Since posting a blurb about A Billion Wicked Thoughts, the SurveyFail book, finally coming out, I’ve found myself circling back to the whole thing quite a bit. The most obvious reason for this is that I was definitely involved in that disaster.
While most of the Livejournal-based threads are locked now, I know there are screencaps around and there are certainly a number of posts that eloquently and summarize what happened in extensive detail (I’ve tried to link to some of the best throughout this post). I, personally, recall taking the authors to task on LJ for a number of things, including their use of the word tranny and, what seemed to me, their lack of even the most basic understanding of the sex industry — not as good or bad, but as something driven, like most everything else, by the engine of marketing.
All that, though, is ancient history. What isn’t ancient history is the book that has resulted from that mess and the blurb materials that have been floating around (you can see them on the product description at Amazon). If you have the inclination to read through them all you’ll note that, with the exception of the woman they got to write the book’s intro (a likely necessary marketing gesture in itself) all of the blurbs come from men. Sadly, in the realm of science, even (or particularly) science poorly engaged in, this is hardly surprising.
What jumps out at me the most, however, is one particular assertion in these promotional materials that, “Men form their sexual interests during adolescence and rarely change. Women’s sexual interests are plastic and change frequently.”
It’s hardly the only “Wait, WHAT????” moment in those promotional materials (“Though the male sexual brain is much more different from the female sexual brain than is commonly believed, the sexual brain of gay men is virtually identical to that of straight men” is another real winner that seems to suggest that people would or should think that gay men are more like women than men; it’s snuck in, in the sentence structure, and it’s misogynist and homophobic), but it’s the one I feel like focusing on today.
While this supposed finding regarding a perceived lack of fixedness in female desire is, in some ways, hardly new (consider, for example the common assertion that queer women on average come out later in life than queer men, indicating to some that there is a change or lack of solidity in female desire taking place there), I’m going to hazard a guess that in the text in question it remains just as unexamined as ever (is this something innate to women or a result of societal pressure that makes it harder for women to own their desire-based identities in a consistent manner?).
But, more than that, in the broader context of the book’s promotional materials and the experience I had and witnessed in the research the authors attempted to engage in on LJ, this quote seems to be saying that women in their desire are mutable not for their own sakes, but for the pleasure and convenience of men. Creepy, ne? Of course, I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect very few people who regularly read this blog or who had experience with the authors would be willing to take that bet.
Now, I’ll admit, that I probably do need to accept more intrinsically that these sorts of books — good or bad — are never, ever going to be about me. I’m not most people. Or most women. I fit into the boxes badly. And that’s before you even get to the queer sexuality and gender. I mean, I’m left handed! Do you know how many studies that disqualifies a person from? To be frank, sometimes it makes me feel more than a little bit unreal.
But the fact (fact: solid, precise, unchanging) also remains that I’m a malleable (malleable: inconsistent and therefore fact-free; haven’t you heard? women are mostly made of lies) person. I am pliable. I am shifting sands and a thousand faces. Mainly because it seems like a bit of a crap deal to me to be one person all the time. And I’ve never been that way for anyone’s pleasure but mine.
It’s one of those things I have to explain more than I’d like: just because I have sex, doesn’t mean I will have sex with you; just because I am water, doesn’t mean I am fluid for you. It’s so basic. I kind of can’t believe — whether I’m a boy or a girl or normal or not — that the world is still full of books (and people) that don’t get that one.
And while we’re on things that are just wildly untrue, can I just note that I have never been cautious like a detective agency? I’ve been reckless like one, though, once or twice. Sherlock fandom, would you care to weigh in on metaphors of detection and sexuality? I bet it would be awesome!
But anyway, what can you do? I, at least, can be entertained by the over forty people who tagged the book with mansplaining, among a couple of dozen (and counting) other unflattering tags.