May 292013

Journalists. I love them and I love their important job, and god knows I could never do it. But one way I’d measure the success of my (putative) book is if intelligent journalists read it and then stopped making unnecessary mistakes.

For example, everyone at the NYT needs to learn about responsive desire (it’s in my Chapter 5). They needed to know about it here and here and most recently here. These are all on the subject of medical interventions for “female sexual dysfunction” – and these are all articles published within the last year.

And everyone at The Atlantic needs to learn about the “purity” moral foundation (it’s in my Chapter 4). They needed it here (how Thomas Hardy’s predates the current arguments against the purity culture) and here (the ethics of extreme porn) and here (the complicated relationship some fundamentalists have with premarital sex) and here (culture and masturbation) and also here (what Immanual Kant, apparently, has to say about sexual morality -I’m afraid my undergrad philosophy minor didn’t cover that).

The purity moral foundation would also haven been handy here, though it was an opinion thing and the NYT didn’t really have control over that (NYT Room for Debate about sex education). It also would be useful any time either publication (or any publication, really) discusses why people “disagree” with same-sex marriage. (People disagree because it makes them go, “Ew,” and then they dress that moral intuition up in a moral narrative.)

And while I’m on a “holy crap, NYT,” binge, an intersex baby isn’t born with “both male and female genitalia“, they’re born with ambiguous genitalia – unless it’s not a case of intersex, but rather an extraordinarily rare and specific case of conjoined twins. That’s covered right in Chapter 1, my friends.

Also, all of these journalists would have better sex lives, too, which is totally a win.

emily nagoski

  5 Responses to “why every journalist will want to read my sex book”

Comments (5)
  1. I knew you’d find a use for that Atlantic article!

  2. I really don’t think the kind of sexual response that recent NYT article is talking about (the one about Lybrido trials) is responsive desire. The people they’re calling disordered there appear to have NEITHER spontaneous OR responsive desire, at least not at the levels they’d like to have. When a person avoiding even the things that might sometimes make them aroused because they know those things WON’T anymore & they don’t want to be in the position of pushing their partner away yet again that goes beyond responsive desire and into being a desire issue.

    Also, while I agree with your general premise that responsive desire is an important and overlooked phenomenon, as someone who has and does experience both spontaneous and responsive desire (and several states in between – I’m sure you’d agree they’re not and either/or dichotomy) I enjoy spontaneous desire a lot more. It’s just more fun. I really really ENJOY wanting my partner for no apparent reason other than thinking that he’s hot. I ENJOY pouncing on him first thing when he gets home, or surprising him by being naked and wet in bed waiting for him. I don’t really enjoy long drawn out foreplay. The longer it does on the more restless and impatient I get. The more turned on I am before he ever touches me the more intense the orgasms end up being, on average (exceptions of course exist). Sometimes I can still create this state by watching porn before he comes home, or thinking sexy thoughts about him all day (do those count as responsive or spontaneous desire if I’m doing it purposefully with the intent to be turned on instead of it just occurring to me out of the blue? I’m not sure.). It’s not more fun because someone told me it’s the “right” kind of desire – it’s more fun because I enjoy it more, even after accepting spontaneous desire as a valid alternative.

    If I could pop a pill to create spontaneous desire I would do it in a heartbeat. Barring that the best way to generate spontaneous desire is to find a new partner. But emotionally I don’t seem to be able to handle non-monogamy all that well.

    • I’m learning more and more that people simply PREFER spontaneous desire. I think part of it is that our culture privileges spontaneous desire – considers it “normal” and all the stories we tell about desire are stories of spontaneous desire – and part of it is that it’s just plain old exciting and fun. We also, culturally, love to watch thrilling movies and read intensely emotional books. We like stuff that pushes around our emotional landscapes – pounding ocean waves, white water rapids, not mill ponds and moats. We like it when life gives us excitement.

      I want to try, in the book, to reframe this, to provide strategies to GET to spontaneous desire by using the TECHNIQUES of responsive desire. We can deliberately create spontaneous desire – IF we can cope with the inherent contradiction in deliberately creating something spontaneous.

      • That’s kindof the question Daniel Bergner is asking in his followup article in Slate the other day:

        How can women maintain desire within long-term committed relationships? There are no good empirical studies. So I’m asking you: to share a solution that’s worked pretty well or even ecstatically; to share an effort that’s failed; to share an attempt you wish you or your partner were brave enough to make; to share the fact that this isn’t a problem for you and your theory as to why; to share your wisdom—or your further questions—in any form.

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