Dancing With Myself: A Dialogue On Gender & Sexuality, Part I

Joseph Prever and Steve Gershom run into each other at the coffee shop. After they get over their initial surprise at seeing each other in the same place at the same time, and after they are done complimenting each others’ rugged good looks (but before it gets weird), they have a discussion about, what else, gender and sexuality. Joseph, apparently in a cantankerous mood, begins with a complaint.

JP: Why does everybody get so upset about gender and sexuality? Why do I get so upset about gender and sexuality? How come, sometimes, if I see somebody even start to talk about gender and sexuality, even if they’re saying something I agree with one hundred percent, I get agitated and want to smash things or quit the internet forever? It’s the most interesting topic in the world, but at the same time, I wish everyone would stop talking about it.
SG: I think it’s because it’s so personal, and therefore hard not to take personally. Because it’s not like gender and sexuality are just one more aspect of your personality — they go down to the root of you. They permeate you, they touch every part of you, the things that everybody sees about you and the things that noone sees. So hearing somebody else talk about them as if they know what they’re talking about can feel like a violation.
JP: What do you mean, “permeate”? Do you mean like in Freudianism, where every human interaction is secretly about whether you are going to have sex with that person or not?
SG: No, that’s the opposite of what I mean. If sexuality just boiled down to having sex, then it would be a lot easier to compartmentalize it. And it’d probably be a lot easier to remain objective about it, too. Can you imagine a world where sex was just something you did with some people sometimes, like playing Scrabble? It would be a very different world. Who cares if you like Scrabble or hate it? Who would be shocked if you had never played it, and who cares if you play it with a man, a woman, two men, two women, a goat, or your own daughter, so long as you play nice and nobody gets hurt? It’s just Scrabble.
JP: Okay, so sex isn’t like Scrabble. And when you say that human beings are permeated with gender and sexuality, you don’t mean that every human interaction is secretly about having sex. But you are saying that every human interaction has some element of gender-and-sexuality in it. Right? Maybe not having sex, but something else.
SG: Yes.
JP: Okay, so what is that “something else”?
SG: Maleness and/or femaleness. I think.
JP: So every human interaction is secretly about maleness and/or femaleness? You mean when I talk to a woman, all of my interactions with her can be reduced to the fact that I am male and she is female?
SG: That’s not what I mean — I wouldn’t reduce the interaction to those things. But I do think that those things are always in the background. Or maybe not the background: maybe gender-and-sexuality always has an influence on the shape, or the texture, of our interactions. So when I talk to another person, it’s not just an abstract person talking to another abstract person. It’s either a man talking to a woman, or a man talking to a man.
JP: That seems sexist. I mean, I get that men and women are different from each other, and I get that nobody is an abstract Person — everybody has their own individual personality, their quirks, their history. So when I talk to Jack, I’m not going to talk the same way as I would talk to Hilda. But that’s not because Jack is a man and Hilda is a woman. It’s because Jack is Jack and Hilda is Hilda. But it sounds like you’re saying that, when you, as a man, talk to a woman, you’ve already decided certain things about her — you come into the conversation with certain preconceptions. And that isn’t fair.
SG: Hm. It does sound unfair when you put it like that. I have to think about this for a while.

Joseph Prever looks insufferably triumphant. Steve Gershom ignores him. To be continued.

9 Comments on “Dancing With Myself: A Dialogue On Gender & Sexuality, Part I”

  1. Norm says:

    Hey Joe/Steve: I think you might be surprised by how much you and Sigmund have in common!

    I’m looking forward to the continuation 🙂

  2. John says:

    I think the real question is, who would win at Kung Fu?

  3. richard says:

    I struggle daily with preconceptions.

  4. Annette says:

    I think I would admire both Joseph and Steve for their rugged good looks, and it might get weird.

    But the conversation I would listen to with unashamed interest.

    It would definitely get weird for them.

  5. Uyi (Albert) says:

    nice 🙂

  6. JK says:

    I think I’m imagining you talking to a cartoon sketch. I’ve heard speakers make distinctions between maleness/femaleness and masculinity/femininity, as well. That could be another fun thing to discuss!

    Also, the Scrabble thing made me chuckle. Allow me to digress….

    My freshman English teacher had a pretty strict “no sex-drugs-alcohol discussions in class” rule. But it did come up in the books we read, and she realized that, so her euphemism for having sex was “playing Scrabble.” A few of my classmates did a Romeo & Juliet skit—the two of them under a sheet, then one of them exclaimed, “Triple word score!”

    It was not until a few years later, in her husband’s calculus class, that we realized just how awkward the euphemism was. Her husband told us that he’d been in Sports Illustrated. As a Scrabble champion. Yep. (Because apparently Scrabble… the word kind, I mean… is a sport?)

  7. Matt P. says:

    The fact that something “seems sexist” reflects our preoccupation with sex. Because of gender, there’s always a real dynamic at play between two people that is informed by their gender. And preconceptions aren’t intrinsically unfair – many of them have a legitimate basis in reality, experience, and social norms. The trick to preconceptions is not to let them become prejudices: to conceive of something can be open to additional information that adds nuance to the relationship dynamic, while to judge something prematurely is to shut the door on that further knowledge of the other.

  8. Jason says:

    Hi, Joey, this may seem like an off-the-wall comment, but I wonder if it might alleviate the tensions in my interactions with males (particularly the ones I’m drawn to) to imagine them not as males. And by that, I mean, pretend they don’t have any of the parts that make them male. It would make things so much easier for me if, say, some shirtless gelding walked through the doors of my workplace. You know, nothing down below – but not necessarily genderless – more like a Ken-doll: the idea is there.

  9. Jason says:

    i sense there’s an untapped depth to my comment.

    When i was a kid, i was always curious about what lived underneath Ken doll’s underpants and was always kind of disappointed when I discovered a plastic no man’s land. I don’t intend to be crude.

    what i mean is, some thing got messed up when I became conscious of maleness. something about maleness worked its into my consciousness that really shouldn’t have, kind of like Adam and Eve taking that first bite of the fruit. There eyes were opened, and they were ashamed of their nakedness.

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