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The Science of Sex and Labeling

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The medico-pychological health establishment and popular media mold our sexual proclivities and cabin our instincts. I’m convinced of it. Like Cicero, I have pushed the bolder of an idea that labels of gender-sex identification are arbitrary, prejudicial and crippling, that love is far too mult-faceted, complex and unexamined to be striated into gross categories of behaviors: homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. If they have a function at all, it is to be descriptive of tendencies and not modes of prejudicial placement and exclusion. And like Cicero, the bolder comes down with excuses from friends and followers that human nature is thus. That may be so, but it is important to delve into how human nature is not so natural, that there are unconscious contributors that frame our nature, confining it to a few convenient options that order behaviors neatly and conveniently for reference, analysis and mating.

An article from askmen.com entitled “Exploring Female Sexual Fantasies” written by Dr. Victoria Zdrok gives men advice about dealing with women’s fantasies during sex. She advises men not to feel intimidated if your woman is fantasizing about Brad Pitt during sex or Angelina Jolie, for that matter, since “many women are naturally bi-curious and women are much more likely to have same-sex fantasies than men.” She further advises: “If you find out that your girlfriend or wife is having such fantasies, don’t worry about her being a lezzy โ€” take advantage of the moment and suggest a threesome. But don’t be too eager; pretend that you are actually indulging her fantasy!”

Now, she’s a doctor so she should be good authority, right? Men and women should believe her and I am sure a publication like askmen.com with a wide readership (largely men, I would presume) features an article written by a doctor for legitimacy and persuasiveness. No matter that a quick google search reveals the doc as a Penthouse centerfold and her front page images are one of the following.

credit: corbisimages.com

Now, I am not suggesting that the good doctor is not authoritative or doesn’t know her stuff. I mean what man wouldn’t suggest a threesome upon discovering his woman has bi-curiosity and that most men lie and manipulate women into fulfilling men’s fantasies, right? What I am suggesting is that most readers would not question the source of the writing for legitimacy and take the advice from a doctor as a credible given. ย They would take it as fact that many women are bi-curious and women more than men have same-sex fantasies. I am no sexpert and no doctor. However, my more than five decades on Earth have proven at least circumstantially otherwise. Try trolling on Craigslist in the personals ads for men seeking men in just about any city. They vastly outnumber the women seeking women section. If men are not fantasizing about men maybe it’s because they are having the sex with other men that the women are not with other women because women are busy being mere curious fantasizers too afraid to act or maybe they are not advertising their sexual behavior or getting hooked up through other means.

I am being ridiculously reductive, but I believe Dr. Zdrog is too. It’s not just Craigslist but my lived experience talking with and reading about men from a variety of sources that leads me to conclude that probably more men are curious and fantasize about sex with other men than this article suggests and more women are more than curious, but I would not dare make a bold statement about any of that in writing, not without affording the reader the benefit of my research and findings. No, I am not overlooking the fact that askmen is not supposed to be the Atlantic Monthly of scientific research.

The point is that we take our information fed to us without examination. Publications like askmen are in the business of making money by selling exciting and eye catching ideas (duh, right?), the more biased and incomplete–suggestive–the better. No one wants to get bogged down in reading a bunch of facts and studies. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Dr. Zdrog may be right or she may be writing more from her own experience as a bisexual and self-proclaimed sexpert Penthouse featurette (whatever all of those dynamics suggest). The magic is in being published. If she is published, she must be right. If she is a doctor, she must know. I mean I am sure my GP, my family’s all purpose doc for coldsores to leukemia, knows all about sex and fantasy, right? Men can believe the bold statements about women and bisexuality (and implicitly men not being as bisexual). Women can believe it. What effect does that assumed, unverified “fact” have on incurious readers’ sexual understanding about themselves and others? If I am bi curious, is it because I have been fed that curiosity or does it derive from MY natural inclinations?

Michel Foucault, Twentieth Century French philosopher, in his work entitled The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction“> theorized that sexuality has been controlled by the medical establishment throughout history by legitimizing or norming sexual behavior through science, something humans are cultivated to accept as authoritative. Doctors of medicine and psychology analyze human sexual behaviors and label them deviant or healthy, and those “facts” are disseminated into the population as the standard against which individuals measure their own normalcy.

Nothing new here about how much our thoughts about ourselves are not truly our own, but it bears reminding that critical thinking, among other practices, can set us free-er. Sex and relationships are far more complex and should be afforded the greatest respect and devotion of thought beyond the soundbites we are used to consuming. What attracted me to the definitions of bisexuality as a concept was the umbrella of its protectorate–all manner of relational behaviors– as well as its focus on human tendencies to separate and divide. We are pattern-makers as a species. We love the feel of a pattern. Patterns tickle our brains, and we are taught to recognize them from toddlerhood on. Maybe that is the human nature behind the science of labeling.

5 thoughts on “The Science of Sex and Labeling

  1. Great Expose. I am constantly amazed how minds assign authority and credibility to almost anything seen or written.
    This doctor is a dope, I mean Dr. Dre is a doctor too. An article from him on this subject would be awesome considering his position in society and most likely the object of fantasy for some ladies.
    If a man is intimidated by a woman’s fantasy he has to be some kind of wimp or simply can’t deal with women and their sense of fun and fantasy. I myself have offered to wear a dog suit for a woman seems more fascinated with her dogs than men. She declined, but it was good to take her to that place and let her see for herself what kind of construct she has allowed herself for love.
    I read an ancient quote yesterday, can’t find it now, that advised to demand and question anything your hear or read as authoritative and then to question and critique one’s own method of perception beyond that. To never accept anything at face value, an ancient revolution that seems to never win but always manages to survive in some untouched corner.

    I will also refer to Plato here – an interesting argument, again, ancient as the human mind and spirit:
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4181847?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104739369261

    • Dr. Dre and Dr. Dimento…lol. Thanks for the Plato link. Plato is always a good one to go to for the debate what is real, perceived or absolute, preferring to prioritize the absolute over the relative. The world, according to him, is measured not by man’s perceptions of what is real but of the forms of the real. Of course, then there is the old Cartesian, I think therefore I am rule book. It’s all a mystery wrapped in an enigma ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. “Dr. Victoria Zdrok earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Drexel University, a J.D. from Villanova Law School and her certificate in sex therapy from New Jersey School of Medicine. She is the author of Anatomy of Pleasure, and is the monthly sex advice columnist for Penthouse Magazine (for whom she was 2004 Pet of the Year).”

    That sounds fairly impressive to me. I can see why readers would be willing to accept that her statements are flavored with a modicum of authority, certainly more than they possess.

    However, I AM NOT SUGGESTING THE GOOD (and shapely and comely) DOCTOR IS THE BE ALL END ALL EXPERT ON THIS TOPIC. I believe the only recognized ‘experts’ on the topic of sex would be Masters and Johnson. What I am suggesting is that people – even the good doctor, and even M&J – are simply not able to vet every morsel of information that comes their (and our) way. That would be like counting every grain of sand on a beach to ascertain whether it IS a beach or just a giant litter box. People will ascribe a degree of legitimacy to an opinion they deem to be more informed than their own. Does that make it right? Of course not. All you have to do is watch an old tape of any Siskel and Ebert show to know that. And aren’t people always seeking second opinions from doctors? There is also a teeny tiny group of ‘expert’ scientists who don’t believe in global warming. They have their followers as do all ‘experts’, legitimate or not, who espouse an opinion the reader/viewer/listener perceives as agreeing with their own mode of thinking. I believe that most people are looking for validation rather than opinion. They seek to confirm that the way they live their lives is A-Okay which allows them to continue along on their own pathways, whether they join a herd of sheep or are the dog that herds them.

    I also believe that labeling is a shorthand form of conveying information. We all say “chair” and know it to mean:

    ‘An object with four equally sized legs with a cushion on top that the legs are attached to in each corner of the cushion, and the other end of the legs rests upon the floor, and on the back end of the cushion is a chair back that extends upward usually 21/2 feet or so that allows the person sitting on this object to do so comfortably without fear of falling off, and as a further safety device many chairs are equipped with arms that …’

    Jesus! I just fell asleep there. But you see my point. Labels are necessary in everyday life. Now, before you go screaming, “But chairs aren’t people, or philosophies, or cultural mores, or … whatever”, I agree that is stating the obvious. But still, ask yourself what is more likely to occur in everyday conversation? That someone says, “That couple is comprised of two men who have determined that they prefer the emotional, spiritual, and sexual bond they share with men”, or that someone says, “There goes a homosexual couple”? It IS labeling; but does that make either declaration any less true? I am merely suggesting that labeling in and of itself does not necessarily discriminate, pigeonhole, or condemn. Neither does it praise, glorify, or espouse. As long as it is just shorthand speech to allow for more effective communication and is not pejorative I personally see nothing wrong with it. Any label of anything is a linguistic method of communicating a concept be it ‘chair’ or ‘homosexual’.

    I guess what it comes down to is this: not all labelers are the same. Stop labeling them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • MPM, this is a very informative post, and yes the doctor does have cred, appears to be qualified to opine on the topic. My point was not to discredit the doctor or those who vet sources for men’s magazines. I was attempting to address how we come up with labels–which I did not completely denounce and did endorse as descriptive tools–from those very authorities like doctors and that they may not be who or what we actually are but what we learned to accept as what we are.
      My plea is to think before labeling, not to label ape-like without information, which starts with knowing that you are being descriptive with labels and not discriminatory. Avoiding prejudicial labeling also comes with critically questioning even respected sources by that second and third opinion you refer to. Most readers of popular magazines, I will venture a guess, do not take the time to explore or even notice the sexual attitudes normalized in these expert-laced articles that perpetuate myths and obtuse formulations of behaviors, generalized behaviors.
      I am questioning the why and how we believe what we do about ourselves sexually. I thought the askmen article perpetuates myths that do not seem to be open for discussion, which providing the basis for such statements would provide. That’s because we receive our information in shorthand superficial form–kind of like labeling.

    • MPM, I believe you labeled the labeler, not me. Shortcutting again, I see ๐Ÿ˜‰

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