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The problem of sex and intimacy in sex advice

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by

Meg John Barker

on 8 December 2016

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Transcript of The problem of sex and intimacy in sex advice

Sex and intimacy in sex advice
Mediated Intimacy: Meg John Barker, Ros Gill, Laura Harvey
Study of sex advice media
Focus here: 65 sex advice books from past decade
Sex critical analysis (Downing, 2012)
Sex + intimacy framed as
the
'problem'
Proposed 'solutions' restrictive and individualised
The Problem
Proposed Solutions
Sex Critical Sex Advice
The Sexual Imperative
Sex is necessary for individuals
Natural human need
Essential feature of identity
Vital for health & well-being








Sex is necessary for relationships
The 'glue' that holds them together
Sex better in loving relationships
Lack of sex -> break-up
(boredom/infidelity)
Relationship Normativity
Variations on PIV
Vary the positions for PIV intercourse
But
lack of penises or vaginas
Despite recognising the need for
external clitoral stimulation
Or
vary costumes or locations
Spicing it Up
'Problem': Maintaining sex in intimate relationships
Assumed: 'sexless' relationships will end, being single is bad
Therefore reader requires expert to provide 'solutions'
Assumptions underlying the construction of sex + intimacy as a problem to be solved...
Resistances present across all sex advice, but:
Redrawing of lines, not dismantling hierarchy (Rubin, 1984)
'Alternative' books retain sexual imperative/individualisation
Perel (2007) de Botton (2012) illuminate 'problem'
Reading across books: diversity -> expanding imagination
Problem pages can destabilise normative assumptions

Rigid limits on context in which sex is acceptable
Image repetition: hetero monogamous couple
Non-monogamy excluded/warned against
Natural gender difference -> sexual problems
But
same-sex relationships no solution!
'Sex' = PIV -> orgasm

Perpetuated in structures of books
17% PIV (5% oral, 4% manual - 'foreplay')
Solo sex for practicing techniques
Bogeyman of the sexless relationship: You must work at sex
NOT: Asexuality, singledom/non-monogamy, discrepancy OK
Spice required to 'keep sex alive'
But in tightly policed boundaries
Question but reinforce normality
Fantasy / reality
Erotica / porn
Fun kink / risky BDSM
Individualised & responsibilised 'solutions'
No recognition of (social) role of sex advice in constructing templates
Sex critical advice possibilities
Diverse contexts for sex (expanding intimacy)
Normalising difference in amount/type of desire
Benign variation of bodies/practices (expanding sex)
Agency operating in social systems/structures
Focusing on
how
not
what
The Coital Imperative
Full transcript