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The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life

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sexuality

As I wrote in the last article, intercourse is still regarded to be the one and only sex. Such a normative discourse about sex poses pressure, especially for women to have sex even if they don’t really want it. Or other than that do not really like it. The inequality between the sexes is strongly displayed in sexuality and sexual satisfaction. For example, young women are more likely to depend on the  satisfaction of their partner, compared to young men relying on their own sexual satisfaction. They also do engage in active oral sex more often even if they do not really want to. ₁  To satisfy their partner. Of course there is the bigger picture about patriarchy, power and sociality but here we want to concentrate on the processes of naturalization. I do not want to deny that there are certain biological differences between the sexes, yet they are rather tiny compared to the social and psychological consequences resulting out of it. In turn, underlying pretended naturalizations encourage and legitimize differences which must not exist.

Considering sexuality, a certain correlation between the nature of sex and the psychological disposition is assumed. ₂ Women are seen to be the receiving part of the coitus. She is passive and does not have such a strong desire. She wants a child and her nature is meant for that. While men are giving subjects with a strong  drive to spread their sperm to reproduce their genes. I am quite surprised how common that idea still is. In articles about the question of who has more sex and why or simply when men try to justify why they cheat on their girlfriend (Yes, it is stupid but people still do so). That young women in America qualify good sex by the absences of pain while young men don´t, as Peggy Orenstein cites a big U.S. research, is worth discussing. ₃

Therefore, language should be considered in the first place. There is an urgent need to find appropriate words for sexual organs. In German there are very few words for our sexual organs or otherwise they are so deprecate that you don´t really want to use them while you have sex. Especially for Woman’s sexual organs this is a problem. I am constantly surprised how many women, even adult women cannot tell you the difference between Vagina and Vulva. But if you want to tell somebody what you would like them to do with you. You should be able to name it. Right?

 

 

References and further Information

₁  https://www.ted.com/talks/peggy_orenstein_what_young_women_believe_about_their_own_ sexual_pleasure#t-300836

₂ Wrede, B. (2000). Was ist Sexualität?

 

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/neepb8/the-science-of-female-pleasure-still-needs-more-attention

Durex: Studie zum Sexleben der Deutschen (http://www.presseportal.de/pm/115990/3253390)

 

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Let´s talk about sex

Sex. People making love.

No matter if you imagined an old couple or a random on-night stand fuck, the chances that intercourse (precisely penetrative sex), was part the image are pretty high. On your mind was probably the stereotypical idea we have about sex: A social act between two, a female and a male agent. Maybe you came up with a completely different scene, yet  we can still assume that most people would have thought of exactly this image. Even if a person prefers other possible sexual interactions, other sex where no penis or vibrator needs to be part of the game. Among others Oralsex. Or for instance Cybersex.

Although there is such a beautiful variety of sex, our cultural understanding of sex prescribes a simplified idea of it as it being The question we should ask ourselves is how our construction of sex as the notion of intercourse – and nothing more or less – had the chance to become such a normalised script up to now. Why does it remain so unchallenged?

The intuitive understanding of sex as intercourse gains support on different levels. A very strong and powerful underlying concept is that of naturalization. Heterosexual penetrative sex is mostly considered to be sex because it is in fact the only one leading to procreation of the human species. An in-depth qualitative study with heterosexual males and females in Newzealand they got closer to the question, what makes penetrative sex so natural. A lot of them described intercourse as a „natural“ notion to want  In this sense, male- female sex relations were depicted as fitting to each other. In other words, a lot of people tended to interpret it as a natural drive which is biologically rooted by the need of reproduction. These strong naturalization is then proven by their own desire and lust they feel. Even though it was hard for some of them to describe, why (apart from biology oring and desire) people perform intercourse.

One the one hand, such naturalistic and reproductive reasoning implies strong heteronormativity and at the same time legitimizes penetrative penis-vagina sex to be the ideal sex. Forgetting that all other sexual interaction as well as masturbation could also be seen as “real“ sex. Moreover, it is a social imperative. People just have Sex. We just know that people- in a certain age- do intercourse. Normalization of intercourse is linked to expectations to fulfill the norm to be normal. At this point it can pose pressure. Women tend twice as much as men to engage in intercourse eventough they do not really feel like it. ₃

Thus, sex as a heterosexual intercourse is socially normalized. This means that this concept is so deeply entrenched in our culture that we do not really come to the point to question it. That heterosexuality is still highly normative is no secret, bearing in mind it is that gay marriage and linked to it the right to adopt became officially legal in Germany literally today. It is surprising how narrow and restricted our sex seems nowadays, contrary to our perceptions of being a fully liberated society.

 

 

References and further information

₁  Baban, A. and David, H. P. (1994) ‘Romanian Women’s Perceptions of Sexuality, Partner Relations, and Reproductive Behaviour during the Ceausescu Era’

₂ Gavey, McPhillips & Braun (1999)` Interruptus Coitus: Heterosexual Accountings for intercours.´

₃ Sprecher et al., 1994; O’Sullivan & Allgeier, 1998

 

Theoretical bisexual?

When I was in Germany and I had free time I usually watched my favourite Spanish tv program called “El Hormiguero”. Sometimes there is a collaborator called Mario Vaquerizo . Is a famous Spanish personality and singer at his 40s and husband from a famous singer called Alaska. He always wearing a gothic-punk style, with leather black trousers and black t-shirts and jackets, usually wears black-eyed shadows and has long black hair. What can be said to be a person from the gothic tribe. What its more famous about his marriage and career is his personality and the way he acts. He has an extrovert personality, a talkative person saying a lot of jokes and with an outburst of laughter. Is impossible not to laugh when he does it. But most characteristic is how he acted. That is when he is a subject of study for categorizing sex and sexuality. He walks very stylistic, near jumping, sometimes with boats with heels. He doesn’t walk like a man, as John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”. Not only that. How he expresses and speaks can’t be considered properly as a man if we consider the gender stereotypes. He moves like a “woman” like shake his hair, talk about him as “her” and use Spanish vulgar adjectives like “cari” and “nena”, used by women. Is like a gothic woman with a man body.

By his aspects and features it can be said that he is a man, but how he acts and speaks its properly from a woman. It can be said that he is a stereotype of gay people, a man that acts as a woman. As information, he considered himself as bisexual, but not a normal bisexual, a “theoretical bisexual”. “I’ve always said that I’m a theoretical bisexual, because if I see a guy who seems handsome I say it without any problem. Being surrounded by homosexuals, the desire between men is part of my life, but I think not today I get the boys to go with some to bed. I cannot imagine having them in love and sexual situation, so I am in theory but not in practice. “

The Portrayal of Asexuals in Media

My last article will be dedicated to asexual representation in media. I would like to focus on the depiction of a/sexuality in media and the roles that asexual characters usually perform. Furthermore, I would like to draw attention on depictions of asexual individuals in the media.

Giving us a broad overview, the youtuber LatinAlice discusses asexual characters and the depiction of asexuality in fictional media. Some characters, like Sherlock Holmes (series: Sherlock) or Sheldon Cooper(Series: Big Bang Theory) are assumed to be asexual (by the queer community at least) but will sometimes have romantic and/or sexual partners throughout the show. This implicitly communicates how sexuality is considered a natural, basic need, an instinct and drive without which a person cannot be complete. Following this assumption, the dehumanizing nature of it becomes clearer, asexuality makes you less human, which is as LatinAlice points out ‘the ultimate form of othering’. They also discuss an episode of Dr. House, where one doctor has an asexual patient and Dr. House bets that he will find a medical explanation for it. By the end of the episode, Dr. House is proven right and can alleviate the ‘symptoms’ for the patient, yet his problematic assumption stays in tact. His approach is somewhat violent toward people who identify as asexual since he basically invalidates such identity in communicating that asexuality means there’s something going very wrong.

Similarly, the talkshow ‘The View’ invited the founder of AVEN, an informative website on asexuality, to discuss what asexuality entails. But instead of properly listening to the interviewee’s statements, most of the participants prefer to insult him or ask indecent questions. A very striking moment is when another panelist inquires if he ‘had sex with himself’, a question so personal and public it would generally understood to be impolite and rude. Worsely even that when he answers, said panelist persists with their question. Here, two things become apparent: firstly, he is not taken seriously at all and the existence of asexuality is constantly contested by the other panelists, secondly, the way he’s being talked about is sheer sensationalism, a dehumanising public humiliation. The debate is therefore more of a freak show than an actual interest into the lives and desires of asexuals.

On January 6th 2017 Vice published an article, headlined by ‘We asked Asexuals for their sex fantasies’. You may wonder why the title is self-contradictory. It seems to remain unimaginable to not have any sexual desires, and a societal way of processing is questioning the existence completely. Surprisingly, many asexuals report that they experience no sexual fantasies whatsoever and explain how they fantasise about their career, future pets or children and other goals that they have.

Here the societal quest for residual sexuality seems to be a prominent one when discussing and exploring the field of asexuality. The allonormative and also medical/sychological assumption that everyone has to have a sexuality and sexual desires comes into play.

Apart from these unfortunate representations of asexuality in the media, there is really not much talk about due to underrepresentation or rather invisibility. Rarely a character will identify as asexual, especially when there deemed to beautiful and attractive. There is much to be changed if society wants to be inclusive of all genders and orientations in media.

Further information and sources:

http://www.zeit.de/community/2015-05/asexualitaet-beziehung-erfahrung

https://www.vice.com/de/article/kbwda3/wir-haben-asexuelle-nach-ihren-sexfantasien-gefragt

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLn4ob_5_ttEaA_vc8F3fjzE62esf9yP61

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikoIEUBY00Y

http://asexuality.org/?q=video.html

https://youtu.be/6kPfLYuQlL8

* the asterisk implies that ‘woman’ is a social role that some people identify with. Some people will be read as female but do not identify as such, these may or may not want to be included in this social category. The asterisk indicates that being a woman is not a biological fact but a social category that one can assume for themselves.

The Medicalisation of Asexuality

It wasn’t long before medical scholars discovered human behaviour as new field of interest next to the various kinds of sicknesses. Non-normative behaviour has a long history of being sanctioned and disapproved of according to a societal understanding of modesty and reputable behaviour.

In medical terms, asexuality was conceptualised relatively recently as ’Hypoactive sexual desire disorder’ (HSDD) or ‘Inhibited Sexual Desire (ISD)’. Medicalisation of human differences occurred in many aspects of life for example in questions of abortion. The discovery of asexuality or as it is called the lack of sexual desire as field for medical intervention is much younger. When Masters and Johnson published their book ‘Human Sexual Inadequacy’  in 1970 a debate was stimulated about sexual dysfunctions, among them also the lack of sexual desire. It was argued at that time that having sex is part of a healthy and good lifestyle, so suddenly there arose a new norm regarding people’s sex lives.

Apart from these ‘cultural trends’ in lifestyle, there is also an underlying scientific assumption that sexuality is pre-social; much like breathing, digestion and the like it is supposedly involuntary and instinctive. This stance then leads to the problematising of sexualities that fall short of complying with unspoken norms. ‘Deviating’ forms of sexuality have been thus of interest in modern psychology and medicine, e.g. homosexuality, masochistic and sadistic sex practices have been pathologised and it has been tried to find cures and antidotes for many of these. Some of these are still intact today, a prominent example is the so-called conversion therapy for homosexuality. In fact, some forms of sexual expression existed for a long time (e.g. homosexuality was a common, normal practice in ancient Greece) and only attained their new moral condemnation in modern times. In the case of asexuality, it has been linked to sexual dysfunction or abstinence, as opposed to a lack of sexual attraction. A sexual dysfunction is present when an individual experiences psychological strain because of their inability to perform sexual practices. In the case of asexuality there is nothing to be cured since there is no psychological strain in the first place.

In the asexual community these assumptions are largely referred to as allonormativity, which describes the notion that each and everyone has to have romantic and sexual desires and attraction. Many describe their youth as a time when they thought, something was wrong with them, which points to the structuring element allonormativity is for modern societies. Allonormativity is omnipresent in everyday life, as we will see when we talk about asexuality and aromanticism in media.

Sources:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypoactive_sexual_desire_disorder

https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/asexuality-dysfunction-or-sexual-orientation-2161-038X-1000185.php?aid=76817

http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/23/reviews/bright-inadequacy.html?mcubz=0

Asexuality and Aromanticism

Have you ever heard of Asexuality? Chances are pretty high that you have not, since it  is nothing that mainstream media or school curricula cover. Asexuality is at best ignored, else it is stigmatised, denied or pathologised. So it seems about time to educate ourselves about different forms of sexuality and the absence of sexual (and romantic) desire, too.

Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to other people. Some asexual people do have relationships with other people, some will even perform sexual acts with others, some do masturbate and many others won’t do any of those. Some are asexual, but still consider themselves hetero/homo/bi/pan/_-asexual, meaning they do experience romantic feelings and attraction toward others. Some define themselves as aromantic, meaning that they do not desire romantic relationships. Some people will experience demisexuality or grey asexuality, which usually refers to only experiencing sexual desire for people when there is a very strong emotional bond.

The youtuber Amelia Ace talks in her demisexuality video about a survey she’s done and concluded, very few demisexuals experienced sexual desire more than once or twice in their life. Asexuality is a spectrum, there are no clear criteria one has to tick off a list in order to define as asexual. That being said, there are characteristics many asexuals will agree on being true for them. Nonetheless it remains important to always bear in mind that it is foremost a label people use to explain themselves to others. These labels can change across the lifespan and are not rigid. Usually people come up with their own definition and personal meaning when they choose (or reject to choose) labels for themselves.

The AVEN network (Asexuality Visibility and Education Network) is the biggest platform worldwide where asexual and other people exchange and discuss asexuality and aromanticism. Its aim is to „ creating public acceptance and discussion of asexuality and facilitating the growth of an asexual community“ ( more on http://www.asexuality.org/?q=about.html).  There is quite an overlap between Aromanticism and Asexuality, for short Aro/Ace. Romantic desires are usually distinguished from friendship and parent- child relationships but are not occurring for everyone.

Aromanticism does in no way mean that these individuals will not want to create meaningful and deep connections with others, they merely are not interested in romantic connections. Wanting a tight net of friends and a need to bond with others are not only part of romantic relationships but rather a basic human need that occurs across a spectrum. In fact, there are different forms of attraction, that might make it easier to imagine how aromantic people could feel like.

For attraction there are different forms the AVEN website names and distinguishes form each other: aesthetic attraction that refers to attraction on grounds of appearance, romantic attraction as the wish to engage with another romantically, whereas sensual attraction is defined as the desire to have non-sexual physical contact.

further information can be found here:

http://www.aven-info.de/asexualitaet/asex.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO3ZNw_Eqo4

https://www.pinterest.com/kurougaru/aroace/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTBLsaLMi5k

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFWgt9m-Mjs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1TqLRd5x9M

Photo by Levi Saunders on Unsplash

Queer Animals: Make Love Not War

The following post is going to be the last one dealing with sexuality of animals from my side. For that reason this time I chose a species that really does not seem to care about gender at all when it comes to pick a partner for sex. This is one of the reasons why they are considered as hippies, another reason is that they seem to use sexual practice to avoid or to solve conflicts. Therefore they are also called make-love-not-war-apes. The species I talk about is the Bonobo, one of the smaller representatives of the great apes. Bonobos break all rules about sexuality that were ever made. They do not only ignore gender, they also seem to ignore age, because even the young ones participate in sexual activities. Moreover they use different positions and practices like for example oral sex. Scientists often observed that bonobos started to have sex when conflicts arise. For example when two bonobos see something to eat, the conflict that they both want it for themselves is followed by sex between them and afterwards they share the food peacefully. In fact this can not be the only reason for them to have sex as they do it very often during the day. My first reaction to this theory was to think that it is another way to negate sexual activities among animals that are not heterosexual. But I think the difference is that in this theory the interaction is still seen as sexual even if it is said that it has another reason than reproduction. Bonobos seem to make clear that there are different reasons and different ways to have sex. German media seems to be kind of excited about the bonobos’ strategy to organise their social live. Us humans, we live in a reality that is totally different and seems to be not as good as the peaceful way of life bonobos share. For many of us it is an utopia to live that way instead of leading wars and exploit each other and the most exciting thing is that bonobos are one of the two species that are related the closest to humans. But coming back to reality it is obvious that we cannot just all start to have sex every time we have a conflict like bonobos do. Again we come to the border of seeking our natural behaviour by watching animals. We have our culture, our social rules which we should try to question and to improve as much as we can, but not by looking for the most natural thing because this is neither interesting from a moral point of view, nor even possible for us to discover. It is inviting to look at the bonobos and draw the conclusion that we are all born to have sex all day and be peaceful, but the second species that is as close related to us as the bonobos, the chimpanzees, is a very aggressive species that has a totally different social structure. We can surely choose one of the two for a role-model but we should be aware that this can only be for inspiration and does not reveal a deeper truth about our own nature.

 

References

 

http://sz-magazin.sueddeutsche.de/texte/anzeigen/44135/Das-Liebesdiktat-der-Hippie-Affen

 

https://www.welt.de/lifestyle/article5679413/Bonobos-sind-Meister-der-sexuellen-Versoehnung.html

 

http://www.focus.de/wissen/natur/forschung-und-technik-sex-fuer-den-frieden_aid_168490.html

Queer Animals: Lesbian Albatrosses

The animal I want to talk about this time is a bird which has been seen as an icon for heterosexual monogamy. That was the image of the Laysan albatross until 2008. The reason for this image is that most of these birds nest with the same partner for their entire lives. Even the former first Lady Laura Bush praised their lifestyle in a speech about Oahu, an island of Hawaii, where a big colony of the birds live. Imaginable that Laura Bush was not amused when in 2008 an article of a team of scientists revealed that almost one third of the couples of albatross consist of two females, at least in this area. The reason why this has been undiscovered for such a long time is the fact that the sexes of albatrosses are very difficult to distinguish, paired with the heteronormative ideology of past scientists who did research on the albatross. Whenever two animals are seen together doing something that is linked to reproduction, it is automatically assumed that they are male and female. Considering the albatross a pair is defined by two individuals that incubate eggs and raise chicks together. The female-female pairs are able to do this because their eggs get fertilised by male individuals which are often themselves part of a pair. The fact that there are so many same-sex couples among these birds was however a bigger scandal than the infidelity of the paired males. Although one of the researchers said that they were very careful in their writing, which probably means that they tried to not make it a political pro homo article, it was on the one hand used to argue in favour of homosexuality and on the other hand attacked for being pro homo propaganda. When I read the article I thought that it actually lets the female-female pairs appear in a more unflattering light, using descriptions likefemalefemale pairing in the interim appears to make the best of a bad job[1]. Of course good and bad refers here to the reproductive success. But still negative judgemental words are used and the relationships between the birds are not euphemized at all. Nevertheless to me it seems like the scientists really tried to be neutral and to stay with biological terms. For example Lindsay Young who is cited and interviewed most often, refuses to call the female-female pairs lesbian and the male-female pairs heterosexual and insists that these terms have nothing to do with her researches. Unlikely that she manages to be totally neutral because we are all up to some point bound to our culutural ideology. This might be part of the answer to the question how we can stop imposing our cultural images on animals, which I posed in my first post. It seems not to be possible, even if a scientist does their best on being neutral, one never knows what the further usage and interpretation of results will be.

 

References

 

https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/tierwelt/article7243977/Wenn-schwule-Tiere-moralische-Werte-bedrohen.html

 

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/4/323

 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/06/02/female-albatrosses-set-up-same-sex-partnerships.html

[1] Lindsay C Young, Brenda J Zaun, Eric A VanderWerf; 2008

Queer Animals: Finding Nemo

It is interisting to see how humans project their cultural formed concepts on animals. Of particular interest are cases when heteronormative and gender binary concepts are applied to animals which actually do not fit at all into this picture. A nice example is the movie „Finding Nemo“. For the few people who do not know the movie, it tells the story of a clownfish named Nemo who gets cought by a human, to be a birthday present for a child. Nemo’s father now has to pass many adventures to save his son from this fate. Everone knowlegable of this popular species of fish should already wonder about the terms „father“ and „son“. The reason is that these fishes are actually all born without any gender. This is until within their school of fishes the largest individual develops into a female and the second largest into a male in order to reproduce. I think the terms male and female are not sufficiant in this short discription, because it does not tell a lot about what actually happens here. Instead a gender binary and heterosexual picture is again applied to give an overly simplefied description. Back to the movie we can easily see that a father living together with his son is an impossible setting for clownfishes because if Nemo is to small to reproduce he has no gender. The other possible interpretation would be that if Nemo is old enough, his father would have changed into a female to produce descendants with Nemo. And this is in fact a discription you can find in some newspaper articles from people who found it a sensation worth writing about the fact that Nemo’s father might be transsexual. Two questions are evident here. Number one: what was going on in the heads of the people who wrote the script of „Finding Nemo“? Number two: how can we escape the trap of imposing our cultural pictures on animals? The discription of clownfishes changing their gender might be closer to the truth than the movie, but is still a discription in cultural terms imposed on an animal which does not have that culture. I will hopfully manage to approach to the second question in the next posts, while it is still some space her to have a short look at the first question. It is obvious that society does not see topics like transexuality siutable for children. Instead movies for children are only allowed to deal with settings that are completely „normal“ as far as it comes to gender and reproduction. The funny thing is, that we often assume that normal is what ever is natural. While society is most of the time convinced that normal and natural reproduction means a male and a female are having a child, and gender is something you have from the moment of your birth, the nature of a clownfish tells another story. So it comes that the movie stays quiet about nature, and spreads instead our normative opinion of what is natural. A colorful contradiction that shows how absurd the naturalisation of gender is.

References

http://www.businessinsider.com/clownfish-sex-changes-and-finding-nemo-2013-8?IR=T

http://evolutionfaq.com/articles/sex-change-nature-coral-reef-fish

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/01/clownfish/prosek-text/3

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/umwelt/fische-nemo-ist-ein-transsexueller-1132859.htmA

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