Josey Vogels is the author of the nationally syndicated relationships column My Messy Bedroom and the dating advice column Dating Girl. She has published five books on sex and relationships â€“ the most recent is entitled Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy. Her fourth book, The Secret Language of Girls, has been published in several languages and was made into a documentary. Her website â€“ www.joseyvogels.com — is visited by thousands monthly and she is a popular speaking guest at universities and colleges across Canada.
1) I was a little amazed at the ‘revelation’ of She Comes First – considering women have been basically saying the same thing as Ian Kerner (the author of She Comes First) did, for years. Why do you think it took a guy to say it before anyone seemed to listen?
It’s funny, I felt exactly the same way. In fact, this is what I wrote in a column I did about the book: “That Kerner comes off as the Neil Armstrong of oral sex is a little insulting when you consider how many women (several of whom he refers to throughout the book) have been saying for years that intercourse alone doesn’t cut it for the ladies when it comes to orgasm. But the fact that Kerner is on a mission to turn men into enthusiastic cunning linguists like himself is a welcome one. Because, clearly, they aren’t listening to us.”
I think sadly, the fact that it was a man made the mainstream media take notice. It was truly a bizarre thing. I thought it was interesting how though also how Kerner’s language in the book was very “male” which again, might have made it more palatable for a media that likes that kind of male authoritative approach to things.
As I wrote at the time:
“She Comes First may have indeed changed the focus from intercourse to oral sex but it’s still all about male performance. Kerner’s just shifted the pressure from the penis to the tongue. He even describes the tongue as the best “tool” for the job.
In fact, at times, with all the references to hoods and shafts and some rather creepy technical illustrations, She Comes First, reads more like a car manual than a guide to becoming a good lover. So while Kerner now describes himself as “happily married and able to make love successfully” (wonder what a good cunnilinguist pulls in these days?), being a “successful” lover isn’t just about having a skillful tongue — though that is, of course, welcome. It’s about knowing how to stimulate a woman’s mind, to make her feel amazing and sexy in bed and out. I’m all for improving your technique. But like a good mechanic, a good lover doesn’t just know how to operate the machinery, he knows how to make it purr.”
2) I recently did a workshop about couples with mismatched libidos, and one of the men in the group was crying at the end. He was in his 50s and never knew there were other men with low libidos. What do you think are some of the other important myths about male sexuality?
I think a lot of problems stem from the old, men are supposed to want it and be ready for it anytime, anywhere. A woman with a low libido is perfectly normal, almost expected whereas a guy is a freak. Also, I think viagra really fed into this idea that men’s sexuality is all about their erection. As long as he can get a stiffie, he’s good to go. It reinforces the idea that men’s sexuality is very simply and limited to hydraulics. This cheats both men and women from exploring a less conventional sexual script and is reinforced by other expectations such as men having to “last all night long” or conversely that “premature ejaculation” means there is some ideal amount of time a guy should last. Again, it’s all about his erection and ejaculation when there is so much more to explore. We continue to reinforce this idea that women’s sexuality is more cerebral and complex but I think men’s is as well. It’s just easier to focus on mechanics than undo centuries of phallic thinking.
3) I’ve always been amazed at how pro-sex and also anti-sex women can be. Where do you see yourself in terms of that history? Do you see your work as feminist?
I started writing my column in 1994. At the time, I had been very proactive in the feminist movement in university, wrote a lot about violence against women, took back the night, was active in the queer movement and the one thing that I always struggled with as a feminist was the dominant thinking in feminist circles at that time that sex and women was a toxic mix. That sex was generally exploititive of women, porn was bad, and sex work was frowned upon as a way that society exploited women. I never quite felt comfy with it as I quite liked porn and sex for that matter and me and my girlfriends talked about sex all the time. then I started to discover the Susie Brights and Annie Sprinkles of the world and realized there was a movement afoot that was both feminist and sex positive and that’s always been at the root of my column.
4) Do you have any insight into why straight men seem to react with such violence when they encounter someone trans? I hate to say it, but it’s the straight guys who always seem to be guilty of the kind of extreme violence that haunts transpeople – FTMs like Brandon Teena and MTFs like Gwen Araujo. What’s that about? Why do you think it’s so much harder to imagine a gay man, or a straight woman, or a lesbian, reacting in a similar way if they were hit on by someone whose genitals/history were not what they expected?
I think that as a society, men (and women) are still extremely homophobic, and particularly so when it comes to male homosexuality. I still remember hearing my otherwise fairly liberal sister once tell me that while she could imagine two women together, she can’t imagine two men. I found it telling. two women are not a threat while two men are. Also we sexualize women so much more in general — girl on girl action in straight porn is a given, for example. We also except women being more physical with each other. Two teenage girls walking hand in hand is cute, two teenage boys is queer and unacceptable. We generally accept gay and female sexuality as more fluid — or if we don’t necessarily accept it, we find it less threatening. Straight male sexuality is still much more dominant and influential so therefore, any threat to it is that much more of an affront I think.
5) One of the things I tell trans people all the time is that non-trans people have body issues, sexual self-confidence issues, fears of being rejected based on both appearance & performance. They’re often surprised to hear it – and felt maybe that their transness is the “root” of all the rest. What kinds of fears & insecurities do you hear about the most?
Oh god, I don’t know a woman alive who doesn’t have body issues or hasn’t dealt with self-confidence at some point in their lives. Men have it too but again, because of our need to have straight men still put up a stoic front for the most part, we hear about it less. These men tend to act outward, to act violently on their insecurities. Straight women tend to act out upon themselves…eating disorders, cutting, depression etc. As straight men are becoming more and more aware of their appearance in an increasingly celebrity, beauty and youth-driven culture, they too are becoming more insecure about their looks.
And I hear from men all the time who are insecure about their penises, both the size and how they look. Women are concerned most about their weight.