Sex Advice From Women's Studies Professors

"We say 'feminist' and people immediately think of a man-hating, hairy-legged bitch..."

by ‪Colette McIntyre‬

Dr. Lisa Moore, 45

Author of Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid, Professor of Gender Studies and Sociology at SUNY-Purchase 

Before your academic career, were you always interested in gender and sexuality? 
I was a classic '70s tomboy. I was an athlete; I had a lot of friends who ended up coming out to me. I had my own variable sexual history of being a lesbian, being bisexual, being heterosexual. I think there was more freedom being a female athlete, being in the liberal-arts college environment, being "of age" during post-second-wave feminism. That led to more possibilities in exploring gender, sex, and sexuality in ways might not have been available in previous time periods or different geographical areas.

Do you think that studying sex is sexy? 
I think that's the problem, right? When you're studying sex and sexuality, it's a little dangerous because it can come across as titillating, or fluff, or the People magazine of academics. It's not like studying nuclear fission or something — everybody has gender, everybody has sex, everybody has sexuality, and so everybody kind of feels like they are already an expert. They don't understand how you can make your whole career out of it. I just recently published an article with a student where we looked at XTube videos to talk about pornography and the money shot and sperm. And that's exciting, and it's in a scholarly book that's published by an academic press, but when I talk to people about it just casually I always get "a look." I mean it's fun, and it's definitely seductive — it's something at that everyone wants to talk about — but I also wonder how much it dismantles your ability to have credentials and a sense of academic respect that I think women in general have a hard time getting. 

What is your favorite euphemism for the vagina?
I like when people refer to the clitoris as "HQ," like "headquarters." "I'll meet you at HQ" — I think that's kind of funny. I like that and I like "polishing the pearl," for the clitoris. I think the vagina is important but, having had three babies come out of there, I'm a little bit more about the clitoris. 

If "The Judith Butler" was a sex position, what would it look like?
Something like a complicated knot system where one person is tied up and the other is dominating them. I don't have an "insert penis here" because I think there would be multiple accoutrements. I think it would be incredibly complicated and difficult to deconstruct.

I'm a feminist, but I fantasize about being called a slut and getting slapped in bed. Do you think this goes against being a feminist?
No; I think one of the unfortunate things about dogmatic feminism is that it creates a lot of opportunities for a woman to feel guilty about working through some of the things that they need to work through sexually. I think to not express it, to repress it, that's the problem. 

I only enjoy sex with my boyfriend when I'm drunk or stoned. He's taking it personally, but I keep trying to explain that it has nothing to do with him — I'm just a really anxious person who has a hard time getting out of my head. Is there any way we can make this work?
The fact that you only can get off using substances or only allow yourself to be intimate with another person while on substances suggests to me that you need to talk to a professional. I just think you might be putting yourself in situations that later on you may regret or be unhappy. The underlying issue is, why can't you stand doing these things sober? 

My boyfriend really wants me to talk dirty during sex, but it makes me feel silly. Plus, I really don't know how. Any tips? 
I think when one partner wants anything, whether it's to talk dirty to to try a different activity, and you don't feel confident and you don't feel sexy, it just spirals downward and you feel foolish. I've heard other people not myself suggest that the person watch pornography and then do what the porn star does, but I think that then you're so then conscious of what you're saying that it's like Cyrano de Bergerac

In regards to your own sex or love life, what's one class you wish you could have taken?
Well, being in my forties, I wish I'd taken a class in my twenties to know what I know in my forties about having sex with more people. I wish there had been permission given to not be so nervous about taking more risks as a partner, to try different types of things. I guess it's just the wisdom of age; you want to have it when you're young. 

Commentarium (26 Comments)

Feb 07 12 - 1:41am

Two in Manhattan and one about 20 miles outside the city. Not very geographically diverse, this sample.

Feb 07 12 - 2:00am

This was a refreshing read for this series. However quaint people find the local yokels to be, their stories resemble each others quickly.

Feb 07 12 - 3:21am

I like the third lady. And dislike the new Nerve comment-posting Captcha requirement.

Feb 07 12 - 8:30pm

Waaaaaaah. Go home and cry in your mommys breast, you pillow biting wanker.

Feb 07 12 - 1:27pm

"My girlfriend wants me to stop watching porn because it makes her uncomfortable. I don't want to. What should I do?
You should start by reading Linda Williams' excellent book, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible." Then, have your girlfriend read it. Then, discuss it. "

Where, outside a women's studies department, can a personal problem be solved with enough navel-gazing and deconstruction of post-colonial narratives in modern pornography?

Feb 10 12 - 6:05am

You may be surprised to know that a lot of people, perhaps most people, don't mind to read one book in an effort to get a different perspective. And after reading that book, they may discuss it with their partner; relationships do, after all, involve quite a bit of conversation. I thought this was good advice on Prof. Wollmann's part.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any Women's Studies dept. I have no college education, am a female in my early twenties, and work in a call center. Every time someone asks me if I'm "reading something for school," I want to scream. Books are for everyone, not just students!

Feb 10 12 - 6:52pm

Good on you, Jess! Rule number one about reading is: read what you want to. There are no other rules.

Feb 07 12 - 1:56pm
Felipe Arcano

I think that "Women's Studies" is not in fact exclusive to women... I have my own views on women's issues and I'm a guy, so much so that I write a blog titled "What's up with women?" - Unraveling that which makes WOMEN incomprehensible and MEN are afraid to explore.

Feb 07 12 - 1:58pm

"To call somebody a dick, nobody even blinks, but to demonize the vagina the way that people do is so upsetting to me."

God, what persecuted bullshit. I mean for real... give me a fucking break. People don't say cunt because it's a deadly insult. I don't know a single woman who won't get visibly angry if you call them a cunt - even the ones who are normally amazingly relaxed and fun.

Women have villianized the word cunt, it's not out of some fucking vaginal fear.

Feb 07 12 - 11:49pm

I see it exactly the opposite of what she says: isn't it more of a problem that no one sees calling someone a dick as a problem? Why is saying cunt a bigger insult? Why is that word more sacred than the one for male genitalia?

Feb 08 12 - 3:06am

Agreed, but that's a different kettle of fish. Don't you see? Men are still fair game for insults, derision, being dismissed. Listen to TV and radio commercials, who's usually playing the role of dupe, doofus, inept bumbler? Yup. I don't hear any "feminists" griping about that. Remember men, many women still hold sacred the "Equal but Special" clause!

Feb 08 12 - 2:39pm

@language -- Actually, most people who care about gender equality have a problem with this idiotic and inaccurate portrayal of men too. See, how it works is that if we all just pretend that men are inept morons -- particularly when it comes to traditionally female tasks like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children -- then they don't have to do any of that stuff! Obviously, women are just so much better at those things so they should do them, rather than have men screw it up, right? Oddly, you don’t really see any commercials or TV shows joking about men being inept, bumbling doofuses when it comes to things like, say, leading companies, making financial decisions, or fighting wars… weird, huh?

This has more extreme consequences when people believe the whole women-are-morally-superior-to-men line too, taking the form of anything from slut-shaming to honor killings. Men just can’t control themselves, but women should know better!

I don’t happen to agree with this professor’s perspective on the word “cunt” (I don’t feel like anyone gains much by calling each other male OR female genital names). I can kind of see where she’s coming from, but it’s really annoying and counterproductive to focus on bullshit like that when there are real problems, which consequently don’t get taken seriously because they get associated with aforementioned bullshit.

Feb 10 12 - 6:57pm

This seem terribly complicated - here I thought that a cunt was where my dick went.
You know . . . usually.

Feb 07 12 - 7:52pm

Dr Lisa you are 80's hot in those cat-eye glasses! Sounds like you have 'splored a bit but if you still like guys I'll be in the city next week; lets bump uglies!

Feb 07 12 - 11:16pm

A bit of academic wankery aside, this was one of the better reads in the series.

As an aside on porn: is there a good source for porn that's neither amateur nor horribly fake acting? I like real orgasms in my porn as much as in real life.

Feb 13 12 - 6:49am

There's feminist porn and "women friendly" porn, which is soo good and way hot! It's not boring or fake at all, it's people actually enjoying themselves. Look it up! It's not just for women, I don't know why they call it women-friendly. It's just people enjoying having sex.

Feb 08 12 - 12:32am

You mean there's tax money supporting something called "women's studies?"

Feb 08 12 - 9:13pm
Bangsi says

No tax dollars have ever been spent on women's studies?--but fortunately many universities have ponied up the cash for women's studies. Possibly you are feigning ignorance vis-a-vis feminism on college campuses, but your ignorance of the usage of the quotation mark is verifiable.

Feb 13 12 - 7:17pm

Oh, yeah? So public universities don't have women's studies departments?

Mar 01 12 - 11:00am

You mean there are still people who are so uneducated, intellectually limited, and contemptuous of women that they do not realize that women's studies is a legitimate academic discipline, that it has been recognized as such globally, and has been for decades?

Feb 09 12 - 12:22am

so in an effort to get away from 'old feminism' you want to empower yourselves to see who is the biggest slut and jill off to porno (which is quite often misogynistic,racist and a gazillion other things)?? And you so called sex positive femitards wonder why no one takes you hypocrites seriously? GTFOH

Mar 01 12 - 11:03am

Duh, you are delusional. No rational person could have come to those conclusions after reading these. You are just revealing your own sexual pathology and discomfort with women's sexualities. Go to therapy.

Feb 09 12 - 7:03pm

Too bad you didn't interview (former) academics Germaine Greer and Christina Hoff Sommers.

Feb 11 12 - 12:57pm

Though it *is* bad and suspect that 'cunt' is much less acceptable to say in public, I wouldn't say that it's a good idea to use it whenever just to be contrary. There are a lot of women who have heard 'bitch', 'slut' and 'cunt' used over and over again in very vicious ways and, yeah, I don't think they'd want to suddenly have to relive those experiences by hearing it said suddenly. It's different when it's reclaimed, but still, use some sensitivity.

Feb 12 12 - 4:39am

Not really very illuminating, unless you live under a rock.

Mar 01 12 - 10:57am

It is unfortunate that this article reproduces the stereotype that all feminists - and all professors other than Cornell West - are white. There are women of color who are teaching women's studies all over the country and the world, yet none of them were interviewed for this article despite the fact that multiple professors were included. Furthermore, none of those professors seem to have asked, "Hey are you interviewing any non-white women for this article?" This saddens me as this might have shifted the results and reveals much about their sensibilities. These interviews are interesting. However, I would have appreciated a bit more diversity.