Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Student Magazine

So I really do want to address that National Post article in more detail but I just came across this. The article in question, in case the link does not go directly to the page, is "Student MD: Your Sex Questions Answered!!" and is on page 9 of the Fall 2009 issue of this student publication. The article begins respectable enough, addressing possible health concerns of sex such as STIs, "bumps, scraps, the odd bite mark, fingernail tracks, rug burn, latex or massage oil allergies, hair pulling, leg-cramping and/or burning sensations due to friction..." Scraps? Do they mean scrapes? Or scraps as in fights? OK. Re-reading that part I don't feel they even address the STI issue properly. I do not mean to advocate for abstinence only, I do not mean to argue that sex is "bad" because there is no way I feel that way. However, to put STIs, and not just less harmful ones but "incurable and fatal" ones, on the same level as allergies and minor physical pain is highly problematic. Another part that sounds like there is potential for good discussion is when lots of sex for women is advocated. In my previous post I comment on Catherine MacKinnon's stance that all straight sex is rape. I might be jumping to conclusions this early in the article that the author, Justin Sharpe, is referring to straight sex, but the sentence at the end of the article confirms this, which I will get to. Sharpe uses Dr. Claire Bailey's research from the University of Bristol which states that there,

"is little or no risk for females on 'overdosing' on sex. There are in fact gender specific health benefits associated with having lots of sex, such as improving posture and firming the abdomen."

I am all for promoting healthy sexual lives and establishing a culture that celebrates female sexuality rather than condemns it. At the same time, it should be an individual's choice whether to have sex or not, and with whom, and when. They should not be scared into having sex because of medical research showing that,

"...women who abstain from sex may face greater risks later in life. The opening of the vagina narrows from disuse and in post menopausal women, a condition called Dyspareunia is much more prevalent among sexually inactive women. Dyspareunia is characterized by pain associated with intercourse and could result in vaginal scrapes, should they choose to have sex."

I will not deny there are issues when arts students take on medical issues and vice versa but the way this article is set up is problematic to both fields of study. Women should be able to enjoy sex. They should not feel guilty for wanting and enjoying sex. They should also not feel obligated to have sex because doctors tell them they should. The same applies for men, I just am discussing female sexuality right now because that is what this particular part of the article addresses.

The article continues to say that there are potentially more health risks for men 'overdosing' on sex than women. This is interesting in that there is normal an expectation of men to enjoy sex at anytime and all the time and this article is questioning that assumption. Is it though? It is not questioning social and sexual expectations of men but is instead pointing out potential health risks. These health risks are also considered not much more concerning than the occasional "scrap" suffered during sex though according to this article.

My main concern and point of contention with this article is the conclusion. Until this point, although there are different issues, the article itself is just a piece of harmless fluff. It even has the potential to create discussion around expectations of sex, even if it is as medical concerns rather than social ones. Sex should be discussed. It should be something that is no longer taboo, and if it weren't for the conclusion, this article could potentially be seen as an aide to this, despite its problems. This is how it ends:

"So now it's time to face the facts. STUDENT does not condone whoring by any means, but ladies, for health's sake, now just might be the time to let loose... I'll be at Tap House, Fridays at 11."

I understand this is meant as a joke. I really do. This is meant to be a humorous wrap-up to an article that might be embarrassing or awkward for some people to read. But there is just so much wrong with this, and it being a joke makes it possibly even more problematic. First off - whoring? Really? You just spent a decent time discussing the benefits for women to have as much sex as possible, which I was even willing to give you some credit for maybe wanting to create a space for women to feel comfortable with their sexuality and you then cut it down to "whoring." A practice that you just argued was healthy for women, you are now using derogatory terms to define. Not only that but you say you don't want them to go so far as whoring, as in there is a limit still to how much sex you can enjoy before it becomes whoring. My Mac dictionary defines a whore as "a prostitute; a promiscuous woman." The verb is "(of a woman) to work as a prostitute" but "(of a man)" is "to use the services of prostitutes." Alright, so I could make a whole blog entry about that definition, and maybe I will, but I need to finish something for another class still tonight. So STUDENT doesn't advocate for women being promiscuous? Current social understandings of promiscuous women vary from sex before marriage to various sexual partners is a certain period of time...and all these understandings are hypocritical and problematic. All of these definitions apply only to women. From the dictionary understanding, for a man to whore it only means to have sex with a prostitute. So what counts as whoring to STUDENT? Female students sleeping with more than one guy (and I do stress "guy" because this article is only discussing heterosexual sex) in a school year? A month? A week? A night?

And another thing - "for health's sake"?? Obviously it is for Sharpe's sake alone that this line refers to. Is this the only way he can get women to sleep with him? Advocate that he is only sleeping with them for their benefit? Who is the one whoring here? If that's the term he wants to use, the only "whoring" seems to be Sharpe to the entire female population of UWO. Again, it is a joke but it is a terribly condescending one, and not even a funny one at that. And to assume that all sex women engage in is with a man. Or do the same health benefits not apply to lesbian sex?

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