Monday, June 9, 2008

Is There Really a Point to This?

An email from a friend I received the other day prompted me to turn my thoughts to this blog and whether it is actually in any measurably way meeting the intent behind its creation. Primarily I intended this to be an exercise in throwing out my own ideas about things I am learning about D/s, submissiveness among men, female led relationships and related ideas associated with these particular concepts of an alternative lifestyle, and hopefully to spark discussion about them so that I could benefit from the perspectives of others.

Almost from the beginning I have been chagrined by the lack of comments from readers. Occasionally I do get very wonderful well thought out comments which I have deeply and sincerely appreciated. I don’t often respond to comments because I have already stated my own opinion and don’t wish for people to feel I want to re-direct the discussion back to my own stated position. Nothing couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m trying to learn and figure things out myself and I know I don’t have all the answers. So my desire for comments is not motivated by ego or any other selfish motive beyond wanting to know what others who share an interest in the things I write about think. On the best day to date, five people took time to make comments about an essay of interest to them but on most days, no one comments.

Yes, I do understand that some people come here just to read and participating through commenting is just not something that interests them. Yet when I read other blogs, as I do on a habitual basis, I rarely see a post with no comments and many posts have several each day. Based on the average number of daily visitors to this blog, one could assume that there must be those who are interested in reading what is posted here or the numbers would it seem decline over time yet they remain fairly constant. But I have to believe that number of comments really is the criteria I should be using to judge whether this blog is or is not a success as far as my intent for maintaining it.

My friend suggested that my posts may be too lengthy and given that many of us these days have rather short attention spans or are pressed for time, some simply can’t devote the time necessary to completely read the posts much less think about the topic and formulate a comment. I admit I do tend to be wordy and when I’m thinking about a particular topic I tend to write almost everything that occurs to me about it. So perhaps there is some truth to my friend’s opinion.

It was my decision to create this blog and to continue posting to it so I’m not of course looking for sympathy. But to be honest it requires a good bit of time to research a topic and then create what I hope is always a cogent essay about the topic that people will find interesting to read and consider. Time I could easily use for other things like working on my own relationships, trying to complete my novel or any number of other worthwhile endeavors. If by and large this blog does not reflect ideas you consider worthy of considering and discussing then there is really no point to it or to the expenditure of time I give to it.

I’m not begging for comments here nor am I asking anyone to step beyond their comfort level and comment when that isn’t something they find appealing. But more and more I am considering whether the time and effort in finding topics, researching them and posting essays daily is really an efficient use of time, a resource we all have in limited supply.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The New Breed: Alpha Female?

Recently I came across an interesting article pitching the idea of the “Alpha Female”. I do think from considerable reading combined with real life experiences, that women in general are more “take charge” and assertive than in times past when it comes to their professional and public lives. In some respects I think this has resulted from a basic survival need. With the pervasiveness of divorce these days, one of the largest demographic segments is the single mother. A woman who must provide for her own living, support her family (often with no assistance from the biological father), and in the meantime try to carve out some degree of happiness for herself.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention and I think it is an accurate observation that many women have found it necessary to re-invent themselves with respect to their role as a woman in society and as far as their interpersonal relationships. This phenomenon is not limited to only “single mothers” as the divorce rate has been spiking for at least a couple of decades now and many of the female children produced from divorced families have now grown up observing their mothers and learning the lesson that a woman does not need a man to complete her. Advances by feminists have opened doors to the extent that today more than at any previous time, there are opportunities for women to choose practically any career path hat appeals to them. Statically, it is a fact that more and more, women are waiting until later in life to choose marriage and having children as many of them choose to get their education and firmly establish themselves in their chosen careers before turning their attention to these matters. So I do think it is fair to say that perhaps there is some truth to the idea of the emerging “Alpha Female.”

On the surface this would seem a boon for submissive men. But the jury remains out on one important issue. Does the “Alpha Female” in the office and in public life translate to the “Alpha Female” in the context of female led relationships? Within the context of historical perspective, a couple of decades is little more than the proverbial blink of an eye and a large supply of women who desire and embrace the idea of filling the dominant role in the bedroom and within their romantic relationships may still be something still on the distant horizon of human experience.

It has been several years now since scientists first proposed that human beings likely possess a degree of “genetic memory” in that we unconsciously retain the conditioning effects of thousands of years of evolution of our species. One example that comes to mind is the “flight or fight” instinct which has arguably has been with us since the dawning of time when early humans faced human enemies or other predatory animals. Even though we now live in a much more civilized environment and have sadly accomplished quite efficiently the destruction of most other animals capable of challenging our supremacy at the top of the food chain, we still retain this basic instinct.

Think of the past hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of evolution during which women were conditioned to fill the submissive role in relationships, especially from a sexual perspective. I think it will take a lot of determination on the part of females to challenge this idea and escape from it for those who find themselves having the desire to live life according to a dominant female model. Previously I wrote a couple of essays examining the concept of “nice guys” and why women seem to find them less attractive as potential relationship partners. Since writing those essays I have discovered several scientific sites that seem to provide one possibility as far as an explanation. Some suggest that even now in the twenty-first century, a woman’s choice as far as a mate is still largely ruled by evolutionary conditioning based on the historical primitive primate mate selection strategy. In other words she will choose a male she perceives as the strongest genetically. Since nice guys tend to be viewed in unflattering and unappealing ways like spineless, weak, milk toast and potentially passive-aggressive, clearly they seem genetically weak and not a good bet as far as a dependable choice to ensure the survival of a woman’s offspring. Others suggest that given their conditioning, the average women to feel sexually satisfied must feel submissive to her sexual partner which is why most will choose a dominant rather than submissive male. All of this occurs not as a result of conscious but unconscious thought. The dictatorial nature of evolutionary conditioning demands this even in circumstances where a woman is not even interested in pro-creating. Still unconsciously, “survival of the offspring” has a major impact on male mate selection.

Will some women ever escape this apparent “prime directive”? Yes, I think so but when is the real question. Human beings have proven to be a very versatile and adaptable creature. Perhaps the “Alpha Female” of today will in the future develop beyond the office and public persona to the domestic front and will actively seek out men willing to submit to her dominance in all aspects of a relationship. Still despite the adaptability of the species, such a quantum leap in behavior does not occur overnight. Sadly, I have to conclude we are still a good distance away from a society pre-dominantly matriarchal.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Your’s for the Peeping

Recently I started a new blog for the purpose of exploring the possibilities of an online D/s relationship with a close dominant female friend. With this blog, while intended solely for adults I give careful attention to what I write about and what kind of art I post in hopes that people who visit it will not be put off or offended and will take time to read what I write with an open mind. The other blog exists for a different purpose and because it will in time be a bit more edgy and include photographs that might be offensive to some, I chose to designate it as an “adult content” blog which notifies visitors upfront of what to expect and requires them to acknowledge with an affirmative mouse click that they understand and accept that before the are allowed to proceed to the actual blog content.

Today I noticed to my surprise that in less than two weeks of existence, my new blog has received over 25,000 hits as compared to just a little more than 5,000 hits for this blog. Actually I don’t believe the content of the other blog justifies its apparent “popularity” as at least what I have posted there thus far likely would not have great appeal to anyone other than myself and my friend for whom the blog was designed. While I don’t know this to be fact and if it is I certainly don’t know how to do it myself, but I rather suspect there must be some means of “googling” adult content blogs and that is the explanation for why so many people have visited my new blog.

The reason I mention all of this is simply to explain why today, it occurred to be to write on the topic of “voyeurism”. In general, voyeurism is defined as human sexual behavior involving achievement of sexual arousal through viewing the sexual activities of others, usually strangers, who may be naked, in the process of disrobing or even engaging in sexual activity. To some extent voyeurism is widespread and various types of sexual display are a normal part of sexual attraction and mating behavior in most animals, including humans. In current society a certain amount of voyeurism is considered normal, such as watching sexually explicit movies or perusing sexually graphic magazines. Even if masturbation occurs during, or shortly after, these accepted types of voyeuristic activities, are still considered to be normal, not deviant behavior. Even if a person found himself sexually aroused when unintentionally noticing by accident someone who was undressing, naked, or having sex, it wouldn’t be considered a deviant behavior. A variant form of voyeurism involves listening to erotic conversations; e.g. telephone sex. Another variation could involve visiting “adult content” blogs or web sites.

Generally voyeurism is only considered a paraphilia or a psychosexual disorder when a person engages in activity with the specific intent of observing unsuspecting, non-consenting individuals who are naked, in the process of undressing or engaging in sexual acts and the act of looking or peeping is undertaken for the purpose of achieving sexual excitement. The observer generally does not seek to have sexual contact or activity with the person being observed. If orgasm is sought, it is usually achieved through masturbation. This may occur during the act of observation or later, relying on the memory of the act that was observed. Frequently, a voyeur may have a fantasy of engaging in sexual activity with the person being observed. In reality, there is no intent of actually consummating this fantasy. Voyeurism is considered a deviant behavior when a person actively seeks out such experiences and when observation ceases to be merely one factor in sexual attraction and becomes the sole or primary source of gratification. The risk of being caught is an additional element in the excitement of the voyeur.

Thinking and reading about voyeurism has caused me to conclude that there is a little bit of voyeurism in most of us, in modern society. Many of us have a fair bit of curiosity about the sexual activities and intimate thoughts and feelings of others which I think could explain the popularity of “adult content” blogs. This argument is supported too by the popularity of social web sites like YouTube and Flickr. While these sites enjoy steady web traffic and heavy, they were designed for the purpose of helping users share photos, videos, and knowledge with each other but only small fractions of overall users actually use the services to upload content. According to published reports, only 0.16 percent of YouTube's total traffic is made up of users who upload videos. Similarly, only 0.2 percent of Flickr's regular users are there to upload photos.

The raging popularity of such web sites as YouTube, Facebook and My Space, as well as blogs imply there may be a definite connection between voyeurism and another paraphilia – exhibitionism. There seems a behavioral connection with the consciously “for show” lives of those spending more and more of their time online, where domestic activities are recorded in achingly specific detail. In modern society people use the Internet to gradually open themselves up, first at very superficial levels of their personalities, and then they carefully move on to more intimate areas, feeding some felt need to feel exposed, or open, to perfect strangers - a sly commentary on a culture that continues to find new ways to display ever more intimate, and mundane, details of domestic life.

There is no scientific consensus concerning the basis for voyeurism. Most experts attribute the behavior to an initially random or accidental observation of an unsuspecting person who is naked, in the process of disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity. Successive repetitions of the act tend to reinforce and perpetuate the voyeuristic behavior. But as long as the behavior and resulting fantasies or urges do not become the cause of significant distress in the individual or become disruptive to his or her everyday functioning, it seems to be a rather benign thing.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Female Sexuality More Fluid?

Sex is a powerful factor behind why people do what they do so of course the topic of human sexuality is a subject which interests me a great deal. Recently in view of writing an essay on the topic, I have been researching the demarcation between the concepts of sexual arousal and sexual desire for both women and men. This had led me to discover two very interesting things; 1) That using “Female Sexuality” and Female Sexual Desire” as search terms, returns are dominated by the topics of sexual dysfunction and low libido; and 2) The rather remarkable differences between what women and men find sexually arousing under laboratory conditions. My article today is concerned the second item listed, but I will be writing an essay on the first item in the near future with stress on attempts at understanding the causative factors behind the alleged sexual dysfunction and low libido believed to be such a prevalent condition among females.

A good many sexuality research studies have been conducted where researchers measured the psychological and physiological sexual arousal in homosexual and heterosexual men and women as they watched erotic films, a typical scientific model of research using a stimulus (erotic films) and measurement of response (sexual arousal) experiment. Generally three types of erotic films are shown to participants - those featuring only men, those featuring only women and those featuring male and female couples. Consistently it has been observed by researchers that men generally are more specific in their sexual tastes: straight men are physically turned on only by heterosexual porn, gay men only while watching gay porn - a very "either/or" proposition, apparently verifying the idea that a man's cock is his compass. In contrast, both homosexual and heterosexual women showed a bisexual pattern of psychological as well as genital arousal. That is, heterosexual women were just as sexually aroused by watching female stimuli as by watching male stimuli, even though they may have reported a preference for having sex with men rather than women.

Based on these studies it appears that female sexuality is more complex than that of men. Measuring physiological sexual arousal by blood flow to the vagina or vaginal pulse amplitude while women viewed various videos, researchers found that women were physically aroused by almost anything with sexual content, whether straight, lesbian or even animal, regardless of their professed mental arousal or avowed sexual orientation. It seems that on a genital level women are likely to respond to a certain degree to almost anything that has sexual content, whether they're mentally aware of it or not or even if mentally it leaves them cold. Women's sexual orientation is apparently more fluid and less clear cut than men's and the inference is that their potential for bi-sexuality greater.

Actually I don’t find the research results to be terribly surprising based simply on my own life experience. Over the last decade I have more and more frequently become acquainted with women who have told me that they perceive themselves to be bi-sexual. Also, I personally know very few women who deny that they sometimes meet other women for whom they feel a sexual attraction for and/or have frequently had sexual fantasies involving intimacy between themselves and other women, even though the majority of them state that they have never had a same sex encounter and were unsure whether they would actually engage in sex with another female.

The sexual orientation poll I am currently conducting does not at least in the early stages seem to correlate with the findings of research that there seems a greater potential for bi-sexuality among women than men. Out of the initial 45 responses received, four women (8%) have identified themselves as bi-sexual and two others (4%) have identified themselves as bi-curious. In contrast, six men (13%) have identified themselves a bi-sexual with an additional two men (4%) identifying themselves as bi-curious. There are a number of possible explanations for this. First when taken as a ratio of the number of hits this blog receives on a daily basis, 45 responses could not be considered a statistically valid sample and so the results may change over time as more responses are received. Yet since I have been watching the poll closely thus far it appears to me that the percentages are remaining relatively constant. Another issue I have identified is the fact that based on my own observations, it appears that the potential for bi-sexuality among men who are involved in D/s and BDSM is greater than that for men in general. I actually attribute this to the fact that men involved in these alternative lifestyles are generally more sexually enlightened and less inhibited than men in general. This in theory at least would infer that they are more open to the idea of same sex intimate encounters even though they may have a decided preference for females as sexual partners. Finally based on the results of the gender identification poll, a much larger number of the readers of this blog are male than are female, so that may have some bearing. Hopefully before the current poll closes, a similar number of responses will be received as were received on the gender poll and I can at some point make a correlation between the percentages of readers who are men versus women and who are bi-sexual men versus bi-sexual women.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Venus and Mars?

A recent five year study examining the reasons why people have sex conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that young men and women get intimate for mostly the same reasons. UT researchers studied the often overlooked "why" behind sex, while others generally spend their time exploring the "how."

Researchers first polled 444 men and women ranging in age from 17 to 52, asking them to compile a list of distinct reasons people have sex. The result was a rather lengthy list of 237 reasons. The researchers then asked 1,549 college students taking psychology classes to rank the reasons on a one-to-five scale according to how they applied to their individual experiences.

The results were quite surprising and revealed that for both women and men; lust rather than a love connection is the primary motivator for having sex. Here are the top ten reasons for having sex that college-age men and women gave University of Texas researchers:

What Men said:

1. I was attracted to the person.

2. It feels good.

3. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.

4. It's fun.

5. I wanted to show my affection to the person.

6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.

7. I was "horny."

8. I wanted to express my love for the person.

9. I wanted to achieve an orgasm.

10. I wanted to please my partner.

What women said:

1. I was attracted to the person.

2. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.

3. It feels good.

4. I wanted to show my affection to the person.

5. I wanted to express my love for the person.

6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.

7. I was "horny."

8. It’s fun.

9. I realized I was in love.

10. I was "in the heat of the moment."

Interestingly, 8 of the top 10 reasons were the same but simply ranked slightly differently by the sexes. “Forget thinking that men are from Mars and women from Venus, the more we look, the more we find similarity," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego. Dr. Goldstein, who wasn't part of the UT study, said the Texas research made a lot of sense and adds to growing evidence that the vaunted gender differences may only be among people with sexual problems.

"It's refuted a lot of gender stereotypes - that men only want sex for the physical pleasure and women want love," said UT clinical psychology professor Cindy Meston, the study's co-author. "That's not what I came up with in my findings." "None of the gender differences are all that great," she added. Dr. Meston conceded that among college students "hormones run rampant" and allowed that results might be different when older groups of people are studied in a similar way.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sexual Fantasy

What was the subject of your last sexual fantasy? For some of you reading this, in response to this question even now your mind is recreating the steamy, erotic and perhaps illicit scene last played out in your head. Yet, despite the fact that you are simply reading a non-threatening question posed on the page of a blog that you know you needn’t answer, others of you are even now forming a denial, a claim that you don’t fantasize or a claim that you only fantasize about your current partner.

Sexually fantasies are something we rarely discuss, even among good friends. Our deepest sexual thoughts are often considered too weird, perverse, or just plain wrong to be shared in polite company. Many people suffer shame and guilt about the perverse nature of their fantasies, even though what they think of as “perverse” may actually be quite common and normal. Some see an admission that they fantasize as possibly indicating that there is something wrong with their relationships, or worse, themselves. However, chances are everyone reading this do have erotic fantasies, and have them on a regular basis. We just rarely, if ever, want to talk about it.

Comprehensive research studies indicate that almost everyone fantasizes. While researching his book, Who's Been Sleeping in Your Head: The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies, London psychotherapist and clinical researcher Brett Kahr, anonymously surveyed 18,000 people in Britain and America. He asked them questions about the frequency and content of their fantasies and found that nine out of ten people have sexual fantasies. What’s more, he believes the remaining tenth person has them too, but is too embarrassed to admit it. Though a typical and unremarkable fantasy for both men and women is dreaming about sex with their current partner, Kahr also found that bondage, incest, sadomasochism, and voyeurism are also part of the varied fantasy life of “normal” people.

Shame regarding sexual fantasies may stem from earlier notions about the role of fantasy in our lives. In the 1900s, some psychoanalysts interpreted “kinky” sexual fantasies as being caused by “kinky” desires or wishes. Fantasies were often treated as pathology. But we now know that fantasies are no more pathologic than masturbation. They allow us to think about doing something and find it arousing that we would neither be willing or capable of doing in real life, or about things we’ve done before and would like to do again. Furthermore, sexual fantasies help our sex lives by increasing our desire and arousal. Those who fantasize frequently also tend to have more sex and of course fantasy has helped untold numbers of masturbations end in orgasmic success.

Research into the area of sexual fantasies has also revealed that men and women’s fantasies are qualitatively different. Male sexual fantasies are generally more explicit than those of women and men tend to see themselves as more dominant in their fantasies. Women, on the other hand tend to view their role as submissive in their sexual fantasies. They may entertain fantasies of scenarios where their attractiveness and desirability is so overwhelming that every man is rendered helpless in his desire for them. And the more irresistible they perceive themselves to be, the less activity is required of them. Others, less courageous in assuming this ravishing beauty, may see themselves as a victim of the man’s sexual domination of her, perhaps imagining a scenario not unlike rape. Even those women, who reportedly fantasized about being sexually dominant, did so with primarily focusing on their partner’s sexual pleasure rather than on their own pleasure. Women may fantasize about being taken and used sexually by a stranger against her will but this doesn’t mean she actually wants to be raped. In the context of fantasy she is able to control the action. Our minds are a safe place to try new and risky sexual deeds without ever getting hurt. Safety is the concept that functions as the key to unlocking the meaning of our fantasies. Being bound and gagged by a dominating partner may not seem safe, but somewhere in the unconscious, submission is desired.

All this is somewhat reassuring. Rather than feeling guilty about thinking about another person while having sex with your partner, we can see it as a way to help spice up the sex, without committing any transgressions. Research indicates that having sexual fantasies is an absolutely normal, if not necessary, part of being a sexual being. It’s not having them that is aberrant.

Sugasm #134

The best of this week’s blogs by the bloggers who blog them. Highlighting the top 3 posts as chosen by Sugasm participants. Want in Sugasm #135? Submit a link to your best post of the week using this form. Participants, repost the link list within a week and you’re all set.
“Tantra is hard work and is not all light and orgasmic play.”
“She smiles wantonly, but says nothing.”

“But when you’re really attracted to someone, and part of that attraction is to their dominance, it almost gives you a second wind for pain.”

Mr. Sugasm Himself

Editor’s Choice

More Sugasm

See also: Fleshbot’s Sex Blog Roundup each Tuesday and Friday.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sexual Fetishes

We all have our unique proclivities with regards to what turns us on sexually. For men it might be a preference for blondes or girls with body piercings. For women it might be having a guy with tattoos or rippling muscles in the bedroom. Others find cross-dressing, sadomasochism play or even anal stimulation rev up their sexual arousal and desire.

From the smallest sexual preference to the most outlandish obsession, sexual fetishes are more prevalent and enjoyable than you may think.

“Fetishistic interests fall on a continuum,” psychologist, marital therapist, sex therapist, professor and author Guy Grenier explains. “For example, engaging in cross-dressing fetish can be as simple as a man wearing colorful clothing, or so extensive as to fool sexual partners.”

Grenier says BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) is among the most common sexual fetishes. “BDSM brings together themes of power and domination and combining them with sexual interest.”

“BDSM is the forbidden fruit,” a London BDSM community organizer, Dark Angel, known to friends as DA, says, “It’s like the Garden of Eden. The problem with it is, once you have a taste, it’s hard to go back to living without the thrill.”

Both Dark Angel and Dr. Grenier say there are many different flavors of BDSM, beyond the borders of “vanilla” sex. Although leather, latex, handcuffs, whips and ropes are among the most common paraphernalia, control and power are the most essential characteristics.

Dark Angel, a practicing dominant, says there are ground rules within the BDSM community. “What it really boils down to is everybody is consenting.” To ensure mutual satisfaction, he recommends using a safeword. “You really have to trust each other,” he adds.

For some there is a stigma attached to BDSM fetishes due to misunderstandings about what is really involved. In Hollywood, sadomasochists are portrayed as vicious and brutal, even mentally disturbed. 88 Minutes, a recent film starring Al Pacino, is a good example. In the movie a psychotic serial killer uses suspension bondage to restrain his victims before murdering them. With the people I’ve met in the lifestyle, there’s a healthy mix of affection and various degrees of SM, depending on the personalities and the individuals engaged. From my own experiences with BDSM I have come to learn that I very much enjoy anal play and sensual spanking which is something I did not know about myself before. Although many BDSM practitioners choose to role-play in the bedroom only others incorporate dominant and submissive protocols into their everyday lives.

Another genre of atypical sexual behavior has a softer, cuddlier side. Plushophilia, a sexual attraction to stuffed animals or people dressed in animal costumes is yet another flavor of sexual fetishism. This is not so much about power and domination, but about combining innocence with non-innocence. Participants in “plushie play” have a fuzzy fixation on toys with anthropomorphically human characteristics. A plushie doll might have big doe eyes, a cutesy smile, and human-like breasts and vagina. Plushie play juxtaposes the cute and cuddly with the down and dirty. Some plushophiles, more commonly known as “furries”, dress up as animals during sex. Rabbit and kitten costumes with “trap doors” for organs and orifices are sold and traded at fetish conventions.

Voyeurism and exhibitionism are more common and less prop-intensive fetishes. Voyeurs derive sexual pleasure from being watched while having sex or from watching others have sex. Exhibitionists, meanwhile, enjoy nudity or engaging in sex in public places, either with the specific intent of being seen or perhaps just incorporating various degrees of risk in being seen.

Worldwide, the number of developing sexual fetishes is expanding. Acropomophilia (sexual interest in amputees), somnophilia (fantasies about sex with people who are sleeping) and formaphilia (sexual obsession with ants and snails) as some of the rarer emerging fetishes. Having a fetish for women's panties is more common, more common in fact than you might think. Men wearing female panties, smelling panties, trading panties with others who enjoy this fetish and even having sex and climaxing on a pair of woman’s panties bring immense sexual pleasure to those that explore and enjoy this fetish.

When someone chooses to engage in fetishes or other alternative lifestyles there are often social repercussions. Perhaps as a shadow of our Victorian past things sexual are sometimes considered perverted, dirty or something that needs to be controlled. It seems the farther you move from normative sex, the more concern people have about being judged. A man might not be afraid to acknowledge he enjoys wearing silk boxer shorts but if he wears silk panties he may worry about being ostracized if he admits that.

As for the cause of fetishes, experts remain unsure. Some researchers believe that fetishistic interests are conditioned. For example, if for some reason as a child, a person learned to associate sexual arousal with feet or footwear, a fetish could develop as a result. Other theories are based on societal conditioning. Men might be more inclined to cross-dress because they are subjected to rigid gender roles in North American culture and cross-dressing allows men to explore and escape that rigidity.

Most fetishes are benign in that they don’t harm anyone or impinge on the rights of others. They seem simply another means of exploring and enjoying a person’s unique and individual sexuality. Fetishism is regarded as normal variations of human sexuality by psychologists and medical doctors as long as all involved persons feel comfortable.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My Continued Evolution as a Feminist

Feminism is a concept that for many holds a very negative connotation. There is for example the stereotype that comes to the minds of many whenever they hear the term of angry, hairy, man-hating lesbians. The man-hating part I think is predominantly a myth constructed in order to foster a negative view of feminism and to promote the idea that feminism is actually nothing more than reverse sexism. It's also partly the fault of women who go around saying things like, "All men are bastards," which frankly is usually because they only go out with bastards. In general the myth has little if anything to do with feminism. I’m sure that there are women who hate men and probably for good reason but being a feminist does not per se imply a hatred or rejection of men.

In general feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. As with any political movement, there are extremes and some women who identify with the feminist movement have some pretty radical and extremist views. Like many groups who have historically suffered discrimination, exploitation and victimization, I think it only natural that some women might feel that after thousands of years of oppression it is high time that they were on top of the food chain and held the position of supreme gender. Yet female supremacy is not really mainstream feminism which seeks not supremacy but simply equality and freedom from gender based discrimination.

I believe women and men must share a common understanding and a basic knowledge of what feminism is and what it is about if it is ever to be a powerful mass-based political movement. By defining feminism broadly as a movement to end sexism and sexist oppression both women and men could work toward a common and what I believe to be a desirable goal.

There are two basic underlying tenants of feminism; 1) men and women are entitled to equal rights and respect, and 2) women are currently disadvantaged with respect to rights and respect, compared with men. While it is true that in recent years progress has been made and women are in a somewhat more advantageous position than in times past, to say that in all cases women are treated with equal rights and respect and enjoy all of the same advantages as men would be na├»ve. There are still many jobs in the workplace where women and men perform essentially the same tasks or very comparable ones and yet men receive higher salaries. There remain in certain occupations “glass ceilings” which preclude women from the same promotional opportunities enjoyed by men. While especially in the last decade, certain careers that traditionally excluded women altogether or at least severely curtailed equal opportunities have been opened to women, yet it is relatively easy to find examples within those same career fields where qualification standards still exist with the unmistakable design of discouraging or preventing women from applying for or advancing in them. Any fair minded person would not be able to deny that discrimination against a person based simply on gender is just wrong.

In addition to discrimination, women are also subjected to other forms of oppression simply because they are women. For example, Iris Young, author and former Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, affiliated with the Center for Gender Studies describes five “faces” of oppression: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and systematic violence. Oppression exists where women, and those who appear to be women, are subjected to wrongs and/or injustices at least in part because they are or appear to be women.

One of the most insidious forms of exploitation in my opinion is the sexual objectification of women. Sexual objectification occurs when a person is seen as a sexual object and their sexual attributes and physical attractiveness are separated from the rest of their personality and existence as an individual. They are reduced to instruments of pleasure for another person. The concept of female sexual objectification plays an important role in the inequality of the sexes. When a woman is subjected to sexual objectification she is often figuratively dismembered by men and instead of being viewed as a person, with feelings, needs, hopes, dreams, fears and valid opinions, she is instead viewed as a pair of shapely legs, a pair of breasts, an ass or a vagina; and all of those parts viewed solely in terms of their usefulness for the sexual gratification of men. In its most extreme form, sexual objectification results in victimization – rape and physical assault. Objectification of people makes violence against them seem acceptable and legitimate. To understand objectification, simply contemplate how American soldiers viewed adversaries throughout the history of our armed conflicts; in the Civil War Confederates were seen as “Rebs” and Unionists were seen as “Yankees” – in World War II Germans were “Nazis” and Japanense were “Japs” – in Vietnam, Vietnamese were “Gooks” and in the Middle East wars, Arabs were often referred to as “Rag Heads”. It is always easier to commit violence against another once that person has been de-personalized and reduced to an object. Sexual objectification has also resulted in a myriad of debilitating issues for women. Many women suffer from extreme body image dissatisfaction because they are constantly bombarded with images of thin, busty, beautiful and flawless, air-brushed and unrealistic images of females portrayed by the media and in film. This has resulted in eating disorders on almost an epidemic scale as well as unhealthy diet regimens, unprecedented demand for cosmetic plastic surgeries and depressive disorders. Clearly, sexual objectification is one form of oppression that women are subjected to.

While I’m not a woman, I still think it very possible for me to consider myself a feminist because I support the ideals of equal rights and respect for women and the eradication of all forms of sexism. As I’ve said before, I feel submissive men and feminists are natural allies in the sense we do share a common views and beliefs about equal rights and gender roles that are diametrically opposed to those held by patriarchal society. I think submissive men should not be silent, but should stand up and be counted as supporters of women and champions of feminist ideals.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sexuality and Gender: Social Constructs or Biological?

The debate continues about whether sexuality and sexual desire are social constructs or are biological and genetically determined. The more I read on the subject of social constructs the more convinced I become that the answer lies with the former rather than the latter.

Anne Fausto-Sterling, Ph. D. is Professor of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown University. She participates actively in the field of sexology and has written extensively on the fields of biology of gender, sexual identity, gender identity, and gender roles. She contends that the act of labeling a person a man or a woman or heterosexual/homosexual is a social decision. Fausto-Sterling acknowledges the importance of scientific knowledge, but considers our beliefs about gender to be the foundation that defines sex and sexual behavior.

A social construct is defined by Webster’s as “a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice.” A social construction or social construct is any phenomenon invented or constructed by participants in a particular culture or society, existing because people agree to behave as if it exists or follow certain conventional rules.

Emile Durkheim first theorized about social construction in his anthropological work on collective behavior, but did not coin the term. The first book with “social construction” in its title was Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality, first published in 1966. Since then, the term found its way into the mainstream of the social sciences.

The central idea of Berger and Luckmann's Social Construction of Reality was that actors interacting together form, over time, typifications or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these typifications eventually become habitualized into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these reciprocal roles become routinized, the typified reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalized. In the process of this institutionalization, meaning is embedded and institutionalized into individuals and society - knowledge and people's conception of (and therefore belief regarding) what reality is becomes embedded into the institutional fabric and structure of society, and social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed.

The stereotypical gender roles prevalent today that mandate “masculinity” means that that males should always be dominant and that “femininity” means females are always submissive are nothing more than a social constructs. Ideas invented or constructed by participants in a particularly patriarchal culture, the perpetuation of which is completely dependent upon people agreeing to behave as if the ideas are valid and further agree to behave in accordance with these predetermined roles. A submissive male or a dominant female are judged to be outside the “norm” by those who subscribe to this “conventional” construct.

Logically we have to ask ourselves this question. Is there anything immoral or illegal about a man choosing to identify with a submissive relational and sexual role or with a woman deciding to identify with a dominant relational or sexual role? Is anyone hurt by this? Are the rights of anyone infringed or trampled? The answer to all of these questions is an emphatic no! Submissive men and dominant women have simply chosen a fresh, new social construct that better fits their own perceived and individual sexuality rather than continue to be coerced into fitting within the old construct which makes them feel unhappy and unfulfilled. History is replete with examples of enlightened people rejecting outdated and outmoded social constructs and embracing new ones that make more sense. The dominance/submission lifestyle is just one more example. In a real sense those of us who have embraced male submission and female dominance can accurately be termed social deconstructionists. I for one think that is quite cool.