skirts are likely pretty damn comfortable, but that as a guy you can't wear one without looking like you're trying too hard?

Seriously, you are exactly the reason why guys get told to shut the fuck up by women. On this topic, for the future, learn a lot or shut the fuck up.
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 PM on September 26, 2010 [37 favorites]


I think it's a great pity how it seems to have become normal to be lazily dismissive and use loaded adjectives like "screeching", "shrill" and "strident" to try to discredit something you disagree with or dislike, rather than to make the effort to actually grapple with the reasons you dislike it.
posted by Decani at 11:38 PM on September 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


If men could menstruate, and a guy wrote an article called "If women could menstruate" it would probably get flagged for sexism on mefi by some self-righteous douche bag that can't recognize tongue in cheek sarcasm.
posted by TheCoyote23 at 12:23 AM on September 27, 2010


Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!
posted by kmz at 12:27 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


If men could menstruate...

...the war would've been a lot bloodier. And I'd have an excuse for this shitty mood I've been in all week.

But seriously, what's wrong with a tet bring divisive? Some subjects are divisive. It's hard to argue with her sentiment; overweight men are men who live well while overweight women have let themselves go. We're not accepting male candidates for an Executive Assistant role we're advertising. Tampons are considered a luxury item.

The author exaggerates some aspects to make a point and then people go off about how IF MEN MENSTRUATED THEY'D HAVE MILKY BREASTS and etc.
posted by doublehappy at 12:29 AM on September 27, 2010


"Men would brag about how long and how much."

This. Everything afterward is hyperbolic misandry.
posted by tehloki at 3:24 AM on September 27, 2010


Bobicus : It can be argued that the existence of the current gender norms has less to do with the power and violence of males and more to do with the evolutionary and cultural pressures placed on men to seek high-risk/high-reward activites and on women to seek low-risk/low-reward activities.

Wow, great point! I had totally overlooked the basic biological fact that future population depends (almost) solely on the number of females surviving to reproductive age.

Kudos for bringing that up.


hegemone : Do you really not think that, as a society, we mostly frame P-in-V sex in terms of what the man is actively doing to the passive woman?

Then stop doing it wrong. Reverse cowgirl FTW! ;)

I mean that as neither fighty nor demeaning - Just that we, as a society, moved past nothing-but-missionary at least 50 years ago, if not 90+. The idea of male-active/female-passive sex may still exist (in western cultures), but the practice, I wouldn't bet on.



Ironmouth : Who is "we"?

What does "is" mean? ;)
posted by pla at 3:35 AM on September 27, 2010


The quote you were responding to mentions how penises are ok to joke about but menstruation is edgy. So you tell a story about how this guy tried to tell a joke about menstruation and gets read the riot act. Which serves better as an explanation of the current circumstances than as an example of a different paradigm, in my reading.

See, I read the quote as "it's 'edgy' because women are encouraged to be hush-hush about it and treat it like this sooper seekrit shameful thing", and that's why I was offering the example of, "well, THESE women didn't."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 AM on September 27, 2010


EmpressCallipygos : See, I read the quote as "it's 'edgy' because women are encouraged to be hush-hush about it and treat it like this sooper seekrit shameful thing", and that's why I was offering the example of, "well, THESE women didn't."

I think we largely have a generational difference here as one of the key points of disagreement.

My grandparents' generation just didn't talk about things like menstruation. My parents', accepted it as a biological reality but still a subject best not discussed. My generation discusses it more-or-less openly. And my younger female cousins sound almost exactly like the males described in TFA - "Yup, bleeding like a stuck pig this month, can I bum a pint off you?"

The same, I expect, goes for sexual attitudes.
posted by pla at 4:13 AM on September 27, 2010


Why is that any other unpleasant bodily function is generally avoided in conversation and considered tacky, but men are considered immature if they don't want to hear specific details about someone else's health issues? Personally, I don't like being reminded of the times I caught a terrible whiff of menstrual odor, and have grotesque images of bloody discharges flash in my head. When other women talk incessantly about the specifics of their period, maybe I should start talking about the specifics of the size and consistency of my bowel movement that morning. How about those pus filled boils on grandmas back? I mean, its a natural part of life right?
posted by TheCoyote23 at 4:32 AM on September 27, 2010


When other women talk incessantly about the specifics of their period, maybe I should start talking about the specifics of the size and consistency of my bowel movement that morning.

Do you and other men of your acquaintance regularly get the dangerous poos so bad that it wrecks an entire week? If so, then maybe you should talk about it more.

I do not have periods myself but I have known many people who do and surprisingly I have my whole life held back from yelling YEAH WELL MY FOOT HURTS whenever I hear the words "heavy flow".
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:40 AM on September 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Do you really not think that, as a society, we mostly frame P-in-V sex in terms of what the man is actively doing to the passive woman?

Fucked. Nailed. Screwed. Banged. Boned. I can't come up with any verbs that describe it from my point of view.
posted by mippy at 4:44 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, I don't like being reminded of the times I caught a terrible whiff of menstrual odor, and have grotesque images of bloody discharges flash in my head.

I don't like the times I have to deal with actual bloody discharges in my pants, which accounts for about 13% of the month, so I suppose I sympathize with you for having heard about it on a few occasions.

Who are these women who talk incessantly about their periods? Are they all like DUDETTE I JUST PASSED THE BIGGEST STRU-CHUNK UNGH YEAH at the office or what? Because I'd like to meet them. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've talked about the bloody details of my womanly times, and that includes this comment.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:54 AM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't come up with any verbs that describe it from my point of view.

Interestingly, the I hear younger types mentioning 'hooking up' , 'scratching the itch' , 'doing it', 'doing him (or her)' or even girls saying 'I fucked him'
posted by nomadicink at 5:24 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who are these women who talk incessantly about their periods?

I only ever met one. She was standing next to me at the information desk at work and she just randomly said "I'm having a really bad period..." She also told me when she had diarrhea, too, so she probably wasn't quite right.
posted by jonmc at 5:29 AM on September 27, 2010


I DO NOT want to see the porn that would be produced in this MENstruation world.
posted by orme at 5:55 AM on September 27, 2010


Do you really not think that, as a society, we mostly frame P-in-V sex in terms of what the man is actively doing to the passive woman?

Fucked. Nailed. Screwed. Banged. Boned. I can't come up with any verbs that describe it from my point of view.


There are plenty of gender-neutral active verbs for having sex (like, "having sex"!). Anyway, the comment didn't just say the woman is framed as passive but that the man is framed as active. One of the most common terms for a man having sex is "get laid."

Also, if the suggestion is that "active" is better and "passive" is worse, that would be too simplistic. I already mentioned that being passive can be a turn-on. Another thing: the fact that men are "active" not just in the act of sex itself but in the process of finding a sex partner puts them in a weaker position. They have to do more work, while women get to be choosier. Being the "active" one is not the same as having more power.
posted by John Cohen at 6:04 AM on September 27, 2010


Why is that any other unpleasant bodily function is generally avoided in conversation and considered tacky, but men are considered immature if they don't want to hear specific details about someone else's health issues?

Get back to me on that when there's a social stigma against men even touching sanitary products not associated with menstruation. It's apparently a superhero level feat of devotion to his wife/girlfriend if a man will go to the store and buy pads/tampons. God knows why.
posted by kmz at 6:05 AM on September 27, 2010


research suggests women people enjoy being the object of desire attraction

FTFY
posted by idiomatika at 6:06 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


John Cohen: "Another thing: the fact that men are "active" not just in the act of sex itself but in the process of finding a sex partner puts them in a weaker position. They have to do more work, while women get to be choosier. Being the "active" one is not the same as having more power."

I see what you're getting at, but I think that is an illusion that doesn't hold up to real life. My interpretation would be: "They have to do more work, while young, thin, conventionally attractive women get to be choosier but like most women they must still live with constant hassle from men and face the daily possibility of having that choice taken away from them, violently, at a moment's notice."
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:38 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


They have to do more work, while women get to be choosier. Being the "active" one is not the same as having more power.

Funnily enough, the stable marriage algorithm is optimal for the active partner.

A description of the stable marriage problem.

A description of the stable marriage algorithm and its optimality for the active partner and pessimality for the passive partner. Warning: cheesy ppt presentation.
posted by Bobicus at 6:40 AM on September 27, 2010


I see what you're getting at, but I think that is an illusion that doesn't hold up to real life. My interpretation would be: "They have to do more work, while young, thin, conventionally attractive women get to be choosier but like most women they must still live with constant hassle from men and face the daily possibility of having that choice taken away from them, violently, at a moment's notice."

Oh, I disagree that only "thin" women get this privilege. That does not comport with my experience. Are you suggesting that men are only interested in thin women? Some people seem to believe that, but it's not true.

I don't even think the privilege only accrues to "conventionally attractive" women. Obviously, more attractive women and men are in an enviable position in the dating/sex world. But I don't see why you don't think the same male-female dynamics occur all the way up and down the ladder of conventional attractiveness (to extent there even is such a thing in any objective sense).

I don't at all disagree that what we're talking about entails downsides for women. I just think there's a mix of benefits and burdens on both sides and that the situation is more complex than it's often described as.
posted by John Cohen at 7:24 AM on September 27, 2010


I would say that the young, thin, conventionally attractive women get to be the choosiest, and if they so desired probably could just drape themselves over a table in the nearest bar and take their pick of the men who approached them (leaving aside the implications for personal safety and the fact that the sort of men they like are not necessarily going to be part of the gaggle of vadge-addled gawkers), but as you move further from this ideal the number of men making the approach reduces and it becomes more and more likely that the women in question are going to have to take matters into their own hands.

One of the reasons I'm suspicious of the suggestion that women are passive seekers or romance and men active is because back when I looked like a guy I got just as many girls asking me out as I do guys now.

that totally sounds like I'm bragging, but back then I was turning them down. oh no! it still sounds like I'm bragging! it was midly unpleasant! honest! /stab
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:41 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's clear-cut that men are always the active ones and women are always the passive ones. I think we've gone a long way in getting past these rigid roles, and I think that's a good thing (because it benefits men and women).

But to the extent that the old-fashioned men-pursue-and-women-are-pursued mindset is still relevant, it is not a pure privilege for men or a pure detriment to women.
posted by John Cohen at 7:51 AM on September 27, 2010


John Cohen: "But to the extent that the old-fashioned men-pursue-and-women-are-pursued mindset is still relevant, it is not a pure privilege for men or a pure detriment to women."

Amen to that; mixed blessings and poisoned chalices all round!

high five?

As a trans woman the menstruation skateboards make me jealous because they're cool, then guilty for feeling jealous of something that pisses a lot of women off, then sad because it's another part of womanhood that is kinda denied to me and there I time when I get all BABIES, then sort of pleased because it's an upside to being trans, and then dumb for feeling pleased about something that's made me so miserable in the past. And then I realise that the last time I got on a skateboard I was eight and I fell off and skinned my elbows and ruined my favourite Garfield top and it's probably a good thing I'm never going to ride one.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:08 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"But to the extent that the old-fashioned men-pursue-and-women-are-pursued mindset is still relevant, it is not a pure privilege for men or a pure detriment to women."

Which does not mean, despite your seeming lack of acknowledgment, that on the whole this is worse for women than it is for men. That these gender roles do not always apply, nor that they are not uniformly detrimental to women does not mean that they are not still a powerful cultural force, assumed to be normative, and have more negative consequences than positive.

Arguing that they're not purely bad again comes across as tone-deaf, especially without the acknowledgment that you are in the privileged position. It's like saying, "Hey man, watching someone eat a shit sandwich isn't much fun either." Well, no, but it's better than having to eat the shit sandwich yourself, and that the shit sandwich comes with some pretty good jelly is not much consolation.
posted by klangklangston at 8:12 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I get the point and the whole commentary angle, but that makes this piece no less totally, completely weird.
posted by GuyZero at 9:51 AM on September 27, 2010


Ironmouth : Who is "we"?

What does "is" mean? ;)



My point remains the same. This angle and argument tells me what I think about something without asking me. Its as bad as saying all women think _______.

Do you really not think that, as a society, we mostly frame P-in-V sex in terms of what the man is actively doing to the passive woman?

Fucked. Nailed. Screwed. Banged. Boned. I can't come up with any verbs that describe it from my point of view.


I believe the woman-on-top verbiage is "lowered onto" and "moved up and down on" etc.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:10 AM on September 27, 2010


This "I wish women would stop talking about their periods!" thing seems like a (pardon the pun) red herring to me. The number of times I've even discussed my period with my male partner greatly pales in consideration of discussion of any and all other biological processes - usually limited to a quick head's up that I got my period to confirm the lack of pregnancy that month and perhaps a passing comment that I had cramps. Pretty much it. And I'm really the "oversharing" type. I'm having trouble imagining a scenario wherein a man is constantly bombarded by menstruation talk at every turn - but what do I know? I'm too busy changing my tampon.

And really, Margaret Cho nails it: "I don't talk about my period that much... considering how much it happens."

As for the "whiff of menstrual odor" - that's a hygiene problem on the part of the individual woman, not a general biology problem. I've never had a period give off an actual smell unless I either was forced by circumstance to use a pad much longer than I really should or I had some kind of accompanying infection (yeast infection + period = the worst). As a regular user of women's bathrooms, I think I have maybe twice caught a whiff of "ZOMG PERIOD GROSS" ever. If this was a common problem, you'd think that women's bathrooms would be several orders of magnitude stinkier. Not that they smell like roses as is.
posted by sonika at 10:27 AM on September 27, 2010


Ironmouth, your post reads like this to me: one snowflake says to another snowflake, "there's no storm! There's just you and me and all these other snowflakes!"

But when you look at the big picture -- move out from each individual snowflake and look at general patterns in snowflake movements and formations -- certain trends appear. And these trends constitute the behavior of a storm. It's a very complicated issue, how any one individual snowflake relates to a storm at large, but the fact that this is so complicated doesn't mean it's inappropriate to ever talk about storms on their own. To say the storm is moving east of course doesn't imply that each and every snowflake is moving east, but it does tell us something important and true about the aggregate of all those snowflakes.

You're definitely right to remind us that talk of society as a force -- almost anthropomorphizing it, even -- has its flaws. It can lead to problems. But it is a mistake to assume that, because society is composed of only individual people, it's impossible to speak of those individuals as somehow composing a whole.
posted by meese at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


I've never had a period give off an actual smell unless I either was forced by circumstance to use a pad much longer than I really should or I had some kind of accompanying infection.

How do you know that you'd know? I think we're much less good at detecting our own body odours than we are at detecting other people's. In the same way that we quite like the smell of our own farts, it might be that women think the smell of their own menses is like candy-floss and toffee apples.

Apparently, we like the smell of our own farts because our gut bacteria is unique to us, and is with us for life, so we acclimatize to it over many years. The same thing may well be true of menstruation smells.

And if men had periods, we'd have discussions like this one much more frequently. Also, can you set fire to menstrual blood? Is it any use for human black pudding? How do I mod my moooncup? etc. etc.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:41 PM on September 27, 2010


It does! I <3 blood sports!

D'oh, I don't know how I missed the more inside. I fail metafilter!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2010


You're definitely right to remind us that talk of society as a force -- almost anthropomorphizing it, even -- has its flaws. It can lead to problems. But it is a mistake to assume that, because society is composed of only individual people, it's impossible to speak of those individuals as somehow composing a whole

Its more of a question of knowing the limits of the model of society, which is what we use to generalize what we are talking about. And here its a real problem. Because no dude I've ever talked to, in my entire life, has ever talked about being superior to women because of the fact that in some positions, one gender penetrates another. I never think in these terms. And no guy I've met thinks this way.

But I've met several women who talk this way. I even dated one and she wanted to do weird things during sex, like having my legs on the outside in missionary to make it seem less penetrative or something like that.

Nor have I ever thought I was better because I didn't menstruate. Nor has a guy ever, once, told me we were better than women because they menstruate and we don't. I'm currently single, but when I was in serious relationships, we'd discuss menstruation whenever it needed to come up regarding sex, or mood or just my girlfriends wanting to complain because they were feeling discomfort. I've bought tampons before, its really no big deal at all. The men I know don't really think about it too much unless it comes up.

Sometimes I wonder if this is like the Eddie Murphy skit on SNL. He becomes "white" and suddenly it turns out that all white people don't have to pay in stores when black people are around and they begin dancing and having fun once the last black guy leaves the bus. After a black banker refuses a no-collateral loan, a white banker asks the black banker to take his break and then just hands the funds to the "white" Eddie Murphy.

These things have so much projection behind them. There seems to be a lot of imagination that goes into these essays.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:05 PM on September 27, 2010


Why is that any other unpleasant bodily function is generally avoided in conversation and considered tacky, but men are considered immature if they don't want to hear specific details about someone else's health issues? Personally, I don't like being reminded of the times I caught a terrible whiff of menstrual odor, and have grotesque images of bloody discharges flash in my head.

Because it's not unpleasant for all women. And this isn't to discount the experiences of women who do have bad periods--but seriously, I don't mind getting mine and, hell, it smells a heck of a lot better than my husband's feet, like, ever do, and we don't go around pretending like that doesn't happen.

But, really, bodily functions aren't all that unpleasant to me in general; they just are.

How do you know that you'd know? I think we're much less good at detecting our own body odours than we are at detecting other people's. In the same way that we quite like the smell of our own farts, it might be that women think the smell of their own menses is like candy-floss and toffee apples.

From what I can recall reading, I'm pretty sure that women are much better at perceiving smells than men; anecdotally, I'd guess that this is particularly true for bodily sort of smells (the aforementioned husband and his stinky feet. Heck, he can't even smell most musk-based perfumes). And, what sonika says--if I've been remiss, I can smell something. Generally, it just has the fairly clean, slightly metallic smell of blood. It doesn't smell like carnations or anything, but it's not particularly gross. Certainly not, like, fetid, as TheCoyote23 implies.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:05 PM on September 27, 2010


Fucked. Nailed. Screwed. Banged. Boned. I can't come up with any verbs that describe it from my point of view.

coming back I just thought of "jump his bones." Defintely either woman only or both women and men.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:07 PM on September 27, 2010


And, what sonika says--if I've been remiss, I can smell something. Generally, it just has the fairly clean, slightly metallic smell of blood.

I've been down there in the past during such times. Slightly metallic is exactly it.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:08 PM on September 27, 2010


How do you know that you'd know? I think we're much less good at detecting our own body odours than we are at detecting other people's. In the same way that we quite like the smell of our own farts, it might be that women think the smell of their own menses is like candy-floss and toffee apples.

Dude, I know my shit stinks. I know my farts smell. As I said, I've never noticed my own menstrual odor (except, of course, for those times when I admitted that I had) or anyone else's in a women's restroom. I do happen to know that it doesn't smell under normal circumstances as someone who possesses a vagina and happens to be familiar with its various workings.

Sure, it does have an odor, but no more so than the vagina in general has an odor and I wouldn't say that it stinks or is strong enough for someone else to smell unless something's amiss. It's not like shit or farts at all in that manner.

Also: I'm a queer lady who has totally ridden the crimson tide. I can safely say that no, it doesn't stink anymore than blood from a papercut stinks. It's like vagina mixed with pennies and maybe a little bit of a kind of meaty smell, but nothing bad like sewage or even farts.
posted by sonika at 1:15 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: I'm a queer lady who has totally ridden the crimson tide. I can safely say that no, it doesn't stink anymore than blood from a papercut stinks. It's like vagina mixed with pennies and maybe a little bit of a kind of meaty smell, but nothing bad like sewage or even farts.

Straight guy here, done the same, same result. It smelled very little. The pennies is a great analogy. Amazing what that one Fe will do at the middle of the molecule.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:34 PM on September 27, 2010


I'm surprised nobody here has invoked that awful Disney-produced film used to program girls on what to expect at menarche and why it made them into delicate little flowers. And of course why we'd have to become regular consumers of disposable products (let's hear it for earth-friendly alternatives!). As a kid who spent most of her time climbing trees, running everywhere and generally playing rough with other kids of any gender, I was horrified--suddenly I would be expected to wear pink ruffles, listen to cloying violin music, avoid strenuous activities and too-hot or too-cold showers, and if I didn't, something undefinable and bad would happen. What a load of hooey.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:20 PM on September 27, 2010


is -- is *that* why you're called Ironmouth?!
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


is -- is *that* why you're called Ironmouth?!

God no. I've just had a few sex-friendly girlfriends in my past who sometimes wanted to fool around (or more) during their menstruation.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:31 PM on September 27, 2010


Jesus, this thread is depressing. I thought Metafilter had moved past the Feminism 101 arguments a long time ago, but here we are with accusations of misandry and "women have it so great and take men for all they've got and men have to die in wars and stuff" mens' rights crap.
posted by jokeefe at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


sex...friendly? most humans are sex friendly.

I like the larger points made in this link (read it before), but I wish it was done a little more open-ended instead of saying "it would be like this."

I haven't had a period in over a year due to my current birth control (side-effect that affects few women on it, it's not a feature of this particular pill) and I couldn't be happier. Don't miss it one bit. What a lot of time wasted on cramps and buying expensive products and remembering to bring them with you everywhere.
posted by agregoli at 5:42 PM on September 27, 2010


And right on, jokeefe.
posted by agregoli at 5:43 PM on September 27, 2010


"And if men had periods, we'd have discussions like this one much more frequently."

FWIW there are 467 posts tagged with "women", 130 posts tagged with "men". Sixty are tagged with both.
posted by vapidave at 6:58 PM on September 27, 2010


here we are with accusations of misandry

Very few people are saying that. We will never have a MetaFilter that doesn't have some people talking about things we don't like. If people haven't noticed, this thread is now being disucssed in MetaTalk so discussions about MeFi generally might be better off there.
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 PM on September 27, 2010


here we are with accusations of misandry

Very few people are saying that. We will never have a MetaFilter that doesn't have some people talking about things we don't like.


Well, in fairness, there's been a number of comment deletions already, from what I can tell. And my frustration could have perhaps been phrased more productively, but it's irritation, mostly, at seeing some of those comments pre-deletion and wishing that they were more, um, productive too. Especially with reference to the long and thoughtful threads regarding sexism, etc., that we've had in the past.
posted by jokeefe at 7:57 PM on September 27, 2010


We've removed two comments from this thread, one of which [basically "this thread sucks"] is currently being discussed in MeTa. Which leaves one comment deleted that was, yeah, annoying. And yeah I wish people weren't hollering at each other in this thread either.
posted by jessamyn at 8:02 PM on September 27, 2010


here we are with accusations of misandry and "women have it so great and take men for all they've got and men have to die in wars and stuff" mens' rights crap.

Well, I wasn't bringing up men dying in wars, but if there's any example of misandry that I'm fine with people bringing up in any gender discussion, it's that. Just like I'm fine with people bringing up rape as an example of misogyny. Those are pretty much the worst things I know of that are specifically targeted at men and women, respectively. So, if a free-wheeling gender discussion is happening on the internet, don't be surprised if they get brought up.

Who was saying "women have it so great"? Not me.
posted by John Cohen at 8:34 PM on September 27, 2010


Seriously, you are exactly the reason why guys get told to shut the fuck up by women. On this topic, for the future, learn a lot or shut the fuck up.
To be fair, the essay linked in the OP is exactly the reason why girls get told to shut the fuck up by men. They might actually both be right.
posted by planet at 8:36 PM on September 27, 2010


Which leaves one comment deleted that was, yeah, annoying.

But the deletion wasn't ideological at all! It had nothing to do with the mods' views on gender!
posted by John Cohen at 8:40 PM on September 27, 2010


But the deletion wasn't ideological at all! It had nothing to do with the mods' views on gender!

If you are trying to say something, please say it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:44 PM on September 27, 2010


Actually, forget I said that. If you are trying to say something go to MetaTalk which is an appropriate place to critique the mods' views on gender.
posted by jessamyn at 8:45 PM on September 27, 2010


If you are trying to say something, please say it.

I see the comment that was deleted because it's still in an italicized quote of someone else's comment. Of all the over-the-top statements about gender in this thread, why was that one deleted? The reason would appear to be that it took an unpopular perspective on gender. Maybe I'm wrong -- I'm not seeing the whole comment, so maybe there was something offensive that wasn't quoted -- but that's what it looks like.
posted by John Cohen at 10:13 PM on September 27, 2010


"Well, I wasn't bringing up men dying in wars, but if there's any example of misandry that I'm fine with people bringing up in any gender discussion, it's that. Just like I'm fine with people bringing up rape as an example of misogyny."

Dude, because going to war and getting killed is totally equivalent with getting raped, like people don't choose to be in the army, and there're reams of literature about how totally awesome and noble it is to get raped.

Especially since there are many women who don't want to be protected from dying in wars, but pretty much all of them want to be protected from being raped.

"I see the comment that was deleted because it's still in an italicized quote of someone else's comment. Of all the over-the-top statements about gender in this thread, why was that one deleted? The reason would appear to be that it took an unpopular perspective on gender. Maybe I'm wrong -- I'm not seeing the whole comment, so maybe there was something offensive that wasn't quoted -- but that's what it looks like."

Hey, as a side note: I flagged my comment quoting Coyote's as a derail immediately after posting and seeing that his comment was gone. I realize that my bad behavior was flagging, writing a fairly nasty comment, previewing, then posting, instead of waiting that extra minute to give the human mods a chance to react to my incandescent pique, but there it is.
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the essay linked in the OP is exactly the reason why girls get told to shut the fuck up by men.

No -- the reason the essay linked in the OP prompts men to tell women to "shut the fuck up" is because the essay points out a double-standard which benefits men, and some men don't like that. The reason men get told to "shut the fuck up" by women is because those particular men are trying to tell women what it's like to be a woman, and -- in the immortal words of lots of Maury Povich guests - "bitch, you don't know my life."

Those are two very different things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 PM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


And by the way, characterizing the comment I quoted as merely "unpopular" is incredibly disingenuous. It was offensively stupid. It was unpopular like 19th Century views on race are unpopular.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, forget I said that. If you are trying to say something go to MetaTalk which is an appropriate place to critique the mods' views on gender
posted by jessamyn at 8:45 PM on September 27.


Cortex closed the thread (at the opener's request) at 8:07 PM.

Seriously for a second, I would like everyone in this thread to imagine your reaction if someone posted an FPP saying something substantially similar with the genders reversed. If it managed to stay open for more than five minutes, We'd have another good ol' 500 post lynching party.

And if anyone read that and thought, "But you couldn't reverse it and still have the same power dynamics", congrats, you've nailed the real problem on the head - That counts as an opinion (albeit a popular one) rather than fact.

Now, that doesn't mean a divisive topic can't lead to interesting discussion... But they don't end with a round of Kumba-ya.
posted by pla at 3:42 AM on September 28, 2010


pla, the power dynamics are the whole point of the article. It's not hidden or secret, that's what the thought experiment is about: revealing the imbalance of the cultural narrative in favor of men.

Also, if you flip the genders, then you get the actual situation "if women could menstruate" but none of the conclusions "menstruation would not be taboo, it would be celebrated, etc." So go ahead and flip the genders, it only proves her point.
posted by Danila at 8:01 AM on September 28, 2010


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