After class I went and spoke with him about contraception, because I feel there are other ways contraception could be approached for women. My guess is if African men can't handle a Trojan, they sure won't be into a female condom. And it doesn't seem like the issue for African women is having babies so much as it is preventing HIV infection. I think my lack of sex ed is coming through here, but diaphragms don't prevent STDs right? If they do, that would solve the problem in a many ways because women could put it in hours before sex and its possible that men wouldn't notice. But I am pretty sure they don't. Please enlighten me. Prof Washington really focused on condoms as being the essential form of contraception. Getting men to use condoms is an issue western sex workers have dealt with before so I think there may be some tricks of the trade they have to offer. I read one account from a book on sex work that the woman said she slid condoms on during oral sex.
The problems Prof Washington spoke about were associated with gender power structures in Africa that I don't know can be overcome. The people of Africa are much farther down the path of female subordination than the west so I don't think there is any short term solution that will empower women enough to be comfortable with and successful with getting men to use condoms. I think the spread of HIV can be overcome through economic adjustment. So much of the spread of HIV and AIDS boils down to economic issues. He cited migrancy as a chief cause of the spread of HIV so what is the cause of migrancy? I don't think he would agree with me, but I think the west has so much to do with the need for workers in Africa to migrate to other areas for a couple years at a time to make money.
Warning. I'm about to go off on politics for a while.. so if they bore you, I suggest you don't read much further.
Ok history. Colonization. That happened in Africa. (note: remember Rwanda? The Hutu and Tutsi conflict – or genocide- where nearly 100,000 Tutsis died in 100 days? The 2 groups had no conflicts before colonization.. seems odd)... State boundaries determined by western powers ignoring cultural/tribal histories. World War II ends. Cold War begins. States decolonized. They are struggling to be independent. Things ought to be extremely unstable. However, such is not quite the case. During the Cold War the US and USSR were in constant competition. The result is that when a country has a civil war or there is a regional conflict, the US and USSR step in, take sides, and said conflict becomes a world issue. Things get artificially stabilized because the USSR and US are giving money and human power to countries. So conflicts are sort of contained. A nice band aid. Cold War ends. (we were in grade school)... Democracy prevails, commies go into hiding. US and Russian interest in third world diminishes. Third world conflicts emerge again. Democratization begins. Globalization here we come. The west sets up democratic institutions in the developing world and via the IMF and World Bank loans (which the US has more power in than any other state) liberalizes the third world economies. [[IMF and World Bank give out loans to nations with struggling economies. These loans have stipulations attached which attempt to move their economies to more industrial export oriented production –western style- * something most of these economies are not ready for* and can force a country to privatize an industry – forcing them to allow western corporations in – this can lead to WATER!!! being privatized. No good for those of us who need water to live.]] The only purposes the developing nations have for developed nations are natural resources (gold, oil, diamonds, etc.) and cheap labor. This is why those miners only got $1 a day. So therefore my solution is that in order to reduce migrancy and poverty (the catalysts for the spread of HIV), western economic reforms and exploitation need to end. And then it won't be as much of an issue for people not to use contraception because there won't be the situations that create the need for women to sleep with men for money or material goods (men away from the house for long periods of time leaving women to fend for themselves in an economy that does not create jobs for them). How do we get westernization out? I don't know yet. Ask me in April after I write my thesis...
I am sorry for the tangential political thought, but I really needed to write that because I was dying to say it during class, but I wanted him to cover more sex issues and stay away from issues of statehood and westernization. I know I gave too much history, but trust me, if I had more time there would be no stopping me from writing several pages.
One show talking about female attraction to males, discused how when women are more fertile they are attracted to more virile strong males (would produce strong/healthy off spring). And how women can have affairs during these periods, but then go back to the caring, nuturing, protective male who will actually take care of the kids/family.
Also during this show they provide a little senerio which showed that if a women were to have an affair while married she would be more like to become impregnated by her lover than her husband. This had to do partially with the more frequent occurs of masturbation in periods w/ her husband than her lover, because during/after orgasm acids are released through the cervics into the vagina that would help detour/damage sperm. More mastrubation with husband, more acid, less sucessful sperm, and therefore more likely the lovers child.
From another show, they talked about a study on sexual attraction, in which they showed that both men and women are more attracted to people with fuller lips.
From a show on history/importance of kissing. They talked about how one possible origin for kissing is through feeding children. The mother would chew up food and then kiss the food to the child.
They also talked about the importance of kissing your own children. When a baby is born, they done have the antibodies to fight disease. So it's important for both moms and dads to kiss the babies (on lips) to pass the antibodies on to the children. But it's not good for random people to be kissing babies, because they can give them illnesses that baby's body can't deal with very successfully.
just a little FYI
Sex and reproduction are NOT the same thing
(1) The distinguishing peculiarity of male or female in both animals and plants; the physical difference between male and female; the assemblage of properties or qualities by which male is distinguished from female.These definitions are clearly not in line with those offered by Professor Grobstein, or those that our class (at least me personally) would be likely to agree upon. The first definition of sex offered by The American Heritage Dictionary has two parts:
(2) One of the two [two?] divisions of organic beings formed on the distinction of male and female.
(a) The property or quality by which organisms are classified as female or male on the basis of their reproductive organs and functions.Neither the medical definition nor the traditional lexical definition of sex seems even close to adequate. While I don't know whether or not I would argue for the inclusion of Professor Grobstein's ideas about sexual preference and sexual identification into a definition of sex itself, neither of the above dictionaries even allow for the seemingly obvious spectrum of sex -- the practically infinite variations on male and female that occur in our population.
(b) Either of the two [again, two?] divisions, designated female and male, of this classification.
What i am most unsure about is whether genetics and culutre are analogous in an interesting way, i.e. they are novelty generating, or is it that evolutionarily culture IS a continuation of genetics. These are very different positions and looking back i'm not sure which one was being proposed. The latter seems much stronger and in need of some sort of proof while the former is just an interesting exercise. I would be really interested to read some work that supports the idea that culture is biolocially as important as genetics, or that it is a contiuation of gentics.
While i'm still not perfectly clear about the nuances of the particular view, the initial insight, that culture is novelty generating, is facinating in itself.
I was delighted by thursday's discussion and i feel that it was very benefical to the class, taking us in a direction we had not explored before. Thanks Dr. Grobstien!
I'm inclined to agree that, as Lauren says, "accepted thought is not necessarily in line with the liberating definitions" of sex we discussed together. I'm not particularly troubled by having come to some ideas different from "accepted thought", and hope no one else is either. It is, after all, my business as a scientist/biologist to find "less wrong" ways to think about things. And yours', as a class, to come up with some "less wrong" sex ed curricula. Whether one does or does not want to incorporate "sexual preference and sexual identification into a definition of sex itself", I'm more than content if the possibility has been opened "that sex itself could be defined, biologically, as a combination of factors that are linked to reproduction and anatomy but not dependent upon either", and delighted to have been surprisingly "thought-provoking" to a "humanities-based" mind.
I'm pleased too to have raised the possibility in Michelle's mind that "culture is novelty generating". Let me see if I can be clearer about "whether genetics and culture are analogous in an interesting way, i.e. they are novelty generating, or is it that evolutionarily culture IS a continuation of genetics"?
The first thing to say, as a responsible biology teacher, is that there is a sharp and important distinction between genetics and culture in one way. Genes are material structures which are transmitted sexually (for the most part). Moreover, the biological organization is such as to largely or entirely prevent the experiences that an individual has during their lifetime from affecting their genes. In short, individual experience (including any cultural influences) can influence whether the genes of particular individuals are contributed to the next generation but has little or not influence on the genes themselves. To put it differently, the routes of transmission (and the mechanisms of variation) of inherited and cultural information are largely distinct. The former involves genes and variations of genes and transmission through gametes. The latter involves ... interpersonal contact, social artifacts, and the brain.
Having said that, one might think I am falling back on an anology between genes and culture "which is just an interesting exercise". I AM making an analogy, but I think it is much more than just an interesting exercise, so much so that I'm willing, if carefully understood, to be seen as making the stronger claim that "evolutionarily, culture IS a continuation of genetics" as well.
The argument, basically, is that, despite the difference in mechanism, there is a deep evolutionary continuity between genetics and culture. The continuity is not simply that it is the variability of the former (interacting with the environment) that gave rise to the latter, though this is important. It is further that what genetic evolution gave rise to was not a fixed and invariant culture but rather variable culture. And this makes best sense to me on the presumption that variability is fundamental/desireable for living systems at all levels of organization (up to and including cultures). Both genetic and culture variation serve the same "function": to promote exploration of novelty.
I hope that's clearer (and seems coherent, rather than like trying to have my cake and eat it too). As for some additional reading, there's a brief paper by me on Diversity and Deviance: A Biological Perspective and a note on The Bell Curve, both of which relate to the genetics/culture interface. Language provides some very nice examples both of the influence of genetics on culture and of the generativity of culture itself; Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct is a good introduction to this interplay. And Susan Blakemore's The Meme Machine is an exploration of the usefulness of thinking about culture in terms similar to genetics.
The idea that "culture is biologically as important as genetics" is a little harder for me to attach to a particular literature. It seems obvious to me, along the lines of the continuity argument made above, so long as genes/individuals are not only generative of culture but also influenced by it. And the latter seems so obvious to me as to not require argument (particularly for humanities-based minds", among which, I guess, I have to include myself to some degree). But, there are abundant examples in the biological literature of cultural influences on individuals: for example, stress reactions, allergies to man-made materials, and the like. Moreover, there are striking examples of alterations in human populations stemming largely from cultural factors (see Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, for some of this, as well as the complexity of the bidirectional gene/culture interplay).
This is getting a little long and a little far afield from sex. Hope its useful nonetheless. Thanks again to all for the conversation. I'd be delighted to pursue it further with any of you who are interested.
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