The sex column world is lacking a straight dude voice. The Daily Cal hasn’t had a male Sex on Tuesday columnist since Mustafa Shaikh in 2010. From some intensive googling, it’s pretty clear the majority of sex columns today are written by female-identified authors of various sexual orientations, along with a few gay fellows such as Dan Savage and Jesse Bering.
But what of heterosexual, cisgender dudes? Straight dudes as an abstracted group outside of race and socioeconomic issues don’t have the same kind of history with sexual oppression the other aforementioned groups do. Yet the only heterosexual, male-identified person I could immediately think of who wrote casually about sex was Tucker Max, infamous author of “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” a journal of eyebrow-raising misadventures usually entailing the degradation of women.
So do straight guys write sex columns? Sure they do. But a search on Google or a look at Wikipedia’s page of notable sex columnists suggests they’re either not very common or not very visible.
If the truth is that they’re not very common, the rationale based on the stereotypical understanding of men goes something like this: Dudes aren’t as socialized to be as forthcoming or open about their more sensitive, vulnerable sides. Because to write about sex — beyond Tucker Max’s tales of conquest and gross disregard — is to thoughtfully pry apart personal relations, to dip into one’s own experiences in the nebulous emotional maelstrom that is sex. It’s cool to shoot the shit with friends, but to really analyze sexual experiences and relationships in a public sphere, to really make oneself vulnerable with emotional honesty? Not exactly the dominant cultural norm for straight dudes.
Yet men do write beautifully vulnerable sex scenes in literature — take James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” in which Leopold Bloom shamefully masturbates in public to a young lady on the beach. For more recent authors, take fellas such as Allan Gurganus or Stephen Elliot. There’s a myriad of such fellas.
Ah, but then there’s politics, as there always is. In Jamie Peck’s “Can Men Write About Sex Without Sounding Like Douchebags?,” the author lauds porn star James Deen’s charmingly frank blog but notes that the comments are acerbic and cast him as an asshole for writing about sex, “because of course a man would want to do that.” On the other side, she notes, women, along with members of several traditionally marginalized groups, writing about sex is seen as progressive, as “taking back the narrative.” People of the liberal agenda will generally support their endeavors. You just won’t get much support from historically oppressed groups by speaking from the perspective of those who have been in power largely forever. (It’s the same reasoning behind why you don’t see a club at Cal explicitly based on white heritage.)
But there are innumerable issues involving sex that a female-or-gay-male-dominated world of sex columns will inevitably sidestep. As a woman and an Asian American, I hope to promote that oh-so-trendy sex-positive movement, but even this social movement leaves out issues, as discussed by Kelly Rose’s recent expose on those left out of the sex-positive feminist movement in the Huffington Post. So, straight guys: Where is the messenger of your issues? Monique Roffey, author of With Kisses of His Mouth,” decries in the Guardian: “Where is the male Suzanne Portnoy, the male Melissa P? What men will write honestly about their highs and lows, their triumphs, their sexual sorrows? What man is brave enough to express himself freely about his desires? Few.”
Not to say that straight men are the only ones left out of the conversation — historically marginalized groups, such as trans- identified folk, don’t have much visibility in the sex column world, either.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that having more straight white men write about sex will not necessarily combat social norms in a way I’d deem particularly constructive — at least not as a feminist (reclaiming the word! It’s not a dirty thing). For example, some of what Mustafa Shaikh wrote frankly struck the “douchebag” nerve in me; a piece was published in the Daily Cal after a particularly poorly phrased article, castigating Shaikh for suggesting that the social pressures to “put out” for the more “attractive” female population at the University of Arizona was a good thing. But at least he was out there and more or less honest about his issues, occasional thoughtlessness aside.
If heterosexual men aren’t very visible or forthcoming about their sexual experiences, other straight dudes aren’t going to become more open beyond regaling their boastful exploits a la Tucker Max. I’d rather not equate straight men talking about sex to Max’s gleeful delineation of how he once got a chick to give him head while he was taking a dump.
A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Mustafa Shaikh’s name.