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The Word ‘Sex’ Isn’t What It Used To Be


Salon leads by asking the important questions: Why do so many straight women prefer penetration to oral sex? Unsurprisingly, the reasoning meanders a bit until it lays the blame on misogyny. To shoehorn a ridiculous point, they misquote and cherry-pick a video from vlogger Arielle Scarcella. Scarcella and the women she interviews throw out numerous hypotheses for the difference, and Scarcella even suggests “perhaps it’s time to stop blaming men,” yet the Salon coverage begs to differ:

She found that while 55 percent of straight women preferred penetration, just 25 percent of lesbian viewers felt the same. So, for her follow up, Scarcella tried to figure out why.

According to the ‘straight girls,’ there could be any number of reasons for the disparity, but most have to do with social construction. A few common themes emerged in the descriptions: many of the women who have sex with men and prefer penetration felt that oral sex requires a greater level of vulnerability, and that to receive pleasure without giving it in return is uncomfortable. As Scarcella puts it in her analysis of the responses, ‘straight women are very uncomfortable with the idea of receiving sexual pleasure without giving it at the same time.’

She might be on to something. While there are certainly other explanations for the 30 percent difference, like simple personal preference, the larger issue seems to be one of normative sexual expectations, especially for women who have sex with men. Scarcella sums it up well: it ‘all relates back to misogyny and how women feel about their bodies.’ (emphasis added)

Scarcella never blamed misogyny anywhere in the video, but that’s not important when the patriarchy clearly is to blame. “Normative sexual expectations” are holding back this preference gap for straight women, according to Salon.

Let’s Try Some Sanity

First, there are pretty reasonable explanations for why “normative sexual expectations” still dominate female preferences.

  1. They’re straight. That’s right, straight women may in fact have different sexual interests than their lesbian counterparts. This should go without saying.
  2. Mutually beneficial exchange works out well generally for the human race. See capitalism, trade, sex… I can understand how Salon would struggle with this and prefer that sex, like everything else, have a distinct give and take they can regulate instead of a market-driven pace of mutual exchange and benefit.
  3. Evolution likely favors activities that aid in propagating the species.
  4. Intimacy and close physical contact during sex are often pleasurable. I mean, “theoretically,” but I’m comfortable stating this without a scientific poll.

That’s a completely unscientific list of polite things that can be said in the defense of sex. Besides that, it’s called “sex,” Salon. Without it there would be no writers at Salon. Wait… that’s one strike against it.

On to the Redefinition of Sex

Now that we’ve dispensed with that: While everyone has been focused on the debate over redefining marriage, did we miss that the plain meaning of the word “sex” has changed? I had until now taken for granted that sex meant reproductive sex and oral sex was—well, to straight people—foreplay. There are entire baseball analogies that will be missed greatly in this new clinical world of “safe sex.” The outcome of said survey shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who was loosely affiliated with heterosexual practices. Sure, the opening act is often a great band, but face it: everybody bought tickets for the main event.

If actual reproductive sex is merely “penetration” (with the obvious patriarchal oppressive tones that word means to convey), progressive expectations for the future of sex sound pretty strange. Is the goal to hurtle towards a world of perfect “equality” and safety when it comes to sex? If so, we are taking sex and reducing it to a mere monitored transaction. Perhaps the campy movie “Demolition Man”—about a nonviolent future where all restaurants are Taco Bell (a nice hat tip to corporate consolidation) and all exchanges of bodily fluid are banned by the government—is more like our future than we’d like to believe. The weaknesses of a trying to mandate a perfectly nonviolent and hygienic society are made apparent throughout the entire movie (plus you get Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone going head to head, so what’s not to love?).

I’d offer that “Demolition Man” is the poor man’s version of James Poulos’ fascinating thinking on the pink police state. Per the pink police state series: In the quest for perfect” equality” and “safety” in our most intimate interactions, the ideal third-wave, feminist-approved, non-patriarchal sex act may look more like Sandra Bullock handing Sylvester Stallone a helmet. What is this scene but the end result of all the “safe sex” propaganda? It has all the approved elements you’d desire. Excruciatingly clear consent with a full explanatory exposition that I imagine no man would actually pay attention to if Bullock were propositioning him. There’s no evidence of the act having any other purpose than a mutual endorphin exchange. Of course, it’s also perfectly “safe” since there is no actual touching, but due to technology a guaranteed mutual “outcome.” It has all the ritualistic behaviors of a good dental cleaning—perfectly acceptable and perfectly boring.

If we want perfectly equal, meaningless sex, the only way to achieve that is cultural force. Expect more agitation from the activist class to push for “equal” sexual outcomes and broader definitions of what sex is. We are already seeing forced regulation of sex on college campuses, with the introduction of verbal or written consent laws. The language of sex has already shifted to a conversation of “safe” and “unsafe,” when it should be “worthy” and “unworthy.” Now, what used to be foreplay must be seen as equivalent to sex. In the midst of all this upheaval, count me on Team John Spartan.