Thinking Sex Range of Languages Forum
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A Range of Languages: What's Most Useful?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-09-15 14:55:54 :
Link to this Comment: 6481
This week we will be exploring a range of languages available to us for thinking/talking/teaching about sex: those of science, of social science, of literature...as well as the language of humor. How effective is each, what does each tell us, invite us to feel/think/know/do? Which do you find most effective, for what reasons? Which speaks most clearly to you? Teaches you the most? Speaks most evocatively to you? Puzzles you? Draws you on? Are there some languages representing sex that you think we might be better off without? Do some impede rather than facilitate understanding? What other languages might we draw on, aside from those listed here? There's film. Grannis mentioned music. And there are Sharon's watercolors.... Are there other languages for representing sex which we should be sure to include in this course? (What "counts" as a language, anyhow?)
|sex and the second law|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-09-17 19:41:14 :
Link to this Comment: 6518
I was particularly struck, during our conversation yesterday about the "range" of (academic) languages available to us for thinking-and-talking about sex, by the range of your responses to the article by the mother-son team of biologists, Sagan and Margulis. As we were trying to explain to one another the interaction between our experiences of sex and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, I flashed to an image we used in talking about the latter (we seldom--hm. never--discuss the former) in our Faculty Working Group on Emergence.
See The Essential Link Between Life and the Second Law of Thermodynamics for a more precise rendering than the one I drew on the board yesterday, to trace the movement in the universe from less probable (more organized) states to more probable (less organized) states--and see what fuels...
what we are talking about??
Date: //2003-09-18 00:39:47 :
Link to this Comment: 6523
|leaving comfort zones...|
Date: //2003-09-19 20:31:01 :
Link to this Comment: 6542
I tend to live at the level of the Allison piece--what are MY desires, how can *I* become a more fulfilled person, what is sex like for ME? Then my feminist classes pull me out of that to the social level of the Fine piece, thinking about how other women in my society view and experience sex and how that can be changed if necessary. But the Margulis/Sagan uses a discourse with which I'm not really familiar (science--yikes!), and views humans not as the most important species in the world (or the only species worth analyzing) but rather as just another variety of animal. And indeed, isn't sex a lot more animalistic than we'd like to admit sometimes? Doesn't it often work better when you turn your brain off and just feel? Something about the Margulis/Sagan makes me feel a little less responsible for and obsessive about my sex life. After all, I'm just an animal...I don't know any better! :-) Which is, of course, why we also need the language of the social and the personal to give sex a little more meaning than that.
|Sex, Language and Isabel|
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: //2003-09-20 09:10:11 :
Link to this Comment: 6544
Oh yeah, Sex.
The anatomy of a joke is intriguing...what makes us laugh together, coming from diverse backgrounds and generations? I don't think it's as simple as saying a good joke has a surprise, a twist, brings tension then relief (like the act of sex itself?), or resonates with some aspect about sex with which we are not comfortable. Laughter is a release valve of sorts, but some of us (like Laurel and me) do not find "dirty jokes" funny most of the time. I don't know what that says about us, or about those who do laugh. Need to think more...and am thinking about us as a species that has/uses humor versus others that seem not to. Does our ability to be funny/respond to humor get in the way of a more "natural/accepting" ease with whatever our species does sexually?
For me, the most compelling and useful readings about languages for sex was the trilogy of articles that presented vocabularies in the universal community, the social community, and the personal space. I think that having that spectrum really rattled some "prejudice plaque" loose in the crevices of my brain. I think that seeing myself as infinitessimally small in the universal scheme of things sexual enables me to think more calmly/objectively about sex in a social setting. Not sure I buy that we're slaves to the second law of thermodynamics, but I like the notion that sex may not have come into play for the sole purpose of reproduction of a species. This is mind-freeing and allows me to contemplate the social ramifications of sex acts and preferences without the baggage of religious "shoulds/should nots" getting in the way.
That's all for now. Gonna pull on my leather gauntlets, join the guys, and rev up my chain saw (for the tree, silly)...hoping I look sexy while hacking off limbs.
See ya Tuesday!
Name: Ro. Finn
Date: //2003-09-20 09:14:23 :
Link to this Comment: 6545
There once was a fellow named Green
Who invented a fucking machine.
Concave or convex,
It served either sex
And played with itself in-between.
...wonder why it's always a 'fellow"?
|Sex and language|
Date: //2003-09-20 14:17:54 :
Link to this Comment: 6548
I am also of the opinion that we should all consider and accept the many different perspectives from which one can put sex into language. Before coming to class on Tuesday, I was a bit skeptical about Margulis/Sagan article. I am not really a science person, and didn't want to allow myself to understand what they were saying...I thought of them as crazy scientists. This resistance had me thinking, "maybe this is what is wrong with sex ed teachers in our country, they only use the languages they prefer to teach students who may prefer a completely different type of languages." Definitely something to think more about...
In terms of the sex jokes, I left Thursday's class a little confused. Can't sex jokes just be sex jokes? Must we analyze everything? Can't we just laugh, or not laugh, or sigh, or be disgusted, and then move on?
Speaking of sex jokes, here is mine again:
A man walks into a bar with his pet octopus. He notices a piano in the bar and says to the bartender "I'll bet you $5. that my pet octopus can play that piano." Thinking he's about to win $5, the bartender agrees. The octopus sits at the piano and begins to play. Upset, the bartender runs into the back and gets an old violin, and tells the man that he'll bet him another $5 that his octopus can't play the violin. The man agrees, and the octopus starts playing the violin. The bartender decides to give himself one more chance to win his money back, and tells the man that he'll bet him that his octopus can't play the bagpipes. The bartender brings out the bagpipes, and sets them down in front of the octopus. The octopus looks quite confused. He starts rubbing his tenticles up and down the bagpipes, and when his owner asks him "what's wrong, why can't you play" the octopus replies "because I'm trying to figure out how to get her pjs off."
|sex into language|
Date: //2003-09-21 15:29:08 :
Link to this Comment: 6553
As for the articles on putting sex into language, I responded differently to the science one than others. It made me feel uncomfortable to be told that I am just part of a bigger machine, my actions predictable and adding to the acheivement of a greater goal. This view seems to be contradictory to the other two...is there really any value to individual experience? and is there any point to talking about sex or anything for that matter, if greater understanding cannot effect change?
|sex in the daylight|
Date: //2003-09-21 17:39:03 :
Link to this Comment: 6557
on the ligther side....
"A pirate walks into a bar with a rather large, wooden steering wheel in his pants. The bartender takes one look at him and exclaims, "What's the deal with the steering wheel, buddy?" The pirate replies, "Arghhhh, it's drivin' me nuts!"
Date: //2003-09-21 18:15:48 :
Link to this Comment: 6558
Date: //2003-09-21 23:18:09 :
Link to this Comment: 6559
when things make us uncomfortable, humans often use humor tohelp ease the discomfort. we do that with issues of race and gender, so why not sex? i dont neccesarily argee with the idea that your favotie sex joke reveals your psyche. i think you just find a joke you agree with and go for it.
Date: //2003-09-22 09:04:13 :
Link to this Comment: 6562
2) As for my joke, "Little Red Riding Hood's mother comes downstairs one morning . . ." Just kidding. I'm not going to write the whole joke down because I don't want to be here all night. But if for some reason someone wants to hear it again I'm more than happy to tell it. If you don't want to hear that joke, but could use another sex joke/story I have one about two priests that you might enjoy. Come to think about it I also have a couple sex jokes involving ducks that I don't particularly like that much. This sex joke activity in class has made me remember sex jokes that I didn't even know I stored in my brain from times gone by.
3) I thought Heather asked some interesting questions, "...is there really any value to individual experience? and is there any point to talking about sex or anything for that matter, if greater understanding cannot effect change?"
Is there value to individual experience for whom? I certainly value my individual experience. I also value hearing about others. Why? Because I'm somewhat of a voyeur in that way . . . Because I want to learn from . . . Because I'm curious . . . Because I want to compare and contrast with my own experience . . . Because overall I believe individual experience has meaning on a group level because it is from many individual experiences that we form general themes, cultural norms, meanings, theories etc.
As for the point about the point of talking if greater understanding can't effect change, I wonder if Heather believes that greater understanding can't effect change. What about the rest of you? Is the goal of talking and coming to greater understanding about sex or anything else to effect change? What do you guys think our goal is for taking a course where we talk about sex in every class and every assignment? What is our goal when we talk about sex in other contexts? What do you guys think we're trying to get at here? I'm full of questions tonight aren't I?
4) As long as I'm on the question theme here, Anne asked if there were some languages representing sex that we'd be better off without, and whether some languages impede rather than facilitate understanding. I wonder what she had in mind. I know that there are some hurtful or offensive ways sex can be expressed, but whenever someone suggests excluding some language, any language, about anything I'm wary. I believe in explaining why a type of language might be hurtful or offensive or inappropriate, and I think its fine not to use it personally, but also I think I would be pretty uncomfortable telling others not to use a certain form of language. I don't want to censor . . .
Date: //2003-09-22 12:59:33 :
Link to this Comment: 6566
Anyway, my joke: A woman has an appointment with a gynecologist. After the session, the gynecologist comments to the woman, "Your vaginal area is among the cleanest I've seen! What do you do?" And the woman replies, "Thank you; I have a woman in once a week."
|Language Group Forum|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-09-22 15:35:14 :
Link to this Comment: 6571
While you're worrying about the capacities and limits of language... keep an eye on the Language Group Forum. Good jokes...and some provocative ideas along the way. Last week this group began discussing the notion of what the world looks like to the unconscious....and how THAT might be represented in language. As Grannis and I discussed in a conference today, this is MOST relevant to thinking/talking about sex....
|taking a saw to the tree of language|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-09-23 13:53:12 :
Link to this Comment: 6586
Ro's quip that she was going to "rev up my chain saw (for the tree, silly)..."
was for me a delightful reminder of a recent exchange on the web page dedicated to Ursula Le Guin's 1986 Bryn Mawr Commencement Address, in which a commentator ( Robert Scholes, whom Garren called our attention to last week) observes
"The world resists language as the grain of a tree resists the saw, and saws take the form they do partly because wood is what it is. We sense the presence of things through this resistance....."
For more on THIS way of thinking about language, see http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/forum/newforum/leguin-read.html#6572
There are strong links here, I think, to today's post-writing-workshop conversation about that within each of us that both resists being "known" completely and (therefore?) resists being educated (by our parents? our teachers? those with longer experience in the world who claim thereby to have acquired "predictive" capacities...?) into what we "should" know...
|Jokes and Reflection...|
Date: //2003-09-25 15:30:29 :
Link to this Comment: 6631
A woman walked into the pharmacy and asked for a vibrator. The pharmacist gestured with
her index finger and said, "Come this way." The woman replied,
"If I could come that way, I wouldn't need a damn vibrator."
A guy walks into a bar and sees a beautiful woman
sitting alone. He says, "Can I buy you a drink?"
She replies, "Yes, but it won't do you any good."
Later he asks, "May I buy you another drink?" "Yes,"
she responds, "but it won't do you any good." After a
few drinks, he decides to ask her to his apartment.
Again, she replies, "Yes, but it won't do you any
In his apartment he turns to her and says, "You are
the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I want you
for my wife."
She replies, "Ohhhhh, THAT'S a different story!! Bring
her on out!!!"
A dermatologist goes to work one day and his first patient comes in and says, "doctor, you've got to help me. my boyfriend refuses to take off his letter sweater when we make love, and now i have this horrible rash." she takes off her shirt, and sure enough, there's a big red itchy rash in the form of an H on her chest.
The doctor says, "this is interesting, i've never seen anything quite like it before. i wonder why it occurred in such an unusual shape."
"He goes to harvard." the girl answered.
"Ah, that would explain it." he prescribes some lotion and sends her on her way.
The next patient comes in and says, "doctor, i hope you can help me with this rash. it's a little embarrassing, but it's driving me crazy."
She takes off her shirt and displays a big, itchy, red rash in the shape of a Y. the doctor raises his eyebrows.
"It's my boyfriend, he goes to yale, and is so into his new letter sweater that he never takes it off, even when we're making love. is there anything you can do?"
The doctor prescribes calamine lotion and sends patient number 2 on her way. the third patient comes in and says, "doctor, you've got to help me!" she takes off her shirt and there on her chest is a big, itchy, red rash in the shape of an M.
"Don't tell me," says the doctor, "your boyfriend goes to MIT, and refuses to take off his letter sweater when you make love."
The patient looks at him with surprise. "close." she says, "i have a girlfriend, and she goes to Wellesley."
Date: //2003-09-30 03:27:28 :
Link to this Comment: 6702
History and language are funny "things" to me. Both have the power to distort and manipulate. History is the "language" that humanity has utilized to create a story of the "past". (by the way, I am using quotation marks liberally because I am a bit distrustful of words/language at this particular moment) Power is used to create knowledge, knowledge then becoming our (hi)story. -I contest the theory that knowledge gives power.
According to Halperin, sex has no history – it cannot be touched by man's power to create knowledge and fabricate a story. Sexuality is another issue. If sex has no history... it is untranslatable through language, than why do we seek to confine/put sex to words? Dorothy Allison alluded to sex as power (which disturbed me), but if that is the case, than theoretically power establishes knowledge and historically charts out the origin of sex through the present. Or that would be the case in a linear history, which is faulty in as of itself?
If sexuality does have a history, does that mean that sexuality has an origin, an ultimate truth? what is it? How do we verbalize that truth? "The origin lies at a place of inevitable loss... the site of a fleeting articulation that discourse has obscured and finally lost" (Foucault, "Aesthtics, Method, and Epistemology). Discourse dispels the idea of an origin while at the same time creating it. Is the origin of our sexuality the moment of conception? Are human beings sexualized in the womb? Is the origin of our sexuality the origin of our proposed history? Is there an ultimate truth to sexuality? Is that what the Margulis/Sagan piece was compounding upon? Or were they focusing more on the "natural fact" of sex, removed from history and culture? "Sex... takes on a different aspect, one that has as much to do with preserving identity as with destroying it" (Margulis and Sagan, "What is Sex?"). Sex preserves and destroys. Hummm, sounds a lot like the functions of words/history to me.
In his reflections upon Nietzsche's writing concerning genealogy, Foucault strips knowledge of the glory we tend to dress it with. "The historical analysis of this rancorous will to knowledge reveals that all knowledge rests upon injustice (that there is no right, not even in the act of knowing, to truth or a foundation for truth), and that the instinct for knowledge is malicious (something murderous, opposed to the happiness of mankind)." (Foucault, "Aesthtics, Method, and Epistemology). May I second that?!
Are we, in our quest to put sex/uality into words, accumulating available knowledge and histories in order to do so, actually mangling sex/uality? Delany says that "the sexual experience is still largely outside language" (139 "Longer Views"). Should we leave it there?
Okay, this is enough of my late night ramblings... my head hurts now. I propose that we hold a few class discussions somewhere around midnight, seeing as how my brain seems to operate (or malfunction) on a 11pm-5am routine, as opposed to 9-5... =)
|To teach or offend|
Date: //2003-10-06 00:28:48 :
Link to this Comment: 6804
Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there. I don't know why I felt the need to say it, but maybe what I'm getting at is that I felt this article impeded my ability to understand sex. I'm not sure if impede is the right word. Okay, I'm rambling, let me be clear. They write:
"What is sex? It confuses us not only because it literally has to do with the mingling of two distinctly different beings, opening us up to each other in the deepest way, but also because we tend to make mistaken extrapolations about sexuality's importance."
Now is that meant to be contradictory? Does it seem contradictory to anyone else? I mean, do the authors mean to place so much importance on the act of sex and then say, we "make mistaken extrapolations about [its] importance?" I just found this article a little too much for me. So I'm going to leave it and move on. In reference to what Katie said, "This resistance had me thinking, "maybe this is what is wrong with sex ed teachers in our country, they only use the languages they prefer to teach students who may prefer a completely different type of languages," I just think this language isn't the "right" one to teach me.
I think for me, the best way to discuss sex is with reality. I learn the most just sitting in a group with my friends discussing what we think or feel, want or have. And I don't just learn about sex, I learn about myself in relation to the rest of the world and in relation to just myself. I realize what I want or don't want, what I need or don't need and what I have and don't have. But I don't think there is just one right way to discuss sex or to learn it. I think we all learn from a variety of ways. The way one piece of music can inspire some, depress others and ignite yet others...this is one type of language which speaks differently depending on who is listening...it is the same, I think, with all languages. Even when someone is straight forward, sometimes we hear what we want to hear.
So when Garron told her joke, some of us heard repeatedly and loudly the word "fuck". Others heard the repetition of the lines, still others heard the coming punchline. Some heard a funny story and some heard an offensive one. How we hear is not dependent on words, but on ourselves, so what languages work for some, will not work for others. For this reason, mostly, I too, like Garron, am averse to censoring people. Because how do we really know the difference between one who teaches and one who offends?
|Experience at Praxis Site|
Name: Megan Hill
Date: //2003-10-08 21:16:05 :
Link to this Comment: 6853
Oh, Oral Sex!!! I felt embarassed for not knowing a term that was common to these pre-teens. Not knowing their language definately created an initial barrier between the teachers and the students. The students didn't relate to us because they were put off by our lack of knowledge. Language bridges a cap between people and not being able to communicate is troublesome.
Date: //2003-10-09 01:15:38 :
Link to this Comment: 6856
A. snow balls.
I think my lame attempt at telling a dirty joke matches my reaction to some of the dirty jokes. I don't like feeling as though I'm a prude, but I do like knowing I don't laugh at things that I don't think are funny. I know I used to. Humor is such an interesting way to test our boundaries, to explore why some of us are amused, some of us are offended, and some of us just don't care. It can become such a sensitive issue so quickly.
The more I think about the Margulis and Sagan article the more I realize how swept away I was by their very language. Some of their arguments are now falling through for me, but I think they write the way I want to have sex. Huh.