You know that saying, "Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about others?" It always makes me wonder where I fall, because there is pretty much nothing I like to talk about more than sex.
In abstract, in specifics, about fantasies and about real-life experiences: regardless of subtopic, most of my close friends and I spend a lot of our time gabbing about being naked. I mean, we talk about a lot of other things too -- politics and werewolves and ice sports and Neal Stephenson novels -- but at the end of the day, discussing sex just never seems to get old for me.
Okay, looking at that written down, that comes off as kind of creepy. But I just think it's so interesting! Sex is so different for everyone -- whether they love it or hate it or feel plain indifferent toward it -- and I'm fascinated by all the various ways people interact with it, particularly people about whom my feelings are largely platonic.
Among women, especially, discussing sex can also be a really easy way to bond. Growing up, I never talked about sex with anyone, even the people with whom I was having it. The whole thing is hilariously absurd in retrospect: my friends and I would literally print out erotic stories from our family computers and pass them around to each other, but no one would ever admit to feeling anything more intense toward them than a vague, detached interest.
I'm not sure who we thought we were kidding: "Oh, there goes that Gundam Wing pornography again, ho-hum. If you'll all excuse me, I'll just take this home with me and read it over for copy-editing errors for six hours, ignore any sweaty handprints on it tomorrow, bye!"
I was maybe 16 the first time I admitted to anyone else that I masturbated, even though I'd been doing it for more than half a decade at that point. My girlfriend at the time and I had done the whole naked-in-our-parents'-basement thing and we still got all weird about articulating our needs more explicitly than muttered phrases of "Can you -- " and "No, not --" and "Well -- that's okay, I guess."
So the first time I actually owned up to jacking off and had a friend do the same, it felt like a fucking revelation. This is 100% a symptom of being a lapsed Catholic, but I'd always suspected that sticking my hands down my pants was probably a one-way ticket to hell. When my friend 'fessed up, too, at least this way I knew I'd have company.
And that feeling of relief still persists today. It's not like every conversation I have takes a right-turn into Letters to Penthouse village, but once in a while it's kind of amazing to just spill your guts to a close friend and have them return the favor.
I think a lot of women, including me, spend an inordinate amount of time being expected to be judged for our desires (or lack thereof). It's still a bit of a novelty to be able to voice those desires to a person I trust and have them reassure me that the bizarre shit I think about at two in the morning doesn't make me unworthy of love.
Plus, let's be real: it is fucking fun. Not for everybody, I get that, but it is hilarious and awesome for me to hear about my friends' threesomes in Vegas or adventures in workplace erotic autophotography and then ramble away in turn about my first/worst adventures in handjobbing. I love attention (dur) and I'm hugely nosy, so I am almost always thrilled to sit through hours of Now, That's What I Call Sexual Encounters.
This is why it is so startling to me that women are, according to a new-ish study out of Cornell University, way less likely to pursue friendships with so-called "promiscuous" women. Even if a woman herself is promiscuous (where "promiscuous" means having 20 or more partners), she's still unlikely to desire companionship with other women who have had the same amount of experience.
The researchers who came up with the study posit that this is because of the "social stigma" of even being associated with a woman who's had thaaaat many partners, as if splitting a Keystone with a girl who's fucked a couple handfuls of people is akin to being photographed with Charlie Sheen. And where's the fun in that?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that only promiscuous people can or should talk about sex. In college, I hung out with a hell of a lot of virgins, and we still managed to find ways to squick out our straight dude friends through the sheer power of Too Much Information.
But if you outright refuse to befriend women who have spent time experimenting with their sexualities and being open about that fact with you, then that sounds like an unnecessarily, awfully lonely time for everyone. (The same goes for refusing to befriend people for not experimenting with their sexualities, for that matter.)
Of course, one must keep in mind that this study took place at a university in a relatively small town in upstate New York. I know firsthand that at a place like Cornell, where a surprising number of the student body is involved with everyone else's business in new and innovative ways, it's easy for female students to get sucked into the illusion that their personal decisions will somehow lead to social shunning.
In the bubble of college social life, it's hard sometimes to have wild n' crazy sex with that dude in your Econ class without somehow finding out that he was your barista coworker's Bio lab partner. Things tend to get around, and the comfort imbued by a good one-on-one sex talk session with a close friend can feel a lot less steadying, especially because a good amount of slut-shaming does happen in college.
That old creeping fear of being judged for one's desire comes back, and as a result, female students turn to abandoning each other instead of banding together about the fact that, yes, many of them do like to bone. Which sucks.
There's hope, though, because once out of the insular college bubble, it's a lot easier to believe that you can be a total slutty weirdo in the sack without having a mean frat boy call you a skank at your sorority mixer or something equally reprehensible.
I'm guessing (okay, hoping) that once the majority of these study participants spend some time away from Cornell, they'll feel a lot less inclined to freak out over what strangers thought of their sex habits. Insecurity like that takes a lot of energy, after all, and they could be spending it on something more pleasant: jogging, or sleeping, or, yes, trading cunnilingus tips with their BFFs. It's more fun than shunning, anyway.
Kate is oversharing: @katchatters