When I was in New York last month, I sat down for a chat with a friend of a friend who’s a professor of Human Sexuality. Hunter Kincaid is an visiting lecturer at Hunter College and an adjunct professor at Pratt University, and we met up to muse over about how anal sex is like homeschooling, straight male bisexuality, the ethics of asking consent before you cry on a first date, and how the future of heterosexual marriage is all about gay marriage.
I’m breaking our conversation into a three-part series that we’ll be rolling out this week, so if you’re interested in sex, feel free to eavesdrop — and come on back tomorrow.
Ariel: I feel like in some ways, the most interesting places of American culture are where far left and far right loop back into a circuit. The classic example would be homeschooling, where you have super conservative Christians and then super out there hippies. They’re all homeschooling, doing the same thing.
I feel like anal sex is an example of this, where you have conservative evangelical youth who are like, “Jesus doesn’t care because it’s anal,” and then you have hardcore heterosexual porn where anal sex has become increasingly mainstream in ways that I think it wasn’t before. Basically, we have these far ends of American culture that have united up the butt.
Hunter: The far ends of culture definitely unite up the butt, because the far ends of culture have never really been that different sexually. Studies show that hardcore porn consumption is often highest in conservative cities and states. Religious kids put through abstinence programs like “the ring is the thing” have high rates of STIs, thanks to unprotected anal sex.
Now, those kids might say they are doing it to avoid pregnancy and losing their virginity… but they are also learning that anal sex can be pretty fun. Most studies will show some slight differences in masturbation rates, especially for women, based on traditional religious beliefs. The sex they have within their relationships is often a different story.
Starting with Kinsey on down the line, scientists have shown anal sex to be a fairly common act for people to enjoy. The problem is that the traditionally religious folks don’t get the education they need about how to have anal sex in a safe and pleasurable way. I think the internet is probably changing that a bit, though.
Things are only taboo when we can’t talk about them openly, seeing more mainstream acceptance for acts like pegging [Yay, Broad City!] might be a result of all of America getting the chance to admit people enjoy anal sex… even if it’s anonymously online as they watch porn, or read a blog.
Ariel: So if anal sex is one place where supposed-deviance has become more common in mainstream American culture, and polyamory might be another… what other corners of previously “deviant” sexual behaviors are evolving to be less stigmatized in American conversation?
Hunter: Straight masculinity and sexuality. I feel like already it’s become more permissive for straight men to just interact with queer men and have queer friends. Especially with how we are still trained to be men, this permissiveness is gonna increase the number of sexual relationships between men who truly identify as straight, but are just casually hooking up.
Ariel: So, male bisexuality, sort of?
Hunter: I don’t even know if they would define themselves as bisexual, but just straight men who see sex with other men as an okay thing. Especially with younger men, the way that they’ll talk about it… it’s like they can very much distinguish between casual sexual things they’d enjoy, and who they would want for more intimate things.
Research has shown a lot more that young men are feeling more open to talk to researchers about their experiences, like admitting cuddling with their straight male friends. There seems to be a lot of research coming out now about straight-identified guys talking about their sexual experiences with other men.
Ariel: And you feel like this is a generational thing?
Hunter: I think so.
Ariel: I’ve spoken to so many men my age (which would be young Gen X) who say things like, “I’m totally straight. I wish I was bi…” Their theory seems to be “If I was bi, I would probably get off more often.”
Hunter: Absolutely, because of how men are socially trained around sex, compared to women.
Ariel: Totally. They’re like, “I intellectually wish that I had access to bisexuality.” Then they’re always like, “But I physically just don’t.” I have to wonder if some of that is cultural. If you look at female bisexuality, there’s so much cultural permissiveness around it.
There’s part of me that wonders if the Gen X and other older straight dudes, it’s just too bad for them… “Too bad, bro, you could’ve been getting a lot more head in college!” But it’s also interesting to me how so many men point to it as like, “That’s just how I’m wired…” instead of acknowledging that cultural attitudes around bisexuality may be a factor. It’s great to hear that it may be shifting for younger men!
Join us for Part 2 of this series tomorrow, where Hunter and I explore whether it’s polite to ask for your partner’s consent before you cry all over them while fucking on a first date.