Sexual politics and boundaries and the messiness of both

12 04 2012

Lately I’ve been involved in a bit of reading and discussion about sexual politics and etc. The politics started with the excellent book by Laura Kipnis, The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability. It’s well worth a read, well-written, funny, and to the point, about the foolishness of the roles we assign ourselves as women and have assigned to us.

ImageThe etc. has been the subject of much earthier discussion. Emails flew around about what men and women think about during sex – which, for me at least, usually includes some feelings of self-doubt, some obsessive compulsive thoughts about appliances turned off or on, mutterings of delight or despair. I don’t know if this is a universal experience, I can only speak for myself, and to tell you the truth, I’m not that comfy discussing these things in specific, though general is okay, thanks to my background as a nurse.

There are boundaries, though. I’ve broken a few of them now and again. During some misspent time, I remember being delighted about my sex life and going about glowing about it. That wasn’t right. It’s like eating chocolate and then going to a Weight Watchers meeting and telling everyone how good it was, how it melted on your tongue, how you can eat it by the pound and remain slim. Some things shouldn’t be shared. The gods watch. They keep tallies. They note if you are having too much fun and then they teach you a lesson.

Karma sucks. That’s all I’ll say.

Besides, no one wants to hear about your sexual experiences. Nope. They don’t mind READING about them in a storyImage or a letter to Penthouse (whatever) but being told leads to inevitable comparisons between your life and that of the speaker. It’s like that old Desiderata line: If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

And advice is best given in generalities, knowing that each person will take what they need, reject the rest. Free advice is worth what you pay for it, as they say. It can be offensive, even without meaning to.

I guess the thing is, we wander alone in our heads. Our thoughts are not like anyone else’s. Our self-view and history and background and comfort level are unique. Though, in general things, too, we often offer advice, we really don’t know the lives of those we advise. It’s hard to understand where people’s lives have led them, or where they plan to head as they evolve. We don’t know how past experiences have affected them, or haven’t. What upsets one person can fly by another. What seems simple to one is impossible to another.

compare human life to a large mansion of many apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me

 John Keats quotes (

We need to be respectful of the squashy borders around people. If we want to reach them, perhaps writing is the best approach. It’s an intimate conversation where it won’t matter if the reader blushes, reads voraciously, or tosses the book away. In addition, it is a personal conversation, not global. The characters in the books have experiences we may not want but from which we may learn. It doesn’t say we must all do this, or be found lacking.

Thank heavens.

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