Monday, September 2, 2013

Not So Different.

The first time I touched a penis, I was amazed: it's just skin!  It didn't feel all that different from the skin anywhere else on his body.  I'd been expecting... I don't know what I was expecting. Something exotic, something totally new and different and dirty and scary and strange.  Like maybe it would feel like a squid, or be electrified, or cause the world to tastefully fade to a view of fluttering curtains.

Because it was a sex thing, and everything I had learned in life up to that point had primed me with the idea that sex things are nothing like ordinary thing things.  Sex ed was always set apart from ordinary life skills teaching.  Sex movies were special secret movies I wasn't supposed to see.  Sex wasn't just a taboo; it was a mystery, an esoteric alternate dimension where people became their animalistic sex-selves.

But there I was, touching a penis, and it turned out to be completely continuous with the rest of his body.  It was just a part of him.  And the sex we had was just a part of life.  A fun part, sure--sometimes a magnificently, transcendently pleasurable part--but it did not take place in a different universe nor did it make us into different people.  The me who fucked until I was sweat-slick and screaming was the very same me who got up the next day and made my bed and went to class.  The line between "sex" and "life" had been a lie.



Sometimes people say "sex is a part of life" to mean "sex isn't a big deal."  I don't agree with that.  I think sex is a big deal--but only a big deal.  Not a magical mystical none-of-the-normal-rules-apply deal.

Which is to say: the normal rules do apply.  Everything you learned from Mister Rogers about how you treat other people--that's how you treat other people when you're fucking them, too.  It's simple stuff, mostly, and you don't need some Sex Expert to dispense Sex Wisdom to know it: Be honest. Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours. Be safe.  Don't bully or make fun of people.  Don't  throw tantrums when you don't get everything you want.  Keep your promises.  Use your words.  Brush your teeth.

Really, this is the whole foundation of my sexual ethics.  It's not Betty Dodson and it's not Susie Bright.  It's Fred McFeely Rogers.

"Is it okay to cheat on my partner if they won't have sex with me?"  Keep your promises.
"Are people who've had too much sex icky bad people?"  Don't bully or make fun of people.
"Is it okay to have sex with someone who's asleep, if they've had sex with me before?" Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours.
"What should I do if I want an open relationship?" Use your words.

I don't want to make this sound oversimplified--there are lots of questions where it's not immediately clear which option is "being honest" versus "throwing a tantrum", or what exactly constitutes a "promise"--but it's simple at the core of it.  Everything you know about how to be a decent person still applies when sex is involved.  You don't need to figure out (or more often, not figure out, but excuse your behavior by claiming they exist) special different Sex Rules for everything.  Sex isn't a special case in ethics. It's just a case.



The other night, a friend and I kidnapped a man. We blindfolded him and threw him in the back of a car and drove in circles to disorient him (or possibly because I forgot that you can't turn left at the end of White Street), marched him around in public and treated him as our captive, tackled him when he tried to escape, then took him home and interrogated him.  (Then we fed him cake.)

This wasn't okay because the guy was kinky, or because we were.  It wasn't okay because we didn't really hurt him.  It wasn't okay because it was fun and sexy and you can let your morals slip a little for funsexiness.  It wasn't okay because we followed some obscure set of specifically kinky rules for how to do this in a correct kinky way.  It was okay because we used our words, got permission, and kept our promises.

59 comments:

  1. Once I let go of the feeling that sex stuff is icky and unspeakable, I realized it varies just like any other social experience, like watching a movie or holding a conversation or cooking breakfast. Sometimes conversations are boring, sometimes they are fascinating. Often a meal is enjoyable but unremarkable. Sometimes a meal is boring and uninteresting because you didn't cook it well enough. Sometimes a meal is amazing and joyful.

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  2. That sounds awesome. Consensual "kidnapping" for the win!

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    1. Re: the public stuff though- doesn't consent include bystanders?

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    2. We're aware of that, and we did make an effort not to do anything in public that went beyond "horseplay" in appearance. We were in ordinary clothes and he was just willingly/gigglingly walking with our arms looped around his. (Nobody was around when he "escaped" and was "recaptured.") There were a few moments we might've looked weird to an outside observer, but it's unlikely they would've perceived it as anything violent or sexual.

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    3. Ah that's good. From what you described originally I was sort of imagining someone ringing the police!

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  3. I agree with everything you say as usual Cliff, except one thing:

    '"Is it okay to have sex with someone who's asleep, if they've had sex with me before?" Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours.'

    I don't really like this phrasing - bodies aren't just objects or 'things' to be touched, they're an integral part of who we are. I think not raping or violating someone is probably better covered by life advice such as 'don't hurt others' and 'don't do something to someone against their will'.

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    1. Yeah, that was unfortunate word choice. :/ I was probably trying a little too hard to keep the kindergarten metaphor going.

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    2. I get the objection, but I actually kind of like the kindergarten phrasing in one sense, because it implies that EVEN IF you're looking at a person as a thing (and we are, after all, things, it's just that we're also more than that), a person is still a THING THAT ISN'T YOURS. So the ethics go all the way down.

      My "wow, it's just skin" epiphany was a little more anatomical -- I had somehow gotten the idea that penises were made of mucus membrane, just like vaginas.

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    3. I just went to a different office and checked something in a book a co-worker owns, despite the fact that she wasn't there so I couldn't ask. It's just generally assumed at my workplace that you can do that. So... overall, really like what you wrote, but bodies are simply more, well, INTIMATE than things, so that particular line didn't really work.

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    4. But... bodies aren't like a coworker's book. If we're rolling with the kindergarten allegory here, touching someone's body without permission is like taking someone's teddy out of their backpack when they're not looking. I hope that phrase sets off as many alarm bells in you as it does in me. I mean, not even my mom had standing permission to touch my teddy. I went ballistic when people touched him, and teachers would go "Share!" and I would go, "But he's my teddy!" and they would go "Oh, I thought he was just a toy. [other kid], don't touch other people's things without permission." Standard sharing rules are off the table when it comes to people's teddies/security blankets/whatever.

      It's all about standing permission, for me. There are lots of things you can get standing permission to touch, but for others, you just can't. Like teddies. And bodies.

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    5. Although... Unless you ALREADY understand that it's not okay to touch people's things without their permission (and thus don't really need an analogy to explain that), I doubt you understand that a teddy bear could have that importance.

      Maybe this is one of the things that can't be explained by analogy. You can still say though that it's about a general respect for people rather than a Special Sex Rule.

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    6. Sorry, slipped on the keyboard. What I meant to say was that unless you ALREADY understand that it's not okay to touch people's BODIES without their permission (and thus don't really need an analogy to explain that) I doubt you'll understand that a teddy bear could have that importance. A person who makes light of touching other's bodies without their consent will most likely think it terribly silly to say that a teddy bear can be that special to a kid and go "it's just a fucking toy, what's the big deal".

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    7. I see what you mean. I wonder if there's anything one can say to those people to make them get it.

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    8. I think there are hopeless cases, people you can't reason with because they just don't care about others. But if we exclude these hopeless cases and only look at people who have some level of decency, it could be informative if you just told them that sex is ruled by the same basic moral rules as everything else. It all boils down to showing others respect and do no harm, so you don't need special sex rules. Which was Cliff's main point - there are no special sex rules, just general morality.

      "No sex without consent" may not have a perfect analogy outside of sex that you could use to elucidate things (even people who do care about others may not understand that a teddy bear could be important, if they've never experienced intense attachement to an inanimate object themselves), but it's still a special instance of a more basic moral rule.

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  4. Comradde PhysioProffeSeptember 2, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    You don't need to figure out (or more often, not figure out, but excuse your behavior by claiming they exist) special different Sex Rules for everything. Sex isn't a special case in ethics. It's just a case.

    This is exactly what Cosmo's "sex and dating advice" gets so consistently and woefully wrong.

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    1. Well, that and the belief that there are only three categories of fact:

      1) Wrong for everyone.
      2) Wrong for everyone, except some weird freaks, but never mind them.
      3) Right for everyone.

      Cosmo's biggest failing, I think, is an absolute abhorrence of the idea that YMMV.

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    2. Roy J. Garrett, the Amazing and EpicSeptember 2, 2013 at 7:23 PM

      I'm sorry but what does YMMV stand for?

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    3. Your Mileage May Vary. Basically, it means different people like different things, often with the added implication that that is ok.

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    4. Your Milage May Vary: your experience of something might be different from someone else's.

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  5. The first time I touched a penis, I was nine (and so was he), we were in our school library and I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. Stretching it out and then releasing it amused me enormously for about five minutes.

    In retrospect, I now know that another girl in our year had sucked this guy off (as much as you can, aged nine? I don't want to think about it) previously, and he was probably expecting "You show me yours and I'll show you mine" to end up somewhere other than "Haha! It's like a tiny spring! Boing. Boing."

    Hope I didn't scar him for life or something.

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    1. If it makes you feel better, I amused myself this way for about an hour after having sex with my high school boyfriend. He was probably 17 at the time, and he seemed to find it equally amusing.

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    2. Oh my god, this is the best part of post-sex silliness. Penises are so much fun!

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  6. I agree with this, except for the "use your words" phrase. It has the connotation, at least to me, of getting non-neurotypical people to use verbal language even if that's not the easiest or best form of communication for them. My wife and I will sometimes sit in the same room and IM each other about tense things, sexual or otherwise, because neither of us are that good at finding the words when we're speaking.

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    1. Sounds like you are using your words -- you're just typing them instead of speaking them.

      I've never thought of "use your words" as describing people speaking out loud. I think of it as using actual words (spoken, typed, tapped out in braille) as opposed to subtle hints, manipulation, and/or doing things that affect both parties without any discussion.

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    2. Kaluza Klein: That is what it is -supposed- to mean. Find a way to clearly communicate instead of relying on mind reading.

      But.

      The phrase "Use your words" is used in Special Ed to not meet the needs of children who lack or have problems with verbal language. "No, you can't use the bathroom unless you ask to go", "No, you can't have food unless you WORDS to tell me what specific food you want.", "No, you can't not do this painful therapy thing unless you WORDS in a calm and coherent manner and politely request not to have to do the painful therapy thing, which is totally not painful, because I say so.", "Yes, we know the kid made huge progress when we introduced PECS, so obviously kid understand language as a concept. This means that we should no longer acknowledge PECS so they start talking!"
      And these aren't hypothetical. This is the reality for a lot of neuro-atypical folks, kids and otherwise.

      So a lot of us neuro-atypical folks react weirdly with "Use Your Words", because the idea that you should communicate your wants and needs and not assume that others can intuit them is sound. But that phrase is used extensively to ignore non-standard communications.

      (Like, when I get angry, or just any strong feeling, I get overwhelmed and loose my words. My partner loves to request "use your words" when we end up in arguments. This sucks.)

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    3. This is something I want to address. I've been too strong on this blog about "talk, you must talk," when what I really should have been saying is "communicate unambiguously, you must communicate unambiguously," and acknowledging that there's more than one way to do that.

      I chose "use your words" because I've always heard that as a way to stop kids from hitting each other, so thanks for pointing out the other context that has for some people.

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    4. @ Anonymous Maximus

      I'm glad you're sharing about your experiences, because this kind of shit definitely happens and needs to be talked about. That said, the way you say "in Special Ed" with no qualifications whatsoever bothers me. I wasn't going to comment, but it's been continuing to bother me for over a month, so I'm going to let it out and see if that helps.

      I work in Special Ed, as a teacher's aide. I consider myself very lucky to be in one of the better programs. When kids struggle with verbal language, we do talk about alternatives like PECs or sign language. We are taught to give tantruming kids space to cool down, moving them to safe areas if they are likely to hurt themselves or someone else and definitely not restraining them unless the only alternative is someone getting hurt. I can confirm that what you described happens to many kids elsewhere. Last year a kid transferred to our school. The details were confidential, but his previous school was similar to what you described. He was a sweet, smart, lovable kid, and also emotionally raw and prone to meltdowns, because he had been traumatized. I don't appreciate being lumped in with abusive programs like that. (He has been doing much better, in case anybody is wondering)

      I was homeschooled, and had extreme social anxiety that my parents never acknowledged and that I never got help for. A school might not have helped either. I know plenty of people who went through public school and the teachers ignored it, or provided help that really didn't. I also know people who got helped by their schools, either directly or through referrals. My parents' motivation for homeschooling me was mainly religious, but there was a definite culture of contempt for the whole concept of special education services; some vague mixture of the ableist idea that getting services equals admitting that you're broken, and glamorization of the struggling outcast. "If Van Gogh were living today his creativity would have been medicated right out of him," as if we can say for sure that Van Gogh would never have painted if his bipolar disorder was treated, or that he wouldn't have preferred treatment to painting, if given the choice.

      And he might not have, which brings me to the point that I've rather circuitously been trying to make. Disabilities, whether physical or mental or learning or intellectual, are really complicated, and the question of how to handle them equally complicated. Some programs work for some people and not others. Some programs are well implemented and some are not. We as a society need to be better educated about the goods, the bads and the uglies. So thank you, honestly, thank you for sharing your bad experiences, because people need to know. But also, the insertion of the word "some" wold have been appreciated, because people don't need to be scared away from services that could actually be helpful.

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    5. @Lane: I get what you are saying - but what you are saying here is "but not ALL men..."

      YOUR programme might be good, but if that's the case I'd like to point out that the following sentence is a HUGE red flag: "We are taught to give tantruming kids space to cool down" because this implies that your programme doesn't know/understand or care about the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown.
      That is a small little thing that tells me that even your good programme contains ableism and mistaken beliefs about disabled people - and that particular belief leads to actual violence enacted upon disabled folks - sometimes with lethal outcomes.
      So I'm going to continue saying Special Ed - NOS.

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  7. You're back! Hooray! :D

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  8. The first time I touched a penis, I was definitely surprised by how different it felt from the rest of the body. I don't know what I was expecting, but I think I thought the skin would be less... soft. And pliable/stretchy. I was very (pleasantly) surprised. TOTALLY NOT THE REAL POINT OF THIS but w/e

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    1. Me toooo. I very surprised by the silkiness/pliability. Something about it was more normal than I expected - I was kind of worried about breaking it, for example.

      I get the normalcy of sex thing, too. In books/movies/talks with mom, you're somehow "different" afterward, instantly closer or more knowledgeable about each other, bonded in some way. I was still me after "losing my virginity," feel like I know more about my partner a little more everyday and sex was only a part of that. Another thing that I never see on tv/read in books is how...nice sex while loving each other is - it can be soothing, comforting, like a warm bath or a big hug. People don't talk about that much and it's one of my favorite things.

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    2. When I decided to fuck my boyfriend for the first time, being super analytical and close to the adults in my life, I talked about it a lot. What I was told, over and over again, even from the sex-positive adults, was that having sex would "change the relationship" forever. But never how or why.

      I wish someone had told me that, like sharing your favorite movies and laughing yourself silly with someone and meeting the family and holding each other when you cry, sex is another intense experience, and it's vulnerable in the ways that all those others are. It doesn't magically transform the way you feel about each other.

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    3. Definitely. The skin was so soft and delicate and it seemed so contradictory that something so hard (as in stiff) was also soft and vulnerable. Although I gotta admit that I didn't really notice any of this until a few weeks after my boyfriend and I starting having sex—I was pretty scared of it at first. Now it's one of my favorite things, but it took me a while to be comfortable handling it with my hands and mouth (as opposed to my vagina).

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  9. Well written. Thank you. Very enlightening and well thought through.

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  10. I especially like the promise part. This is what some people don't get about the whole poly/mono thing. Either they think that having multiple sex partners is inherently wrong because of Special Sex Rule, or else they think that because there is no Special Sex Rule cheating isn't wrong.

    Or, alternatively... many people who consciously make the decision to be mono (many, not all; it doesn't apply to me, for instance) do so because they can't help feeling like shit if their partner has sex with someone else, so they think they'll be all-things-considered better off mono.
    But some people think you're not allowed to make that decision for that reason unless you can provide a rigid philosophical argument that proves that you feeling like shit when partner sleeps with another is justified.
    And this is just really another version of the idea that there are Special Sex Rules, because nobody requires people to provide rigid philosophical arguments to justify all their other likes, dislikes, aversions, preferences and so on before they act on them.

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  11. "Is it okay to have sex with someone who's asleep, if they've had sex with me before?" Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours.

    Perhaps a better perspective for the last bit: just because someone gave you permission to touch them doesn't mean you have a right to their body - especially without consent.

    The 'thing' comparison works to beat it in someone's head (kindergarten theme!), but it does tend to miss a fair amount of the impact. If someone messes with my favorite book without asking, I'll be irate, but it's still just a book. Messing with my body without permission worse by orders of magnitude. Things can be replaced or cut out of our lives. Our bodies can't. Too many people tend to take that for granted... but then, too many people don't care about others anyway.

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    1. is worse*

      I'm intelligent, I swear.

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    2. UH NO it's not just a book.

      Sorry, gut reaction.

      My favorite book is my 1970s copy of Lord of the Rings that my dad read over and over when he was a kid. It has fabric covers with a faded metallic print of the circle-of-words-and-an-eye design. Its maps are ripped and the pages are yellowing. One of the covers is about to detach from the pages. It is irreplaceable. And if someone else touches it, they will destroy it, because they think it's just a book and it's not.

      The thing about "things can be replaced but bodies can't" is... most of the time, when someone's touching someone else without permission, they're not REMOVING a body part. This isn't about bodies as irreplaceable objects, it's about bodies as precious, delicate objects. If someone tore the cover off the pages of my book, I would be devastated and cut them out of my life, not because my book is damaged now, but because THEY KNEW. I TOLD THEM not to touch that book and they touched it anyway and they hurt it*. They decided their wanting to read Lord of the Rings was more important than the fact that they weren't allowed to read THAT COPY of Lord of the Rings. How hard is it to go get a different copy? Or wait until I can show them how to read that copy safely? Or just not read it at all?

      The only differences between this book and my body are that A) I have to specifically tell people not to touch this book, whereas my body is (supposed to be) automatically filed under "don't touch without permission," and B) bodies are in a higher plane of "really important to me" than any other object. Bodies are like this book, only moreso. What applies to really-important-objects applies EXTRA to bodies. But they're in such a high place that sometimes you have to remind people that they're in a HIGHER category, not a DIFFERENT category, and the same rules still apply.

      At least, that's what I'm getting out of it. Maybe I just feel too strongly about my things.

      *Come to think of it, this actually still applies if they touched it and DIDN'T damage it. They knew I didn't want them to and they did it anyway. That's all that matters.

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    3. I think in this case the metaphor might be more effective the other way around. Don't touch someone else's things without asking: it's as inappropriate as touching someone else's *body* without asking.

      (That may sound extreme to some, but as someone with OCD, this is something I literally have nightmares about.)

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  12. I see a lot of metaphors -- I've made some -- that only work if you don't say "ah, but sex is different, it's a different category, normal rules don't apply"

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  13. Love this, and excitedly quoted the first few paragraphs to the boyfriend because I agree with every little bit of the sentiment.
    When I was younger (well, okay, and now) I would imagine my characters having sex. But, at that time, I had no idea what would happen after. I didn't know what happens after sex. I couldn't imagine them waking up in the morning and it just being another day.
    Fast-forward to a few years ago. My boyfriend and I were trying to figure out how to have sex. We failed, he came, and then he just got up and started playing with his gerbil. It blew my mind that things could just segue so quickly into the non-sexual portion of life.
    I suppose this also goes along with an earlier post of yours (which I agreed 100% with) with a bit about how people can TOTALLY tell that you've had sex because everything changes when you have it. Supposedly.

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  14. Hi Cliff - thank you for writing this. I recently had to end things with someone who seemed really promising for these reasons. On our third date he hit me. In the face. With an open palm. We hadn't slept together, and certainly had not discussed our relative kinks or what we liked doing yet, so in that very PG-13 (and until that moment, hot) makeout session - it was jarring and abrupt and...no. I couldn't (and still can't) wrap my mind around how or why - but it helps to know I'm not crazy for putting a wall up immediately.

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    1. Ugh, that's terrible. I'm sorry and I'm glad you got out quick.

      ...Also, I'm weirded out, because that exact same thing happened to me once. He wasn't a really hipstery-looking guy from southwest Medford, was he?

      (Sadly, I'm sure this is far from unique.)

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    2. Jeesh. What is with people? There is a whole gigantic swath of acceptable fun hands on body things to do before you even get to hand to the face. It's hard to terms that it actually happened and so casually at that. Lawdt.

      He wasn't hipstery at all - quite the opposite - he comes across as a genuinely dorky dude who is sweet and awkward, but has comes to terms with it, so it could be quite endearing. He was from NE though...(not saying all people from NE are like this, to be clear).

      (Wouldn't it be so much easier if they all came from the same place that had some contaminated water supply that made them behave this way? At least then they could be identified by skin that glowed under a black light or something.)

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    3. The depressing thing is, it's easy to know where they come from. I can soapbox if you're curious.

      The root of it is that the noncommunication model has a huge number of externalities. All you need are a few people to decide that they want this thing without having to talk about it (and therefore take ownership of their feelings and actions), and they try to normalize it by telling partners that these are things they should just know to do.

      Which, in turn, means that those partners think this is all SOP for the next person they come along, rather than something that needs to be discussed. The consequences of which can range from awkward to horrible.

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  15. I'm glad I'm not the only person who read that awesome post and couldn't think of anything better to comment on than YES! THE FIRST TIME YOU TOUCH A PENIS IS A REALLY INTERESTING EXPERIENCE!

    My first time, we were 13, and I touched the middle of it. I couldn't work out which way it was pointing so I didn't know which way I would have to move down the shaft to reach balls, and which way I would read head. I was really terrified of touching the "wrong" area (I can't remember, now, which end would have been wrong. Presumably balls?) so I made minuscule explorations in both directions - like, 2mm each way - which obviously didn't help me, so I just kind of... Left my hand in the middle. Somehow, it was still really hot, though, and we had a great make out session, so all's well that ends well!

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  16. Roy J. Garrett, the Amazing and EpicSeptember 5, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    When's the September Cosmocking coming out?

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    1. when it's READY, okayyyy? :p

      No, hopefully in the next week.

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    2. Pope Julius II: When will you make an end?
      Michelangelo: When I am finished!

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  17. But... but... then I don't get to disavow all responsibility for doing things because I had a bit to drink, or back out of arrangements if I say I wasn't that enthusiastic when I agreed to them.

    (By which I mean, totally agree with the article. Doesn't help so much when your side will buy into the same idea of sex-exceptionalism when it's convenient for them.)

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    1. I'm a little wary of the way you say "disavow all responsibility," because in my experience that's a dogwhistle for "report a rape."

      Someone does not have to "take responsibility" for things that they were incapacitated doing, or that they were forced to do.

      Also, in my extensive experience with dogwhistles, "she had a bit to drink" is code for either "she was barely capable of movement" or "she had a bit to drink, and also didn't consent." And "wasn't that enthusiastic" is code for "didn't fight back *that* hard."

      So, tell me I'm reading you all wrong, please, but NO, seriously NO, you cannot twist this into an argument for "take responsibility for yourself and don't report a rape just because of a little technicality like not consenting."

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    2. If I agree to go to the gym with you and then back out because I got a cold, that's perfectly fine.

      If I say I'm going to have sex with you tonight and then lose the mood and back out, that's perfectly fine.

      If I get a trial subscription to a magazine and later decide I don't want to continue it after the free trial period, I can stop subscribing and that's perfectly fine.

      People back out of arrangements all the time; why would sex be different? If you are mad about someone backing out on an agreement, the solution i simple - find someone else who is more enthusiastic and more likely to want to go through with it.

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    3. Yeah, fair, I felt that the wording on that was off too. I'm mostly going after the theme where a person will make an aware decision in the moment, only to try and take it back the morning after. It rarely comes to a police report, but it does come to a lot of rationalizing and shifting the details after the fact.

      If someone was incapacitated or coerced, by all means a report should be filed. Same as a victim of a mugging or a beating should go and file straightaways.

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  18. Oo glad to see a new post. This is pretty wonderful, especially, 'it was just a part of him.' I think people would probably make smarter choices about their early - and maybe later - sex lives if they learned that sex is part of real life, as you say, and not a fade to another universe where the rules don't count.
    Love this blog, always happy to read it.

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  19. I think some of the Special Sex Rules paradigm comes from purity culture. At least, it does for me. If having sex is already breaking the rules in a SUPER MAJOR BAD WAY, the other rules obviously don't apply - you're already morally reprehensible. This is not logically sound, but that's what Christian Patriarchy does to a person.

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    1. Oh yeah, that was exactly my experience.

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  20. Sometimes people say "sex is a part of life" to mean "sex isn't a big deal." I don't agree with that. I think sex is a big deal--but only a big deal. Not a magical mystical none-of-the-normal-rules-apply deal.

    I will often tell friends how much I lucked out with my first lover, because she was all about this idea. That sex was intimate play, that just because it wasn't the transcendent mystical thing that changed everything didn't mean it wasn't a big deal and should be treated like nothing.

    That you don't make up special ethical rules for it, neither because it is too special, or because it is too trivial. It's a thing you do together. It's often an intense and intimate thing, but not the only intense and intimate thing. (And sometimes it's playful and not-so-intimate, and that's ok,too.)

    If I ever meet her again, I will thank her for cementing that attitude in me.


    But yeah, "Everything I needed to know about sexual ethics I learned from Mr Rogers" is a fine way of putting it.

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  21. I expected penises to be rubbery and floppy. When I had my first sexual experience, I was surprised how firm it actually was. Even then, I still went very slowly and gently because I had the impression that it was a very vulnerable part of the body. It took a few times of my partner telling me he would like it more if I went faster and with a firmer grip before it really sank in.

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  22. Interesting citing Mr. Rogers there. I would have never thought of that, but he's very applicable to your argument.

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