thegrandnarrative + sexual-assault   2

The female price of male pleasure
The studies on this are few. A casual survey of forums where people discuss "bad sex" suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience. (Here's a very unscientific Twitter poll I did that found just that.) But when most women talk about "bad sex," they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical pain. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, and one of the forces behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, confirmed this. "When it comes to 'good sex,'" she told me, "women often mean without pain, men often mean they had orgasms."

As for bad sex, University of Michigan Professor Sara McClelland, another one of the few scholars who has done rigorous work on this issue, discovered in the course of her research on how young men and women rate sexual satisfaction that "men and women imagined a very different low end of the sexual satisfaction scale."

While women imagined the low end to include the potential for extremely negative feelings and the potential for pain, men imagined the low end to represent the potential for less satisfying sexual outcomes, but they never imagined harmful or damaging outcomes for themselves. ["Intimate Justice: Sexual satisfaction in young adults"]

Once you've absorbed how horrifying this is, you might reasonably conclude that our "reckoning" over sexual assault and harassment has suffered because men and women have entirely different rating scales. An 8 on a man's Bad Sex scale is like a 1 on a woman's. This tendency for men and women to use the same term — bad sex — to describe experiences an objective observer would characterize as vastly different is the flip side of a known psychological phenomenon called "relative deprivation," by which disenfranchised groups, having been trained to expect little, tend paradoxically to report the same levels of satisfaction as their better-treated, more privileged peers.

This is one reason why Sullivan's attempt to naturalize the status quo is so damaging.

When a woman says "I'm uncomfortable" and leaves a sexual encounter in tears, then, maybe she's not being a fragile flower with no tolerance for discomfort. And maybe we could stand to think a little harder about the biological realities a lot of women deal with, because unfortunately, painful sex isn't the exceptional outlier we like to pretend it is. It's pretty damn common.
sex  sexual-assault  psychology  Me-too  relative-deprivation  orgasm 
july 2018 by thegrandnarrative

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