[Disc] Do we overvalue PIV intercourse? Is it wrong to want it (especially as a man)?

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Post by The Wisp on Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:57 pm

I heard an argument today that people shouldn't have PiV intercourse (PVI) outside of monogamous marriages. The gist of it is that PVI carries a much greater risk for pregnancy and the spread of STDs, and that since we can have sexual fun with the opposite gender through oral sex, toys, and other options that it is actually irresponsible to have PVI outside a monogamous marriage even when both parties consent. This, by the way, was not made by some religious guy, but a very lefty progressive philosopher at my department (I've never met him, the argument was told to me by one of my teachers) who is pro-choice. I've also heard radical feminist arguments that PVI puts way too much of burden on women, and so it is unethical for a man to engage in it (some even say it is by definition rape, but that's a silly argument). Similar to the first argument, this one applies even if both parties consent.

I find these arguments ping some very strong negative emotional reactions in me, and yet I can't think of a slam-dunk argument against them. I think they make me emotional because -- with the caveat that I lack sexual experience -- at the moment I want PVI even more than other kinds of sex. PVI porn turns me on more than other kinds, too. Also, it seems, prior to my experiencing it, that there is something more deep and intense about it than other kinds of sex. It seems that I'm not alone in feeling this way, either. But, I also am aware that maybe this is merely only from the culture. On the other hand, even if it is from the culture, should I change my opinions based on that knowledge? Shouldn't I want what I want and value various acts based on what I value? Well, I'm not sure, but the previous two arguments say that not only should I not value it, I should avoid it.

So, PVI. Does society overvalue it? Is it ethical to engage in for men? For women? Is it just too risky compared to the reasonable alternatives? What's wrong (or right) about either of the first two arguments? I'm curious what you all think.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 16, 2014 9:38 pm

Yeah, those arguments take it wayyyy too far.

I mean, from my perspective I think we definitely do overvalue PIV in general. Just given the way so many people think sex between two people with the same genitals is some mysterious wonderland of strangeness, and the way people react like a guy who gets paralysed below the waist cannot have a satisfying sex life, or the way people treat penis size as some holy grail in the pursuit of satisfying sex.

But that is a long way from saying PIV shouldn't be done for any specific reason. I mean for one thing that "PIV sex is a higher risk for STDs" thing makes little sense to me. Any area of the body with soft mucous membranes liable to tearing can be a vector for STD transmission - so that's both the mouth and anus included right there.

I'm firmly of the opinion that people should do whatever kind of sex they like and want to do, with consenting partners. Now, I also think people on the whole could benefit from being more open about exploring sex without PIV penetration, simply because the variety of other stuff that is awesome and fun is huge and makes for some really great sex. But that's as an optional addition to whatever people are already doing, not a replacement.

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Post by reboot on Thu Oct 16, 2014 9:43 pm

I'd like to comment further but am still gobsmacked that he specified a monogamous relationship. I could sort of see saying committed relationship, but monogamous!?!!!! WTF.

Oh and memo to prof, you can get all the STDs through anal sex so....yeah, logic fail
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Post by Autumnflame on Thu Oct 16, 2014 9:45 pm

In direct response to the title: Yes. No.

Less flippantly: There's definitely way too much emphasis placed on penetrative sex as the only "real" sex, and I'd be happier seeing greater acknowledgment that oral, mutual masturbation, solo masturbation, etc. are also forms of sex.

I don't have particularly reasoned arguments against the position you've heard, though, beyond that a) there are other ways to shoulder the responsibility of decreasing the risk of spreading children or STDs that are just about as effective (I highly doubt, although admittedly I do not have the numbers, that engaging in bare oral sex is safer than engaging in condomed penetrative sex), and b) that's just silly. Childbirth also puts way too much of a burden on women - certainly far more than sex - but nobody (well, okay, maybe a rare few people do, but the vast majority don't) advocates that nobody have children even if both parties really want to.

My kneejerk reaction is that you're overthinking things again and that, as usual, it's just a matter of negotiation between the parties involved. So long as it's fully consensual between two people capable of giving reasoned consent, it's ethical in my worldview. There's risk of negative consequences, of course, but that's true of anything - and the negative consequences of most STDs are not that negative, objectively speaking, even if the subjective experience might be devastating. (Chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes are the most common, IIRC, and the first two can be cleared up with some antibiotics while the second is a harmless-if-embarrassing skin disease that most people have in the form of cold sores.)


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Post by Werel on Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:00 pm

The Wisp wrote:I've also heard radical feminist arguments that PVI puts way too much of burden on women, and so it is unethical for a man to engage in it (some even say it is by definition rape, but that's a silly argument).

A guest speaker at my high school made me aware of this argument for the first time. I laughed then, I'm laughing ten years later. Dude, you can find somebody saying that anything is the very definition of evil and/or the only true good in this world. You don't have to believe them.

I find these arguments ping some very strong negative emotional reactions in me, and yet I can't think of a slam-dunk argument against them.

Here you go:

I want PVI even more than other kinds of sex. PVI porn turns me on more than other kinds, too.

That is your slam-dunk argument for you, personally, valuing and engaging in PVI. Not purely being glib, I really think that's all you need to know.

But, I also am aware that maybe this is merely only from the culture. On the other hand, even if it is from the culture, should I change my opinions based on that knowledge?

I too am prone to Cultural Relativism Poisoning (what I call the ever-present temptation to discount an idea or value because it is culture-specific, but BRO, ALL THINGS ARE CULTURE-SPECIFIC!), but remember that you are not obligated to be Objective or Universal-- you're a young white American man, and it's not only normal and unavoidable but okay for you to have some values that stem from your particular lived experience. It's also okay for you to have values that are different from others in your culture. It's alllll okay man, kumbaya. Razz

Shouldn't I want what I want and value various acts based on what I value? Well, I'm not sure, but the previous two arguments say that not only should I not value it, I should avoid it.

Do you listen to the message not to have PVI when it's coming from a fundamentalist preacher, or a super conservative imam, or some jerk you totally hate and have nothing in common with, and not a person who nominally belongs to your self-identified group (academic philosophers)? It's good to consider others' objections to behaviors, but you're not obligated to be in lockstep with every idea or value expressed by others in your group.

So, PVI. Does society overvalue it? Is it ethical to engage in for men? For women? Is it just too risky compared to the reasonable alternatives? What's wrong (or right) about either of the first two arguments? I'm curious what you all think.

I think it's important to remember that, speaking as a woman (I only have secondhand info from men, but they often concur), PVI is just plain different from other sex acts. It feels good in different ways than other sex, and for me, it's simply better. Saying that other pleasure can be had more ethically may be true on a pragmatic level, but so what? It's more ethical to substitute tofu nuggets for chicken nuggets, but they're not the same. They don't taste the same. There is no one correct choice between tofu and chicken-- it's a reward-consequence tradeoff that everyone has to work out for themselves, and when someone is telling you that one choice is the Only True and Good Choice, well... they're rarely the kind of person I'd choose to modify my behavior for.
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Post by Conreezy on Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:53 pm

that there is something more deep and intense about it than other kinds of sex. It seems that I'm not alone in feeling this way, either

I think this is comes from the classic sexism handed to us by our ancestors: it's "intense" to women because it's "making love," seen as the giving of her ultimate (and only) thing of value. To men it becomes a big deal because you haven't "banged" anyone unless it was PIV. Other forms of sex don't really count towards your number.

Shouldn't I want what I want and value various acts based on what I value?

Sure, but that doesn't mean that there aren't legitimate concerns with the argument. Pregnancy and disease are factors that need to be taken into account to make casual sex casual and fun. (I don't imagine there's anything casual and fun about child-support payments or penicillin shots!).

The way I see it, if those risk factors have been mitigated to an acceptable level, and everyone's on board, have at it. Who's to say that oral sex and toys are enough or the right kind of fun for every single person?


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Post by eselle28 on Fri Oct 17, 2014 1:16 am

Yes, we overvalue it (which doesn't mean it doesn't have plenty of value, but anything that's the sole arbiter of virginity and that is the only way of having sex that goes without a modifier is overvalued just by nature of everything else being so undervalued). No, it's not wrong to want it, whatever your gender is. Yes, these arguments that you read are very extreme and tend to be quite condescending in devaluing the desires and capability for assessing their risk tolerance STIs and pregnancy.

I do think there's value in understanding that not all of your potential partners will be as turned on by PIV as you are, that some partners may enjoy it but may prefer to engage in less risky forms of sex (especially in more casual contexts), and that even lots of people who like PIV might not feel it's the most important or the most emotional sex they've had. That doesn't mean you have to have sex with those people, of course. It's up to you whether you engage in some sexual exploration or pleasure that doesn't involve it or whether you pass and wait for someone to come along who shares your very common interest. As always, understanding where your potential partners may be coming from can be helpful.
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Post by C-Bass on Fri Oct 17, 2014 6:39 pm

I don't know if PiV is over-valued myself, but given that it's likely the first kind of sexual contact people learn about when they're growing up (kind of a grey area there given the info available, I found out what anal was in year 7 thanks to Girlfriend magazine) so if you're looking for a root cause that's probably it, along with our Judeo-Christian history; those folks don't seem to have a high opinion anything other than PiV.

As for the arguments:

PiV irresponsible outside of marriage due to the risks? Not if you use birth control properly and get regular health checks it's not. Besides, it's not like oral, anal and toy based sex is any less irresponsible on this front. I don't know what the relative risks for oral are, but in terms of potential for infection anal trumps them all; given the mechanical and chemical/biological properties of the rectum, you need to know what the fuck you're doing.

I don't have an answer for the radical feminist arguments for the reason that I do not argue or debate points with radials of any stripe; it's not worth it.  

Is it ethical for men to engage in it? Has the woman consented? If she has than yes it's fucking ethical.
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Post by 8bitGreyscale on Sat Oct 18, 2014 2:11 pm

The Wisp wrote:I heard an argument today that people shouldn't have PiV intercourse (PVI) outside of monogamous marriages. The gist of it is that PVI carries a much greater risk for pregnancy and the spread of STDs, and that since we can have sexual fun with the opposite gender through oral sex, toys, and other options that it is actually irresponsible to have PVI outside a monogamous marriage even when both parties consent. This, by the way, was not made by some religious guy, but a very lefty progressive philosopher at my department (I've never met him, the argument was told to me by one of my teachers) who is pro-choice. I've also heard radical feminist arguments that PVI puts way too much of burden on women, and so it is unethical for a man to engage in it (some even say it is by definition rape, but that's a silly argument). Similar to the first argument, this one applies even if both parties consent.

I agree that these arguments are rather extreme. However, I personally find them useful because they can make me aware of and think about a subject in a completely different way that I wouldn't have seen on my own. It also can help me understand where that "side" is coming from, helping me be more receptive to the less extreme arguments from that side.

Most of the time when I read an extreme argument, I'll find fragments that strike me as reasonable (if not from the argument itself, than from the foundations it's built upon that I hadn't heard until then). For example, I disagree with the conclusions of these arguments, but I find bits like these good food for thought:

- PVI certainly does carry a greater risk of pregnancy, which is often a concern for sexually active people.
- Other forms of sex can be just as enjoyable as PVI (with different personal preferences, of course).
- I can see how one could argue that PVI places more of (not all) of a burden on women, with the physical risks of pregnancy and how STIs can (can) impact women more severely.

Does that mean I agree Having or wanting to have PVI is "unethical"? Hell to the no.

However, the points I referenced above help me examine arguments, attitudes and assumptions regarding sex and PVI more critically. For instance:

The Wisp wrote:I find these arguments ping some very strong negative emotional reactions in me, and yet I can't think of a slam-dunk argument against them. I think they make me emotional because -- with the caveat that I lack sexual experience -- at the moment I want PVI even more than other kinds of sex. PVI porn turns me on more than other kinds, too. Also, it seems, prior to my experiencing it, that there is something more deep and intense about it than other kinds of sex. It seems that I'm not alone in feeling this way, either.
(emphasis mine)

The idea of society overvaluing or overemphasizing PVI leads me to consider how that impacts societal views/attitudes of non-heterosexual sex*. If someone believes that only PVI actually "counts" as SEX-sex ... That's pretty dismissive and belittling of sexual relationships whose members cannot have -- or do not want to have -- PVI.

So the bolded part there also seems pretty dismissive and condescending, implying the sexual relationships mentioned above are inherently less deep, less intense than those which do perform PVI. I do NOT think you were arguing this or consciously believe this, Wisp! But if society does overvalue PVI, this seems to be one of the negative impacts that most aren't actively aware of.

* As well as heterosexual relationships that choose not to perform PVI, sure.
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Oct 18, 2014 3:56 pm

Okay, you all are right, of course. When I hear arguments that go against things I value a lot personally, those arguments have a way of worming into my brain and making me doubt myself.

Autumnflame wrote:
My kneejerk reaction is that you're overthinking things again

What? Me? Overthink things? Never Razz

Werel wrote:I too am prone to Cultural Relativism Poisoning (what I call the ever-present temptation to discount an idea or value because it is culture-specific, but BRO, ALL THINGS ARE CULTURE-SPECIFIC!), but remember that you are not obligated to be Objective or Universal-- you're a young white American man, and it's not only normal and unavoidable but okay for you to have some values that stem from your particular lived experience. It's also okay for you to have values that are different from others in your culture. It's alllll okay man, kumbaya. Razz

Yeah, this is helpful way of framing it.

Here you go:

I want PVI even more than other kinds of sex. PVI porn turns me on more than other kinds, too.

That is your slam-dunk argument for you, personally, valuing and engaging in PVI. Not purely being glib, I really think that's all you need to know.

Thanks, this really helped, actually.

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Post by The Wisp on Sat Oct 18, 2014 9:34 pm

8-Bit: I didn't mean that to come off as condescending. I was just describing my feelings and the feelings of many others, but I didn't mean it prescriptively. I'll try to phrase such things better in the future so that I don't inadvertently criticize others.
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Post by 8bitGreyscale on Sun Oct 19, 2014 1:59 am

The Wisp wrote:8-Bit: I didn't mean that to come off as condescending. I was just describing my feelings and the feelings of many others, but I didn't mean it prescriptively. I'll try to phrase such things better in the future so that I don't inadvertently criticize others.

Oh no, no, no! I know you didn't mean it to at all! I should have explained what I meant more clearly, sorry about that. It's more like... everyone is influenced by their culture's values. And honestly? I totally understand what you mean. Even though I don't like that our culture overemphasizes PVI, I'm still influenced by it at what feels like a gut or instinctual level (but isn't). And with all that in mind, I can look at these unexamined attitudes and beliefs I have and see the not-so-nice implications they have.

Am I managing to make sense? I don't want you to think I was judging you negatively at all.
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Post by Chickpea Sarada on Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:37 pm

I think PiV is indeed overvalued and overemphasized. There are people who think that is the only form of sex that "counts." Hence some people saying, "If you just had anal/oral sex, you'd still be a virgin." Non-heterosexual couples being asked personal/invasive/ignorant questions, etc.

On a less serious note: Remember back in the old forums when some lady posters said they preferred sexual activity to last about an hour or more, and some guy poster was horrified because he thought it meant PiV for that long?
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