Culture

Recent posts

Revisiting Sex Work And Checking My Privilege

I was pretty pleased with my post on why legislating sex work is problematic, until someone wrote to me to point out where I got it wrong. That’s actually what I was hoping for, as I’d concluded the post by writing:

To that end, if I’ve misrepresented the nature of sex work or adult performance here in this article, I apologize and request that someone from the community contact me and correct me. I’m just an academic who’s good at spotting patterns and analyzing cultural trends – you know more about your lives than I do. Not that it’s your job to teach me, but hopefully I can use this blog as a platform to correct false impressions about sex work and sexuality in general. So when C. Simon, an escort, emailed me and pointed out that I’d undermined my own argument in certain ways, I was both happy to receive the criticism and chagrined that I’d fallen prey to the very logic I’d been trying to critique. Continue Reading →

If You’re A Consenting Adult, I Support You Doing Anything

When I write that I support consenting adults doing anything, that statement of course comes with a few caveats: “anything” should not include acts that harm others, at least without their pre-communicated consent (as in, say, giving a beating in a BDSM setting). This is where the discussion gets complicated, since how do we define “harm”? Is it possible to consent to ostensibly harmful acts, like being punched or whipped as part of a sexual scene? I think it is, but I also think there are coercive situations where consent gets muddled and there are then social pressures to not talk about it in those terms.

In general, though, if you’re an adult who is informed about the circumstances and thus able to give consent, I’m not going to tell you

Who to date
Who to have sex with
How to have sex*
What props or toys to use (or not use) while having sex with others or yourself
Whether you should or should not try kink or polyamory
Whether you should choose to sell sexual acts

I am, however, going to tell you

To go out of your way to get as much information as possible about the potential risks and benefits of any sexual acts you might try
To make sure your partner(s) are clear on what you’re planning on doing so that everyone can give informed consent
To make sure you want what you’re pursuing and that you’re trying it for the “right” reasons (which, admittedly, may not be the same as society’s version of the “right” reasons, but in general, try to identify what it is you want so that you can be authentic to your desires rather than giving in to peer pressure)

I may not be a fan of every sex act or relationship choice out there, but I support your right to choose these things. I try not to fall into the trap of thinking that if I don’t like it, it must be morally repugnant. Continue Reading →

Queer Scholarship In Song And Story

Queer theory is known for being dense, almost unreadable at times. That’s why it’s all the more impressive that Kay Turner, a folklorist at the Brooklyn Arts Council, dedicated an evening to performances of queer-theory-oriented songs. And even better, the New York Times wrote up the event in a blog post documenting the songs and attendees. Why is this noteworthy? Queer theory had its beginnings as an offshoot of academic feminist theory, gay and lesbian activism, and other influences from the humanities, social sciences, sexuality studies, and the public sphere. Continue Reading →

How A Misogynist Changed His Mind

What makes people change their core beliefs about how the world works (a.k.a. their worldview)? This question intrigues me, as I note in this post about how Canadian health care converted a self-identified conservative to support universal health care. In this blog post, you can read about a similar sort of thing happening: a guy who used to be a real misogynist explains how, over a period of years, he slowly began to change his mind about the feminist conspiracy to oppress men and keep “nice guys” like himself from getting laid. What would it take for you to change your mind about a deeply held belief regarding gender or sexuality? Continue Reading →

People Are Generally Smart Vs. People Are Generally Stupid

As a scholar of culture, I’m constantly amazed by people’s behavior: it alternates between intelligent and inane, smart and stupid. People in groups can do the dumbest things, while at other times, people achieve the most altruistic and amazing accomplishments. This is doubly true when it comes to gender and sex: some people manage to be mind-blowingly perceptive and tolerant, while others are bigoted, placing themselves or others at risk due to prejudice, ignorance, or small-mindedness. What I find intriguing is when one group of people makes itself out to be smarter or better-informed than another, and thus tries to regulate the other’s behavior. And I’m not just talking about instances where a sex researcher says, “Hey, X is a really good idea based on the studies I’ve seen” (where X might be consistent condom use to avoid pregnancy and STI transmission, or promoting gay-straight alliances in schools, or whatever). Continue Reading →

Queer Alphabet Soup: Moving Beyond Sexual Inclusivity

LGTBQIA…and the list goes on. What we once simply called gay expanded to gay and lesbian, then to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, and then further to include the umbrella term queer, as well as intersex and asexual. A recent New York Times article by Michael Schulman tackles this expansion of inclusive terms, discussing the new generation of queers and the gender inclusivity that they are striving for. “If the gay-rights movement today seems to revolve around same-sex marriage, this generation is seeking something more radical: an upending of gender roles beyond the binary of male/female. The core question isn’t whom they love, but who they are — that is, identity as distinct from sexual orientation. Continue Reading →

Sexual Assault And Burning Man Culture

Those of you who know what Burning man is (here’s a link for those who don’t) probably have positive mental images of the festival – after all, it’s an intentional community based on art, freedom of expression, and radical inclusion and participation. However, sexual assault does happen at burns, and so it’s good to be aware that the possibility exists. I highly recommend this essay on rape at Burning Man by Clarisse Thorn. She discusses an assault, the community response, and some of the legal and cultural issue affecting consent and vulnerability. Not all of us will go to Burning Man, but we all should have conversations about how to create safe environments and spot abusers. Continue Reading →

The Politics Of Regulating Guns And Regulating Sexuality

Buckle up, folks, I’m going to draw a number of parallels and ask you to put on your metaphorical thinking-caps while reading this post. Maybe you don’t automatically think “vaginas!” when you’re tuning into the gun debate in America, but I do, and I think you should consider doing the same. Here’s why. Continue Reading →

Denmark’s Sperm Bike

Talk about genitals in the wild! I recently stumbled upon an article that added another bullet point to my long list of reasons to live in a Scandinavian country. The Nordisk Cryobank, a European sperm bank, decided to get creative in transporting donor samples. Naturally, they chose a bike- but this isn’t just any bike.  

The “sperm bike” is not only a green form of transportation, but it serves as a wonderful form of advertisement for the Cryobank. Continue Reading →