Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why is it always sex?

Today my partner told me the following joke:

"What do you have when you have 200 black people in a burning airplane headed toward a cliff? A good start."

WTF partner. I know you were raised in a hermetically sealed rural white Christian homeschool enclave where couples "court" and science class explains how DNA doesn't exist and 8-hour zygotes cry when mommy doesn't love them, but WTF. Way to love thy fucking neighbor.

(And then he assumes I must be some kind of radical lefty when I get offended by such things. I'm pretty moderate and even conservative on many issues, I'm just not an asshole.)


Anyway. I've been having a lot of political arguments with my partner lately, and following a lot of political controversies on the news and the Internet, and I've noticed that a lot of them are about sexuality in some way. Censorship. Obscenity. Pornography. Prostitution. Abortion. Beauty standards. Birth control. Gardasil. Gay marriage. Date rape. Sexual harassment. Sex education. Sex scandals. Labia dye. Some of this is my personal area of focus, of course, but it does seem like sexual controversies make up a disproportionate amount of political debate.

(My personal stance tends to come down on the "pro-fucking" side of each debate, or the "libertarian" one if you want to put it like that.)

Why is this? Probably the main reason is that it's easy for people to understand. (Or at least think they understand.) I've worked in healthcare for years and I still don't know what I think of "healthcare reform," because I can never get a handle on what exactly is in the healthcare bill. All proponents say is that it'll make everything better and cheaper, and all opponents say is that it won't. Details seem scarce and it's hard for me to take a firm stance on some enormous constantly-changing document that I've never read.

But gay marriage, that's easy! That fits very comfortably in my little monkey-brain. Man make ugg-ugg with man, ugga. I feel like I can completely understand this issue, so I'm confident having a strong opinion on it. There's not much background reading to do. And this is the case with most sexual issues. We believe we understand sex and what the questions about it mean. Most people, myself included, have no idea how TARP works and a very good idea how a penis works.

Also, sex is something personally important to most people. TARP payments may be affecting my taxes I guess, or my future taxes or something, but it seems abstract and minor. It may upset me intellectually but to my monkey-brain it's basically an event that's happening somewhere else to someone else. It could just be in some book for all I really know. Whereas many of these sexual issues are about me. I might need the morning-after pill myself someday and I'm quite concerned with how easily I can get it. When someone claims that porn consumers or bisexuals are messed up, they're talking smack about me.

And sex is just intrinsically interesting. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I read the "reproductive system" section of biology textbooks first, I flip ahead to page 248 in "Clan of the Cave Bear," and I'd rather talk and think about flithy illicit fucking than high-risk mortgages. Even if I'm using clinical words and a serious tone and my panties are dry, it's still way more intriguing.

Finally, sex is something that, ironically, we don't talk enough about. At least we don't talk about it like grown-ups. We're all about the titillation and argument, but when it comes to serious levelheaded discussion I think our culture is still stuck in junior high. Sex writing is sensationalized, sex art is ghettoized, sex culture is marginalized, sex work is outlawed, sex education is haphazard, and sex itself is simultaneously a Big Damn Secret and a Big Damn Deal.

I don't want to make it sound like "oh, if everyone was open about sex they'd agree with me on everything" (although they would, I'm not stupid, I hold beliefs because they happen to be right). But if everyone was open about sex I think it would get less blown out of proportion. Sex scandals wouldn't go away but they'd be normal scandals. The abortion debate wouldn't be settled but it might lose the creepy "if you do something irresponsible you need to face consequences" undertones.

We are a nation of three hundred million sixth-graders, simultaneously fascinated and terrified by every hint of sexuality, and I count myself among that number.


  1. Political arguments... about Labia Dye. HOOOWWWW?

    Besides, the correct answer to that question is: An assassination attempt on the paramilitary leader of a small African country.

  2. Oh god, Clan of the Cave Bear. My mom let me read the first book in that series because the only sex in it was rape (and that's somehow more acceptable for middle schoolers' fragile minds) and the later ones had consensual sex in them. As soon as she left me alone in the house I flipped through all of the other books looking for those scenes. I still haven't read the rest of the books fully...

  3. A good start.

    Ok, so, in the other thread where you were asking for advice about communicating with your partner that he's being a punk-ass motherfucker, and I advised taking a light hand with that...

    If that is the level of thing you're talking about (either about ethnic issues like the one described here, or about gender issues like the one you were talking about before), I'd like to alter my recommendation somewhat, because seriously, that's the sort of thing where he needs to be let know hard and fast what a complete fucking troglodyte he's being. I was under the impression from the last post that he was being annoying about it (talking about "girly" beer) but not actively malevolent. (If he's making jokes about killing women and wearing their skins or something, the problem is larger than I understood from the last post.)

  4. Perlhaqr - He wasn't like that before.

    At this point I'm about ready to give up on him. I wasn't polite about that joke at all and I think all he got out of it was "geez, uptight."

  5. I had a really good friend who occasionally embarrassed the heck out of me with jokes like that when we were both 14, 26 years ago. I was always kind of the follower in our friendship but after a while I got on my high horse and lectured, which suprisingly, actually worked to get him to quit with those kind of jokes around me without killing the friendship. He had a very different background than the guy in your example, the one I've come to associate with serious racism; union Democrat, public school, religious only as a social club. Maybe a quarter-century has changed that.

  6. I'm with the Specials on this one:

    "If you have a racist friend
    Now is the time, now is the time for your friendship to end

    Be it your sister
    Be it your brother
    Be it your cousin or your uncle or your lover

    Tell them to change their views
    Or change their friends
    Now is the time, now is the time, for your friendship to end"


  7. Guy's going to have quite an eye opening now that he lives in Seattle.

    I would like to think that there's not more than about half a percent of the country that would actually think that joke was funny, and a much smaller percentage than that in Seattle.

    But maybe I'm just overoptimistic about people.

  8. Some racist jokes have some sort of potential for uncomfortable laughs in playing off stereotypes.

    That's just flat-out hateful with not even a speck of humor potential for anyone who doesn't spend their weekends in a white sheet.

    I'd be seriously considering complaining to my boss, though I know not tattling is a big deal where you work.

  9. Nonono, that's not how you do it. Try something more like this: Q.) What do you call 200 blacks at the bottom of the sea? A.) African-Atlanteans.

    Yes, I'm insane.

  10. perlhaqr - It's way more than half a percent, even in Seattle. (Also, I don't actually live in Seattle and neither does he, I'm in a moderately distant suburb and he lives WAY out in the sticks.) I'd guess a couple percent of people are really openly racist and a LOT more aren't exactly open racists but are quite willing to hide behind "don't you have a sense of humor?"

    LabRat - Complaining to management at my company seems to result in a "remove the complaint, not the problem" reaction--they'd probably get him out of my sight if I made a stink, but not actually reprimand or even talk to him about it. (They've done this before in sexual harassment cases.)

    He's a terrible person but actually an okay partner; for every "I'm not a racist, but the crime statistics show..." he's got a "hey, don't worry, I'll help you with that." I don't want to be unpartnered, I just want him to be less of a jerk. Since that's impossible, I'll call him on his bullshit to the extent possible and that's pretty much it.

  11. Jeez... if a guy I was seeing did that, he'd be my ex-partner pretty much immediately. I can take an off-color joke or two, but that joke wasn't even remotely funny, it just seemed incredibly hateful.

    Did you at least call him on it? "Hey, that's not funny, that's really racist..."? or "What the frick?" I strongly believe that social pressure is a great motivational tool.

  12. Laura - He's my work partner, I am NOT seeing him and definitely never would.

    Yeah, I told him it wasn't very fucking funny at all.

  13. It's way more than half a percent, even in Seattle.

    I'm perfectly willing to admit to the potential for a strong sampling bias in my numbers. Purely anecdotal statistics, based on my personal experience with the world, but I filter for bigoted fucktards pretty hard.

    Also, I'm sad to hear that I'm significantly wrong. :( $hope_for_humanity--;

  14. "What do you call a racist White boy buried up to his neck in sand?

    "NOT ENOUGH SAND!!" (Hahaha, I crack myself up, I tell ya.)


    Moving, gratefully, to the second're spot on with your commentary. Sex, booze and drugs are the three areas where this country really needs to grow the fuck up already.