It’s hard for me to consider a penis in my mouth as “impersonal.”
April 6, 2016 5:41 PM   Subscribe

It’s a “blow job” because it’s work: How guys push women to make oral sex as common as shaking hands
How oral sex became a teen's workaround, a path to popularity -- but rarely the road to reciprocated pleasure
posted by andoatnp (145 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite


 
Performing oral sex could make girls feel like the more active partner in an encounter. By contrast, they described cunnilingus and intercourse as passive, like something that was being done to them, leaving them vulnerable. Those empowered feelings about fellatio, though, coexisted with their opposites: a lack of control, pressure to comply, the unspoken threat of danger.

Wow, my whole sex life so far summed up in just a few sentences. Love to give because it makes me feel powerful and sexy, hate to receive or have PIV sex because it makes me feel vulnerable and sad. Explains a lot about the (largely negative) dynamics of past relationships. Also kind of hurts a little, too.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:51 PM on April 6, 2016 [33 favorites]


“It’s always the same unspoken sequence,” she said. “You make out, then he feels you up, then you give him head, and that’s it. I think girls aren’t taught to express their wants. We’re these docile creatures that just learn to please.”

“Wait a minute,” I countered. “Didn’t you just tell me about all the strong women role models in your family, about how you were loud and have a big personality and didn’t take shit?”

“I know,” she said. “I think I didn’t realize . . .” She paused, trying to reconcile the contradiction. “I guess no one ever told me that the strong female image also applies to sex.”


I'm literally in tears. Angry, sad, frustrated, wanna-punch-something tears.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:58 PM on April 6, 2016 [55 favorites]


One health educator was quoted as saying, “‘Do you spit or do you swallow?’ is a typical seventh-grade question.”

Teen Boys Losing Virginity Earlier and Earlier, Report Teen Boys

There is so much sad and wrong in this article. The girl who had to walk home in the winter . . . Jesus, a girl in Wisconsin froze to death this winter, leaving a party by herself.

I hate, hate the politicization of oral sex.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:04 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is so disturbing. What an article.

What, though, did “improving a relationship” mean exactly, especially since so many also told me that oral sex, at least where fellatio was concerned, was a way to emotionally distance themselves from their partners, protect against the overinvestment they feared would come with intercourse. For years, psychologists have warned that girls learn to suppress their own feelings in order to avoid conflict, to preserve the peace in friendships and romantic partnerships. Was performing fellatio another version of that? Whether they hoped to attract a boy’s interest, sustain it, or placate him, it seemed their partner’s happiness was their main concern. Boys, incidentally, far and away, said that the number one reason they engaged in oral sex was for physical pleasure.
posted by agregoli at 6:07 PM on April 6, 2016


SADDLE UP AND RIDE HIS FACE.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:23 PM on April 6, 2016 [76 favorites]


I know it's not that simple when you're a teenage girl...but seriously. RIDE THAT FACE.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:24 PM on April 6, 2016 [34 favorites]


Her book has been getting a lot of attention, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

SADDLE UP AND RIDE HIS FACE.
posted by fluffy battle kitten


Epony-something-or-other.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:30 PM on April 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


I know it's not that simple when you're a teenage girl...but seriously. RIDE THAT FACE.

This was a live issue for me at the time, and as I recall, my feeling was oh my GOD I would rather DIE I want to go away and live in the woods with a mask and a sword and a wolf and never touch a man forever and ever and
posted by Countess Elena at 6:31 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know it's not that simple when you're a teenage girl...but seriously. RIDE THAT FACE.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:24 PM on April 6 [+] [!]


That comment + that username in image form = greatest t-shirt ever.

And yeah, that's a hard article to read. Glad I did, just - deeply saddening.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:34 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've seen this phenomenon since I was a kid and been consistently confused by the construction of men's pleasure as direct, and women's pleasure as the opportunity to please men.

Also, the idea that oral sex isn't "sex" is incredibly heterosexist.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:46 PM on April 6, 2016 [42 favorites]


I'm still shocked by the number of guys who "don't do oral" or women who don't demand similar frequency. Actual WTF. Because as long as I have a face, you my partner will have a place to sit.
posted by a halcyon day at 6:46 PM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I know it's not that simple when you're a teenage girl...but seriously. RIDE THAT FACE.

Alternately, boys: learn to use your goddamn hands.

(And wash them first.)
posted by Lyn Never at 6:46 PM on April 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


“a girl will give a guy a blow job at the end of the night because she doesn’t want to have sex with him and he expects to be satisfied. So if I want him to leave and I don’t want anything to happen . . .”

Jesus.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:48 PM on April 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


Look. I know there's a lot of body politics involved and it's very personal for everyone. When I was younger it finally occurred to me that if a dude thought it was okay/good times/fun to jam his junk in my face that I could flip the script and do the same.

RIDE THAT FACE 2016.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:48 PM on April 6, 2016 [77 favorites]


It used to be porn in the woods, now you're only ever 4 seconds away from the Infinite Porn Archive. The internet generation are going to have very bizarre expectations about sex.
posted by adept256 at 6:56 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


It seems like a modern variation of the late 50's early 60's model (I am told) where at the end of the night the woman would provide a hand job because, of course, men have their needs. But no sex for her because she's a nice girl.

New manifesto: Do what you want, get what you want. And active consent all the way.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:57 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Counterpoint: If you're with a guy whom you're comfortable with and whom you feel ready to do things with, RIDE THAT FACE. Give some, get some, everyone goes home happy and not knocked up.

If you're with a guy who's shoving your shoulders down to his groin (whether literally or metaphorically) and you'd really rather not be down there at all, DO NOT RIDE THAT FACE. Keep your panties on until you find someone else with better expectations.

Learning the difference between the two is left as an exercise for the teenage reader.
posted by delfin at 7:00 PM on April 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


Also. I wanna talk about RIDE THAT FACE'S running mate, PEGGING.

Dear boys, you want anal from your girl? You're receiving first.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:01 PM on April 6, 2016 [94 favorites]


*reference to playing catch*
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 7:02 PM on April 6, 2016


Delfin, absolutely. I meant RIDE THAT FACE in a consensual way.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:02 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, I am about two generations prior to "the internet generation" when it was just as rmd1023 described it, and when I turned just old enough to go to a "dirty movie theater" with my honest ID, the porn phenomenon was "Deep Throat" which glorified blow jobs to an incredible degree and pushed some very unrealistic expectations on girls (and also boys, but that's a whole 'nother thing).
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:04 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


fluffy: Okay, I must be weird or something, but for as long as I can remember, I have loved going down on a woman and sucking pussy. I like a bj, but prefer to go down. I even like my face being ridden (shocking I know!)
posted by marienbad at 7:04 PM on April 6, 2016


True story: first truly formative experience I had after being kidnapped by Americans was the eight year old boy down the street getting me into his tree house to try to convince me that sucking his dick would make me a real American, like the Dukes of Hazzard (because, you know, obviously, two hunky dudes can't ride around in a bad ass muscle car named the General Lee without getting a little horny for each other now and then, even if they're siblings). I was almost six, barely spoke English, and desperately wanted to be a real American, like The Dukes of Hazzard. It's never really seemed like there's a lot of upside in giving oral sex to dudes, but I have known women who swore they enjoyed doing it and really seemed to, and telling them they were just brainwashed doesn't seem like the kind of thing a person should tell another person when it comes to sex. The idea that blow jobs are becoming some kind of lifestyle thing among kids with all these troubling signs of adult interference/political influence on their sexual development and expression is sad and disappointing, but not surprising when you consider the culture. My early experiences were in the 80s, so little boys have been trying to talk other people into putting their penises in their mouths since at least then, though maybe they didn't have virginity pledges hovering in the background making that argument easier for them.

Thanks for this article. Sexuality's complicated. Not looking forward to my kids reaching dating age when there's so much weirdness, confusion, and nasty politics around dating and sex.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:07 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Empress is announcing her intention to ride into battle along with the fluffy battle kitten under the RIDE THAT FACE banner.

Issuing the disclaimer that I was really, really fucking lucky and that I am thanking Aphrodite and Ishtar and Venus and Eros and basically every love god that ever was that I worked out this way, but I have never had a problem with expecting reciprocal pleasure, and speaking up if I didn't get it. My very first sexual experience I didn't have to ask for it, the dude just went on down south at some point and I was all, "well, isn't THIS nifty." I wasn't pressured to go down on the guy unless I wanted to, and I got curious enough that I played around with hands and then mouth and he was reacting quite emphatically, and I thought "well, THIS is ALSO kinda nifty." But yeah - my first exposure to oral sex was him going down on me, which set the pattern. And THANK ALL THE POWERS that it shook down that way. Because sexual pleasure is awesome and everyone deserves to have it (as they define it, of course, even if they define it by its absence).

Years ago, I was taken aside by a woman at a party who told me she had been conducting an informal poll among all women she met - when a man was about to go down on you, what was the first thought to flash through your mind? She revealed that just about everyone had admitted to a brief worry about how they smelled or tasted. I revealed, though, that the moment that it's clear a man is about to go down on me, the exact thought that flashes through my mind is something like, "YEAH, baby!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:12 PM on April 6, 2016 [41 favorites]


*reference to playing catch*
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers


I suggest that actually the fingers (and a good deal of lube) are the first steps to playing catch. Unless you count analingus as the first step, in which case GAME ON.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:15 PM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


fluffy: Okay, I must be weird or something, but for as long as I can remember, I have loved going down on a woman and sucking pussy. I like a bj, but prefer to go down. I even like my face being ridden (shocking I know!)

You're not weird.
posted by clockzero at 7:16 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Counterpoint: Against the Cult of Cunnilingus.

It's okay not to enjoy the face-ride. Not speaking personally here, but it's often presented as proof of a hetero man's GGGness/feminism/coolness/down-for-whateverness. Like the "Sensitive New Age Guy" archetype, where actual skill is rare and he wants extra credit for just smooshing his face around. And IME, the pressure to enjoy being gone down on is just mildly worse than the pressure I've felt over the years to give blowjobs when I didn't really want to. I don't enjoy performing.

Because I am extraordinarily lucky and I worry more about fragile masculinity and egos than about violent retaliation. I realize this is a "leaves in the pool" type of problem, but it's valid.
posted by witchen at 7:16 PM on April 6, 2016 [40 favorites]


Thinking back on high school, and this is going to sound like I'm bragging about being super enlightened (I was a teenage boy--IQ of about 3 on a good day, emotional intelligence of minus umpty billion), but: I definitely remember going down on girls way more than girls ever went down on me. (Boys were more, uh, equal opportunity). I don't know how common that was, but if I recall some conversations with friends accurately, it wasn't uncommon.

Twenty years and it turns into this... ick.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:16 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ride into battle with this song: You Suck.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:17 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I meant RIDE THAT FACE in a consensual way.

I didn't like this phrase at first because I read "consensual" as another way of saying "consent."

Not that I don't believe in consent. I just think it's a pretty low standard.

I was re-reading the word consensual, though, and it's growing on me.

Con-sensual.

Sensual *together*.

Yeah. That's where I'm aiming.
posted by wildblueyonder at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know it's meant well, and it's meant as a stand-in for really any kind of non-reciprocally-pleasurable sex act a woman can receive from a man, but I'm one of those outliers who don't like receiving oral sex (like, the physical sensations are just not on the same level as the forms of stimulation I prefer) and whenever people make cunnilingus into THE empowered strong female sex act etc. I feel a little excluded :(
posted by airmail at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2016 [34 favorites]


everyone had admitted to a brief worry about how they smelled or tasted
...which is why I have long wondered why the Best Selling Sex Aids in the World are NOT chocolate, or bacon, or pizza flavored.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:20 PM on April 6, 2016


a halcyon day: Because as long as I have a face, my partner will have a place to sit.

A modern riff on Archimedes: Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.
posted by mochapickle at 7:21 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


The boys referenced in this article need to read She Comes First.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 7:21 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sort-of-related: posted by Going To Maine at 7:22 PM on April 6, 2016


airmail: you don't have to like the same things as other people. You can rock your own empowerment.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:26 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ugh. And another thing: the dismissal of women/vagina-havers who don't love receiving oral sex because they are "insecure." Where to even start with that one.
posted by witchen at 7:26 PM on April 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


Like the "Sensitive New Age Guy" archetype, where actual skill is rare and he wants extra credit for just smooshing his face around.

Yeah, there are few things more tiresome than a grudging, incompetent (and won't take instruction because what worked on that other chick should work on you too), "oh god I am doing you such a big fucking favor, aren't I great?" session of pussy-eating. Extra annoyance points when it's with a guy who has confused porn with IRL to the point that he thinks women typically have orgasms 2.8 minutes after a cold start.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:29 PM on April 6, 2016 [35 favorites]


Twenty more bonus points if he has unshaven chin stubble and then wonders why you're flinching rather than moaning because you weren't aware your vulva was going to be belt-sanded today.
posted by delfin at 7:31 PM on April 6, 2016 [64 favorites]


I'm sorry, Douglas Adams, but the "answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything" is NOT 42, it's 69.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:32 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


And on posting, I realize that I had to make the disclaimer about not enjoying receiving oral because of the physical sensations etc. because I was worried that people would accuse me of being neurotic or insecure. Man, I just want to have harmless preferences without all these societal pressures!
posted by airmail at 7:33 PM on April 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


incompetent (and won't take instruction because what worked on that other chick should work on you too)

I have never understood sex partners of any gender who won't take instruction. I mean yeah I get that it comes back to that "men are subjects, women are objects" thing but seriously. How do you not want to know what your partner likes?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:34 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


69 is not pizza. When it's good, it's very good; when it's bad, it's FUCKING AWFUL.
posted by delfin at 7:36 PM on April 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


I have never understood sex partners of any gender who won't take instruction. I mean yeah I get that it comes back to that "men are subjects, women are objects" thing but seriously. How do you not want to know what your partner likes?

Ask vs. Guess culture, sort of. Or perceiving requests and preferences as criticism or rejection?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:37 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Man, I just want to have harmless preferences without all these societal pressures!

I am with you. I wanted to disclaim about ableist assumptions about jaw strength (as someone with a hinky jaw, who has dated a number of people with unpredictable jaws), but then my demand for manual dexterity is also ableist.

Here is my slogan: GETTING OTHER PEOPLE OFF IS AWESOME AND HOT AND YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO IT HOWEVER WORKS FOR YOU AND THEM. NOT BOTHERING TO EVEN TRY/CARE MAKES YOU A HORRIBLE PERSON WHO SHOULD BE SHUNNED.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:38 PM on April 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


I don't know where to start. I am assuming this is not actually a media frenzy, but a shift in the significance oral sex has in the context of heterosexual relationships.

It would be a shift. In the 60's/70's it was different, at least in my circle of friends and lovers. Oral sex only occurred in the context of a mutual love/lust affair, which included intercourse. Mutual satisfaction was assumed...or at least attempted. Oral sex was part of making love, not something different. It happened either in that first session or sometimes a little later, because it was perceived as especially intimate. JUST oral sex? Very strange.

So this was the hippie 60's/70's I'm talking about. As far as ladies giving gentlemen complimentary hand jobs in the 50's...well, I'm not that old, and I'm not entirely convinced that this was a regular practice.
posted by kozad at 7:38 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


If I had not been more paranoid about guys in general to the point of not wanting to really even date at that age, I could totally see being in that frame of mind. Because if you've decided to go through with sex to please someone else, and have zero confidence the other person is either willing or even capable of reciprocating in a way you'll enjoy, it makes sense to do the thing that takes the least time and leaves you the least vulnerable. You get credit for doing sex without having to get naked with someone you don't really trust.

Teen girls having low expectations of teen boys being good at giving or willing to put their needs first is pretty logical in lots of places. Sad but logical. To the point where "ride that face" just sounds like something else you might be expected to do, whether he's any good at it or you really want to. So that's not what I'd tell a teen girl.

I probably wouldn't tell teen girls anything. Teen boys, I'm not sure what to tell them. Maybe if you're not ready to give, you ain't ready to receive either and by the way, girls are all different and have more complicated stuff so don't think watching porn is going to help you. Better follow her lead, let her tell you what to do and go from there.
posted by emjaybee at 7:46 PM on April 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


While we're going into detail here, I think it's necessary to point out that being a guy who is being gone down on also isn't necessarily an Instant Ticket To Ultimate Physical Guy Bliss because - I would submit, perhaps controversially - oral sex delivered by someone who isn't actually that into or good at what they are doing can be kind of painful and unpleasant regardless of who is going down and who is being gone down on.

In the case of a guy recipient, teeth, for example, are capable of being a thing. A thing that you ideally want to make sure is absolutely not a thing. If possible. Ow. But it isn't just teeth.

Without communication, mutual respect, boundary setting, laughter, consent, all of the Good Stuff, it's best not to bother. And part of the Good Stuff is feeling able to say 'thanks, enough' and stop at any time. As any adult knows.

So much that is horrible in the OP, including the unpleasant power dynamics thing where young girls are feeling required to pretend they are happy to give bad blow jobs to young boys feeling required to pretend to enjoy them. No-one wins.

MOAR SEX EDUCATION REQUIRED.
posted by motty at 7:47 PM on April 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


Look. A big part of the problems the younger folk are facing is directly related to bullshit abstinence only sex ed, no sex ed, just generally super lackadaisical sex ed, and chastity promises/virginity oaths/etc.,

The young people desperately need some kind of education that is teaching them consent and teaching them ways to get off alone and with each other that don't lead to horrible bad no good situations. Younger generations have come up with their own ways around so called virginity and it's pretty much gone down a path to a bunch of younger people getting STIs and/or pregnant.

We have to do better by our young people. I don't care if it makes people uncomfortable...WE HAVE TO DO BETTER.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:47 PM on April 6, 2016 [34 favorites]


Were evolution more than just a theory, semen would taste like a bar of Lindt dark chocolate...
posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:52 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Many, many thoughts about this article but also a sort of sense of frustrated rage at the blithe privilege of these men who shove human mouths, full of teeth, into their groins. They don't even consider for one split second that the reaction could be a sharp bite rather than excited licking.

I had one guy make a move like that, when I was first verturing into sexual relationships, and I smacked his hands away and barked, "don't fucking do that!" I'm sure he thought I was a bitch, but I wish all young women getting coerced this way could find their inner bitches as well.

The degree to which we socialize women to (sometimes even unthinkingly) please men is toxic.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:53 PM on April 6, 2016 [27 favorites]


Were evolution more than just a theory, semen would taste like a bar of Lindt dark chocolate...

I'm afraid to burst your bubble, but such a mutation would involve a lot fewer babies being made, and the gene responsible would not see a second generation.

Unless you think Lindt dark chocolate is terrible...
posted by pwnguin at 7:55 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry, Douglas Adams, but the "answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything" is NOT 42, it's 69.

damn, I know I should have some sort of snappy joke for this
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:57 PM on April 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


Freshman year at NYU. I'm making out with a boy I met in the laundry room of my dorm. He, uh, manually stimulates me to completion. We make out more. He says, "I have an erection" and pointed to it. "Oh," I said. We made out some more and I eventually went back to my room.

At the time, I was kind of embarrassed--it wasn't me being a dick or striking a blow (or non blow for women everywhere), I just didn't know what to do because I'd never done it.
posted by millipede at 8:01 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't want to diminish the very real and very awful sexism/rape culture issues being exposed. But, these articles always seem to include an implicit premise that giving a blowjob is a terrible thing that can't possibly be enjoyable for the giver. I'm a gay man; I gave my first BJ when I was 13 and it was definitely sexually exciting and rewarding for me even though it wasn't reciprocated. I know the dynamics of teenage hetero relationships are very different, but I assume some girls feel the same way. Giving head isn't wrong or gross, and there should be no shame in enjoying it. What's gross is being pressured into it, whether that's from explicit demands or implicit cultural expectations.

Ideally we can teach the concept of enthusiastic consent without inadvertently suggesting that certain sex acts aren't worthy of that enthusiasm.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:06 PM on April 6, 2016 [23 favorites]


So is it weird that I vastly prefer performing cunnilingus and don't really enjoy receiving fellatio? I never really thought about it, but I guess that's the privilege talking.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:10 PM on April 6, 2016


When was a kid my bedroom doubled as my parents' library and amongst the historical biographies and old Fortran references there was a well worn original edition of The Joy of Sex on the top shelf. I think my parents left it there to forestall any awkward conversation that would naturally have come up around puberty. Suffice to say I read the damn thing cover to cover over the course of a few summer days between the 6th and 7th grades. Looking back, it was a pretty good way to learn about such things without annoyances like weird adults/older high school kids foisting their personal sexual maladjustments on you, or having to talk to your mother about boners.
posted by dudemanlives at 8:14 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Another theme song candidate for this thread - a booty house track that deviates from the usual misogyny and demands reciprocation!
posted by p3t3 at 8:14 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


these articles always seem to include an implicit premise that giving a blowjob is a terrible thing that can't possibly be enjoyable for the giver

The young women involved referred to it as "nothing" and a thing you do so you can safely leave.

As much as I wish more women could groove on the femdom aspects of blowjobs, most women seem to be doing them to keep from getting hurt or having someone be mad at them, and do not get off in return. That is terrible. It is not enjoyable for the giver.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:15 PM on April 6, 2016 [35 favorites]


Oh lord, I wish I liked giving head. I have done it a handful of times in my marriage/courtship phase because I feel that is what you are supposed to do. Do I find my partner's junk dreadful? God no. But I've been conditioned to feel that you go down on them and hope to god you get something like an orgasm in return when you Do the Thing.

I've given beejs to my past boyfriends, never enjoying it, even though I knew I'd never get it back. Oral sex for the most part, in my life, is that moment you are tipping over the container of maple syrup on your pancakes and it only...drips...drips...drips out. There might be some goodness there but golly, by that time I am sad.
posted by Kitteh at 8:20 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Like the "Sensitive New Age Guy" archetype, where actual skill is rare and he wants extra credit for just smooshing his face around. And IME, the pressure to enjoy being gone down on is just mildly worse than the pressure I've felt over the years to give blowjobs when I didn't really want to"

I'm sorry you have had bad experiences in this regard, but the last woman I went down on said "oh my god, babe, you suck pussy like a pro," after she had come on me for the third time. I laughed, and then she laughed, and then we had some great sex.
posted by marienbad at 8:32 PM on April 6, 2016


At the risk of being an old woman shouting at clouds- whatever happened to sensuality? Like touching someplace besides the bathing suit area before you do the ugly bumping? Is it not a thing anymore? Ever?
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 8:34 PM on April 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm sorry you have had bad experiences in this regard, but the last woman I went down on said "oh my god, babe, you suck pussy like a pro," after she had come on me for the third time.

*rolls eyes*
posted by lalex at 8:40 PM on April 6, 2016 [129 favorites]


but the last woman I went down on said "oh my god, babe, you suck pussy like a pro," after she had come on me for the third time. I laughed, and then she laughed, and then we had some great sex.

wow what a sensitive new age guy
posted by beerperson at 8:40 PM on April 6, 2016 [56 favorites]


Cool story, bro.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:43 PM on April 6, 2016 [54 favorites]


wow, Crone Island attacks in threes!

*applause*
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:44 PM on April 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


marienbad, I had to check your profile to see about gender. I was prepared to say, if you were a lady-type, "HOORAY! Of course! Hell yes!"

But if you were a man, well. I don't want to make you paranoid, but some women fake their pleasure. Some don't! But don't get too comfortable.
posted by witchen at 8:45 PM on April 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


While we're going into detail here, I think it's necessary to point out that being a guy who is being gone down on also isn't necessarily an Instant Ticket To Ultimate Physical Guy Bliss.

Yeah I was gonna say I think for guys too there's this assumption that a BJ is definitely what you want which - a lot of the time not really but you don't want to make anyone feel bad about it.
posted by atoxyl at 8:47 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Of all the threads to get braggy about your sex skills in, the one about how teenage girls feel pressured into oral sex and have these really negative experiences including assaults was probably a poor choice.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:49 PM on April 6, 2016 [148 favorites]


Obvs just speaking for myself here.

(let's uh, try not to get too distracted by that one comment there was some interesting stuff here)
posted by atoxyl at 8:49 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


yup, boys get told YOU MUST WANT BLOWJOBS and girls get told YOU MUST GIVE BLOWJOBS and I truly wonder how many of the examples in this article (and in real life) are going "ehhh could we just kiss more maybe" on both sides.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:51 PM on April 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


Is this really the right thread for men to leave comments telling us that they're different--that they like to give oral sex and are good at it, besides?

Is your (professed) sexual prowess really what this thread is about?

Because honestly, this seems like another case of making it all about you--and more nastily, of making sex something you use to increase/defend your social status.

This is not directed at only one person (although there was a straw that broke the camel's back). It's to any man who has commented, or is thinking about commenting, along these lines.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:53 PM on April 6, 2016 [50 favorites]


after reviewing this thread I'm putting listen to your sex partner/speak up to your sex partner 2016 up for the nomination

Also, thanks to witchen upthread for sharing the anti-cunnilingus cult article. I hadn't realized it was so common for women not to enjoy receiving oral. I like to think I'd be capable of listening the fuck up about that in the future without reading that, but it was still good information to have.
posted by Gymnopedist at 8:53 PM on April 6, 2016


Dear boys, you want anal from your girl? You're receiving first.

I try to resist getting all "BUT THE CHILDRENZ" about the sexual practices of youth. But there are problems, and have been at least since my youth in the 80s. W/r/t the above point, I was brought up short recently by a piece I can't be bothered to run down right now; it was a typically hysteric "hookup culture" piece in the NYT, but it made the point that asking girls to participate in anal sex was very much (for boys) about the ability to let other boys know they had achieved "fifth base" than it was either about the directly-involved boy's or the girl's pleasure.

Using sexual acts and relationships in games of one-upmanship that has nothing to do with the people directly involved is shitty, no matter the age. That goes here, too.

I recognized a lot of reality in that moment - how many sex acts do people do, not to enjoy and explore them, but to say and let others know they've asserted the ability to do them? To advance their own reputations and make a play for respect among their peers? That's a lousy reason to do anything, let alone intimate acts. This isn't a game, with points and bona fides and achievement levels. It's real people and their lives and feelings.
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on April 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


This is not directed at only one person (although there was a straw that broke the camel's back). It's to any man who has commented, or is thinking about commenting, along these lines.

I truly apologize if my comment came across that way. I was merely recounting my own experience and what I recall amongst some of my peers (male and female) and didn't stop to think that it may have come across the wrong way. I'm sorry.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:58 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Two things.

yup, boys get told YOU MUST WANT BLOWJOBS and girls get told YOU MUST GIVE BLOWJOBS

Boys and girls get socialized into sexuality very differently. Is this oppressive "YOU MUST WANT BLOWJOBS" cultural imperative really a thing? Is it a thing in the same way that girls' experiences often are? I feel skeptical about the commensurability.

Second: again, this thread is about guys pushing women to give oral sex. I think it could be insulting to respond to those voices by diverting attention partially to the ostensible plight of men who do not like blowjobs.
posted by clockzero at 9:11 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Theme song candidate.
posted by concrete at 9:11 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think my parents left it there to forestall any awkward conversation that would naturally have come up around puberty

That's what my parents did, too. It worked out well.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:13 PM on April 6, 2016


it made the point that asking girls to participate in anal sex was very much (for boys) about the ability to let other boys know they had achieved "fifth base" than it was either about the directly-involved boy's or the girl's pleasure.

and what makes it so worth bragging about?

it's something you "get" from a girl -- something she gives up that shows just how thoroughly you conquered her.

but if she doesn't want to she's a prude, repressed, not cool.

(fffm, you weren't high up on the list of comments that bothered me, but i do appreciate you thinking about it.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:17 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Second: again, this thread is about guys pushing women to give oral sex. I think it could be insulting to respond to those voices by diverting attention partially to the ostensible plight of men who do not like blowjobs.

I was attempting to point out that the pushing is, in some measure, the result of societal pressure amongst teenagers. (And not just teenagers. e.g. Steak & Blowjob Day). That is not in any way to excuse the behaviour of these men. It was to note that one avenue towards ending the hideous practice of boys pressuring girls for blowjobs is to address that pressure. Not, emphatically and completely not, to move the focus to men.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:19 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


In my 30s I finally realized that handjobs are what I want, and not what i want to settle for. I really love handjobs.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:19 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Once again I just thank god I was such a weird teenage girl that all this is entirely, completely foreign to me. I graduated high school in 2003 and I am dead sure in retrospect that some of my friends were performing oral sex on each other, and I am equally sure that if they'd told me I would have covered my ears and said "LA LA LA GROSS GROSS GROSS LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU GROSSSS".

Now the question is how I can raise my children to be equally maladjusted?
posted by town of cats at 9:19 PM on April 6, 2016 [27 favorites]


I'm curious whether I'm the only one who feels this way: I consider myself to be a pretty sexually enlightened person in general. I've read a lot of sex-positive feminist stuff, I know all about the politics of sex, I was the one who took my friends to Good Vibrations to get their first vibrators in college and calmly talked them through everything, I worked at a publisher of sex guides and feminist erotica.

But... I really have to fight this stuff in my own sex life. Like, it's extremely difficult for me sometimes to not feel intense, debilitating guilt when my guy is horny and I'm not in the mood, or if he gets me off and I don't reciprocate (even though the last five times we had sex were all about him). And really, you don't need to tell me that that's sick and sad and wrong, because I SO know this intellectually! And for the most part I act accordingly, and my sex life is decently satisfying and none of it is coming from my guy who is awesome and pretty much always down for whatever (or nothing). But it's like an almost physical reaction of shame that I can't control. And it amazes me because I really don't know where I got it from - I wasn't raised in a conservative or religious household, I didn't have boyfriends in high school and wasn't under any pressure, I learned most of what I knew about sex from fanfic where everyone was extremely enthusiastic about everyone's orgasm...

I just wonder, because to me these threads always seem full of people talking about what a shame it is for the teenagers in the article, and thank God they know better now as adult women. I suppose I could say those things too, I certainly know better (and did even when I was a teenager), but this stuff is so, so deep and I don't think we fully get rid of it even though we learn better. It is also possible that I and only I have serious problems and need therapy, which is why I'm throwing it out to the group, but... I don't know, am I wrong? (I would be really pleased to learn that I am an outlier in this regard, tbh.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:24 PM on April 6, 2016 [55 favorites]


Now the question is how I can raise my children to be equally maladjusted?

Just be yourself, as they say!
posted by clockzero at 9:24 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been watching this video by Michael Kimmel which is incredibly pertinent especially this bit about gender inequality using oral sex as an example. The whole video should be mandatory viewing, it's current and relevant and quite accessible.
posted by polymodus at 9:26 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


By coincidence, I happened to see this post just after reading Looking for Alaska, which has a scene where a girl starts to give the main character a blow job, they both cutely don't know anything about how it's done so they get tips from a friend, she finishes the blow job, he has a great time, and... nothing. No consideration of any kind of reciprocal pleasure for her, not in this scene or any other. And then she goes on to be treated badly by the main character and the narrative. This, in a young adult novel many actual young adults love.
posted by thetortoise at 9:34 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is this oppressive "YOU MUST WANT BLOWJOBS" cultural imperative really a thing?

Yep. Now I think about it, the reason I don't like them so much in practice is maybe that consent was not really involved most of the first few times it happened to me. It was assumed. And I was supposed to feel grateful, not horrible and violated. And bitten. And I had to pretend to enjoy it and be thankful to avoid coming across as an ungrateful dick.

I know it's far worse for women having it forced on them. And maybe I'm an outlier. And sure, pushing anyone into any kind of sex thing is a bad thing and is wrong.

But forcing a sex act on someone out of some sense of submission is also bad; Obviously forcing a sex act on someone out of some sense of dominance is worse, but neither are good.

Don't force sex acts on people period.

Relevance to original post: of course it is horrible if guys try and force people to go down on them. But I am pretty sure that it often isn't much fun for the recipient either; the idea that people feel obliged to go down on people is likely a horrible thing for all concerned.

And the solution is Proper Consent Mutual Respect Based Sex Education For All.
posted by motty at 9:43 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jesus sucking Christ. I won't say that I was always Saint Boyfriend (mostly due to cluelessness & awkwardness on both sides), but that's such a despicable undertow of entitlement and expectation that those girls have to face. It's heartsickening to read the POV of those who've internalized this enough that they see it as the only path through sexuality & popularity, much less the ones who deal with actually being forced.

Also, I'm wondering about a sample selection effect. The girls Orenstein describes here and in her Fresh Air interview tend to be upper middle class (at least). I think she mentioned talking to some whose SES was somewhat lower, but even so, these are the girls who are willing to talk to a middle-aged white woman about a topic as (formerly) intimate as this. Apologies in advance if I'm about to be clumsily classist. It seems likely that it'd be even worse for other girls who don't have the degree of empowerment, or other boys and girls who don't grow up in a culture with the (at least surface-level) ideals of enlightenment & egalitarianism that these kids got steeped in.
posted by NumberSix at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think it's worth knowing a lot more about the research that she sites in this article before we conclude anything about real changes in behavior, and at least in this article, the author suggests that the girls she interviewed have some new kind of sense of obligation around oral sex that girls of the past presumably did not have. There's a problematic assumption of trend here that even as the author is cautious to jump on, she also participates in.

I also think we're reading a lot into what these girls feel based on this author's perspective. I certainly didn't have clearly articulated and complex things to say about my sexual activities as a teen. Even though I ID'd as queer and feminist as a teen, I also thought that oral sex (on both boys and girls) was a skill to learn and check off - I mean, in many respects it is a valuable skill to practice as a teen, and many teens recognize that having skills in this arena will be useful later in life.

Also, lots and lots of women like giving blow jobs and I don't know if she interviewed any girls who did and excluded their stories, or if she genuinely never met a teen who enjoyed it. But it is simplistic and wrong to always frame blowjobs as just about male pleasure or control.

Also, if you don't want to have intercourse, but do want to have a sexual relationship with your boyfriend, oral sex is a pretty rational choice for a girl to make.

So while the misogyny and just casual sexism in hetero teen sexual relationships is surely very, very real, and surely exacerbated or in part caused by recent cultural shifts and media imagery, I don't buy into blow job panic. It's problematic to frame so much of teen and young women's sexuality through the lens of male control - women are also actors even within this sexist system.
posted by latkes at 10:11 PM on April 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


Jesus sucking Christ. I won't say that I was always Saint Boyfriend (mostly due to cluelessness & awkwardness on both sides), but that's such a despicable undertow of entitlement and expectation that those girls have to face. It's heartsickening to read the POV of those who've internalized this enough that they see it as the only path through sexuality & popularity, much less the ones who deal with actually being forced.

When you don't see another person as an equal human being, it's much harder to conceptualize them as somebody deserving equal pleasure. It's the same empathy deficit that happens when you "otherize" anyone for any reason. I don't think it has to do with class as much as our culture itself. The upper-middle class people I know are even more on the domination/otherizing spectrum than people from lower classes, naturally I think since they wield a lot more power and are more insulated from consequences. Intelligent, educated people are just better at masking these things, in my experience.

Socially-disconnected hyper-individuality, selfishness, greed, domination, and shallow self-satisfaction as virtues for men (or women who belong to the patriarchy), with women generally as a dehumanized other meant to serve. And that's the status quo people have to go on. It takes work, effort, and courage for people to break out of the status quo, and that's something a lot of people don't want to do, especially if they don't "have" to. It's only made worse since our culture promotes short-range, effortless, selfish hedonism. God forbid someone makes an effort to listen to, accommodate, and make an effort for their partner, or stand up for themselves and demand it likewise without going on the dominance/submission role that's the default here.
posted by gehenna_lion at 10:20 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


The whole "If you want oral sex, you better give oral sex" rhetoric is pretty unsatisfactory.

I don't want oral sex from someone who doesn't enjoy it (or doesn't at least genuinely enjoy giving me pleasure) but only sees it as a means to get something from me. And I hope my partner wouldn't want oral sex given as a means to get reciprocation rather than offered out of a desire to give her pleasure (as well as for my own enjoyment).
posted by straight at 10:27 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm wondering about a sample selection effect. The girls Orenstein describes here and in her Fresh Air interview tend to be upper middle class (at least).

I said this in the last posting about Orenstein, but I think this is a huge limitation of her research. She deliberately chose educated, middle to upper class girls and women, based on the same assumptions you outline.

I do think those assumptions are classist--not in a "you are both terrible human beings and should feel bad" way, but in a "why the hell would you assume that based on literally NOTHING but a hunch and, I guess, stereotypes?" For all we know being poor or working class has some kind of protective effect. I mean, I can come up with equally plausible explanations based on different stereotypes about scrappiness and rejection of middle class mores--which is to say: based on nothing at all. If she wants to know why being "empowered" isn't enough to make a teenaged girl shake off the hands on her shoulders, maybe she should check to see that the so-called empowerment is not itself part of the problem.
posted by looli at 10:29 PM on April 6, 2016 [9 favorites]



Boys and girls get socialized into sexuality very differently. Is this oppressive "YOU MUST WANT BLOWJOBS" cultural imperative really a thing? Is it a thing in the same way that girls' experiences often are? I feel skeptical about the commensurability.

Second: again, this thread is about guys pushing women to give oral sex. I think it could be insulting to respond to those voices by diverting attention partially to the ostensible plight of men who do not like blowjobs.


I was responding to the article/subthread about women who aren't into (the expectations built up around) cunnilingus, and all I really meant was "I hear you (because I can identify with more in that situation than you might think)" not that it's exactly the same thing. Neither plight nor commensurability enter into it I promise. I was kinda locked in on a broad strain of discussion about the gaps between what people want from sex and what they think they should want and what their partner thinks they want - because I thought it was a really good discussion before - and I apologize if that's not where anybody else wanted the thread to go.
posted by atoxyl at 11:00 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder how to teach teenage boys that when it comes to sex, goals or achievements are not the point -- it's not like a sport or a video game where you build up your skills. It's about your relationship with the other person. Having sex with someone binds the two of you together. Even when it's supposedly casual, people's feelings get involved.

Being late bloomers ourselves, we've told our kids that it's a good idea to hold off on dating and sex until they're prepared to take some responsibility for someone else's feelings. (Like, Grade 12 or so, when people start thinking about major decisions regarding their own lives.)

Also: aren't a lot of the teenagers described in this article under the age of consent, making sexual activity highly illegal, with potential for life-altering legal consequences?
posted by russilwvong at 11:01 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Concern-trolling about teenage girls' sexuality is maybe the most reliable book-selling strategy ever. You get prurience and moral superiority all wrapped up in one neat package. I have no idea how to evaluate Orenstein's anecdata, but it varies wildly from the teenage girls I know.

As to the bigger issue, I think this would be a fine principle to teach young people:
if your partner does not enjoy pleasing you, you probably shouldn't be hooking up.

(Yes, there are endless variations of adult kink outside of this guideline, but they require a sophisticated understanding of yourself that is extremely unlikely in high school or college.)
posted by msalt at 11:08 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Whether or not some girls enjoy giving oral sex, I don't know how anyone reading can just brush off stuff like this:
“Sometimes,” she told me, “a girl will give a guy a blow job at the end of the night because she doesn’t want to have sex with him and he expects to be satisfied. So if I want him to leave and I don’t want anything to happen...” She trailed off, leaving me to imagine the rest.
Social pressure is real. Fear of making a guy angry is real. And I would suggest that if you're an adult man, you might not be the foremost expert in what it feels like to be an adolescent girl in these situations.
posted by thetortoise at 11:44 PM on April 6, 2016 [27 favorites]


Like, it's extremely difficult for me sometimes to not feel intense, debilitating guilt when my guy is horny and I'm not in the mood, or if he gets me off and I don't reciprocate (even though the last five times we had sex were all about him). And really, you don't need to tell me that that's sick and sad and wrong, because I SO know this intellectually!

I would tie this to a feeling that erections look... uncomfortable? And so we (women) unconsciously assume that men not only don't want to, but perhaps can't go about their day with one, and there's a lack of education about how men deal with them without getting off, eg. things like the phrase "cold shower" don't mean much, practically speaking. I think this leaves girls/young women with the unspoken assumption that erections require action.
posted by delezzo at 12:41 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


See also: "Is the Penis Dangerous?" which excerpts Christine Halliwell's anthropological work "It's Only a Penis".

"Yet, in Western cultures, we do imagine the penis to be a potentially threatening piece of anatomy. In contrast, Helliwell writes, the vagina is often “conceived of as a delicate, perhaps inevitably damaged and pained inner space.” Accordingly, we have collectively agreed to somehow believe that penises are potentially brutalizing and vaginas easily brutalized. Where do these ideas come from? Well, here’s a clue: the frequency with which penises are represented, literally, as weapons."
posted by delezzo at 12:49 AM on April 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I definitely remember going down on girls way more than girls ever went down on me...I don't know how common that was, but if I recall some conversations with friends accurately, it wasn't uncommon.

It was not uncommon at all when I was a youngster (80’s) from my experience. I have no way of knowing if that was just the people I hung out with or more general. We were not an especially enlightened group though, to say the least.

the author suggests that the girls she interviewed have some new kind of sense of obligation around oral sex that girls of the past presumably did not have.

I wonder. There is a lot of anecdotal reporting of this attitude lately, and while I knew it went on in the past, I certainly didn’t see it then. Maybe I was just oblivious or in the wrong circles. We thought of it as an attitude from the 50’s. The young women I knew would have flat out punched you if you tried to pressure them into something.

I feel like America has turned into one big frat house.
posted by bongo_x at 1:01 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's the problem with this kind of book -- it's easy to find disturbing examples, and that's what get attention and drives sales. Orenstein is more savvy than most, in that she critiques this very phenomenon of moral panic stories ("raimbow parties" being the most extreme example) even as she's doing it.

Whether or not some girls enjoy giving oral sex, I don't know how anyone reading can just brush off stuff like this:
“Sometimes,” she told me, “a girl will give a guy a blow job at the end of the night because she doesn’t want to have sex with him and he expects to be satisfied. So if I want him to leave and I don’t want anything to happen...” She trailed off, leaving me to imagine the rest.
Social pressure is real. Fear of making a guy angry is real.


I don't know why you're implying that I'm brushing coercion and threat of rape off. I'm the father of two teenage girls and worry about these things constantly. But do you think there is any previous decade when social pressure, the fear of making a guy angry or the threat of rape did not exist?

A serious sociological look at sexuality, teenagers and societal changes that may or may not be pathological would be a great book. Maybe this is it, I haven't read it. But I have heard the author on an extended radio show and read many excerpts and articles about it, and I see no attempt at a bigger picture, no neutral description of changes in society, no attempt at data gathering other than personal interviews excerpted based on the author's unspoken criteria.

What I do see and hear is lots of "OMG these kids are terrible and lost, and your daughters are being abused constantly," which may be true. But it seems to fit the moral panic genre a lot more closely than it gives any sign of being a good faith exploration of social change. Identical books were written about beatniks in the 50s, hippies in the 60s, disco and punk rockers in the 70s, etc. etc.
posted by msalt at 1:22 AM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know why you're implying that I'm brushing coercion and threat of rape off.

I'm sorry, I didn't communicate this well. What I'm trying to say is that the situations Orenstein describes here are more complicated and fraught than the issue of whether or not everyone enjoys giving oral sex (which some of the conversation here has centered around), and I'm not inclined to dismiss it as moral panic. I copied that excerpt as an example of something worth addressing at a societal level, something bigger than individual negotiations of desire and reciprocity. Maybe rape culture is a better angle on it than blow jobs, but, either way, I think there's something real there.

I see no attempt at a bigger picture, no neutral description of changes in society, no attempt at data gathering other than personal interviews excerpted based on the author's unspoken criteria.

I haven't read her book either, but I guess I don't see why it has to be a work of social science rather than journalism, nor why, marketing aside, she needs to demonstrate that these are wholly new trends to convince readers that girls struggle with these dilemmas and conflicting expectations. It looks like a similar work to Reviving Ophelia, which wasn't particularly academic or rigorous either, but served as a good snapshot of where some girls were at the time and what the problems they faced were. I may be biased because what she describes here sounds like what I heard from other girls during my own teenage years (some years back now). I want to read the book just because I'm interested in hearing these young women's voices.
posted by thetortoise at 2:00 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Normally the next thing would be the bra comes off. But the bra didn’t come off. Instead, all of a sudden his boxers were off. And then he did this”— she pantomimed the shoulder push. “And I was like, ‘Wait, just because my organs are inside and yours are outside I’m not going to get anything and you expect me to go down on you?’ I was like, ‘We are done. This is not going to happen.’ It was incredibly awkward, though. I had to get him out of my room.”

It's good assertiveness about establishing a lack of consent, but isn't it interesting that she's not refusing to have sex, she's not gatekeeper-ing, she's simply refusing to have bad [to her] sex. Good.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:11 AM on April 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


As a teenager, I remember being very confused by girlfriends who would want to go down on me but not want me to go down on them. It was only years later that it clicked that for them, oral sex was kind of a sex-lite, a way to "placate" a boyfriend with a higher than average sex drive without actually talking about the issue, and that for a lot of women there's still shame in being comfortable with their own sexual feelings, let alone bringing up those desires. Or that they just never liked it with anyone because "that's yucky down there, and ew." It really makes me sad to how deeply culture can fuck with people's lives sometimes, especially those I've considered loved ones.
posted by exact_change at 4:20 AM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


From Preacher.
posted by Paul Slade at 4:26 AM on April 7, 2016


I wonder. There is a lot of anecdotal reporting of this attitude lately, and while I knew it went on in the past, I certainly didn’t see it then. Maybe I was just oblivious or in the wrong circles. We thought of it as an attitude from the 50’s. The young women I knew would have flat out punched you if you tried to pressure them into something.

I haven't read the book yet, but one thing I am hoping it gives at least some attention to is to what extent whether the things and attitudes the young women quoted report are actually new, or just the same as always except now it can be talked about. The last time I was really dating much was in school, college and graduate, and that's enough years out that I don't have an immediate reality check on these kinds of pieces any more. Moreover, this is a book focused on the experiences of young women, so even if I was young today I wouldn't be experiencing or seeing what they are.

I can remember the moral panic articles about the rainbow parties and how silly those seemed and how obviously unrepresentative those stories were compared to the average experience. The excerpts I've seen a lot more measured and fact-based (at least for the group she focuses on), so hopefully it is opening at least a partial window into this subject, even if it isn't the last word.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:36 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like something that's kind of touched on here but not explicitly stated that was a big deal for me in high school is that you can give a blowjob while keeping on all of your clothes, so not only do you get a pat on the head from the patriarchy for being a cool girl who gives blowjobs without asking for anything in return, you also don't open yourself up to any additional judgement about your body because no one's seeing anything they couldn't see before. It gets you coming and going.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:39 AM on April 7, 2016 [30 favorites]


Eponysterical before anyone else (though i didn't know the slang when I chose this username). When i started having sex in 1985, blowjobs weren't on my radar. I think i was taught in a loving relationship by a boyfriend who was enthusiastic and willing, if not that skilled. Years later - 30ish - we had sex again. I'd learned heaps despite 25 of those years in a sexless marriage. He was still using the same approach to oral sex - try and write the alphabet with your tongue.

What i find most appalling in the difference in sexual experience with a 25 year hiatus is that most (#not all men) men now are so selfish and disconnected. One night stands in the 80s were sweeter than they are now. There was a kindness, and mutual care that is gone. Maybe it's because I now belong to the invisible people, middle aged women, but i suspect it's more than that. Catcalling existed 30 years ago, but then it was enthusiastic and complimentary (even if unwelcome). Now it's threatening and derogatory. Online (and i was a very early adopter, i dialled into bulletin boards paying long distance call costs in the mid-late 80s) men were more likely to be somewhat friendly (even if patronising). Equivalent sites now, there is an acceptance of cruel, objectifying and threatening behaviour.

It's not just oral sex, but somehow we have lost so much ground in equality. Somehow, its commonplace and accepted for men to treat women as less than human, as less deserving of respect and mutual give and take. Somehow we have ended up with women workinng towards the same career goals but responsible for the emotional satisfaction of the men in their lives, their partners, their colleagues, and the men don't have to do anything at all. They get to tell us how we are clingy (read: i will not support you emotionally), prudish (your sexual boundaries are not my problem), feminazi (your desire for equal treatment is unreasonable). I am grateful for places like metafilter where i can engage with men who are willing to listen to what women are saying, and for many of the men in my life who do the same, but i am horrified at the space my daughter has inherited - a world where she will have to continually enforce reasonable boundaries because the default masculine position seems to be using women. I don't know how this happened. How did we go backwards?
posted by b33j at 5:47 AM on April 7, 2016 [53 favorites]


these articles always seem to include an implicit premise that giving a blowjob is a terrible thing that can't possibly be enjoyable for the giver

The young women involved referred to it as "nothing" and a thing you do so you can safely leave.


Yeah, I mean, I love giving, it's sometimes more pleasurable to me than having anything done to me, but that is totally not what the article is about. Even I would dislike the experience if I felt I had to do it to end a date. That's the opposite of sexy.

Sadly, my partner does not love receiving as much as I love giving! I was a bit surprised to find this out, but I think the problem is that he is extremely tactile and there's a lot less touching during a blowjob. Often now when we do it, it's because *I* have requested it, not him.

The thing I wish sex ed had covered more than anything: Everyone likes different things!
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:13 AM on April 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


you also don't open yourself up to any additional judgement about your body because no one's seeing anything they couldn't see before

I also suspect that this is a big part of why many teenaged girls don't want oral sex even after the clothes are off -- specifically, they've (we've) been taught to be ashamed of our genitals: how they smell, how they're groomed, even how they're shaped. Hell, just the grooming question is politically and personally fraught.

(Not all of them, of course. I feel like I should say that because of the discussion upthread.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:23 AM on April 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Sometimes offering oral to someone with a vagina, regardless of how much they like it, can be an indictment of your character. It is a sad commentary on how deeply ingrained these notions have become. Women have been forced to feel ashamed of their genitals and their pleasure, and the norms of dominance that they have been taught are natural for men often preclude male dissent. Unless you carry the badge of toxic masculinity sufficiently to defend your status, attempts to be sensitively egalitarian in sexual matters can signal your inadequacy as a man, and subsequently, a sexual or romantic partner.

Two of us used to tease an acquaintance for openly professing his refusal to provide [heterosexual] oral sex. Of course, he expected it from others. Much to our disappointment, it was amongst the shitty aggregate of his masculine display that had made him appear so attractive to some of his partners in the first place.
posted by constantinescharity at 7:04 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


What I'm trying to say is that the situations Orenstein describes here are more complicated and fraught than the issue of whether or not everyone enjoys giving oral sex (which some of the conversation here has centered around)

Yes, this. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that some men here, like latkes, are riding out to the defense of fellatio as if somehow fellatio will go out of style if we don't act quickly, but I am disappointed.

I think the article and the concepts therein are much more layered than women not enjoying giving oral sex (let's consider how hard it might be to enjoy something you feel incredibly obligated to do), or even being physically coerced (let's consider the societal coercion as well.) I imagine many women who don't enjoy obligation blow jobs could or would very much enjoy them in the setting of a mutually enthusiastic and and fully consensual sexual encounter.

Let's also consider the young women under the impression that you can't get STDs from oral sex (thanks a lot, abstinence only sex ed) and the young women who feel intercourse is something they experience passively - that is done to them (ugh, heart-breaking.)

It's toxic for young women to feel obligated to perform sex acts they aren't genuinely enthused about and agreed, it's toxic to train young men that dominance is the priority in human relationships and that getting things out of people is the priority, rather framing sex as a shared experience.

That latter attitude is what leads directly to the MRA mindset that sex is something women have, that men must wrest from them, and that women are vending machines who should provide sex if the correct buttons (dinner, a compliment, the boon of your attention) are pressed. As long our society teaches young people that sex is something men get and deserve, and that women should knuckle under and provide, we are in a world of hurt.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:14 AM on April 7, 2016 [22 favorites]


i am horrified at the space my daughter has inherited - a world where she will have to continually enforce reasonable boundaries because the default masculine position seems to be using women. I don't know how this happened. How did we go backwards?

A mix of neoliberal window-shifting around the universal virtues of "choice" and "individualism", a spike in religious fundamentalism, a well exploited set of schisms in mainstream feminism, and ... while I'm fishing for targets, let's top it off with sudden, dramatic increase in access to porn, paired with a classic overproduction crisis / race to the bottom among producers.

If it makes you feel better (or worse?) I'm pretty sure the first half of the backwards-going in the past few decades has been an entirely intentional, engineered reactionary social project.

(The other half is just the nature of history. Two steps forward, one step back, etc.)
posted by ead at 7:56 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just connected the dots... this is the same Orenstein mentioned in a recent FPP outlining the differences in sex attitudes between North American and Scandinavian teenage girls?

Yeah, scaremongering is not her thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:01 AM on April 7, 2016


This article is really stressing me out.

Does anyone else just sort of prefer to talk about sex and possibilities rather than actually act on any of it? Like... Just sit there with a partner, probably kissing, and just... Talking about what would feel good, how much you want each other, and what be fun to see/do, without going any further? I'm starting to realize that maybe I don't really want to actually have sex even though I definitely experience sexual attraction. I just want to read about it, talk about it, and think about it either by myself or with another person in a safe, loving way, without feeling like we gotta actually get up and do any of it. What does that mean and why does it make me cry? Like how many times now have I really had non consensual sexual with someone just because they wanted to but I really didn't?

Actually now I wish I hadn't read the article at all.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:01 AM on April 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


"Ugh. And another thing: the dismissal of women/vagina-havers who don't love receiving oral sex because they are "insecure." Where to even start with that one."

I am so, so so so so so.... so.... I can't write enough so's--- thankful for women who talk about this and for awareness being generated that many women feel this way and it's NOT because they need to be pressured into liking tongues more. YUCK I don't like tonues on my bits. I don't like the warm, it feels gross. I don't like giving head at all and I don't like receiving it.

I like hands. I have skills with my fingers I know exactly what I like and tongues don't do it.

I am exhausted of how many guys think I need to be cured of my aversion to oral sex because they want something from me. It's not because they want get me off in a hot way or they would ask WHAT I LIKE and get into that with me--- it's because they get off giving oral and they want me to please them by providing them the opportunity. Maybe it makes them feel better about expecting head too. But it's one hundred percent about them and something they want from me and they couch it in this insidious lie that it's just because they care about me and want to help be "get over my insecurity".

Like I think there is also this insidious assumption that if a girl/woman wants to date/cuddle/flirt/be romantic and doesn't actually want to have sex for a long time into the relationship it's because either she's repressed or asexual. There are SO MANY REASONS that a young girl might want to just cuddle or make out for months or years especially in teens. In teen years you know the relationship is likely not going to last and if you have a baby what then? Some teens/women even if they are ok with abortion legally don't want to be forced to have one. Getting pregnant when you aren't ready SUCKS and the idea that accessible abortion makes that fixed is not true for everyone. Birth control options have overwhelmly sucked for many women, and using condoms leaves women vulnerable because a guy can decide to get really pushy about unprotected sex once they are on top of you and there is a point where you are extremely vulnerable.

I also do wonder if a lot of women have to call themselves on the asexual spectrum because they actually want a long term secure relationship before sex, and they might be extremely horny, but have terms that guys don't like so asexual/prude/repressed are the only options women are allowed to take. I don't feel asexual I would be misleading someone if I said I wanted an asexual relationship because I think about sex all the time, I have really kinky fantasies, I like weird sex games- I expect in a serious relationship to have sex at least a few times a week but in terms of dating I feel like I have to say something about asexual to get people back off pushing sex stuff on me.

HERMIONE GRANGER YOU JUST DESCRIBED ME!!!!!!!!! I do like sex after a very very long period of doing exactly what you're talking about, like... months. And many of the ideas I have I just want to think about them and share them and that's enough. While I love making it ok for women to express sexual desire, I feel like the normalization of constant intense sexual desire from women as the epitome of sexual health really has become harmful (and it's been harnessed by men and porn all to wind up working against women's interest to just want what they want and not more). Sometimes I just want to cuddle. Sometimes after a few hours of dry humping I'm horny enough for sex. But I don't like the feeling that if you cuddle- you have to have sex. I learned for a time to just accept sex was a thing you had to do for men to get the good stuff, the intimacy, talking about feelings, fantasies, holding each other.

I gave a few blow jobs to men only after a lot of pressuring, and one guy promised he wouldn't come in my mouth and then instead grabbed my head and held it there. The rage, I just... I don't think I have ever been so enraged even though there have probably been worse things. I will say, the first few guys I dated had no problem knowing I didn't have any desire to have sex with them but thought I should give them sex inexchange for their company and intimacy. So much pressure and out right abuse.

I remember later the first guy I had sex with who I had finally just stopped arguing and just assumed if I like guy enough to want to flirt or hang out I should offer sex to be polite. We started having sex and he said "I don't think you want to do this". And I bawled, no one had ever cared. Then he told all my new friends how shitty it was of me to offer sex when I didn't want to and everyone told me how rude I was.

You really can't win. Sorry for the ramble--- others sharing their voices have really helped me so much, to know Im not alone- life changing in huge ways, I hope if my experiences help others- well, it's out there.
posted by xarnop at 8:15 AM on April 7, 2016 [29 favorites]


I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that some men here, like latkes, are riding out to the defense of fellatio as if somehow fellatio will go out of style if we don't act quickly, but I am disappointed.

I'm not a man.

I'm a butch dyke, but I was once a teenage girl who gave head to dudes at times. I also had sex with other girls, masturbated, had intercourse with boys, had three ways, etc. These experiences varied widely from fun to awkward, uncomfortable and boring. They rarely if ever were as sexually satisfying as my adult sexual experiences have been, but nor were they traumatic or abusive. I was a teenager and inexperienced, so a lot of these experiences were just learning how to be intimate, how the mechanics of sex worked, how the emotional impact of sex worked, etc. Some I felt weird about afterwards, some I didn't.

I assume today's teen girls are complicated and three dimensional and may have a wide variety of feelings or lack of feelings about oral sex on men that cannot be easily generalized to fit this particular author's rather narrow thesis. I read a quote from a girl saying that blow jobs are "just nothing", and I have no idea what that means to her, but I assume that it might mean exactly what she says - to her. This author is layering a ton of her own perspective onto these girls, and while analysis is valuable, it's important not to drown out girls' voices with our own ideology. Our society is deeply misogynist and sexist. This fact has far reaching impact on the sexual behaviors of teens. But this article does not convince me that sexism has caused a new wave of non-consensual blow jobs.

Where is the reliable, validated research that shows whether there is even any increase in fellatio among teens?

Why do we assume that if there is an increase in fellatio and apparent corresponding decrease in vagina/penis penetration, that represents a decrease in empowerment for teen girls? There are numerous reasons why fallatio may feel safer or more empowering for a girl than receptive vaginal penetration. It certainly is safer from a public health perspective.

Some girls and women enjoy the sensation of giving fellatio. This article does not treat that as a real possibility, which is problematic because it assumes girls as always victims or at least always receivers instead of actors.

Yes, dudes pressure women and girls to give head. That is fucked up. I'm not questioning that. I'm questioning the trend piece/moral panic aspect of this article.
posted by latkes at 8:42 AM on April 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


I hear what your saying latkes, but when you say that discussing how often teen girls are pressured into sex is "moral panic" it feels like a silencing technique of those who are plainly and clearly saying it happened to them, and in numbers that should certainly be evoking concern. Calling empathy about a cultural phenomenon that causes harm "moral panic" just doesn't feel right to me. I'd like to see more research too, but this doesn't get spoken about and I wish it were more. Like, you acknowledge dudes pressure women to give head... I feel like having a strong emotional reaction to that is healthy and a sign of in tact empathy--

calling strong reactions to that "panic" feels like the same technique used to diminish powerful voices on these abuses for well a lot of history. I've had some fun sexual experiences too including threesomes and consensual sex that was my own idea- and guys who have asked for sex respectfully- but that doesn't change for me HOW OFTEN this kind of pressure has happened, and I really doubt that we who've experienced it as a prevalent thing are such a minority to be dismissed as a relevant issue in the way your language makes me concerned you are trying to do. I think it's fair to want more exploration of this issue, but I also think there are enough clearly statements that are awful to find this piece deeply emotionally provocative even if it were biased.
posted by xarnop at 8:56 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I apologize if I my words serve to pressure anyone into silence. I absolutely know that gendered pressure and coercion around sex is very real, as is rape. I appreciate the women in this thread who are sharing their stories about this pressure, and that this article has served as one way to bring forth those stories.
posted by latkes at 9:09 AM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think behind the "but I don't like ___" comments may be a discomfort with a certain flavor of sex positive/ggg reductionism that sex can be described as a set of checklists, and if you diversify the checklists that's a good thing, right?

Personally I find that a bit threatening (if largely theoretical to my current life). How can I assert my boundaries and needs, which shift from moment to moment, in contrast to an abstract checklist? I just participated in a research study about how LGBT people negotiate sexuality in relationships, and I honestly felt like a freak because my current relationship didn't match the study's "checklist," and that's not a major problem for us.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:10 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


CBrachyrhynchos, I'd be fascinated to see that checklist if you have a copy or can point me at the study.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:16 AM on April 7, 2016


We have to do better by our young people.

I'm sorry to bring this up again, but we should probably get thinking about some of the other unintended consequences of changes in sexual behaviour. I recommend this article because it's both fascinating and scary:
A driving factor behind the rise in gonorrhea infections, as well as the trend toward total antibiotic resistance, is our complacent attitude [OMG!] toward oral sex. Saliva contains enzymes that destroy gonorrhea, so kissing and cunnilingus don’t spread it. But fellatio, which brings the tip of the urethra near the pharynx, carries a high risk of infecting one partner or the other. According to Dr. Peter Rice, a gonorrhea expert at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, fellatio “is the only predictable way to transmit gonococcal infection to the pharynx.
posted by sneebler at 9:28 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't feel asexual I would be misleading someone if I said I wanted an asexual relationship because I think about sex all the time, I have really kinky fantasies, I like weird sex games- I expect in a serious relationship to have sex at least a few times a week but in terms of dating I feel like I have to say something about asexual to get people back off pushing sex stuff on me.

Omg, my life. For years I felt like I was asexual or had a low sex drive because I'm not always up for what I sometimes still think of as "normal sex". But I always, always want to be sexual. Some of it is personal/individual, but a lot of it is in fact partner-based . . . it's just not what many of my previous partners have thought of as "sex", because there isn't penetration or because one of both of us don't come.


It makes you wonder whether these girls who feel like they have to give blowjobs that mean "nothing" are similarly being convinced into disliking sex, when what they really don't like is the complete absence of their desires from the bedroom, or the (I agree, heteronormative!) definition of sex as penetration, or as blowjobs.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:28 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I tried to convince myself I was asexual for a while, trying to give a reluctant partner space without pressure, and just in general, out of frustration over how juvenile and obsessive the pop and commercial cultures seem about sex. But while I don't really find sex any more interesting in the abstract than a good, satisfying sneeze or any other largely instinctual, biological drive (like hunger or any other craving), in practice, I've still always had a pretty average sex drive (except for a couple of brief periods when I was using legal drugs that sometimes over-stimulated my sex drive).

Asexuality is an interesting idea, though, because it challenges so much of what the broader culture promotes, and there definitely are healthy assexual people in the world, and our culture must just seem nightmarishly exclusionary to them.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2016


latkes, I apologize for misgendering you.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:41 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's sponsored by Queen's University. From memory, there were a series of questions including:

1. penetration
2. oral sex
3. mutual masturbation
4. frottage
5. BDSM
6. group sex/nonmongamy

And for each area, something like:

a. do you do it?
b. would you like to?
c. how much have you discussed this with your partner?

And there just didn't seem to be enough Likert scales to describe us.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


and our culture must just seem nightmarishly exclusionary to them

I read something the other day about asexuals talking about how they thought that when sexual people talked about sex, they were exaggerating. I thought that too for a long time.

Mostly I don't feel excluded as much as I feel like people who are sexual are spending so much time doing something I have zero interest in. I feel the same way about sex as I feel about video games or weaving baskets, I skip the articles or don't participate in the conversation and move on. Unfortunately, sex is just ubiquitous, so while it doesn't feel exclusionary, it feels a little...boring.

I probably would have been asexual without the negative sexual experiences when I was a kid, but those certainly informed what I know as sex. Having been through the pacifying blowjobs and much worse, what I know of sex, literally, sucks.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:57 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Squeak Attack: -- it's toxic to train young men that dominance is the priority in human relationships and that getting things out of people is the priority, rather than framing sex as a shared experience.

I think it might be lack of training/education/imagination that's the problem. For boys in high school, most spheres of life are individualistic, competitive, and goal-oriented: school, sports, games. So without intervention, it's probably natural to treat sex the same way, focusing on the impersonal, skill- and experience-based facets of sex (failing to realize that it's unsatisfying), instead of sex as a way to relate to another person.

This ties into Eyebrows McGee's observation that boys lack the experience of complex emotional relationships that is common with girls: it's not just sex, they're blind to the importance of relationships in general.

Not sure what the answer is. Most pop-culture portrayals of romantic relationships are totally unrealistic. I think Scott Pilgrim (more the comic book than the movie) does a pretty good job of portraying early-20s dating and relationships. There's an exchange that goes something like this:
Scott: I dunno, most of my friends in high school were girls.
Ramona: Oh my god, you were raised by teenage girls! No wonder you're so sensitive!
Scott (outraged): I'm not sensitive!
b33j: I am horrified at the space my daughter has inherited - a world where she will have to continually enforce reasonable boundaries because the default masculine position seems to be using women. I don't know how this happened. How did we go backwards?

That's a really interesting observation. I think social norms are weakening. People often regard social norms as "stupid rules, why do we have to follow them?", but they're an important part of the civilizing process which keeps us from treating each other like barbarians or trolls. Norms are basically rules ("don't do this") with an associated sanction (moral, social, or legal).

Social sanctions in particular are weak to non-existent on the Internet, which is why people behave so badly out here. And as we spend more and more time interacting with people in the wilderness (the "electronic frontier") of the Internet, perhaps the weak norms of the Internet have spread to society in general.

(Parenthetically, I also think we're seeing a general breakdown in trust, between voters and government, and between left and right. My all-time favorite Matthew Yglesias column describes the dysfunctional consequences of this shift to a low-trust society: The Fast, the Furious, and the Long-Term Erosion of American Social and Economic Institutions. I think we may also be seeing a similar breakdown in trust between men and women; I was particularly struck by the comments on this post for their bitterness and hostility towards women. Without the Internet I'm not sure this kind of bitterness would be published anywhere.)
posted by russilwvong at 11:58 AM on April 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


This conversation is tricky because it's operating on two completely separate tracks -- personal attitudes towards oral sex, and the broader renegotiation of sexual consent.

On oral sex, I'm glad we're starting to recognize that there is power in giving, that no one should have a duty to enjoy receiving, and that too many people of all genders enjoy the performative aspect of giving without staying in the moment and paying attention to their partner's desire and reactions.

On consent, this book feels like a lost opportunity at a crucial moment. After centuries of accepting male coercion, people are openly discussing enthusiastic consent which seems clearly what we want society to form a consensus around. Sadly though, online media lets like minded people aggregate and not see those they disagree with, with very toxic effects. Are GamerGate, MRAs, Red Pill etc. boils that draw the infection to the surface of the skin where it can be more easily lanced? Or are they reservoirs of persistent infection?

I don't think we know the answer yet. But I would have loved to see this book tackle these issues. There is some real progress being made (but not apparently reflected anywhere in this book). There are real continuing problems -- are they getting worse? Better?
posted by msalt at 12:29 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


For boys in high school, most spheres of life are individualistic, competitive, and goal-oriented: school, sports, games. So without intervention, it's probably natural to treat sex the same way, focusing on the impersonal, skill- and experience-based facets of sex (failing to realize that it's unsatisfying), instead of sex as a way to relate to another person.

I can't imagine that young men could be so shallow and sports-centric.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm gonna go see if I can score with this chick and maybe get to third base and put another notch on my belt.
posted by delfin at 12:30 PM on April 7, 2016


One night stands in the 80s were sweeter than they are now. There was a kindness, and mutual care that is gone. Maybe it's because I now belong to the invisible people, middle aged women, but i suspect it's more than that.

I concur -- and with what Miko said about the "point-scoring" dimension of sex for boys and young men, something they do to gain status with their male friends, because they respect those friends but not the girls or women they have sex with. And it's all part of that broad cultural lack of basic kindness, empathy, trust, and other social bonds russilwvong mentions.

Some of this has always been there -- for instance, in the old (and continuing) double-standard and virgin-whore deals which basically told boys/men that any girl/woman who was willing to have sex with them was fair game to be treated like a non-person piece of shit. I certainly ran into a fair amount of that in both NSA hook-ups and some relationships in the 70s-90s, but there was more of a sense, especially in the teen years with same-aged partners, that yeah, we were interested in mutual sweetness and being nice to each other, even if we only knew each other for, like, an hour, without last names. There was a basis for simple short-term trust that seems to have decreased over the decades.

What was really interesting to me during the whole time I was sexually/romantically active is how, even when I had made it absolutely crystal clear in so many words that it was not necessary to con me or run games on me or flatter me or otherwise bullshit me into bed with them -- all the disingenuous manipulative "player" crap men are taught to do to get laid -- even when they were aware that we could have sex and then shake hands like friends and walk away, a certain amount of guys would STILL DO the player crap. I could never figure out if it was just force of habit or if lying and misleading and gaming and toying with partners so as to make them feel like gullible idiots is actually part of the thrill, part of what shores up the ego or scores points with peers.

There's like a whole culture, and it seems to be growing, in which the fun of sex/relationships is, on some level, about putting something over on someone. Whether that's getting X activity without having to give back Y, or getting someone to believe you actually like them when you don't, or convincing someone to do something they're uncomfortable about. . . . And even nice well-intentioned guys who don't act like that so often do seem to think they know a woman's body and desires better than she does. I mean, I've had this body for 54 years now, so I'm pretty aware of what it can and cannot do and what I do and do not want to do with it, thanks, but try telling that to someone who is convinced after like 2 weeks that you're broken in X, Y, and Z ways, but he sure as shit can fix you if you'll just let him. Jesus, I'm not your fucking science fair project, OK?

Even if we improved sex education and included lots and lots of practice at how to talk to one another about sex and negotiate those conversations, explore our own and others' sexual preferences and desires, and generally how to enjoy sexuality as a fun pleasurable non-linear set of experiences people create together rather than the weird narrow goal-oriented reciprocal performance checksheet it tends to be (at least pretty ubiquitously in American culture) -- even if we could do all that, I'm not sure it'd help much because how do you get at those bone-deep pernicious attitudes? I guess it really does have to be part of the family conversation and child-rearing practice from birth, and maybe consistently and comprehensively promoting multi-gender play and friendship starting with infants and toddlers.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:53 PM on April 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


Intereresting to read this discussion and think about what oblique glimpses I get into (upper middle class, good public) high school views of sexuality through my teen and their friends.

My kid is trans and hangs out with a lot of kids who are LGBT or genderqueer to some degree or other. While my kid says that some of the sophomores in their class are having sex every weekend, it seems like most of the teens in my kid's immediate circle identify as asexual (or, as they say, "ase", with those high-five kinds of connotations). My kid does, and along the way there had identified as demisexual (need to be emotionally attached to be sexually attracted.)

I am both amazed at how the kids all seem to have incredibly nuanced definitions and vocabularies for gender and sexuality....but at the same time seem completely and I mean completely uninterested in interacting sexually with other people. Like, they just want to remove themselves from all the bullshit around sexuality and sex roles entirely. I've often wondered about this and feared that it might be for just this reason, that sexual politics among the teen set has devolved into something so transactional and rough-edged and misogynistic that lots of teens just choose the ase label and opt the hell out, before even getting in there to experiment at all.

Makes this old hippie libertine sad to think about it. It's a little better to think that Ma Nature will prevail in time and what a nice surprise it'll be to discover friendly, warm, sexy connection a little further on down the road. Goddess willing.
posted by Sublimity at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


demisexual (need to be emotionally attached to be sexually attracted.)

Ouch. It hurts me to see a preference for emotionally attached sexuality labeled as being less than fully sexual.
posted by msalt at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


That's a really interesting observation. I think social norms are weakening. People often regard social norms as "stupid rules, why do we have to follow them?", but they're an important part of the civilizing process which keeps us from treating each other like barbarians or trolls. Norms are basically rules ("don't do this") with an associated sanction (moral, social, or legal).

Social norms haven't weakened. Otherwise we'd be seeing a greater degree of anarchy out in the world, which we aren't. Things are pretty dang orderly by historical standards.

What's happened is that social norms have changed. Domination, exploitation of the weak, contempt and scorn for the disenfranchised, scapegoating, and profit and self-interest no-matter-the-cost as the highest virtues, those are our current norms. We can see them in business, government, and supported by the media, even the likes of the New York Times.
posted by gehenna_lion at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am both amazed at how the kids all seem to have incredibly nuanced definitions and vocabularies for gender and sexuality....but at the same time seem completely and I mean completely uninterested in interacting sexually with other people. Like, they just want to remove themselves from all the bullshit around sexuality and sex roles entirely. I've often wondered about this and feared that it might be for just this reason, that sexual politics among the teen set has devolved into something so transactional and rough-edged and misogynistic that lots of teens just choose the ase label and opt the hell out, before even getting in there to experiment at all.


Weirdly coincidental to see this. I am not a teenager, but I have pretty much decided to adopt a sort of politlcal-asexual identity, because I just cannot with all the stuff around having sex. It's just way, way easier to decide that you'll never have sex with anyone again and then simply ignore that part of life - I'd say I've been much happier since I decided that I just wasn't going to want to have sex anymore. I think that if you're the least little bit neurotic or anxious, the sheer knowledge that there's this horrible set of rubrics out there about how your body is supposed to look, what you're supposed to do in bed, how you are supposed to move and sound and taste and smell, how you're supposed to perform your sexuality, and of course all the how nots....it's just overwhelming and depressing and takes all the fun out of it. I wish I could say that I felt that queer people were so awesome that none of this mattered, but that I've recently witnessed some absolutely godawful behavior by queer people (toward friends, not toward me, thank god) and that really sealed the deal on the whole thing.

I just feel like as I've gotten older I've realized just how cruel and stupid the world is, and how cruel and stupid people are. When I was younger, as is so typical, I guess, I figured that human cruelty and stupidity were mistakes, and we'd learn, and we all wanted to learn, and therefore it was worth chasing your dreams, etc. At this point, I feel like I just have to accept that the world is too big for me. Sure, it would be nice to live in a society where I could reasonably expect to trust people enough to be vulnerable with them, but that's not a world I'm ever going to see. "Consciously shut off sexual desire" is worse than "have a great, fulfilling sexual life" but a lot better than what is actually on offer.
posted by Frowner at 6:06 PM on April 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ouch. It hurts me to see a preference for emotionally attached sexuality labeled as being less than fully sexual.

This isn't a less-than, it's a different types thing. It's not a statement that any of us are less, or broken, or anything like that but just that it's okay to have words for different approaches. Put another way, I'm not less for being demisexual any more than I'm less for being queer. The things that construct people like me as less are the same social pressures as the article spawning this thread.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:20 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've often wondered about this and feared that it might be for just this reason, that sexual politics among the teen set has devolved into something so transactional and rough-edged and misogynistic that lots of teens just choose the ase label and opt the hell out, before even getting in there to experiment at all.

I've pretty much chosen to opt the hell out, at almost 40 years old, and it has nothing to do with neuroticism or teen trends and everything to do with the fact that I'm a straight woman and I'm sick to death of dealing with men and their misogyny, after plenty of experimenting. I'd be careful of assuming a "friendly, warm, sexy connection" will naturally be happening a little further on down the road; I think there's a way in which younger people simply recognize the fucked-up power differentials among genders that older people do not, or gloss over, and some of the opting out is a way of changing that.
posted by lazuli at 7:14 PM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, demi- connoting half-, as a demigod or a demitasse cup. Like, wanting to be emotionally connected to your lover means you're half sexual? Or is it that sexuality is only half of the connection?

Regardless, I find the notion that this requires its own descriptor to be supremely depressing also.
posted by Sublimity at 7:15 PM on April 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well, maybe I've been supremely lucky or maybe I'm just incurably optimistic, but despite many ups and downs and disappointments along the way, I've enjoyed lots of friendly, warm, and sexual connections so far. Newly divorced in my mid 40s and it appears that there are plenty left to be shared.

Human beings don't seem to be de-evolving oxytocin and its receptors so I'm thinking the kids will figure it that there's something pleasurable and precious in there, somewhere along the way.

Hope, it springs eternal.
posted by Sublimity at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm no expert, but I think the difference between a "preference for emotionally attached sexuality" as msalt puts it above and being demisexual is pretty significant. Someone who is demisexual feels zero sexual attraction for anyone unless they have an intimate emotional relationship with them, while someone who prefers emotionally attached sexuality might well be sexual attracted to a person, but wouldn't want to have a sexual relationship until developing an emotional one. A demisexual person would never be sexually attracted to a person they didn't know, while the latter kind of person might well be.
posted by ssg at 8:43 PM on April 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Thanks, ssg. Clearly I'm a late bloomer and so very biased but I tend to think that this stuff is all so complicated that it's almost impossible for anyone to be really "mature" (hate that word) before age 30. I know I'm slower than most but I think I'm not alone in finding that it takes lots of relationships of varying lengths, and for some of us more than one marriage, before you start to get the hang of it.

On the positive side, at 54 I feel like I'm better at it than ever and haven't hit my ceiling yet. And my wife seems to agree, which is a big plus. :)
posted by msalt at 10:54 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, demi- connoting half-, as a demigod or a demitasse cup.

It's a word for the space between being asexual and being the kind of sexual where hookups with strangers are cool, for I like sex but not just with whoever.

Learning this word and having this descriptor was a huge relief for me, because I finally had a way to talk about my experience and why so many of the situations that worked for my friends were just uncomfortable for me. Having this word let me understand that there's not something wrong with me and that other people also need this word because they have this experience. If you don't like it, no one's making you use it. But it doesn't mean less-than just because of the demi- prefix, but rather halfway between two polar states.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:37 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


My understanding of the difference between myself and demisexual is something like this. While casual sex is a big problem for me, casual lust is not. I can get turned on by musical performances on TV for example. I can happily crush on people from a safe distance with the awareness that nothing is going to happen because I'm monogamous, neurotic, and don't want to deal with drama. "Hey Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine, you blow my mind, Hey Mickey," has been rock n' roll for thousands of years now.

My understanding is that a demisexual person doesn't experience that (or at least not frequently) outside of some rare situations. Since the internet is a megaphone for cranks, it's easy to find people who use demisexuality or gray-asexuality as a platform for brigading and slut-shaming. But I'm willing to grant that it's a thing.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:25 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


It really bothers me that so much focus is put on reciprocity. (wait, hear me out)

If a teenage girl is pressured into oral, why is it any better if he reciprocates? Who says she wanted to receive in the first place, for one thing. Turning down a guy offering oral is SO much harder than refusing to give oral, especially since most guys don't even ask. If you even cut them short, they get really offended and hurt because they think you're implying they have no "skill". And receiving oral is really, really personal for women, much more than men. You have to be naked, there's more baggage about look/smell, you're vulnerable instead of powerful, etc.

Telling guys to always make sure they reciprocate does NOT help the "pressuring" problem - it just adds a second, even worse layer of pressure!

Second, if the girl does want oral, telling her to pressure the guy into giving it is just normalizing the lack of enthusiastic consent. Nobody should be doing anything sexually that they don't want to! If someone's selfish and doesn't care about pleasing their partner, pressuring them into doing what you want anyway isn't going to make them a better lover. It's just going to make them think that pressuring people to do sex acts is normal, since you're both doing it now.

This tit-for-tat mentality comes up ALL the time with oral sex and it's so harmful, particularly when you're a woman who doesn't really enjoy oral sex and your partner has been told by everyone that "reciprocity is mandatory or youre a shitty person". NOT ONE of my otherwise mostly-lovely previous partners has ever believed me when I tell them that reciprocity is not required and actually I'd kinda prefer other things. They all accepted it eventually, but you could tell they thought I was lying, just being nice about their lack of skills. Ugh.
posted by randomnity at 10:29 AM on April 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


Randomnity, I might just chalk that up to a clumsy attempt to shift the focus back on to "girls deserve to assert their own right to pleasure rather than just being all about making sure the guy is satisfied". For a lot of us, yeah, that does translate to "reciprocity", but you make a good point that not everyone digs it.

Earlier I suggested "pleasure, however you define it (even if that is by its absence)". I think that's all anyone was trying to get at; that girls too often are socialized to put their own wishes in the back seat and keep someone else happy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I understand, and certainly agree that there is a lot of pressure on women and girls from all different sources to "please your man" and ignore your own needs. And I'm sure it's easy for many guys to accept that status quo! I'm not at all suggesting that women should stay quiet about what they want, whether that's straight-up reciprocity or something else. By all means, if you're not happy about anything, you should talk about it and be open about whether it's a dealbreaker for you. So in that sense being aware of reciprocity is very important, as a starting point for equal consideration of both people's needs.

I just think it's important to focus on consent first, because focusing on reciprocity doesn't solve the consent problem at all and introduces new problems (including additional consent issues) if it's pushed as a simple 1-for-1 solution, which it very often is. Instead of reciprocity being a starting point, it's usually described as an ending point, a checkmark necessary (and often sufficient!) for sexual success.

So it bothered me that the discussion here revolved around reciprocity and largely ignored the pressuring issue, which to me seemed more central to the article. But I know I'm being nitpicky, and fundamentally we're on the same page.
posted by randomnity at 11:44 AM on April 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


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