Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sex and the gym.

I always felt a certain amount of scorn for people who went to the gym to pick up. We have all seen that sad image of a woman going to the gym in a push-up bra, jewellery and make-up, trying not to look flustered as she struggles with the rowing machine or flirts outrageously with the gym instructor. Or the mental image of the guy doing more weights than he really should, but struggling on to impress someone with how strong he is.

One of the reasons I find these individuals so worthy of my scorn and derision is that I feel a certain amount of empathy with them. I think my gym instructor is cute, and if I had the confidence I'd pinch his ass, smile coyly and give him my phone number. But I don't. Cos I'm unfit, have a jiggly waistline and I am surrounded by people who are fitter and prettier than me who have firmer tummies, can last longer on the treadmill and can lift heavier weights. If anyone in that place is going to get the gym instructors attention, it certainly isn't going to be me (unless I fall off something, but I'm not willing to risk it). So I hide under baggy gym clothes and I heap disdain upon those who would openly acknowledge the fact that the gym is a precursor to hot, sweaty, pneumatic sex.

There are an enormous amount of reasons not to go to the gym. For one thing: when you start, you're red-faced and puffing exhaustedly while everyone else is still sprinting on the treadmill as though they are only just warming up. You're going because you recognise that your body and your health needs improvement...but in order to do that, you have to expose your pudgy cellulite to the world in tight-fitting stretch-pants and flab-exposing sports-bras that feel too tight among all the people who are fitter, younger and prettier than you.

This is where gyms like Curves come in. Women only, for people who are trying to get in shape, but who are not gym-junkies. So they can hide from people who they think would look at them with derision, and so that they don't get hit on (or worse, not hit on) while they are at the point where they feel the least attractive in their lives.

Then again...some people go the opposite direction.

I just came across an advertisement on Facebook for a group called Lesbifit. For lesbians who want to work out with other lesbians. This site confused me for a moment. I mean...women go to same sex gyms to avoid getting hit on...right?



Women go to Curves for the same reasons I wear baggy gym clothes and avoid eye contact. To avoid not being hit on. So that when I'm red-faced and extremely conscious of my jiggly bits moving around I don't have the added pressure of trying to be attractive as well.

From what I can tell, Lesbifit works on the assumption that lesbian women do not consume other women in the same ways that men consume women. There's a phrase I remember from my days as a Cultural Studies undergraduate. Men look at women and women look at men looking at women. So lesbian women apparently just don't look. It plays on the idea of love between two women being based on something 'deeper' and less physical than heterosexual love....and it's a presumption about same-sex love that I found interesting...and mildly insulting. It's not just same-sex's female lust. Women don't create objects of desire through the act of looking, apparently. Women don't look at someone and want to fuck them. Women are 'safe', even same-sex attracted women are safe because apparently lesbians don't look at other women and want to touch them. They look at other women and want to form a deep emotional and spiritual connection with them.

As a woman, the assumption is insulting. As a student, the assumption is interesting and warrants further analysis. :-P

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What on Earth am I doing?

I’ve been a bit wishy-washy in trying to figure out exactly what it is that interests me most and trying to turn it into something resembling a research topic. This blog post is primarily a brainstorming exercise to figure out what it is out of the things I’ve been reading that interests me the most, and I’m going to do a point form thing with a little description of my interests to go with it.

1. Sex Education Agendas
Who is doing the teaching, and what are they trying to say? There are some really obvious ones, like the Abstinence programs, but what about the other ones? I was viewing a website for a recent NSW Sexual Health initiative ( that was encouraging people to get tested for STI’s and to ‘play safe’ (whatever that means). Now, the agenda on this one is simple, it wants people to get STI tests, and it wants people to use condoms…but how does it go about that, and what assumptions about sex and the people who do it does it make?

2. Assumptions Regarding Gender in Sex Education
Highlighted breifly in my most recent post is the notion of gender in sex education. What assumptions are made about women and men and the roles they play? What expectations do sex education programs give to young people regarding gender and their own future roles in relationships? Whose responsibility is it to bring out the condom, and who is going to be the aggressor? Is a woman who enjoys and actively seeks sexual encounters a ‘slut’, and is a man in the same situation actually represented positively? How are women taught to think of men in this context, and how are men taught to think of women? Do these assumptions have any greater impact beyond the immediate educational situation, or are they only relevant as a teaching mechanism?

3. Adult Sex Information
What information do experienced people seek regarding sex? How is information for adults presented? In this regard, I’m rather fond of the term ‘experienced practitioner’. It lends a certain amount of integrity to the sexual act, and to the people who are seeking to learn more about it, with just a little behind-the-hand titter at polite society by talking about sex in such an ironic way. It also looks at sex as something that we practice, something that you gain experience in and something that people, in fact, do for a living. What information for adults is there? Do people feel better after reading the cosmopolitan guide to how to give your boyfriend a better blowjob? What sex information is available for men? As a woman, I’m more exposed (tee hee) to information designed for women, but my first exposure to sex was a couples sexual recipe book that was designed to give ideas and provide stimulus (chortle) for couples erotic play. It was written for couples, but I suspect it had women particularly in mind. Where do adults go if they need help? Do they go to their friends?; do they go to the (IMHO awful) womens magazines?; do they talk to a doctor, a pharmacist, psychologist, (gods forfend) their partner? Recently listening to a live radio program on triple j about sexual communication indicated that people simply don’t talk to their partners about things that trouble them sexually. If not, why not? What are they risking by talking, and what are they risking by staying silent? What do the creators of adult sex information think that adults want to know, and what does this say about the sex information industry (cos I’m pretty sure it says more about the people writing the material than it is likely to say about the adults reading it)?

4. Pornography as an informtion product.
Now, I’ve heard from more than one source that apparently people find out sex information from porn. Is this true, or is it simply people assuming that someone out there (who is obviously not nearly as clever as them) is looking at porn for hints and techniques to avoid the pizza delivery bill and give great head? Despite what some people think, I’ve only ever seen one pornographic film (an R-rated one, I think) and it left me uninspired and a little bored. I was intrigued as to how they were planning on bringing the dispirate elements of the plot together in order to save the little whore-house from destitution, but lost interest enough to turn it off before it ended since it was increasingly apparent that my curiosity wasn’t the only thing that was going to be left unsatisfied that evening. So my foray into viewing pornography a few years ago was not a well of information on what people seek when looking at porn. Yes, they want to be aroused by the video, but are they learning anything at the same time, and if they are, is it sticking? Are people learning bad (or good) habits from porn, or is it just that they might like to blame porn for their bad (or good) habits later down the track when they are being asked about it? Are we so accustomed to blaming the media for every misconception that we have that porn is copping it for not showing more condoms, pillow talk and STI testing?

That’s all I can think of for now, but rest assured dear reader (I think there’s one of you at the moment), I will update with any more ideas that spring to mind later when I’ve had a good rest.