BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, anarchist, atheist who likes the letter A
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The Friendship Binary

December 15, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

My friend Graham sent me the below video where a guy goes around asking people if men and women can be just friends. All the guys he asks say they cannot. All the girls he asks say they can, but then admit that they think their guy friends would hook up with them if they had the opportunity. So the dude who produced the video claims that he has proven that men and women cannot be friends.

Dear Graham – my friend who I do not think wants to hook up with me –  my requested response is below the video.

The first problem with the whole premise is the assumption that all people are straight. Lots of my guy friends are gay and most certainly have no interest in having sex with me. Or as my friend Lance gasped when someone told us we were a cute couple, “OMG! That’s my sister!”

So can straight women be friends with gay men? Can lesbians be friends with straight men? Do bisexual people not get to have any friends? And WTF do we even begin to talk about with people who identify as genderqueer. I mean if you don’t pick a gender our whole world may fall apart here.

Secondly, how are we defining “just friends?” Maybe some of the women who said that men and women can be friends are defining friendship differently. Why does sexual attraction, or even having sex, have to move you out of the friend category? As it turns out, there are a whole lot of different kinds of friends with benefits relationships out there.

Perhaps what the women mean is that they can have a relationship with someone, even including sex, that does not include romantic love or thoughts of weddings and white picket fences. Or perhaps those women aren’t sleeping with their friends but would be if they didn’t grow up in a place where people wear purity rings. Maybe they are sleeping with them and just don’t want to admit it because of all the baggage that comes with open acknowledgement of having sex with people you don’t want to marry.

And what about age? The Harold and Maude scenario isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence. Actually, any kind of relationship across generations seems to be kind of unusual. But they do occur. And I can attest to the fact that the dynamic is a lot different when you are friends with someone who is old enough to be your grandfather or young enough to be your kid.

I think most, maybe all, friendships involve attraction. That includes the friendships that mostly straight people have with people of their own gender. That doesn’t mean I want to have sex with all my girlfriends, hot as you all are. Then again, we women are more likely to admit to being gay or bisexual and are apparently turned on by a much wider range of things than you dudes are. As Mary Roach wrote in Bonk,

A series of studies by Meredith Chivers and colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto showed that men are more discriminating than women when it comes to how they respond to pornographic images. Women, both gay and straight, will show immediate genital arousal…in response to films of sexual activity, regardless of who is engaging in it – male, female, gay, straight, good hair or bad. Men, contrary to stereotype, tend to respond in a limited manner; they are aroused only by footage that fits their sexual orientation and interests…To test the limits of the phenomenon, Chivers gamely ran a follow-up study in which men and women viewed, in addition to the usual gamut of human sexual scenarios, footage of bonobos mating. Here again, the women’s genitals responded – though not as strongly as they did to images of human beings – and the men’s did not.

Uh oh. Guess no friendships for any of us. Possibly no pets either.

Where does this bullshit come from? It comes from a strict gender binary. It comes from thinking sexuality is rigid rather than a spectrum that can change over time. It comes from a very narrow range of relationship options, where women are only supposed to have sex with people they love and all relationships are supposed to end in monogamous marriage.

It comes from too many dudes who don’t see women as human beings, or as one charming commenter on the YouTube video put it,

there’s this girl who wanted to be “just friends with” me, meaning no sex…i told her “hell no” my friendship comes with certain sexual requirements…either that or take the highway girl…point being, a straight male can’t be just friends, even with a semi good-looking chick, so long as she has a hole to dip it into

I think its pretty clear that if you see women as “a hole to dip into,” then you probably can’t be friends with them. Thankfully, not all guys are as douchey as you.

The video focused on presumably single, young people. But the bfriend had a similar conversation to this at his work a while back. Of all the coupled people, only the non-heterosexual and him thought that men and women could be friends. Mostly, there was a lot of “my husband would never let me be friends with a man” blah blah blah.

What is that about? Do people think that love equals possession? Do men think they are conquistadors and their dick is a flag? Do women think their men are just walking hard ons who have to be kept in the house? Is everyone so insecure? If your relationship is so fragile that a friendship can break it, you already had problems.

My bfriend has a lot of women friends. One of the things I love most about him is that he actually likes women. He doesn’t just like to have sex with women. He likes to hang out with us. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I wouldn’t be with him if he couldn’t be friends with women. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been one or two occasions where I might have had a twinge of jealousy. But that was my insecurities, not his behavior.

Let me just end by saying that life is about relationships. It is one thing to make the very reasonable decision that you want to have a monogamous, sexual relationship. But if you cut the person you supposedly love off from having even non-sexual relationships with at least half the population, then you cut them off from life. And if you really think that sexual attraction means you can’t be friends, you are cheating yourself and probably lying to yourself about how attracted you are to the friends you have now – of whatever gender.

Am I a Rapist?

December 24, 2010 By: Mel Category: Sex

I don’t want to talk about the Assange rape charges. There are more than enough people doing that already. But I would like to talk about something that Jaclyn Friedman said during her debate with Naomi Wolf on Democracy Now. Friedman essentially said that a sleeping/unconscious person cannot consent to sex and therefore it is rape. Always.

I paused the video.  The bfriend and I looked at each other and said, huh? He’s woken me up like that before. I’ve woken him up like that before. We never discussed doing it.  Does that make me a rape victim? Does it make me a rapist?

Blanket statements, the kind where people give no gray area whatsoever, usually bother me, because few things in life are that clear. And this was a blanket statement that made me into a rapist. At first, I must admit, I was inclined to roll my eyes and dismiss her.

But I just kept thinking about it.

I do not believe that consenting to one thing means consenting to everything else. I don’t believe in implied consent. That’s like those asshats who think marital rape is impossible.  It’s possible and all too frequent.

Now, I could say that I just knew it would be o.k. The bfriend and I have been together for more than 14 years. There are some things that we don’t really have to talk about anymore.

But that would be a bullshit answer. It’s a bullshit answer because there were other times before the bfriend, where I wouldn’t be able to say that. It’s a bullshit answer because it brings us back to the marital rape issue.  And it’s a bullshit answer because, if I have learned anything over the years, it is that false assumptions often precede relationship misery.

Besides, how can we really be sure that our assumptions are based on knowledge of the individual and not some social norm or gender essentialism?  It must be o.k.  Guys always want to have sex, right?  I mean when a woman decides not to have sex because she doesn’t want to risk pregnancy or STDs or just doesn’t think she is ready, that’s expected.  But a guy who turns it down, he must be some kind of freak.  So I can just assume, right?

The truth is that we should have talked about it.  We should have talked about a lot of things, right from the beginning, that we didn’t.

Last month, I came across a couple checklists of sexual activities – one on Scarleteen and one on the Beautiful Kind.  Even just going through the Scarleteen one, you know the one meant for teens, the bfriend and I ended up talking about things that had never come up in fourteen years.  And that is just sad.

Most of us have this Hollywoodized idea of sex.  It is always heterosexual.  All sexual activities end with male to female penetration.  The hottest sex is spontaneous.  When it is right, the other person is just going to know (magically) what you want.  There is no need to talk about it.  Just kiss, blow, fuck, done.

That is why you get guys who think that there is some point of no return where a woman cannot say no anymore.  That is why you have scenarios like this.

Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she “tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again”. Miss A told police that she didn’t want to go any further “but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far”, and so she allowed him to undress her.

Really?  He undressed you and therefore it was too late to stop?  You had to go to the end?  Where is the end exactly?  Does he now have carte blanche to hog tie you, ball gag you, and whip you until you bleed?  Cause, for some people, that is where that undressing is going.

For responsible people in the BDSM community, it is a no-brainer to discuss what is o.k. and not o.k. beforehand.  There are parameters set.  There are safe words decided upon.  But for most people, it is all based on assumptions.  And those assumptions lead not just to rape, but to really bad sex.

I so wish that I had those checklists twenty-two years ago when I started having sex.  That is not because I was doing things I didn’t want to do, but because I would have done a lot more shit a lot sooner.  And I could have avoided a lot of mediocre sex.

People make fun of the idea that you should get an o.k. every step of the way.  Can I touch you here? How about there?  This o.k.?  Let’s draw up a contract and have it notarized.  But it seems ridiculous mostly because we are so horrible at talking about sex and because we make so many assumptions about it.  We should talk to our partners, future partners, and our kids about sex.  And we should talk about the entire pantheon of activities, not just assume that everyone is a vanilla, heterosexual couple.

That said, even though I’m not rolling my eyes at Friedman’s statement anymore, am I a rapist?  I understand that hard and fast rules make it easier to prosecute crimes.  Even though I would like to see prisons go the way of the rack, I realize that we cannot just let people get away with committing that kind of violence.  But consistency is not justice.  In fact, it can often be the opposite of justice.

When I was sixteen, my boyfriend was twenty-two.  By Florida law, that was rape.  But I was a willing participant.  I was not victimized by my boyfriend.  Do you know what would have made me feel victimized?  It would have made me feel victimized if somebody had prosecuted my boyfriend for rape.

And it happens.  Because well intentioned people want to keep grown-ups from having sex with seven year olds, some poor seventeen year old kid in Georgia got a ten year prison sentence for getting a blow job at a party.   There are people who are permanently on sexual predator lists for statutory rape.  And let’s not even get into the general disaster that is mandatory minimum sentencing.  Consistency is not always a good thing.

We are all suffering from some serious societal sexual dysfunction.  And we should be calling it out.  But, as unpleasant as it may be, we still need to leave some room for ambiguities.  Because by Friedman’s definition, I’m a rapist.  But the bfriend has now given me explicit permission to view his morning wood as an open invitation.  And I don’t think the state should be able to prosecute me for that.