[ weird things ] | how not to write an article about sexuality

how not to write an article about sexuality

Blaming porn for societal problems isn't exclusive to religious zealots.
inappropriate teacher

One of the things I encounter most in my line of work is the need to look at the big picture of what’s going on. If a piece of software is acting oddly, it’s not enough to make generic, overriding statements about how it has to function out of thin air. No, you have to roll up your sleeves, set up your breakpoints, and get to work to slowly, and often tediously, make your way through the logical layers to find the bad loop or misplaced variable. That’s how you tackle and solve complex problems, by considering the whole picture and it’s many facets. But were I to go by Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s ability to tackle the intricate topic of sexuality in The Atlantic, I think I’d be quite safe in wagering that she’d never be able to produce any complete research project. Her lengthy article’s vacuity on par with the simplest and worst thought out pop evo psych isn’t just a perfect example of how utterly dysfunctional the conversation about sex can get in the United States, but its thesis verges on being offensive to nearly half the human population. Here’s the short version of her argument: men are depraved and sexually aggressive creatures who hunt women down as conquests, and internet porn is making them even worse.

Now, I’ve written about the bizarre place porn has in American society, and tackled some of the trumped up charges against it in pop culture, as well as the dreaded “addiction to porn” ominously whispered by many self-appointed crusaders for our decency. Vargas-Cooper doesn’t fit any of the above molds, of course, but in her slash and burn across the world of sex, she has apparently decided to turn her mixed experiences into an indictment against men, casting them as predatory creatures who use sex as a means of subjugation that all women must struggle to escape. She even mentions an explicit episode from a one night stand in that quasi-profound way which lets the reader know that this article is very personal but framed as a long and deliberate meditation on a question. And it is, though the meditation itself is an attempt to come up with supporting logic for the pre-existing conclusion of the author that men are all pigs. But hey, don’t blame them, Vargas-Cooper rushes to add, it’s not their fault. They’re just born sexual deviants and can’t help themselves. If the ignorance of this piece could only manifest itself, I’m sure it would take the form of a monster from a tentacle rape hentai and go after the author threatening to do things best left to your imaginations. Why a self-respecting and high brow publication like The Atlantic published this little ode to low level misandry, larded with the kind of cheap, self-indulgent pseudoscience that would make any sex researcher fume, I don’t know.

We’ve encountered this type of pseudo-expertise before when it comes to sexuality. It’s what made psychology treat anything kinkier than the missionary position as a dire pathology until the middle of the last century, the kind of expertise that’s based on absolutely nothing but the author’s personal grudges and opinions being masqueraded as fact. Even worse, we have to go along with Vargas-Cooper’s ridiculous assertion that using the most extreme and hardcore porn on the web is a perfectly valid way to research men’s attitudes towards a woman they find sexually attractive. By this logic, we could measure the effectiveness of CSI teams based not on the actual efficacy of the CSI teams working in law enforcement agencies, but on TV shows and say that in the last five or six years there’s been a sudden and incredible jump in arrests and convictions made solely on the weight of iron-clad forensic evidence. Of course there would be. The characters on CSI shows will always, always catch their killer, even if it takes them a few story arcs to track down that one mad genius foe who lives to create tension for a few seasons and give the show more cohesion. In the real world, too many crimes will go unsolved and the quality of forensic evidence from a stray hair or drop of blood will always be inconclusive to some degree and allow for the jury to acquit. It’s even been studied as the CSI effect. Likewise, whatever a person can find on the many pornorgraphic -tube sites won’t say anything about about his sex life. You could have a subject who goes out of his way to catch some of the roughest, most explicit BDSM porn and yet insist on only the most vanilla sex in the bedroom, even if his partner really wants to give sadomasochism a try.

Speaking of which, I have to ask if Vargas-Cooper has even met a sexually aggressive woman or a woman in search of someone who could play a dominant role in bed because that’s what turns her on? Did they simply vanish from her radar? Is she unaware of the so-called “cougars,” older, well-off, single women for whom sex isn’t so much about reproduction but recreation? And on the flip side, is she unaware of sexually submissive men who go out looking for a dominatrix? How does her perpetually sexually aggressive men theory explain a population of males who hand over control to females? Human sexuality is a far more complex and elaborate topic than Vargas-Cooper seems to be even willing to acknowledge with a passing phrase when she boils it down to sexist clichés which just so happen to neatly fall into some of the lowest quality dreck from evo psych studies trumpeted by the media. If her goal was a cathartic growl at the men who wronged her, she absolutely succeeded. But if she was trying to provide a factual analysis of human sexuality in modern times without odd and unnecessary fixations on the subjects of anal sex and kinky fetishes, she failed spectacularly.

# sex // human sexuality / journalism / mass media / sex

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