Stephen Speicher

Male-Female sexual roles

93 posts in this topic

It has often been discussed, by myself included, that there exists a metaphysical basis for the differences in the male and female sex roles. For instance, anatomically speaking, that there is psychological significance to be drawn from the man being the one who penetrates, and the woman being the one who is penetrated. In this current thread, it is that sole point that I would like to focus on.

This 'penetration' view was challenged by ADS in this post, but the significance of that challenge escaped me at that time. I have since re-visited the following point, which I now find persuasive.

Just as with the man on top one can think of the man penetrating the woman, with the woman on top one can think of the woman enveloping the man. With this view, there is no metaphysical asymmetry from which to derive a singular role of sexual dominance to man over woman.

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles? And, again, here I only want to focus on this one issue of penetration. and not appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, there's the simple fact that, regardless of position, penetration doesn't happen unless the man is aroused. The woman can be as aggressive as she likes, but unless he's erect, at least that particular sexual activity isn't going to happen (at least not well). Once he's ready one might be able to take the view that the partners are equal in the "process," and certainly there are other activities they could engage in (although I'd find it unusual for a man not to be aroused to erection by such activities, though I suppose it's possible). But ultimately doesn't it all depend on the male? Doesn't his decision, his choice, determine what happens?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, there's the simple fact that, regardless of position, penetration doesn't happen unless the man is aroused....

But that is not the point I have asked to be argued in this thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I might be a bit off here because I do not fully understand the question.

If I am a doctor and I am going to give a shot to a patient I am the one that will be doing the penetration. It does not matter how much the patient wants or does not want the shot, the one holding that which will penetrate has control over the nature of the penetration.

By the very nature of penetration it is the one holding that which will be penetrated into something that determines the significance. There is a penetrator and a receiver of that which will be doing the penetration and no matter what you call it penetration can not happen any other way.

Again, I could be off as I am not sure if I fully understand what you are asking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just as with the man on top one can think of the man penetrating the woman, with the woman on top one can think of the woman enveloping the man. With this view, there is no metaphysical asymmetry from which to derive a singular role of sexual dominance to man over woman.

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles? And, again, here I only want to focus on this one issue of penetration. and not appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns.

To start with full disclosure, I do agree with Rand's assessment of the metaphysical dominance of men. That being said, I am not sure how well I can defend the view.

Having never been a woman, I can only surmise, but I believe it would be a far more vulnerable feeling to have someone inside of your body then to be in anothers and vulnerabilty seems to be incompatable with dominance. More of an 'incoming' experience rather then an 'outgoing' experience, so to speak.

Also, my (first hand) experience has been that more action is required on the part of the male whether on top or bottom for a number of reasons, one of which piz alluded to. I think his statements are relevent because the male must be actively and conciously engaged in order for errection and then penetration to occur. So even when not acting as the primary mover, he cannot be in a completely passive state.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But that is not the point I have asked to be argued in this thread.
If you're limiting it solely to the fact of penetration, then I'd say that penetration by itself is not enough to determine the issue of "sexual dominance," and may even be of little significance in the matter. There are other factors that need to be considered, some of which may be more important.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, my (first hand) experience has been that more action is required on the part of the male whether on top or bottom for a number of reasons, one of which piz alluded to. I think his statements are relevent because the male must be actively and conciously engaged in order for erection and then penetration to occur. So even when not acting as the primary mover, he cannot be in a completely passive state.

To concretize, a man cannot act like Lillian Rearden in bed even if he shared her view of sex. He will have to act like James Taggart or Ellsworth Toohey - choose the lowest type of women, but still have an active role in the sexual act.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-------

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles? And, again, here I only want to focus on this one issue of penetration. and not appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns.

Here's my initial thoughts on this subject, something that I haven't thought very much about. My first thought was what does metaphysics have to do with sex roles? Metaphysics deals with the nature of reality; so as it pertains to sex, it must mean the nature of the differences between the sexes. So that specifically has to refer to the differences between the sex organs of the male and female. And the difference between male and female sex organs is specifically which does the penetrating and which is penetrated. I do not see how this fact has anything to do with sex roles and whether the male or female is dominant, taller or stronger; or who should "conquer" whom; or which sex can rape the other sex.

The term "sex roles" seems to be fully psychological to me. Animals have the same sex differences between male and females, but they don't have roles to play. The dominant male who fends off other males gets the female. For humans, what the metaphysical difference means is a matter of choice in terms of importance. It would seem that for sexual relations to occur, the man should enjoy penetrating and the woman should enjoy being penetrated. That's about all it means to me at this time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just as with the man on top one can think of the man penetrating the woman, with the woman on top one can think of the woman enveloping the man. With this view, there is no metaphysical asymmetry from which to derive a singular role of sexual dominance to man over woman.

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles? And, again, here I only want to focus on this one issue of penetration. and not appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns.

I just don't see how the woman can be viewed as dominant or at least non-submissive in the sexual act by entertaining the view that she is instead "enveloping" the man. When I go to the doctor and get a syringe stuck in my arm and have fluids injected, could I plausibly argue that the flesh of my arm is actually enveloping the syringe instead of being metaphorically dominated by it?

A white-blood cell certainly envelops bacteria in a dominating way, but that is hardly the same as a hard, long, slender object being forcibly inserted into a small opening and then injecting foreign liquids into the body. And to go even further, some women during their first experience with sexual-intercourse bleed because the hymen is torn by the intruding penis; I think that is certainly biological evidence to make penetration a dominant actt.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(.....)

This 'penetration' view was challenged by ADS in this post, but the significance of that challenge escaped me at that time. I have since re-visited the following point, which I now find persuasive.

(.....)

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles? And, again, here I only want to focus on this one issue of penetration. and not appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns.

Going back from this post back to the referenced post made by ADS and then back here again, I'm reminded of Dr. Peikoff's reference to sex "as metaphysical". I think once a heterosexual couple gets into the sexual act, they are focused on their respective wholesale identities. In normal day-to-day affairs (in the Westernized world), the physicality of being human is abstracted away. People trade stocks and bonds, agree to contracts, etc. rather than fistfighting and struggling over values.

With sex, a couple concretizes their respective selves as singular individuals, so everything that takes place during the act is a matter of self-expression. The physiological penetration isn't contemplated as a moral matter at that time; the focus is on the metaphysical expression. In other words, two people who are both rational animals physically integrate while conceptually differentiate themselves for the sake of reinforcing everything that all of this suggests.

Outside of the sexual field, those physical differences are just matter-of-fact, but even during sex the facts are the same. It's the focus of attention (or low-level sensory interpretation) that becomes more of primary importance. (I'm not sayng that sex is anti-conceptual or non-conceptual; I'm saying that whatever sensory-perceptual-conceptual connections are relevant to the act have to be either immediately faced or ignored. I would think that the more people love each other, the more they relish ALL of the connections.)

I was thinking that there wasn't a biological superiority, but then I remembered that the initial erection is the difference. The physical difference is recognized before the penetration even happens; it's consumated afterwards. I think this has to be acknowledged, but it's only relevant for sexuality to the exclusion of anything else. (It can only be implied and not be explicated in business, family life, etc.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just as with the man on top one can think of the man penetrating the woman, with the woman on top one can think of the woman enveloping the man. With this view, there is no metaphysical asymmetry from which to derive a singular role of sexual dominance to man over woman.

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles? And, again, here I only want to focus on this one issue of penetration. and not appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns.

A funny concern this, as it is really more in the mind than the flesh. One concession though - there is a definite physical vulnerability on the female side that does make a difference: pregnancy, injury and being able to be forced to "partake" even if not in the mood.

However, let us not forget the strong side, as reflected by "Mistress Dominatrix". Here we reverse roles, and it is not the male "giving the injection", but the female doing the "milking". From what I have read, men who are very dominant in social standing, are often amongst the clients of women who "take charge".

My own take, is that the the natural caution of women for the vulnerabilities mentioned above, may be mistaken for submissiveness. As with men, switching between "top and bottom" can happen within the same individual, depending on circumstances.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we are discussing sex on two different fronts, metaphysical and ethical/value choices. Metaphysically the man has to do the penetration as I mentioned above. But, this has nothing to do with one's value choices on how this is accomplished, the ethical. So man is always the penetrator and woman always the one being penetrated this is the nature of the act. Ethically or psychologically the significance of penetrating is laid aside as man is mind and body. Although the body requires something to penetrate and or be penetrated, ethically one can choose how this will happen and who will be the dominant one, if there is one at all.

There is only a metaphysical significance when it comes to the metaphysical aspect of sex, the pentrator and the penetrated. This can be laid aside when it comes to the psychological or ethical choices that lead to sex being a fulfilling of one's spirit. As man is one integrated whole of body/metaphysical and mind/psychological which both act seperately to achieve one goal that being sexual pleasure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks to piz, RayK, aequalsa, Michelle F. Cohen, Carlos E. Jordan, and tps_fan for their comments. Unfortunately, none of those comments directly addressed the issue as framed. The issue under consideration is not who needs to be aroused for sex, nor is it who is in control, nor does it involve who may feel more or less vulnerable. These, and others, are all important issues regarding sex, but the one I asked to be addressed here is a different, rather specific issue. I am concerned here about what conclusion can be drawn about the male-female sexual roles based on the metaphysical significance of the man in the traditional missionary position being the penetrator, when it seems that one can just as easily think of the woman on top as being the enveloper. I have asked if anyone can justify the metaphysical significance of man as penetrator, not in conjunction with other metaphysical facts, and not by reference to other psychological states, but as an inference of sexual roles proceeding directly from that metaphysical assertion of penetrator, keeping in mind the alternative of woman as enveloper.

In another post, piz added that the "fact of penetration [which "fact" begs the question] may even be of little significance" in determining sexual roles. This seems close to Paul's Here's approach, which was a little different. If I understand his point, he also accepts man as the penetrator as being a "fact," but denies that having any significance for sex roles. I guess this puts Paul's Here's and piz's view in its own category, though not directly addressing my challenge.

Now Arnold, interestingly, seems to acknowledge penetrator or enveloper as equal views, though he offers as "concession" other issues that suggest differences in the male-female roles. Perhaps we might eventually re-visit those other differences, but, for now, thank you Arnold for acknowledging the "enveloper" perspective.

So, bottom line, the challenge remains: can anyone justify, in and of itself, man as penetrator being so metaphysically significant as to lead to distinction in male-female sexual roles, keeping in mind the alternate notion of woman as enveloper?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you could substitue the word penetrator with enveloper according to one's perspective on who if any has the dominant role. I do not think that man's nature sets the significance in who plays either role, penetrator or penetrated, enveloper or enveloped.

If a man or female comes home and pushes down on to the bed their partner and rips off their clothes to have sex with them it would not matter who was the male or female, penetrator or enveloper. The one doing the pushing is going to be the significant one according to enveloper of penetrator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks to piz, RayK, aequalsa, Michelle F. Cohen, Carlos E. Jordan, and tps_fan for their comments. Unfortunately, none of those comments directly addressed the issue as framed. The issue under consideration is not who needs to be aroused for sex, nor is it who is in control, nor does it involve who may feel more or less vulnerable. These, and others, are all important issues regarding sex, but the one I asked to be addressed here is a different, rather specific issue. I am concerned here about what conclusion can be drawn about the male-female sexual roles based on the metaphysical significance of the man in the traditional missionary position being the penetrator, when it seems that one can just as easily think of the woman on top as being the enveloper. I have asked if anyone can justify the metaphysical significance of man as penetrator, not in conjunction with other metaphysical facts, and not by reference to other psychological states, but as an inference of sexual roles proceeding directly from that metaphysical assertion of penetrator, keeping in mind the alternative of woman as enveloper.

In another post, piz added that the "fact of penetration [which "fact" begs the question] may even be of little significance" in determining sexual roles. This seems close to Paul's Here's approach, which was a little different. If I understand his point, he also accepts man as the penetrator as being a "fact," but denies that having any significance for sex roles. I guess this puts Paul's Here's and piz's view in its own category, though not directly addressing my challenge.

I thought that the context made my meaning clear, but I guess what I should have said is that whether one views the physical act as as penetration or "enveloping," in and of itself the physiology is probably of little significance in deciding the issue. Consider that with a simple change in perspective one can interpret "man on top" as being "captured" by the woman as well as "woman on top" as being "impaled" by the man, thus reversing the supposed "dominance" of both those positions.
So, bottom line, the challenge remains: can anyone justify, in and of itself, man as penetrator being so metaphysically significant as to lead to distinction in male-female sexual roles, keeping in mind the alternate notion of woman as enveloper?
I would say no. There are too many other factors involved for this particular one to be causal in this case.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would say no.

I agree with Michael.

Nature says that someone must be the penetrated or the penetrator/the enveloper or the enveloped but that is as far as the nature of who plays what role goes. Someone must be there to play those roles but everything else is left to the independent sexual acts and the participants playing the choosen roles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-----------

So, bottom line, the challenge remains: can anyone justify, in and of itself, man as penetrator being so metaphysically significant as to lead to distinction in male-female sexual roles, keeping in mind the alternate notion of woman as enveloper?

No. I'm curious if you can give a brief example of what you mean by male-female sexual roles. The roles would seem to be about as varied as individuals' psycho-epistemologies and senses-of-life, not to mention the previous experience of each partner and his/her value system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

what conclusion can be drawn about the male-female sexual roles based on the metaphysical significance of the man in the traditional missionary position being the penetrator, when it seems that one can just as easily think of the woman on top as being the enveloper.

I don't think I understand the question, so let me see if I can rephrase, and you can criticize.

You are asking us to consider, contextless, the effect on psychological factors [sex roles] of [the frequency of occurrence] of taking on specific sex act positions [top vs bottom]. You also want to know if taking on such positions causes to metaphysical significance, in that the facts of the positions may matter.

This seems very mixed up to me, and I'd throw the whole thing out if I have it roughly right. It doesn't matter how you play the game of sex [up, down, right, left, on the road, off the road, on the table, on the bed...]. Its the nature of our minds and bodies, which are present through all of those situations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles? And, again, here I only want to focus on this one issue of penetration. and not appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns.

I will try.

Woman's sexual satisfaction is tied to the the ability/willingness to let go, regardless of sexual position. If a woman does not "give in" or submit she will not achieve orgasm. She has to allow herself the experience for it to happen. This mental surrender/acceptance that must happen for a woman, I think, comes from the fact that she is the one being penetrated.

So to summarize, a woman can take charge during the sexual act when it comes to the physical activity taking place (and be dominant in that respect) but she still has to surrender psychologically to reach sexual satisfaction. As far as I know this is not true for a man. Psychologically a man is in charge. I don't think a man is in a state of surrender regardless of sexual position, even with a woman being on top. Am I wrong?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just as with the man on top one can think of the man penetrating the woman, with the woman on top one can think of the woman enveloping the man. [...]

Considering this argument, can anyone justify appeal to penetration as being of metaphysical significance for the man-woman sexual roles?

I don't understand the significance of woman on top vs. bottom (or any other position) in this context. In any sexual position the man is still penetrating. If he were not in the mood, etc., then the position also doesn't matter - there won't be any penetration. Whether or not it occurs is still primarily a function of the man's physiology/psychology, regardless of position.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A woman can be dominant or submissive during sex. I would identify the act of enveloping a man to be dominant. In nearly any position, a man can "stay put" and the woman can push herself onto him. Although I think it is more common for the male to be dominant during sex, that does not mean that the man's sexual role is solely to be dominant, and the woman's to be submissive. Men and women can do both.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks to ElizabethLee (who seems perplexed at my question) and to ~Sophia~, for their responses. I am not sure why neither post directly addressed the issue I have framed. I fail to see how the fault is in my question (which I have now stated several times in slightly different words), since other posters seem to have grasped the question well-enough to address it. Perhaps I should try one more time, in a somewhat different manner.

In response to a question by Paul's Here as to what is meant by male-female sexual roles, I started another thread and included a long quote from the January 1968 issue of the The Objectivist, an article titled "Self-Esteem and Romantic Love." I will quote a short excerpt from that in order to re-frame my question.

The difference in the male and female sex roles proceeds from differences in man's and woman's respective anatomy and physiology.... it is he who penetrates and the woman who is penetrated (with everything this entails. physically and psychologically).

It has recently been argued, first by ADS and then by me, that the statement "it is he who penetrates and the woman who is penetrated" can also be seen from the perspective (more obviously, when the woman is on top) of the woman enveloping the man. (Like "a mother ship 'swallows up' a smaller ship.") The addition of this latter perspective would then make penetrating or enveloping just two different perspectives on the same fact. If that is the case, then penetration cannot be claimed to entail a certain male-female sex role more than enveloping also can. So, my challenge was, and is, considering the argument for eveloping, and without appeal to other physiological or anatomical concerns, can anyone justify the male and female sex roles as proceeding from penetration?

Now, moving on to PhilO: Phil simply asserts "In any sexual position the man is still penetrating." This begs the question.

And, finally,

A woman can be dominant or submissive during sex. I would identify the act of enveloping a man to be dominant. In nearly any position, a man can "stay put" and the woman can push herself onto him. Although I think it is more common for the male to be dominant during sex, that does not mean that the man's sexual role is solely to be dominant, and the woman's to be submissive. Men and women can do both.

Thank you, Bryan, for your understanding on this.

I want to add, though, that all I have attempted to focus on here is the sole issue of male-female sexual roles proceeding from man as penetrator, as if it were a metaphysical fact that necessitated a sole role for each. There are, of course, many other aspects to the anatomical and physiological differences between men and women that have not been addressed, and other metaphysical estimates, that may account for both a man and woman to choose in effect the implications arising from the perspective of man as penetrator, woman as penetrated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now, moving on to PhilO: Phil simply asserts "In any sexual position the man is still penetrating." This begs the question.

Only on the premise that woman-on-top is "enveloping" even though the sexual act of penetration is essentially the same. Would it be sex if she were on top but without penetration? Or if she were on the bottom but without penetration?

Intercourse is what it is, regardless of the relative positioning of limbs. Either it's occuring or it isn't. Is there really any doubt in anybody's mind that intercourse *is* penetration, and it remains that regardless of sexual position? Intercourse is a biological fact, a legal fact, and a psychological fact, and sexual position is not an essential differentiating characteristic. So, far from begging the question, I am questioning the premise that it *is* an essential differentiating characteristic. To take a portion of the biological case, a woman is not going to lose her virginity or become pregnant absent intercourse (i.e. penetration), regardless of the position used for it. I see no justification for trying to redefine sexual penetration as something other than sexual intercourse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks to ElizabethLee (who seems perplexed at my question) and to ~Sophia~, for their responses. I am not sure why neither post directly addressed the issue I have framed. I fail to see how the fault is in my question (which I have now stated several times in slightly different words), since other posters seem to have grasped the question well-enough to address it. Perhaps I should try one more time, in a somewhat different manner.

Add me to the list of people who are perplexed by your question. It seems to me that you are asking for the difference between the two without context. In other words, my understanding of your question and subsequent responses is that you wish to know if penetrating as a general concept is inherently dominant. To this I think the answer is no. In war if I were stabbed with a bayonet, then I (being penetrated)would not be in a dominant position and if I were surrounded(enveloped) by the enemy I would also not be in a dominant position.

But sex is a particular context and to view the act of penetration without all of the psychological and social considerations does it little justice.

Let me know if I'm on the right track or not.

Gordon

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites