Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Geeky Sex Material: What Gets Posted and What Doesn't

A friend of mine recently sent me an article she thought I’d want to post on this blog. It was a review of the book by Laura Sessions Stepp called Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both. My friend thought I might want to review the book or link to the article in a "Stop the Presses" post. I explained to my friend that wasn’t the kind of thing I post about on this blog. Then I tried to express what my criteria are for something deserving a link or a review on this blog but all I could come up with was the phrase Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart used to define porn: “I know it when I see it.”

So today I’m going to get to the bottom of what is Geeky Sex blog material and what isn’t. First of all I do know it when I see it. I can instantly tell if something belongs here or not. I started this blog to be a resource for people who approached sex in a geeky way—that is to say, people who are open-minded, curious and enthusiastic about this subject. All too often when people talk about sex they focus on its negative aspects. Christian evangelicals tell you you’ll burn in hell and the nice people who work at Planned Parenthood (bless each and every one of them) can't come back with anything better than alarming facts and statistics about unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, date rape and abortion. One side says “Sex is a sin!” and the other side yells, “No, it’s not, it’s just a disease!”

The sex geeks out there—the people who are approaching this subject from the perspective that “sex is nice and pleasure is good for you,” as the authors of The Ethical Slut are fond of saying—are fighting a lonely battle. This blog was intended to help them out by helping people find them. I don’t presume to pass myself off as an authority on this subject. I’m just like the people who are (hopefully) reading this blog: I look hard for positive and fun sex information and I like to share it when I find it. Some people will object that sex really does have negative consequences and I’m being irresponsible by not acknowledging them more. Well, everybody and their uncle, and their uncle’s Christian Taliban son are out there "acknowledging" the negative consequences of sex as loud as they possibly can, so I’ll just take that for rote and focus on something positive, if it’s all the same.

Why would I never review a book called Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both? Because, upon perusal of the review my friend sent me (and yes, I read articles that I don’t turn around and repost here, probably around 70 percent of the articles I read are disappointing enough that I never share them), I detect that the author might be writing from a sex-negative bias. The book is about a trend that the author perceives in which young women in college are less interested in long term relationships and more concerned with “hook-ups”—by which the author means short-term casual relationships without the expectation of love. An honest researcher would need to substantiate that this trend actually exists. The fact that young women today are more open about sex and more willing to admit that they are interested in sex without love doesn't mean their behavior has changed from previous generations. The honest researcher would then need to examine the trend without bias. Is it possibly a good thing that women in the 18-22 age range are postponing serious relationships to focus on their educations and careers? Could their negative feelings about love be a result of being disabused of the unrealistic expectations our society instills in young women? Years of research would be needed to answer these questions. It’s much easier to title your book Unhooked, implying your feeling that the behavior of these young women is not sane, then follow it up with How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Fail at Both, implying the young women of previous generations were totally successful at love and sex but because of this new lifestyle they have begun to fail. It may have no basis in reality but that’s a recipe for selling a million copies in supermarket check-out lanes across America.

It’s also a recipe for never getting mentioned on the Geeky Sex blog (on any day but today). Why don’t I simply read the book and review it badly? Because I don't get paid for this and I have better things to do with my time than read a book that I know I’m going to hate just so I can tell my blog’s small audience how much I hate it. I know, it’s a time honored tradition for bloggers to do that. I’m untraditional. Also—and this is more the point of the post—you don’t need my help to find a negative book about sex. Pick one at random, and the odds are in your favor. I don’t have time to read every negative book about sex. Sadly, I might have time to read every positive book about sex, ’cause there just aren’t that many of them.

So, by all means, continue to send me articles. I find them fascinating (including the one about this book that my friend sent me). But when it comes to Geeky Sex material—I know it when I see it.


  1. This is a great post. My only comment would be that an important part of that book's title (and the ideas possibly contained within) is the "losing at sex" bit. Not that I'm saying this blog should turn into some kind of sex advice blog. At the same time, it would've been cool to hear your thoughts on the book in terms of how you think young women could be better taught about how to enjoy sex, by discussing what they might not be getting and talking about possible alternatives in education and/or attitudes. I think that's important for a sex-positive environment, and is something you might consider.

  2. There might be something that can be said on that subject. Considering the young women in question are 18-22 years old I think expecting them to have their sex lives entirely figured out is a little unrealistic. Also, I have some personal philosophies and opinions but I'm not an expert. Maybe Dan Savage can talk about that with authority but I'm just some guy who listens to Savage's podcast (as well as a lot of other people's).