Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Just Like Unicorns

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  • Paul Campbell,

    I was reading this MeFi thread yesterday which ended up covering many of these same topics - in it someone made this great suggestion:

    I think it would be awesome if losing your virginity was redefined as when you first had great sex (consensual and mind-blowing-ly pleasurable for both [or err, all] parties). "You're not a man until you've lost your virginity" takes on a whole different tone. Still a virgin? Keep on practicing, you'll get there.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2600 posts Report Reply

  • Ianmac,

    _"That was the beginning of a process of thoughtful consideration which has brought me firmly to one conclusion: virginity doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist in any kind of objective scientific sense, anyway. It’s pure social construction. "_
    Interesting in the biblical sense. The Church insists on the "Virgin Mary." A whole society is built around this idea. Of course the Hebrew meaning of virgin was just to mean "a good woman." But lets not deny this idea as it would cause a collapse. The Church is too big to fail.

    Bleneim • Since Aug 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • Gregor Ronald,

    I was reminded of Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman" bullshit. If it involves your sexual organs and makes you feel sexy, it's sex all right.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    In cultures that only value sex for its procreative potential, the definition of virginity is "have they done nothing that could lead to babies?" That's still prevalent among conservative Christians, for example the letter writer who claimed that same-sex marriage is an oxymoron because marriages need to be consummated, and gay sex isn't real sex because it can't make new life. Yeah, logic isn't their strong point.

    That doesn't explain why non-fundies still get obsessed about vurginity. I guess it's partly cultural hangover, partly dudebro p-into-v fixation, and partly a sense that p-into-v carries the extra risk of pregnancy, so has a greater degree of difficulty than other means of getting each other's rocks off. As if sex were ice dancing.

    The most thought-provoking way to define "having sex" that I've read comes from The Ethical Slut. Something along the lines of "If you and your partner are wondering whether you're having sex, you probably are."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    @paul
    nice … I think I’d add though, given that each person responds differently, that any time you try something new / with a new partner, you are exploring what is, for you (individually or mutually), virgin territory. So it’s a continuing process.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1860 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Ianmac,

    Interesting in the biblical sense. The Church insists on the “Virgin Mary.” A whole society is built around this idea. Of course the Hebrew meaning of virgin was just to mean “a good woman.”

    Yeah, I think it’s one of those things it’s really important to keep pointing out: “virgin” didn’t mean what it does now. (And, y’know, also, Bible, not written in English. “Witch” is not a word in Hebrew.)

    I think I’d add though, given that each person responds differently, that any time you try something new / with a new partner, you are exploring what is, for you (individually or mutually), virgin territory. So it’s a continuing process.

    Yeah, isn’t it great? At my age, I’m still finding out stuff about what my body likes. It’s a continual learning process.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4648 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Tom Beard,

    "If you and your partner are wondering whether you're having sex, you probably are."

    I really like Scarleteen's 'something you do to express your sexuality'. It comfortably accommodates why some kinksters consider BDSM to be sex, and others don't. BDSM practice that includes no conventional sexual contact whatsoever is still sex for me, because I consider it an expression of my sexuality. In spades. Other people don't consider that for them, BDSM is sexuality. So there are couples who consider themselves monogamous but still have play partners, for instance, because for them, that's not sex.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4648 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Tom Beard,

    "have they done nothing that could lead to babies?"

    Part of the issue there is about being certain any child is in fact the progeny of the husband - hence the importance of virgin bride.

    I like the idea of virgin territory, it invokes the sense of wonder that comes when you do something new and exciting. Logically you'd want to be virginal every time then wouldn't you ... perhaps that's a state of mind.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4445 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Part of the issue there is about being certain any child is in fact the progeny of the husband – hence the importance of virgin bride.

    Absolutely. If we'd stuck with matrilinear inheritance, there'd be no need for this bollocks. It's so much easier to know who someone's mother is.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4648 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Great post Emma. How also to deal with sexual acts and situations that might involve more than one other person? How to deal with people using electrons to stimulate each other over a long distance? It's an expansive concept.

    I think the problem is that we're still getting used to contraception. For millions of years, things that made humans and pre-humans feel like they've had sex had a pretty high chance of creating a pregnancy and thus new human. Pleasure wasn't guaranteed to give you a child, but that was its biological purpose.

    We've only had cheap and reliable contraceptives for decades - within the lifetime of people living on this earth. So we're still figuring out how to think and deal with things that make us feel really good (when done right). That enables and requires significant social reconfiguration: I don't think it's an exaggeration to state that the contraceptive pill made possible gay marriage.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R, in reply to Emma Hart,

    And, y’know, also, Bible, not written in English.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Ianmac,

    Of course the Hebrew meaning of virgin was just to mean "a good woman."

    Actually, a virgin was an unmarried woman.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3886 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to George Darroch,

    For millions of years, things that made humans and pre-humans feel like they’ve had sex had a pretty high chance of creating a pregnancy and thus new human. Pleasure wasn’t guaranteed to give you a child, but that was its biological purpose.

    George I agree that the impact of reliable contraception (and also of understanding the mechanics of conception) has made for enormous and complex social changes.

    But I just don't buy the "ancient-sex-was-procreation" thing. Most sex anywhere in the animal kingdom does not lead to conception, and often cannot lead to conception . Homosexuality, auto-eroticism, group sex, manual and oral stimulation (plus stuff done with fins!) is all over the natural world. The pretence that sex is "naturally" about conception is just another myth.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3886 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    Most sex anywhere in the animal kingdom does not lead to conception

    That's mostly biology, which is what I guess you meant by the second bit. Specifically, humans are quite unusual in the animal kingdom as being fertile all the F*ing time. Most animals are fertile only at limited times, which means for most of the time the heterosexual "standard" sex they have is just for fun.

    As for all the other stuff animals get up to, yeah you're absolutely right there is a whole bunch of kinky stuff animals do apparently for fun that have nothing at all to do with procreation (seriously some of that stuff is just so wrong :)).

    I do think there is some socially derived "sex-as-procreation" in most human societies. Just none of it has any relevance to 21st century life.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4445 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    (seriously some of that stuff is just so wrong :)).

    Links??

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    (seriously some of that stuff is just so wrong :)).

    Quite a few animals have sex within families and also forcible sex. A lot of nature’s not pretty.

    Those who want to read more (and there is a lot more!) might like to read Bruce Bagemihil’s Biological Exuberance .

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3886 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    It's not so much that (female) humans are fertile all the time, as that the few days a month we are fertile are hidden such that it's often safest to treat every day as a fertile day. I find it interesting that many women find our libidos match up neatly with our fertility - As if nature was quite invested in getting us knocked up.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    (seriously some of that stuff is just so wrong :)).

    Links??

    Just google it ... go on ... I dare you

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4445 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Just google it … go on … I dare you

    You may wish to take a moment to imagine how googling sources for this article went.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4648 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    I find it interesting that many women find our libidos match up neatly with our fertility – As if nature was quite invested in getting us knocked up

    Welllll...but also the sudden horniness just before menstruation, when conception is impossible?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3886 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    Welllll…but also the sudden horniness just before menstruation, when conception is impossible?

    Just worth pointing out that men have cyclic horniness as well. It's just a diurnal cycle instead of monthly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4445 posts Report Reply

  • Anne R,

    One of the problems I'm running into while searching for a definition of sex is that all definitions I've found include the words "sexuality", "sexually-motivated behaviour", "sexual arousal" etc etc. If the definition of a word includes the word it's trying to define, it's inadequate (and ludicrous); it's like saying love is love-motivated behaviour, or beans are bean-like entities. I've attempted to define sex as a conversation held between bodies; I'm yet to work out what the definitive difference between sexual and non-sexual bodily conversations is, or if it matters at all. I suspect it matters a lot less than we think.

    Since Sep 2013 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Anne R,

    I’ve attempted to define sex as a conversation held between bodies

    Does this, to you, necessarily involve physical contact, or the participants being in the same space? Also, "between" seems to require at least two bodies.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4648 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Tom Beard,

    gay sex isn't real sex because it can't make new life.

    I'm guessing that STI's don't count? "darling, I made new life... lots of cute baby chlamidia bacteria"...

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1169 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene, in reply to Emma Hart,

    If we'd stuck with matrilinear inheritance, there'd be no need for this bollocks.

    Mitochondrial DNA is bringing matrilinear inheritance back into popular favour.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

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