Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

Thinking Sex Forum

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

Thinking Sex Paper 1
Name: Deborah So
Date: 2002-09-27 12:43:59
Link to this Comment: 2926


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

The restaurant wasn't crowded when Leslie met her two older sisters for lunch one breezy summer day. After being seated and ordering three glasses of the house chardonnay and lunch, the three women began conversing.
"How's Aaron doing?" asks Leslie to her second eldest sister, Hannah.
"Well, he needs to concentrate a little more on his school work and a little less on his girlfriend Eleanor, but he's a good kid...they grow up so fast! He'll be off to college in another year, and then little Elizabeth in three."
"Hey, do you remember Sister Mary Eleanor?" exclaimed Mary, the oldest of the clan.
"Yes!" replied Hannah. "8Th grade? With her walking stick that she used to knock into the shins of any girls with their feet in the aisle?"
"Who?" asked Leslie. " I never had her, she left the year after you went to the Upper school, Hannah."
"She used to teach history," explained Mary. "Her class was right after lunch, and I remember some of us playing a horrible trick on her. You know the elevator they had at school? The one that would only work when the grates on both floors were closed? Well, we used to run up the stairs right before lunch ended and open the elevator grate so that it wouldn't work! We would then run to class, and 15 minutes later we would hear the huffing and puffing of Sister Mary Eleanor as she finally got up the stairway!"
Leslie snorted in mirth as Mary and Hannah, remembering the look of the Sister's face as she walked in out of breath and annoyed, laughed out loud.
"Gosh, do you even remember what it was like being a good Catholic school girl? I cannot imagine how I got through it all," said Leslie.
"A 'good Catholic school girl'?!" sputtered Hannah, choking a little on her chardonnay. "Come now, Leslie, you had at least 4 boyfriends in high school! It took Mary and me years before we could catch up to you!"
"Well, at least we're all caught up now," said Leslie slyly. "It still amazes me that after next month, we'll all be in our 50s," she added more forlornly. "Where will we go from here? All of our kids are in college or high school, except my Ella, and they'll be out in the real world soon! Ella's only in 8th grade and wearing clothes way too tight for her. She wants to be so old so fast. I don't think we ever had that drive to be seen as an adult. Well, at least once the nest is empty I can look forward to a lot more significant time with Peter!"
Mary, at 56, grimaces as she realizes that she will soon be approaching her 60s. Adult indeed. "What amazes me is how much our conversations have changed since when we were children. We used to talk about pimples and body odor, and when would we get our periods, or how to attract guys. Sure the sex is easier nowadays, and better, but we have all this other stuff to deal with now, too!"
"What do you mean?" asked Leslie, perplexed.
"Well, menopause, you know, and just trying to figure out whether or not to take HRPs," said Hannah.
"You are still thinking about that?" cried Mary. "I actually went of mine about 2 months before the articles about hormone replacement came out as being negative, but that was because I didn't really have symptoms of menopause. In fact, I didn't find out that I was post-menopausal until I went to the doctor about my irregular periods and he told me that they were just spotting, not real periods at all. After my daughter went to college, that stopped completely too."
The waiter came by with the women's salads and soups, briefly interrupting the conversation. The sisters ate with gusto, and a few minutes of pleasant chewing and swallowing sounds took the place of conversation.
"I always took it for granted that I would be on hormone replacement pills during menopause," said Leslie after having curbed her hunger.
" Only women with severe symptoms should really take it," explained Mary.
"It must be a lot harder to have to deal with the symptoms with nothing to help!" cried Leslie. " I guess I'm glad not to be caught up to you!"
"It's not so bad," said Hannah, "to be postmenopausal. I mean, there's no pills to take every night, and-
"You're lucky that you even had pills!" interrupted Mary. "I couldn't go on the pill, it messed up my circulation! But not having to put in the diaphragm every time is incredibly relieving. As well as freeing!"
"I'm happy not to take something with such bad side effects. The nausea, and dryness were real...pardon the expression, but irritating!"
Leslie and Mary giggle at Hannah's inadvertent quip, until Mary spoke again.
"Honestly, I'm glad that I don't have all the worries that I had before menopause. I've found my sex life with Henry a lot more enjoyable, and well, spontaneous now that we don't have to plan around me putting my diaphragm in. And it's sex without worry, without thinking about pregnancy."
"It really takes the edge off," agreed Hannah. "Though I don't know that I'd rather worry about pregnancy then have to deal with our annuals!"
Both Hannah and Mary grimaced at the thought, as Leslie looked on, a little puzzled. "Annuals?" she asked.
"Colonoscapy" said Mary.
"Barium Enema" exclaimed Hannah at the same time.
"What?" cried Leslie.
"You know, searching for colon cancer," said Mary. "I will never complain about that, not after Dad died of colon cancer, but still, it's not my dream doctor visit!"
"Oh oh," said Leslie. "I couldn't understand you! No, I am not looking forward to those...and I have a doctors appointment about a month after my birthday!"
"I was describing what happens for them to Elizabeth the other night," said Hannah. "She was asking about what it's like during menopause, since I was listening to my neighbor complaining about hot flashes that day. I had to explain to her about stuffing a tube up your rectum or filling it with liquid barium so that the doctor can look around up there. I think that she was pretty grossed out!"
"Which is the worst?" asked Leslie.
"Well, I'd say the colonoscapy," said Hannah.
"Oh, definitely!" cried Mary. "You fell like you have to shit for half an hour, and at that all over the table in front of the doctors who're trying to look up your ass!"
There was an uncomfortable silence, until Mary looked behind her at the waiter standing there, holding the bill. As soon as she'd seen him, all three sisters broke into gales of laughter. The embarrassed waiter smiled in response, thinking that he was going to call his mother that night and just tell her he loved her. The three women paid (leaving a 20% tip) and walked out of the restaurant, talking all the way. Thoughtfully, Leslie followed her sisters to their cars, and, honking goodbye, went home to Peter.

The Lesbian's Guide to Bryn Mawr
Name: Jill Neust
Date: 2002-09-27 12:49:20
Link to this Comment: 2929


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

"It's six in the morning. How did it get so late? Was I just asleep? I don't think so... Maybe I was. I didn't dream anything. Wait, what's that sound? Ani, dear girl, you've fallen from grace. Oh, hold on for a second! Where am I? And who's this? OK, OK, so, these walls are cement. And the ceiling is too. Erdman. How the hell did I get into Erdman? I live in Brecon... OH! This is Viv! The cute blonde femme who was eyeing me all night... Don't I have a class with her? Right. Spanish. But how did I end up naked in Erdman with Viv?"

Unlike the straight community, the population of queerdom is defined by sex. The most basic defining characteristic of lesbianism is that they are women who have sex with other women. For straight girls, it usually goes without saying that when they have sex it is with men, but that fact is not what defines them in the eye of the beholder. However, with lesbians, the common quality that unites the group is sex with other women, and this is what outsiders tend to key in on rather than, for example, personality traits. The same goes for gay men. That which makes them similar is sex with other men.

Apart from these basic guidelines, though, the discussion of sex is quite similar for the queer population and for the straight population. Sex acts have the same basic names across the populations. (It is quite necessary to acknowledge phrases that are generally derogatory or colloquial, but most of those will not be explored within this paper.) Cunilingus is generally called "eating out" regardless of the sexual orientation of the speaker. Also, fellatio commonly comes up in conversation as a "blow job". These are two of many sex acts, and they are in no way the boundaries of sexual encounters.

When lesbians speak of "sex", they generally are referring to an act between two people that aims to result in orgasm, just as in the case of heterosexual sex. The sex act between women may or may not include penetration, but it is still considered sex. While straight sex commonly implies the penetration of a penis into a vagina, lesbian sex is more open to divergence from one method. From what I've learned, straight sex has one activity and many positions. Lesbian sex, on the other hand, has a myriad of both, depending on circumstances. Lesbians who use sex toys such as strap-on dildos, can explore all of the positions available to heterosexual couples, as well as perform sexual acts that do not require a penis. Largely, straight couples do not consider fellatio or cunilingus to be an entire sex act, without the additional penetration aspect. They are considered foreplay. Lesbians do not always have the option or desire to have a penis (real or fake) present, so they are more open to considering cunilingus an entire sex act. (I have defined lesbian sex as a binary with heterosexual sex in order to maintain a point of reference; it is not my intention to compare the two in any other way.)

Another aspect of sex within the queer community, for both men and women, is that of sexual identity. Again, the homosexual population compares itself to the heterosexual population, but that, in my opinion, is also as a point of reference. Queer men and women develop an identity based upon their gender-identifications. In terms of identity, sex refers to the biological tools that one is born with. Those of the male sex are born with a penis, and those of the female sex are born with a vagina. Within those broad terms, however, there are many genders. Gender is the group with which one identifies. There are many women who identify as masculine, just as there are many men who identify as feminine. The most common terms for the binary of identification are "butch" for the masculine and "femme" for the feminine. In some groups, "top" and "bottom" are also used for the same purposes. These categories are more prevalent in the queer community, but they also appear in the straight community. 

It has been a widespread stereotype that the queer community mirrors the straight community in that a butch always pairs up with a femme, but just as with most stereotypes, there are many exceptions to the rule. It should also be considered that within the butch and femme identities, there are many other categorizations. Within "butch", for example, there is "bull dyke", "jock", and "soft butch" to name a few. Some soft butches prefer bull dykes, and some femmes prefer "lipstick lesbian" femmes over the masculine butch. These identifications are no more than a mere comfort zone. If a lesbian prefers to have long hair and to wear make-up and dresses, she will not identify herself as butch, because the butch persona does not make her comfortable. Sex in any situation is about making oneself and ones' partner(s) happy.

"Uh, Viv, thanks for a great night! Oh, no thanks, I don't need a toothbrush. I have one in my room... You want me to bring it back with me so you can spend the night tonight? OK, I guess. Yeah, I'll see you tonight then. Bye! ...Wow, that's a toaster and a U-Haul in one night. It's weird how fast a relationship develops. I guess there really is no such thing as a one night stand at Bryn Mawr..."

Thinking Sex Paper #1
Name: Nancy Evan
Date: 2002-09-27 12:52:13
Link to this Comment: 2930


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

To examine a sub-group in our culture and ultimately spell out how they put sex into language, I thought it might be interesting to choose a fairly small group (50 women; well, 51 if you count D.C.) whose group is designed to be sexy and represent a cultural ideal of sex without actually being able to translate it into language. What section of society, I thought to myself, better represents this kind of a double standard than the 51 women who vie for the Miss America title each year? The idea that Miss America is at once sexy, beautiful, and virginal presents an interesting dichotomy, if one cannot express sexuality in language, how can she portray the level of sexiness America expects of its queen? The answer, it seems, is body language. Everything from dress color to a suggestive Carmen aria, it becomes apparent that among these women, those who will succeed have mastered the art of innocent seduction.
I had originally decided on an entirely different approach to this paper; writing about group I probably have more knowledge and experience dealing with but, procrastinating on a Saturday night, I flipped on the pageant and began taking notes.
The idea behind the Miss America system seems antiquated in itself- pitting young women against each other and measuring them by attractiveness, and their support of a 'platform', an issue she "wholly supports and would pursue as Miss America." The rules of the show seem to dictate a certain level of implied virginity required to be the winner. The young woman must be between the ages of 18-24, she cannot be married, and she may never have had any children. However, how interested is America in watching a nice, wholesome young woman answer questions about the dangers of obesity? Apparently not very interested. In the U.S., at least on television, sex sells. A few years ago, when ratings for the pageant were declining sharply, a movement to get rid of the always-controversial swimsuit competition came to the forefront. The ultimate vote (to keep the bikinis) came from a survey in which a majority of viewers stated they would no longer tune in without swimsuit portion. Instead of nixing the suits, it seems producers ran with the idea that America was ready for a little more sex in the pageant.
This year, as the final fifteen competitors paraded in swimsuits and stiletto heels, it became apparent that communicating sex was the common denominator. As fourteen of fifteen contestants sported bikinis (sashaying to the "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action") during the competition, the final contestant, wearing a semi-conservative one piece, seemed almost prudish.
What if a contestant did attempt to vocalize an aspect of sexuality? Miss Nevada, a composed, articulate Latina woman wearing a peach colored business suit and sporting a low ponytail, found out during the talent portion of the show. During a tearful rendition of the speech Mathew Shepard's father delivers in the courtroom (from "The Laramie Project"), Miss Nevada emotionally declared, "Mathew was NOT my gay son!" and finished to mediocre applause. Miss Connecticut performed a seductive aria from "Carmen" complete with flowing hair, swaying hips, and a red rose that was sniffed with near orgasmic pleasure before being discarded.
At the end of the night, the new Miss America was crowned in a white gown that was saved from being completely reminiscent of virginity by an excess of cleavage. The runners-up, including Miss Nevada in second-to-last-place, showed no visible signs of disappointment
For a group of women where verbally expressing any kind of sexuality, be it pro-abstinence or even hinting at homosexuality, is detrimental to achieving the collectively sought goal, one must employ other means of communicating sex. When relaying sex is at once required and forbidden, body language and mental cues (i.e. color) serve as vehicles to communicate sexuality. The idea of body language as a type of sexual language is something we have not explored yet. We have heard, many times over, that many of us feel that language is an inadequate way of expressing sexuality, but I think we have been limiting our discussions of 'language' to the spoken word. It was not the idea of writing a paper on the Miss America pageant that intrigued me, but the alternate mode of 'thinking sex' that is just (if not more) effective at producing an unmistakably sexual effect. Body language seems to be a form of sexual expression evident in almost every aspect of life, that is generally accepted and often unnoticed; yet it is effective at parlaying sexual messages without assaulting the reader with unabashed sexual content, and, (at least for the Miss America contestants) assuring some lucky young woman a good chance of supporting twelve pounds of metal and jewels on her head while she cries and trips down the victory runway.

Free Response #1: Sexual Sub-groups Language
Name: Lindsay Hi
Date: 2002-09-27 12:54:53
Link to this Comment: 2933


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

This love is first of all fully human, that is to say, of the senses and of the sprirt at the same time. It is not, then, a simple transport of instinct and sentiment, but also, and principally an act of the free will, intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul, and together attain their human perfection.*

Having promised at my baptism to raise me in the Catholic tradition, I was acculturated into a religion, and in doing so I slowly acquired a family, a community, a law, and a language. Language plays a huge role in both the oral and written tradition of the Catholic religion and more so it's Catechism.
Oral tradition I would say is present in the method by which parents are encouraged and more so responsible for educating their children in regards to Catholic teaching. The idea that parents are the fundamental teachers of children is a highly valued concept. It is through this oral tradition that language and in particular the language of sex is transmitted generation over generation amongst a family group.
The written language is expressed through the Holy Scripture, the Bible, whose stories attempt to articulate our past in a way that helps us live a better life in the future. Also our more contemporary written language is recorded in religious doctrine which is updated over time in an attempt to provide Catholics with a sense of reaffirmation of traditional values and beliefs in a time where everything around us seems to be changing and developing in a manner that continually challenges those beliefs.
Then, this love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations. Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner's self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.

I vaguely recall my parents' answers to my insatiable curiosity regarding sex. It seems to me like every answer involved the words "abstinence" and/or "marriage," two words that continue to be the focus of the language of sex. Having attended public school for my elementary years, I was forced kicking and screaming to attend CCD or catechism classes, which we were told would teach us everything we needed to know about being Catholic, conveniently leaving out anything and everything about the sexual being I felt inside of me struggling to break free.
The example of so many married persons down through the centuries shows, not only that fidelity is according to the nature of marriage, but also that it is a source of profound and lasting happiness and finally, this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising new lifes.

I transferred schools in the middle of sixth grade to a Catholic school, where the language of sex and sexuality continued to be restricted to male/female, abstinence, virginity, and marriage. It was at this time that a mother protested one of the novels that the other seventh grade class was reading, and collected enough signatures banning the teacher from teaching the material. In her words the material was to "sexually explicit and immoral" to be in the hands of children. I think this was the first time I felt the real limitations my religion placed on me and my development. As soon as the book was banned, I was on a mission to find out what was so wrong with it, and realized that the explicit and immoral acts she was concerned about were the masturbatory acts of a teenage boy. Somehow these parents, including mine kept this language away from me and my other classmates leading us down a slippery slope of naiveté which some of my classmates paid for deeply, in the form of pregnancy, abuse, and abortion.
In an attempt to preserve our innocence the language we were taught to talk about our bodies and sex in general was very biological in nature. The same mother who had the book banned, brought in a collection of fetus' at each stage of development. They sat in the front of the classroom for about a week, and for about an hour each day we discussed conception and development of life. The intentional removal of all elements of language associated with pleasure, led my friends and I to believe that something was wrong with us, that we were feeling things we shouldn't, and more so didn't have the language to articulate what we were experiencing. At one point I remember my friend asking the groups of girls I hung out with if we had ever masturbated. She became the outcast at once, in the sense that most of us had no clue what she was talking about, and those of us that did, knew that this was a sin and that she would most surely pay for her actions.
The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed.
My junior year at a small Catholic all girls high school, I was enrolled in Christian Marriage. By far one of the most popular religion courses we offered I was one of the privileged few who made it into the class as a junior. In reflection the language used in this course was consistent with the Catholic language I had acquired to engage in a discourse about sex. The structure of the class, was done in such a way that we would have no confusion about what steps we should be taking in order to have children. The class developed from love v. lust, dating, rape, through single life in an apartment, to marriage, wedding planning and pricing, concluding with male/female anatomy, sexual intercourse, contraception, and of course babies. Interspersed throughout the course were messages of abstinence and marriage as well as what some may interpret as scare tactics issues of cohabitation, divorce, STDs and abortion. The language the Church uses to discuss such critical moral issues was tied into the course by the reading of religious scripture and doctrine, in order to reaffirm what so many of us had heard growing up, and those messages are the ones that resonate most clearly.

The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.
The religious subgroup in which I belong, uses a limited language in order to preserve its teachings which are central to its beliefs. The ramifications of such a language may be seen throughout society, whether we are talking about sixth graders who believe engaging in oral sex is a means by which they can preserve their virginity, the high schoolers who have been closed off to the idea of contraception and consequently end up pregnant, or even the college student whose commitment to a spiritual life rooted in Catholicism has driven her to deny her sexuality all together for several years. The language that is used across the subgroup is only one side of the story, whereas the language which has been omitted may have as powerful effect on the individuals in the group, and is frequently forgotten.
* All italicized passages have been pulled from the following source
Of Human Life (Humanae Vitae, July 25, 1968; Pope Paul VI) Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Paul VI. Available: [ONLINE], 19 September 2002
Page 1 of 4

Regarding my Paper #1: Sexual Subgroup
Name: Lindsay Hi
Date: 2002-09-27 12:58:14
Link to this Comment: 2935


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

This love is first of all fully human, that is to say, of the senses and of the spirit at the same time. It is not, then, a simple transport of instinct and sentiment, but also, and principally an act of the free will, intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul, and together attain their human perfection.<#_ftn1>[1]

Having promised at my baptism to raise me in the Catholic tradition, my parents did just that, and as a result I was acculturated into a religion, and in doing so I slowly acquired a family, a community, a law, and a language. Language plays a huge role in both the oral and written tradition of the Catholic religion and more so it's Catechism. 

Oral tradition I would say is present in the method by which parents are encouraged and more so responsible for educating their children in regards to Catholic teaching. The idea that parents are the fundamental teachers of children is a highly valued concept. It is through this oral tradition that language and in particular the language of sex is transmitted generation over generation amongst a family group.

The written language is expressed through the Holy Scripture, the Bible, whose stories attempt to articulate our past in a way that helps us live a better life in the future. Also our more contemporary written language is recorded in religious doctrine which is updated over time in an attempt to provide Catholics with a sense of reaffirmation of traditional values and beliefs in a time where everything around us seems to be changing and developing in a manner that continually challenges those beliefs. 

Then, this love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations. Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner's self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.

All italicized passages have been pulled from the following source

Of Human Life (Humanae Vitae, July 25, 1968; Pope Paul VI) Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Paul VI. Available: [ONLINE], 19 September 2002

Ice Cream Party
Name: Fritz Dub
Date: 2002-09-27 13:20:04
Link to this Comment: 2936


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

The topic of sex seems to come up in the most unlikely places. It has been my experience that most people are thinking sex, they just won't admit it to themselves or those around them. It is amazing what people will say when they are either extremely comfortable or very nervous and so my story begins.

There we were sitting one sunny spring afternoon. Practicing the art of procrastination. We'd all just had had dinner. So, with bellies full and half asleep we decided that we should have some ice cream since it turned out that none of us had had some good icream in a while. We all got our icecream and got into comfortable positions around the table and as is usual start randomly talking about something that we had been thinking about that day. Since we were all finished for the day no one really had anywhere to go, so the conversation just flowed in and out of topics. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation and the catching up, we started saying how we all really need some icecream and how we deserved to be treated. After a long semester of slaving away for professors who just didn't get us or how we worked we deserved to do somthing just because we enjoyed it. We all had something to add to the horror story that had been our first year of college. Then, as it always does when we get comfy, the conversation turned to sex. One of my friends was having technical difficulties with her icecream cone. The other ,being the very helpful person that she, started giving her instructions on how to properly lick an icecream cone. We had previously been discussing a pair of CDs I owned and had let the friend who was having icecream problems borrow.

The CDs were by the same artist, Joe. Now, the name Joe had never evoked pictures of midnight rendezvous or any after noon delights, but we all soon learned that there was so much more to a name. The other friend had heard both CDs and agreed with me whole heartedly that our friend just had to hear this guy sing. The CDs were entitled My name is Joe and All That I Am. The first one released was All That I Am. The theme to this CD was realationships and the good and hurtful emotions that they bring with them. The second CD was geared more toward making love, having sex, knocking the boots and so on. I think he uses these terms and then some to get his point across. Which was basically act of being sensual and the emotions that would hopefully drive one to want to be sensual.There was one song inparticular that had gotten the attention of both of them. The song had a line that went something like you can drink from my fountain and I'll drink from your cup. So here we were eating icecream talking about what that meant. One friend immediately got what he was saying the other took a couple of seconds to digest the info and them looked at our faces. From the looks on our faces to the icecream in our hands the gates were opened. We talked for a good two hours about how a potential lover should pass the icecream test. You give them an icecream cone and watch how they go at it. Some are thoughtful and get every drop while others are sloppy and get everything in sight covered in icecream. From there it's up to you to decide what kind of icecream habits you prefer. After this conversation we marvelled at how we could seriously sit there and analyze one line of a song like all our lives depended on it. It was then that we all figured out that if a topic interests you every tidbit of information you can get is interesting and though provoking., and continue to think. We could have continued with our talk all night and into the next day, but they kicked us out of the dining hall.

Good Girls Doing Bad Things
Name: Sherira Fe
Date: 2002-09-27 13:23:21
Link to this Comment: 2937


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

We were raised to believe that sex is only good after marriage. We were told that after marriage sex is beautiful, right, and completing. We were warned that those who made love before marriage were doing something wrong, cheapening, and possibly bad enough to send a person to the eternal fires of hell. People who had sex before marriage simply could not control their physical desires. Our parents know that there is no need to explain birth control to us, because that could be spoken about once we were engaged. Before the wedding night, mom would whip out the condoms and the names of different brands of birth control. Before that, all mom and dad need to explain is "you are precious, beautiful and independent. Oh, and try not to use tampons- you'll understand after your married".
A little confused- I used tampons anyway. With much more confusion, I had sex anyway. I still don't consider myself completely evil, and I think this attitude defines my subgroup: People raised to believe that sex before marriage is wrong, but do it anyway.
The basis for sexual language within my subgroup is important. I went to a public middle and high school (that taught abstinence) after attending a Catholic elementary school, like most of my friends whom I consider to be in my sexual subgroup. In early high school we began to talk about sex. We were seeing pregnant girls in classes. How could they do that? How could they do that to their families? It was not only that they got pregnant, but that they were having sex. Clearly they were just bad people. Then it dawned on us... people we looked up to were taking part in this, not only the "bad" or "dirty" kids. By no means did that signify that we would stop getting nervous when I'll Make Love to You (Boys II Men) played on the radio, but it was still a turning point.
The first conversation I remember about sex took place sitting on my friend's counter-top over a half gallon of peanut butter ice cream.
You know why girls scream when they do it *giggle* -because it hurts, especially the first time.
Well, it doesn't matter- I'm waiting until I get married.
Even if it hurts the first time, don't you want to enjoy it with the guy you're going to do it
with forever?
That doesn't matter- we'll just do it until I like it.
I'm going to wait. That way I won't want to cheat.
It is interesting to see that the girl who wanted to wait wanted to do so not for reasons dealing with the way she was raised. It appears to me that the way she was raised did not make the decision for her, but gave her a scaffold from which to build her opinions.
I was the second in my little circle (mostly Catholics or Christian by coincidence) to have sex. The first girl (stereotypically a cheerleader) denied it to everyone but me. I was simply sworn to silence. When I had sex for the first time told one of the other girls- she told everyone else. They thought it was crazy. Did you do it up the butt?, was my favorite comment. Some of my friends chose to make every innuendo possible during classes in order to torture me. The other non-virgin did not defend me; if she did, she would then need to defend herself.
Soon all but a few had had sex, and began to talk about it. We spoke about everything from kissing to blowjobs and eating out (which we did not consider sex at the time). We spoke freely, while reminding ourselves every now and then that we were bad people.
It should be pointed out though, that we were not the bad kids in high school; but the good kids. We were in National Honors Society, waitressed Friday nights, volunteered on Saturday mornings and went to church on Sundays. We were the dorks in the AP classes and ran cross country. My point is, that like most people, the way were raised had a huge impact on our sexual lives. We learned many things from the people who raised us. However, such a decision is inevitably left to the individual. Matt Groening says it best.
"When authorities warn you of the sinfulness of sex, there is an important lesson to be learned. Do not have sex with the authorities."

Saying "No"
Name: Lauren Hil
Date: 2002-09-27 13:26:50
Link to this Comment: 2938


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Feminists address sex in a variety of ways. In my experience I have encountered two extremes of feminist discourse on sex. The first feminism is reminiscent of the 1980's abstinence craze. These feminists feel women are empowered by saying "no" to sex with someone and believe women are being pressured into having sex and that resisting the pressure is liberating. The second group I have encountered exists in opposition to the first group and believes it is empowering when women are comfortable with their sexuality and can have sex with people without feelings of guilt attached. These are the women who do not feel the need to say "no" and are reclaiming their sexuality from the society, which tells them they are "sluts" if they do not say "no."
At an activist conference I attended this summer one of the issues addressed by the group was sex. Within this community of liberal activists, to my surprise, the first of the two poles emerged. They held a women's caucus in the middle of the conference where all the females were isolated in a space independent of men. From my perspective it was a very heterosexual space. Though there were women in the group who identified as queer, the discussion revolved around heterosexual activities. We decided in the beginning of the caucus that we wanted to talk about sex. We talked about masturbation, sex toys, how old we were when we lost our virginity, even how many people we had sex with in our life. And those who had no experiences either way listened with eager ears. This conversation lasted about an hour and most people seemed very comfortable and interested in the topics we discussed.
Soon we began speaking about sexual expectations in college, and a few of the younger ones in the group made comments inquiring if men expected women to sleep with them quickly in college. I was one of the first to speak in the group, and I spoke under the assumption that people were comfortable with sex. So naturally I, as a feminist in the latter group, cited previous conversation and said it was normal for college women to want sex as badly as men do and I said that it is all right and they need not be ashamed of having those feelings. I told the female who was inquiring that it was good if she wanted sex as much as she perceived men her age wanted to have sex and she need not repress that desire. In a strange twist, my comments were ignored, as they seemed to make a few uncomfortable, and the conversation went to highlighting different ways a female could say "no" to a male.
This conversation eventually fed into a discussion about how individuals in the group had been sexually abused. It became somewhat of a therapy session. A few women told vague stories of abuse, but the conversation got more detailed as time progressed and eventually there were individuals who told stories of sexual abused as a child or adolescent by their peers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and siblings. After a woman told her story she was comforted with words like, "you got this far," "you can be strong," or "it wasn't your fault." I would estimate that of the twenty-five or thirty women there, ten to twelve women shared stories of abuse.
In this group I saw victimized women sharing their depressing stories in great detail. Some could not speak; instead they would begin to tell their tales and cry. Some of these women did not finish their tales but the endings were clear through their tears. When the group decided to end, one of the women who spoke asked if we could join in a circle, arms around each other, and scream the word, "no!" over and over. For these women, that word meant a great deal. They were reclaiming something they had lost, and being with a group of all women, many of who shared their pain, made them comfortable.
What perplexes me is how the conversation focused around the word, "no" and how using that word was empowering. It was amazing how during the first part of our discussion everyone was smiling and laughing and freely talking about personal sexual matters. I remember looking at different women's body language and seeing them leaning towards other women in the circle. It was like a middle school slumber party. It was a very comfortable space. But that changed as soon as men and sexual expectations came into the discussion.
From this discussion I drew a newfound understanding of the discourse women use when describing sex. I expected a group of liberal activists would not feel restricted in discussion about sex. These women are all very aware of worldly issues and feminisms, but all were drawn towards a more archaic view of women and sex. Those who had stories to tell, encouraged younger women in the group to keep chaste and claimed men who ask for sex before a woman is ready is undeserving of her flower. It fascinated me because of the correlation immediately drawn between violent sexual abuse and consensual sex. It seemed those who had stories to tell had difficulty distinguishing between sex between two willing partners and sex outside of legal boundaries. In their language and their reaction to my language it was clear these women had trouble expressing themselves sexually, even in a group of all women, because of their previous experiences. Rather than resist violent/illegal sex acts, they chose to resist the desire to have and encourage others to do the same. Through their language of saying "no" they felt they had control over the sexuality they had lost.

"Thinking Sex: Sub-Groups"
Name: Chelsea Ph
Date: 2002-09-27 13:29:50
Link to this Comment: 2939


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

My working definition of my own sexuality is somewhere between "Oh, yes!" and "Oh, no!" I know that's a really narrow category...but the bridge between reality and imagination is sometimes a long one. Sexual experience itself is a pretty broad topic. Depending on what you're feeling for the person you're with, something as non-physical as a conversation, or simply holding hands can be sexual, simply because it is communication. Sex isn't something that needs to be hot and heavy to be enjoyed either and, often, human contact is really what it's about. Thinking about sex, and reading the article by Delany has put the concept of fetishes into my head.
Fetishes in general are an interesting topic, especially because, as Delany pointed out, people don't really think of themselves as having fetishes, they think of having "quirks" or just "preferences". Putting the word "fetish" to it makes it sound dirty and has connotations of psychological disturbance. However, I think it's an accurate and appropriate term for a sub-group that I identify with, and would argue that these fetishes are completely natural. Fetishes are something that most people have in common, though the range is astounding (narrow hips, no hair and big ears to burly, hairy singers), even for the small group in which I've put myself.
The definition of "sex" is definitely a broad one in our group. "Sex" more often refers to our reaction to someone or something than an actual sexual act- think Coffee Talk (Joey's voice is like a stick of buttah!). Since everything, then, is essentially sex, communication is uninhibited by rigid definitions or confines. It also means that we talk about sex purely for the joy of talking about it and as a way to connect through common experiences or feelings, not in a competitive or judgmental sense. Communication in our group is a good balance between perfect understanding that requires no complete sentences, and in-depth discussions about our sex drives and how they affect us daily.
It's interesting that I've never really wondered why I find what I find attractive until now. My biggest fetishes are eyes and voices, a fact I've been perfectly aware of since age 10, but they never had conscious logic to them. There has always been something about a guy with warm eyes and a nice voice that just makes me weak in the knees. I once knew a man whose eyes looked like melted chocolate, and when he smiled they lit up like the sun, and I could never trust myself standing up around him. When I talk to people about this, I get an overwhelmingly sympathetic response, probably because there's something in that old "windows to the soul" adage.
Voices are an interesting thing; like eyes they are a form of communication, but stimulate a different sensory response. I happen to like deep voices, a lot. The low pitch that rumbles around inside your stomach and really makes you feel what the other person is saying is incredibly sexual to me, no matter what the person is actually saying. Junior year a friend did an internship with a Biogenetics professor at one of the local colleges. Not only was he from England, but he had the deepest voice I've ever heard in my life- we used to call his office to listen to his voice message when we knew he was in class. "After the beep" has never been sexier.
The layering that goes on in communication is amazing. Perhaps that's why I identify so strongly with this group- there are no layers, everything is raw. Of course, that's also the thing that makes eyes so incredibly sexual, because they are harder to control than voices, entire volumes are spoken between people quietly discussing the weather, whether they mean to or not. The same goes for physical contact, not the rough-and-tumble sex that we associate with that term, but the small things.
I like to be held. I want someone who can support me when everything is falling apart, to laugh with me when I'm happy, to make me laugh when I'm sad, to let me go when I need to be alone, and whose arms I can come home to every night. Being held is an entirely different form of communication, and one that exists in many levels and many kinds of relationships. It exists within the fetish group I put myself into, and it's something we all crave from somewhere beyond a sexual standpoint.
All of these ways of communicating affection, physical and non-physical, seem so much more rich and varied than just plain words, so why do we still use them? There must be some biological drive that makes us talk to each other, it must be important in some way. Otherwise, I'd have no trouble keeping things from my best friend, and my other friends, and the people I sit next to in class, and that person on the bus who looked like a good listener... The point is, communication is not limited to words in this group (and there is no outside), we all express ourselves at some point or another through hugs, kisses, holding hands, gazing into each other's eyes, dancing- and it's all naturally sexual without being the act of sex itself. It is sex at its best: natural, uninhibited contact with other people.

The Difficulties of Putting a Sexual Subgroup into
Name: Jessica Tu
Date: 2002-09-27 13:33:14
Link to this Comment: 2940


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

As I began to work on this paper, the inadequacies of language to fully capture something sexual, or actually anything, were once again reinforced for me. Not because the sexual subgroup I am exploring has difficulty putting sex into language. On the contrary, they effortless put sex into language, in various moments and ways everyday (dependent on their moods, location, and audience). It is the addiction of all these moments to create a sum of the total way in which they put sex into language, which I am having difficulty putting into language.
Much of this difficulty arises from trying to categorize my sexual subgroup. This is a categorization that will be your first real introduction to them. I find that all the words and phrases I develop to describe them have some connotation or imagery that they invoke that does not accurately or completely capture the women who make up this sexual subgroup. Therefore they present an inaccurate first impression.
So I find that perhaps the best way for me to introduce my sexual subgroup is with language that supplies information, but is somewhat detached from the group and from vivid imagery. The sexual subgroup (and how they put sex into language) that I am examing is young heterosexual women at an all women's college (Bryn Mawr) who are not currently sexually active.
Many of these women have never been sexually active, but the term "virgins" in many ways seems inaccurate. (Firstly the word virgin causes problems because some of these women are no longer virgins. They are however not presently sexually active, which does not return them to a state of virginity.) Virgin has numerous connotations: white, pure, innocent, sweet and lacking sexual knowledge. There is, however, nothing virginal or innocent about how these women put sex into language. They are explicit and sometimes vulgar in their language. Both the women who have little sexual experience and those who are more sexually experienced talk explicitly about sexual acts that the antiquated stereotypical virgin would know nothing about. These women talk about "getting' a piece of ass," "being fucked" or for that matter "fucking" and also "ridden hard and put away wet." Explicitly and sometimes vulgarly is not the only way these women put sex into language, but in general there is no flowery discussion of making love as one might expect from innocent virgins.
To remove some of these connotations of the word virgin, I also considered labeling the subgroup "horny virgins." However this creates an image of desperately sex deprived girls who just want to be fucked. This is not the case because if these women wanted to fuck, they would. Obviously they are longing for something more than just a meaningless fuck buddy or a one-night stand. Even though the majority of their sexual language deals with this kind of imagery it appears that these women want more. More not necessarily being the flowery overly romantic ideals of making love, but more being more substantial than just the blatant sexual acts of which they speak. If these women just wanted sex, they would not bemoan the availability of quality men.
Also the term "horny" implies a vulgarity that is not universally present in the way these women put sex into language or even in the women themselves. Yes, some of the language they use is quite base and crude, but these women also put sex into language in discussions that completely lack vulgarity. They talk about their sexual desires and experiences, masturbation, sexual acts they find appealing (and those they do not), and simply what they enjoy (and do not enjoy). This sexual language is self-exploratory (where they discover themselves as sexual beings), but it is also a form of sharing their sexual experience, putting sex (as they have experienced) into language.
These women not only put sex into language explicitly, but also suggestively and implicitly. A statement can be added with a suggestive eyebrow waggle, a sway to the hips, or a tongue motion. They use not only the language of speech, but also body language to express the sexual. It is not uncommon for them to play footsy with each other, rub suggestively against each other, or to pose in sexually suggestive positions. Also the sexual experiences that they express are not limited to the heterosexual. Their expressions can often be either homosexual in nature or have homosexual undercurrents. One girl might stroke another's thigh and then scream out her friends name in a mimicry of orgasmic bliss. Often it seems that some of their sexual expression is for the purpose of pushing the limits of sexual expression and what people are comfortable with.
The way these women put sex into language (both through speech and body language) is related to the situation at the time. When the expression is most explicit and the body language most suggestive, the women are usually being humorous and joking around with their friends. In general when these women are putting sex into language (whether jokingly or seriously) they are in a more private location and a more intimate group. Their sexual language is more likely found in the dorm room than on Lancaster Ave.
The sexual language of these women is both explicit and implicit, both humorous and earnest, both heterosexual and homosexual, both knowledgeable and inexperienced. They effortless express the sexual in these various ways everyday. If you were to only witness one moment or one aspect of how they put sex into language, you would not have a very complete or complex understanding of how these women put sex into language. The polarities of their sexual expression make it difficult for me to put it into language, but are also intrinsic to understanding them.

Thinking Sex
Name: Lindsay Up
Date: 2002-09-27 13:37:54
Link to this Comment: 2941


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

"Mom, I'm having sex."

Having grown up in a suburban, white, middle class home, there is no greater paradox to me than the methods by which American mothers and daughters communicate about sex.   In an attempt to protect their daughters, mothers often keep silent on the topic; rarely does this strategy do anything to protect. The level of discomfort toward the subject is so great that many mothers and daughters cannot hear sex being addressed in each other's presence without a feeling a twinge of embarrassment. Rarely are we reconciled that our parents did at one time have sex, even though we are the outcome of that union.  To most daughters, Mom is the least desirable person to have a sex-related conversation with in the world.

This discomfort probably stems from general feelings of guilt toward sex in general. And while a generation gap may account for the inability to relate on the subject, there is still a lot that mothers and daughters have in common.  Mothers generally cannot help but try to impress certain moral standards upon their children.  These morals are often attached to immense pressure. A daughter may feel reluctant to try to bridge the gap because she feels as though her mother is only accepting of sex after marriage, even if it is clear that the mother herself did not abstain from premarital sex.  Maternal protection manifests itself in phrases like, "I've been there; I know what's best," and, "I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did."  On the whole, the mother gives her daughter a negative sense of sex. Consequently, no matter what decisions the daughter makes regarding her sexual life, she carries this feeling of guilt from her early teenage years.

Mothers seem to assume that showing their daughters the positive aspects of sex has a direct correlation with their daughters landing "in trouble."  Yet, if a mother is silent, the daughter is ignorant and uneducated of her sexual responsibilities.  So often, a mother's idea of talking about sex consists of heaping warnings in the form of, "Don't this," "Don't that," atop her daughter's head.  When presented in such a manner, daughters don't buy in to these threatening "words of advice." Sex becomes clumped together with all the other things Mother warns against: drugs, bad grades, and fuchsia hair-dye.

In a world where the pressures of society usually triumph over home-bred morals, American girls try drugs, they let their grades slip every once in a while, and make the occasional horrendous beauty mistake. They have sex, regardless of their mothers' feelings. If daughters felt the ability to communicate freely with their mothers about sex, that last fact wouldn't be quite so daunting.  But there is often a high price to pay for silence when a daughter doesn't feel comfortable enough to ask her mother for birth control.  A daughter could spend a lifetime compensating for the sexual suppression caused by her mother's attitudes.

Let us imagine a mother-daughter pair that communicates about sex in the most ideal way given the setting of contemporary America. They could talk openly about the emotional as well as the practical aspects of sex.  Instead of just saying, "If you're going to do it, I'll put you on the Pill," the mother could first outline both the positive and negative repercussions. She could demonstrate that sex has had positive and negative effects on her own life.  The daughter would feel comfortable about having a sexual identity around her mother. The mother would respect her daughter's right to make decisions regarding her own body, and therefore not stress certain moral standards.  As a result, the daughter would not feel the stigma of being a victim or a delinquent in her sexual relationships.

In order to create an ideal interaction between mothers and daughters, both parties need to recognize their desire to learn something from each other.  Doing so may mean risking the loss of accepted habits. On the other hand, not doing so could lead to far, far worse.

Thinking Sex-Sexual Subgroup
Name: Hanan El-Y
Date: 2002-09-27 13:40:52
Link to this Comment: 2942


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

I am writing an addendum here...that describes what my thought process was in tackling this assignment. I had this conversation with this assignment in mind but felt unsatisfied with the idea and the ultimate concretization of the idea. I spent the weekend in NYC and was struck by another idea on my way there. I was on the NJ Transit, pretending to get some reading done but really engaging in my favorite activity - people watching. A man came onto the train and for some reason particularly caught my eye. He fit the visual stereotype of a „closeted flaming gay man‰ and I was so intrigued by his character that I began to imagine his secret night life style. I created an imagined narrative for him and thought that I would use car #1412 on the NE Corridor Line to NYC on Friday, September 20, 2002 around 3 in the afternoon as my sexual subgroup. I would have enjoyed using this scene to imagine narratives for a handful of individuals on the train: the aforementioned man, a young South-East Asian man, two posh Polish women, and myself - the observer. I just thought I‚d mention this because I thought it might inspire others as well to take a creative twist with this assignment. So much for imagining other peoples‚ sex lives!

My sexual subgroup is: women, Bryn Mawr students, Denbigh residents, Denbigh sophomore residents on Wednesday, September 17, 2002. Here I pause to note that choosing a sexual subgroup and conversation to represent is a horrible experience - I love the assignment but, as is usual on our campus, am afraid of limiting compartmentalization. Three women are discussing sex at my request. The conversation is tainted with artificiality due to the unnatural way in which sex, the topic, was introduced: forcefully, persistently. My mistake. Despite the uncomfortable tone and the lack of fluidity in our story telling, we are comfortable with one another. A: So, let‚s talk about sex!
B: Okay so here‚s the story about M___ the Man-Whore. A: Yeah, what is this I keep hearing about? Who is this guy? B: You know him.
A: I do?
B: Yeah you remember at . . .
. . .
B: So he and I slept together. Just once and it was terrible! A: Why?
B: Because he was so dominant and controlling over the way it had to be. He was really into the just-sex thing. (C knows this story already and isn‚t adding much) A: What do you mean? That he wanted casual sex? And you didn‚t? Because sex for sex is not necessarily bad. B: Sex means a lot to me and I need it to be emotional and meaningful. A: So he didn‚t give you what you wanted. I am not surprised. He is definitely unappealing. What was he like? Was he big? B: Uuum, average.
A: Is he pudgy? Does he have a nice body? Because I saw him a week ago and he doesn‚t look too good. B & C in unison: He is a scrawny white boy. We continued chatting for a good hour and two other ladies joined us, but they were junior Denbigh residents. I find this very tedious to type and sanitize on a computer screen and the experience of this conversation is not being transcribed successfully; so I will stop and fill in the rest with narration. We shared our first times - one of us lost it to a fling. That‚s what she wanted - someone she wouldn‚t see again. It was painful and not particularly pleasurable - but it was what she wanted. Another of us was very inebriated and she doesn‚t remember much, but she has a positive attitude towards the experience - she doesn‚t remember if she was pleased or not. The last one of us was sober with her boyfriend at the time but doesn‚t remember for some inexplicable and troubling reason. All of us lost it to „men‰ despite diverse sexual preferences. Pain and pleasure were the words that reoccurred the most in the conversation. „Did it hurt?‰ „Did you bleed?‰ „Was it good?‰ Answers: „Not really.‰ „No.‰ „No.‰ Or „I don‚t really remember.‰ The conversation was empty, fruitless, artificial, yet comfortable. We all felt alright with being so blunt and straightforward. And that made up for the unfortunate tone with which we spoke. I think it is safe to say that none of us felt adequately nor accurately represented. But the mutual assumption that none would judge eased this qualm. In defining this sexual subgroup and in trying to understand its language, the relationship between us three women must be touched upon. B and C have known each other since last semester and seem to have shared moments like this before. I would not say they are „good friends,‰ but B is certainly comfortable with C and vice versa. A was acquainted with B and C last semester; although, she never had a real conversation with either B and C. She is just getting to know them now as hall mates and women. She prefers C‚s company to B‚s. These women know each other and have spoken about sex on other, more casual, more natural occasions. In those occasions sex was introduced spontaneously to the conversation and the tension and „pressure‰ felt in the aforementioned conversation was not there. Sex was a topic that was mutually desired as topic of the conversation. I do not mean to say that A, B, or C did not want to talk about sex during our conversation, and I am sure that if one had felt truly uncomfortable she would have spoken up. In fact we had been broaching the subject lightly when A pushed further and more deliberately to continue on that subject. This may have been the source for the plasticity of the conversation. What is striking is that the artificiality of the setting was not felt or perceived through a change in vocabulary or way of speaking. A, B, and C used the same words to describe their experiences that they would have used had they been speaking more intimately. What made the discomfort so apparent was the inflection and tone, and even speed, with which A, B, and C spoke. There seemed to be a huge disinterest in sharing a story. This is peculiar because I suspect that sharing stories like these, for all three women, was a desired experience. I think A, B, and C wanted to share their stories. So, the apparent disinterest with the stories - is it due to the setting of the discussion or is it due to the specific sex topic. Were we uncomfortable because we spoke of „our first times?‰ This was felt due to the monotone way in which these stories were revealed and with the little attention to detail. These stories took less than 3 minutes for each one of us to tell! I exclamate this point because it surprises me. Perhaps this surprise is wrong? Perhaps this particular sexual subgroup speaks quickly on such matters (for whatever reasons)? In exclamating the speed with which these stories were divulged I do not mean to subconsciously impose a value on the nature of the experiences we were sharing. It is not because we speak of losing our virginity, instead of last night‚s fling, that we should spend more time and care on detail. Perhaps this is my own personal preference in comparison with these two other women. I would prefer to spend an entire evening talking about sex, slowly and without the frenzied rush. In hindsight, this conversation was not a pleasant one. It was not rewarding in and of itself. The dissection of this conversation was formidable to me as I did not want to limit and box up these women labeling them with a certain type of language. So, what I conclude, is that this sexual subgroup was: three women, Mawrtyrs, sophomores, Denbigh residents, somewhat familiar with one another, on Wednesday, September 17, 2002, on their way to A-Plus to buy cigarettes, walking back from Erdman to Denbigh. This sexual subgroup is specific to these events and to the way in which sex was introduced into the conversation. This sexual subgroup will never again exist. If these three women are to speak of sex together again, the situation will be entirely different and thus the vocabulary as well.

The Language of Sex-Positive Feminist Lesbianism
Name: Kathryn Mc
Date: 2002-09-27 13:43:34
Link to this Comment: 2943


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

I am part of the sex-positive feminist lesbian community. I am a lesbian with a feminist stand who is concerned with the matters of gender, sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation, and sexual relations. To be sex-positive is to support all sexual activity that occurs between or among consenting individuals, and to idolize the erotic. To be smart and sex-positive is to promote safe/safer sexual activity with the use of condoms, dental dams, clean and well kept equipment and sex toys. Sex is both fluids and fluidity. We play with the continuums of sexual desire/fantasy and orientation. We are women who want sex and we are sexual agents in our own right. We address this power through language. Many sex-positive sexually active women make the most of the word "slut." When used in sex-positive circles, "slut" no longer has negative connotations, but instead signifies a woman who frequently engages in empowering sexual activity. We believe that having sex does not lessen moral standing. We do not believe that sexual desire should bear guilt. We are enthusiastic when it comes to sex and sexual self-empowerment. We are pro-sex because we feel that every man, woman, and child (and everyone anywhere in between) has a right to sexual satisfaction, whether through masturbation or polyamory (possessing multiple lovers), or BDSM, as long as the sexual activity is consensual.
Sex should be accessible. We want it in our lives and in our language. As sex-positive feminist lesbians, we challenge the Right's claim that sex should occur only between a husband and wife, and only in the missionary position. We demand alternatives and the recognition of our sexual expression as legitimate and ethical. We challenge some of our "own kind": the lesbian separatists of Second Wave Feminism who proclaimed that all heterosexual sex was the equivalent of rape and that two women had sex together should not project any "values" of the heterosexual male during sex, such as penetration of the vagina by fingers or, God-forbid, dildos. While many sex-positive Third Wave Feminists agree that Second Wave Feminism was right to bring to light sex as a political issue, we do not agree that rules of conduct (with the exceptions of consent) should be enforced socially or legally in sexual activity. Sex-positive people are not anti-vanilla sex. We believe that there are simply more (and tastier!) options for engaging in sex that can be healthy and pleasurable for all involved.
We applaud free love. We discuss orgies and orgasms. We are the bodies that we reinsert into sexual language. We read and write erotica. We lube up language. We use the word "cunt" because we like it and we like what it names. We valorize the vagina. We have been called names: "queers" and "dykes." Now we reclaim those words for ourselves. We are women who have sex with other women. We are connoisseurs of cunnilingus. But we are also tops, bottoms, switches, submissives, dominants, mommies, daddies, bad girls... We pry the mystery from sex, save for its erotic value. We use the mind as a sexual organ. We shop at sex stores owned and operated by ourselves, like Toys in Babeland. We de-sanitize the language of sex. Sex is dark and dirty and we like it that way. We talk that way. Sex-positive people favor experimentation, self-awareness, the challenging of comfort zones (not the breaching of them), and the challenging of gender roles and stereotypes. We rope in the kinky, we wield vibrators. We do not hold sex at a distance. We try to integrate sex into language and we use that language. We use categories to describe who we are and what we like. We might communicate in personal ads: "Cute submissive femme dyke ISO hot butch top. Harley a +." Or we don't. Some of us don't like limits or labels.
Sex-positive feminist lesbians talk about sex with enthusiasm. We look for sex everywhere. We talk out the shame society throws at us. We talk about desire. We bring the taboo to the table. We embrace open minds and open legs. We talk about sex as a political act. We talk about desire and love as equally political entities. We talk about the ins and outs and in-betweens of sex and sexual positions. We talk about sex as a right. We talk about sex in a good light and in the dark of dungeons. We are welcoming of the queer and the kinky. We think fists are for fucking, not for fighting.
We feel like we have a secret that we want to share but shouldn't. We tend to only talk amongst ourselves. We fear being ostracized. We live in the closet. We might be out as feminists, even out as lesbians, but out as sex-positive is the last threshold to cross. We might come out by accident; we might have to explain away bruises or strangely shaped silicone objects found in our underwear drawer. We might explain why we feel that sex work has the potential to be an empowering experience. We have to explain why we might be pro-porn feminists.
Silence is stifling and unsexy, in this case. We get angry. We want action. We moan and groan and wake up the neighbors. We seek community and strength. We are very sensitive to attitudes surrounding sex. We are very sensitive to the language that surrounds sex instead of embodying it. Popular politically correct, sterile language holds sex hostage. It holds passion hostage. As sexually active sex-positive feminist lesbian sexual deviants, we cannot get much more subversive. Our simple existence demands change because our libidos will not. We think the sexual revolution has barely begun. We think the social revolution cannot happen without the sexual one. We are the beautiful, intelligent, creative, sexually attractive, perverted agents of change. We have to speak out. We do it. We put sex in art, in music, in poetry, in spoken word. Sex through art is activism. We demand visibility. We organize Dyke Marches. We say, "We're here, we're queer, and we're kinky. Get used to it." We have sex. Then we tell everybody about it.

Making Sense
Name: Ngoc Tran
Date: 2002-09-27 13:45:37
Link to this Comment: 2944


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

My extended family is quite a huge group of individuals of all ages. My aunts and uncles include those being in their fifties and thirties. My cousins comprise of individuals in their thirties and late teens (not counting the very young ones of course). Whenever they all get together, they can be like those bees, buzzing about everything and anything--that is anything and everything except sex. Yes, they would speak of how vegetables are not cooked right, how ridiculous the most recent world news on TV was or how our relatives in Viet Nam are, but they would never have a conversation, a joke about, or having to do with sex.
The word sex itself is almost like a fortress, a forbidden topic to enter into conversation. Although the rules are unspoken and unwritten, everyone knows and abides by the rules. From the oldest to the youngest, when in the presence of an aunt or uncle or a parent, understands that it is wrong and inappropriate to speak of such vulgar topic. It would be uneducated, impolite, and almost immoral to ask or to discuss openly about sex with individuals of this sexual sub-group.
It seems like they do not even acknowledge the existence of sex itself. To them, there is not need to point out or to define what sex is. Sex is part of life, part of something else that is already deeply integrated into cultures, customs. When conversation does take place, the closest connotation of sex is the discussion of either marriage and children or relationships that would soon end in marriage and children. Sometimes, when in reflective mood, they would recall memories back in the day of naivety and innocence. They all have a story to tell of how they have met each other and how one of them was more innocent in the relationship. Accompanying most of these reflections is their comment on how kids today know too much, too early.
What is too much? When is too early? Having such a comment, they already had an assumption of what kids today do know and at around what age. I wonder then of their expectations for my cousins and other younger sexual members of this extended family. In many ways, Vietnamese cultures and customs are guidelines to unspoken expectations while ones are in a relationship. The language for sex then is a language that is dependent upon another set of language. The older generation uses cultures and customs as filters to silence the possibility of acceptance of spoken desires and open discourse about sex and sexuality.
One would think that younger generation would feel the oppression, the extremity of this whole situation. Yet, to the cousins and to me, the extremity seems not to be an extremity at all. Rather, it seems to be the most comforting situation. It is ironic, indeed. It is true that on a surface, at a quick lance, there seems to be little sexual freedom with all these silence expectations. It is also true, however, that in silence the limitation are less clearly define. In a way, it is almost like the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
As long as it is not exposed in front of their eyes and ears, they can deal with it. With their imagination, they can imagine what the limits are. To them, there is no need to paint the picture. To my cousins, there is no need to talk about sex and that is their language. You would think the younger generation would be different in thoughts and beliefs than those of the older generation, who had been deeply ingrained in Vietnamese cultures and thoughts. Yet, when someone tempted them to have a conversation about sex, they look at the person as if something is wrong. Yes, they too have been influenced but more than that, they have chosen to follow that practice of silence.
Unsurprisingly, in this invisible limit, whatever that is forbidden is also not apparent. Since it is not apparent, it is not a definite fortress always stopping you from experiencing and experimenting. As long as you are a responsible individual, it is not too difficult to manage such an expectation. What is even better is that they will not be constantly talking to you about it. If you ever need to talk, there are friends and other trusted individuals outside the family.
Making sense of something that is never mentioned or dealt with directly is not simple. It is, however, already half apparent what the negatives aspects were when something like sex is not discussed in such an environment as this. On the other hand, there are also the positive aspects that sprung from the silence of this situation. With silence, one can interpret as a more lead way, more freedom to interpret. Silence, while penetrate what appears to be oppression, may also give rooms to privacy and possibilities.
Behind those words and stories with references to sex or sexual interest, are hope, trust and responsibility. Indeed, if it bares that many meanings without a direct word to communicate sex, then would one risk to it all just to bring it, sex, to the forefront. Would it worth the risk and how important is it to speak when silence can be as an effective language itself?

Linguistic Construction of Sexuality by the Englis
Name: Masha Shar
Date: 2002-09-27 13:49:14
Link to this Comment: 2945


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Before Introduction
Metaphysical mutations - that is to say radical, global transformations in the values to which the majority subscribes - are rare in the history of humanity. Once a metaphysical mutation has arisen, it tends to move inexorably toward its logical conclusion. Heedlessly, it sweeps away economic and political systems, aesthetic judgments and social hierarchies. No human agency can halt its progress - nothing except another metaphysical mutation.
Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles

After nearly a decade of teaching Russian to American students, I have just recently come to realize that sexuality has been always avoided in our textbooks, which is rather ironic given that most FL textbooks have as their underlying plot a juicy love story with an indigenous woman falling for (or should I say conquered by) an American man, fearless explorer of the unknown and exotic. What should I ascribe my sudden awakening to? My personal growth or rather a common sentiment shared by many especially those on the Gerry Springer show. At any rate, it seems that sexuality has finally made it not only to the notoriously corrupted TV, but also to an innocent college classroom. Celebrating this liberation I am turning to the most delicious literary production - personal ads, which for years I would never admit familiarity with. Thank you, feminism and welcome corruption and blasphemy!

Introduction (this is damn boring)
In this paper I examine personal ads posted on the bilingual Internet site - -designed for the Russians residing in the U.S. For now, I limit my study to the twenty ads by heterosexual individuals1, aged from 18 to 25 years old. The ads were randomly selected and split equally between female and male subjects. The goal of this study is to identify the major discourses used by the chosen population and the origins of these discourses, whether they belong to the American or Russian culture. The attempt is made at describing the interplay of the two languages in constructing sexual identity by the bilingual subjects.

The textual and discourse analysis has been guided by the following questions:
1) What nicknames, if any, the man and woman chose for themselves? Is there any preference for Russian or English nicknames?
2) While constructing the model of the sought relationship what do the participants call: a) themselves; b) the other; and c) their future relationship? How are the two languages used?
3) How do the participants describe themselves:
a) what are the most frequent grammatical forms used (adjectives, verbs, nouns);
b) what are the preferable semantic clusters for describing self and the other?
c) What is being mentioned first personality features of physical characteristics?
4) What is being emphasized? And what words are being used for this purpose?
5) What are the most popular discourses?
6) Is there a match between female and male ads?

I realize that the embarking on this project can be a crude indulgence of my long suppressed voyeurism, however I can assure my critical readers that at this point I am equipped enough to present any perversion as a communal good. Like with the proposed project, I can argue that knowledge of the linguistically constructed sexuality by the Russian-English bilinguals serves multiple goals: it informs FL teaching, it interprets socialization patterns, values and attitudes of the visible social group within American culture, assists articulation of social policy with regard to sexuality, facilitates cross-cultural communication and so on. But let's be real, I am just having fun.

Findings and Discussion
In this paper I will report only the most salient features distinguishing linguistic production of the chosen by-lingual population.

The female participants tend to use Russian nicknames when the male participants seem to stick to the English ones. In their nicknames, most women try to convey cute, tame femininity choosing words morphologically marked as diminutives with additional meaning of endearment. The women's preference of the Russian language is understandable, given that English does not provide similar morphological device. The male nicknames seem to be semantically united by the notion of uniqueness (use of the definite article, words like 'one'). Both men and women seem to resort to the archetype common for both Russian and American cultures: beautiful, weak woman and strong man. Interestingly, in the analyzed ads female beauty is being constructed less absolute, so to say, and more 'popular': it is not 'beauty' but rather 'cuteness'.

In reconstructing the cultural model of sexuality, shared by the English-Russian bilinguals, the way the participants call themselves, the other and the sought relationship reveals the norms they adhere to. The female participants exhibit more diversity in naming themselves and the other, while stopping short when it comes to defining the relationship: they all vote for 'romance', 'true love' and 'ever lasting relationship'. It is worthy noting that more women than men do not name their relationship at all. The righteous reader might ask: 'Do the hell they know what they want?' Well, it is a tough question, my fellow righteous reader. You know, in the Russian culture, even nowadays, it is typical to leave up to the/a man all important decisions, at least overtly. If you do not trust me, listen to what this young woman has to say: 'Now, all is up to you'. Not dwelling on the abundantly stereotypical nominalization, briefly note that it is only men who dare to call their sought relationship "oral sex", "intimate encounters", "short meetings" (Russ), "sexual diversity"(Russ). And by the way, women, be ware: when Russian men call you "woman", it is not a term of respect, because it is normally followed by the invitation to perform "oral sex" or engage in "diverse sex" or "short intimate encounters". For more fun, look at the Table 5 summarizing who with whom does what.

In short, men are braggers. While only one of the female participants came up with a rather modest emphasis of her sexual attractiveness: "my looks and sex appeal usually (not always, my comment) attract most guys", nearly every man states that he is "a very cute", "extremely modest", "very kind", "very positive", "very funny", "with the longest nose", "mastered the latest slang" etc. Having reminded women about their undeniable superiority, men then drop condescendingly: "No need to kneel down in amazement at my articulation and rich background. Rather get up and introduce yourself". Are these men dumb? Not necessarily, in most cases they simply comply with cultural norms that require them to be aggressive and self-assertive, otherwise they "do not belong to their real masculine sex"(Russ), as one of the women said. Are the women modest? Not at all. They simply employ one of the cultural stereotypes that claims modesty the most desirable women's virtue". "The best adornment for a woman is modesty and a transparent dress", as E. Schwartz ironically summarizes it in his famous tale Dragon. And so does one of the participating women, although seriously: "I am not gonna describe how good I am, because it is not for me to decide those things".

Probably, the major problem that might arise in cross-cultural communication is distinguishing between a sincere confession and learned cliché. Most of our knowledge has never been challenged by our consciousness, as it has been acquired in the very early age as unquestionable maxim. Language is a depository of this knowledge and it takes a focused effort to mean what you mean and to know what you mean, otherwise we are all plagiarists at best and liars at worst. Gosh, it is getting boring. Sorry for the detour.

Major Discourses
There are five major discourses the male participants are most attracted to:
1) discourse of abundance:
"I am a realization of all dreams of the beautiful sex" (Russ)
"Intelligent & independent, kind & fun to be with, tall & fit. Like having fun, reading, interesting company, long walks, theaters, gardens, museums, the beach, travel, comfy lounges and much, much more. Like even ice but mainly in the drinks".
2) discourse of uniqueness:
"the one", "the love of your life", "I have recently realized that I would have to do something DRASTIC to get your attention, while weeding out all the CRAZIES, LOSERS, and DUM-DUMS who are keeping us from meeting each other" (I preserve the authors' style).
3) discourse of competition (see above about weeding out the rivals);
4) the beginning:
"e-mail me and we'll figure out what to do next"
"I know this can be a beginning of something wonderful for both of us"
5) archetype:
The self identification as "he" (Russ), "the Man" (Eng) are salient examples of this type of discourse.
6) discourse of the bold advertisement, even in terms of graphic:
"Dear Reader, "I have some SHOCKING news for you. You may be just DAYS away from meeting THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE."I have STILL MORE shocking news for you. Allow me a minute to explain. This is not a pitch for a dating service, it's not even a pitch for an irresistible love potion, or a psychic astrological-past life love chart. "So, just what the hack IS this a pitch for them? "Quite simply, dear reader, this is a pitch for ME!"
When one turns to the women's stories, she gets really puzzled how these two sexes, speaking so different languages, can ever get along. What the men call the beginning, the women see as the end, what for men is yet to be seen and figured out is clear and final for women (for those who still do not get it, it is 'romance' and 'ever lasting relationship'). Many women resort to the fairytale discourse inviting men to win them by solving various tasks: "I will only tell my life to someone who wins my attention", "the princess Never-Laugh seeks her prince who will make her laugh". Not surprisingly, the fairytale language is Russian: it is the participants' childhood language, when they read or were read to those fairytales. Although the fairytale discourse can be compared to the discourse of archetype used by the male participants, it still has important differences. For one, while the fairytale emphasizes uniqueness, the archetype discourse accentuates universality. Another popular discourse among the female participants is one of biographical account, which stands in opposition to the men's "advertisement buzz'. It is not catchy, as it follows chronology rather than importance: "my name is Viktoria, I came from Ukraine, I have been in the U.S. for 9 years, I'm a college student, my major is veterinary..."(Russ)


Table 1. Nicknames used by the English-Russian Bi-linguals.



miss n.
girl 01

Kiska (pussy cat)
Malysh (baby)
Milashka (cutie)
Nesmeiana (the one who never laugh)
Neznakomka (stranger)
Partizanka (partisan)

bad boy
the one
the real phunk
tiz man
bez (without)
eskulap (doctor)
on (he)

Table 2. What They Call Themselves



I (4)
Girl (3):
Person (3)
Lady (2)
Female (1)
NY citizen (1)

Brunetki (1) brunettes
Glavny priz(1) Major trophy
Ja (1) I
Ljudi(1) people
Lubaschaja zhenschina(1)
loving woman
S ukrainy(1) from Ukraine
Esche nezavoevannaja devushka (1) yet unconquered girl

I (2)
The love of your life(1)
Good looking and young Man(1)

Drug(1) friend
Ja (1) I
Molodoj chelovek (2):
- young fellow
- Zhenaty / young married fellow
Ne urod (1) not a freak
On(1) he
Partner (1) partner
Pomoschnik(1) helper

Table 3. What They Call the Other

No mentioning
Guy (5)
- serious (2)
- REAL (1)
- Special(1)
man (2):
- of my dreams
- normal
Guys (1)
true love (1)
destiny (1)
something close to the man of my dreams (1)
prince (1)
loved one(1)
my perfect balance(1)
great mind &soul(1)

Princ (2):
- na belom kone / prince on the white horse
Tot kto sdelaet menja schastlivoj (1) / someone who will make me happy
Ludi(1) people
Druzja (1) friends
Paren (1) guy
Gentleman (1) gentleman
kto mne prigljanetsa(1) someone whom I like
muzhchina dostojnyj byt i prinadlezhat svoemu nastojaschemu muzhskomu polu (1)
man deserving to belong to his real man's gender
ne durak (1) not a fool

- jewish
- slim jewish
- special
Very Special Lady(1)
You (1)
Jewish sistas
woman (1)
The One (1)
Zhenschina (1) woman
Devushka(3) young woman
Devchonka(1) girl, lassie
Ty(1) informal "you"
Avanturistka(1) adventures woman

Table 4. What They Call the Relationship They are Seeking

No mentioning
true happiness (1)
true love (1)
forever lasting relationship(1)
long term relationships (1)

Chelovecheskie otnoshenia(1) human relation
Fun (3)
Not sure what or who I am looking for (1)
intimate encounters(1)
oral sex(1) (both receiving and giving)
something wonderful for both of us(1)

Kratkie vstrechi (1) short meetings
my prosto reshili raznoobrazit polovuju zhizn iz lubvi k iskusstvu (1) we just decided to diverse our sexual life out of appreciation of art


Table 5. The Constructed Model: Self -Other - Relationship

Women English


Fun-loving Lady
Special guy

My Perfect balance

Tall guy, someone serious &real/ my prince

My perfect balance

Will change my life forever
Women Russian
Nesmejana, glavnyj priz
[Woman-Never-Laugh, major trophy]

[pussy cat]


[little baby]


Esche nezavoevannaja devushka
[yet not conquered girl]


Nice, smart, trustworthy guy

Princ na belom kone (postarshe)
[prince on the white horse, a little bit older than myself]

Man of my dreams or something close to him

Obrazovannyj paren, gentleman
[well-educated guy, gentleman]

Muzhchina dostojnyj bit I prinadlezhat svoemu nastojaschemu muzhskomu polu
[man deserving to belong to his real masculine sex]

Sdelaet menja schastlivoj
[he will make me happy]

Chelovecheskie otnoshenja
[human relationship]




All up to you
Men English
The love of you life



Good looking young man

Very cute guy

Very special lady

Jewish sistas


Open minded woman

Cute and intelligent Jewish girl (with a sense of humor)

The one/ slim Jewish girl

Meant for each other

I am not sure what or who I am looking for

To have fun

Intimate encounters, oral sex


beginning of something wonderful for both of us
Men Russian
Zhenatyj molodoj chelovek [young married man]



Tvoj pomoschnik, drug I partner [your helper and friend]


Russkaja krasivaja I intelligentnaja devchonka
[Russian cute and interesting girl]

Ty - avanturistka
[you are an advantures woman]

Kratkie vstrechi i bolshe
[short meetings and more]

tam razberemsa
[we'll figure out what to do next]

raznoobrazit polovuju zhizn
[diverse sexual live]


Table 6. Personality Before "Physicality": Personality Treats


do not want games

s ukrainy/ from Ukraine
uchus v kollege/ a college student
mogu za sebja postojat/can defend myself
lublju teatry/love theaters
obozhaju zhivotnyh/ love animals

like having fun:1
smart 1
funny 1
dobryj: 1
interesnyj v obschenii:1

Table 7. Personality Before "Physicality": Physical Characteristics

with all those curves

Simpatichnaja / cute

Simpatichnyj/ cute

Table 8. "Physicality" Before Personality: Physical Characteristics

sex appeal
good looking
22, 5'9", 135

good looking
have dark hair
dark eyes

Table 9. "Physicality" Before Personality: Personality Treats

Love to meet new people

love to travel
have a wide range of itnerestes


Table 10. Personality Before "Physicality": Personal Treats

no games in mind(2)
knowing his goals in life(1)

interesnyi vnutrenne i vneshne (1)interesting from the inside and outside
s dostatochnym chuvstvom jumora (1) with reasonable sense of humor
intelligentnyj (1) intelligent
gentlemenskij nabor otzyvchivyj(1) gentlemen's kit
lubaschij (1) loving
iskrennij (1) sincere
chestnyi (1) honest
ne zhalejuschij nichego dlja lubaschej ego zhenschiny (1) can give up everythign for the woman who loves him
muzhchina dostojnyj byt i prinadlezhat svoemu nastojaschemu muzhskomu polu(1)the man deserving to belong to his real masculine sex

sense of humor(1)

Russkaia(1) Russian
Intelligentnaja (1) intelligent

Table 11. Personality Before "Physicality": Physical Characteristics

not overwheight(1)

Krasivaja(1) beautiful
do 23 let (1) not older than 23y.o.

Table 12. "Physicality" Before Personality: Physical Characteristics.


good looking(2)

Krasivaja(1) beautiful

Table 13. "Physicality" Before Personality: Personal Treats.


love oral sex both receiving and giving(1)
open minded (1)
with a big heart (1)

Chestnaja(1) honest

1 It is striking that the site serves exclusively strait individuals.
2 Also see Table 1.
3 See tables 2,3,4,5.

Sexuality Constructed by
the English-Russian Bi-linguals

Humor and Privacy
Name: Bea Lucaci
Date: 2002-09-27 13:51:49
Link to this Comment: 2946


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

I dipped the straw's wrapper in the puddle of water forming on the table, showing my lack of interest in the conversation. I was so tired of hearing about computers and video games.
"She's so hot!" Rich exclaimed, interrupting the current conversation. My ears perked up. I looked over at the girl all the guys were gawking at, and remained greatly unimpressed. Of course, she was thin a thin blonde with large breasts. I guess that's what I expected to find when I glanced in the direction they were looking.
I endured the dull exchange as I impatiently waited for the rest of our friends from high school to show up. At least, once everyone was there, I wouldn't have to hear quite as much about modern technology and "hot" girls. Besides, Chris was joining us tonight, which promised to make the evening much more entertaining.
By midnight, everyone had shown up at the diner, just as planned. We all reminisced about our adventures, dramas, and romances back in high school. Chris, as expected, made hilarious comments consistently throughout the evening. There were many times that our conversation turned to sex. Thankfully, due to the combination of people there, comments about attractive girls were kept to a minimum. When the remarks did occur, though less in number, we girls made sure to overpower the conversation with tales of gorgeous men we had seen lately. Sure enough, the guys refrained from steering the conversation back to beautiful women.
We joked about our sex lives (or lack thereof) for a great deal of time, but then we began discussing the sex lives of others. As our friends kept the main conversation going, Chris and I branched off and began our own. Apparently, his friend Derek insisted on telling him all the sordid details of his sex life.
"If I have to know the details, I'm making you suffer with me," he laughed, after making me listen to the stories Derek had told him. Derek had been a shy, mild-mannered boy who had never even held a girl's hand a year earlier, and now he was talking about having sex with his girlfriend all the time. It was more than I could comprehend. In fact, I think it was more than anyone else could comprehend as well, judging by the horrified look on their faces. However, it didn't take long for them to burst out into laughter.
After that, it was a fast-paced exchange of who was sleeping with whom, and how many times. Never once did we talk about our own desires or emotions. It was as if we were all detached from what we were discussing, and simply telling stories.
"...and I guess it wasn't a good idea that Marie and I had a lot of sex after I was injured that day," Chris shared, looking over at me. He knew well that I disliked Marie, so I would find the idea of them going at beyond repulsive. But I wasn't the one that said it.
"Oh my God! That's disgusting! You're both so skinny; it's like bones rubbing on bones!" Kristy shuddered. She hadn't said a word when the conversation would turn to sex until that moment. Her comment was followed by a flood of laughter. Even Chris couldn't help but laugh.
Not once did we speak of our desires or emotions that are attached to sex. Not as a group, anyway. Sex has always been something to trigger a humorous dialogue among my friends. As individuals, we speak freely about our sex lives and passions. As a larger crowd, there aren't many serious or complicated things that we discuss.
Night fades into early morning, and we find ourselves still gathered at the diner. Eventually, Juliana, Kristy, and I are the only three remaining. Perhaps now we would be able to talk about sex as we perceive it.
Juliana began, "It's been forever since Trent and I have had sex. Ever since the pregnancy scare, I haven't wanted to, and he's been really patient."
"But didn't that whole thing happen over a year ago?" questioned Kristy.
"Yeah, but I've been too scared. We actually tried to have sex last week, and had to stop. It's been so long that it was too painful," Juliana explained.
I decided to take a step back and let the story unfold further. I just listened as they chatted, realizing that this was not an extension of the conversation that had been happening in our larger group. This was a conversation meant only for a few participants. There was a level of comfort that wasn't present earlier. Perhaps it was because there were no men around, or because the group had decreased dramatically in size. Whatever the reason was, we were getting to the real meat of the subject.
Kristy continued, "Well, at least you have someone to have sex with. I'll probably never have sex - I can't even get a date!"
That was our cue to comfort her as she wallowed in self-pity. After she was done, we resumed our previous discourse. They asked me some questions, and I openly gave details. I became more active in this conversation than I had been in the last. I tried to chalk it up to the fact that, in large groups of people, I tend to be an observer and not a participant. That was true to an extent, but I found that I was more inclined to speak about my private life when the group consisted only of women. Having Chris, Rich, and the other guys prevented us from having "girly" talks without turning them into jokes. We seem to know how to utilize humor when in a large group. But the real issues lie deep and are only discovered when the boys have gone.

How a Lesbian Compensates and Why
Name: Sarah Mend
Date: 2002-09-27 13:54:34
Link to this Comment: 2947


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

At the start of every academic year, the Rainbow Alliance of Bryn Mawr College orchestrates an orientation for the freshman class to introduce them to the diverse sexual nature of the community. This September, I volunteered to help run one of the meetings that take place in each of the college's dormitories which is to say that I essentially facilitated a conversation to do with sexual orientations and their existence on campus. Toward the end of the evening, I passed out pieces of paper and asked that everyone write down any questions they might still have. Four identical questions were returned to me and all were phrased identically as follows:
"How do lesbians have sex?"
This question did not surprise me to say the least. I was told that it comes up every year and that it is up to the individual leader to decide whether she feels comfortable enough answering it. What I was not prepared for, however, was the language used to ask the question for to me it seemed as if what they were really asking was, "How is it possible for homosexuals to have sexual intercourse?" to which I would have to reply that, indeed, it is it not possible. Assumed in the question and thus in the answer is the heterosexual connotation of the phrase "to have sex," or slang for "to have sexual intercourse," defined as the insertion of the penis into the vagina. Since there is no penis involved in a lesbian sexual circumstance, it seems that "sex", strictly defined, cannot apply to them.
It is not that a sexual act does not exist but that the appropriate language to describe that act does not exist. Because a universally accepted non-heterosexual definition of sex does not exist, labeling of an act that most closely resembles what we currently define as sex is up for individual interpretation. My interpretation that I shared with the group labels lesbian sex as something that may be pinpointed in time as a result of a certain feeling rather than a specific physical act. For instance, giving a woman oral sex during a one night stand I would not define as "sex" though I would describe the seemingly less intimate act of manual sex as "sex" if it were done with a more long-term partner I cared about. Though this definition may certainly be disagreed with, I find that the language used by the lesbian community (or any woman describing a homosexual experience she has had) to describe homosexual sex, supports its truth; it incorporates the emotional to compensate for what an unconsciously homophobic heterosexually dominated population considers a deficiency in the physical.
My rather insecure ex-girlfriend who thought for the majority of our relationship that I would leave her for a man once asked me while we were together whether I considered myself a virgin after having been with her (I was a heterosexual virgin before I met her). I told her that no matter what I labeled our sexual acts, or myself as a product of those acts, the nights spent with her were more sexual than any I had ever experienced, imagined or could imagine in the future. I fumbled for words to describe what I was feeling, namely that there was some feeling that existed between us that was more than physical but that served to heighten the physicality. I used the word "intensity" a lot and discussed our "connection" as being beyond one I could imagine with a man.
My words were honest but I have heard them repeated to me by many lesbians referring to their own sexual experiences. One of them described her night with a woman as "Beautiful...We were friends before who had reached a sort of pinnacle in our relationship so that when we slept together it was as if the emotion burst and spilled over into a whole new dimension of feeling." Another cited her experiences as ones that could never be reenacted with a man because of "A lack of emotional intimacy that cannot be described in a word but that every woman knows exists between her and another woman." The point to be taken from these pieces of conversation is not the superiority of one sexual orientation over another but the way emotion is or at least attempted to be incorporated while describing a physical act. The fact that often no words exist to appropriately describe a homosexual or heterosexual act is remedied for a lesbian by describing how it is not heterosexual but by using heterosexual language. For example, lesbians may speak of a man's tendency to want to "fuck and run" in order to describe as exactly opposite a woman's tendency to take sex seriously. (I know these are generalizations but I am using what I have heard in conversation as an example of honest lesbian dialogue.) That one must be used in order to describe the other, further proves that a heterosexual language exists while a homosexual one does not.
The fact that we are forced to use heterosexual language to talk about homosexual sex which inevitably results in an admittance that "sex" is not possible is demeaning and does not take into account how fulfilling a lesbian sexual experience can be therefore proving the underlying homophobia of a society that does not allow for an accurate description of a way of life for a growing population. The fact is lesbians will never be able "to have sex" as it is defined heterosexually and they should not want to label a certain act they can perform as an equivalent. If being able to say that we, as lesbians, are able to "have sex" just like our heterosexual counterparts is so important a liberty, then the definition must be expanded to include all sexual orientations. More significant though, I remember saying to the group, would be a lesbian's rejection of needing to define her actions in heterosexual terms. The time has come to develop an entirely new vocabulary.

Wag mo ihawak ako (Don't touch me)
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2002-09-27 13:56:58
Link to this Comment: 2948


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Coming from a conservative Filipino family, sex was not openly articulated. Family life and religion play a major role in traditional Filipino culture. The majority of the population in the Philippines are advocates of the Roman Catholic religion which my family is a part of. Since sex was not a topic to be discussed in my culture because of the strong impact of the Catholic Church, my parents didn't feel that it was necessary to elaborate on it. The Catholic religion does not accept the ideology of premarital sex. Why does the Catholic Church have such an influence on the mentality of the Filipino people? This is because in Philippine History, the Filipino people were oppressed by ruling empires and Catholicism was the only outlet for Filipinos to feel free from the oppression. Catholicism has a strong influence in the upbringing my parents instilled in their children. I am a member of a family that does not clearly express the language of sex in terms of acceptance.
My family consists of five members: my father Enrique, my mother Susan, my brother Mike, my sister Angelica and myself. A typical Saturday morning in Manila would be the smell of freshly baked pandesal (soft rolls) and the aroma of hot Spanish chocolate and chorizo at the breakfast table. Filipinos wake up very early and one of the reasons is to EAT! We, the children greet our parents by kissing them and saying good morning. The conversation would be again of FOOD and my mom turning to me and saying that I should watch what I am eating because of my cholesterol and I gained weight again. As always, everyone nods. To be honest, I can say that Filipinos are very blunt people. They can tell you that you are fat, yet they cannot discuss SEX in the table. That is just awkward to me because criticizing an individual's body is worse than having an exciting luscious conversation on sex. The ironic part is sex is a universal issue and should be a topic easily discussed while personal issues should not be read as an open book the way Filipinos let it be.
Now I will proceed in introducing my family. My father is loving but is not open to us, his children about dating and sex. He never once asked me if I had any interest in the opposite sex. My father emphasized academia over social relationships. When I think about it, maybe that is the reason why he wanted me to go to attend an all womens' college. Whenever we talk about my boyfriend Ralph, he still addresses him as "your friend Ralph". My father has not accepted the fact that I have feelings for someone else even though my relatives acknowledge him as the guy I am dating. As an adolescent my father grew up in a household where his mother never discussed sex because it was inappropriate. This stems from her background as a young Spanish Filipina lady growing up at a period in the Philippines where sex was looked down upon socially. Thus, this made it arduous for individuals to articulate sex in public and private conversations.
On the other hand, my mother is the one who is home mostly and manages to spend more quality time with the children. She is more liberated and jokes about sex by demonstrating a playful attitude but ironically finds it very unacceptable before marriage. The reason why my mom feels this way is because my grandfather being very religious instilled a lot of discipline in my mother and her nine siblings and was very strict in terms of dating. My mother was allowed to date at the age of twenty-two. It is traditional in the Philippines to have a chaperone while on dates. She was always accompanied by my aunt or another elder family individual in all her dates with my father. Until this day, my mother does not believe in the concept of sex before marriage. She always tells us that "no man wants to marry a girl that is not a virgin".
My siblings Mike and Angelica have contrasting viewpoints on sex. My brother acknowledges the fact that I am a teenager and am aware of what sex is. He does not talk about it much but says that "he will kill any guy who dares to touch me in that way". My brother is overly protective of me and since I am the youngest that is not a surprise. He is the eldest and feels that he has responsibility of caring for me and Angelica. My sister on the other hand does not talk about it at all. She is highly conservative and feels that I am not ready to be in any type of relationship being only nineteen years old. Angelica is more traditional and feels that dating should only start at a later age when I am more mature and ready to handle a relationship.
I personally don't find anything wrong with talking about sex. Sex is supposed to be fun and an emotional experience with someone you love. I am not as conservative as my family when it comes to talking about sex, maybe it is because I am a more open person and I grew up in an International school background having a lot of friends who were not only from Asian decent. But at the same time, saving my virginity and waiting for the right man is something I hold sacred.
The theory of sex varies from different cultures and beliefs. In my family sex is not accepted before marriage. It is believed to be sacred to the point where religion and family values dictate whether the act should be done or not. Sex can be expressed in a language however in this situation, it is a silent one.

Sexual Sub-group: Me
Name: Tamina Men
Date: 2002-09-27 13:58:59
Link to this Comment: 2949


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

"In Western Culture, sex is taken too seriously. A person is not considered immoral, is not sent to prison, and is not expelled from her or his family for enjoying spicy cuisine." (Gale Rubin, "Thinking Sex" p. 44)

My mother would often present a new recipe at a meal, and encourage the rest of my family to try it. My brothers, sister and I grew up always trusting her word. It was therefore not difficult to take the first bite. After all, what was the worst thing that could happen? Perhaps an upset stomach or a bitter taste left in my mouth? It did not seem that there was much at risk in testing this unfamiliar oral sensation.
My mother grew up in India, and has brought the spices of eastern culture into our American home. She has prepared spicy food for me ever since I can remember and I have continued to enjoy the exotic tastes that envelop her cooking. It is these spices after all, that have flavored the food that provided nourishment for my body to grow. In addition, its association with my culture has shaped my mentality of the woman I have become. The "spice" in my background has enviably made me different from my American surroundings and is not something that I intend to forget.
It is difficult however, to stay dedicated to a tradition that is often contradicted by my current environment. More specifically, I have grown up in a place where many people cannot fathom the concept of culture influencing my decisions pertaining to sex. My heritage seemed to create a language barrier that made my opinions difficult to translate. Despite this however, I recognize that my current environment has equally influenced my growth into adulthood, and has caused me to reexamine certain cultural beliefs. As I have already mentioned, I was brought up encouraged to try different types of cuisine, but this concept of experimentation was not intended to be applied universally; especially not to sex. The sex talk given to me by my mother was very simple, "don't." And though it worked for many years, I have come to find my own peace with the subject.
This is of course not to say that I disagree with of my all of my mother's arguments that stressed the "wait until marriage" idea, but there were some things I could not accept. Specifically, my mother emphasized that women who chose to have sex before marriage would never gain complete respect from any man. This idea managed to sit uncomfortably in my stomach for years, but I did not question it too much. I had always trusted her word before. Even though I feel that I disagree with her point, I admit that it still remains with me. Her words continue to run through my veins and call me back to a culture that I am perhaps guilty of losing.
Though my mother presented our culture to be her main argument for abstinence (until marriage) , I believe that her intensions ran much deeper. Her teaching of sex reflected an instinctual concern felt by any mother. She did not want me to be hurt emotionally or physical. She was therefore right in warning me about the risks of diseases and pregnancy. Just as she also rightly questioned my ability to tackle the strong emotions often attached to sex. Her genuine concern for my well-being is something I can never hold that against her.
Throughout the years I have grown closer to my mother and continued to sample her spicy food. I have also tasted sex. It's marinate has seeped into my mind and body, managing to add even more flavor to my previous character.2 Let it not be mistaken however, that I believe that I was of an insipid nature or lacked a delicious richness before having sex. I also have to say that I agree with many of the serious aspects of sex that my mother articulates. Her words will remain engrained in me to a certain extent. I have come to realize however, that there is no right or wrong when it comes to something as personal and intimate as sex. I have therefore, developed my own boundaries and comfort levels based on what I have learned about my own character.
I don't think that there is anybody in this world that knows everything about sex, and that is why it is important to listen. The reception and understanding of sex, varies depending on cultural settings, time periods, and geographic locations. Listening, even to opinions that do not match our own, because they may be considered too conservative or liberal, can still teach us. Ideas, not necessarily the physical act of sex, create the ingredients of a luscious cuisine that we should be sampling. Sex is a topic that feeds our curiosity and is far from being exhausted. That is why I find it is important that questions are continued to be raised and received by open minds.

1 When combating the topic at hand ("Choose a sexual sub-group with which I am familiar"), I found that I needed to find a subject that I felt comfortable speaking for. I therefore chose myself, because this is the only subject that I know well enough that I can take responsibility for the words in this essay without much doubt. I am therefore using my language of sex to place myself within my own category. This is because I don't feel that there is any other "sexual sub-group" title that has the ability to articulates the depth of my feelings on the topic.
2 This was written based on an idea that Robert Darnton presented in his essay "Sex for Thought." Darnton says, " After losing virginity, the heroines of modern pornography often gain a kind of independence- not legal or professional or social autonomy: that was virtually impossible under the conditions of the Old Regime, but self- reliance of an intellectual sort, because once they discover that sex is a good for thinking, they learn to think for themselves." (p.211-12)

Sex and Polite Conversation
Name: Anonymous
Date: 2002-09-27 14:01:50
Link to this Comment: 2950


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Sex and Polite Conversation
Sex. Can you possibly think if a juicier topic? One that everyone can universally relate? However, in many circles it is taboo to speak of it, or it is necessary to dress it up and hide it so that it can become suitable for "polite conversation." One of these circles, (that I know well, having been raised within it) is that of the baby-boom generation's Catholic women.

Telephone conversation:
Mother: Hello dear, how was your day?
Daughter: Alright, I called Dad today.
Mother: REALLY? You haven't called him since you moved out? How did that go? Are you all right?
Daughter: Actually, it went pretty good. I've come to terms with what he did... I just needed him to know I don't think he's a pervert anymore.
Mother: Oh really? I wish you could help me with it. I do not know how.
Daughter: Well, I don't approve about the way he did know...the big old secret and lying and such...but...I mean...if that's what he's into...whatever.
Mother: I do not know how you can say that. When your father and I had relations, before things began going bad between us, THAT was to be intimate with each other. This is just lust. It is the devil...and he brought it into our home.
Daughter: Well...what if things were good between the two of you and he had brought some pornography to bed for the two of you to look at foreplay. Would you still think it was evil?
Mother: Yes! That is lust. Lust does not belong in a marriage. A marriage is holy and blessed by God...the point of relations between a man and women who are married and love each other is to procreate and be intimate with each other. Lust does not belong in that sort of relationship.
Daughter:'re supposed to WANT sex with your husband right? I mean...didn't you ever look at him and just think "damn he's got a hot bod...I want him now" (giggles)
Mother: NO! That is horrible. Intimacy between husband and wife is not what the media portrays it. That is evil. Intimacy is loving. There is no lust...and if a baby results it's a blessing. Relations are strictly between a man and women in a natural way...and nothing else belong in bed with them.
Daughter: So...I'm just wondering...I guess you don't believe in sex toys either?
Mother: Goodness no! Those are selfish things. They have no place in the marriage bed.... I certainly hope you are not starting to do any experimenting!
Daughter: Can't I have a conversation with my mother about sex?
Mother: Yes, of course dear...but your father just walked in...we had better change the subject. How's the weather there?

The above dialogue is a (mostly) fictional example of the language that older catholic women us to express sex. Notice the use of "relations" and "intimacy" in place of more "vulgar" or blunt words. The mother never actually says "pornography" or "sex." Her strong religious beliefs influence the way she talks about things. I am sure that this is even more open than she would ever consent to talk with anyone else since it is her daughter. Thus, language is influenced by belief and moral upbringing.

On Choosing Not To...
Name: Anonymous
Date: 2002-09-27 14:04:38
Link to this Comment: 2951


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

I am part of many sexual subgroups, because I would define a sexual subgroup as any group of people that have something sexual in common. One of these subgroups could be as basic as being a woman, and another one could be women who have recently discovered that they are sexually attracted to other women. I do talk about sex with my friends and especially hall mates, but we are all bringing to the conversation different sexual experiences that make us talk about sex differently.
While I may have been able to place us all into one subgroup, I have chosen not to do so. To record a conversation among us and then say "this is how the sexual subgroup of Bryn Mawr students who live in the basement talk about sex" would be to ignore many other aspects of our sexual experiences. Labeling all of us into that, or another subgroup, does not explain that one of my friends has never had an orgasm, or that one of my friends is in a relationship with one person and having sex with another, or that one of my friends has only ever had sex while she has been drunk. If all of us fell into an obvious subgroup, such as heterosexual white nineteen year old females, I would still not chose to write about us as one sexual subgroup. I do not think that fitting into one subgroup means that we speak about sex the same way. My closest friends are heterosexual, but I can be very open with them about my homosexual relationship. And on the other hand, just because someone has had extremely similar sexual experiences as I have and is currently in the same position that I am, does not mean that I would speak to them about sex differently from someone else. How we talk about sex depends mostly on the individual relationship among the people talking, and not so much on their relationships to sex.
If I was willing to put a few of my friends and myself into a subgroup, I would be apprehensive with analyzing how we talk about sex. I am not comfortable with writing a paper that says, "This is how people in sexual subgroup A talk about sex". I think that to say that would indicate that I was speaking for all members of sexual subgroup A, or that I had at least done a survey that included many people in various situations that fit into that subgroup. The only way that I would be able to write that is to narrow my subgroup down to a very small, very specific set of people. For example, I could write a paper titled "How people in the sexual subgroup of nineteen year old Caucasian students from Pennsylvania who attend Bryn Mawr College, have a good relationship with their parents, have previously only had sexual experiences with males, and are currently having their first sexual experience with a female talk about sex" (sexual subgroup B). However, I cannot have a conversation to determine how those people talk about sex because I do not know enough people who fit into that category.
Even if I did have enough friends who fit into a very specific subgroup to have a conversation, I still think that I would be ignoring our sexual differences. It is possible that two friends both fit into sexual subgroup B, but the only men one person has had sex with are experienced and skillful partners, and the only men the other person has had sex with are inexperienced and incompetent. In this case, their views on past sexual experiences would considerably alter their views on their current sexual experiences. So much so that one of them might think women are far superior lovers to men, and the other one might strongly disagree. In this case they would use different language to talk about sex, because I think that we use different language to talk about good experiences than we do to talk about bad ones.
Other variables that would change the way people talk about sex are a person's personality and background. Two people may both fit into sexual subgroup B, but one woman may have been raised in a conservative household and she has never been comfortable talking about sexual experiences or feelings. Then the other woman may have been raised by open parents to whom she could always talk about sexual issues. These two women would use very different language to talk about similar sexual experiences.
Language is a necessity when it comes to exploring sexuality. It may be inadequate, but I think that it is important to try to put sexual experiences into language. It does matter what type of language works for certain situations and certain people, but to divide those into subgroups would be to make a huge generalization. I do not feel comfortable simplifying people's sexuality to those groups, and I do not want to give myself the authority to speak for how other people talk about sex.
The language that people use to talk about sex is constantly changing depending on the experience they are talking about and their personal relationship with whom they are talking. These personal relationships most often reach across sexual subgroup boundaries, and so the most common conversations about sex are probably not among people of the same subgroup. Even within a very small and specific subgroup, people's personalities and backgrounds cause them to talk about sex differently. While it is possible to record a conversation about sex, and then define the sexual subgroups that each communicator fits into, I do not think this is an accurate way to analyze how different sexual subgroups use language to talk about sex.

Co-operative Sex Talk
Name: Michelle M
Date: 2002-09-30 08:53:14
Link to this Comment: 3019


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Living in a co-op creates a special dynamic between individuals. In my particular co-op there are 12 women living closely, cooking meals for each other, and meeting minimally on a weekly basis to discuss house and personal issues. Life in Batten house is different from dorm life in that the number of occupants is smaller, they all share at least a few common principles by which they live and they don't simply interact daily but they must cooperate with each other daily. As with many aspects of our lives, one's sexual practices are usually well known to all in the house. How we deal with sex, and especially how we talk about it is reflective of our close living environment and style.
In such an up front environment there seem to be two reactions that people have with regards to their sex lives: they either talk about sex much more often than "the average college woman", or they tend to remain silent on the issue. There is also the contributing factor of living in an all female environment which in part makes us more like other women on the Bryn Mawr campus and less like that average college woman. I find myself in the group of women that frequently engages in sex talk therefore much of what I discuss here will be from that perspective. It seems that sex is a common bonding point for all who wish to discuss it. The close living environment has made me and many of the other women comfortable with discussing very intimate details of our sex experiences, sexual desires and sexual attractions after only knowing some of them for as short as three and a half weeks.
The language that we (the co-oper's that talk about sex) use tends to be full of colloquialisms but also involves biological names for various body parts. Vaginas and penises are usually named explicitly as such although sometimes more affectionate euphemisms are used in reference to vaginas like "twat" or "kooter." In contrast sex acts are generally referred to with less explicitness for example "getting head", "having sex", "fucking", "getting laid", "going down" or "getting booty" are most often used rather than purely descriptive biological terms like "putting his penis in my mouth." One could interpret this as comfort with sexual organs but squeamishness with regard to specific sex acts. I would suggest though, that the descriptive language of biology fails to capture sex acts as effectively as the slang terms. Each of these terms contains a certain connotation that differentiates it from another. They in contain certain emotional charges and suggest moods that cannot be imported through descriptive language.
In addition to this verbal language there is without a doubt sexual body language between friends in the co-op. Sometimes it is used in jest sometimes as a comforting cuddle for someone who needs cheering up. As I think about sex more and more, sexual gestures seem to be a normal part of friendship. By this I don't mean that we are all hopping into bed with all our buddies or that we would even want to, but that some degree of comfort or joking often manifests itself in a mildly sexual nature. I find this to be especially true with those who are often physically and spatially close to each other. Perhaps this friendly sexual contact is a safe and comfortable outlet for those who are not in a sexual or romantic relationship at the moment.
While much of the sexual communication that goes on in the house is healthy I can't help but wonder if there is a downside. It seems that in a way so much time is spent putting sex into verbal language, it makes the phrase "leaving nothing to the imagination" take on a whole new meaning. There is rarely a sexual act that we would refrain from putting into language if we were so inclined. But what effect does all this verbalizing of sex have on the individual and her sexual experience?
I am beginning to find that perhaps leaving something to the imagination, or at least to physical language is preferable to the constant verbalization that has taken over my thoughts in the last three weeks. That is not to say that our practice is bad or wrong or in some way inefficient, just that so much talk of sex creates too much thought during sex, perhaps the ultimate proof that the English language is not the best language to use to express desire, yearning or touch. In some ways the discussion helps me become more comfortable with having sex, thinking about sex and exploring different parts of sex, yet with comfort comes a lack of mystery. The thrill of sex as part of the unknown, undiscussed and unexplored vanishes as one begins to talk about all aspects of it. On the other hand perhaps I am simply losing my youthful nativity about sexuality. Sex cannot remain mysterious for one's whole life. The goal now may be to discover a balance between thinking sex, and doing sex.
I doubt that I am the only individual in the co-op who feels this way about our constant verbalization of sex. Perhaps we are all in a similar stage in our sexual development and find ourselves working through those feelings co-operatively, they way we do everything else. After finally feeling comfortable with our sexuality we are now working to find a balance between sex, sex talk and the rest of our lives. While I cannot be sure if the process is helped or hindered by our close living environment, I do know that it will be more interesting, more memorable, and maybe even more meaningful than if we had all gone through this stage in a different living environment.

Flexually Speaking
Name: Lauren Fri
Date: 2002-09-30 08:56:07
Link to this Comment: 3020


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

"Flexual." I liked the term as soon as I heard it. The term was coined at Wesleyan University, where a sizable queer population and a remarkably accepting college community both allow and encourage ongoing, open discourse about sexuality. "Flexual" doesn't sound like a name for a ghastly disease, like "bisexual" or "homosexual." It sounds sexy and fun, sensual and quirky - the way sexuality should sound.
Fah-lexual. The first time I said it, it slid easily off my tongue and nudged my lips into a smile. The word has no false implications and allows no hasty assumptions. It rejects the black-and-white, cut-and-dried nature of bisexuality, and instead moves us forward into a newspeak that is not boxed into the language of a binary gender system.
I usually balk at labels of any kind. My attitude is that while people can call themselves whatever they want, we have to be very careful in what we call each other. For me, terms like gay, straight, lesbian, heterosexual, and homosexual are far too conclusive. Living is about accepting that there is an exception to every rule; it's about realizing that "the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain." I do not ever want to be forced into a labeling crisis because I am surprised by my feelings toward someone. Human attraction is unpredictable and confusing; employing labels that restrict us, or force us into unnatural consistency only further complicate the situation.
Ideally, people would not feel so obliged to label themselves. Labels are misleading and constricting. We cannot assume that everyone speaks a common language; certain words mean different things to different people. Some people have trouble grasping the idea that bisexuality and monogamy are not necessarily exclusive of each other. Others are not used to hearing words like "queer" and "dyke" used as anything other than derogatory taunts. The word flexual seemed to me so new and so fresh that no one could have any false or negative connotations associated with it.
Unfortunately, the term is so brand new that the vast majority of people outside of the Wesleyan bubble have never heard of it. A Google search for "flexual" returns no results related remotely related to sexuality. An informal survey among friends yielded blank stares and shrugged shoulders. In the world of internet newsgroups, there was only a glimmer of recognition. A few people suggested that the idea of someone who is "flexual" is far from new; words such as "omnisexual" and "pansexual" have been in the lexicon of so-called alternative sexualities for years. The terms, which are synonomous, are even defined in the American Heritage Dictionary: "Relating to, having, or open to sexual activity of many kinds."1 Also, it makes sense to question the very validity and subjectivity of the word "flexual:" "People do lots of different things in bed. Even straight people. The notion that liking boys and girls at the same time makes you 'flexible' is ludicrous on its face. It's nothing more than a crypto-bisupremist contortion."2 While this argument is valid, one could counter that people are, in fact, more flexible sexually when they are open to dating both women and men. Still, while we may quibble over sexual jargon for days, the people behind the word itself are paramount.
Who are flexuals, and how do we use language to talk about sex? To the best of my knowledge, there is no palpable flexual community. The bisexual community is still so new as a singular entity, and the term "bisexual" has been part of our vernacular and sexual understanding for decades longer than "flexual." While the flexual community may not stand together in the same sense as the homosexual community, that does not mean such a community does not exist. While the label is new, the concept is not. Certainly a sizeable group of people are living in complete rejection of all labels that have been presented to them, choosing instead to exercise their personal preference, their flexibility, without attaching a label to their sexual slant. The way people who are flexual use language is especially interesting because the language they use may not even include the word "flexual" itself. As the term becomes more widely used, more people may officially identify as flexual, and then perhaps a unique vocabulary and linguistic approach will emerge from this burgeoning community.
Flexuality is a term and an idea that comes closer to rejecting written and spoken language as a valid form of sexual expression and understanding. Conversely, it can also be viewed as a term that brings us closer to accepting spoken and written language as a valid means for sexual expression. In essence, we must decide whether the word helps us or harms us. Two questions remain: Do we use language to identify ourselves or to define ourselves? And does language conform to us, or do we conform to language?
1 "Pansexual." Copyright 2002, Lexico LLC
2 Thomas, Michael. 9/22/02. "Re: 'flexual.'" newsgroup (

First Paper Assignment
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2002-09-30 09:04:56
Link to this Comment: 3021


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Your first paper is due this coming Tuesday, September 24th. Please bring four copies to class, because we will be doing small group writing workshops w/ one another's essays that day. Plan to submit one hard copy to me when class ends; also e-mail me the essay as an attachment, so that I can hand post it on our website. Be sure that your name and the essay's title are on the first page of the text.

Your assignment is to choose a sexual sub-group w/ which you are familiar, and write a 3-pp. paper describing how this group uses language to talk about sex. Several of you have asked me what I mean by "sexual sub-group." What I want you to do is find an identity group you feel a part of, or can find out enough about to write an account of how they put sex into language (or not--it might be particularly interesting to have records of some groups where sex is NOT articulated linguistically.....) This can take the form of a report, an analysis, a narrative--you choose.

I'm very much looking forward to collecting this data!

Reproductive Repercussions/Not
Name: Anonymous
Date: 2002-10-02 09:19:32
Link to this Comment: 3082


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Essentially my paper attempted to tackle the question "What does it mean
to be sexually active and never had to deal with reproductive
repercussions?" I attempted to locate places and spaces (i.e. literature,
the Internet) where this was being discussed, but I was unsuccessful in
finding anything.

My choice in choosing this sub-group came about as a result of two things:
1) Being the only person out of my group of friends in my neighborhood
that has never had to make a reproductive choice as a result of pregnancy.
2) Discussions I hear surrounding issues of pregnancy: many people have a
stance on whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. I also hear a lot of
talk around the issues of future pregnancy--- we talk about whether or not
we are going to have children, what age we hope to give birth, how many
kids we want, whether we want a boy or girl--- the one thing we don't talk
about is how we feel now, at this late teen/ early 20's moment of not
having been pregnant.

Does this lack of language and discussion stem from the social taboo that
sexual activity out of marriage is "wrong" and therefore keeps us from
talking to one another/ supporting one another? Is it assumed that we are
the young women who have "made it" and therefore need no language
or forum for our own sexual discourse?

Heterosexuals Putting Sex Into Language
Name: Jenny Wade
Date: 2002-10-04 15:09:10
Link to this Comment: 3121


English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Language of Sex: The Naked Truth

It remains difficult to define the language of heterosexual experience, yet for all of us (not simply the heterosexual subgroup I plan to discuss), the enormous responsibility of language in defining all experiences (not simply sexual) is undeniable. The quote, ?We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. Language is not simply a reporting device for experience but a defining framework for it,? (anonymous author) captures the mutable, fundamental basis created by language and its interplay, and eventual integration, into experience. Language is versatile, yet with unwavering, bold resonance due to the natural tension created in discourse. When these tensions are captured in harmony, concise and fluent in projecting thought, language parallels the balance of tensions present in a heterosexual relationship.

To use Fuss? argument, an ?inside? verses an ?outside? as the two genders compete in heterosexual acts, both battling for control and trying to establish some midpoint, creating a new ideal that is neither in nor out, but instead all inclusive. Rarely is heterosexual experience a unity (ironic in comparison to its ?natural? purpose or familiar marital connotation as ?the unity of a man and woman?), but instead, the language of heterosexual experience is a clever game, a twist of ambiguities as one sex is left guessing at the other with a curiosity that is guided by ?desire? and an endless, frustrating effort to understand and relate to the opposite sex. In describing sexual experience with effective language, it is much like the experience itself: an attempt to balance opposing yet complementary tensions, allowing a fusion of emotion, defaults, and honesty so that both separate identities are preserved, yet manage to reach some common ground. Heterosexual language and mentality is based on a type of ?traditional expectation? rather than a conscious rejection and redefining of ?tradition? that holds true for other sexual orientations. Since it remains the ?norm? to engage in heterosexual acts, a common misconception is that the language need not be vivid or concise, yet to effectively illustrate the sexual experience, a language that
incorporates a full range of expressions must be used. The experience must still be illustrated as unique and personal, rather than assumed to be ?normal?. This is the major gap that makes the transformation of heterosexual experience into language often unsuccessful.

Sexual experience is extremely complex, almost an art form in itself, so to express it, an individual must incorporate various modes of ?language? to illustrate the entire experience. The language of sex is composed of common language, art, poetics, scientific logic, dancing and movement, music and a myriad more specific forms of expression. Like the language of the artist, an ?image? of the experience must be recreated, each detail like a brushstroke contributing to the final product, richly defining the volume and shape of the experience. The ?language? is chosen at the ?artist?s? discretion to recreate reality upon a ?canvas?. The language is much like music, fluid and exceedingly difficult to capture at any given moment. While there are distinct melody, counter-melody, and harmony lines, there is still an overall unity, in which these separate ?mechanisms? operate to create a final masterpiece. This can also be likened to the dancer whose separate steps contribute to the whole performance. The details are hard to grasp, yet the emotion and overall effects are readily discernible to the astute observer. When looked at from these (and other) viewpoints that allow the individual to create a metaphor for the experience, sexual experience can be put into language quite beautifully although such intensity is difficult to articulate in a single explanation of a sexual encounter.

Due to highly fueled passions and fits of desire, the language of sex often rushes out in such unexpected fits that its production is much like that of the poet confiding in his journal, relaying his deepest secrets without a fear to expose the inner self. Poetic language is not always literal, but it possesses a radical energy that hints at, or sometimes bluntly states, the truth to such a degree that much modern poetry has been labeled ?confessional?. Several lines in a poem entitled Song manage to depict the artistic beauty of language, ?where words and sounds that build bridges toward a new tongue gather, lace the language like fireflies stitching the night?s lungs, rhythms of new speech reinventing themselves with a flair, a mystery, syncopating music rising from breath of the young? (Troupe, Quincy. ?Song.? The Best American Poetry 2000. ed. Rita Dove. Scribner Poetry.New York: 2000. p. 181). This ?new breath? can be likened to sexual experience, the
motivating force that integrates itself into common language, filtrating through in perfect harmony to add a new dimension to the richness of words which eventually become part of the experience; language is the process of reinventing oneself, of understanding the true value of a particular sexual moment, not simply a past event isolated from the present or future. Of course, the majority of sexual experience is not put into this type of language; more of it is relayed as gossip, reflections upon a momentary desire, or an uncertainty of the experience in relation to the partner, but despite the personal reaction to a particular sexual experience, the integration and impact of it is clear. ?Language?, while universal, is still a uniquely personal expression that extends far beyond the boundaries of words alone. In poetry as in sexual acts, raw emotion and yearning strip away all other layers, so that both the soul (not to mention the naked body) are exposed, taking a final ecstatic plunge into uncertainty, where the individual no longer has complete control over herself/himself.

As defined by Judith Butler in Bodies That Matter, the speaker is never in full control and is often ?used? by language as proclaimed in the simple quote, ?I didn?t write those words! They wrote me!? (Salih, Sara. Judith Butler. Routledge. New York: 2002. p. 97). Sexual experience in this way allows the individual to feel both closer and more distant from himself/herself simultaneously. Language allows the distant self to meet the all-revealing self as both the intellectual and soulful self speak together. In such a case, the language works its way into the experience by
?responding? with insight that has not formerly been recognized. In a poem entitled Semiotics, the poet Pamela Alexander proclaims, ?Now your heart wants an interview. It scribbles madly on the monitor, giving itself a polygraph test and failing grandly, proud that it lies? (Alexander, Pamela.?Semiotics.? The Best American Poetry 2000. ed. Rita Dove. Scribner Poetry. New York: 2000. p. 29). Here, passion plays with the truth, and is in itself, the forensic writer able to decipher the reality of experience. Rather than simply an extension of thought, language is an expansion upon thought that tests how the sexual experience relates to the real world.

| Serendip Forums | About Serendip | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 11:57:34 CDT