[EDIT: this is my 500th post! it only took me 500 posts to untangle this knotty little problem.]
There are a lot of blogs in the world, and most of them are crowded with jerks and dopes. But I am blessed with a crowd of reasonable humans! There are even loads of you who disagree with me to varying degrees about a wide array of topics, who tell me so very cogently yet firmly, and who then come back!
I take my abnormally articulate readership as a commentary on my total lack of search engine optimization, link-baity headlines, or promotion of any kind. The folks who manage somehow to find me in the first place and then bother to come back are folks who really do give some kind of genuine shit about science, social justice, and sexual health.
And you’re why the blog exists now. I started writing because I had a lot of noise in my head that I needed to put someplace. I’ve kept writing (for nearly 3 year now) because I continually learn from ya’ll about how to write better about sex. I have gotten better because you folks have told me what works and what doesn’t.
Thanks to consistent badgering (and I mean that in a deeply affectionate way) by you, my extraordinarily civil and intelligent readers, perhaps especially the feminist librarian, I HAVE FOUND the solution to the different-for-girls problem! I have found a way to talk about women’s sexuality as WOMEN’S sexuality, importantly distinct from men’s sexuality, WITHOUT overplaying the gender binary.
The trick is to talk first about variety WITHIN groups and then talk about variety ACROSS groups.
The insight was triggered by this post from 2+ years ago, and the comments that go with it. I said this:
…We’re all made of the same stuff. But it’s just organized a different way, to different ends, for males and females.
Is that better?
This is unambiguously true about our sexual hardware:
ovaries : testes
labia majora : scrotum
glans clitoris : glans penis
urethral sponge : prostate
uterus : uterus masculinus
And so on. See? All the same stuff, just organized in a different way.
But you don’t look at the biological homology of human sexual hardware and say, “See, male and female genitals are the same,” do you? Because they’re not, they’re different! I mean they are the same, but they’re different, right, and it’s utterly crucial that they’re different, or else we couldn’t have the kind of sex we have, couldn’t reproduce the way we do, couldn’t be the species we are!
All the same stuff, organized in different ways.
AND! Beyond the homology of human genitalia across sexes, is the variability WITHIN sexes: NO TWO ALIKE!
So while it is unarguably true that humans are a sexually dimorphic species, it is also unarguably true that each and every one of us varies from each and every other one of us.
There’s a range of genital configurations that we generally recognize as “male” and a range of genital configurations that we generally recognize as “female,” and there is a range of genital configurations that look ambiguous to us. But just as intersex genitals vary from male and female genitals, so female genitals vary from each other and male genitals vary from each other. It is a matter of degree of variability, not kind.
And the same goes for desire, arousal, and orgasm.
If we have a population of a thousand people – and that would be a typical number of unique visitors for me in a day, so let’s just imagine all the people who read this post today. Out of all of you, maybe one of you will have a sex chromosome configuration other than XX or XY.
Maybe 10 or so of you will have a genital configuration that isn’t obviously “male” or obviously “female.”
Anywhere from 0 – 5 or more of you will identify as a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth.
And out of the thousand or so of you, between 100-400 of you will have a sexual response style – desire, arousal, orgasm – that more typically characterizes the other (“other”) gender.
But even among those whose sexual response style is typical of their birth-assigned gender, every single one of you has a sexual body – anatomy and physiology – that is utterly unique to YOURSELF – made of all the same parts, organized in an individual way.
Variability, both across groups and within them.
I’m still polishing the idea, but I really feel there is great promise here.