sexo y género

Penetration and role reversal

"So cemented are our ideas of 'who penetrates who' that we’ll willingly ignore our biological capacities for satisfaction." — Nina Rettenwander and Jacob Seferian.

Escrito por: Nina Rettenwander and Jacob Seferian
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In my experience it’s rare that you open a magazine or newspaper and find articles or columns or opinions that are truly transgressive in their content. One of the many reasons Journalism is essential to advancing cultural thought is the way in which it can normalize and destigmatize conversation surrounding traditionally taboo subjects. Journalism is as much sociology as it is history or reportage, but in the face of market pressure it’s easy for publishers to forget this important facet of the journalist’s identity. 

This week Myopía is featuring the work of two talented students studying Journalism and Design at The New School in New York City: Nina Rettenwander and Jacob Seferian. Their co-written article titled Pegging: Challenging “the way it’s always been” delves into the history of women penetrating men during sex and its modern implications. But I won’t get too deep into the subject here (pun intended), I’ll let the work speak for itself.

-Will Carter (NYC Editor)

Pegging: Challenging “the way it’s always been”

Nina Rettenwander and Jacob Seferian

Anal penetration within the context of heterosexual couples is not terribly taboo — but when the roles of penetration are reversed, the act remains controversial.

Pegging – a term coined by sex columnist Dan Savage in 2001 – refers to the scenario when a woman adorns a strap-on to penetrate her male partner anally. Pegging got its first mainstream break in 1998 with the pornography film Bend Over Boyfriend, which depicted men being anally penetrated (and satisfied) by their female partners. Its unique role reversal captivated viewers, however, the sexual activity remained on the fringes of bedroom kinks for the next decade. In 2011, pegging came into the limelight again through depictions in mainstream and independent media. The graphic below charts the act’s search popularity from 2004 onwards.

The greatest spike in interest came in winter of 2015, after the popular television show Broad City aired an episode in which the female protagonist’s male love interest asks her to peg him, going as far as to reveal a customized strap-on.

Despite the comedic nature of the show, pegging itself was not made out to be the punchline. The joke – clarified by Broad City co-creator Abbi Jacobson – was the plot line where her character attempts to wash her partner’s expensive, handcrafted dildo in the dishwasher, thereby destroying it. “We were very careful because we didn’t want it to be misconstrued that that preference [pegging] is looked down on,” Jacobson said, as reported by Vulture.

The episode attempts to attach normalcy to the act, as male anal stimulation is still thought by some to be a domain reserved solely for homosexual men. Many think anal pleasure is a decision homosexual men make out of necessity rather than their own volition (males have only one entry point, so…), but anatomical evidence proves that heterosexual men are biologically designed to enjoy it, too.

The prostate, often referred to by experts as “the male G spot,” is actually a highly erogenous zone, and when stimulated, can supply its host with more intense orgasms. Additionally, prostate stimulation is also used as medical procedure to reduce inflammation of the prostate. Studies have also found that continual prostate massages are believed to slightly reduce men’s risk of prostate cancer.

But despite the scientific evidence that male stimulation is not only normal, but natural, heterosexual men and women still have reservations about butt play.

“My current partner would definitely not be into it. He’s really grossed out by butt stuff of any kind,” says Ashley Prathery, 23, who identifies as bisexual. Allie Griffins, 22, straight female, was also skeptical heterosexual men would be readily up for the task. “What I would assume, is that most straight guys would not be comfortable doing that [pegging]. You have to find someone who was really comfortable with their sexuality.”

20 year old NYU student Bill was not familiar with pegging. His brows remained furrowed while the specifics were explained to him. Afterwards, he was still unsure whether he would try it, but added, “If I did try it, I wouldn’t tell my friends.”

Yet not all straight men were vehemently opposed to pegging. In fact, it was art student Maddie Irelan’s male partner who approached her about the possibility of penetrating him, apparently having done it before and enjoyed it. Irelan leaped at the opportunity. “I loved fucking him in the ass and he loved it too,” she said of the experience, “it was empowering and sexy to see him get off from penetrating. It was really interesting to me to find his “spot” like I do when I have sex with women and I think it made him feel really vulnerable.” He was very comfortable with his sexuality, Irelan believes, which she attributes, in part, to the fact that two of his brothers are gay. After she pegged him, she said she felt powerful.

 

“It felt like I was able to express a feeling in a new way, like learning a new word for a way you’ve always felt.”

 

But not all straight men are as comfortable with the notion of entry into their backdoor.

Curvel, a 38 year-old heterosexual male publishing exec, thinks that a strap-on would just be a gateway for the fleshier, real member the toy represents. When pressed on why he believes that, he responded heatedly, “Look, men penetrate and woman are penetrated, that’s the way it’s always been!”

An interesting proposition. Curvel continued to explain that men and women have ingrained sexual roles. This sentiment, or at the very least reservations about disrupting the status quo of penetration, was echoed by college student Leah Spellman. “I don’t know, it’s just that I don’t feel comfortable doing that to someone else,” she said cautiously, seeming as though she did not want to offend parties who did enjoy pegging.

While Curvel and Spellman may be troubled by the role reversal pegging presents, for others, it’s exactly what drew them to the act in the first place.

Jordan Mannix, 21, says she was first introduced to pegging through the Broad City episode. She was approached by a man who wanted to try it, and Mannix  raved about the experience. “It was such an interesting role reversal. Like it’s such a novel experience. I was just thinking about how crazy it was that I was fucking someone, like hell yeah!”

On the evening of November 2nd, a crowd of roughly seven is gathered in the basement of a sex shop called Pleasure Chest on the Upper West Side. Basked in red light of a neon sign in the corner of the room reading ‘sex is back’, they have come to attend a pegging workshop entitled Bend Over Buddy: Anal Pleasure for Him . The basement lacks sufficient ventilation, and the room is quite warm.

“I’ve had a lot of sex,” assured Nico, Pleasure Chest employee who led the workshop alongside store manager, Denise. The two hour workshop covered the literal in and outs of pegging; starting from how to bring up the task to your partner all the way to the mechanics of the act itself. A variety of strap-ons, harnesses, and lubricants were displayed on a table to be referenced (and reviewed) during the presentation; the ultimate product placement. And a worksheet was passed out which which allowed people to categorize specific sexual acts into their personal levels of comfort, promoting conversation between individuals on the basis of sexual exploration. Visit Get Kinky: A How to Guide and try it for yourself.

After the workshop ended, the majority of the audience shuffled out quickly. The workshop was primarily technical, and politics were left out. However, talking to Nico afterwards, she seemed to possess added opinions about the stigma surrounding pegging.

Nico, a Latinx* trans woman, believes the biggest reservation cisgender heterosexual people – those who identify with the roles society assumes of them since birth – have about pegging (other than cleanliness) is how it challenges the concept of gender roles.

*Latinx is a gender-inclusive way of referring to people of Latin American descent.

“Queerness is pathologized,” she said, her face glossy with a sheen of sweat, “is that something that’s structural? Yes. [It is] something that we subliminally view, that queerness is dirty. That queerness is wrong. Things are changing, but queerness is terrifying to society.”

 

She believes that people are afraid that by engaging in an unorthodox sexual behavior that flips ingrained gender roles, they will somehow become queer, as queerness can best be understood as a philosophy and identity that rejects sexual and gender binaries altogether.

Perhaps more interesting is the notion that gender roles define not only public spaces, but the bedroom, as well. Some would reject a sexual exploration and deny themselves potential pleasure based on an outside, societal factor. So cemented are our ideas of “who penetrates who” that we’ll willingly ignore our biological capacities for satisfaction. Because what exactly is taboo about pegging? Unlike other kinks like bondage and fantasies which introduce entirely new dynamics into the bedroom, pegging takes a concept we know well and simply reverses who’s doing the thrusting. The deep upset over this reversal is the true take away: that we have confined ourselves with learned notions of what it means to be a man and woman having sex.

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