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Fucking And Its Discontents

May 27, 2010

I like fucking, which is not the same as liking sex. Because sex is not the same thing as fucking. In fact, defining sex is so hard to do in a way that includes everyone’s experience that I’m against the whole project. I don’t think it really serves much purpose, except for counting, which I think is itself a bad idea.

I like fucking, but it has an outsized place in sex. It has a definitionally outsized place in sex, first of all, so that people often use penis-in-vagina (or penis-in-something) as a definition. That excludes folks who have partnered sex with no cock involved, or without putting a cock in any orifice, and the problems with that ought to be readily apparent.

I use the term “penetrocentric”* to describe a view of sex that revolves around penis-in-somewhere. One large problem with penetrocentric view of sex is the position it puts teens in. Intercourse, particularly PIV, has a risk-to-reward profile that does not make it very attractive compared to the alternatives. PIV is the only sexual act that brings with it a significant risk of pregnancy in case on contraceptive failure. PIV and penis-in-anus intercourse come with elevated risks of transmitting sexually transmitted infections. And there’s a social and emotional set of risks; because other people think that’s what “counts,” insertive activities tend to bring more expectations between partners and leave people (women if we’re talking about opposite-gendered binary-identified folks, but really anyone if we think more broadly) more exposed to what other people say.

That’s a lot of freight to carry. Whether it’s worth it is a highly subjective matter of preference, and there’s no inherent reason why people have to prefer fucking. I know lots of people with cocks who prefer blowjobs to fucking and some who prefer handjobs to fucking (done well, I do, too). I know lots of people with vulvas who prefer oral to fucking, or who like fucking but not to come and want direct clitoral stimulation alone to come. (I know several women who have several different kinds of orgasms from different kinds of stimulation and want different kinds at different times; for example, my spouse, no matter how hard or how many times she orgasms with penetration, usually wants one more from a vibrator on her clit to be done.)

Some of the professional moral scolds of our time (like Caitlyn Flanagan, whom Jill takes to task today for her back-in-my-day-ism) get all bent out of shape over teens substituting other kinds of sex for PIV; but it seems to me that this is actually a very sensible risk reduction strategy. It’s a decision I can see making in part because it’s one I’ve made in the past myself.

Like a lot of Americans, I had my first PIV experience while still in high school, but I really didn’t do a lot of fucking in college. In part that was because my primary partner in those years was a “virgin.” I put that in quotes because as Hanne Blank and Jessica Valenti have pointed out, the term doesn’t mean anything, so I’ll be more specific. My primary partner in college hadn’t had PIV with anyone, and for several years, didn’t with me or anyone else either. Which is not to say we didn’t have sex.

I arrived at college a polyamorous, out BDSMer, and through those years I continued to see, have sex with and occasionally fuck other people; and my primary partner saw and had sex with other folks — she had a real sense of the absurd around the whole “technical virgin” thing. But I found that while we both actively looked for other people to get off with using fingers and tongues and imagination, and while I explored BDSM with lots of other nervous newbies, a lot of my partners were just more relaxed if we were not fucking. Part or that was an age group thing; lots of folks in their late teens and very early twenties have not entirely found themselves as sexual people. But it was also just a practical approach, lowering the physical and emotional stakes.

I certainly like fucking; enough to have surgery to make bareback fucking convenient again. It does add nicely to the palette of available activities. But it does not belong on a pedestal. Fucking isn’t the end-all, be-all of sex. It’s just fucking.

* I didn’t get the term from anyone else and I think my use predates any I’ve seen, though I could be wrong about that.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    May 27, 2010 11:18 am

    Well, yeah. Having been in the situation of your primary partner in college for a very long time, I do agree that there’s much more to sex than fucking.

    But you do realize that PIV does have a logically elevated status in whatever you define as sex since it’s the way reproduction usually happens, certainly always happened until very recently, right? And *also* because of the elevated risk/reward factor you mention – being able to deal with that is not rarely considered “growing up” in my opinion.

  2. May 27, 2010 11:58 am

    Sam, we have marshalled our society’s technology for the purpose of freeing sexual pleasure from unwanted pregnancy and illness; I suggest that our perceptions should follow.

    When you say, “being able to deal with that is not rarely considered “growing up” in my opinion”, I’m not sure I can decipher your syntax. If you’re accepting that avoiding risk by choosing different sexual activities is somehow immature, then I disagree.

  3. Sam permalink
    May 27, 2010 5:47 pm

    Thomas,

    well, if our perceptions follow, cool. I just don’t think they are as negotiable as you seem to believe. But let’s hope you’re right on that.

    As for other part – quite to the contrary, I think it *can* be very mature to do that. I’m just saying that, in my experience, being able to deal with that risk seems to be considered as a sign of being grown up – I mean, just look at the cool “are you ready to do *it*” manual on Scarleteen. And by *it* they don’t mean heavy petting. Even there, *it* is not “just” another sexual practice.

  4. Sam permalink
    May 28, 2010 9:21 am

    This is what I was referring to, but there’s a whole lot of other cool resources about this, including a first intercourse 101. Man, I wish there would have been information like that when I was 16.

    http://www.scarleteen.com/article/sexuality/ready_or_not_the_scarleteen_sex_readiness_checklist

    • May 28, 2010 6:31 pm

      I note that it begins by saying:

      “One of the biggest misnomers about partnered sex is that vaginal intercourse is “going all the way,” is the only “real” sex, and is some sort of final goal to sexuality, which is unfortunate… and untrue. It’s also untrue that vaginal intercourse is the only sexual activity which presents the possibility of both or either physical and emotional risks (and of negative or positive things).”

      So, they’re adopting my point pretty much wholesale. Obviously the existence of the document acknowledges that this is not the general view, but like my post, they’ve taken the side that PIV belongs off the pedestal.

  5. maggie permalink
    May 30, 2010 3:54 pm

    I count anything I do with myself or other people as sex, if at least one of us is aiming for sexual pleasure. This does not mean you have to have an orgasm, or anything that’s PIV sex.

    But I’m weird like that.

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