Seeing Past People’s “Boxes”

There was a time in my life that I was sure that I knew everything. I not only knew how I was going to live but also how other people obviously had to live. This was, of course, when I was fifteen and knew exactly nothing outside of my limited experience. Two years later, one of my friends came out as gay and I was back to square one. I don’t remember what I said to him exactly, but I remember filing it away as ‘Oh, that’s cool’ and not really pressing him on it. Considering I was in North Carolina at the time, it was probably one of the better reactions he got. It was probably thanks to him that I was able to question my own sexuality, even if it was years later. It can be difficult to go about a question like that if you don’t have any exposure to the multitude of ways that people can be.

Dear Mr Promiscuous,

Do women watch porn? What kind? Do women masterbate? Do men really just want sex? What kind of sex do men prefer? Women?

Sincerely,

Confused About Gender

Dear CAG

Before I answer any of those questions, I’m going to go through a few things, so bear with me a little. For whatever reason, people seem to have equated sex and gender. Sex, in the scientific sense, is the set of physical characteristics that usually make up two variants of a species that reproduces sexually. There are primary and secondary sex characteristics that are used to differentiate the male and female of said species, with the primary characteristics usually being the ones essential for procreation and the secondary ones being mostly pronounced in puberty.

Gender, unlike sex, is not something that is scientifically defined. It is honestly more of a social construct built around the idea the the different sexes have ways in which they must perform in society. So, if your sex is defined as male, you could be expected to be brash, rough, crude, enjoy fast cars, and think about sex all the time. If it’s defined as female, you can be expected to enjoy home-making, be more emotional, and make slightly less than your male counterparts.

The reason I bring this up is that people seem to use the two terms interchangeably and you can’t DO that. While you can talk about differences in height, weight, muscular build and such with sex, you can’t ask about that with gender due to gender being subjective and based entirely on expectations of outward forces. It can be entirely different depending on your country, religion, ethnic background, religious background, and a whole host of other factors.

As humans, we like to have categories for things. It makes it easier to quickly understand concepts and have a starting point for thoughts and opinions. I feel like gender might be one of the worst categories (or boxes) we have. It limits what we will expect from people and ostracizes anyone that doesn’t fit their ‘roles’. You’re a male that likes ‘pretty’ things over ‘messy’ things or a female that likes cutting wood over cutting cake? Get ready for society to start asking really annoying questions. Then there’s people who don’t identify with either gender, which apparently freaks everyone out to the level of near BSOD-levels. (Blue Screen Of Death, for those that either don’t use Windows or live after the point where that’s no longer a thing)

So yes, women watch porn, masterbate, and fantasize; those are all things that people of all genders do. In fact, it’s more often the case that when a woman doesn’t do these things,it’s due to societal pressure and shame around sex in general rather than a lack of interest. And that’s without going into porn and how it’s usually made for ‘men’ in mind rather than people in general. The sex that any individual person prefers varys so much that it’s almost impossible to tell you what is standard, and even when you ask that question in a poll, people tend to default to the stereotypes that society gives them because we don’t ever talk about sex outside of what gender-based simplifications.

While I don’t think I quite answered your question, I hope that I’ve explained why it’s the wrong question to ask and a better approach to thinking about people. Treat each person as an individual and don’t assume that there’s some mystery to gender. It’s a tool that, while useful in helping people understand themselves, isn’t a set-in-stone rule that tells you everything you need to know about someone.

Have a great, gender-spectrumy day.

Mr. Promiscuous

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