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Thursday, February 10, 2011

SL Letter of the Day: Pull Up a Chair...

Posted by on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 4:27 PM

I have been a long time admirer of your work but your February 3, 2011 column disappointed me. I recognize that asexuality is a rather new concept and that the asexual experience is not one that is widely understood so I hope that it is misinformation and lack of understanding that led to your response to NSNA.

Terming individuals who are not asexual and who experience a sex drive that is on par with the majority of individuals as “normally sexual” individuals and those who fall in the asexual or gray-a (in-between asexual and sexual, similar to NSNA’s description of their experience) spectrum as “abnormally sexual” is unhelpful and pathologizes those individuals. As a member of the LGBT community yourself, I am sure that you have had the experience of your sexual identity being labeled as “abnormal” and you realize how this feels and recognize the effect that this sort of labeling can have on a sexual minority when done on a large scale.

I'm going to break in here for a second.

I didn't describe anyone as "abnormally sexual" in my response to NSNA, and it was NSNA who, after describing himself as "minimally sexual," used the phrase "normally sexual" to describe folks with an average/normative interest in sexual activity. I did use "normally sexual" in my response, echoing NSNA, but I never "termed" anyone "abnormally sexual." So, like, what's with the quotation marks?

As for my own sexuality, I'm willing concede that my thing for tall, shaggy-haired guys is non-normative, because, like, my desire to make out with TSHGs is hardly the norm for members of my sex. (It's hardly the norm for my fellow homos.) But I wouldn't describe my own sexuality as "abnormal"—nor would I describe yours as abnormal, dear reader, because the dictionary defines "abnormal" as "deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable." For the record: I don't believe there's anything undesirable about either my sex drive or your lack of same—so long, of course, as you're upfront about it and don't enter into a relationship with a normally averagely sexual person without disclosing the fuck out of your lack-o-interest in fucking. Just as I shouldn't marry a woman without first letting her know I wasn't that into her, an asexual shouldn't marry a sexual without telling him she isn't that into it.

Back to your letter...

On a related note, when reading the column I could not help but think of the questioning, asexual, gray-a, or differently sexual youths who might read your column and will believe your statement that being in a relationship with someone whose sexual identity is not 100% compatible would be harmful, vindictive, selfish, or destructive of them. When you look at the history of the LGBT community and the guilt and self hatred that marked many of its members’ existence when they believed that their identity was abnormal, deleterious, and that being in a relationship with someone (whether they were compatible in terms of orientation and sex drive or not) would be a hardship or harmful to the other person involved, you can see that asexuals are already set up for a similar, though certainly smaller scale, path of self-hatred and shame. This is particularly true if someone were to take to heart your suggestion that any asexual/gray-a would “take a perverse pleasure in depriving someone else of sex, constantly rejecting that person’s advances, and ultimately destroying their [partner’s] confidence.”

Perfect compatibility is not required—I've never suggested that. No one ever finds a perfect match, no one gets anywhere near 100% of what they want. I have no beef with asexuals having relationships, or having relationships with sexuals—so long as the sexual was informed in advance of making any serious commitment. An asexual who discloses has nothing to be ashamed of, just as a gay man who enters into a companionate marriage with a woman who 1. knows he's gay and 2. wants to marry him anyway has nothing to be ashamed of.

Anyone involved in the asexual community is aware of the difficulty of asexual/gray-a individuals finding asexual/gray-a boyfriends/girlfriends/partners. A quick glance at Acebook (the asexual dating website) tells you that most asexual individuals prefer asexual partners but simply can not find them. According to a recent British survey, 1% of the population is asexual. Factor in the lack of asexual visibility and education (which leads to people not discovering their asexual identity until later in life, if at all), the percentage of that percentage of individuals who fall under an individual’s gender/age preference, geographic location, religious/political compatibility, let alone the questions of attraction to their personality, and you have a very small amount of people, if any at all, who are potential, compatible partners. Finding an asexual partner is possible, but rather difficult. Also, people tend to fall in love with people whether they are compatible or not. And if their incompatible partner decides to pursue a relationship with them, both recognize that compromise must be negotiated.

Thankfully we live at a time of rising awareness of asexuality. There may not be that many asexuals out there to choose from, dear reader, and asexuals who crave intimacy and companionship may have to look to sexuals for potential partners. Asexuals who are aware that they're asexual should, again, disclose before making a commitment and, when possible, hammer out a compromise that works. Asexuals who discover their asexuality later in life should come out as asexual and allow their sexual partners to decide whether they wish to stay in the relationship at all.

The seemingly high rate (from your perspective) of asexual/gray-a individuals entering relationships with people in the sexual spectrum is completely understandable when you look at asexuality in context. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (asexuality.org) was founded by David Jay in 2001. You receive letters from individuals who most likely came of age before 2001, before there was anything resembling an asexual community or before even a vocabulary with which to relate the asexual experience was even constructed. Even today, asexual visibility is low and asexual individuals are often discovering their identity late in life, if at all, and the public at large has very little awareness of it. Very frequently it is the case that asexual or gray-a individuals are unaware of their identity, orientation, and lack of sexual desire until they were put in a situation where it becomes apparent, such as a romantic relationship with a sexual individual. This means that often in the later stages of an established relationship the sexual incompatible becomes marked and recognizable as something that will not change. The suggestion that any asexual or gray-a individual would willing pursue an incompatible relationship with the intent of making their sexual partner feel bad or ashamed is unfair.

Perhaps it is. But I'm constantly hearing from the sexual partners of just-realized-it asexuals—those who only became aware of their asexual "identity, orientation, and lack of sexual desire" after, say, getting married and having kids—and many of these sexuals, rightly or wrongly, feel angry, sad, and, yes, duped. My sample is skewed, of course, because those sexual/JRI-asexual couples who've come to terms and/or hashed out a workable compromise about the sexual seeking it elsewhere (or going without) don't write in asking for my advice. Still, dear reader, you have to concede that it would suck to have your partner—your presumptive sex partner—wake up one day and realize he's asexual, just as I'm willing to concede that it must suck to have your opposite-sex partner wake up one day and realize he's a homo.

Sites such as Queer Secrets (queersecrets.tumblr.com) are full of asexual teens (male, female, trans, and gender-variant) who identify as homo-affectional, bi-affectional, pan-affectional, hetero-affectional, etc, who are depressed, suicidal, and discouraged because they believe that no one will love them, they do not deserve to be loved, etc, and that they only frustrate their partners, their partners will not believe they love them, or they were never find a compatible partner. Just recently, in the September 2010 issue of People magazine, Tim Gunn discussed his depression, suicidal history, and immense difficulties as homo-affectional man who falls within the asexual spectrum. I would like to believe that it will “get better” for these individuals. These individuals need to know that they are not abnormal, they will not necessarily destroy the lives and confidences of their current and future partners, and that it is possible to have a successful sexual/asexual relationship (as evidenced by successful relationships of members of the AVEN community), it is possible to find an asexual partner, and that they deserve to be recognized and accepted by the society in which they live. You have a great opportunity and platform from which to do this.

I certainly don't want to make anyone feel suicidal on account of their sexual orientation, dear reader, and I would hope all those asexual teens out there crowding onto Queer Secrets are smart enough to realize that they're not alone. I mean, they only have to look around at all the other asexual teens out there crowding onto Queer Secrets to realize that, right? (If they don't realize it, perhaps you could jump in there and point it out?) And if these teens want to dip into the sexual community in search of a partner, they are more than welcome to do that—so long as they disclose. No duping, no dupes.

I know that asexuality is still a very foreign concept and one that is difficult for those who are outside of the asexual/gray-a spectrum to understand but I ask you for the sake of the individuals who do live in that minority and deal with existing in a society that largely refuses to recognize or validate their existence, to please ask questions and attempt to understand this orientation and identity. I, as a member of the community, would gladly volunteer to answer any questions you may have or direct you to helpful resources that would lead to a fuller understanding of the orientation and community. I am certain that other members of the asexual community would be more than happy to do the same. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network at asexuality.org is a good starting place.

I also would like to thank you for the work you have done for the LGBT community. Growing up as a questioning youth before I figured out my asexual identity, your books and work were, and still are, an enormous source of encouragement to me and helped me in some very difficult times and I recommend them frequently. I think you have an opportunity to be that encouragement to an even larger section of youths and individuals who fall outside of the hetero-normative spectrum.

Yours,
H.C.
Undergraduate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
University of Kansas

Thanks for sharing, H.C.

 

Comments (276) RSS

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Adam_west 1
What a very silly letter. The LW completely misinterpreted Dan, and put words in his mouth. I find this very frustrating because the LW is arguing with no one, and is being overly defensive about nothing.
Asexuality is fine, but there are lots of people who don't want to be in that relationship and they should not have to be. Dan has been very consistent and clear about this, I really don't understand the issue.
Posted by Adam_west on February 10, 2011 at 4:57 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 2
Whoa. There's two chains of comments going on for this one. .

...uh...slog? Whaddup?

@1 She's an undergrad in gender studies. What the hell do you expect? Rationality?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 4:58 PM · Report this
rob! 3
My heads hurt.
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on February 10, 2011 at 4:59 PM · Report this
4
Putting words in my mouth -- that's the theme of the day here on Slog.
Posted by Dan Savage on February 10, 2011 at 5:00 PM · Report this
Amnt 5
Got bored and stopped about halfway, then scrolled to the bottom and saw how they signed the letter. Maybe it makes me a bad person, but I lol'd a little.
Posted by Amnt on February 10, 2011 at 5:00 PM · Report this
6
Jesus fucking Christ that was the longest, most boring Savage Love letter ever.

Reading it caused me to not just lose interest in sex, but in life itself.
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on February 10, 2011 at 5:00 PM · Report this
7
Dan, your advice to come to a compromise is spot on. I think that people of all stripes have a responsibility to be up front with their partners. The burden should not be on the more sexual partner to change their ways to accommodate the less sexual partner. The less sexual partner should, at the very least, put in a little effort. Once someone is aware of what ever it is about them that they deem 'different' from the 'average' then there's a responsibility to either fix it or find a way to work with it. You cannot blame other people for not rising to the occasion but you can ask for some help while you both muddle through each doing your fair share to make things work.
Posted by capricorn44 on February 10, 2011 at 5:00 PM · Report this
rob! 8
...I sincerely hope I did not offend anyone in the uniheaded, headless, or gray-h communities.
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on February 10, 2011 at 5:03 PM · Report this
9
If consider the term "abnormal" in this context to be offensive, you are either ignorant of basic scientific terms, or merely looking for any excuse to be offended.
Posted by Furcifer on February 10, 2011 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Adam_west 10
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/abnorma…

Well I think most of us operate by the english meaning rather than the scientific one. Which does have a element of strange or bad to it.
But that is the point, Dan never said abnormal
Posted by Adam_west on February 10, 2011 at 5:08 PM · Report this
11
Couldn't read it and I have feminist leanings.
Posted by abridged version please on February 10, 2011 at 5:15 PM · Report this
12
Wow - Rarely is the letter-o-da-day so tedious and dull that I pull out half-way through. Is there a correlation between asexuality and being a nitpicking windbag?
Posted by Doug in SC on February 10, 2011 at 5:19 PM · Report this
13
tl;dr
Posted by Blech on February 10, 2011 at 5:24 PM · Report this
RidingTheLightning 14
@4 - Dan, there are worse things to have put in your mouth...
Posted by RidingTheLightning on February 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM · Report this
Andy 15
@12, it's signed, "Undergraduate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies." The letter was doomed from the get-go.
Posted by Andy on February 10, 2011 at 5:30 PM · Report this
hamish108 16
I would really like to encourage those in the asexual community to get their blood tested for low testosterone levels (both men and women). Testosterone is what makes humans horny (very tiny amounts for women), and having low levels of this in your blood can make you loose all interest in sex. Supplementation is easy and very effective. Not that I am saying being asexual is pathological, but it can have an easily corrected biological cause which would be worth looking into for those open to this, and might prevent a lot of grief, loneliness and conflict in relationships.
Posted by hamish108 on February 10, 2011 at 5:32 PM · Report this
17
Ugh!

Call me old-fashioned, but isn't a very close asexual relationship just a friendship? Like... bromance?

And if you don't need to deal with all of the processing and insecurity that goes along with sexual relationships... why would you ever choose to?
Posted by beccoid on February 10, 2011 at 5:55 PM · Report this
The Beatles 18
This letter makes me wish it was the early 90's again, and people like the LW would just chain smoke and listen to The Smiths all night.rather than bother people on blogs.
Posted by The Beatles on February 10, 2011 at 6:03 PM · Report this
19
I also wonder how many of these sad, depressed, suicidal asexuals may actually be experiencing a lack of sexual desire due to, you know depression.
I was depressed for ages, was happy to snuggle my girlfriend, and could not for the life of me work up any actual interest in sex. The depression was treated... And then I got off the meeds altogether... And hello! Normal - cough, excuse me - average sex drive! Or above average, if I may boast.
Just seems like an asthmatic identifying as a Cougher, and not trying to treat their asthma.
Posted by Nixie.knox on February 10, 2011 at 6:04 PM · Report this
20
Oh, for fuck's sake...

Dear self-righteous asexuals who enjoy feeling victimized and/or soapboxing,

Please go and educate people who actually require education. There are very few people left in the sex-positive, educated, accepting world (y'know, pretty much all readers of Dan Savage, for a start) who haven't clicked over to any given resource and run through the various over-intellectualized terms for every possible gradation of human sexuality. (I don't know what it is with "the asexual community," but its spokesfolks are really, REALLY into making everyone use exhaustively correct terms for everything and always constructing every sentence so as to never take a risk at seeming insensitive ever.) It's a legitimate use of time and energy to educate the general populace about asexuality, to help free people who really have felt harassed and abandoned and to guide their families and loved ones to understanding. Go and do that. Clever, tech-savvy people who read sex advice columns know asexuality is a thing. They do not have to listen to your canned tirades that don't address any of the issues at hand. You sound like a creationist who jumps into any discussion about science with misinformed talking points about why "evolution" isn't a thing.

If you really want asexuality to be an accepted thing, then what you want is equality, not to be special. Just like the behavior of gay men into barebacking can be criticized without there being any homophobia before, people can say things about asexuals that isn't "Asexuality is made of glitter and bunny rabbits!" without you needing to defend yourself from all the badness, kay?

Sincerely,
An asexual who's aware of real problems (Oh, sorry, everyone who was about to start yelling that I just don't understand your horrible plight.)
More...
Posted by Sibby on February 10, 2011 at 6:10 PM · Report this
21
Yes, letterwriter, that is very....zzzzzz

/snort/ What? Huh, someone was talking?
Posted by letter was better than sleeping pill on February 10, 2011 at 6:23 PM · Report this
22
Must... (whack)... beat... (whack)... that... (whack)... dead... (whack)... horse!

Must!
Posted by Approaching 40 in LA on February 10, 2011 at 6:26 PM · Report this
23
"Undergraduate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies"

Oh for fuck's sake. It is beyond irresponsible for universities to send people out into the world with such esoteric and bloody useless degrees. The humanities proper aren't exactly doing well; I can't imagine these myriad pseudo-sciences could be doing any better.
Posted by Central Scrutinizer on February 10, 2011 at 6:27 PM · Report this
24
@16: Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to other people, not lack of libido. It has nothing to do with hormones.
Posted by sarah68 on February 10, 2011 at 6:28 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 25
LOL @2 and @15.

There's something about undergrad Gender/Sexual Studies majors that in unbelievably douchy. I mean, you generally don't see an undergrad in engineering lecturing working engineers, or undergrads in English lecturing published writers.

But for some reason, undergrads in gender/sex studies who have never been outside the ivory tower feel compelled to pontificate to those with (in some cases) decades of real-world experience.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 10, 2011 at 6:29 PM · Report this
seandr 26
For at least some people, asexuality is a symptom of depression, low self-esteem, social anxiety, impotence, shame, and/or unusually low testosterone levels.

Rather than stamping the "asexual" label on these folks in permanent ink and telling them this symptom (which is frankly kind of horrible) is fundamentally who they are, shouldn't they be encouraged to seek help developing their sexuality?

If not having sex makes you happy, great, but from the sound of this letter is seems like it causes problems for a lot of people.
Posted by seandr on February 10, 2011 at 6:33 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 27
Have fun waiting tables for the rest of forever, LW.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 10, 2011 at 6:36 PM · Report this
seandr 28
@24: So, if someone isn't attracted to others because of low testosterone, they aren't asexual?

Does that mean you have to pass a blood test to qualify as a true asexual?

What is the difference between "lack of sexual attraction to others" and "lack of libido"?
Posted by seandr on February 10, 2011 at 6:42 PM · Report this
saxfanatic 29
I hope that The New Yorker hires her when she graduates!
Posted by saxfanatic on February 10, 2011 at 6:51 PM · Report this
30
What the fuck is with all the hate on women's studies? I love all the uneducated bullshit about women's studies being a useless degree or pseudoscience, probably from people who don't really know what women's studies is. Here are some career choices for women's studies graduates, some requiring graduate degrees: councellor, social worker, lawyer, researcher, non-for profit sector, communications specialist, NGO work, international development.

Believe it or not, the world wouldn't run if we all had engineering degrees and MBAs.
Posted by milena on February 10, 2011 at 6:53 PM · Report this
31
I will never, ever understand why people insist on turning their anger and hatred toward the like of Dan Savage and Modern Family. There are a number of very real, very dangerous laws, norms, and people who are actively attacking queer folk (and others with any kind of non-average sexuality). Yet even recognizing the amazing things that Dan Savage has done for all of us, whether starting his incredible IGB project or just encouraging us to embrace our sexuality, they insist on digging through every sentence to pick out some trace of trans- (or bi- or asexual- or woman-) phobia.

What does this accomplish? Dan Savage is out here, trying to make ALL people's sex lives better, even if that means admitting that you don't want one and finding a partner and compromise that makes a romantic life possible without one! by alienating DS, you are not coming closer to a more just and tolerant society--you are making it impossible for those of us who are sympathetic but realistic to help you in whatever your struggle is (for rights, for recognition, for the ability to have a romantic, nonsexual partnership).
Posted by SavageLoving on February 10, 2011 at 6:55 PM · Report this
32
H.C. is a D.B.
Posted by nyker on February 10, 2011 at 7:00 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 33
@24: I don't see a meaningful difference. Libido is part of sexual attraction. I've also heard members of the asexual community say they don't lack attraction to others (hence relationships) just a desire to act physically on said attraction. I don't think we can separate body from mind here. This isn't sex/gender, libido/sexual attraction are innately intertwined.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 7:02 PM · Report this
34
@ 12 - My guess is that asexuality gives you a lot of time to think about such matters, since you're not actually having sex, looking for it or watching porn when you're not getting it. The devil makes work for idle hands, as they say.

I do find it ironic that, as others have pointed out, the LW is an undergrad in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. It does suggest that he/she is still somewhat bothered by his/her issues... (sorry, I don't have the courage to re-read the whole thing to figure out his/her gender, if he/she even mentioned it).
Posted by Ricardo on February 10, 2011 at 7:02 PM · Report this
35
I agree, Dan. There's nothing wrong with being asexual, but in a "romantic" relationship, sex is an expectation. If that's something that you cannot give, you have an obligation to disclose. I would think that in most situations, the asexual should be quite aware of his/her orientation before marriage.
Posted by Jamie in Pittsburgh http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/strawberry.limonade?ref=name on February 10, 2011 at 7:04 PM · Report this
fannerz 36
My best friend is asexual. She was in a long term relationship until recently (the break up had nothing to do with sex or lack thereof, but moving away for gradschool).
She told him upfront that she had virtually no interest in sex but that she would try and accommodate him to the best of her ability - making out, fondling, handjobs - and that if this was not good enough he should not date her. Apparently it was good enough for three years and they parted ways amicably. She told him this all ON THEIR FIRST DATE.
Posted by fannerz on February 10, 2011 at 7:04 PM · Report this
37


@26 and 28, yes. Every day, bunches of people sit in their doctor's office and say, "I don't know, Doc, I just don't have any sex drive anymore. Can you help?" And the doctor will try to help the patient regain a "normal" sex drive. There are probably a hundred people in this situation for every one person who proclaims themself "Asexual".

Because of the fact that body chemistry and health can affect the libido, at least some of the people who identify as Asexual are that way by choice; they are choosing not to remedy the underlying physical or emotional problem that is causing the absence of a sex drive. "Coming out as asexual", decades into a marriage, is probably indistinguishable from "I'm tired of you and I don't feel that good anyway, so let me alone."

Also, I doubt that being asexual as a teenager is a reliable indicator that you're going to continue that way all your life. While kids who aren't into sex need to feel comfortable and accepted, they shouldn't be told that they belong to some permanent "asexual" population subgroup.
Posted by Iris on February 10, 2011 at 7:05 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 38
From my own personal experience, the several women's studies courses I took as an undergraduate were almost impossible not to get an A in, as long as you knew what to say. And it was pretty damn obvious what the professors wanted you to say. That's why I kept taking those bullshit classes. I couldn't risk taking a Greek history course that I might not get an A in while working so hard to keep up my 3.8 in biochemistry. Please. Anyone who can excel in real disciplines could excel in Women's studies. It's a pathetic field of study for those with inferior intellect and superiority complexes.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 10, 2011 at 7:06 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 39
@30: I think the issue many people have is that some Bachelors degrees (engineering, nursing, sciences) and all technical schools give you a number of marketable skills upon graduation. The softer humanities prepare you (largely) for grad school.

An engineer could go work for the non-profit sector or in research without many problems. A women's studies or comp lit major can't as easily go and design an airplane.

I know. I studied communications with minors in queer theory and computer science. One of those two things served me much better on the job market than the other. "Learning how to think deeply" is great in theory, but maybe not the most productive use of 4 years and $100,000.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 7:09 PM · Report this
40
@28 Sexual attraction= wanting to have sex with a person

Sexual libido= getting aroused

Testosterone has nothing to do with sexual attraction just libido.
Posted by Susan S on February 10, 2011 at 7:11 PM · Report this
41
@38 Your experiences of taking a couple of women's studies courses are not indicative of the entire field accross the world.
Posted by milena on February 10, 2011 at 7:13 PM · Report this
42
@33 you are mistaking physical or aesthetic attraction to sexual attraction. As for a meaningful difference are you suggesting that people only get horny when thinking of a person?
Posted by Susan S on February 10, 2011 at 7:14 PM · Report this
43
@39 But most women's studies majors are in it because they have a passion for that kind of thing. They don't want to design airplanes, and they would be in an entirely different field if they did. An engineer has certain skill sets, but they are not applicable to all disciplines and fields accross the board just because engineering is a more valued degree than women's studies.
Posted by milena on February 10, 2011 at 7:17 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 44
@30 I won't say it's a useless degree...I will say that those who get it are, by and large douchey 'tards. Much like your defensive blowhard comment.

Also, while asexuals probably have more time to think about this shit, it's the gender studies major that makes this particular LW a boring old bitty. She gets so caught up in hurt feelings and "I'm less than normal" that she loses sight of the fact that SHE ISN'T NORMAL!

People who can't own their quirks should shut the fuck up and deal. Being an asexual is just as hard as being any other marginalized minority. Own the fuck out of it and damn the people who get in your way. You hold your own confidence.

Why the hell dos everybody fear not being average or normal? Especially to the point that they want to dictate everybody else's speech patterns? Gawd.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 7:20 PM · Report this
45
@44 Speaking of large douchey 'tards and defensive blowhards...
Posted by milena on February 10, 2011 at 7:26 PM · Report this
seandr 46
@40: Umm, "getting [sexually] aroused" and "wanting to have sex with someone" kind of go hand in hand.

Sorry, honey, but you are trying to impose nice neat boundaries on things that are deeply intertwined.
Posted by seandr on February 10, 2011 at 7:28 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 47
@45 I figured if I stepped to your level of blowhardness you might understand it. As always, I forget the self-rightousness of the gender studies major.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 7:30 PM · Report this
48
@46 Paraphrasing a comment from AVEN: if you put a bunch of men on a deserted island, they would want to have sex with each other but they would still get horny.
Posted by Susan S on February 10, 2011 at 7:36 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 49
@40: I think many biologists and medical professionals would disagree with you. In your @42 point I see where your going: "Straight women or gay men could acknowledge that a woman is attractive." But I think in common parlance "being physically attracted to someone" implies a desire for follow through. Otherwise it's just aesthetic appreciation.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 7:37 PM · Report this
50
Assuming they are heterosexual of course.
Posted by Susan S on February 10, 2011 at 7:37 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 51
@43: My point isn't that one field is better or worse, just that making women's studies the full extent of your academic pursuits is perhaps a little limiting in terms of future choices. I support having passion for the subject (obviously, I studied it) but I wish I had spent more of my undergrad time actually learning skills rather than retreading the same philosophical debates ad nauseam. At the end of the day an engineer could learn how do NGO work quickly on the job -- a communications/comp lit/film studies/gender studies BA would have a much steeper learning curve to learn how to design a circuit board or write the next best selling iPhone app.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 7:38 PM · Report this
52
@6: OMG, it's a cunning recruitment strategy!
Posted by FeralTurnip on February 10, 2011 at 7:38 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 53
@48: Actually when heterosexual men are on the deserted island called "prison" they DO get horny and have sex with each other.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 7:41 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 54
I wonder if HC understands the irony of her position. The Judeo-Christian ethos expects everyone to be asexual most of the time, and minimally sexual for procreation. The Judeo-Christian heritage is also accused as being patriarchal, dominating of the feminine and of controlling sexuality.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on February 10, 2011 at 7:44 PM · Report this
Canuck 55
@28 "What is the difference between "lack of sexual attraction" and "lack of libido"?"

Now see, I was going to say the 10th anniversary and the 20th....ba dum bum.
Posted by Canuck on February 10, 2011 at 7:45 PM · Report this
56
@47 I don't see any self righteousness, just someone defending something they probably pour their life into from someone who seems to think they are qualified to judge the relevance of university curriculum.
What i do see from you however is someone who clearly places no value on social sciences and theory. my major is History and although that doesn't translate directly into a specific job but it by no means makes it useless.
Do you really think that increasing prevalence of women studies has nothing to do with furthering the understanding of a topic that is rarely addressed in university or in the media?

But i guess if it doesn't translate into a job right out of university and make you money its not important.


Posted by thekoz on February 10, 2011 at 7:46 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 57
@30:
Here are some career choices for women's studies graduates, some requiring graduate degrees: councellor, social worker, lawyer, researcher, non-for profit sector, communications specialist, NGO work, international development.
And which of those career choices make use of that women's studies background? None of them. It's quite a damning assessment of the utility of the field if all the career choices you could think of involve leaving the field.

Which isn't to say everyone should be pre-med, pre-law, business, or engineering. Writers, poets, artists, actors, and dancers can all produce wonderful work, and it is the consumption of such work that (frankly) makes life worth living. But I'm having trouble seeing how gender/sexual studies enriches anyone not ensconced within that academic field.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 10, 2011 at 7:46 PM · Report this
58
@47 I don't see any self righteousness, just someone defending something they probably pour their life into from someone who seems to think they are qualified to judge the relevance of university curriculum.
What i do see from you however is someone who clearly places no value on social sciences and theory. my major is History and although that doesn't translate directly into a specific job but it by no means makes it useless.
Do you really think that increasing prevalence of women studies has nothing to do with furthering the understanding of a topic that is rarely addressed in university or in the media?

But i guess if it doesn't translate into a job right out of university and make you money its not important.


Posted by thekoz on February 10, 2011 at 7:48 PM · Report this
Alanmt 59
OMFG

Now I am cissexual in addition to being cisgendered?

FFS
Posted by Alanmt on February 10, 2011 at 7:52 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 60
@46: I mean no offense. I do think social sciences are important as part of well-rounded education. But with the current state of the world economy, I have meant many humanities majors who continue to grad school, get another bachelor's degree, or learn a trade because their studies have intense inner value but little to offer for sustenance in the outside world.

I hope you'll have a better experience when you finish university. But I speak from personal experience and the wisdom and suffering of others. I think your perspective may change starkly in the next five to ten years, but i hope it doesn't have to.

(I know how condescending that sounds, but I think you basically accused me of being a shallow materialist, so I'm going to let it slide.)
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 7:54 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 61
...and by @46, I meant @56 but sadly my liberal arts education did not teach me to count. I kid. I kid.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 7:56 PM · Report this
CharlesF 62
I am a somewhat reformed republican trying to be a democrat, but the words on this page................I can't dig it. What is the deal? Where is all this drama coming from? If you haet sex, and you say so, then great! What is the big deal? Is there an angry preacher somewhere in Kansas saying that people who only have sex once in a great while and under duress are going to hell?
Posted by CharlesF on February 10, 2011 at 8:07 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 63
@58 As a history major, I would have figured reading comprehension would be your strong suit. I would have figured wrong.

Then, again, I've read my TA friend's test answers. Her students failed just as hard as you just did.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 8:13 PM · Report this
64
@57 No, women's studies is obviously not a trade, but it provides you with the background and the tools to enter into those fields. Much like many other libaral arts degrees, such as history, English, political science, philosophy etc. Some jobs can't be learned through school because the cases you deal with are so varied. There are social work courses, but at the end of the day, you need hands on learning to do it. A degree like women's studies teaches students ways of understanding and relating to other people, and theorizing about their experiences while grounding that theory in material life. These are skills useful in social work. Similarly, a lawyer who decides to work with at-risk youth or abused women or something of the sort can benefit from the interdisciplinary research and analysis skills taught in women's studies classes. Most people do not arrive at their careers through a straight path that is exactly the same as that of their colleagues.
Posted by milena on February 10, 2011 at 8:13 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 65
@64: I completely agree with you. I think my point is that women's studies (etc) make sense as part of a more trade/skill/career based education and don't make sense as a primary major unless you're planning to stay in the academy. I do think the information and contemplation of theory is valuable and I wish more people chose to integrate it into their work.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 8:20 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 66
@41, actually, I took enough classes to have a Women's Studies minor, but I never applied for it because I didn't want it on my transcript.

@56, the increasing prevalence of Women's studies that you claim, if it is true, is most likely due to the increasing prevalence of young adults enrolling in baccalaureate programs who probably should have been persuing different career paths other than academia. College is not for everybody, even though it is pushed on everyone from the middle class an up nowadays. Do we really need more people like LW pontificating and being constitutively offended? What's the purpose?
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 10, 2011 at 8:20 PM · Report this
67
@64 i have no idea what point you are trying to make, but i agree with what you're saying.

@63. Sigh people who resort to this comeback on forums drive me nuts! its a fucking comment not a essay. Sadly i don't really care enough about you to put that much effort into the editing of my comments, so i apologize that it didn't meet your standards, next time ill take it to a professional editor.
Are you going to go through every comment on this forum and correct their grammar? Or are you just going after me because you felt miffed and an insult boosts the self esteem that you get from comment posting.
Posted by thekoz on February 10, 2011 at 8:22 PM · Report this
seandr 68
@55: Ha ha ha!

Sigh.

Sniffle.

Sob.
Posted by seandr on February 10, 2011 at 8:22 PM · Report this
69
@66 Like I said, a minor in one institution does not give you any idea about women's and gender studies accross the world. The program is pretty tough at my university, especially in the upper-years, and saying what you think the prof wants you to say will get you nowhere.
Posted by milena on February 10, 2011 at 8:24 PM · Report this
seandr 70
@69: Here's my women's studies story. I took one course at an ivy league school as a freshman. I was the only male in the class. My professor gave me a B-, claiming that I never turned in the final paper that I had literally handed to her. Fucked my GPA up, and cost me $ since the interest rate on one of my student loans was tied to my grades. I think she wanted me to experience discrimination firsthand.

This was back in the angry days of Andrea Dworkin. Perhaps things have changed since then. Any men in your program?
Posted by seandr on February 10, 2011 at 8:42 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 71
Aww, was it hard for you? You probably would have cried in P-chem then.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 10, 2011 at 8:43 PM · Report this
Canuck 72
@68 Oh, sorry...here's a kleenex, dear, must get back to chapter 12 of "What the Scotsman Wore Beneath His Kilt."
Posted by Canuck on February 10, 2011 at 8:44 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 73
I'm pretty sure being a woman in a predominantly man's field gives me pretty good first hand experience on a whole lotta that nonsense you "studied" in class too.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 10, 2011 at 8:45 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 74
@67 Maybe I should just say, your whole post aimed at me was about the usefulness of the major, when I had said I won't say it's a useless degree...I will say that those who get it are, by and large douchey 'tards.

That, my moronic not-friend, is reading comprehension fail.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 8:47 PM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 75
@25, that's probably the most accurate description that I've read about why I can guess writers like HC's major within a couple paragraphs.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on February 10, 2011 at 8:50 PM · Report this
sirkowski 76
@13 And how!
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on February 10, 2011 at 8:59 PM · Report this
seandr 77
@73: Having worked with women in a predominantly male field, their example always struck me as more authentically feminist than anything happening in the women's studies echo chambers.
Posted by seandr on February 10, 2011 at 8:59 PM · Report this
78
@28 and the rest who can't figure out the difference between arousal and sexual attraction, you probably won't read this since all of Seattle is between your questions and this answer. Forget about the letter; it was pretty silly.

Having a libido means that you--any of you, all of you--might become aroused and might want to do yourself. Sexual attraction means you'd also want to do OTHERS, because you're attracted to them. If you're asexual, you don't want to do others. It has nothing to do with your level of testosterone, it has to do with sexual attraction to others.

Get it? Probably not. However, it's not exactly rocket science.
Posted by sarah68 on February 10, 2011 at 9:05 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 79
@64: I think I did a bad job explaining my point. I'm not questioning the value of a liberal arts degree-- though, like @60, I think those students would be better off getting a degree in something that's directly applicable to the real world, even if they ultimately becomes lawyers or something. Rather, I'm questioning the value of gender studies as a whole.

I can see the value in history as a preserver of past experiences, that we do not repeat the same mistakes of prior generations. English provides both art and communication; political science aids in government; philosophy yields logic, ethics, and aesthetics. I find the so-called "soft sciences" useful as well: psychology explains cognitive errors not predicted by economics, sociology helps structure organizations, etc. So I see the benefits of undergraduates studying and hopefully contributing to those fields, even if most of those students ultimately leave: all of these fields can enrich the lives of people as a whole.

I have difficulty, however, seeing the value in gender studies as a discipline, since the focus seems to be more on navel-gazing than on producing rigorous academic work. Fields that lend themselves to empiricism conduct peer-reviewed studies, and those fields which are "squishier" at least produce lively debate and a hierarchy of esteemed papers and theories. Gender studies, in my admittedly limited experience, does neither of these: the focus seems to be more on hearing everyone's opinion than on testing or criticizing those opinions. There is no emphasis on producing anything. Which is fine for the people within the field, but worthless for everyone outside of it.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 10, 2011 at 9:16 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 80
@78: The problem here, is that you are utilizing words to mean things other than their traditional meanings. Asexual, in its strict dictionary definition and common cultural usage means "does not have libido." I know (from Wikipedia) that Kinsey defined asexual as lacking sexual interest in others, but this is not what most people think when they hear the term.

This brings back the cis/trans debate from a couple weeks: A small subset of society can create and make common use of the term "cisgendered," but when other people don't understand it, who's to blame? The normative person for not being more curious about the other, or the other for expecting mass culture to pick up on esoteric in-group language?

I would have understood your point better if you said earlier "arousal or libido isn't always directed outward" or that "asexuals still can have sex drives they just often prefer not to have sex with others." Is that more the point you're making?

Or, in the immortal words of Tweet Oops. Oh my!
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 9:25 PM · Report this
81
@74 So you spent how many posts lambasting womens studies as a major? and you think saying "I'm not saying its a useless degree butttt" exempts you from criticism.

I read your post and the ones preceding it and tailored my response accordingly. When you claim that women's studies majors are not rational and that it is poisoning young minds it comes pretty close to calling it useless and essentially delegitimizes it as a major. So instead of responding to your exact words, i responded to the substance.
Posted by thekoz on February 10, 2011 at 9:30 PM · Report this
Canuck 82
@78 I see your point, but for *most* people, you're splitting hairs. *Most* people don't become aroused looking at a blank wall or thinking about nothing at all. Arousal happens because you are thinking about someone else, or looking at someone else. And if you're happy to get yourself off, how can you call that asexual?
Posted by Canuck on February 10, 2011 at 9:30 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 83
@78: What @82 said.

I guess I don't get it. Are you saying that asexuals can have a desire to jerk off, but not a desire to have sex? Speaking as an "averagely" sexual person, the only times I masturbate are when I'm thinking of having sex with someone else. I can't even conceive of thinking about anything else.

What would an asexual person think of? Couldn't they work that "thing" into sex with another person, like "averagely" sexual people do? I'm honestly both curious and confused.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 10, 2011 at 9:42 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 84
I guess some people really like shoes and maybe could get all horny and tug one out thinking about shoes. Maybe asexuals are like that? Or maybe asexuals get all worked up thinking about themselves, because that seems to be the crux of what two care about, considering many spouses of asexuals who "came out" after marriage write in all the time, and the asexuals pretty much want to end all sex full stop. Maybe we could call them mesexuals from now on. I fuckin' love myself. Mmm baby.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 10, 2011 at 9:50 PM · Report this
85
Wow, this has dissolved almost entirely into hating on women's studies. Kind of a step down from expressing confusion over asexuality, there.

A postulate: The women's studies majors you remember are the ones who like to rant irksomely. Think of your general pool of acquaintances. Do you know most of their college degree programs? Having attended a school with a lot of women's studies majors, there were ten interested scholars for each pontificating pain in the ass. Selective memory being what it is, consider that.

A second postulate: Women and gender studies is, y'know, a liberal arts thing. The whole point of liberal arts is to study what interests you while preparing to be a well-rounded and sensible person. Not a lot of jobs in the studies of women and gender field, at least not directly, but how many jobs are there for a classical history major? An art history major? Furthermore, women and gender courses tend to be interdepartmental and very customizable, so it's more a specialty within an anthropology/psych/history/sociology degree than anything else, like being a religion major. You can question the liberal arts education model if you like, but women's studies works just fine within that.
Posted by Sibby on February 10, 2011 at 9:50 PM · Report this
86
Asexuals aren't nearly as persecuted as they would seemingly like to believe they are. Not having sex is not considered immoral or abhorrent or disgusting by the society at large, like gay sex is. So some people will think you are weird, big fucking deal.

In my largely hostile and intolerant environment I have never heard a single offensive comment about people who don't have sex. Yet the comments about homosexuality never seem to stop. And don't tell me it's just because asexual invisibility. Gays are largely invisible here too, and in any case, homophobia existed long before any terms for it were coined. I'm pretty sure that if I came out to my co-workers as asexual, I would have far less trouble with them accepting it than if I came out as bi. Sure, some of them would pity me or try to fix me, but none would be disgusted or scared that I would now molest them or something.

So please, STFU with your righteous, tedious, self-victimizing lectures.
Posted by puddles on February 10, 2011 at 9:51 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 87
How can someone MAJOR in Women's studies? A class or two, ok, but as a MAJOR? Come on now, that's some bs.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 10, 2011 at 9:53 PM · Report this
slomopomo 88
sorry, but another tl;dr
Posted by slomopomo on February 10, 2011 at 9:53 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 89
@81 Saying that the majority of students are douchey, and that the students are irrational pricks who have been over-sensitized to the Harshness of the World is not saying that there isn't good information in the classes, and in no way invalidates the major. I firmly believe in educating the people on the inequalities of the world. Women's Studies departments just happen to attract and create the douchiest most irrational self-absorbed 'tards of all the majors I've interacted with.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 10:14 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 90
Well, if nothing else has been accomplished I think StrangerLabs is now one step closer to finding the perfect comment-bait Slog post.

Stay tuned to hear Dan blogging about an obese asexual pitbull.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on February 10, 2011 at 10:25 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 91
@90: ...that jaywalks to the Washington state-run liquor store to fetch liquor for its cisgendered tunnel-supporting construction worker owner.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 10, 2011 at 10:40 PM · Report this
92
@55, 68, 72 ... can't... stop... giggling... arrgghh....

Posted by EricaP on February 10, 2011 at 10:42 PM · Report this
93
giggle
Posted by EricaP on February 10, 2011 at 10:42 PM · Report this
94
It's kind of sad how happy people here are to bash a young person - probably 20 years or so old - who writes in to defend herself and her sexual orientation - as "douchey", "windbag," etc.
How is that any different from bullying gay kids at school? In all likelihood, bullied gay kids sometimes behave a little odd - people who feel they don't quite belong often do. I'm sure many of them, after years of getting homophobic crap, are also a bit oversensitive and see discrimination where there is none. Sometimes, they may seem a little self-absorbed (that's what her classmates actually said about (prom) Constance).
I think we've established that that doesn't make it OK to bully them. So why is it OK to bully the letter writer?
Posted by adam.smith on February 10, 2011 at 11:05 PM · Report this
Keekee 95
Sooooooo, asexuals do masterbate????? Somehow I got the impression that they didn't even do that.
Posted by Keekee on February 10, 2011 at 11:14 PM · Report this
96
I thought Dan's readers would, mostly, be above slamming Women's Studies. But I guess you can find ignorant, privileged pricks on even the best sites. Misanthrope, you're embarazing urself, u gramer nazi. And, judgmentalist, the value of a lib arts degree is in the SUBJECT MATTER ITSELF, not in its ability to instantly land you a cushy job that allows you to stop questioning structures of power/capital/knowledge. (those structures DO exist, whether or not you acknowledge it)

But I must be forgetting that, since a few lib arts majors are douches, the entire field of lib arts is useless and it immediately invalidates all their arguments. Good thing the world isn't overrun with douchey MBAs and engineers, right?
Posted by plz do not feed teh trolls on February 10, 2011 at 11:15 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 97
@94 if the LW didn't write in to dictate the terms which we are to use to describe her, I may start to agree. As it is, her telling Dan what terms we are and are not allowed to use, including the term "normal," means that we are allowed to choose whatever terms we like to describe what we think of her and her writing style.

Bullying usually means people who are beating up, stealing from, harassing, or otherwise pestering other people for no reason other than their existence. The LW wrote in, and opened herself up to criticism. Being critical of her is not bullying her.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 11:21 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 98
@96 I like you. :-D
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 10, 2011 at 11:24 PM · Report this
99
@98 I like you too XD
ur profile pic is very pink
Posted by plz do not feed teh trolls on February 10, 2011 at 11:29 PM · Report this
MythicFox 100
@69 -- I hate to break it to ya, but claiming that "the experience in your school is not representative of the field" by describing the experience in your own school is a little lacking, argument-wise. And what do you mean by 'upper years'? Are you talking about graduate studies (at which point the degree _might_ at least let you teach), senior year as an undergrad, or what?
Posted by MythicFox on February 10, 2011 at 11:31 PM · Report this
101
@97 Ridiculing someone's major is not "being critical." It's ridiculing, which is close to bullying.

However, I don't think the plight of asexuals is at all comparable to gays, blacks, latinos, etc. And I don't think LW has any kind of valid argument when she says we should stop using "abnormal" because of stigmatization. We can't keep making words illegal.
Posted by plz do not feed teh trolls on February 10, 2011 at 11:47 PM · Report this
102
@97 - no. Bullying doesn't become OK if someone "has it coming." That's why I pointed out that I'm sure the bullies of LBGT teens would point to their behavior -"weird", "queeny", "wants to be center of attention" etc. - as a "reason" for their bullying as well.

FWIW, I think Dan is right and HC is wrong - but that's just no reason to insult, ridicule and belittle them. It's perfectly sufficient to do just what Dan did - and tell them that they're wrong and why. That's particularly true since HC is a young adult who has clearly struggled in the past.
Posted by adam.smith on February 11, 2011 at 12:11 AM · Report this
103
I think there's a lot of potential value in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Look around you and see how gender and the behavioural expections affect so many facets of life -- dating, love, friendships, sports, fashion, careers, everything. Gender studies is about thinking critically about human behaviour, just as in psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc. It's just a little more focused on one area is all.

The problem with some (not all) gender studies courses is that they end up promoting gender inequality, what with all the radical man-hating feminism that goes on (Dear world: sexism against men is also wrong, and happens alllllll the time). I've only taken one first-year course in gender studies, and I dropped it halfway through. At first it was really enlightening and thought-provoking, but eventually it all started to sound like today's Letter of the Day.

Still, it helped teach me to examine the world. A few months after I dropped that course, I switched from a psych major to computer science. I'm also now the only girl living in a house with five guys. Now THERE's some gender studies for you.

Posted by recoisiche on February 11, 2011 at 1:11 AM · Report this
104
@20: Word.

I'm an academic who teaches a film studies programme, and I have to admit that I lolled a bit when I saw the sign-off. Earnest undergraduates are earnest. I was an overearnest, slightly pompous, well-meaning undergrad once, and it's fine to have a have a little giggle at the indiscretions of youth.

Here's some tl;dr, sloggers: I'd also like to add my own perspective on the "what use is women's studies?" debate. Over here in the UK, you don't pick a random major, but pursue a degree programme in a pre-determined subject with modular options that can go broader. IMO, Women's Studies is too over-specialised to make a strong undergraduate degree. I teach feminist and queer theory and criticism - and it's applied, to give undergraduates a new perspective on the film/media/literature that they're studying. An undergraduate degree in humanities should leave you with a broad range of perspectives on culture, not a hothoused sensibility. Narrower specialising is what graduate study is for. What use is women's studies? Like any kind of political philosophy, it should sharpen you intellectually and give you new perspectives on culture and society. What use is film studies and literary studies? A good humanities degree isn't vocational like an engineering degree, but it should leave you with intellectual skills that make you employable - and that you know how to sell to employers, a part many unis neglect. Theory and philosophy, including women's studies, should be a part of this imo in that it sharpens you intellectually and makes you a better critical thinker. No theory course should be an easy A.

I'd also advise a bit of self-deprecating humour and an open spirit in the classroom as very helpful for encouraging over-earnest undergraduates to mature intellectually (i.e. among other things, turn into people who deliver their opinions in a way that makes you see them as less annoying and doctrinaire, more interesting and likeable). If students feel censored or policed, or worse, try to censor and police each other, you are in danger of the spirit of enquiry and questioning that's the lifeblood of humanities education. Obviously I insist that my students treat each other with respect, don't allow slurs, etc. But a bunch of students sitting around bullying each other about "unlearning" each other's "privilege" and "appropriating" each other's positions are really just name-calling with fancy intellectual labels attached. Name-calling is not debate, and it doesn't help you learn anything about others' perspective or indeed, grow up. Again, I say this as a feminist academic, not someone broadly sceptical about the whole enterprise.
More...
Posted by brideoffrankenstein on February 11, 2011 at 3:01 AM · Report this
samanthaf63 105
Crap, I think folks are getting lost here - missing the forest for the trees. All Dan ever says is to be honest about who you are and what you need, and if you have a different viewpoint to your partner(s), you should work it out together till you reach a compromise. If you can't find a compromise, you split up like grownups and look for more a more compatible partner (or partners, if you're into the poly thing).
Posted by samanthaf63 on February 11, 2011 at 5:53 AM · Report this
Canuck 106
@105 Oh well, if you're going to be all *accurate* and stuff...

....so how come women's studies majors don't shave their legs?

(Need to borrow a book, Erica P? ;)
Posted by Canuck on February 11, 2011 at 6:07 AM · Report this
107
@106: I always wondered why women's studies majors did shave their legs, then complain that they "had" to.

@82, 83: If you're interested in asexuality, you'd probably enjoy reading the AVEN forums at asexuality.org. Some asexuals have a sex drive, some don't. Some masturbate, some don't. They think about all sorts of things when they masturbate.

The name 'asexual' is confusing, and in hindsight, it might have been better if they'd chosen a different one. (Some) asexuals are still sexual sometimes, just not attracted to anyone else. The name was chosen by analogy with 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' to describe the group of people asexuals are attracted to (that is, no one).

Posted by BlackRose on February 11, 2011 at 6:42 AM · Report this
108
The only conclusion I can come to after reading the letters and some comments is that asexuals are feeling left out as victims and therefore had to get together as a group and remind us that gay people aren't the only people who are victimized for their sexuality. They can't be serious. Yes, there are jokes about "40 Year Old Virgins" and I'm sure it's a tad hurtful if you are one but so what? The only way anyone knows you are is if you tell them. It's not something you need to announce to anyone unless you're a) planning on actually having sex with someone or b) looking for attention as a victimized minority. It's bad being victimized or marginalized (and yes I know from experience) but it's also bad to use that as an excuse not to get on with your life or to blame other people for your life not turning out the way you planned. Your illusions about how wonderful everyone else has it are just that - illusions. Slapping on a self-defeating label doesn't do anyone any favours.
Posted by capricorn44 on February 11, 2011 at 7:02 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 109
@101 Ridicule has been a perfectly acceptable form of criticism since the dawn of culture.

@102 if somebody wants to bully other people into using certain words, they can become a target themselves. Being a dictatorial bully with a passive voice still makes you a bully. Are you saying we can't do tit for tat? Or are you saying being a dictatorial bully is OK if you've had a hard history?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 11, 2011 at 7:15 AM · Report this
110
"Normal" connotes healthy and implies the other is "abnormal". You can look it up.
Posted by cgd on February 11, 2011 at 7:38 AM · Report this
111
HA! I had a feeling about halfway through that the writer was an Undergraduate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She sounds exactly like every person I've ever met that was majoring in that garbage. Same tone, same vocabulary, same ignorant victim bullshit.
Posted by Root on February 11, 2011 at 7:59 AM · Report this
112
WRT 'bullying' of the LW. I think its pretty much an accepted standard that if you write to an online blog, there will be some trolls who will bash your opinion. This is as inevitable as Godwin's Law, and any 20 year old college student should realize this. If not, hopefully readings these comments will inform the LW that people in a consequence free environment like to make inflammatory statements.

I would never advise my daughters to take "women's studies." Nor would I advise them to take any liberal arts degree. Any degree where you can learn the same thing by joining a book club at the local B&N is not worth thousands of dollars a year. I would rather give them the money I have saved for tuition to use backpacking in Europe or something.

I'm also curious about what asexuals would think about while masturbating.
Posted by Aaron CM on February 11, 2011 at 8:14 AM · Report this
pastaefagoli 113
LW forgot to mention that all white males are oppressors, even the poor, uneducated, underemployed ones just scraping by. I thought that admittance into a Women's Studies degree program mandated mentioning this "fact" in every conversation (lecture) about anyone or anything.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 11, 2011 at 8:23 AM · Report this
114
I'm sorry, this kind of thing really frustrates me, honestly it kind of frustrates me from sexual queers as well. I'm a gay guy who dated a straight woman when I thought I was bi, and did horrible horrible things to her self esteem before I got my head out of my arse, and then dated a straight boy who for very unusual reasons thought he was bi, and then he did the exact same things to me. As a result I'm in from what I can tell and almost completely unique situation of having experienced both sides of this general dynamic within 2 years time. The only reason I put my girlfriend from High School through the pain I did is because no one ever talked to me about sexual compatibility, because we aren't allowed to talk about those kinds of things.

The simple truth is, looking at someone who is asexual and telling them to find another asexual and to completely disclose IS reasonable. It's reasonable because the problem that many asexual people from previous generations had was that the idea of asexuality wasn't part of the lexicon, no one taught them to self inspect their own sexuality, so they never realized they were asexual. So basically what you are saying is "In the past no one talked about asexuality, so no one would say if you're asexual you should disclose, so saying they have to disclose is unfair, so don't tell people if they are asexual they have to disclose because it's unfair". This is a simplification of sorts, but the general logic does apply.

People who grew up in previous generations are completely entitled to a grandfathering clause if you will until they do discover themselves. The same way I think gay men and lesbians who married straight people because they were expected to, and come out in their 40's deserve a freebie, even though many of them crush their spouses self worth in the process. The simple ugly fact is they didn't know any better. Here's the thing about that though, the up and coming generation doesn't get that same freebie card. Asexuals now certainly still have more leeway than gays and lesbians now, but I'd say only about as much leeway as gays and lesbians had back in the 90's. If you're asexual and you bust up a couple hearts in your teens and early twenties figuring out that you don't have an appreciable sex drive, well that's what those years are for. But someone who's just entering college now, who gets married, and 8-9 years down the road comes out to their partner as "asexual" doesn't have a lot of cultural cover to fall back on to explain that process. The same way a gay man or a lesbian getting married to a stragith person and coming out in 8-9 years as homosexual doesn't really have any cultural cover to fall back on at this point. We are past that point.

So truth be told we have every reason to look at asexual individuals and say "hey, you have a responsibility, live up to it". I have a acquaintance I play with sometimes, and his long term boyfriend has a very low sex drive, while he is a raging slut. They understand that they have very different sex drives, but they want to grow old together and love developing a life together. I kind of hate all the "come to an arrangement" euphemisms in this conversation. If you're asexual, and you fall in love with someone who is sexual then the question "are you comfortable cutting someone you love off from an incredibly important part of their life?" is poignant. If someone is asexual, then they should reach a point where sex really isn't important to them, and accept if they fall for a sexual person "exclusivity" isn't reasonably to put on the table. It just isn't.
More...
Posted by cigan on February 11, 2011 at 8:50 AM · Report this
Aly 115
This makes me happy that I'm studying physics. Sure, it's also a useless degree, but at least I can feel like I'm intelligent at the end.
Posted by Aly on February 11, 2011 at 8:55 AM · Report this
116
So...we really need a guide (maybe as a part of the pretty well written FAQ on that site) about the difference between someone who id's as Asexual, someone who has medical/psychological issues they want to fix, someone who just has a different libido level than their partner or circle, someone who's just stressed out, etc.
The person above who mentioned the permanent ink label is right.
Posted by hominidX on February 11, 2011 at 8:58 AM · Report this
117
@ 113 - So you see, Women's Studies degree programs aren't all as bad as you think they are.
Posted by Ricardo on February 11, 2011 at 9:03 AM · Report this
118
There was another problem with Mr. Savage's advice to NSNA: He treated the guy like dirt. People with all different sorts of sexual peculiarities get Mr. Savage's usual mix of snark and courtesy, but give us someone who is less into sex rather than more into it, and we start to see Mr. Savage's own prejudices.
Posted by DRF on February 11, 2011 at 9:19 AM · Report this
119
@106 Thanks, Canuck, but I've got the Kinsey surveys for my light reading today :-) (see the MisterMix on Christopher Lee thread...)
Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 9:48 AM · Report this
120
"...undesirable"

Dan's "desires" lead him to behavior that results in 20% HIV infection rates.
And 10X the suicide rate of "normal" individuals.

perhaps "undesirable" doesn't mean what Dan thinks it does....
Posted by WebSt'r on February 11, 2011 at 10:05 AM · Report this
Lissa 121
Chiming in late, but I think 104 brideoffrankenstein, and 114 cigan, pretty much rock.
I'd get into it further, but I have 67 valentines to address, sign and mail. Because I am not asexual.
Posted by Lissa on February 11, 2011 at 10:27 AM · Report this
122
Pastaefagoli, your comments like
"actually, I took enough classes to have a Women's Studies minor, but I never applied for it because I didn't want it on my transcript."
make me cringe from their prentension. Chill out.

That said, I have a double major in Gender Studies. Which is on my transcript. It was interesting, but ultimately useless. However, any job you apply for is happy to see a double major in anything (especially from a prestigious university) because it show dedication to learning and work ethic. So, in that sense it's worked out pretty well for me.
Posted by new york state of mind on February 11, 2011 at 10:29 AM · Report this
pastaefagoli 123
117, regardless of the color of your skin, I doubt the rural poor ever oppressed you. The uneducated white never were placed in a position you were more qualified for, they never even got to your position. There is an abundance of discourse about race, but hardly anyone talks about the great equalizer -- cold, hard, cash. Or should I say, assets, because all the money is imaginary now anyway.

I made the mistake once of saying in my intro to women's studies class (of course it was), when the professor was trying to assert that whites had the privilege to a better education, that school districts (at least here) are directly funded by property taxes. Nicer areas have higher housing costs and higher taxes. People who make more can afford to live in these nicer areas go to better funded districts that can afford to hire better teachers and have more resources available. I wasn't quite sure what that had to do with race. Nobody said "oh, sorry, you might live in the district, but you're a minority, go over there to the poor school where you belong."

I got chewed out for that.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 11, 2011 at 10:34 AM · Report this
pastaefagoli 124
122 - after taking the courses to pad my GPA, I wanted no affiliation with the "discipline." Nobody cares about a well rounded chemist.

But really, I congratulate you on being able to afford to attend university for a degree which served no purpose other than to bestow you with the sense of superiority necessary to point out others privilege and to be the PC terms police. How ironic the upper middle class is.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 11, 2011 at 10:41 AM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 125
@123: I had a similar experience in my intro to women's studies class, where I was one of 6 dudes among roughly 100 women. This class never devolved into "blame men for everything"-- there was a definite recognition that men also suffer from rigid gender roles. I never felt singled out, and I was never called upon to justify my sex. My complaint isn't so much what was being taught (at least in my classes) as the lack of academic rigor in the whole discipline. I'll give an example.

We spent about a week reading and discussing the benefits of instinct/emotion as opposed to reason. (This was before Bush's presidency showed just how maladaptive the "gut" approach was.) As a scientist and an empiricist, the whole concept appalled me, but I was willing to listen to the evidence. There was none: no experiments on problem solving, no demographic profiling, no statistical analysis. Just a bunch of "you go girl" papers and anecdotes.

The consensus was that instinct/emotion had been devalued because they were associated with women, and logic/reason had been overvalued because they were associated with men. On Friday, after sitting out the entire week and doing my best to understand, I raised my hand and asked the question that everyone seemed to have missed: "Are instinct and emotion considered inferior approaches because they're traditionally associated with women, or are they actually inferior and that's why they've been traditionally assigned to women?"

I swear to fucking god I heard crickets chirping. And then the class went on like nothing had happened.

Maybe I'm just an old-school academic with a "masculine" viewpoint, but IMO you don't get to good theory without trashing bad theories. Not everyone's viewpoint is valid. Gender studies apparently refused to acknowledge that and refused to test anything, whether through experiments, studies, or argument. That's why I have a hard time taking it seriously.
More...
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 11:08 AM · Report this
126
pastaefagoli @ 124: "point out others' privilege"

I honestly think this is why Womens' Studies or Gender Studies faculties and grads get such a bad rap and rep. There's a huge pile of majors which educate as to our failings and prejudices as individuals and as societies (anthropology and psychology to name just two). But I look back on my years in postsecondary and I can recall no discipline which produced people almost vibrating with eagerness to tell you how horrible you were .. save for WS or GS produced them not as single spies but in battalions. Anthro or psych or arts or science majors didn't seem to be triumphal and happy to denounce your linguistic failings or lack of comprehension or perceived received horribleness, yet the WS and GS types seemed to live to do so.

I grew up in a pretty retrograde time and very conservative culture, and what --on this issue -- strikes me most looking back is that gay men didn't give me static about me trying to understand them and their challenges, or launch into pejoratives at the first opportunity. no, they helped me become straight-but-not-narrow through friendship and shared ideals. The WS crowd seemed to be even more pissed off with men trying to become more feminist than they were with the dinosaurs. Looking back a quarter century+ later \I still don't know why.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 11, 2011 at 11:09 AM · Report this
Foggen 127
Thanks for sharing, HC. Coming from a different perspective, I'd like to take a moment and say "fuck you".
Posted by Foggen on February 11, 2011 at 11:27 AM · Report this
pastaefagoli 128
@125: I guess scientists are a bad fit for gender studies what with our whole world revolving around questioning everything.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 11, 2011 at 11:31 AM · Report this
129
@125 & 128 - yes, if you start from the assumption that testing is the way to answer your questions, you will find that rationality & logic are far superior to instinct & emotion.

But, conversely, if you start from the assumption that how you feel about something is empirically important, then you might find out that instinct & emotion are more valid than rationality & logic.

In either case, you haven't seriously questioned your assumptions, just used them to build a circular argument.

Personally, I think both are useful. I like rationality when it is used for building airplanes & the internet; less so when it is used for eugenics or putting women in their "place" as obviously inferior scientists, architects, composers, etc.

I like emotion when it is used for acknowledging the humanity of those who are different from ourselves, and recognizing how hard it is to ever truly appreciate someone else's point of view. I don't like emotion when it is used to build support for jingoistic political campaigns...

Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 11:43 AM · Report this
130
I went to high school with the David Jay she mentions! When I started reading this letter, I was expecting his name to show up eventually.
Posted by JonnyH on February 11, 2011 at 11:47 AM · Report this
131
@ 123 - What the hell does that have to do with what I said @ 117 ?

I was just pointing out that, since the LW "forgot to mention that all white males are oppressors", maybe they don't teach that crap in all those programs.

One thing you fail to understand, and maybe some useless liberal arts program would have helped you to learn about this, is that, in the US and many other countries, socio-economic factors such as WEALTH correlate extremely highly with RACE.

One other thing you fail to take into account is that many countries other than the US have free (or cheap) higher education, so your whole point about wasted money is only relevant in the US. A useless liberal arts degree might also have helped you to learn to think about the rest of the world.

Just saying.

PS: And by the way, the "uneducated white", i.e. my parents' generation, had it a lot easier than mine and were paid a lot more with just a middle school diploma than I'll ever get with a degree. They're also getting nice fat governement pension checks that I'll never see half of, even though I'm paying proportionally twice as much in premiums as they did.

It seems that you have absolutely no idea of what's happening to people who aren't part of your own, I would say rather priviledged middle class group. (Yes, middle class, coz no matter what you say, YOU could afford an expensive education.)
Posted by Ricardo on February 11, 2011 at 11:48 AM · Report this
judgmentalist 132
@129: I think when rationality "is used for eugenics or putting women in their "place" as obviously inferior scientists, architects, composers, etc," what's actually happening is that "logic" is being excused a justification to enact emotional or ideological bias.

Although rationality falls apart when we don't have all the facts or incorrectly operationalize abstract concepts, as is the case with a lot of biased intelligence testing, for instance.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 11, 2011 at 12:02 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 133
@129: My point wasn't to extol the benefits of logic/reason-- although I find that approach superior in all circumstances-- but to criticize the lack of filtering that goes on in gender studies. IMO, this makes gender studies useless to anyone outside the field.

If a sociologist tells me something about sociology that I didn't know before or that contradicts something I thought I knew, I'm inclined to give it some consideration. I can safely assume that the new fact/theory has been tested, peer reviewed, and argued, that any obvious counter-arguments have already been raised, and that the fact/theory has withstood some serious scrutiny by people who know a lot more about sociology than I do.

If a gender studies major/academic tells me something about their field, that's worth nothing to me. Their fact/theory hasn't been scrutinized or tested, so it's just some random person's opinion. I have my own opinions as well, and I'm not inclined to substitute some random person's thoughts for my own.

Let me put it another way: every discipline generates bad ideas. Other fields have measures in place to remove the bad ideas, so casual observers like me can rest assured that we're getting the good stuff from that field. Gender studies (to my knowledge) lacks those filtering mechanisms, so anything I hear from a disciple is no more likely to be valid than stuff I make up on my own.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 12:02 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 134
131, my education cost me 30 years of debt. But thanks for the assumption.

Really, there are no uneducated white people anymore? They only existed in your parents generation? Really?

And while I'm quite aware that WEALTH frequently corresponds with RACE the example I gave sought to point out that WEALTH (and eduction) can frequently supersede RACE. Especially here in the USA, which, incidentally is the only place really relevant to this discussion since we all in thus forum pretty much live here. I'm glad you're concerned about the plight of others all around the world though, as if we didn't have enough problems of our own.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 11, 2011 at 12:09 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 135
133 is correct, there are no dissenting voices in gender studies.

As for 129, being a female scientist myself, I can say that I wasn't always taken seriously right off the bat, so I cried, called everyone a misogynist, and quit.

Just kidding, I worked hard to prove my worth through publication (just like the men!) and have no problem ever since.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 11, 2011 at 12:15 PM · Report this
136
After reading this entire comment thread, I now have a very weird mental image of the average asexual. They are horny as hell, and constantly getting off to thoughts of… shoes? White walls? The sight of their own arousal? But they never really want contact with another human being, even though they might find them aesthetically appealing.

I am more confused than ever.
Posted by Prof L on February 11, 2011 at 12:22 PM · Report this
137
@133, just because propositions in gender studies haven't been "tested" to your standards, only means what it says, that it hasn't been tested to your standards. So, naturally, since you think that testing is important, your mind can't be changed without such testing.

If, however, you were a different sort of person, one open to having an emotional, subjective appeal change his or her mind, then you might find that gender studies has debates (about rape culture, say), where people disagree with each other, and authorities in the field decide (by allocating scarce resources) which opinions matter more.

You still won't care about that decision, since you only want hard facts to matter, not emotional appeals. Also, the losers in the debate probably won't be persuaded by the authorities to admit that they were wrong. Still, the field, like all fields, has scarce resources (jobs, publications) to dole out, and it does so. Just not to your taste, or the taste of the losers in the field. In that, it is much like all other academic fields.
Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 12:22 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 138
@137: Voting is not a test, and the majority is often wrong-- particularly when they don't think through their decisions. Ironically, that's one of the premises of gender studies, so long as the "majority" is limited to "people outside gender studies."

I don't suppose it's a surprise that defending gender studies on emotional/subjective grounds does nothing to convince me that the field has any value. Kinda the opposite, actually. Ah, well.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 139
@136: I know, right?

Can an asexual who indulges in masturbation kindly inform the rest of us what they think about while masturbating? Unlike HC, I think this is actually an opportunity to inform curious and sympathetic people about the particulars of your (a)sexuality. Make use of that internet anonymity!

I'm happy to describe what I think about when I masturbate as a quid pro quo, but I don't think anyone will find that interesting. If you've ever seen mainstream porn, you're in the right ballpark. :)
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 12:47 PM · Report this
140
TheMisanthrope@97: "Bullying usually means people who are beating up, stealing from, harassing, or otherwise pestering other people for no reason other than their existence."

Beating, theft, and harrassment/pestering are also ingredients to things that aren't bullying, like boxing, baseball, and civil rights.

Another ingredient to what we consider hate crime is profiling-inaccuracy. "You are a dirty [x,y,z] and that's all you are." This kind of hate-profiling isn't an ingredient to anything worth preserving for the sake of putting up with hate crime.

TheMisanthrope@44: "@30 I won't say it's a useless degree...I will say that those who get it are, by and large douchey 'tards."

Can you see in context how weak the kind of hate-profiling that can be pulled from what you say ultimately is? There's no baseball in hating.

Me? I don't say republicans are assholes, when I know to say the only remaining virtue of the republican party is theft. Because I don't think republicans are assholes. The tea party are seniors in wheelchairs shouting for government to keep their hands off their medicare. I think they are highly contagious victims. I'm talking about effect, not resolve. No profiling, no hate, see?

When you know, you do not hate.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 1:06 PM · Report this
141
@138 - I never said "voting" - where'd you get that from? God only knows how the authorities in gender studies decide which studies are worth funding and promoting people for, but I doubt voting has anything to do with it.

As you say, no surprise that you (who say proudly that you find "logic/reason... superior in all circumstances") are not persuaded by arguments on subjective grounds.

How ever do you pick what movies to see, I wonder... Or do you let Netflix's algorithm take the decision out of your hands?
Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 142
@140 English, do you speak it?

Try again without wrapping your ideas into an incomprehensible knot the size of which is only seen in Chistmas Lights stored in an attic.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 11, 2011 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Roma 143
24/sarah68: @16: Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to other people, not lack of libido. It has nothing to do with hormones.

So a person who is "asexual" would (or could) be very sexual with their own body, just not with anyone else's body? If that's the case, then "asexual" doesn't seem to be an appropriate term.

Posted by Roma on February 11, 2011 at 1:37 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 144
@141: I usually pick movies based on Rotten Tomatoes reviews, or what my girlfriend wants to watch, or what happens to be playing at the time I get to the theatre. Same as anyone else, I'd wager.

I'm not saying that there's no place for emotion in our lives, or that everything has to be a structured algorithm. I'm saying that whenever there's a conflict between my reason and my emotions, I always pick reason. Doing anything else strikes me as immature and (frankly) weak-willed. Children and animals are controlled by their emotions; adults are supposed to be stronger than that.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 1:38 PM · Report this
145
re: TheMisanthrope@142: Look at the ethnic name, and start shouting, English! English! Whatever, racist.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 1:54 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 146
@145 ...and proud of it?

Really, WTF?! You write something incomprehensible then comment that any response to your incomprehensibility is racism?! Now, I'm attributing it to your being mentally-handicapped because your leaps of logic are astoundingly retarded.

No offense to the mentally-handicapped people reading this, as I don't mean to insult you by comparing this asshat to you.

P.S. That was a Pulp Fiction quote, if you didn't recognize it...
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 11, 2011 at 2:03 PM · Report this
147
Mike Leung @145:

1. Your post was indeed incoherent.
2. "English, Do You Speak It" is a movie quote, spoken by one American character to another.

But, hey, if you want to accuse somebody of racism just you post an confused mess of words, go ahead, I guess.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM · Report this
Roma 148
129/Erica: But, conversely, if you start from the assumption that how you feel about something is empirically important, then you might find out that instinct & emotion are more valid than rationality & logic.

I'm sure that's the case. For example, I'm sure that conservative religious people who feel that same-sex love and attraction is wrong, or feel that we did not evolve from other creatures, consider their beliefs to be more valid than any rationality or logic.

141/Erica: As you say, no surprise that you (who say proudly that you find "logic/reason... superior in all circumstances") are not persuaded by arguments on subjective grounds.

There's nothing wrong with subjectivity, or emotion. But they are not good bases for public policy, whether it's anti-porn feminists wanting to ban porn because they believe it's bad, or whether it's religious conservatives wanting to ban same-sex marriage because they believe it's wrong.
Posted by Roma on February 11, 2011 at 2:17 PM · Report this
149
@146,147: Pulp Fiction also had a white calling blacks n*****. A pass for one is a pass for both. Go forth, and call blacks n*****s with no fear of being called a racist.

@147: "But, hey, if you want to accuse somebody of racism just you post an confused mess of words..."

Typing with the hood on is challenging, isn't it?
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Roma 150
125: The consensus was that instinct/emotion had been devalued because they were associated with women, and logic/reason had been overvalued because they were associated with men. On Friday, after sitting out the entire week and doing my best to understand, I raised my hand and asked the question that everyone seemed to have missed: "Are instinct and emotion considered inferior approaches because they're traditionally associated with women, or are they actually inferior and that's why they've been traditionally assigned to women?"

A very good question and I tend to think it's the latter situation in your question.
Posted by Roma on February 11, 2011 at 2:36 PM · Report this
151
Ah, so I'm a racist, now, too, is it?

Everybody who disagrees with you is a racist. Everybody who quotes a line in Pulp Fiction (no matter what the line) is also racist because that film also uses the N word. Got it. (Carefully writes this down.)

It is an amusing accident of placement that you choose to take these positions at a point in the thread where people are discussing the reality that assuming something to be true does not create or verify truth, no matter how intense the feeling. Facts are needed.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 11, 2011 at 2:45 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 152
150, I agree as well. But then again, I'm surrounded by calculating, logical, rational, and fucking smart women.

I think emotion and feelings are great, when I'm being romantic. Not when I'm making important decisions. The people who tend to run only on feelings tend to be the ones that are, well, less intelligent.
Posted by pastaefagoli on February 11, 2011 at 2:55 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 153
@150 and @152: As do I. Had the class actually discussed my question, I would have pointed out that most societies have traditionally assigned child-like qualities to women (innocence, purity, vulnerability, etc.), and that emotional decision-making is also a quality of children. But alas, the conversation never got there. :)
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 154
@146, @151: Good luck with that one. Mr. Leung seems to believe that if anyone has any difficulty understanding what he writes, it is their fault and not his. If anyone expresses to him that his posts are poorly written and difficult to understand, he calls them haters and racists.

Not sure what his damage is, but from experience - he's worth ignoring.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on February 11, 2011 at 3:22 PM · Report this
155
@147: "But, hey, if you want to accuse somebody of racism just you post an confused mess of words..."

@151: "Ah, so I'm a racist, now, too, is it?"

Do you require instruction why "an confused" isn't English?

TheMisanthrope's enforcement of English has nothing to do with actual compliance to English. So yes, selectively citing Pulp Fiction to hold standards of English to those with ethnic names -- citing no actual broken English -- means he's racist. We have one theory.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 3:25 PM · Report this
156
Roma @148, we're not talking public policy. I've never heard of any policy makers overtly relying on gender studies for their analysis. But if one is interested in studying the idea of rape culture (as a meme in our society), say, it would be very hard to do a serious study without engaging with what has been written within gender studies. But since you bring up rationality and public policy, let me ask you a question. What is the rational reason why gay marriage must be allowed? If we take sentiment and emotion off the table, why isn't civil union (everything except the word) sufficient?

Also, note that although I concede that emotion is considered a valid aspect of argumentation in gender studies (not everyone in gender studies would agree with me about that), that is not to concede that rationality is irrelevant to the field. It's just not the only thing that matters.

Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 3:26 PM · Report this
157
1) Yes, this letter is dumb. The LW didn't address any of the things Dan actually says about asexuality (and has said before) and disclosure, which is really important. Also it is way too long.

2) I think some asexual people, especially when they're first figuring out how to talk about asexuality, come at this from the same egocentrism the rest of us do. Since they have little/no interest in sex, some of them have trouble understanding that sex truly is important for others. They simply don't see what the big deal is with a sexual person dating an asexual person, because it's just sex! And sex is completely unappealing! (Note I said "some.")

3) Anyone on hear talking shit about Gender/Women's Studies in a remotely sincere way is a douche and should stop. Just stop. It's dumb. We might indulge in a little joke or two, but anyone who's gonna DEFEND that position is really just a waste of brain matter and lung tissue.

Done. You're welcome.
Posted by Belle Starr on February 11, 2011 at 3:29 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 158
@155: You're full of shit.

Racism would have been TheMisanthrope looking at your "ethnic name," assuming you didn't know how to speak English, and patronizing you by patting you on the head and slow-talking his way through his earlier points. Instead, he may or may not have noticed your name, assumed you were a fluent English speaker, and called you out for writing like shit.

Being treated like anyone else when you fuck up is not racism; fuck, that's exactly what I wanted when I was growing up with my ethnic name. You apparently have no idea how infuriating it is when people assume you're an idiot just because of your name and how you look, rather than giving you justly deserved shit because they assume you're competent and just fucked up.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 3:37 PM · Report this
159
Also, let me say that when I Hate Screen Names (IHSN) dismisses a field of study because his or her classmates in an intro level course and the poorly paid instructor didn't meet the proper standards of argumentation... that indicates emotional over-reaction, as does IHSN's recent insistence that people who appreciate emotional arguments are like children.

Personally, I believe one should evaluate a field based on the writings of people with prestige in the field, not based on the ill-considered reflections of an intro-level class at one particular college.

For anyone who is open-minded on this subject, but doesn't feel like paying for a course, I recommend reading Judith Butler's Gender Trouble and her further clarification in Bodies that Matter. They're dense, but worth the trouble.
Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 3:40 PM · Report this
spaceapple 160
If you're truly asexual, just date really religious people.

This was the longest, most boring letter ever written. I'm glad I don't have to proofread her undergrad essays.
Posted by spaceapple on February 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM · Report this
161
@158:

"You're full of shit.

[...]

"Being treated like anyone else when you fuck up is not racism;"

It is racism when you reserve your criticism for the people with ethnic names.

TheMisanthrope said he was enforcing English. He cited no broken English from me. For seeker's actual broken-English -- no enforcement. We have a theory: racism.

Why not jump on me in a race-neutral way? But no, instead you look at the ethnic name, and shout English! English!

The "It Gets Better" gods must be so proud of you. You're validating the lack-of-thinking of anyone ever to harass someone for being different. Keep hate alive.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 4:01 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 162
@159: My college is one of the top 10 in the country, and the professor was highly respected in the field (or so I was told). I saw no reason to doubt that: she certainly knew the material backwards and forwards, and all of the tenured professors are generally superstars anyway.

It's certainly possible that gender studies becomes more rigorous at higher levels. However, it's worth pointing out that I took a lot of courses in various fields (I'm a big believer in a well-rounded education), and none of the rest of the intro courses suffered from this problem. I only have so much time to allocate to academic pursuits outside my field, and your emotion-based defense of gender studies does little to convince me that I should give that area another shot rather than, say, brushing up on Middle-Eastern history and politics.

I think that part of the problem with being an emotional person-- or at least in allowing emotions to occasionally dictate your actions-- is that you assume everyone else is the same way. I suppose that gives a certain latitude when faced with logical arguments: the person making it must be emotional, so it can be disregarded. This is an ironic conclusion given your argument that we should consider emotional inputs, but whatever.

Let us simply allow that I am a robot and thus gender studies (as practiced) is worthless for me, and that more emotive individuals may find it valuable. I certainly don't disagree with the latter point: most of the people in my gender studies classes seemed very happy with the field.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 4:03 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 163
@161: No, I've just actually been harassed for being different. I can only assume that you live in the more accepting world that my generation and the generation before mine helped to create, and thus have not experienced real racism.

You're welcome.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 4:05 PM · Report this
164
@162, I haven't ever taken a gender studies intro course, so I will grant that your experience may be typical. Perhaps the field uses the intro courses to weed out rigid empiricists.

Who was your professor? Seems unlikely that it would out you in any way to tell us that.

Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM · Report this
165
re: 163: yeah, I haven't reviewed your behavior. Thanks, for playing.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM · Report this
166
re: IHSN@162: "I think that part of the problem with being an emotional person-- or at least in allowing emotions to occasionally dictate your actions-- is that you assume everyone else is the same way."

If something is urgent, it is emotional. You're complaining about people being urgent about things you don't like by calling them emotional. That's lazy-thinking.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 4:21 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 167
@164: Adrienne Rich.

I can't believe I remembered that.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 4:22 PM · Report this
Roma 168
156/Erica: Roma @148, we're not talking public policy. I've never heard of any policy makers overtly relying on gender studies for their analysis.

I wasn't suggesting a link between public policy and gender studies specifically. I was just saying that subjectivity or emotion have their place, but they are not good bases for public policy.

But if one is interested in studying the idea of rape culture (as a meme in our society), say, it would be very hard to do a serious study without engaging with what has been written within gender studies.

If one believed that such a thing as a "rape culture" exists in our society, how would (or should) one go about making the case for that?

But since you bring up rationality and public policy, let me ask you a question. What is the rational reason why gay marriage must be allowed? If we take sentiment and emotion off the table, why isn't civil union (everything except the word) sufficient?

Reason says that two people of the same sex shouldn't be prevented from marrying if two people of the opposite sex are allowed to marry. It's the emotional attachment religious (and some other) conservatives have to the word/concept "marriage" that makes them want to "defend" it against same-sex couples. Plus you know as well as I do that many religious conservative people are also very opposed to even civil unions for same sex couples and this opposition is completely based in emotion and belief, not reason.

Posted by Roma on February 11, 2011 at 4:27 PM · Report this
169
@167, OK, that explains a lot. She's primarily a poet, not a popularizer of complex ideas, so I doubt she's very good explaining theory to intro classes.

@168, I'm not going to proceed here and now to make the case that we live in a rape culture, or explain how one would differentiate that from a culture that glorifies violence more generally. It's not my area of study. I brought it up as an example of a topic which exists, but which one would have no way of studying without the tools of gender studies. If anyone is interested in the topic, there is an important essay at http://fugitivus.wordpress.com/2009/06/2…

Here's one part I like: "People wonder why women don’t 'fight back' [during rape] but they don't wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don't wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid. And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasn't truly raped. Because she didn't fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or kick, or punch. She let him into her room when it was obvious what he wanted. She flirted with him, she kissed him. She stopped saying no, after a while."
Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 5:10 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 170
@Mike Leung 8/10 I got caught, as did a lot of people. Good trolling. :-D
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 11, 2011 at 5:17 PM · Report this
171
re: TheMisanthrope@170: Feel free to abandon your own call to be understandable. Hater.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 5:35 PM · Report this
Roma 172
Erica, I didn't ask you to make the case that we live in a "rape culture." I asked" how would (or should) one go about making the case for that [if one believe that it existed]?
Posted by Roma on February 11, 2011 at 5:35 PM · Report this
173
for mr Mike Leung, poster 171. You, Sir, are a troll - but you aren't even a good troll. The fine folks at /b/ could perhaps teach you more effective ways to troll.

The problem with your posts has nothing at all to do with your name - the problem is primarily tha fact that you use words in ways that do not correspond with their traditional, literal meanings.

The oversensitivity you show, relating to your (presumably) ethnic name, is indicative of a massive inferiority complex, linked to a rather sad attention-whore behaviour pattern. I couldn't care less what ethniticity you represent, or what discrimination you feel you've been exposed to - they are NOT based upon your screen name - they are based upon your ineptitude in communicating clearly with the English language. I hope that clears things up for you.

tl;dr - you're a lousy troll, and butthurt with it. english, or gtfo, newfag.
Posted by stale bongwater on February 11, 2011 at 5:43 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 174
@171 you almost made me think you care, Chingchangchong...but your end note of hater rings awesome!

P.S. I AM a hater. Hence, TheMisanthrope.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 11, 2011 at 5:47 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 175
@174 That's Racist!!
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 11, 2011 at 5:49 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 176
@169: Interesting article. I agree with the concept, though I think that the term "rape culture" is (perhaps deliberately) off-putting. Let me add my supporting evidence, which is naturally in factual form :)

As a young man, I used to teach six-week women's self defense courses. I was astounded to learn that around 25% of the students in any given class were essentially unteachable: they would not strike an assailant under any circumstances, even in our safe little studio surrounded by other women cheering her on. It was so bizarre to me: we had constructed an artificial environment where fighting was unambiguously the right decision, and some women just couldn't bring themselves to do it. And these were gals that wanted to learn how to defend themselves!

I had grown up being taught that men and women were generally the same (except for pregnancy and upper-body strength), and here was clear evidence that what I had learned was wrong. That's actually part of the reason I took gender studies courses in the first place.

[Oh yeah: lest anyone think our self-defense courses were evidence of women being inherently timid: a roughly equal percentage of women in each class really got into the lessons, to the extent that the poor guy in padding (sometime me) was often covered in bruises at the end of the night. And of course, our regular courses had several gals that had no problem hitting people or being hit.]
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 5:50 PM · Report this
177
stale bongwater@173: "The fine folks at /b/ could perhaps..."

That is not English....

stale bongwater@173: "you're a lousy troll, and butthurt with it. english, or gtfo, newfag."

...hater.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 5:53 PM · Report this
178
This is what denies racism: "...you almost made me think you care, Chingchangchong."

Thanks for channeling Rush Limbaugh as you call me troll. We all know how much Dan Savage supports ching-chong racism.

@174: "P.S. I AM a hater. Hence, TheMisanthrope."

Yeah, it's a wonder you felt the need to challenge anything I say.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 11, 2011 at 6:00 PM · Report this
179
I WANT THINGS THAT I CAN'T HAVE WITHOUT MAKING OTHER PEOPLE UNHAPPY, BUT I WILL MAKE THEM UNHAPPY TO GET WHAT I WANT, BECAUSE I AM A GREEDY LITTLE BITCH! HOW DARE YOU TRY TO DENY ME MY HAPPINESS!?!?

Reasoning Away my Own Bad Behaviour Major,
B.S. University,
Caralain
Posted by Caralain on February 11, 2011 at 6:10 PM · Report this
180
@ 134 - Gee, for someone whose "whole world" revolves "around questioning everything", you don't question your own self-serving assumptions much, do you? Or perhaps the key word was "around": you never actually get to it.

1 - You had access to loans to study. You are middle class. By any definition. Poor people are denied access to loans.

2 - Yes, there are plenty of uneducated white people still. But where I come from, which is not the US (and where most people are white), there was a huge leap in the number of people who could and did get an education between my parents' generation and mine. Still, my generation's standard of living is about half that of my parents, which proves that your line "The uneducated white never were placed in a position you were more qualified for, they never even got to your position" is wrong (To make it clearer: I've had them as bosses my whole life even though I could teach them how to do their job, and often had to.)

That's what I was pointing out. Don't try to bring the discussion in another direction now that you've realized your arguments are stupid.

3 - I don't live in the States, neither does Canuck, and, I think, from previous comments they made - and their avatar - Canadian Nurse and Backyard Bombardier (and many others, I suppose). We are all very frequent "contributors" here. Someone wrote from the UK about her experience in Women Studies in this very thread. HELLO! This is the INTERNET! The whole world is reading. And commenting.

So to set the record straight, I wasn't talking about "the plight of others", quite the contrary. I was saying that if you
really do believe the US has enough problems of its own, you should once in a while try to look outside of your very, very small world. You'd find that there might be different and interesting viewpoints on the same situations, and often even SOLUTIONS.

But that's what's wrong with the US nowadays (and with you personally): this unflinching belief that there is nothing good to be learned from people/countries who have different opinions and experiences (think drug legalization, gay marriage, medical insurance, gun control...).

Furthermore, a useless liberal arts education might have taught you (although you don't sound like you want to learn anything) that there is statistically no such thing as upwards social mobility in the US. For every 1% of the population that moves up a social class every generation, 3% move down (my stats are a bit old, but I believe that's only worsened since, as the percentage of poor people in your country increases steadily).

In other words, if there's a correlation between wealth and race (and there is), it's highly unlikely to change. Why? Because those most likely to go down are those who just moved up. You may find individual examples to the contrary, but in reality, they are few and far between.

You pride yourself on your being a scientist, but if you really had a scientific, inquiring mind, I wouldn't have to tell you all this.

Now, who was it that said Women's Studies were for "those with inferior intellect and superiority complexes"? I'm surprised you didn't get a PhD in it.
More...
Posted by Ricardo on February 11, 2011 at 6:20 PM · Report this
181
@172, depending on one's perspective, one might provide evidence that aspects of our culture lead to more rapes being committed than in other cultures. Or one might argue that all current cultures are rape culture, compared to some utopian culture feminists are trying to build. Since I am new to the idea myself, I don't know which version is more accepted in the field. And of course there are no guarantees that any particular person outside the field would find the evidence persuasive. But the topic is there, and people are writing about it.

@176, yes, I think "rape culture" is deliberately provocative. Sometimes that helps an idea spread. Wiki says the term started as "rape-supportive culture," but of course "rape culture" is more punchy. And thanks for sharing your experience teaching the course. Very interesting.

Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 6:27 PM · Report this
182
@172, also, re-reading our exchange, I want to say that I proposed (@156) that gender studies would be useful for studying "the idea of rape culture (as a meme in our society)." To which you replied (@168) "If one believed that such a thing as a "rape culture" exists in our society, how would (or should) one go about making the case for that?"

I said the "idea of rape culture" might be worth studying, and you said "how would one make the case that rape culture exists." I can prove that the idea of rape culture exists by pointing at the wiki page about it. You changed the topic from one where gender studies would be uncontroversially useful, to one where Slogsters would have a field day tearing apart any argument one might make.

Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 6:40 PM · Report this
183
Caralain @ 179 put into marvelous sarcastibitch words something that had been niggling at me and I couldn't put my finger on: that a lot of asexuals seem to feel that they're entitled to have a sexual as a partner -- look at the whining on numbers -- and then they get pissy when people call them on it, as if there was prejudice. I think that's what pisses off a lot of 'em about disclosure, frankly|: they want to reserve the right to deceive to increase the mate pool.

Funny thing, though. I spent ten years in divorce practice and I can tell you for a fact that there's way more asexuals and minimally sexual people out there than folks -- including asexuals and minimally sexuals -- realize.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 11, 2011 at 6:43 PM · Report this
Roma 184
Thanks Erica. I would agree that providing evidence would be a good way to go about it.

Posted by Roma on February 11, 2011 at 6:53 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 185
@183: I would go broader and say that a lot of people seem to feel that they're entitled to have a partner, and want the right to deceive to increase the mate pool. We've gotten used to calling out people who deceive about their marital status/occupation/emotional state/etc. to get what they want. Asexuals are a newly gathering group, so most people haven't been exposed to the same "entitlement" argument in asexual form yet. Except for sloggers, who are willing to trash deceitful asexuals.

Asexuals: this is what equality looks like. If you lie and bullshit to get the relationship you want, people will call you an asshole and tell your partner to DTMFA, just like anyone else.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 11, 2011 at 7:05 PM · Report this
186
I agree that asexuals should disclose their asexuality by the third date at the absolute latest (ideally, before the first date in my opinion). I personally have never dated a sexual person because the idea doesn't appeal to me and that's a sacrifice I would not be comfortable asking someone to make. If a sexual person willingly, knowingly pursues a relationship with an asexual person, that's fine. I should have mentioned that in the e-mail. But I what I meant is that in a lot of these cases, people don't disclose because they didn't realize they were asexual or believe they'd want sex if they were in love. Willfully not disclosing asexuality is very bad form.

HC
Posted by hc on February 11, 2011 at 7:06 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 187
@167/169: Adrienne Rich was/is a big deal BUT her feminism is considered more second wave and fell out of favor with many (most?) within academia with the arrival of more inclusive(?), postmodern third wave feminism. Obviously all these terms are super subjective, but I think she isn't cool in women's studies circles anymore for being a little too old school and a little under-theoretical. See also: Andrea Dworkin. (Not my favorite feminist.)

I'd recommend Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, by Donna Haraway, to all the scientists in this discussion. The essay feels a little dated/prescient, but if you bring your mind back to when it was written, it provides an excellent intersection of feminism and "science and technology" studies.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 11, 2011 at 7:49 PM · Report this
188
@184, fine, now that you've declared victory, are you heading home? Evidence doesn't mean neutral facts. http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenc…
Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 8:11 PM · Report this
189
I think the major problem with how Dan talks about asexual people is that with them he always, perhaps unintentionally, seems to put the onus on the less sexual person to be upfront about their desires or lack thereof.

I think that a better model would be to encourage frank discussion about what one does and doesn't want out of a relationship to be standard even for those people who think they are pretty normative.

Because that is no guarantee that they really are typical and will want the same things. People tend to consider themselves the standard model until they are exposed to a lot of explicitly contrary opinions.

This happens often with asexual people who have never come across the term "asexual." They sometimes end up thinking that their peers must only pretend to be sex obsessed because of Hollywood's encouragement and the taboo restrictions making it "cool." This may seem a silly thing to think from the perspective of a sexual person, but lack of any sexual feelings combined with the shitty explanations that awkward parents and ab-only curricula have of sex and sexuality can lead to a lot of misconceptions.
Posted by shaed on February 11, 2011 at 8:15 PM · Report this
judgmentalist 190
@188: I believe @184 was trying to be gracious. I think agreeing to disagree is the best you both can hope for. You're coming from completely different perspectives: It can be hard to bridge that gap.

I'm really sorry if this reads as "mansplainin'." It's not really my business, but it seems like you're both moving from sincere/non-trolling places and it seems like a shame for their to be conflict. Anyway, I'm sure I'm just digging a deeper hole here. Stopping now.
Posted by judgmentalist on February 11, 2011 at 8:35 PM · Report this
Roma 191
Erica, as you correctly pointed out, evidence doesn't mean that people won't have an emotional reaction to facts, but it does mean more than merely having an instinctive feeling that something (like, for example, a "rape culture") exists.
Posted by Roma on February 11, 2011 at 8:57 PM · Report this
192
@191, it depends what one is trying to show. When you did your sneaky jujitsu rhetorical move (which I pointed out @182), you asked how one would demonstrate that rape culture exists. But that was *your* question, not a real Gender Studies question. I'd be willing to bet that no one in Gender Studies is going around trying to prove the existence of rape culture. They don't try to prove that there are men and women, either, or transgendered people. If I were in Gender Studies and wanted to study rape culture, I wouldn't waste my time trying to prove to you or anyone that it exists. I would go talk to men and women who used the term "rape culture," and try to understand its utility to them. Their "instinctive feeling" would be interesting to me, even if that doesn't look like evidence to you.


Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 11:07 PM · Report this
193
@190-192 -- Roma, I apologize for using the term "sneaky jujitsu rhetorical move." That's how I experienced the move, because I didn't notice it as it was happening, and only realized later that I was explaining something I hadn't volunteered to explain.

But I grant (as judgmentalist points out) that you were operating in good faith and not trying to trip me up.
Posted by EricaP on February 11, 2011 at 11:13 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 194
@187: If Adrienne Rich is old-school, under-theoretical, and has fallen out of favor with academia, then that's exactly the kind of information that should be conveyed in scholarly works rather than "off the record," anonymous internet posts. That's precisely my point when it comes to utility.

I'm certainly willing to admit the possibility that my professor was behind the times, but it's kinda hard for me to verify it. That wouldn't be the case in other disciplines.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 12:25 AM · Report this
195
EricaP @ 192:
Isn't that post kind of Exhibit A for the perception differential between yourself and those with whom you are debating? You take as a given, for example, that "rape [supportive] culture" exists, but your debating partners would argue that you have to prove that it exists subject to the defined standards of academic rigour.

Put alternatively, you are taking the position that an in-group assumption that a given characterization of our society is so obvious that it need not be examined, and then expects that others around you accept that assumption, at least in the way that you characterize it. I've never taken GS/WS so I don't know how exhaustive the work is; for all I know the academic foundation for identifying and assuming a rape culture is as unassailable as that for a consumer culture. Where the debate between you and the others on the thread runs into problems -- from what I can see, anyway -- is that you seem to be taking the position that with such WS/GS frames that those frames are so obvious that they exist in a category all their own which is exempt from the usual proof rules -- even when they move outside the four corners of the group where they have been proven to that group's satisfaction -- a position naturally anethema to empiricists. And, if I might be so bold, it should be anethema to others in the society including policy makers because it appears, on the surface and at least as presented in this debate, as generally equivalent to theology or religious or ideological doctrine: it's true because it's true, and your questioning it is wrong because we've already proved it. We're dealing with a social science, here, not engineering, and different people of good faith will draw differing conclusions and theories and suggested change from the same data, so why should WS/GS get a bye that, say, sociology does not?

Just my two cents on how the argument is proceeding, rather than taking a position on the issues themselves.
More...
Posted by seeker6079 on February 12, 2011 at 5:53 AM · Report this
196
I feel perfectly ambivalent about the conversation over gender/sexuality studies. Perhaps that ambivalence may prove useful. Perhaps not.

I have a PhD in American Studies, also from a "top 10" school, in a program that house ethnic studies, media studies, queer studies, and women's studies. BUT, and this is the key point, I was a biology major as an undergraduate, which perhaps guaranteed this ambivalence I'm about to describe:

Having taught many many classes on racism, I would not discount the power of confirmation bias in folks who insist that said classes are not "real" because they lack academic standards rooted in reason and evidence. I've learned that said folks are often deeply threatened by the course material, but distance themselves by that sense of threat by faulting the classes rather than exploring their own assumptions. So, when a man says that gender studies rely on emotion over evidence, dismissing an entire interdisciplinary field while doing so, I smell confirmation bias. To learn that it's poet Adrienne Rich, I wonder would said male dismiss a "traditional" poetry class as too "emotional?" Hello, welcome to poetry?

On the other hand, when the opposition recommends Judith Butler and Donna Harraway as antidotes, I burst out laughing. As someone with a science background, I had a really hard time with the "protectedness" (i.e. exaltation) around a subset of cultural theorists who were "above" emperical testing and who wrote in circles and needlessly obtuse jargon--and, at the most basic level, were just piss poor writers. I've attended Butler's talks on Israel/Palestine that were so theoretically obtuse that a lay person wouldn't have had any ability to know that they were on Israel/Palestine. So, on the flip side, I think folks that are academically trained to evaluate, for lack of a better phrase, "hard data" react against this dense theory as a load of self-inflating bullshit. And I say that as someone who has studied and taught this very stuff for many many years.

My two (opposing) cents.
More...
Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 7:38 AM · Report this
197
The last I heard, the justice dept reported 1 in 3 women are targeted for a sexual assault, and 1 in 9 women in their lifetimes are raped. When someone has to trust you to let you know they've been raped, because it isn't public knowledge -- you know you're in a rape culture.

It's like the gays who don't feel free to leave the closet letting you know we live in a gay-bashing culture. If you're only surrounded by people for whom rape only happens to other circles of people, maybe it's like the Iranian president saying his country has no gay people. Maybe that says more about you than it says about the culture.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 12, 2011 at 7:44 AM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 198
@196: While it's possible I'm deluding myself, I am not threatened by the course material. I think gender studies is definitely worth studying; I just don't like the way it's currently studied within gender studies programs. For instance, I acknowledge that women as a class are undervalued by society-- not because I read essays from women saying they felt undervalued, but because I've looked at the statistical data on salaries as well as the distribution of women within power hierarchies. My impression of gender studies is that it would insist that the essays are sufficient evidence and forgo any further analysis.

Similarly, I think that the notion of a "rape culture" has some merit-- not because I read essays insisting that it is so, but because of my own experience teaching self-defense classes and through my own consumption of popular culture. I would love to see "harder" evidence-- psychological experiments/studies, for example. But it seems that women's studies departments are not interested in conducting those.

I am an empiricist: I always follow the data, even if the data leads somewhere I don't like. Having discarded a religion I loved because it opposed this guiding principle in my life, I don't think I'd have difficulty coming to grips with whatever blame/privileges my masculinity has granted me. Indeed, the statistical data I referenced earlier means that I must be privileged, even if (or perhaps because) I cannot directly sense it.

As an aside: while I never took a poetry class, I did take a class on writing fiction, and was quite comfortable with prevalence of emotion in that class. Fiction without emotion would be boring indeed! But fiction and poetry are not meant to form the bases of decisions...
More...
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 8:14 AM · Report this
Aly 199
Oh, wow. At least when I get my PhD, I'll get to play with telescopes and shit.
Posted by Aly on February 12, 2011 at 9:14 AM · Report this
200
@195 - you are precisely missing my point. I'm saying that once the "idea of rape culture" exists (which it clearly does), then we can deduce from its existence that the idea is useful or interesting to people who are spreading it. Then we can study the idea, its permutations, and their spread. People outside the field (like you) might get all hung up worrying "is there a rape culture"? As if, like quarks, that's something that could be decided, once and for all. If you determine that there's not enough evidence that we live in a "rape culture," so you decide not to believe in it, does that change the fact that other people see it as a useful frame of reference?

In comparative religion, one doesn't start by proving the existence of the different gods in each religion.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 9:32 AM · Report this
201
@196 - it's easy to dismiss hard theory in any field as mindless jargon. But reading Butler changed forever how I see the naturalness of the categories we use in daily life to organize our world. If you didn't understand her, is it possible you weren't paying close enough attention?

On drag: "The performance of drag plays upon the distinction between the anatomy of the performer and the gender that is being performed. But we are actually in the presence of three contingent dimensions of significant corporeality: anatomical sex, gender identity, and gender performance....[T]he performance suggests a dissonance not only between sex and performance, but sex and gender, and gender and performance... In imitating gender, drag implicitly reveals the imitative structure of gender itself—as well as its contingency. Indeed, part of the pleasure, the giddiness of the performance is in the recognition of a radical contingency ...in the face of cultural configurations of causal unities that are regularly assumed to be natural and necessary." (Gender Trouble, 137-8)

And then you realize she wrote that in 1990... Maybe you have to have drunk the Kool-Aid, but when I encountered that in 1993, it changed my life.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 9:51 AM · Report this
202
@114 (cigan), I just wanted to say I appreciate your comment. You've said many interesting and true things, on the basis of a really interesting amount of personal experience.

If you don't mind, I'm cutting and pasting that comment. I want to keep a copy of it in my hard drive, for future reference. Thanks.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 9:58 AM · Report this
203
@194 – how do you determine someone is behind the times in other fields? Rich taught at Rutgers 1976-78; Cornell 1982-85; SJSU 1985-1986; Stanford 1986-1992 – and since then she has been National Director for the National Writers' Voice Project, which as far as I can tell doesn’t even have a website. She's still publishing books of poetry, though.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 10:04 AM · Report this
204
I didn't say WONT have sex with one another but, that they wouldn't be ATTRACTED to one another.
Posted by Susan S on February 12, 2011 at 10:40 AM · Report this
205
@183 Seeker 6079 Thank you, that is indeed the message I was trying to get across. When you make other people unhappy to get what you want, you are a BAD PERSON and all the reasoning in the world doesn't change it. Tricking people into a relationship is always a bad plan.
Posted by Caralain on February 12, 2011 at 11:05 AM · Report this
206
@125 (I Hate Screen Names), also an interesting experience. I'm interested in people's actual experiences with Gender Studies in university, in whether or not (as part of a liberal education) it actually delivered some of this capacity to appreciate and evaluate other viewpoints and the world in general. If you don't mind, I'll cut and paste your post too, to have a copy of it on my hard drive. Thanks!
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 11:55 AM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 207
@203: Their theories are disproven, and you'll find sources saying "we used to think X or so-and-so thought X, and that was wrong." This is obviously easier to do in subjects that are more empirically verifiable, but even (say) psychology is rife with papers criticizing Freud/Skinner/Chomsky/etc., along with experiments or longitudinal studies supporting that criticism.

It just occurred to me that there may be something more fundamental at play here. Let me ask this: is gender studies a science or is it a humanity? In other words, in examining humans, does gender studies hold itself to the standards of the scientific method (as do anthropology, sociology, psychology, etc.) or does it use less rigorous means (like the various arts, religious studies, linguistics, etc.)?

It seems to me the disconnect is that gender studies is a humanity, but that its adherents seek to promulgate its theories as though they had the force of science. In other words, gender studies is using subjective methods to derive its conclusions, then trumpeting those conclusions as though they had the force of objective truth. Not "my take-away from Macbeth was X, and yours was Y, and they're both OK" but "we live in a rape culture and if you don't see that, you're wrong."

Obviously, scientists and other empirically-minded people will have a problem with that.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 11:57 AM · Report this
208
On a different note, I find this letter interesting because it shows that there are enough people, who identify as asexual, that they have formed a group identity. I wonder sometimes whether there are genetic structures in our animal bodies that respond to trends such as overpopulation by creating (hormonal or other physical?) changes that would reduce population pressures. One study of overpopulation in mice indicated a rise in homosexual behavior despite plentiful females and that female mice began to re-absorb their unborn young. As the human race approaches (or have we already exceeded?) 8 Billion, perhaps some sort of genetic failsafe is coming into play.

Posted by heartfelt on February 12, 2011 at 12:01 PM · Report this
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@207 - idiots abound, right? So sure, there are plenty of people who will assert that they speak for all feminists everywhere, and tell you to accept on their say-so that we live in a rape culture and if you disagree with them, you're a misogynist asshole.

That's not gender studies, that's just people being stupid. The Journal of Gender Studies would not publish a piece that says "we live in a rape culture and if you don't see that, you're wrong."

Now, personally, as a historian, I question the hard division that you postulate between sciences and humanities. Sciences pretend to be "harder" than they really are, in my view. And gender studies has provided some of the tools I use to think about why science isn't as "real" and "factual" as it pretends to be. That said, to accept your terms for the moment, yes, I see gender studies (and history, the way I do it) as humanities, not as science. Though my phd program was in the division of "social sciences."
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 12:53 PM · Report this
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Heartfelt: WHAT? Those mice are reabsorbing the living baby mice inside them?!??!! PREPOSTEROUS! Those mice are going to hell.

But seriously, why do other animals get all the good weird genetics? How useful would that be. Crap, I'm 16 and pregnant!! Better reabsorb the fetus!!

Kangaroos can put their fetal development on hold when there's not enough food. How sweet is that?
Posted by Caralain on February 12, 2011 at 1:05 PM · Report this
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@23, et al. throughout the thread: I'm surprised so much of this thread degenerated into people making hacky jokes about "enjoy serving fries, humanities majors!" Somebody said the humanities aren't doing well -- well, they are doing well, if you go by the standard of whether the fields of study prepare people to think critically in a complex world. A recent study (http://www.philnel.com/2011/01/18/nodrif…) showed that humanities majors are showing “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.” Most jobs require those skills. And complex reasoning is something most Americans desperately need to do more of. There's a reason most English majors don't go on to become Sarah Palin fans.

Humanities majors aren't particularly good at preparing undergrads for any particular job, but neither are most majors. A BA in biology doesn't qualify you to be a biologist -- you need a Ph.D. for that. And it's a little ludicrous to say that women's & gender studies is an ivory-tower discipline with no benefit in the real world. Gender relations and sexuality inform almost every aspect of our lives. Having some tools to think about them intelligently isn't a bad idea (not that all Women's Studies majors actually DO think about them intelligently). And a feminist perspective on current events is another thing American could use more of. Again, not a lot of Women's Studies grad running around claiming Sarah Palin is a great role model.

As for the earnest, preachy, p.c. undergrads who give the field a bad name -- I hate 'em, too. I never too a Women's Studies class in college, because I that heard people cry in Women's Studies classes. Yuck. The discipline attracts a certain type of person who's looking for a reason to impose her preferences on everyone else ("don't use that language, it's Offensive to Women!"), and overly prone to thinking she's found the One True Faith. Hopefully they mellow out later in life. Citing this as a reason to dismiss an entire discipline is absurd. It's like saying engineering is useless, because some engineering students you met were socially awkward aspies.
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Posted by Gudrun Brangwen on February 12, 2011 at 1:23 PM · Report this
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@137, @138 (I Hate Screen Names, EricaP): there are ways in which emotion and rationality can help each other. In fact, a lot of what passes for emotions (the so-called 'gut feelings') are often actually fossilized rationality -- 'gut feelings' can come from experience that was absorbed so well you don't have to think about it anymore (as in when you instinctively know your way back home). In some situations, using rationality (since rationality as we use it is not perfect -- we don't have full information, and our brains are not perfect computational devices but have a number of in-built biases) would actually lead us to make wrong decisions. There is such a concept as "emotional intelligence."

But I have the impression this is not what EricaP is talking about. When I see your posts, Erica, it seems to me you're talking about the kind of emotionality that doesn't actually depend on what the world is like, but only on how the speaker feels. Feelings can be wrong; gut feelings can be mistaken. I Hate Screen Names is right about the need for a good -- nor just any, but a good -- procedure for eliminating bad ideas. Because feelings can also be feelings of attachment to a bad idea -- because I had this idea, so it's my intellectual child.

It's great to open yourself to others, and allow emotional contact with them. But as a procedure for distinguishing good ideas from bad... it is not optimal. There are strong biases in our emotions, both innate and acquired. Forgetting about them can be... dangerous.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 1:37 PM · Report this
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"Are instinct and emotion considered inferior approaches because they're traditionally associated with women, or are they actually inferior and that's why they've been traditionally assigned to women?"

A very good question and I tend to think it's the latter situation in your question.


Indeed a very interesting question, @125 and @150. I agree, for the following reason: there are various kinds of emotions. Some of them were always associated with men (say, ambition; desire to conquer; patriotism; the old ferocitas the Romans used to praise so highly); others with women. All in all, it seems to me societies thought women and men were both pretty emotional, but they wanted them to have different kinds of emotions. Men were supposed to have the emotions that lead to success in war, in battle, in conquest, in an unfriendly environment; women were supposed to have the emotions that would make the home a 'sweet place for the warrior to rest' and which would nurture the children.The question is then whether men had the emotions they were supposed to have because these emotions would lead to success, and men were the only ones supposed to want success, or because that is their true nature, and our society defined 'success' as being the kind of success that men attain with said emotions.

All in all a complicated topic. But an interesting one.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 1:46 PM · Report this
214
Reason says that two people of the same sex shouldn't be prevented from marrying if two people of the opposite sex are allowed to marry.
Ah, Roma, that's an interesting point. No, reason does not say that what is good for people of opposite sex should necessarily be good for people of the same sex. Note that this argument would have the same structure as the following wrong argument: "Reason says that two people who are children (e.g., younger than 10) shouldn't be prevented from marrying if two people who are adults (e.g., older than 20) are allowed to marry."

This is not simple "reason": there are other assumptions that are not made clear in your argument. Children shouldn't be allowed to marry because their cognitive levels are still not sufficient to deal with marriage and its consequences. To allow them to marry would be to invite harm. In the case of same-sex marriages, there is no harm involved: even the strongest opponents to same-sex marriage have not been able to prove that there is harm (other than trying to say that children need a father and a mother -- in which case they should be in favor of same-sex marriages that remain childless, but still they aren't...).

It is also not necessarily logical to assume that if something is not harmful then it should be allowed and legal: there's an assumption about legal systems and 'what's better for people' in here. But I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader. :-)

In logics, you always need premises. You can't get something from nothing.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 2:04 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 215
@209: I'm not a fan of the "hard" distinction between science and humanities either-- I actually specifically thought of history and almost carved out a third category for it. But I didn't want to get bogged down in details in getting to the "subjective truth" vs. "objective truth" point. [And yes, I recognize that biases and perspective distort what one sees as "objective truth" and we can ultimately only consider our mental representations of objects rather than the objects themselves, but you get my meaning.]

If women's studies is humanities and not science, then I'm prepared to acknowledge its utility. I enjoyed studying Kant, even if I ultimately rejected his deontological framework (no surprise), because it gave me some insight into how other people process information. If women's studies is packaged as viewpoint informing rather than viewpoint commanding-- "here's how we see the world" vs. "here's how you should/must see the world"-- then that too has some value to an outside observer.

I suppose I'm approaching women's studies the same way I approach religious studies-- I don't necessarily agree with the tenets and think some of the conclusions are absurd, but there are bits and pieces that I can appropriate for my own use, and it's helpful to know how other people think anyway.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 2:07 PM · Report this
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@212 - ankylosaur: "the kind of emotionality that doesn't actually depend on what the world is like, but only on how the speaker feels"

Is how someone feels not part of what the world is like?

Some of us like to study how people feel & think.

Do I seem like someone who, personally, relies on emotion and rejects rationality? Interesting...
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 2:08 PM · Report this
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@209, 215: Just a quick follow up: yes, the "packaging" of the discipline matters. I can appreciate religious studies as a humanity but not as science. In the same way that trying to "convert" me to a religion forces me to empirically analyze the religion itself and (in all likelihood) reject it as scientifically unsound, so too trying to "convert" me to whatever is in vogue in women's studies circles would force me to empirically analyze the opinion and (in all likelihood) reject it as unsound.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 2:17 PM · Report this
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@169, the reason why I don't like the expression "rape culture" is that it trivializes this word "culture" which anthropologists have been trying to define and study for such a long time (the last time I counted, more than 100 different definitions had been proposed). We then also start hearing about "morning cereal culture" or "nail polishing culture" or "horror movie culture"... and complex cultural phenomena that interact in complex way with other complex cultural phenomena within the same culture end up reified, hypostasized and pointed at as "something independent".

I'd rather call talk about "the social locus of rape in our culture" or "cultural practices and beliefs that relate to rape". You may think it's terminological hair-splitting -- but I think talking about "rape culture" actually promotes, well, rape culture. It reifies it in a way that gives it more power despite the attempt to fight against it.

Consider the quotation you mentioned, for instance. All the ways in which women back off... they are also ways in which men back off, depending on the circumstances (males interacting also often establish hierarchies in which one backs off with mechanisms similar or identical to the ones you mention). The consequences for the men who back off in the same way more often than not are often similar: they are taken advantage of in various ways (though, among straights, the result is very rarely rape, since most straight men don't pursue other men sexually in the same way they pursue women and wouldn't also be able to rape other men). Backing off establishes a pattern that others learn to expect, and even manipulate; because we're very good at extracting generalizations (correctly or incorrectly) from experience. Social stereotypes also play an important role (they suggest that certain people -- e.g., women -- will always back off, so many people start out expecting this to happen with a given woman even before they have any experience with her); but they are not the only mechanism involved.

Because the reason why women back off more often are complex, and can't be simply reduced to "rape culture"; or even to stereotypes about women. In fact it would probably harm our chances of understanding this phenomenon in the context of Western culture to assume that.

Culture is like a big river, with a lot of local whirlpools and rapids. Some (say, what we call 'religion') are so big that it's even sort of useful to think of them in isolation from others; but even in these cases something important is lost. That's what makes culture such an interesting thing to study; it ain't easy.
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Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 2:19 PM · Report this
219
@218, I agree with everything you say except that I don't understand why you say that men "wouldn't also be able to rape other men." Men rape men quite frequently, so what did you mean?

I'll say again that I brought up the idea of rape culture because I am interested in the meme, not because I'm absolutely convinced that it is a good way of describing the culture in which I live.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 2:37 PM · Report this
220
or does it use less rigorous means (like the various arts, religious studies, linguistics, etc.)?

Erm, I'm a professional linguist. Maybe I'm nit-picking, but linguistics, among the human sciences, is the one that most clearly follows the traditional scientific method. (In fact, anthropologists often think we've formed a little ivory tower of our own with our 'scientificity' and 'laws' and whatnot.)
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 2:41 PM · Report this
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@220: I defer to your expertise; I just picked that example out of a hat. I confess I have almost no knowledge of linguistics beyond some familiarity with neurolinguistics, which is pretty science-based indeed.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 2:48 PM · Report this
222
@216 (EricaP): no, actually, reading your posts here (and others elsewhere), you don't look like somone who relies on emotion and rejects rationality. I sincerely think that most of your exchange with others here (especially I Hate Screen Names and Roma) are more based on misunderstandings than on real differences in worldview.

The study of how people feel and think can also be done in an empirical way. The feelings of others are then the explicandum, the data. But in some kinds of studies, the feelings of others are things to accept by virtue of existing as feelings of others, no further criterion needed. That I think is not correct.

And I'm not saying you do that.yourself. But the post I was reacting to did give this impression. The emotions and feelings of others shouldn't be belittled or despised, but they are of course not necessarily right just by virtue of existing. Other criteria are necessary.

Interesting that you see gender studies as part of the humanities. I had always thought that the one vantage point of the humanities was the re-introduction of the individual perspective as valid (by offering, for instance, qualitative studies as interesting and deserving of discussion, just as much as quantitative studies). Such a perspective is also favored in some currents within anthropology for anthropology itself in general. But I would still agree with those who say that the problem is many WS/GS programs want to tell you "what is" -- i.e. they want their output to be seen as objectively real, even though they didn't go through the necessary steps associated with objectivism and empiricism.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 2:52 PM · Report this
223
EricaP, I *knew* you'd say that I didn't understand Butler. That's what everyone says when someone points out that her writing is laced with jargon and densely written. She even chastises people down in conferences when the complaint is raised. In point of fact, I even removed my original ending: "I wonder how long it will take for you to respond that I didn't like it because I cannot understand it."

I never said I didn't find Butler's ideas powerful, nor did I say that I couldn't discern her arguments. I merely said that folks who come from disciplines that emphasis clarity of communication and "hard data" can find the theoretical forest of cultural studies a bit tedious. Ever heard of the Sokal incident? I consider myself a member of cultural studies, a feminist and an anti-racist activist, but that shit had me rolling on the floor. It seems to me intellectually dishonest to not reckon with the reasonable critiques of your own field without resorting to ad hominem attacks and categorical dismissals of any and all critiques. And, c'mon, you know there is some bullshit masquerading as scholarship in cultural studies. As just one example, one very "in vogue" cultural studeis scholar of the '90s argued that rich white kids mutilate their jeans to express solidarity with poor people--that was some serious bullshit.

Back to the other side: I Hate Screen Names, you can go on and on with your claim that all of gender studies reject empirical data based on one class with a feminist poet, but I would put to you that gender studies is interdisciplinary because it draws from different kinds of methodologies--including focus work, interviews, field experiments, oral histories, statistics and the more experiental and philosophical approaches that make you so uneasy. Your unease betrays your championing of your own fairness. If you were, for example, to take an oral history class about WWII, would you bristle that the primary evidence in such a class would be peoples' experiences?

I also think such critiques ignore that all historians and sociologists rely on on all kinds of "hard" data in order to be successful in their fields. It made me crazy when as a biology major I would hear scientists make this bullshit argument that there are no standards of evaluation or real evidence in the humanities. Again, your targeting of just gender studies mobilizes very similar prejudices.

On of the wrinkles I would add here is that I think too many humanities teachers over-value personal experience in the classroom--I think that that contributes to claims that we offer opinions and ideologies in place of "real" learning. But I think that might be another conversation.
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Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 3:01 PM · Report this
224
@218, indeed you said that you are interested in the meme "rape culture" rather than defending its appropriateness as a descriptor of the real world in which we live. I had understood that when I read your first post, but somehow all the back and forth in this thread made me forget that and react inappropriately. Please accept my apologies.

When I said men wouldn't be able to rape other men, I meant simply "most straight guys". Of course there are some who can, or else no men would ever be raped (and I should speak from personal experience: by some definitions, I myself, a man, was a rape victim, though I prefer to see it otherwise). Most straight guys wouldn't be able to rape even a woman, but obviously sufficiently many can or else rape wouldn't exist. (Especially in cases of forcible rape, I really fail to understand how a rapist can keep his erection while the woman he is attacking so clearly shows signs of panic and fear and so obviously rejects the situation; I often think this must be some kind of sexual kink, to be aroused by the very fear and disgust of the woman; anger at the woman can't be enough -- it usually kills erections rather than producing or maintaining them). But when raping a man, there is the added feature that most straight guys wouldn't be able to have an erection for another man under any circumstances, much the less when the victim shows signs of disgust, fear, and rejection. Are men who rape other men always at least a little bi-curious, even if they don't admit that to themselves? I don't know.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 3:04 PM · Report this
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@221 (I Hate Screen Names): think historical-comparative linguistics, the attempt to demonstrate that certain languages are related (e.g., that all Indo-European languages form one family with one hypothetical ancestor language that split into several branches that led to the currently existing languages of Europe). It is even possible to successfully reconstruct a large part of the vocabulary of this ancestral language, and many of its grammatical features, without having any direct access to any speakers of this hypothetical ancestor languages (all having died many millennia ago), by careful use of the scientific method in the methodology known as the historical-comparative method. (My own research involves the comparison of a specific group of South American Indian languages, and the reconstruction of their hypothetical proto-language, with precisely this methodology.)

Peer reviews, and criteria to identify bad ideas and exclude them from the idea pool are very important in linguistics; in fact, I don't think there are linguists who can get by or go far in this discipline without a good knowledge of how to defend ideas against scrutiny.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 3:14 PM · Report this
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@223: I make a distinction between "gender studies" and "the study of gender," and I recognize that my distinction has not been consistently conveyed. When I criticize "gender studies," I'm criticizing the way those departments are run in my experience. I have no problem with "the study of gender" as conducted psychologically and sociologically; indeed, I find both fascinating. And I've always liked history. :)

You're the second person to criticize my admittedly narrow experience in gender studies. I find that criticism misguided. I had an open mind about the field, I took two classes in it, I read all the papers assigned and a whole bunch more that weren't, and ultimately decided that the area was not for me. Is it your contention that only people who specialize within a field are qualified to judge it? There's a rather severe selection and confirmation bias there, don't you think? That said, I am certainly open to more data, and casting gender studies as a humanity rather than a science makes me want to do more reading.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 3:17 PM · Report this
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@223 (maddy811), your point against I Hate Screen Names is well taken: it is, well, unscientific to base a claim on the lack of scientificity of a whole discipline on one experience with a class given by a feminist poet. Obviously more data is necessary. But let me turn it against you (in the good sense of the word: I see debate as a dance, not as war ;-): what example could you give of gender studies classes, works, papers etc. that do not reject empiricism and criticism in an off-hand manner and do engage in theory-testing and actual attempts to come closer to the truth (as opposed to 'expressing opinions')? Which researchers do you know are open to different ideas and don't assume you're criticizing them because you're privileged and want to maintain your privileges, etc., but actually engage intellectually with the criticism and try to extract useful things in it? (My experience with many of them -- and it has admittedly happened here on the internet, not in academia itself -- has thus far been mildly negative.)
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 3:25 PM · Report this
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@225: Agree; sounds pretty scientific to me. :)

My back-of-a-cocktail-napkin test for "scientific" is falsifiability: can it be disproved? If so, practitioners generally search for that disproving evidence as a matter of course. I can conceive of evidence that would disprove solutions to the problems you described; I assume linguists (who like, do this for a living) search for and produce that evidence, and thus it is not at all difficult for me to see linguistics in scientific terms.

Thanks for the explanation.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 3:29 PM · Report this
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@223, @226: To clarify slightly: I take a scientific approach to my analysis of gender studies: I gathered data and drew a conclusion that best fit the data. Like any theory, I may be wrong, and I'm open to data showing that to be the case. The revelation that my selection of materials was influenced by a poet makes me think that my random sampling was biased.

That said, a rebuttal that consists of "you don't have enough experience" without providing any specific data points that I missed does nothing to convince me. Empiricists can be a real pain in the ass, no? :)
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 3:40 PM · Report this
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@ 228, and indeed you are correct: there are ways of disproving claims (not so long ago, a certain claim -- i.e. that Eastern Algonquian languages form a clear sub-branch within the Algonquian family -- has come under attack with arguments that seem pretty convincing and falsify earlier claims, basically by showing new evidence that cannot be accounted for with the hypothesis of an Eastern Algonquian subbranch).

Of course, "falsifiability" is a good criterion, but not itself infallible. You probably know that there are good philosophical reasons why Vienna-school logical positivism is no longer considered a defendable position in the philosophy of science? Falsifiability is no longer considered a perfect criterion for scientificity (in a nutshell, because the falsification of a hypothesis is itself a hypothesis that can be falsified by further evidence, thus reinstating the original "falsified" hypothesis, which means that one can never be sure that a given hypothesis has really been falsified).

Having said that... I will hasten to add that, alas, personality worship and non-empirical argumenta ab auctoritate are not unknown among linguists. A certain element of subjectivity persists (many historical linguists are very strongly opposed to the use of statistics, which they see as 'unnecessary', for instance). We strive for scientificity, and have achieved higher standards than most human sciences (I'd claim even economics is often less empirically oriented than linguistics); but perfect we are not.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 3:43 PM · Report this
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That said, a rebuttal that consists of "you don't have enough experience" without providing any specific data points that I missed does nothing to convince me. Empiricists can be a real pain in the ass, no? :)

That is in principle correct, but it misses the point. The degree to which a certain hypothesis invokes respect in others depends among other things on the amount of work put into it, which often correlates with the amount of data that was looked at. If your experience with gender studies is limited to one course, it is not illogical to assume that your sample is too small to warrant compelling conclusions -- just as a statistical study that only has, say, 10 human subjects does look too small to command much respect. (I'm told less than 32 subjects is never a good idea.).

Or, using another scientific metaphor: when your data points are too few, the number of possible curves that fit your graph is so large that one may very well feel that the one you chose for it may not be the true one. Even if later studies do demonstrate that your chosen curve was indeed the best fit, you couldn't have claimed it on the basis of so few data points.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 12, 2011 at 3:51 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 232
On a completely different track, I'm sad that we're over 230 comments without any data on what asexuals think about when they masturbate. :)
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 3:56 PM · Report this
233
Good question, ankylosaur. I would start by saying that these are often, precisely because of the everpresent suspicion that surrounds them that they're not legitimate scholarship, very defensive spaces. Personally, I found graduate school emotionally exhausting for precisely this reason--I felt personally policed. I too love debate, and I cannot count the number of times I got shouted down or mocked or called names simply for asking critical questions. Even when I would preface questions with "I am playing devil's advocate here," I would get accused of being secretly opposed to the politics in question or (as I was here) assumed to be too intellectually challenged to get it. I've been told that i cannot be a feminist if i like having sex with men, that I can only see class but not race, that my upbringing on welfare to parents who didn't finish high school does not cancel my "white privilege," that all whites are hopelessly racist, and on and on and on. And I remain steadfast that these scholarly forays are rich, necessary, and legitimate.

I'm not a gender studies person. My work is in journalism and African-American history. However, I tend to prize works that are ambivalent and evidence-driven rather than advocacy-prone. As for specific examples, I'm a big fan of Susan Douglas's work on women in the media, as she operates on the assumption that the media plays inherently contradictory roles in women's lives, offering possibilities for joy and rebellion as often as repression.

I also just finished a book by a historian Liz Cohen about how women's consumer activism proved vital to progressive politics in the 1930s and WWII. I found her argument interesting and persuasive, but, again, it wasn't offering a theory; it emerged from archival work and sociological data.

In terms of race, I really prize social scientists' experimental work documenting how readily news viewers can be "primed" through coded language to racially hostile attitudes, and I regularly use that research to "back up" more philosophical arguments about the persistence of white racism in American life. I trust that many women's studies folks do the same, drawing on research across discplines, prizing ambivalence and contradiction, and trying to integrate theory with empirical work. I know from experience that there are other folks who maintain open hostility to all empiricism, denounce people who dare criticize them, and reject work that doesn't conform to their political agenda. I think they're weak scholars, lousy teachers and petty human beings, and I think they out themselves as such over time. But, to call for the dismissal of their fields strikes me as a misfire. If there's a biologist who denies evolution, few argue for the dismisal of biology as a field. Yet folks regularly will point to folks in our fields and extrapolate to the fields as a whole. To me, that's why some of us are so defensive in the first place.
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Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 4:02 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 234
@231: I'm using a statistical analysis here. I read maybe 40 women's studies books and essays; none of them employed science. If even 10% of women's studies essays were scientific, the odds of my hitting none of them in 40 samples is around 1.5%. That's a small enough number that I feel comfortable forming my conclusion.

Of course, that assumes the 40 samples are random samples, which I now question.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 4:06 PM · Report this
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@233: Your point about loud-mouthed idiots is well taken. Particularly since the loud-mouthed idiots in gender studies caused me to analyze the field as commanding rather than informing. We need better publicists. :)

I think there's a key distinction between your biology example and women's studies, though: a biologist who denied evolution and trumpeted something completely lacking in evidence (say, creation "science") would be denounced by other biologists. In a real sense, he or she would no longer be a biologist. A women's studies scholar who denied empiricism would face no such sanctions (or at least that's my impression). So outsiders are a bit more justified in drawing conclusions about the field from the welcomed anti-empiricist than the ostracized anti-evolutionist.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 4:17 PM · Report this
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maddy811 @223...You suggested @196 that you saw Butler's "dense theory as a load of self-inflating bullshit." It was hard to predict from that, that you would next say: "I never said I didn't find Butler's ideas powerful."

I wrote: "If you didn't understand her, is it possible you weren't paying close enough attention?" I think raising that question hardly qualifies as "ad hominem attacks and categorical dismissals of any and all critiques." If I went to a talk on physics, and complained that I found it so theoretically obtuse that I didn't even understand what the topic was... would people be justified in thinking I should study more physics before I decide whether the jargon was obfuscatory or necessary? Why is that more reasonable for physics than for gender studies?

I agree with you that many people use theory to hide their lack of ideas. I don't think Butler is one of them, and I don't think you've produced any evidence that she is.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 4:18 PM · Report this
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@224 – self-declared straight men can rape other men with broomstick handles. Or their hands. Erections and arousal are not required for rape.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 4:20 PM · Report this
238
@226 -- "only people who specialize within a field are qualified to judge it?"
In all academic fields the evaluators are taken from the same field. People outside the field get to think whatever they want. (Freedom of speech :) Gender theorists say all sorts of crap about hard scientists, and vice versa. Each field defers intellectually only to people within its own field, and only listens to outsiders when they find a way to communicate their ideas in terms that also make sense within the field.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 4:22 PM · Report this
239
Those of you criticizing gender studies bear the burden of proof. Name a gender theorist who spouts the kind of self-justifying self-congratulatory bullshit you're talking about, and who is also well respected in the field, as evidenced by many publications in peer reviewed journals and a permanent appointment in a prestigious gender studies department. Sokal doesn't count for this, sorry.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 4:27 PM · Report this
240
EricaP, return to my post: i said that if you're used to hard data you "could" dismiss Butler along those lines. I didn't say that I did so. I did, however, say that I think she's a lousy writer. Powerful ideas, undeniably influential, doggedly painful (at least for me) to read.

The example I was thinking of, in truth, is Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic. I used to play a game with friends that you could open that book at random, pick any sentence, and then try to figure out whether or not said sentence had a real subect and verb in it.

As for the comparison between physics and gender studies (or cultural theory), yes, all fields develop their own terminology, but, as I remember, the concepts of physics are challenging, not the language used to describe those concepts. There are lots of very useful terms in cultural studies, but there are also ones that are needlessly obfuscating and self-promoting.

Case in point: a book that made a big splash when I was in graduate school: "Disidentification." Open that book and notice how many paragraphs begin with "Disidentification is..." (Another grad school game). Turns out that plenty of scholars before him had words describing "disidentification" just fine, so it was hard to not conclude that this guy was trying to coin a big word to establish himself as a scholar. (And don't think I didn't get criticized for saying that shit in class, but, c'mon, if you have to define the same word over and over and over, are you really producing scholarship?')

Boy, I'm tired...
Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 4:30 PM · Report this
241
If something is urgent, it is emotional.

If you keep your eyes open for them, you come across news pieces once in a while on guys without or who lose their emotions. They aren't characters who behave like Mr Spock. They're guys who can't leave the cereal aisle, from constantly grinding-on comparisons between brands and varieties.

Also, feelings are simply judgments we accept from intuiting their validity, and thoughts are judgments we accept from how the logic adds up. Copernicus would have been perfectly logical to continue accepting the Ptolemic planetary system. Logical is not a synonym for correct.

If you want to make an impact, you would do well to avoid saying "emotional" and "feelings" when you mean to say something is wrong or to portray something as inaccurate. The misuses of those words are themselves wrong, and posterity takes every opportunity to ignore inaccuracy.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 12, 2011 at 4:33 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 242
@238: I'm not referring to evaluating ideas within the field; I'm referring to evaluating the field as a whole.

Let's take an easier example: Scientology, whose practitioners insist is a scientific discipline. Suppose I spend several months reading the works of L. Ron Hubbard, attending audits, and doing whatever else it is Scientologists do. At the end of those several months, I conclude that Scientology is a load of shit and a giant scam, and I publicize this conclusion/viewpoint. Would it be a valid rebuttal to say that I don't have enough experience with Scientology, and that only people who have penetrated the mysteries of ten years of dona... err, "study" are qualified to judge it?

Of course, I'm not comparing women's studies to the heaping mound of horseshit that is Scientology. I'm simply pointing out the flaw in the rebuttal.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 4:36 PM · Report this
243
To return to another post, I just did provide a specific example: Munoz's Disidentification. Utter crap. Scholars of marginalized groups have been describing cultural appropriation and reappropriation for decades--he spends most of the book arguing for his definition of his new word. I wanted to stab out my own eyes, and I LOVE gender play and subversion!

I gave another example above: John Fiske's essay on Jeans as a site of popular resistance. That dude shovels some serious shit in that piece too, as I mentioned above.

Another example: I had a "colleague" who set out to "prove" that women who write slash fanfic were the most radical challengers of patriarchy and heteronormativity and to "disprove" psychologists who argued that said women were pathological. She had her thesis before collecting any data, and steadfastly dismissed anyone who pointed this out by responding with piles of anthropology theory about the self-deluding folly of empirical work and the scientific method. Guess what? She writes and consumes slash fanfic. I don't mean to pick specifically on her, as she was one of many in my program who would dismiss their own biases as political radicalism, and, in doing so, dismiss counterarguments and conflcting arguments categorically. You don't need to do scholarship if you already have an answer to an intellectual question--that's political advocacy and polemicism.
Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 4:40 PM · Report this
244
maddy811@243 – if those are responding to my request @239, they're not directly on point. John Fiske is in media studies rather than gender studies; Gilroy is in race/diaspora studies. I've never heard of Muñoz, but apparently he's in the fields of performance studies, visual culture, queer theory, cultural studies, and critical theory. But I'm sure they've all been cited by gender studies courses at prestigious universities, so I'll give them to you.

I'[ll give them to you, just as long as we give equal disparagement to the fields of media studies, race/diaspora studies, performance studies, visual culture, queer theory, cultural studies, and critical theory.

When a woman writes in to Dan, and her letter is mocked in part for her field of gender studies, I'm just glad to hear it's not the gender part of gender studies which is at issue, but simply the cultural/theoretical/humanities part. As long as gender studies is not being criticized more than those fields, I'm happy for you all to hold it in high or low regard, as you see fit.

Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 5:30 PM · Report this
245
@242 As I said before "People outside the field get to think whatever they want." That's just as true for the Scientologists as for the gender theorists. You want to call Scientology a "heaping mound of horseshit," I'll agree with you. But we shouldn't pat ourselves on the back and think that we've converted any Scientologists. We're just speaking to the converted. Similarly, you can think whatever you like about gender studies, but you won't convince me that it's crap unless you try to engage with its utility on its own terms.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 5:37 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 246
@245: I'm not trying to convince you of anything. Even were I the most eloquent writer in the history of the world, there is pretty much no chance of convincing anyone that something in which they've invested a significant amount of time is worthless.

I don't have a dog in this hunt, so to speak, so was hoping you could convince me. I am now convinced of women's studies' value in describing the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of a subset of the population-- i.e., women's studies scholars and some (but not all) of the women they claim to represent. I am not convinced that I should lend any objective weight to any of those thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, but it was my impression that you agreed that no objective weight should be taken.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 5:51 PM · Report this
247
@246, If you lent objective weight to my feelings & beliefs, what would that mean? I believe that gender is a spectrum, not a binary. I believe the same of sexual preference. I give those beliefs great weight in my life; they help me understand how people around me work, and influence how I decide with whom to have sex and how I should carry myself in the world. Also, those beliefs encourage me to post a lot on Slog, which if I were a different person, who had never experience Judith Butler, I might not do. (Or I would do very differently.) My categories of understanding the world are vastly different than they were before I read Butler.

So - I think all that is super super important. But, what would it mean if I gave them "objective weight"? Or if I thought you should give them "objective weight"? That I would tell people what categories they belong in, and try to get the state to punish them if they step outside their categories? Surely not. Then what does "objective weight" mean, in cultural analysis?
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 5:59 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 248
@247: By "objective weight," I mean considering something as universally true rather than true-for-you. For example, the fact that you consider gender a spectrum does not mean that gender actually is a spectrum, although I happen to agree there. Same with sexual preference.

Something that I do give objective weight to: women as a class being undervalued in society. Not because some women think that they are, but because the statistical and demographic data reveal that they are. As a comparison, some men think men are undervalued in society. There is no data (to my knowledge) that supports that subjective belief, so I do not give those guys' opinions any objective weight.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 6:22 PM · Report this
249
Ok, I Hate Screen Names, you flipped me back to the other side. I echo EricaP's question about what could possibly lend "objective weight?" And, again, you say that you don't suffer from confirmation bias, but gender studies must provide "objective" evidence? Can history? Literature? Sociology? Anthropology? Psychology? Again, your rigidity in your dismissal of gender studies is suspicious. While I reject categorical dismissals of empiricism, I also think it's equally ridiculous to pose some sort of standard of "objectivity" in academic studies of the human condition. What exactly would that look like? How can anyone meet that? Or is it only women's studies that must do so?

EricaP, sorry, but you needed Butler to realize that gender and sexuality exist beyond binaries?
Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 6:24 PM · Report this
250
@249, I'll cop to being an underinformed idiot with no proper theory training until I got to grad school in 1993. But tell me who was writing about gender & sexuality not being binaries before 1990? Maybe I could have learned it from them; in practice, as it happens, I learned it from Butler.

Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 6:40 PM · Report this
251
EricaP:
Even if one accepts that GS/WS is a discipline just like any other and whose academic standards are as rigorous as any others -- and I don't see why it wouldn't be -- it does rather leave the puzzling question of why it produces so many graduates who seem to badly need to open floodgates of wordiness to seemingly correct everybody else, and, well, proselytize. They remind one of folks who have come to Jesus and all they want to talk about is the Bible. ("Did you see the game last night?" "I don't feel that you understand that ALL games are the creations of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who ....[etc]". ) And, like Jesus freaks, they just assume that if you aren't instantly in agreement with their particular interpretation of the culture then it's because you you're either bad, or you just don't know enough and they can convert you by talking more and more about the promised land.

Those, I think, are more accurate explanations as to why a lot of folks have aimed jokes/potshots at WS/GS majors. HC, our letter writer, is a good example. My god her letter is a tome and it speaks to one of the most experienced and open-minded sex columnists in N.America as if he's a baffled noob who needs all the help he can get in understanding How These Things Work. So when somebody rolls their eyes and says "oh dear, another woman's studies grad" it's often simply because that assumption -- that such a steamroller of information-spewing, jargon-laden lecturing and often condescending earnestness is a product of a WS/GS program -- is so often right. I can't recall seeing any other discipline that produces the type in such staggering -- and often wearying -- numbers.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 12, 2011 at 6:45 PM · Report this
252
Unpost, unpost! Kinsey, of course, for sexuality. Damn. Not that I knew that work back then, but still.

And what I got from Butler was also about the performativity of gender even for people who think of themselves as being completely 100% girls.

Which leads me to: IHSN @248, I do actually think that's universally true, that no one is actually naturally a girl, separate from how her culture constructs girlness. It's true for me, but I have become convinced by Butler that it's true for everyone. Girls, like chairs, don't exist separate from culture. I understand that to most people in our culture, I sound as crazy as a Scientologist. And I don't run around forcing girls to agree with me. But I believe it has objective weight for everyone, even those who don't believe it. Still don't understand what consequences follow from that.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 6:47 PM · Report this
Roma 253
214/ankylosaur: No, reason does not say that what is good for people of opposite sex should necessarily be good for people of the same sex. Note that this argument would have the same structure as the following wrong argument: "Reason says that two people who are children (e.g., younger than 10) shouldn't be prevented from marrying if two people who are adults (e.g., older than 20) are allowed to marry." This is not simple "reason": there are other assumptions that are not made clear in your argument. Children shouldn't be allowed to marry because their cognitive levels are still not sufficient to deal with marriage and its consequences. To allow them to marry would be to invite harm. In the case of same-sex marriages, there is no harm involved:

Au contraire. Reason would not say that two people who are children shouldn't be prevented from marrying if two people who are adults are allowed to marry. There are good reasons why we don't allow children to do things -- get married, have sex with adults, vote, go to war, drive cars -- that adults are allowed to do. This distinction between adults and children is not based in emotion.

In contrast, the opposition to same-sex marriage by religious (and other) conservatives is based in emotion (just as opposition to interracial marriage was.) As you noted, in the case of same-sex marriages, there is no harm involved. Therefore, there is no rational basis for preventing it.

Posted by Roma on February 12, 2011 at 6:49 PM · Report this
254
@251, that is a puzzlement. One could propose theories... but I don't think gender studies would have any special expertise for answering that puzzle.
Posted by EricaP on February 12, 2011 at 6:50 PM · Report this
255
250: Kinsey? The Romans? Folks within the New Left/Counterculture, and Feminism of the 1960s? That's off the top of my head. I also tend to think that scholarship caught up with lived experience, and was able to do so as, in the case of the US, social life got more open. I suspect that folks' sex lives were always more varied and rich than publically revealed, but that may be optimism on my part.

To take race, we have centuries of white men railing against the mongrelization that would result from race mixing as they raped their female slaves. Thus, I also think people are quite adept at rationalizing away and repressing what they actually do while publically professing some higher moral standard for others to observe, but that may be cynicism on my part.

I also tend to wary of anyone with a vested interest in telling people who and how they should fuck. I tend to conclude that folks who are preoccupied with controlling others sex lives are sufferin' under some mighty demons of their own...
Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM · Report this
256
re: objective truth: Oliver Sacks devoted a chapter of Anthropologist on Mars to a stroke victim who recovered completely achromotopic color-blind. Absolute black and white color-blindness.

Citing a dictum from Goethe, "optical illusion is optical truth," Sacks says there's no real reason to believe there's really such a thing as color. Color is just something our brains fabricate, and there's no reason to believe his patient's color-blindness is any more real than how the rest of us conventionally experience sight.

The insistence for something like "objective weight" is often by someone who gives passes to a lot of ephemera.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 12, 2011 at 7:05 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 257
@252: I didn't say that gender wasn't socially constructed; I said that the fact that you consider gender socially constructed does not mean that it is. I did state that I agree with you, mostly because I've looked at enough cross-cultural and historical data to know that the definition of "girlness" varies across societies. It is that reviewed data to which I give objective weight, not any person's opinion. (Though as the joke goes, if you gather enough opinions together, you end up with data.)

The difference between objective truth and subjective truth is one of policy. It is objectively true that women are undervalued, and so we as a society should implement various programs and stratagems to rectify that. It is not objectively true that men are undervalued-- though it may be subjectively true for those "men's rights" douchebags-- so we as a society can ignore their doucheiness.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 12, 2011 at 7:06 PM · Report this
258
...no reason to believe his patient's color-blindness is any *less* real...
Posted by Mike Leung on February 12, 2011 at 7:09 PM · Report this
259
re: 257: It is not objectively true women are undervalued because, by definition, value is subjective.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 12, 2011 at 7:14 PM · Report this
cyranothe2nd 260
Dear H.C.,

Humans have these little things that we like to call "ethics." They help society--and relationships within society--run smoothly. Asexy people have an ETHICAL OBLIGATION to disclose their sexuality, just as a gay man is ethically obligated to tell his straight friend that he's interested in him, rather than duping him into going on 'dates' and whatnot. Yes, it's hard out there for the asexy. There are few asexy people out there. But surely this lack is due, in part, to the continued secrecy and shame they feel? And, even if this isn't the case, it doesn't follow that the lack of available partners makes lying to non-asexy people okay. It doesn't.

There are plenty of people who are willing to compromise for a partner they think is worth it. But they can't have the chance to compromise, or even be with a worthy partner (in my mind anyone who lies to their partner isn't worth being in a relationship with) if the asexy partner isn't *honest*.

And again--this honesty, this ethical conduct that the asexy should adhere to would be greatly enhanced by a small handful that "came out." It would give permission to others (some surveys claim as much as 10% of the population is low-sexual or asexual). But, more importantly, it would convince the majority that asexuality wasn't something to be looked askance at because asexual people would be acting with integrity.

Sincerely,

Cyrano
Master's Candidate, Rhetoric and Composition, Washington State (LOL!)
Posted by cyranothe2nd on February 12, 2011 at 7:20 PM · Report this
261
Dan, thanks for such a sweet and thoughtful response to the letter. That's above and beyond, and I appreciate it.
Posted by crater on February 12, 2011 at 7:30 PM · Report this
262
Oh noes, cyrano..., does this mean we now have to debate the pitfalls and virtues of rhetoric and composition programs?!?
Posted by maddy811 on February 12, 2011 at 7:31 PM · Report this
263
@83, @112, @139, @232:
What do asexuals think about while masturbating?

I have a spanking fetish. I masturbate to fantasies of being spanked for being a naughty, naughty boy.

Note that it doesn't matter whether I'm being spanked by a man or woman. See how that works? This works with any fetish/fantasy that doesn't rely on male or female anatomy. So it's pretty easy to imagine after all.

I'm what they call demisexual. For me that means that I am not turned on by the physical appearance of men or women, but I am turned on by other "secondary" characteristics like a British accent and low-talking. It's confusing, since for the purposes of this discussion we're talking about the asexual people who have no or low sex drives. And many do. But the defining characteristic of asexuality (at least as I understand it) is that you are turned on by the physical appearance of neither men nor women. Give me a demure Londoner who knows how to use a wooden paddle, and my sexual response springs to attention. But I have never once in my life sexually responded to the physical appearance -- boobs, butt, arms, legs, torso, etc. -- in person, in magazine, on tv, in movies, etc. -- of a man or woman. That's what makes me asexual.

Does that help? Or just confuse the issue even more?

A confession: my fetish isn't spanking. I'm too much of a wimp to disclose my real fetish, but the spanking example is close enough to illustrate my point.
Posted by crater on February 12, 2011 at 7:39 PM · Report this
264
maddy811 at 262: Is that a rhetorical question?
Posted by seeker6079 on February 12, 2011 at 7:45 PM · Report this
Cherry Pirate 265
No one is going to read a comment this far in but I'm writing this anyways for my own catharsis. First, I'm sick of every sexual minority pretending their struggle is like gay, bi and lesbian struggles. It's not. Just like gay rights is not analogous to the civil rights struggle in the 60s though lots like to pretend it is. There are big differences. Which brings me to my second gripe. Fuck this letter writer alluding to this analogy of gay and lesbian people. Who is persecuting them? The christians would fucking love it. No one is intruding on their goddam rights to be open and freely marry. The only persecution they will face is the simple and sad fact that they have a sex drive out of step with almost everyone. I guess they might never understand how hurtful it is to be sexually neglected, but I can tell you it's at least as hurtful as being alone. If you don't want to have sex, then just have friends. I am as close to some of my friends as I am to my loved one. But the fact is that girlfriend boyfriend relationships form largely out of the special contingencies of being sexually active (not just straight sex, i mean like increased trust and risk etc). The asexual might not feel loved, but it's not because they are persecuted or misunderstood, it's because they apparently want an extra special best friend that is not going to look any different than most people's close friends. I don't buy the strife matches LGBT strife, and i don't buy the asexuality is the root cause of their strife. I'm not sure i've made my point as well as it could be but no one is going to read to comment 265 anyways.
Posted by Cherry Pirate on February 12, 2011 at 10:53 PM · Report this
266
265: Cherry Pirate, I read your comment. And I think it's spot on, well put, and on target: the cherry on the message board parfait.
Posted by maddy811 on February 13, 2011 at 5:50 AM · Report this
267
@264 lol
@266 cute
Posted by EricaP on February 13, 2011 at 10:03 AM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 268
@263: Thank you for sharing. I had assumed that asexuality was synonymous with a lack of sex drive, which I think was the main stumbling block. If I may make a no doubt imperfect analogy: I consider myself heterosexual because I am sexually attracted to some (not all) women, and am uninterested in the remaining women and all men. If I had that same "uninterested" attitude toward all women, I would be asexual.

Or another angle: I've had a couple female friends that were interested in me romantically and presumably sexually, for whom I cared dearly, but to whom I was just not physically attracted. If I had that same response toward everyone, I would be asexual.

The thing I have trouble getting is the separation of the romantic and sexual. If I have romantic feelings for someone, I want to have sex with her, without exception. (I liked or even loved the friends I referenced above, but I didn't looooove them.) I think that mental equivalence is why "sexuals" are so devastated when they end up with an asexual: because we can't separate the two, and thus being told "I don't want to have sex with you, ever" is equivalent to being told "I don't love you."

@260, 262, 264: Rhetoric and composition programs suck donkey balls.

I keed, I keed. :)
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 14, 2011 at 9:07 AM · Report this
269
Small children will seek to "pair-up" when they have no amorous-drive to speak of, and can't at all to be said to be able to consent to sex. Like that scene in Amadeus where Mozart as a child was reported to have proposed to a princess whose family he was performing for. "Will you marry me, yes or no?"

All this talk doesn't change the disconnect and detachment from our very natures it seems to take to rationalize and drive into taboo something so obviously basic throughout our lives -- such as the drive to form a romantic relationship in the absence of a sex-drive -- whether a sex-drive ever develops or not.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 14, 2011 at 11:33 AM · Report this
270
Small children will seek to "pair-up" when they have no amorous-drive to speak of, and can't at all to be said to be able to consent to sex. Like that scene in Amadeus where Mozart as a child was reported to have proposed to a princess whose family he was performing for. "Will you marry me, yes or no?"

All this talk doesn't change the disconnect and detachment from our very natures it seems to take to rationalize and drive into taboo something so obviously basic throughout our lives -- such as the drive to form a romantic relationship in the absence of a sex-drive -- whether a sex-drive ever develops or not.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 14, 2011 at 11:34 AM · Report this
271
You also see something similar in Junot Diaz's Pulitzer-winning "Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao" where Oscar is the school heart-throb -- until he was 10, and a girlfriend broke him.

Sex-drive or no, being the post-heartbreak Oscar is misery.
Posted by Mike Leung on February 14, 2011 at 11:53 AM · Report this
272
*facepalm*

LW, do the rest of us asexuals a favor and STOP DOING US FAVORS. This letter was dry, dull, boring and came from a angle of completely misunderstanding/misrepresenting what Dan actually said.

And again, I totally agree in being as upfront about your sexual preferences (or lack thereof) as possible early in a relationship, and if those preferences happen to change in a relationship, time to change the relationship, whether though a new compromise both can live with or getting a new relationship. Compatibility is too damned important, especially if what you're into is a non-negotiable. I personally would not try to compromise with someone with a "normal" sex drive as it takes a lot out of me to be penetrated. I understand that, if I wasn't with someone right now, I would have to wait a long, long time before finding someone else who can accept that and my desire to remain monogamous (tried the poly thing, didn't like it very much). I'm okay with that.
Posted by Acegal on February 15, 2011 at 4:14 AM · Report this
273
@251 seeker6079 it does rather leave the puzzling question of why it produces so many graduates who seem to badly need to open floodgates of wordiness to seemingly correct everybody else, and, well, proselytize."

AMEN. You know, for a bunch of people who are against the patriarchy, WS/GS graduates tend to be awful PATRONIZING.

here's an idea: try not to alienate people who are on your goddamn side!
example of GS/WS douchery: a friend who is an ESL speaker is speaking, and trying to be inclusive says 'he or she', only to be interrupted by a GS nutbar yelling at him to use the gender inclusive pronoun 'ze'. His language doesn't even have gender specific pronouns, he was trying to use 'he or she' to be inclusive! Also HE ISN'T EVEN FLUENT IN REAL ENGLISH, don't start throwing bullshit made up terms at him!! WTF? Why do GS/WS people always do douchey stuff like this? Cut that shit out already if you want people to take you seriously!
Posted by Caralain on February 15, 2011 at 8:23 PM · Report this
Vampireseal 274
To Seandr: Asexuals can (but not necessarily) have a libido, but not experience sexual attraction. For many, they may get an urge to masturbate, but never think of people before or while doing so. In fact, the idea of trying to think of people while masturbating would be off-putting or dull.--like trying to masturbate while thinking of math or rocks.

Some asexuals have a low libido, some have very high libidos, some have anything in between. The common demoninator is that people just don't turn them on. I'm asexual, and I *do* have a libido. However, people just don't turn me on. I am no more turned on by a human, than I am a lamp post. Yet, I'm not lacking in sex drive. My body prefers itself.

I don't doubt that perhaps some asexuals have a low sex drive, and that is the cause of their asexuality. However, why should it matter? I don't quibble over people's self-definitions and their reasons for them. People can call themselves what they want, no matter to me.
Posted by Vampireseal on February 15, 2011 at 10:34 PM · Report this
Vampireseal 275
Cherry Pirate:

What if you're a homoromantic asexual? What if you are two same-sex asexuals wishing to marry? There are homoromantic asexual couples, you know. They can't marry each other any more than homosexual couples can. I don't think too many asexuals are going to quibble with the fact that homosexuals and trans-folk have had more systematic abuse and discrimination. However, some asexual people are trans, and some are in same-sex relationships. There is cross-over all around, and an asexual person can be discriminated against, though not necessarily for the asexuality by itself.

Which makes me wonder what would happen if homoromantic asexuals were more vocal (or noticed, rather) in the media. Would those still against same-sex marriage still rail against same-sex asexual couples?
Posted by Vampireseal on February 15, 2011 at 10:46 PM · Report this
cougar.in.training 276
I know this is an old letter, but a word on disclosures in general: Back in my single days, I disclosed a lot on the first date. In fact, since people normally talk to someone before going on a date, I tried to disclose everything I could BEFORE the first date. I disclosed being bi (even though I’m monogamous), I disclosed being pagan, I disclosed having acted in some pretty racy films (even though there was no nudity), I disclosed having been through a lot of therapy. I disclosed all of this (and more) not just for my date’s sake- but for mine as well. I considered it weeding out incompatible people before I got emotionally involved and got my heart broken when it turned out that one of these things made me un-dateable to them.
And you know what? I still got TONS of dates. I still tended to have my pick of people. I just got to tell whether they were a good pick for me from the start, instead of being rejected later because something about me made us incompatible. And I know there were a lot of people I broke things off with, not because of what they disclosed, but that they didn’t disclose it earlier and I felt duped.
So seriously, asexual who do not disclose, I have no pity for you.
Posted by cougar.in.training on March 10, 2011 at 11:01 AM · Report this

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