December 3, 2009

Raisins, orgasms... what's the difference?

Here's another big NYT Magazine article for women that I didn't want to read, but I'm reading now to use in a Bloggingheads episode. It's been on the most-emailed list all week, this "Women Who Want to Want" business. I looked at it when it came out and the intro about staring at raisins really irritated me. I felt like I was reading the 1969 bestseller "The Sensuous Woman" again. 40 years later, I still remember the advice — for women in search of an orgasm — to get an ice cream cone and pay a whole lot of attention to every detail of the thing. But jeez, at least you got an ice cream cone. Orgasm or not. In 2009, it's a damned raisin?!
"I’d like you to start by examining your raisin... Study its shape, its contours, its folds. Touch the raisin with a finger. Look into the valleys and peaks, the highlights and dark crevasses. Lift the raisin to your lips."
This is going to help you want to have sex — to "want to want"? When I read that, I want nothing. Nothing at all. And get that raisin out of my face.

But I will go on, because I said I'd talk about it. Get past the raisin.
[Lori] Brotto is careful to keep in mind that not all women who feel erotically uncharged are desperate to change. Some may not be dismayed in the least.... [B]etween 7 and 15 percent of all young and middle-aged women... feel distressed over the absence of desire....
So you could either find a way to feel sexual desire or get over feeling bad about the way you really do feel.
Brotto is now studying... a sample of 70 women who... are sent home with assignments — to observe their bodies in the shower and describe themselves physically in precise and neutral language, in phrases that hold no judgment; and, after another session, to repeat over and over, “My body is alive and sexual,” no matter if they believe it. They are taught about research that shows that belief doesn’t matter, that the feeling will follow the declaration. And they are instructed, in their sessions, to place the raisins in their mouths, to “notice where the tongue is, notice the saliva building up in your mouth . . . notice the trajectory of the flavor as it bursts forth, the flood of saliva, how the flavor changes from your body’s chemistry.”
Back to that raisin. Is there a fruity nugget in this big bowl of oatmeal? Is it that women really have sexual feelings, but they emerge during a sexual encounter and may go unnoticed because we aren't good at noticing them? Or is this mainly about defining mental disorders in the D.S.M. — there's something called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (H.S.D.D.)? I'd like to hear less about raisins and Buddhist — it's always Buddhist — techniques of mindfulness or whatever, and more about who's channeling money where....
As is so often true in the poorly financed realm of sex research....

101 comments:

Pogo said...

"...there's something called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (H.S.D.D.)?"

a.k.a. The male definition of 'a wife'.

Marriage as monasticism.
Raisins as mysticism.

HKatz said...

"But jeez, at least you got an ice cream cone. Orgasm or not. In 2009, it's a damned raisin?!"

A compromise then. Get rum raisin ice cream.

rhhardin said...

Keep the raisin away from the dog.

Raisins (and grapes) are bad for dogs.

Paul Zrimsek said...

This is all an Islamist plot to recruit more suicide bombers by convincing them that their 72 raisins are kind of like 72 virgins after all.

Mark said...

The reason it's now a raisin and not an ice cream cone is because inflation has caused the cone to be priced beyond the availability of most sex researchers. Plus they don't store well to be used by the next study group.

Pogo said...

If you are examining your raisin and place it in your mouth but all you think of the California Raisin, is it cannibalism?

rhhardin said...

They're channeling slang. See urban dictionary and raisin.

rhhardin said...

"rolling the raisin" in urban dictionary seems to be their source.

Ron said...

What does she use in the masters class, kumquats?

save_the_rustbelt said...

The secret to great female orgasms is to marry the right guy.

Not to brag or anything............

Pogo said...

"Is it that women really have sexual feelings, but they emerge during a sexual encounter and may go unnoticed because we aren't good at noticing them?"

Or is it that sex and orgasms aren't their entire raison d'ĂȘtre, or some pinnacle of human existence to be sought out, deified, and commodified.

Because after the ecstasy, the laundry.

John said...

Why on earth would you ever get sex advice from uptight, upper class intellectuals? The lower clases who are more in touch with the earth and their base instincts have all the fun.

Bob_R said...

Is it just me or does this look like a Bloggingheads train wreck coming down the track?

Good luck AA

John said...

Can the next bloggingheads episode include Michelle Goldberg examining her "raisin"?

Joseph said...

I took a mindfulness class once and it started out with a raisin.

I know Eastern ideas have a tendency to get a weird reflexive deference and fetishization in certain circles in the West, but I still see value in thinking about things from the mindfulness perspective. We attach lots of little judgments to things like sex and then we just become conditioned to feel them whenever we encounter certain stimuli. That is healthy--we don't want to have to consciously rethink about how to feel whenever we encounter the same thing anew. But if you decide that your attitude toward something is dysfunctional, it seems like a good place to start to try to stand back and look at it without judgment and decide if your conditioned responses need to be rethought.

I'm very skeptical of all religion and spirituality but I think these ideas are scientifically sound. They also helped me see more value of the religious practices that I had grown up with and rejected.

Paddy O. said...

Why on earth would you ever get sex advice from uptight, upper class intellectuals?

For the humor?

Seneca the Younger said...

You must be great fun at breakfast.

k*thy said...

What Joseph said. Mindfulness is a decent technique that can cut through the clutter. If we find our judgments getting in the way, yes, it’s something to explore…then go explore. If we’re comfortable with it, be comfortable with it.

The researcher is trying out a hypothesis, is all. It’s how science works. Feel free to get caught up in the funding, but don’t summarily dismiss the science because of it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Get on the groovy bus and check out the raisin while dropping some Mr. Natural.

Or, better yet.....just screw. I think that probably has more connection with orgasms than raisins.

Now I must make some cream of wheat with raisins in it for breakfast.

Darcy said...

Raisins ruin everything.

Rick Lee said...

Oh weird... I had just opened a box of raisins when I clicked on "Althouse".

Scott M said...

Raisins, orgasms...what's the difference?

One is good when wrinkly and dry...the other is most definitely not.

Richard said...

The Raisin is a great symbol of lack of desire and disappointment. Who is ever happy to find out that their chocolate chip cookie actually has raisins in it instead?

Fred4Pres said...

So how many raisins are the right number? 1, 2, 3, more than 3?

chickenlittle said...

raison de venir
-Jean-Paul Satyr

Ricardo said...

"I'd like to hear less about raisins and Buddhist — it's always Buddhist — techniques of mindfulness or whatever, and more about who's channeling money where...."

You're absolutely right. "Money" is a much better aphrodisiac than "raisins".

john said...

Henry Fiedling's exploration of sexual arousal via food certainly did not include raisins, none that I could see, at least. The lighting, however, was low.

Paddy O. said...

Raisins might be the choice for the most sexual of dried fruits, but it's well known that pastrami is the most sensual of the salted, cured meats.

I'll tell you what you did, Caligula...

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Gives new meaning to: "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!"

Kirby Olson said...

People who want to change the country from Protestant to Buddhist should think more about Myanmar.

ricpic said...

Women aren't whipped through life by sexual need and they're complaining?!

traditionalguy said...

At last we know why the Sun Maid Raisin girl is always smiling at you from that picture on the box. She does strangely resemble the brunettes that so easily seduced Elin Woods husband . Raisin Sex must be banned before everybody is smiling.

Lem said...

Dr. Strangelove - Precious Bodily Fluids

rhhardin said...

Consider the dried turnip.

traditionalguy said...

This could change everything over at E-Harmony. The can just get the women to take a raisin reaction test and get the men to bring those who pass that test a box of chocolat covered Raisins. The country will grow, my friend

David said...

Rasinettes. The best candy ever.

Ricardo said...

Goobers.

Scott M said...

Point of order...

Everyone knows that Skor is by far and away the best candy available. If you disagree, you're a Swiss-hating terrorist minaret contractor.

vbspurs said...

is it that women really have sexual feelings, but they emerge during a sexual encounter and may go unnoticed because we aren't good at noticing them?

You know, I'm getting nervous. I'm not yet at the stage where I am not aroused anymore (independent of sex), and all this talk of women who aren't, just freaks me out. Will I turn into one of these women?

I don't even like phrasing it "these women", as if they're aliens or shrivelled up witches, but I feel that women who have to get in tune with their bodies to have orgasms are not like me, therefore they are "they".

BTW, this isn't an age thing. I have a contemporaneous friend who finally admitted to me one day that she's never had an orgasm. THAT saddened me beyond belief.

Honestly, I think it's down to how women view their bodies. If they're comfortable, and I know many women who are even if they're chubby, they seem to have less problems achieving arousal. Viagra has been a great pill, but the pharmaceutical company which invents a universally working and safe "desire pill" for women will break the bank.

Cheers,
Victoria

traditionalguy said...

Vbspurs...One size does not fit all. Being outgoing and open to other people is an exciting activity to some types but is a drain for others. These types can complement one another, and each can learn to let the other be themselves part of the time. Anyway, we are all different. Vive la difference.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't even like phrasing it "these women", as if they're aliens or shrivelled up witches, but I feel that women who have to get in tune with their bodies to have orgasms are not like me, therefore they are "they"."

It wasn't phrased "these women." You did that. So if you're interested in the significance of that phrase, you are looking into your own heart. It seems you are eager to say that you are not like other women, etc. No sisterhood?

vbspurs said...

No silly billy Ann! I am upset at MYSELF for having to use the phrase I wrote, "these women".

Sexuality is a very personal thing, and one I'm not keen on speaking of even to close friends. I shirk from Sisterhood concepts usually, especially of the Pants variety, so I'm afraid on this topic, I find no communion with the ladies who have a hard time getting off. :)

Roger J. said...

This is certainly a more interesting post than the climategate crap all over the net the last couple of days. Good work, Professor.

vbspurs said...

Being outgoing and open to other people is an exciting activity to some types but is a drain for others.

I keep thinking about the guys reading this, TradGuy. It reminds me of a book I remember from prowling around Waldenbooks' aisles as a kid. "For Girls" / "For Boys". (I once peeked into the For Boys book, but ran away when I heard footsteps) The female version was mostly about periods and such, so I wonder if men who read sex-centric women articles today, feel like the boys who peeked into the book then. ;)

mccullough said...

A raisin in the sun takes on a whole new meaning.

David said...

I am descended from a long line of Swiss hating minaret contractors.

Rasinettes!

traditionalguy said...

Vbspurs...The need for good sex is fulfilled by an intimate sharing of thoughts causing the desire to please the other person who knows you so intimately. Men learn this from women, of course.

Penny said...

"I took a mindfulness class once and it started out with a raisin."

My class started off with a potato chip, and now that I checked out urban dictionary AGAIN, thanks rh, I will not be telling the rest of my story.

chuck b. said...

I don't like it when people talk about sex because everyone here is so *old*.

Scott M said...

@traditonalguy

"The need for good sex is fulfilled by an intimate sharing of thoughts causing the desire to please the other person who knows you so intimately. Men learn this from women, of course."

That's not entirely true. Threesomes are incredible sex with very little intimate sharing of thoughts beyond the initial "wranglin'". Certainly, they're almost always emotionally shallow. Perhaps the norm is deeply meaningful three-way sex for all involved, but I highly doubt that based on a few personal samplings of the act.

Lem said...

..the elusiveness of orgasm, say, or pain during sex — women feel plagued by low desire. The problems often overlap, but above all the others that can thwart an erotic life, the remoteness of lust is what impels women to seek treatment.

Our obsession with going back in time is thwarted at every turn.

It’s a good thing.

XWL said...

In other raisin related news...

djuna said...

Raisin the bar

Ralph L said...

It's bizarre to read about adult women trying to figure out how to orgasm, something every male has mastered by age 13 or 14, usually on his own.

Speaking of aliens and shrivelled up witches, I watched Courtney Cox's Cougar show last night. Some of it was cute.

From Inwood said...

What would thinking of a golf club do for one?

Just askin'

From Inwood said...

Is this "settled science" or representative of a "scientific consensus"?

madawaskan said...

Sisterhood of the Concentrated Raisin?

traditionalguy said...

ScotM...I said "Good" sex. There is also animal sex between humans in heat who don't know the other person and are only visually stimulated by their imagination until they awake in the daylight and want to barf. Rule of thumb: if you feel good about yourself and are emotionally alive the next morning, then it was Good sex... Or when feeling bad about yourself and half dead in the AM leading to self medicating with drugs and more sex, then it was animal sex. Good Women teach men these things. Scriptures always distinguish between sex as either "knowing each other" or as screwing. They are as different as they can be. One gives life and the other does harm to you physically and emotionally. Please forward this comment to Tiger Woods.

William said...

Back in the good old days, intellectuals were sent to monasteries and convents. There they could exfoliate their hideous ideals to their heart's delight without doing any harm to the larger community. In particular, those woman intellectuals who were sent to a nunnery improved their sex lives immeasurably. As the bride of Christ they finally found themselves wedded to a man worthy of their devotion and high ideals. The rapture of St. Theresa demonstrates how great the sex can be if it is kept in the spirit world and not dependent on grunting, sweating oafs....But nowadays these intellectuals walk among us. I see nothing but evil coming from the pursuit of sexual joy by modern intellectuals. Sex is all about deep tendon reflexes, and has very little to do with the higher faculties. It's a damn shame but the ability to solve for the solution to a quadratic equation is of no advantage in achieving a satisfactory sex life.. I fear these damn intellectuals will do for sex what they threaten to do for health care. A system that works for most of the people most of the time will be scrapped in favor of a system that fulfills some grand ideal and works for no one.

madawaskan said...

Far be it for me to ruin the opener to a girl fight...
Go!
Go!

On y va!

Lem said...

I just love that CNN raisin thats on right now ;)
I used to like Soledad.. But i like this one now.

Adele Mundy said...

Poor Meade.

vbspurs said...

If William's comment doesn't end up referenced in the main page, it'll be a travesty of Ron Jeremy junk proportions.

I howled in laughter at the thought of intellectuals walking amongst us, like zombies.

madawaskan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

Obama is on talking to me.. feeling my pain..

via his telepromter.

economy is growing? - thats news to me.

red stone dancer said...

Let it linger wrapped 'round his finger and mine's more like another fruit.

chuck b. said...

Which would women prefer to have: Viagra or birth control? Which would men prefer to have?

Which would men prefer women to have, and vice versa?


(Generally, I'm not concerned with these things; I don't have a horse in that race.)

Fred4Pres said...

pastrami is the most sensual of the salted, cured meats

But a good salami can give pastrami a run for its money. Hey look my salami is bigger! I think cold cuts can be very sensuous, don't you?

No, cold cuts are sensual. People are sensuous.

Don't even get me started on gabagool.

JohnAnnArbor said...

I think cold cuts can be very sensuous, don't you?

Don't give Titus any more ideas than he already has.

ricpic said...

The problem with sex is that it's all about performance. What chance do tender feelings have? ask the sensitive out of shape, like me.

chickenlittle said...

@ricpic:

You have some lasting memories at least? :)

kentuckyliz said...

Trade in the raisin for a testosterone patch. See your doctor.

Scott M said...

I don't know if the other men in the room will agree with me or not, but I've always the male orgasm (yours truly's in this case) to be somewhat anti-climactic, if you'll pardon the pun.

It's going to happen. Everyone knows it's going to happen and probably sooner than later. When it happens, you know it's all pretty much over (the older you get) until the next happy occurrence, so, if you're like me, you put all of the effort into HER orgasm(s) because THAT is the true goal of the coupling in the first place.

Not through some chivalric ideal of putting her up on a pedestal either, but one of very selfish, ego-feeding, accomplishment and expecting the kudos therefrom.

To sum up, her having an incredible orgasm does more for me than her, from my perspective, because it not only feeds my ego re accomplishment (at a seemingly difficult task, generally speaking), but also feeds the side of the ego that hears, "my god...I can't feel my toes" from the young lass.

Penny said...

"What would thinking of a golf club do for one?"

I have no clue. Nor do I intend to look it up on Urban Dictionary.

kentuckyliz said...

A wise man knows that doing the dishes is foreplay.

The "put another log on the fire" types who can't rock their woman are a bit dense, donchathink?

chickenlittle said...

If William's comment doesn't end up referenced in the main page, it'll be a travesty of Ron Jeremy junk proportions.

I too enjoyed William's comment. I can't believe he's only been commenting on blogger since November of this year.

Ralph L said...

it'll be a travesty of Ron Jeremy junk proportions.
Are you sure you're a girl?

Michael Hasenstab said...

Will I turn into one of these women?

Not if you work at avoiding it. (Speaking as the husband of a 62 year old woman who has the appetite of a 32 year old.)

Fred4Pres said...

I love it when my wife yells out "Oh God, Raisins!"

Penny said...

"...it'll be a travesty of Ron Jeremy junk proportions."

"Are you sure you're a girl?"

You think only men are familiar with porn and it's lore, Ralph?

That made me smile.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

A group of would-be authoritative consensus makers as regards human nature is bound to produce rubbish. Liars are better at lying about human nature than about anything else; in particular, they are skilled at lying about human sexual nature, it often being quite rewarding to selfish individuals to convince others that their sexual natures are what they would more like them to be. Academicians are presumptuous to think they can produce some sort of scientific consensus as to what human nature is that is not based on deception. Psychology (and to a lesser extent philosophy) needs to be broken up and freed so students interested in human nature can study just the philosophers and psychologists they are interested in while having contempt for most. There should not even be a field about human nature, but rather fields for each separate thinker who has had something to say that even just a few people are interested in. If some official body decided what religion people need to believe to get certified, people would resist in the name of freedom of religion, but unfortunately freedom to believe whatever one wants as regards psychology or philosophy is not considered important.

I remember my Dad telling me that California used to have a rule (I don't know whether they still do) something to the effect that whenever 3 or 4 students desired to study something, the University of California (or just Berkeley?) was required by law to offer a course in that. Similar rules encouraging freedom would be a start to cleaning up academic rubbish. What students are taught needn't so much depend on how good teachers are at manipulating consensus.

Ralph L said...

You think only men are familiar with porn and it's [sic] lore, Ralph?
I thought y'all didn't like back hair.

I'll wager the proportion of women who prowl for porn is about the same as the proportion of men who don't.

bagoh20 said...

"Raisins, orgasms... what's the difference?"

One is a sweet juicy product of sexual reproductive activity. The other is also, but brown and wrinkly.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Raisins, orgasms... what's the difference

Well, one comes in a box...

William said...

Dear Victoria: Thank you very much for your kind comments. Here in the pixel world I have finally met a woman with the breadth of imagination to favorably compare me with Ron Jeremy...Keep this in mind about sex: In return for the little spasm of pleasure that sex offers you will have a lifetime of mostly frustration and then an eternity of damnation. Remember also that it's a dirty, disgusting and exploitative act and not at all worth the effort that people put into it. This is the Irish-Catholic tao of great sex. If you have this awareness the most banal act love making has the lurid appeal of a three way with Jane Fonda and a hooker.

Ralph L said...

Well, one comes in a box...
So straight men are the same as raisins!

Eric said...

Women aren't whipped through life by sexual need and they're complaining?!

Hear hear. I wish I had a switch to turn it off when I need to think straight.

Eric said...

Well, one comes in a box...

And one comes in a boat?

vbspurs said...

Not through some chivalric ideal of putting her up on a pedestal either, but one of very selfish, ego-feeding, accomplishment and expecting the kudos therefrom.

Who cares! I just love how you make me feel, Scott!

Cheers,
Victoria

wv: dines. Another word for eat.

vbspurs said...

Are you sure you're a girl?

Ron Jeremy is NOT about porn. He's a crossover performer. Or is that combover?

vbspurs said...

I can't believe he's only been commenting on blogger since November of this year.

Seriously? I remember William since back when (at least since early 2008). William wrote a blogpost comment that will live long with me -- about feeling envy of his college friends who had more money than him, and how it made him feel (written as ever, eloquently naked) which is the kind of frank commentary that the internet sometimes elicits and which I adore.

As anonymous as I am, I still don't share anything too revelatory about myself. Now THAT is something I envy being able to do.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

If you have this awareness the most banal act love making has the lurid appeal of a three way with Jane Fonda and a hooker.

Ooh. You know, William. As much as I'm not fonda Jane, I did like her in Klute.

Ralph L said...

He's a crossover performer
His junk isn't.
The rest of him isn't up to bi, much less gay porn standards.

vbspurs said...

The rest of him isn't up to bi, much less gay porn standards.

Oh my. He hasn't done gay porn, has he? I recall back in the day, before digital cable, when you had that jiggling stripe in the middle of the TV screen, where you could watch porn for free. It seemed every porno featured Ron Jeremy!

peter hoh said...

Let's take a closer look at those raisins.

vbspurs said...

Let's take a closer look at those raisins.

From your link:

The original Sun-Maid raisin girl. A slightly less pudgy SUSAN BOYLE??

peter hoh said...

All this talk about grapes reminds me of my favorite Dear Abby column.

kentuckyliz said...

It could be any woman at some point depending on what happens.

All the medical crap I've been through has squashed any last spark I had.

However that is not a problem. There is peace when there is market equilibrium in that area of one's life: supply equals demand.

Diagnosing women as deficient in desire is usually a reflection of market disequilibrium--a couple with different thermostats. Usually boils down to male/female hormonal differences. Hormones fuel a lot of emotion and behavior.

WV upeavol
Differences in desire can lead to upeavol in a relationship.

psoriasisguru.com said...

the new Sun Maid girl actually looks relatively conservative compared to most digitized females

amba said...

This stuff always misses the point by light years. You can't go at sex head on. *ducks barrage of puns*

vw: oratin