liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
So two posts about terrible letters to agony aunts crossed my radar recently:

[personal profile] oursin: Sexual bucket list WHAT?, and [community profile] agonyaunt: Women need to loosen up. In the Guardian column, the writer asks for validation of his desire to either cheat on his wife or pressure her into anal sex. And in the Dear Abby one, the writer wants his wife to give him an exceptionally nice surprise and stop being so inhibited. I mean, both of these are entirely gross and inconsiderate and in both cases the agony aunts and the DW commenters quite rightly slate the men concerned. But what's bothering me is that both the comment discussions go in directions of jokes along the lines of, bet these awful men wouldn't be so keen if their wives suggested doing them with a strap-on! (Paraphrasing rather that quoting, because the point is not to get at the particular people who made these kinds of jokes, but to talk in general about that sort of rhetoric).

I'm finding myself increasingly impatient with seeing this sort of joke or meme, especially in broadly feminist contexts. Because the underlying assumption seems to be that being penetrated anally is intrinsically horrible and unpleasant or at least risible. Which is... not exactly homophobic, but it's something in that sort of direction. I feel like we kind of went through this with PIV sex, the meme that being penetrated is always unpleasant, and it's something that women only reluctantly agree to in exchange for lurve or something else they want enough to put up with it, or because they get tricked or even coerced into it by nasty misogynist men. No, some women enjoy being penetrated vaginally, some people who are not women but in fact have vaginas enjoy being penetrated, and some people don't like that form of sex, or don't like genital sex or even sex at all, and all those things are completely fine, and nobody should ever be coerced into a kind of sex they hate or shamed for a kind of sex that they enjoy. And really, we shouldn't have to rehash the whole cultural shift when it comes to a different orifice! Being penetrated anally is enjoyable for some, pointless for some, actively hateful or squicky for others, and all those are fine. Being penetrated doesn't make you a loser in some awful masculinity competition.

Besides, if being penetrated anally is so awful, why is it ok, even desirable, for women to do it to men? And if we're specifically talking about pegging with a strap-on, well, most strap-ons aren't really great for sexual stimulation for the person wearing the device. I don't see how the feminist response to a male partner trying to pressure his wife / girlfriend into anal is for her to offer the other way round. Nobody is going to be made happier if she agrees to "let" him do something that is unpleasant for her in exchange for her getting to do something that is unpleasant at best, possibly actively painful and humiliating for him and probably not particularly positive for her unless she's specifically into gender play or some other beyond purely physical aspect.

I also don't like the idea of promoting pegging for the sake of "equality". I mean, both socially and physiologically rectums are different from vaginas, so there's never going to be symmetry. And a person shouldn't need to directly experience being penetrated in order to have empathy for his partner, he should just ask her how she feels! An equal sexual relationship is one where both partners do things together that both enjoy, not one with a weird tit-for-tat where both put up with acts they find unpleasant being done to them.

I generally don't think that specific sex acts are inherently feminist or unfeminist. If people like anal play, cool, more power to them, whichever configuration they want to engage in it. If they don't, well, they shouldn't be pressured into it, either by their partners or by discourse in general. I really don't like the framing of sex which says you owe it to your partners to do for them the same things that they do for you; a penis-having man who enjoys penetrating his female partner (vaginally or anally, doesn't matter) shouldn't be obliged to be pegged just because that's equal. I feel the same about other things too, in fact; for example, in my view and contrary to many feminist-aligned commentators, there's nothing wrong with enjoying receiving oral but not being into giving it, in any gender combination and if it happens to be men who like receiving but don't like going down on female partners, that doesn't make them entitled sexist jerks. Though if their partners don't like giving oral either, well, that's too bad, pressuring people into stuff that's pleasurable for you but unpleasant for them is just not right.

And it's still not right when the act in question is penetrating someone anally. So I don't think pegging is the solution to sexual sexism, not at all, and I wish people would stop suggesting it, either seriously or sniggering about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-17 10:00 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
I don't get the feeling that the women are trying to make the men do an unpleasant thing in return, more that men think it's THE WORST for them, but think women should be all "that sounds fun" and that maybe they shouldn't go around blaming their wives/partners for thinking it's not for them if the guys won't even consider it in any way at all, nuh uh.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-17 10:14 pm (UTC)
quartzpebble: (Default)
From: [personal profile] quartzpebble
Yes, this. And that if part of the reason that guys' kneejerk reaction is "NOPE, THE WORST, WHY WOULD YOU EVEN THINK THAT" is because *they* find receptive anal sex shameful, MAYBE THEY SHOULD CONSIDER THAT IT MIGHT NOT BE JUST THEM.

Incidentally, while no one *has* to be into anything, at least some reciprocity in this area* is a pretty decent indicator that the guy in question is actually into anal play because it is fun, rather than as part of a non/dubiously consensual power trip**, which is what these guys seem to be describing.

* Even at the level of "I tried it awhile back, not really my thing" or "yeah, I will if you're into it, but that's not what I'm really into"
** People get to be into this. Far too many people confuse this with getting to actually act it out; see the "getting her to give it up" trope.
Edited Date: 2016-03-17 10:26 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-17 10:34 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
Yes, this. That it's funny how often guys are all "ugh no you can't do that to me LET ME DO IT TO YOU WHY DON'T YOU THINK IT'S SEXY" without stopping to consider that maybe they could find the answer to their own question if they thought about it for about 1 microsecond.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-17 11:16 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
I'm with the other commenters thus far in disagreeing with you; I think the point at which we part ways is
Because the underlying assumption seems to be that being penetrated anally is intrinsically horrible and unpleasant or at least risible.


I don't at all think that's the underlying assumption when that set of comments is being made in these contexts. (I think that means that the underlying assumptions aren't being stated clearly enough, and should be made clearer -- because the statements are being made in a way that assumes all readers will have the appropriate context, and that's obviously not the case.)

Specifically, I think the underlying assumption is not that being penetrated anally is intrinsically horrible or unpleasant or risible, but that these men in specific are approaching the concept of anal sex with an attitude of treating their putative partners as body parts and fucktoys, not as people, with no concern at all for how said partners will feel. The point being made is, I think, not about the act itself, but about the (probably forlorn) hope that these men's likely incredibly negative reaction to the idea of bottoming will flag up to them how hypocritical they're being.

On top of that, while I absolutely agree that sex should not ever be some kind of tit-for-tat score-keeping "you owe it to your partners to do for them the same things that they do for you", in the specific instance of anal sex I consider it very, very helpful for people to get to know how their own bodies react to anal penetration, and what good (or at worst indifferent) versus bad feels like for them and what sorts of actions cause what sorts of responses, in order to be able to be responsible and adequately careful tops. The men in question do not sound like they care about the comfort or pleasure of their partners, so this one is honestly probably onto a loser, but there remains the point that they sound like (1) they absolutely don't know what they're doing and (2) they think they can just stick it in and have at it, with no regard whatsoever for their partners, because they're viewing their partners as body parts not people, and that is a terrible idea and some practical receptive experience about WHY THEY SHOULD USE ENOUGH LUBE TO BEGIN WITH is not, I feel, a bad thing. And yes, in principle people should be able to have sufficient empathy that they don't need to experience something themselves to care about how their partners would feel, but I only ever see this style of comment being made about men who very clearly really don't care that much.

I also disagree with
And if we're specifically talking about pegging with a strap-on, well, most strap-ons aren't really great for sexual stimulation for the person wearing the device. [...] Nobody is going to be made happier if she agrees to "let" him do something that is unpleasant for her in exchange for her getting to do something that is unpleasant at best, possibly actively painful and humiliating for him and probably not particularly positive for her unless she's specifically into gender play or some other beyond purely physical aspect.


In addition to disagreeing with your view of the assumptions underpinning the suggestion, I'm not sold on the idea that it's necessarily useful to suggest that most people don't get physical pleasure from using strap-ons; I most commonly see the (yes, slightly snarky) suggestion made by people who would 100% be delighted to talk people through choosing what kind of strap-on to buy that would best fit their needs. (Plus I think that "pegging" in this context is to some extent comedic exaggeration: manual penetration would perfectly well cover all the reasons I suggest above, with no need for the outlay.)

Plus, of course, anal sex does not have to be "unpleasant at best" and actively should not be painful (with the caveat that if you 1. know what you're doing and are 2. into that kind of thing, then, like, have at it) or humiliating (ditto): but the idea that being receptive during anal sex is actively humiliating again... does not speak terribly well about how these men think of their partners and what they actually want out of anal sex, as [personal profile] quartzpebble discusses.

I really don't think the point is tit-for-tat on unpleasantness. I think it's about getting people to stop and think about their partners' pleasure. And sure there's some not-totally-pleasant and definitely pointed ridicule of people for, essentially, treating other people like things -- but I really do think that's as far as it goes.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-18 09:50 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
(& on the topic of manual penetration -- it doesn't sound like any of these dudes are starting out there or have any intention so to do, i.e. they're not willing to actually put in the work required to make anal sex potentially pleasurable for their partners because that would mean treating their partners like people, I say again.

And I suspect a large part of the reason this kind of resigned-and-weary joke gets made is that it's a lot easier to get people to consider "maybe he's treating me appallingly and I should leave him him" from the obvious inequality it highlights than if you straight-up say "he's treating you appallingly and you should leave him".)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-18 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] flippac
I've had partners using strap-ons get off before me, just sayin'.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-18 01:43 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
As someone who made one of the jokes you're referring to: Yeah, that's not what I meant at all. The turnabout is specifically to flush out men who think that penetration, especially anal penetration, is demeaning, emasculating, humiliating, etc. when they want to do it to me. It's a question of, "Do you want this because you think it would be fun and mutually enjoyable, or do you want it because you want to dominate and humiliate me?"

I haven't personally pegged anyone, but it's my understanding that actually, having a prostate (which most men do, and most women don't) makes receptive anal sex way more pleasurable. So it's not actually suggesting something that should be physically uncomfortable or painful; rather it's something usually physically pleasant and frequently leading to orgasm that nevertheless requires surrendering a bit of the social definition of manhood (namely, the pride that men are Always Penetrating and Dominant, Never Receptive or Penetrated).

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-18 09:48 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
(I mean, I note that the absence of a prostate doesn't mean anal sex can't be very pleasant! But yeah, all of this too.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-18 10:27 am (UTC)
ambyr: a dark-winged man standing in a doorway over water; his reflection has white wings (watercolor by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law) (Default)
From: [personal profile] ambyr
I agree that I find the focus on pegging specifically sort of odd. I don't think it's just coincidence that people tend to go straight to that, rather than talking about other forms of anal play.

Honestly, I think a more useful point might be, "You want to have anal sex with her? Okay. Are you willing to work up to it by having sessions where you carefully finger/rim her ass, focusing on her pleasure, while your dick gets ignored?" That filters for "treats partner like fucktoy" without treating sex as a tit-for-tat activity or implying anal sex is de facto unpleasant.

ETA I guess it's worth noting that my perspective comes from involvement in the kink community, where do-me bottoms desperate to know how they can convince their girlfriends to peg them are almost as prevalent (and just as annoying) as tops desperate to know how they can convince their girlfriends to let them fuck her in the ass. Put "pegging" as an interest in your FL profile and your head will spin with how many random dudes message you the poorly spelled equivalent of, "so, my ass, your strap-on, next Tuesday, y/y?" The problem is not wanting any particular tab to go into any particular slot; it's treating people as fetish-delivery systems and not caring about their pleasure and preferences.
Edited Date: 2016-03-18 11:38 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-18 08:56 pm (UTC)
ayebydan: by <user name="pureimagination"> (marvel)
From: [personal profile] ayebydan
Another interesting read from you. I don't have enough knowledge to comment on the whole thing proper but I did enjoy your post and the resulting discussion. :)

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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