A Day in the Life of a Sexologist

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My most WTF sexologist moment to date: An open letter to the guy who called my PARENTS regarding whether or not I have raw-dog sex with my husband.

Dear Ralph Kaplan,

When I checked my email yesterday morning, I found that I had a new email from your rkaplan1026@gmail.com email account with the subject line “your condom advocacy”.  Given my profession, it seemed perfectly legit, and I opened it. Turns out, it was anything but perfectly legit. Turns out, that this was the most offensive and upsetting email I’ve ever received, second only to a death threat from an anonymous person even sadder than you.

 

(Note to third party readers: the hyperlink to an interview I did with Cosmopolitan in which I mentioned that I personally use condoms, and the CAPITAL letter emphases are his own.)

 

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Jill,

 

I read that you have been with your guy for five years and have never had sex with him without using condoms.  What is the point of that?  What are you trying to prove?  Now that you are MARRIED to him, are you going to allow him to have some condomless / bareback / raw / “naked penis” sex with you?  You are not doing anything to help further the cause of sexual health by denying your husband of this perfectly natural activity that almost every other married couple in the world enjoys on a regular basis.  If anything, you are discrediting yourself with this silly campaign.  

I agree with you that condoms are a fact of life and arguably a necessity for those who are having sexual relations outside of a monogamous relationship, but it is ridiculous to promote them for people who are married or in committed relationships. Hormonal birth control works just fine for pregnancy prevention, and monogamy (with an uninfected partner) is 100% effective in preventing STIs.  For a man, using a condom feels almost like wearing a piece of tupperware on his dick, and I do not understand why anyone would bother with them when they don’t have to…especially you and your HUSBAND.

 If you’re interested in reading a realistic article about modern day sexual health and suggestions for sex educators, I recommend this one here…

 http://joshkruger.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/condoms/

 I urge you to please reconsider your narrow-minded approach to sex education and be more realistic in your advice to others.  Thank you!

 —Ralph

 

Wow. WOW. There is just so much wrong with every line of this email. Let’s unpack it.

 

1.     

There are innumerable reasons why a married couple would choose to use condoms. Maybe one or both of them isn’t monogamous. Maybe they’re swingers, or polyamorists, or unfaithful. Maybe they have threesomes and orgies. Maybe one or both of them has an infection. Maybe one of them was born HIV positive. Maybe one of them contracted herpes from a previous partner, or from childhood sexual abuse, and doesn’t want to infect the other. Maybe one of them works in a career that has them coming into regular contact with blood borne pathogens. Maybe they use condoms because they don’t want children yet or ever, but the woman can’t take hormonal birth control because she has cardiovascular disease and it would put her at high risk for stroke, or because it gives her severe nausea. Maybe it’s against her religion, or she just doesn’t like synthetic hormones in her body. Maybe condoms are a back-up in addition to birth control pills for a woman who is known to be forgetful with taking them, or has gotten pregnant while being on the pill before and prefers a condom as a safety net. Maybe they use condoms because they like condoms. Maybe they think the ones that have warming and cooling sensations, or ribbed ones with tingling lube, feel good and add to their sexual enjoyment. Maybe a married couple uses condoms to prolong the sexual encounter and make the man last longer before orgasming. Maybe their favorite part of the sexual encounter is holding each other afterwards, and condoms make it such that they can lay there and cuddle with minimal interruption for clean-up. Maybe one or both of them was raped by someone not wearing a condom, and bare ejaculation in the body is triggering. There are 1 MILLION reasons why a married couple might use a condom, and ZERO of those are your fucking business! Which leads me to #2

2. This is not your fucking business. Where does one get the gall- where does one get the AUDACITY to send a perfect stranger an email outlining their thoughts on what that person should do with her vagina? “Are you going to allow him to have some condomless / bareback / raw / “naked penis” sex with you?” Because condoms feel like “Tupperware” on your husband’s “dick.” FUCK YOU DUDE! Are you kidding me? I am all for standing up and telling people what you think, but the line between speaking your mind and being a rude, inappropriate, and tasteless intruder into the most intimate part of a person’s life was WAY THE FUCK BACK THERE! Just because I’m kind of a public figure does not make social decorum go out the window when you engage with me, and that doesn’t make it any less psychotic and socially maladaptive to preach at me about what I choose to put, and not put, in my vagina. Discussing my condom choice publically does not equal permission to send me an email like this. If I post a blog about my favorite brand of tampons, you do not get to email me, berating me because you think I should use panty liners instead. If I write about getting a pap smear, you are not entitled to tell me that my pro-pap “campaign” is discrediting myself and upsetting my husband, who you don’t even know and you’ve never even met. It’s my body. It’s my life. YOU ARE NOT INVITED!

3. To “discredit” means to harm one’s good reputation. How does using a condom in my PERSONAL sex life have any bearing on my professional reputation, particularly when my profession is as a sexologist? Does my personal choice to wear long hair and high heels, or not, discredit my professional opinion on gender conformity? Does my personal decision to be a mother, or not, discredit my professional opinion on reproduction? The supposition that I am discrediting myself based on ANYTHING I do in bed or with my body strikes me as an attempt to bully and control me under the guise of benevolent career advice. Also, providing a link and your recommendation for “realistic” and “modern” sex education methods so that I may be less “narrow-minded” in my approach is extremely condescending. I’m up on the latest and most modern theories of sexuality education, thank you very much, but why don’t YOU, guy who presumably has never taken a single course on human sexuality or teaching methods in his life, tell ME, person with a masters of education degree and a Ph.D. in human sexuality who has taught sex education to over 17,000 people at some of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions, how to be a sex educator.  #mansplaining.

4. The controlling and possessive tone of entitlement throughout this entire email REEKS of misogyny. You seem to believe that the fact that my husband and I choose to use condoms during intercourse is a crime against men, committed by me, and you must take a stand not only for my husband’s sake, but for your own as well. The line about “denying your husband of this perfectly natural activity” makes me cringe because the implication is that I’m denying my husband something that I owe him- my “raw” un-condomed vagina, whereas in reality, I don’t owe him, or anybody else, shit. Hello rape culture! So nice of you to show up in my inbox at 10am on a Sunday morning! For the record, marriage is not an unconditional, unrestricted all access pass to someone else’s body. I have sex when, if, and how I want, provided my partner is in agreement. I didn’t turn in my right to make decisions about when, if, and how I use my body when I got married. “What is the point? What are you trying to prove?” you ask? If I don’t owe my husband, I sure as fuck don’t owe you an explanation.

The capital letter “HUSBAND” and “MARRIED” throughout the email serves as a reminder that I am now a lowly wife, and my desires, health, or opinions come second to the fact that MEN HAVE NEEDS and I better get on them! The line “For a man, using a condom feels almost like wearing a piece of tupperware on his dick” and the line “are you going to allow him to have some condomless / bareback / raw / “naked penis” sex with you?” are the worst. Not only because of the vulgar language but also because the passive voice. “Are you going to allow him…” and “sex with you” stick out. How do you know my husband’s the one not allowing me to go “bareback”? And maybe I’m having sex with him, (vs. him having sex with me.) Or maybe, dare I say, we’re having sex with each other. Word choice is so important because it’s no coincidence that you described my positionality in this email with submissive and receptive language.

The misogynistic sentence that threw me for a loop the most was the one at the end that began with “I urge you to please reconsider…” It wasn’t enough to invade my email inbox with your unsolicited opinions about my sex life and career. No. You didn’t just say, “I think you’re a dope for using condoms when you’re married”, although that would have been out of line enough. You took it a step further and moved from a narrative perspective, to a persuasive perspective. Telling me your thoughts on my condom use wasn’t enough; you had to attempt to persuade me to change my opinion and behaviors. “I urge you to please reconsider…” and then the “Thank you!” (exclamation point) at the end  is as if by agreeing to reconsider condom use and promotion, I’m doing you a favor. That I owe you condomless sex with my husband. That level of passion and interest that you would go out of your way to write an email to “urge” me is steeped in the misogynist belief that my husband has a poor unsatisfied Tupperware dick (?!) and this is an affront to you, as a man, personally.  

One thing not said in this email, although it needn’t be said explicitly to know its truth is that if I didn’t use a condom, became pregnant, and got an abortion, or found myself infected with a sexually transmitted disease, I’d be the whore. Not my husband. Me. Eff ALL of this.

 

5.      5. The kicker of this entire thing is I’M NOT EVEN A PREVENTIONIST! I’ve never been a “rah rah condoms” sexologist. Clearly you don’t really know anything about my work because I have ALWAYS come from a pleasure-positive perspective, not a prevention or public health perspective. Clearly you’ve never attended my “Safer and Sexy” workshop, in which I tell college students that while condoms are effective at prevention, there are other potentially more pleasurable harm-reduction ways to be safer, such as fellatio down the shaft of the penis instead of over the head of the penis. Perhaps you missed my workshop on STI stigmas, and my thesis that some of the important work happening in that field is not prevention/condom campaigns, but campaigns to end stigma and judgment against infected persons. You must have also missed my article for philly.com and my interview on Dawn Stensland’s talk show in which I disagreed with her that the approach to discussing Michael Douglas’s oral cancer from cunnlingus is to promote safe oral sex, because, as I said on her live TV show, it’s unrealistic to expect a married man in his 60s to use a dental dam while going down on his wife. So aside from your unbelievably untoward bombardment into my personal life, your ignorance and judgment about the myriad reasons a married couple would use a condom, your mansplaining about my career, and your crude language and misogynist tone, I ACTUALLY AGREE WITH YOU. So why the hell would you send me this email criticizing me for a sex ed “campaign” that I don’t even espouse? Perhaps you should have done your homework beyond reading about me in a supermarket magazine- because if you consider Cosmo a legitimate source of information, you have bigger problems than me outing you as a douchebag on the internet.

 

Deep breath.

 

I usually don’t respond to trolls, but I felt compelled to answer this email because all the reasons I mentioned above ran through my head in seconds, albeit less articulately. I don’t think I’ve ever responded to a troll via email, but this one just pushed every single one of my buttons. I woke my husband up, read him your email, and then wrote the following response:

 

My husband and I just got a good laugh about how much of a loser you are that you would be so intersted in reading about the life of a stranger (obvioiusly you not only read the Cosmo article, but read my blog too to know that I’m married) and have the spare time and desire to write said

stranger such a passionate email about your concern over what they do with their vagina. My husband is also flattered that you seem to care so much about his dick and the level of enjoyment vs “tupperware” it feels. While we appreciate the chuckle we got at your expense, we do not give a shit about you or your misogynist opinion of our sex life. Do not email me again. Any future correspondace from you will be deleted without opening.

 

PS: If you insist on continuing to read my blog, you can look forward to my next post containing a transcript of your email, along with your name and email address, so that ALL of my followers can laugh at you too. Enjoy :)

 

After I sent the email, I wasn’t laughing anymore. I was LIVID. I felt intruded upon and baffled and insulted and violated. It ruined my entire day. It was all I could think and talk about. I posted a summary of what happened on my professional facebook page, and my friends and followers shared in my outrage. My husband and I went out for lunch, and the whole time we talked about everything that is wrong with your email, sentence by sentence. I was fuming. And as I’m getting up to leave from the table after we paid our bill, my phone rang. It was my dad, and he said “Jill, I have to talk to you about something. I just got a phone call from someone concerned that you’re going to post something about him on the internet. He asked me to talk to you about not doing that”. WHAAAATT????

So, needless to say, I FREAKED OUT and everyone in the restaurant started staring. “This guy is stalking me now?? He’s calling my parents?? How did he even get your number??”

As it turns out, you are the husband of a coworker of my step-mom. My threat to out your asshattery and your email address (you’re on the job hunt and google is a bitch) put you into a panic. You told your wife. Your wife called her colleague, my step-mom. My step-mom asked my dad to intervene. My dad called me. On no uncertain terms I rejected your request for silence via my dad, but not taking no for an answer, my step-mom called me back to do some more of your bidding. There is so much wrong with this series of events. Let’s unpack it:

1.      1. I was unquestionably explicit in my return email to you that I did not want to hear from you ever again. I think “Do not email me again. Any future correspondence from you will be deleted without opening” is a crystal clear demand of DO NOT CONTACT ME. So for you to not only ignore my extraordinarily reasonable request, but to contact me in an even more intimate and intrusive manner than the internet- by phoning my DAD about my anger of being told to fuck my husband without condoms from a stranger- is beyond intrusive and reeks of misogyny again. The message was unmistakable; my clearly defined boundaries have no merit, my desire to be left alone is not as valid as your desire to avoid being held accountable for your words. I was able to regain some measure of control and autonomy by saying that “any future correspondence from you will be deleted without opening”. That’s because being able to see your name in my inbox and delete without reading it gave me the power to decide if I would let you enter my life or not. But you circumventing that  boundary which I constructed by having your wife call my step-mom, who called my dad, who called me, and then my step-mom who called me again, insured that I no longer would have power and control over whether I would hear your message. Damn it, I WOULD hear what you had to say whether I liked it or not. That is a fucked up power play once again steeped in a patriarchal worldview that you’re entitled to have a voice in this matter and I’m obligated to listen.

 

(Don’t forget, third party readers, that this is a man I have NEVER met, the matter at hand is whether I raw-dog my husband, and this discussion now involves my father. Just wanted to make sure those details weren’t forgotten in this lengthy letter.)

 

2.      2. You clearly did not tell your wife what your email to me said. The information you passed down the lane and into my life was “I made a comment and Jill took offense to it, and now she wants to post my personal email address on the internet”. This is a disingenuous statement.  

a.       “Comment” is a much softer sounding explanation than “email”. “I made a comment” suggests an open dialogue on facebook or an online forum, in which you were invited or a part of, that perhaps escalated or got out of hand. “I sent her an email” suggests the truth- an unsolicited and unwelcome one sided diatribe. Two very different things.

b.      Again, language and the analyzation of word choice are so telling when unearthing misogyny. You didn’t say “I said something offensive to Jill”, which is a statement of ownership over your own actions, with “Jill” being the indirect object of the sentence, as it should have been. You instead said “I made a comment, and Jill took offense to it”, which moves me from the indirect object, the one being acted upon, to the actor. Jill took offense. It was Jill’s doing. What a way to misplace blame. Not to mention, with the underlying stereotype about women being overly emotional, your statement suggested the problem isn’t what you said, the problem is my sensitivity to what you said. Classic.

c.       And of course, you left out the ever important particulars. When you told your wife you’d made a comment I took offense to and threatened to expose your email address, and asked her to call my step-mom to try to stop me, you failed to mention the part about how you asked me if I was going to let my husband have raw, bareback, naked penis sex with me. You failed to tell her about how I was denying my husband of this natural activity. You fell short of mentioning to your wife that you chastised me for allowing my husband’s “dick” to feel like it’s in Tupperware. You neglected to share with her about how you insulted me and impugned my professionalism and credentials. While a very convenient approach for you, your edited version of events demonstrates to me that you know full well what you did was wrong.

 

3.      3.  Despite your best efforts at under and mis-informing them of what happened, I still could have been spared from your harassment and invasion into my personal life if ANY of the three newly involved members of this shit show; your wife, my step-mom, or  my dad, had thought to ask either of two fundamentally important questions. A. What did the email say? and/or B. Why would Jill want to put Ralph’s email address on the internet? Or better yet, C. Jill’s an adult, I trust her judgment and whatever is going on between you two is none of my business, so why would I as her father/step-mother/step-mother’s coworker, get involved with her affairs when that would be totally out of line?  But no one asked any of these questions. 

a.       Had anyone thought to ask what the email said BEFORE unquestioningly acting on your behest and asking me to censor the ways in which I express myself/defend myself against lewd men, they may have felt a little different about it. But all three people, including my own blood, put protecting your interests before finding out what exactly they were protecting you from, or if you even deserved to be protected. Never mind that for all any of them knew, you could have threatened me with who knows what, or worse, you were given the first benefit of the doubt. You were even able to convince my normally judicious, always-on-my-side father to question me before questioning you, a twice removed acquaintance. Well done sir. You must be quite persuasive and charismatic.

b.      Had anyone thought to ask what would possess me to desire to put your email address online in a negative context BEFORE asking me not to, then I would have told them why, and surely they would all be appalled and embarrassed at your behavior. But instead, I’m left to marvel not just at your individual misogyny, but also the infantilizing sexism that exists in the back corners and in the cobwebs of the brains of everyone involved. I couldn’t POSSIBLY have a legitimate reason for wanting to warn the world about you. I couldn’t POSSIBLY be trusted to make my own decision about my internet behavior, who and what I blog about, or how I handle web trolls. No one said, “Jill, I know the man who you are exposing online and he shared with me his side of the story. Do you mind if I asked you what’s going on?” No. The default assumption for all of them was that I was overreacting. That I needed to be reined in. That outing you would be more damaging to you than not outing you would be damaging to me. You’ve managed an attempt to silence me vicariously.

c.       While I continue to be stupefied about how you got the gall to email me in the first place, I also scratch my head at the gall at everyone else involved. This would be like me learning my husband’s friend from work’s wife was angry at my sister for something that happened online, this woman and my sister never met, and this woman asked me to call my sister to intervene…. And me actually calling my sister…. without finding out ANY DETAILS FIRST! And then when my sister told me to piss off, my husband calling my sister to intervene too. Who, other than catty 6th graders, does this? And your wife is really something special too. I could never imagine having the nerve to ask a co-worker to meddle in her adult family member’s beef with my husband. Period. Especially without knowing what my husband allegedly said or did to initiate the beef. Boundaries people, BOUNDARIES!

 

My dad apologized, and admitted he learned a “valuable lesson” as far as making sure you know who you do a favor for before you agree to do it. I accepted his apology. But then my step-mom called me back to plead your case again (AFTER my father hung up with me and informed her of how upset I was), and she made excuses for you, asked me to not print your email address unless you send me something nasty again in which case I can do whatever I want (I can? Thanks for the permission I don’t need and didn’t ask for), and preached to me about “second chances” (funny, I don’t remember giving you a first chance. I remember going from being unacquainted with you to you telling me how to operate my vagina). Receiving a repugnant email from you, a strange man, is bad enough. But what makes this case so compelling is how you were able to entangle my normally feminist and self-aware family, illuminating just how deep tolerance of predatory men goes in our society.

 

The moral of the story is- the whole world knows what kind of man you are, how you treat women, and how you behave when you think nobody’s watching.  Despite your perverse attempts to bully and intimidate me into silence, your secret is out and it’s time to take your lumps. The anonymity of the internet is great for weak and vulnerable people to gain imagined courage, so they can puff out their chests and pick on people that in person they’d be too cowardly to even talk to let alone start a fight with, confident in the idea that the anonymity will protect them from ever having to be held accountable for what they say. I’ve had enough of it. I stand in solidarity with so many other women who have reached their tipping points with unsolicited sexually harassing messages from men, and have outed them by screen shoting their emails, texts, or facebook message and sending it to the guy’s wife, or mother, or just on the world wide web in general after doing some internet sleuthing. I included your name and email address. You lost that fight, deal with it. Just be thankful I didn’t post a link to your facebook page or include any of your photos, which I’ve saved on my computer- just in case ( yes, I know how to facebook). What you need to do now is move on. And to be clear, MOVE ON means I never want to hear or know about you again. Not via email. Not via facebook. Not via my parents. Do not speak my name. Do not respond to this letter. Do not read my blog. Do not create an anti Dr. Jill url and manage a website about me, like you did the last time someone publically humiliated you (yes, I know how to google too). Just forget I exist, and MOVE ON.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jill McDevitt