This happens in geek circles every so often. They 'Hey, this is just a system I can figure out easily!' is also a problem among engineers first diving into the stock market.

The Geek Social Fallacies of Sex.

This is a guest post by Holly Pervocracy. Holly Pervocracy is a kinky, geeky feminist sexblogger. She writes essays on her experiences as a member of the BDSM and polyamory communities, editorials from a sex-positive feminist perspective, advice on sexuality and kink, and humorous critiques of sexism online and in the media.

This post originally appeared at Holly Pervocracy’s blog.

Note from the GF mods: links from this post may lead to sexually explicit writing or images. In addition, Holly Pervocracy’s original entry has some anti-feminist comments, so ‘ware for that if you head over to her site. (Comments made here are expected to adhere to our comment policy.)

This happens in geek circles every so often. They 'Hey, this is just a system I can figure out easily!' is also a problem among engineers first diving into the stock market.

xkcd #592: Drama (by Randall Munroe, CC BY-NC)

With all apologies to the original, which all geeks should read…

I think geek sexuality is an awesome thing.  God knows it’s the only sexuality I’ve ever known.  Geeks are tinkerers who constantly try to improve and innovate, and geeks are not bound by many mainstream social rules, and these two things combine to create some fucking hot sex.  Also for some semi-mysterious reason the overlap between “geek” and “kinkster” is, like, 90% of both groups.

But geeks also are prone to weird social thinking, some of it a reaction to the ungeeky mainstream, some of it their very own invention.  Here’s some common misconceptions that can fuck up geek sex.

GSFS 1: People can voluntarily control their emotions about sex.

This manifests a couple different ways:

“We’ve agreed this is casual sex, so as long as we decide not to develop feelings, we won’t.”
“Sex is just a physical activity, so adding it to our dating/friendship won’t change our relationship.”
“My partner promised not to feel jealous because I’m not monogamous, but they’re betraying me by feeling jealousy anyway!”  (Note that in this example both partners are apparently carriers of this fallacy.)

Pretending you can just decide whether you’ll feel any emotions at all is a geek fallacy stemming from the idea that you should be able to optimize your own brain to not do anything unproductive or unintended.  But geeks ought to know better, because come on, you can’t even get a computer to do that.  This stuff comes on you, it gets you by the heart and the gut, and it doesn’t ask you “pardon me, I’m an emotion, are you okay with experiencing me?” first.

What you can and should voluntarily control is how you express your emotions.  It’s okay to feel strong emotions; it’s not okay to attack people or break promises and use “I was emotional” as an excuse.  This is when it’s time to tell your partner “hey, we need to talk, I’m feeling an emotion!”  Solving the problem may involve changing your relationship boundaries, it may just involve talking it out, or it may mean you have to end the relationship.  But the solution is never “that is an incorrect emotion, please stop experiencing it.”

GSFS 2: The weirder your sex, the more enlightened you are.

I’ve done a whole post on this, so go there if you want extended pontification.  The short of it is: geeks have a tendency to mistake “less mainstream” for “better,” and to conclude that sex that least resembles the mainstream is both the sexiest and the most virtuous.  So polyamory gets seen as more enlightened than monogamy, kink gets seen as sexier than vanilla, and monogamous vanilla geeks get a big steaming pile of “I guess you’re just not very open-minded.”

I think polyamory and kink have great things to offer geeks of all sorts, but “having sex with multiple people” and “having ouchy sex” aren’t those things.  Those are just neutral activities, things to do if you like and not if you don’t.  The real takeaways are conscious and explicit communication.  That’s what makes us cooler than the squares.

GSFS 3: Cool chicks don’t worry about sexism.

This isn’t exactly a sex thing but God does it plague some geek circles.  I know because I’ve been the cool chick.  I’ve played the “don’t worry, I’m not like those other girls, I’m not into gossip and drama” card; I’ve played the “well, you have my permission to objectify me, because I take it as a compliment” card; I’ve even played the “that mean lady was such an uptight no-funster for having boundaries” card.

Those cards are the fuck out of my deck now.  And I’ve paid the social price for that.  There’s definitely some people in my circles who’ve put me in their “uptight no-funster” mental box since then, or who deliberately bait me about “watch out, Holly, I’m going to patriarchally oppress you!” because ahahaha she’s an angry little lady isn’t that cute.

I don’t blame a woman who sees this go on, decides she wants friends more than she wants to start fights about some abstract problem that doesn’t seem to affect her personally, and starts telling her male friends not to worry, they can be sexist around her, she’s cool.  The problem isn’t her.  The problem is all the people who made it so much easier and more pleasant for her to be a “cool chick” than a woman who gives a damn how people think of her gender.

GSFS 4: Drama is always worse than the thing the drama is about.

I guess the xkcd comic has a little bit of this one.  Drama’s never fun, but it beats the fuck out of suppressing real issues.  In my time in geek circles, I’ve seen reports of sexual harassment and even outright assault silenced with “well, I don’t want to make drama” or “but whatever, that’s just drama.”  A woman in the group is a sexual predator? Gosh, I don’t spread gossip.  A man needs to be disinvited from parties because he’s repeatedly threatened people at them? No, kicking him out would make a scene, it would make drama.

In geek sexual communities, the illusion of smooth functioning and of everyone being bestest friends with everyone can supersede people’s needs for comfort and safety.  A lot of this has to do with the “Ostracizers are Evil” non-sex GSF, but it gets worse when you add sex to the mix, because defensiveness about our non-traditional sexuality suppresses important issues even further.  Like, if you admit that people violate boundaries in BDSM circles, then you’re admitting that BDSM isn’t a perfect haven of consent and negotiation, and that’s just going to play right into the mainstream idea that BDSM is abusive!  So we end up defending abusers to prove BDSM isn’t abusive.

“Drama” is a trivializing word.  Let’s try “conflict,” instead.  “I don’t want to treat him any differently just because he gets a little handsy with women, that would cause conflict.”  It doesn’t sound so superior and level-headed now, does it?

GSFS 5: Sex should be no big deal.

This is related to GSFS 1, but even nastier.  This is the idea that since sex is just a super simple physical act–you rub some bits together, it feels good, the end–that there shouldn’t be anything complicated or difficult about sex.  That casual sex should be easy for everyone, that having multiple partners should be as simple as “it’s like having a sexual partner, but more than one of them,” that everyone who makes sex into a big complex issue is being dramatic (GSFS 4) or no-fun (GSFS 3) or narrow-minded (GSFS 2).

Sex is complicated as fuck, and if you think understanding sex is easy, you don’t understand sex.  I’ve written 1300 posts on sex and I’ve already changed my mind about roughly half of them.  It amazes me that the same people who admit that games about rolling dice can hide deep complexity and meaning will go on and claim that sex is just some squishy bits coming together.  It’s not.  Sex is two (or more) people interacting in a huge diversity of ways, and while it can be great, it’s never simple.

I love geek sex.  I love the way we’re endlessly willing to rethink and improve and break stereotypes about sex.  But we gotta stop buying into this crap.  We’re geeks; we oughta be smarter than that.

11 thoughts on “The Geek Social Fallacies of Sex.

  1. Jessica

    I absolutely loved this post!
    I think that the idea that sex can be simple is a really dangerous one that many geeks, or just independent thinkers in general, seem to hold. Maybe its an idea that you have to test out yourself. I know I did and found pretty quickly that sex is completely complicated, but I think putting the reality of it out there will at the very least help you to test out the idea in a more informed way.

    [Moderator: Jessica's signature has been removed]

  2. MadGastronomer

    Good post.

    Just a heads-up, though, the italics seem to have run amok.

    1. Mary

      Thanks, fixed, on preview I didn’t catch it because it seems Firefox automatically fixes double em tags that are closed with only one em tag.

  3. Kaonashi

    I personally appreciate the idea that sex should be simple and fun, but I’ve long since realized that’s it’s just an ideal — one you have to work hard to get close to, and “close” is as close you can ever hope get to it. It certainly won’t come true by pretending it’s naturally simple without any effort, emotion or communication.

  4. EkEkAz

    Addendum: it makes me uncomfortable that the word ‘weird’ was chosen to describe things that I would describe as ‘maladaptive’ or ‘toxic’ or ‘abusive’. As a weird person who doesn’t desire any of those other things, I feel kind of… aimed at?

  5. Madfishmonger

    This is brilliantly written, you really hit the nail on the head. I was once part of a goth/gamer group whose ruin started when the fetish geeks showed up and started making everything about sex an ISSUE. They brought the idea of “being sexually enlightened means you have no boundaries at all”, which is really silly and got a lot of people upset and hurt because their boundaries got pushed (myself included).

  6. Ju

    Holly Pervocracy: I think I love you. (it’s love that is awesome blog post shaped, just so you know).

    Thank you for writing this :)

  7. Linda

    “…But the solution is never ‘that is an incorrect emotion, please stop experiencing it.’…”

    That’s also never the solution in childrearing and never the solution in being the parent of an adult (my mother has used alomst that same line on me far too often :( ).

  8. julian

    The weirder your sex, the more enlightened you are.

    The one that’s got me the most annoyed. It oversteps the bounds of trying to legitimize your own sex life/ speak up for the underepresented and crosses over into moralizing. Aside from health concerns (mental and physical) you cannot dictate the sex lives of others.

    If you want to encourage people tp be more comfortable with themselves (which if I were feeling charitable I’d say this was an attempt at) do so by encouraging them to be explorative and willing to try new things. But don’t decide what kind of sex they should be into or denigrate them for not being “broad minded” about sex.

    There’s only one kind of sex everyone should have; the kind between consenting and enthusiastic partners.

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