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September 18, 2009

The Handjob Controversy Continues...

So apparently someone from Feminists With Female Sexual Dysfunction was really ticked off by our handjob blog... and well, okay we don't blame her. We might have been a little hard on the handjob (no pun intended), but a lot of what she's suggesting we said/meant isn't exactly accurate to how we really feel. So we figured rather than try to post this all as a comment, we'd just respond here and hopefully clear it up.

[...] this time, the message that I’m still doing sex wrong comes from Evil Slutopia, a feminist/sex-positive/slut blog written by the Evil Slut Clique (ESC.) [emphasis ours]
As soon as we saw that line, we knew we were in trouble... because we knew that the author was misreading us from the start. Anyone who is a regular reader of Evil Slutopia might have noticed that we are very openminded about sex - and all forms of it - so it shocked us that anyone might think that our playful mocking of handjobs could somehow translate to "you're doing sex wrong!" But when we re-read our own blog, we noticed how maybe someone could misinterpret what we wrote.

Now yes, we poked fun (no pun intended) at the handjob... but it wasn't meant to be malicious. The inspiration for the handjob blog came from our blog about lube:

You can also use lube to "surprise him with a hand job" - you know, for anyone that still actually gives handjobs.
All of the comments were in praise of the handjob and we were surprised that they were still so popular. Our point wasn't that it was bad or wrong or immature, but just that it was a surprise to us, mainly because we had not experienced this phenomenon in our lives nor had we heard much about it from our friends and partners up until recently.

From Feminists with FSD:

The ESC looked for what other people are saying about giving handjobs – when they can actually find people who freely admit it. The clique does not take the time to consider that, maybe views like the ones they harbor, make it more embarrassing to come out openly about expressing sexuality in that way.
Actually, the whole reason we were inspired to write about the handjob was because so many people did freely admit it and therefore wanted to further investigate. We don't think handjobs are embarrassing... It's understandable that not everyone feels comfortable discussing their sex lives, but we weren't exactly born with the "shame gene" that others may have (as many regular readers have surely already noticed). So to us it was like "Oh, you do this too? Okay... we'll write about it then."

I notice that oral sex is mentioned over & over as a one-up from handjobs. I’m often willing to enjoy this kind of sex, too, yes. But there are times when I don’t want oral sex. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I have a headache & moving my head around is going to aggravate it too much. Maybe we already had oral sex and are in the mood for something different. Maybe I don’t need to justify my reasons at all. Maybe there is no reason.
This confused us a bit. We didn't think we mentioned oral sex that much (although we - and our readers apparently - are big fans). We did find it odd that a few commenters were defending handjobs in the context of blow jobs, because we don't consider using your hands during oral sex to be an actual handjob. (One of our commenters put it best "if you're putting your mouth on it, then it's not a handjob anymore... it's a blowjob!")

However, this was really off base and needs to be replied to:
But perhaps any reason I could give will run too close to one of the ESC’s friends, who,
once explained to us that she found handjobs useful for those times when she was with a guy that she “wouldn’t want to give a blowjob to”
To which the ESC responds with,
Either you want to be involved with the penis or you don’t… If he’s too gross for you to go down on, then why are you hooking up with him at all?
“Either you want to be involved with the penis or you don’t…” “Don’t start what you can’t finish.” Maybe my reluctance to give of myself wholly to my partner’s penis, doesn’t actually have much to do with him at all. Maybe he’s not “Gross.” Maybe it’s all me… does that mean I should abstain from so much as starting any sexual activity? Would that be leading him on?
Wow. That was not what we meant and it's definitely not how we feel. It comes down to the author just completely misunderstanding what we wrote. Re-read what we said about our friend: "when she was with a guy that she 'wouldn’t want to give a blowjob to'."

We're not talking about times when you just don't feel like giving a blowjob or someone who just doesn't like to give blowjobs... No, we're clearly talking about drawing the line between the guys you would give a blowjob to and the guys you wouldn't want to give a blowjob to. The distinction for our friend was whether or not he was too gross to give head to. That wasn't our assumption. That was what she meant. We're not judging where she draws her line, but it was still puzzling to us because if he's so gross that you don't want to put your mouth on his penis... why are you willing to be involved with his penis at all!?

It's really surprising and upsetting that the author has suggested that we were in any way saying that you shouldn't "start what you can't finish" (not sure why she put that one in quote marks - it wasn't a quote of ours) or that you're leading him on if you don't give of yourself "wholly". This is especially offensive because of how strongly we feel about (and how often we write about) rape and violence against women. We would never suggest anything like that and are shocked at even the implication.

In fact, it was with this point of view (that you should never feel obligated or pressured to do anything, no matter what the context) that we critiqued Advice Bootcamp's "advice" to give your man a handjob whenever he wants one.

The ESC was taken aback by this. This is relationship advice? I myself am reluctant to issue any “You should do x” proclamations on this blog, since I know that "Shoulds” never apply to everyone. [...]
AdviceBootcamp does not openly identify as having FSD and it is not my place to say that she does. But I recognize that in this case, she has found a way of coping with something that otherwise bothers her.
The ESC tries to understand where Advicebootcamp is coming from…
Aha! It makes a lot more sense to lend your man a hand “whenever he wants”, if you’re refusing sex to him on a regular basis. (We’re not saying anyone should ever have to have sex or substitute a handjob for sex out of guilt, and we’re not making light of any issues or circumstances that might cause low sex drives or sexual incompatibility in a relationship. We’re just saying that her suggestions seemed pretty sexist and ridiculous without that background info but now make a little more sense.)
If it makes more sense with that background information, then why bring it up at all? And why handle it so clumsily?
It makes "more" sense, in that she would want to give her man a handjob anytime he wants, if she felt guilty (or otherwise unhappy) about her low sex drive. We still don't agree with her advice, because regardless of your sex drive, your sexual dysfunction, or your personal preferences... you should never have to give your man anything "anytime he wants it".

Advice Bootcamp says upfront in her blog that she tends to "trend towards sexism" and this advice is surely sexist regardless of the context. We simply understand it somewhat more within the context.

We brought it up because while the author of the Advice Bootcamp blog may or may not have sex "issues" (we aren't clear what they are and we won't speculate whether or not they fall under the umbrella of "FSD" or not) the Advice Bootcamp blog is not an FSD blog. It does not offer advice for women with sexual dysfunctions or low sex drives. It is meant to be a general advice blog - for anyone - and therefore we felt this advice was, um... interesting, at best. However, we did think perhaps there was some merit to the alleged "healing power" of handjobs.
So now, I’m “Refusing sex to him [my boyfriend] on a regular basis,” by not having, the kind of sex that the ESC tells me is “more grownup kinds of sex.” Whatever that even means. Is the childishness of the handjob anything at all like Sigmund Freud’s assertion that only sexually immature women have clitoral orgasms, and that real, mature women can have vaginal orgasms from penetration alone?
Again, our words are taken out of context and/or misunderstood. The phrase about "more grown up kinds of sex" was used elsewhere in the blog, not in response to Advice Bootcamp, and was used in jest, in relation to our earlier joke about how we thought that only teenagers still gave handjobs and also as a nod to those who feel that intercourse is for grownups. It was certainly not in relation to anyone with a sexual disorder or dysfunction (nor was the term "refusing" meant to represent women with FSD, but rather a situation more like Advice Bootcamp described: where your partner's sex drive is simply greater than your own).

We can understand how this may have come off as rude or dismissive and for that we apologize, but it was never our intention. But at the same, it's a blog about handjobs... it was obviously meant to be lighthearted and silly.

She took also took objection to our use of the terms "sexless" and "normal". "Sexless" was used in response to Advice Bootcamp's apparent definition of sex (since she refers to the handjob as an alternative to sex and her relationship's near lack of sex). We don't personally consider vaginal-penile intercourse to be the only way to have "sex" but in the context of the topic it was used, well, as shorthand (pun intended) for intercourse.

As for "normal" - if you read the full blog you'll notice we only used it in quotation marks. It was meant to counter Advice Bootcamp's apparent feelings that her sex drive was somehow inadequate or abnormal. If we actually felt that she was abnormal, we wouldn't have put quotes around the word. ("Normal" is definitely a loaded word, but then many are equally offended by the term "dysfunction".) We understand that perhaps this was a poor choice of words on our part and apologize for that.

But alas, a handjob, in and of itself, is inadequate as sex play. From a comment left by one of the authors:
We did say that we’ve used the handjob as part of foreplay. It is merely the handjob for the sake of handjob that mystifies us.
Foreplay. As in, something leading to “Real” sex, rather than something to enjoy by itself. Something that must inevitably lead to more.
It's important to note that the quote she attributes to us (Lilith) was from a comment, not the blog itself. Why? Because it was in response to another commenter and therefore is better understood in the original context. In the blog we had mentioned that we personally don't give a lot of handjobs:

We've had lots of different kinds of sex over the years... but we've rarely given handjobs simply for the sake of giving handjobs. (Typically they are a very brief part of foreplay only.)
This is not a judgment. This is merely an explanation of our own behavior. A reader seemed to have missed that point and commented:

[...] a "blowjob" can be a part of foreplay and doesn't always mean starting and ending with purely blowjob activity.. but you are judging the hand job all on it's own instead of also as a part of a (hopefully) more complex, exciting, and creative event that involves many different activities and positions?
So we pointed out that we did in fact mention the use of the handjob in foreplay. We weren't saying that was the only acceptable use - but simply it was the extent of our experience on the subject. We've rarely had men who wanted a handjob - and that's only a handjob - when there were other "activities" available to them. In no way do we judge those who feel differently; we can only recount our personal experiences with men.

The intention of the blog was not to mock or shame those who have different experiences, but rather to hear the other side... a side that we're not familiar with. And okay, maybe we did it with a little extra sarcasm and snark, but you know, that's kind of our thing. I think it's safe to assume that a group who calls themselves "evil sluts" has a sense of humor about our sex lives (perhaps a warped one at that) and about what other people might think of our choices. It has never been our place to judge anyone else's choices. We apologize to Feminists with FSD and anyone else who may have felt that's what we were doing.

5 comments:

sexgenderbody said...

You are both so thorough,complex and respectful in this response. I tip my hat to you for addressing the concerns and weighing them from all angles.

I probably would've deleted the email, shaken my head and walked off to the kitchen.

Thomas / Pwag said...

You gals pick the silliest things to argue about. Srsly? Handjobs? This is the most important issue right now in the realm of feminism, sexuality and relationships?

Egads.

Egads indeed.

THE EVIL SLUT CLIQUE said...

Did you seriously just write that Thomas? Really?

First, here's some required reading for you. Second, thanks for lecturing us< on what we should be writing about... What would we silly gals do without you smart men to tell us how to be feminists? We forgot that we'd titled this blog entry "The Most Important Issue in Feminism and Sexuality". Oh wait, we didn't.

In case you didn't notice we didn't "pick" this to argue about. Someone called us out so we responded. The blog entry took a few minutes to write, so we didn't really waste that much time on it, but if you think it's so unimportant then why are you even taking the time to read it and respond?

Anonymous said...

Good thing Thomas was here to keep us from arguing about a "silly" girl topic. I mean, we could "srsly," like, be talking about world peace and shit.

*roll eyes* it's an internet blog, not the United Nations!

Leave it to men to take all the fun out of feminism. Keep it up clique, I love handjobs but I love you blog too!

Sungold said...

And they say it's the feminists who have no sense of humor? Well, they haven't met Thomas!

I read K's post at Feminists with FSD, and I could see where she was coming from, and at the same time - having read enough of your blog to know your basic attitude - I was pretty certain that you weren't actually prescribing PIV intercourse as the only real, grownup sex. It's great that you responded in detail. I'd be interested to know what K thinks and feels about your response - she linked your post but didn't comment (yet) on her own blog. She's a smart writer and she provides a valuable perspective on topics that too often get short shrift.

As for the hand job, I sort of feel about it like I feel about a partner stroking my clitoris. No one knows our bodies like we do, and no one knows how to stroke them quite like we do. So I'm happy to touch my partner and play with lube, but I'm almost always going to use my mouth, too, because I love giving a sensation he can't give himself. That's part of the charm of good ole vanilla intercourse, too.

I also find it tricky and usually very slow to get him off with just my hands; it's both easier for me and more fun for him if we don't limit ourselves to a unidimensional handjob. (And by "him" I don't just mean my current partner, but various earlier ones, too.) His hand and my mouth can also be a yummy combination. By the same token, if I'm the center of attention I'm happiest to use my own hands too while he touches and kisses me in the ways I can't touch myself. It's intimate and intense. I'm also certain to get off that way, and with much bigger fireworks that if I were playing alone.

So I have lots of love and respect for hands. It just feels unnecessarily limiting to stick to hands-only. If I'm *really* not into it to the extent that Advice Bootcamp mentions, giving a pity handjob is insulting to all parties. If I'm mildly into it but only up for a quickie, why rely only on my hands, which in my experience guarantees a *longer* session.

And now I guess I've derailed slightly onto the topic of your original post. Who knew handjobs could arouse this much attention?