Sexy Sex Newsy News The Buzz on Sex in the News with Dr. Carol Queen Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist

SexySexNewsyNewsHeaderWeek of September 4-10, 2013

James Franco’s Penis in the News

Well, not his actual penis – but, madeja look!

Following our comments last week about Newark mayor Cory Booker, who does not care if you think he’s gay, we must mention the true 21st century metrosexual: indy film heartthrob James Franco, recently roasted by Comedy Central and noted for his sexy (indeed, sometimes homosexy) body of work that includes playing Harvey Milk’s lover Scott Smith in Milk and Allen Ginsberg in Howl, two hella-gay biopics; making a film that riffed off the notorious 1980 Al Pacino flick Cruising (Interior. Leather Bar), and other sex-inflected projects like sexwork dramas About Cherry and Lovelace (in which he channels Hugh Hefner).

As The Advocate noted, Bay Area homeboy  James “is exploring sexuality” and, like Booker, doesn’t mind if you think he’s gay; in fact, without the James Franco Gay Question, I gather the Comedy Central roast would have consisted of lots of dead air, with all the comedians just staring at him — well, he is pretty, and who could blame them? – and maybe making some jokes about Palo Alto. (Which, especially now that Palo Alto is the site of our newest Good Vibrations store, I must just interject: That’s not funny!) While Slate gave ink, or rather pixels, this week to ask whether the gay roast jokes were offensive, James told The Daily Beast that they definitely were not, since it isn’t offensive to be considered gay and that (up that ante, James!) he wished he was gay.

I may be one of the women most fond of gay men in all the world, and an expert on pomosexuality to boot, so I have reassuring news for him: Wishing you were gay is practically as great as actually being gay. You get all the cultural capital… you just miss out on the fabulous gay sex.

Your Penis In the News

I’m playing a little fast and loose with my sub-heads. Not your penis, your testicles. This week we learn that if you have small balls (precise size range not defined in the news reports), you will be a better dad than if you have large ones, which may facilitate your fathering many children (or possibly might inspire another James Franco movie, if you turn out to have gay balls), but which will lean you toward big loads and promiscuity rather than caretaking. (Not the gay balls, I mean, the big balls.)

I have a degree in sociology, and so I find statistics and research studies very interesting. This study had an N (number of participants studied) of 70 men, who brought pictures of their kids into the lab and then looked at them while in an fMRI machine and their brains were scanned. Then their testicles were evaluated for size in in some fashion (weighed? A tape measure wrapped around? A lab tech palmed and hefted ‘em, like they used to do in Masters and Johnson’s lab? Joke, people, joke). Result: smaller-balled men were more emotionally responsive (per brain scan) to their children’s pictures than bigger-balled men, and interviews demonstrated more engaged fathering from the first group. I liked the CBS News website article about the study best of the several I read.

The sociobiologists found it all quite compelling. Me, not so much. I especially didn’t like two things: An N of 70 is a small N. If it were a testicle, it would belong to a good dad. It’s not sufficiently large to give us predictability. I hope you are not worrying about the best way to measure your balls right now, if you possess them in the first place.

Second, none of the several articles I read about the study delineated the men’s relationship with their children’s mothers, which might be very relevant indeed, nor give us an idea how the researchers handled the question of varying gender roles and parenting duty distribution – because most people, in their families, work that out not by measuring testicles, but by other means that include their ideal childrearing format, their notions about masculinity and femininity, their job status/es, their politics even. I’d like to think we were taking all this carefully into account when we designed such studies. It’s not predictive, they note. I’ll say it isn’t.

Is Withdrawal Really a Popular Birth Control Method Again? What Year is This? What Century?

In other reproductive discourse… An article in Slate suggests that pulling out has gained new currency in the new millennium, and that it is the birth control method of choice for undecided women who aren’t sure they want kids but also aren’t sure they don’t. Just having (hetero)sex without prophylactics weights the dice, but if he pulls out before coming, you at least tried. Sorta.

I hope that this new thing (if it is in fact a thing) is being done mindfully, as mindfully as you can be when you’re allowing your undecided reproductive status to be somatized to this extent. And that this is not an artifact of just really crappy sex education.

Because, hello… Planned Parenthood?

And PS, using withdrawal means you are likely not using condoms. Remember condoms? Don’t tell me they’re so 20th century. Though I read half a good article at the hairdresser a couple of weeks ago that suggests hardly any young hip hook-uppers are using them, at least the hetero-identified ones. You people must really want the AIDS service organizations to survive and thrive, which is great… but at the expense of prevention? I just did a bunch up updated STD research, and I’d like to suggest that you don’t want any of those bugs if you can avoid them. Baby roulette is another matter, but I would encourage you to discuss it with the person with whom you might be cookin’ up that zygote. See, once you can discuss prevention and proactive baby-having, it is so much easier to talk about things like having orgasms, or whether to paint the spare bedroom red so you can play 50 Shades all weekend.

Rape, Culture, and Rape Culture

We are informed this week (I saw it first on the BBC website) that research in Asia, by which they mean several countries in Asia but not all of them, has revealed that between 10% and 25% of men there have committed rape.

I’ll start by saying that I wish this had been global and not regional, and that it is inappropriate to group many diverse countries in a region together this way, especially when a simplistic version of what was learned intersects with notions (and stereotypes) of race and cultural difference. (And that, in fact, in the West, way too many people don’t even understand the nuances of those differences across such a large and diverse region.) And if this is a culturally distinctive finding even in part, how great it would be to know how these findings compare to other parts of the world. Are these numbers high, low, comparable? Keep at it out there, researchers.

But this does seem to be an interesting study in spite of those concerns; one reason why is that the N is much, much higher – 10,000-plus, though out of such a large geographical area, this is still not as high a number as one might ideally like to see participate in such research. They didn’t use the word rape, but worded the questions to get at the notion of having sex with someone who didn’t want to have it; the lower percentage in the 10-25% spectrum measures the responses of men who said they’d had sex with an unwilling woman who wasn’t their wife or girlfriend; the higher number had raped a partner. Two significant reasons why they had had non-consensual sex: They felt they were entitled to it, and/or they were bored.

These seem to me hugely important and interesting responses. Back in the day, in my early feminist years, the cutting-edge theory said that rape wasn’t a crime of sex or passion; it was a crime of power. Clearly this is an important way to think about rape, but I’ve always been concerned that the baby was thrown out with the bathwater when we embraced that idea, because there are many kinds of power-over; rape involves sex and in a significant way is sex. Those men mostly thought they were having sex. The question of consent, so vitally important in some sexual and feminist subcultures, isn’t the main way sex is considered everywhere, and I by no means think Asia is different in this regard. Many of these men would not have said yes if they’d been asked if they’d committed a rape. (That’s why the researchers didn’t pose the question that way.) Rapists are other guys. Until we can talk about consent, entitlement, communication, desire, and other powerful topics as a matter of course — as the way every person grows up to think about sexuality — we won’t have a handle on rape, in this or any other culture.

PS: No Miley This Week

Ooops, wait, I lied! She got naked and swung on a wrecking ball, that little minx. But that’s not why I’m mentioning her. I’m just noting that the single most interesting Miley mention I’ve seen this week was in USA Today, which tells us that someone (Outbrain, I believe) has done the math on page views, and news about Miley has been clicked on twice as frequently as news about Syria. (This in spite of the fact that there were twice as many stories about Syria as about Miley.) And people wonder why I insist that media literacy is an important part of sex education!

This factoid is far more compelling (and, possibly, horrifying) than the other Miley-associated factoids of the week, though I was pretty amused to read that her dad is on the advisory board of the Parents Television Council. (Apparently they have kindly offered him the opportunity to step down so he doesn’t have to listen to them talking trash about his little girl, whom he loves and supports no matter what. Twerking: He loves her. Wrecking ball: Loves her. Awwww!) Softpedia calls this “the mother of all ironies,” but I think perhaps it ought to be called the father of all ironies instead, and it has caused me to do something I have never, ever done before: wonder about the size of Billy Ray Cyrus’s balls. Because – what a good dad!

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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1 Response

  1. Hi Carol,

    Thanks for questioning the methodology and findings of the smaller-balls-better-dad study. The fact that things like this get so much media attention without “journalists” questioning the methodology never fails to boggle the mind. Seems like anyone can publish anything in the name of “evo-psychology” and the media assumes it must be true, or valid.

    As for withdrawal–it’s probably way better than using nothing, and maybe even more effective than using spermicides. However, sex educators often forget to mention the Killick et al study from 2010 that is one of the first to actually study whether pre-cum contains sperm, and what do you know, “Eleven of the 27 subjects (41%) produced pre-ejaculatory samples that contained spermatozoa and in 10 of these cases (37%), a reasonable proportion of the sperm was motile.”

    Regarding the early feminist mantra that rape is about power and control rather than sex: while a woman who is on the non-consensual end of a sexual experience might not experience it as “sex,” the men with the erect penises most certainly do. Delusional? No doubt. But I think you make an important point: they still believe they are having sex.

    Thanks, and I Look forward to reading your column next week!

    Paul

    Paul Joannides, Psy.D.
    author: “Guide To Getting It On”
    http://www.Guide2Getting.com