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how NFSW is NFSW?
June 27, 2010 7:34 AM   Subscribe

If I were writing this AskMe, I would have stopped after the first sentence, labelled it "NFSW" and put the rest inside. The level of detail the OP provide above the break is already enough that I cringe at the thought of a coworker seeing me read it. Am I being unreasonable, or is this just one of the few that slipped by the admins?
posted by d. z. wang to Etiquette/Policy at 7:34 AM (109 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I dunno. It seems pretty tame to me. Nothing in sentence two or three is really more risque than the word "erectile" in the first place. And it should be pretty clear that it's going to be NSFW if you click through.

Funny point is that he did include a NSFW warning, but in the title, which you can't see from the outside.
posted by 256 at 7:39 AM on June 27, 2010


What I see right now is:
I'm a 24yr old guy and I have a problem with premature ejaculation. I think it's partly erectile dysfunction as I don't feel as hard as I used to and partly premature ejaculation as I last for a couple of minutes post 10+ mins of intense foreplay.. What should I do?

And I have to say that it seems pretty reasonable to me. All the words that the poster uses are pretty clinical in nature (premature ejaculation, intense foreplay, erectile dysfunction). Actually, even the first sentence has premature ejaculation, which in my head is the most nsfw of the 3.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:43 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't read it at work. Problem solved.
posted by fixedgear at 7:45 AM on June 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


fixedgear: "3Don't read it at work. Problem solved"

Sorry, by "read it" I meant read what was above the fold as I scrolled down the AskMe page. Obviously, by the time he gets to erectile dysfunction, I can tell I shouldn't click the link at work.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:47 AM on June 27, 2010


I know people will have a bunch of rationales for why it's OK, but you know what? If you're writing about something that's graphically sexual, why not err on the side of discretion and put all graphic details below the fold, out of consideration for people who'd rather not see that kind of thing out of the blue?

And of course, as 256 suggests, putting "NSFW" in the title or tags without putting it in the above-the-fold text is pretty silly.

Previously.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:48 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


We saw it and it's okay as far as I'm concerned.

Generally speaking NSFW is used on MetaFilter to indicate porn, nakedness or sound that may be startling/loud/inappropriate. It's not used for text-based stuff though many people use it themselves in AskMe for that for whatever reason. All those words are normal words used to talk about sex and sexual function there's no reason to hide them inside the post as they're all pretty central to the OPs problem.

So you're not being unreasonable, you feel what you feel, but this is not something we're likely to change.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:52 AM on June 27, 2010 [21 favorites]


Nice work! He's managed to keep his post up for twelve hours now.
posted by gman at 7:52 AM on June 27, 2010 [42 favorites]


The poster uses entirely appropriate and mature language above the fold. Stop reading MeFi at work.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:55 AM on June 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Alvy Ampersand: "The poster uses entirely appropriate and mature language above the fold. Stop reading MeFi at work."

I think that MeFi's readership would drop by about 3/4 if everyone followed your advice.
posted by octothorpe at 7:59 AM on June 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


Stop reading MeFi at work.

Seems a bit drastic.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:02 AM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cringe less.
posted by carsonb at 8:05 AM on June 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


Are people at your job so close to you (and so nosy) that they're reading small bits of text on your screen, when you're looking at a page full of text?

And are they also the type of people who'd blame YOU if one of the many small bits of text (on what was obviously a hodge-podge-of-stuff site) had something "inappropriate" in it?

Wow. Consider getting a new job.
posted by grumblebee at 8:08 AM on June 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think you're being unreasonable.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:10 AM on June 27, 2010


grumblebee beat me to it.

I would add that even Kenneth Star would have yawned at that question.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:13 AM on June 27, 2010


d. z. wang, I wonder where you work and why you feel as if the words "ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION" and "INTENSE FOREPLAY" (the only conceivably cringe-worthy phrases above the cut but after where you would have placed the NSFW) are problematic even when they appear on a screen full of text and other unrelated and random questions.

Either your co-workers are hovering too close to your screen for too long, or you're bored enough at work to want to start a MeTa thread about things just because you thought of them - in this case the thought that your coworkers might have read it.

Either don't cringe so easily, or don't take your cringing so seriously. Problem solved.
posted by mondaygreens at 8:16 AM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Totally ok; easy to glance at and know if you should click inside or not.
posted by Forktine at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2010


Wang, you're being a dick.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 AM on June 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


So you're not being unreasonable, you feel what you feel, but this is not something we're likely to change.

Yeah, what she said. I hear where you're coming from I guess, but where you're coming from is a little at odds with our expectations of what folks will post on the site. Explicit discussion of sexual stuff (among other things) will happens sometimes, and it's not against the rules.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:26 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's ok. I fast-forward through the ads about cialis and tampons, too, d.z.
posted by crunchland at 8:27 AM on June 27, 2010


I think that MeFi's readership would drop by about 3/4 if everyone followed your advice.

It's not directed at everyone, only at those who would like MetaFilter to conform to their workplace standards.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:31 AM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


People use above the folds to decide whether they can answer the question. To fulfill that function, the OP had to at least say erectile dysfunction.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:33 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, he could have said something like "my winky is wonky" instead, I guess.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:43 AM on June 27, 2010 [18 favorites]


Yessss, now we can discuss all the silly names for male genitalia and trade recipes!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alvy Ampersand: Stop reading MeFi at work.

Jaltcoh: Seems a bit drastic.


Not really. In the previous thread you linked, Jaltcoh, cortex linked this:

- Metafilter is not "safe for work", in the broad sense of the term. Much of the content is, but not all of it.
- Some of the content broadly understood to be not safe for work gets labeled with NSFW as a courtesy. Usually by the poster, occasionally after the fact by a moderator.
- That warning is not compulsory, and what qualifies for it in the first place is a matter of debate...
- Insofar as the labeling that does occur helps people who are worried about NSFW content more amicably navigate their metafiltering-at-work experience worry-free, that's cool and I'm glad their lives are a little bit easier.
- But worry-free is probably not the right attitude (worry-mitigated, maybe, instead?), because, again, Metafilter is not safe for work.


If honest text about sex and sexual problems on the front page of AskMe is troublesome to someone, not reading MeFi at work really *is* the best solution.
posted by mediareport at 8:49 AM on June 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you're writing about something that's graphically sexual, why not err on the side of discretion and put all graphic details below the fold, out of consideration for people who'd rather not see that kind of thing out of the blue?

Because anything that promotes a culture where you HAVE to click through to the [more inside] to even understand the question ultimately makes AskMe less user-friendly. If the question was merely something like "Sex-related question, please see inside", I don't want to have to click through to see if the question is something I'm interested in answering/reading about.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:49 AM on June 27, 2010


For the record, I'm not at work and I don't read MeFi at the desk anyway, exactly because I work a customer-facing position where my screen is visible to everyone who wants to show me how to use my own computer..

But I think I have my answer:

jessamyn: "Generally speaking NSFW is used on MetaFilter to indicate porn, nakedness or sound that may be startling/loud/inappropriate. It's not used for text-based stuff though many people use it themselves in AskMe for that for whatever reason."

Forktine: "Totally ok; easy to glance at and know if you should click inside or not."

l33tpolicywonk: "People use above the folds to decide whether they can answer the question. To fulfill that function, the OP had to at least say erectile dysfunction."

Thanks, everyone.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:59 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stop reading MeFi at work.


Yeah, and then what do I do for those eight hours, huh?
posted by Some1 at 9:10 AM on June 27, 2010


Come over to my work and do my stuff for me.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:12 AM on June 27, 2010


For the record, I'm not at work and I don't read MeFi at the desk anyway

Then what was the problem? Why post this thread?
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on June 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


Mediareport: I do understand all that, but I can't believe you seriously think that telling someone to stop reading the site for a huge portion of the day is more reasonable than people voluntarily (not as official moderator policy) putting the details about their ejaculation after, rather than in, the front-page intro paragraph.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:15 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


but I can't believe you seriously think that telling someone to stop reading the site for a huge portion of the day is more reasonable than people voluntarily (not as official moderator policy) putting the details about their ejaculation after, rather than in, the front-page intro paragraph.

Depends on what you mean by "more reasonable", though.

Is the request reasonable? On a "it's not asking much" sense, sure; it'd be no big imposition on any given asker.

Is the idea that that request could be effectively communicated to every potential asker, and that they'd collectively be 100% successful at implementing it even assuming perfect awareness and good intentions? Not really. It's a big crowd, hard to reach completely even with the hardline issues we feel really strongly about let alone minor etiquette points.

So if it's down to a mission-critical Something Changes Here Or I Might Lose My Job situation, the most reasonable move is for the individual reader to modify/limit/eliminate their readership of mefi from work. Which kind of sucks for that person, but it's ultimately their decision about how to resolve that conflict.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is it already time for us to have the debate about what is appropriate in everyones workplace or not again?
posted by iamabot at 9:32 AM on June 27, 2010


Is it already time for us to have the debate about what is appropriate in everyones workplace or not again?

Apparently it is.
posted by fixedgear at 9:33 AM on June 27, 2010


I can't believe you seriously think that telling someone to stop reading the site for a huge portion of the day is more reasonable than people voluntarily (not as official moderator policy) putting the details about their ejaculation after, rather than in, the front-page intro paragraph.

Believe it. Honesty on the AskMe front page is worth a fuckova lot.
posted by mediareport at 9:36 AM on June 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Then what was the problem? Why post this thread?

Sometimes, it's hard not to give in to the impulse to proclaim to the world how prudish you are, and that you don't care who knows it.
posted by crunchland at 9:40 AM on June 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can't believe you seriously think that telling someone to stop reading the site for a huge portion of the day is more reasonable than people voluntarily (not as official moderator policy) putting the details about their ejaculation after, rather than in, the front-page intro paragraph.

Well, they could get a new job and quit demanding the world conform to their fucked up work environment, but I guess that's a tad unrealistic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:40 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't believe you seriously think that telling someone to stop reading the site for a huge portion of the day is more reasonable than people voluntarily (not as official moderator policy) putting the details about their ejaculation after, rather than in, the front-page intro paragraph.

I don't mean to be a pain here, but I see this as an odd American problem where we've somehow gotten used to the idea in our country that people talking about sex, sexual function and dysfunction and other things that are 100% normal things for adult people to deal with should somehow be lumped in with pornography as far as things that should be somehow elided in the name of decency.

Not pointing the finger at you Jaltcoh, but yes really what we're saying is that if you're in a situation where you personally can't read the word ejaculation at work [whether through your own moral compass or your workplace's moral compass] then yes we really truly are saying that you should not read MetaFilter at work. Really. All day. The only reason I'm driving this point home is that I think it's not a situation where it's reasonable to ask other posters to change their behavior. It's like asking people "Please don't swear." You are welcome to ask, but it's setting up an unreasonable standard for this site as it currenty exists and had existed for a decade.

Further, I do not want someone who is dealing with some sort of sexual problem to feel any more awkward about it than they already do and I think discouraging people from using normal words to talk about a normal issue somehow gets across the idea that talking about our bodies and the things that they do is problematic. I'm of the firm opinion that it is not, and anything that I can do to get that across to people in my workplace is something I'm interested in doing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:45 AM on June 27, 2010 [86 favorites]


As a point of coincidence, see today's "The Ethicist." It discusses something much more extreme in many people's eyes: porn at work. I respect Randy Cohen (except when he's biking), but in this case I think he's dead wrong. I said so in response, but the mods at the NY TIMES have not published what I wrote, which is...

"There are scenes none of us want seared onto our retinas." Right. For instance, it would make me uncomfortable if my boss left a page about basketball on his computer. As a kid, I was picked on in gym class, so sports are "hostile" to me. Also, as a fan of fine cuisine, I don't want images of Subway Sandwiches seared into my retinas. So it's pretty outrageous when my boss leaves up a page with a Subway ad on it! As a Liberal, I have a right not to see Conservative editorials...

Mr. Cohen, do you feel comfortable telling me that, given my discomfort with the things I've mentioned above, I'm on ethical the high-ground if I take (underhanded) steps to stop my boss exposing me to whatever it is that makes me uncomfortable?

Let me be clear that, in terms of ETIQUETTE, my boss should take reasonable steps to stop me from feeling uncomfortable (if he knows what makes me uncomfortable). But etiquette and ethics (and also law and ethics) don't always go hand in hand. Your column is not called The Etiquette-ist.

Is a porn site special? Is it different from other sorts of objectionable sites, e.g. a site praising John Tesh? Sure, to some people. Not to others. Seeing porn doesn't bother me nearly as much as seeing a "LOST" fan site. We all have our quirks. Should our employers cater to them, or should they be allowed to look at whatever they want to look at, as long as doing so doesn't physically harm us or keep us from doing my jobs?

I am VERY aware that sexual harassment often takes place in offices. I know about it from personal experience. When you show me strong evidence that looking-at-porn leads to sexual harassment, I'll rethink my position. (Or is just knowing that porn exists, or that my boss happens to like it, equal to sexual harassment?)

I am aware that many people feel uneasy about sex. They feel sex should be kept private. They are entitled to feel that way. As someone raised in a "Victorian" culture, I have to admit, I feel that way, too, sometimes. I wish I didn't, but I do. And -- yes -- it would make me a bit uncomfortable to see porn on my boss's computer (especially if I shared it with him).

But I don't get a free pass from feeling uncomfortable. Not if it means other people aren't allowed to look at things. I share the world with other people. Unfortunately, that means that I have to work with people who drum on their desks and who chew gum. It sucks, what whatchagonnado?

Everyone should be allowed to look at whatever he wants, whenever he wants -- as long as I'm not trapped by it. In the case of a website, I'm not trapped. I can close the browser window. Yet, the images might be forever seared into my brain (those terrible, terrible images of people doing something people naturally do), but such is life.

Sometimes people at work look at CNN.com during their lunch breaks. And, as I walk by their desks, I'm forced to look at horrific images of war, famine, oil spills and Madonna. Do you think my co-workers are ethically bound to keep these images from me?

What you're doing is contributing to the mores of our prudish culture -- a culture that puts sex in a special box and only handles that box with gloves on. Granted, that is what many people want. But "what many people want" isn't always what's healthy. And I'm not sure what it was to do with ethics. Unless ethics is the will of the masses. In which case, I'll see you at Nuremberg.

I want to be clear that I would never look at porn at work. Why not? Because I know it would make some of my co-workers uncomfortable. And I don't want to make them uncomfortable. I have no problem with "make reasonable attempts at not causing others discomfort" as a principle of Etiquette.

I am less crazy about it as a principle of Ethics.

Beyond that, though, I do feel that prudishness leads to a ton of problems. Nearly everyone is sexual, and yet our culture teaches us that there's something shameful about this. Which leads to a lot of people feeling pent up, ashamed and guilty. Which leads to a lot of odd acting out -- acting out in ways that are harmful to society.

I am certainly not proposing that a way to stop prudery is by looking at porn in the office. But I also don't think a professional ethicist should be championing prudish values. Since prudish values are unhealthy, championing them is unethical.
posted by grumblebee at 9:54 AM on June 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


The level of detail the OP provide above the break is already enough that I cringe at the thought of a coworker seeing me read it... For the record, I'm not at work and I don't read MeFi at the desk anyway.

In that case, I would tell your coworker to get the hell out of your house and invest in some new locks.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:54 AM on June 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wang, you're being a dick.

Yeah, that's totally hilarious there. I almost took a blatch in my pants.
posted by ignignokt at 10:14 AM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seeing porn doesn't bother me nearly as much as seeing a "LOST" fan site.

Wow, you'd never know that from how the 40+ comments you posted in this thread! ;)
posted by desjardins at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2010


from how the
posted by desjardins at 10:22 AM on June 27, 2010


The trick is to have a bigger office so you have plenty of relaxed time to switch windows to a spreadsheet or whatever. If you don't have a bigger office you need to spend less time reading AskMe and more time busting your ass so you can get that sweet office and then goof off.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:24 AM on June 27, 2010


When you show me strong evidence that looking-at-porn leads to sexual harassment, I'll rethink my position. (Or is just knowing that porn exists, or that my boss happens to like it, equal to sexual harassment?)

Well and this is the thing, right? According to many human resources departments, being in a situation like the one The Ethicist outlines, where you leave porn up on a shared computer is, or can be considered, harassment. That is, you actually do have a right not to be made uncomfortable at work, within certain parameters.

This again points to "things considered contextually appropriate/inapproriate" or maybe it's got more to do with the "work is not home" division. In any case, yeah it's an etiquette thing that the guy isn't closing up his porn browsing, but it's also one of those etiquette things that HR can enforce because it can create what some people call a hostile workplace. That is, if you think the guy did it once by accident and you spoke to him and he's still doing it [I sort of believe you have to use your words and say "hey buddy, quit it"] then you can make him stop. So there's prudishness -- i.e. you don't want to ever see a porn-y website ever -- and there's conventional standards of workplace behavior -- i.e. you don't want your boss leaving porn sites up on the shared workplace computer if they are not relevant to your job.

The reason this becomes such a battlezone is specifically because this is such a workplace harassment trope. Men [it's usually men but I'm sure it goes both ways, or all ways] oversexualize the workplace as a way of harassing female subordinates. It's not legal, in many cases but there are always a bunch of people ready to call people who complain prudes. Again, I think people need to stand up for themselves and not make everyone kowtow to the lowest common denominator of discomfort, but there really are outlines of what is and is not acceptable in the workplace regarding porn and levels of sexual discourse, and it's okay to enforce existing standards or ask why they are the way they are. People may disagree with them or they may be outside their own personal comfort zones, but they do exist. This comes up in library situations a lot, both with patons looking at porn but also printing it or asking for tech support when there's raunchy porn up on the screen. Where do you draw the line?

And to bring it back to MeFi, we've definitely deleted or not approved questions that seem to be purely masturbatory in nature [i.e. where the question itself seem to be an exercise in writing for Penthouse Forum] because that's where we draw the line here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:31 AM on June 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


And to bring it back to MeFi, we've definitely deleted or not approved questions that seem to be purely masturbatory in nature [i.e. where the question itself seem to be an exercise in writing for Penthouse Forum] because that's where we draw the line here.

Well, there go my next three "questions."
posted by zarq at 10:37 AM on June 27, 2010


Dear Penthouse,

I know this is hard to believe, but here I was reading the same discussion with twin sisters when...
posted by Wuggie Norple at 10:46 AM on June 27, 2010


Well and this is the thing, right? According to many human resources departments, being in a situation like the one The Ethicist outlines, where you leave porn up on a shared computer is, or can be considered, harassment.

It MAY be practical to stop people from viewing porn at work. And, practical or not, HR departments can make pretty much any rules they want. But that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what Cohen's column is about, which is ETHICS.

That is, you actually do have a right not to be made uncomfortable at work, within certain parameters.

Let's call a spade a spade. You actually do have a right not to be made uncomfortable at work, within certain parameters -- and those parameters involve sex. Maybe there are a few other forms of free speech that aren't allowed in some offices, like cursing, but it's mostly sex.

In most places I've worked, the rule is "as long as you're not interfering with work (e.g. talking so loudly people can't concentrate), you can talk about whatever you want and look at whatever you want -- as long as it's not sex." Sex is unique. You can talk about violent movies in which people's arms get torn off, you can talk about how much you hate Republicans (or democrats), you can talk about Global Warming. You can't talk about sex.

(I can think of two other things, besides porn, that would get me in trouble at work: if I was looking at sites promoting racism or terrorism. Sex is in the same category!)

I understand that if people start talking about sex at work, the workplace gets "sexualized," and it's possible that will lead to the return of a Mad-Men-ish work culture in which women get abused. The flip side is that by saying "anything EXCEPT sex," we're sending a message that sex is shameful in some way. It should be kept secret. Which I believe leads very directly to (amongst other things) gay bashing.

You may disagree. I can't prove that. But I believe sexual shame and repression leads to serious societal neuroses. My theory about gay bashing in particular is as follows: straight people aren't necessarily thought of as sexual. Of course they are, but since straight is the norm, we can just think of straight people as people (as opposed to sexual people). But as soon as someone comes out as gay, he's basically saying, "I am a sexual being. There are people in this world I like to fuck." There's no way to ignore that.

And I think part of the hatred gays (and other sexual "deviants") have to endure is not because they are different sexually but because they are noticeably sexual. Some gay bashing is essentially saying, "Get a room, asshole."

This is one of the many reasons it's so important to bring ALL sex out of the closet. Most heterosexuals are deeply, deeply closeted. Most of us give lip service to the fact that it's nuts that we're so hung up on a natural process, but I don't think most of us really think about how nuts this is. It's like if you weren't supposed to eat at work. It's like if eating was something you weren't even supposed to talk about. "If you're going to eat, do it at home where no one can see you." Can you imagine how sick our culture would be if we taught kids that from the cradle?

That's exactly how sick it actually is.
posted by grumblebee at 10:59 AM on June 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


d. z. wang: “If I were writing this AskMe, I would have stopped after the first sentence, labelled it "NFSW" and put the rest inside. The level of detail the OP provide above the break is already enough that I cringe at the thought of a coworker seeing me read it.”

Alvy Ampersand: “The poster uses entirely appropriate and mature language above the fold. Stop reading MeFi at work.”

Some1: “Yeah, and then what do I do for those eight hours, huh?”

That's easy. Just masturbate.
posted by koeselitz at 11:00 AM on June 27, 2010


Yeah, and then what do I do for those eight hours, huh?
posted by Some1 at 5:10 PM on June 27 [+] [!]


Every evening email yourself a link to all the SFW threads from the day so that you can spend those 8 hours at work the next day reading them. Job done.
posted by jonnyploy at 12:02 PM on June 27, 2010


At work, I have my own office. It has a door I can close whenever I want, and then all that's visible from the hall is wood and opaque frosted glass.

You should get a job like mine, and then it won't matter if people say "erection" on Metafilter.
posted by planet at 1:29 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I cringe at the thought of a coworker seeing me read it

Don't look at the internet at work, end of discussion.

Cheers.
posted by fire&wings at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Science and or human biology don't necessarily indicate NSFW. If my boss saw this, he'd just say, "Oh, hell that sucks."
posted by snsranch at 6:18 PM on June 27, 2010


Nice work! He's managed to keep his post up for twelve hours now.

MeFiagra.
posted by klangklangston at 7:17 PM on June 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't mean to be a pain here, but I see this as an odd American problem where we've somehow gotten used to the idea in our country that people talking about sex, sexual function and dysfunction and other things that are 100% normal things for adult people to deal with should somehow be lumped in with pornography as far as things that should be somehow elided in the name of decency.

You're not wrong, but. I may be old and getting older, it is true, and it may be the natural conservatism of age, but I tend to think that the flipside -- the near-pathological sexualization of everything and the concomitant endless talk talk talk about sex and sexuality, particularly from Americans -- is not an optimal state of affairs either.

The AskMe question is fine, of course, but in general I could do with a lot less information in our daily lives about how and who people like to fuck, about the parts they use to do it, and some shelter from the onslaught of the ol' American Media Fuckjuice Typhoon. Frank, adult talk about matters sexual is fine and healthy and important, but honestly, there's just a little much of it for me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


stavros, I agree with you, and I would like to add that it comes down to context for me. I do not want nor expect to discuss sex in the workplace. I can reasonably expect some discussion if I go to a bar with my friends, or on Metafilter, or on Twitter, that bastion of TMI.

But as soon as someone comes out as gay, he's basically saying, "I am a sexual being. There are people in this world I like to fuck." There's no way to ignore that.

This is just rather bizarre to me for two reasons. First, hetero guys make comments all the time that make it obvious that they are sexual beings. It's not a state secret. Secondly, that's NOT what someone is saying when he comes out. He's saying "I don't want to hide who I am, and that is a person who loves men." He has to say that because heterosexuality is the default assumption. That you think it's an overtly sexual statement reflects more on you than on the person coming out, in my opinion.

A free-for-all discussion our sex lives is not the point of coming out of the closet. In fact I rarely hear about gay people's sex lives unless I go looking for that info. The purpose of coming out of the closet is to be on equal standing with heteros, so that a guy can invite his boyfriend to the company party, or put his picture on his desk.
posted by desjardins at 8:56 PM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


That you think it's an overtly sexual statement reflects more on you than on the person coming out, in my opinion.

I think that what grumblebee is saying is that he thinks that's fucked up, people thinking you're talking about sex just because you're saying you're gay but that some people do that and use it as an excuse to be rude to or harass gay people.

If I ever got a sock puppet, it would be called FuckJuice Typhoon.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:59 PM on June 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


You're going to need more than one sock for that.
posted by pracowity at 9:51 PM on June 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


The OP of the question DID label this NSFW, but....it was in the title, which is a part of every post that you don't see on the front page of AskMe.

Is that maybe....a part of the problem? I mean, should the FAQ be amended to point out that labeling the post NSFW in THE ABOVE-FOLD TEXT ITSELF is a courtesy? Because it looks to me like it's easy to just have a mental block about the titles not showing up on the Front Page, and then forget that "oh yeah, you won't SEE that NSFW warning if I only put it there" and then we get situations like this.

Not sure how to fix that, or if it needs fixing, but it looks like the whole disconnect here arose not from "failing to label the post properly", but rather from "forgetting that the place where you're posting the NSFW warning isn't visible until you click through".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:09 AM on June 28, 2010


Is that maybe....a part of the problem? I mean, should the FAQ be amended to point out that labeling the post NSFW in THE ABOVE-FOLD TEXT ITSELF is a courtesy?

I chalk it up to the more general issue that people occasionally going to use the title field wrong. NSFW is courtesy thing around here, not a requirement; the asker didn't need to use it at all, and that they did use it but in a won't-make-a-difference place is silly but doesn't materially affect anything. It was nice of the asker to try; it was unnecessary for them to succeed; the way they didn't succeed is silly but leaves us back at "it was unnecessary" in the first place and so no real issue here.

I think we cover about as much as we need to from the mefi side of things with the current mention of "NSFW" use and non-use in the FAQ; the rest is general internet etiquette and practical sense that falls to the reader or asker to apply, and ultimately you'll see the occasional NSFW-in-a-title-field just like you'll see a hundred other little things which don't really need fixing so much as a quick shrug and the going about of your day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:27 AM on June 28, 2010


You're not wrong, but. I may be old and getting older, it is true, and it may be the natural conservatism of age, but I tend to think that the flipside -- the near-pathological sexualization of everything and the concomitant endless talk talk talk about sex and sexuality, particularly from Americans -- is not an optimal state of affairs either.

I think these are two sides of the same coin. Everything was sexual to the Victorians, too (I'm looking at you, Sigmund!) If you repress sexuality, all sorts of odd things start to happen. Sex WILL out one way or another.

There are countries -- such as the Scandinavian ones -- where it's not such a big deal. People are sexually freer there, and, conversely, not everything is so sexualized.
posted by grumblebee at 7:39 AM on June 28, 2010


He has to say that because heterosexuality is the default assumption. That you think it's an overtly sexual statement reflects more on you than on the person coming out, in my opinion.

You're welcome to think I'm absurd or bigoted or whatever. By my reckoning, what I meant was something pretty simple, obvious and neutral. We tend to just call heterosexual guys "guys," which doesn't necessarily evoke sex.

Maybe I'm unnaturally perverted, but when I hear "gay man" or "homosexual man," I think "likes to have sex with his own gender." I don't think that's bad or shameful, but I do think that's what the word "gay" means. And if I WAS prudish, I might not like thinking about the fact that the gay guy is sexual. I also might not like thinking about the fact that the (probably) heterosexual mailman is sexual, but I don't have to. Because he's just a guy. Like my parents, he never has had sex.

Perhaps you're talking about intent. Perhaps you mean that when a gay person comes out, he is not intending that act as a sexual statement. And, somehow, you thought that was what I was claiming. Did you seriously think I was claiming that when a gay man comes out, he's trying to say, "Hey, everyone! Look at my penis!"?

If Betty says, "I need to stop by the drugstore to pick up my birth-control pills," her intent may be to just explain why she's going to be late. But I can't help thinking, at least momentarily, that she's probably sexually active. Does this make me a pervert or just a person with a brain?
posted by grumblebee at 7:52 AM on June 28, 2010


If I ever got a sock puppet, it would be called FuckJuice Typhoon.

I had the same thought. American Media Fuck Juice Tycoon would be a swell name for a sockpuppet. I'd call him "Rupert" for short.

The flip side is that by saying "anything EXCEPT sex," we're sending a message that sex is shameful in some way.

Not necessarily. Eating food in my office is forbidden for risk of damaging things we work around, but we don't imagine that eating is shameful; it just introduces unnecessary complications that could be detrimental to our professional mission. Engaging in (auto)erotic activity on the job is also likely to introduce unnecessary complications into many, but not all, professional enviroments. The message isn't one of shame, but of disruptiveness.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:31 AM on June 28, 2010


The message isn't one of shame, but of disruptiveness.

Let me be really clear that when I talk about the message, I don't mean "the intended message." I really don't care about that. I care about how it's received.

Having said that, I don't buy that "no porn in the office" is just a matter of "we don't like disruptions." Maybe that's true in some offices, but not in the over 30 I've worked in.

Everywhere I've worked, all SORTS of disruptive behavior is allowed (sometimes even sanctioned and encouraged.) I am keenly aware of this, because I HATE work disruptions. I'm in a constant state of annoyance at the things I'm forced to listen to, watch, etc.

Sex is in a special category.

If we're talking about intended messages, I think the only intended message, in most offices, is "no porn allowed." There's no intended judgment. Mostly, offices disallow porn, because allowing it would lead to all sorts of costly lawsuits. And because many people WOULD feel uncomfortable. The people who are uncomfortable about other things won't be as easily heard, partly because they're a minority. Partly because their discomfort is not sanctioned by general prudish trends in society at large. (It's normal to complain about naked people.)

I also think porn is not allowed simply because "it's not appropriate." And there's no point in asking why it's not appropriate. That's just office-culture norm. Why is it inappropriate for me to wear flip-flops to work? No special reason. It's just not the custom.

An interesting thing to talk about is WHY sexual imagery makes so many people uncomfortable. I don't think there's just one reason. I don't think it's just because they're all a bunch of prudes. There are other reasons, such as the fact that all sorts of abuse has and does take place in the workplace. It's for those reasons PLUS prudishness, and it's hard to untangle all the complex reasons. And those reasons are generally not on the table to be discussed. It's all too uncomfortable for people.

Let me be really clear what I'm talking about in terms of office porn and disruptions:

Of course most of us aren't allowed to play tetris when we're supposed to be working. But we are (hopefully, except at some terrible workplaces) allowed to do it during our lunch breaks. We're not allowed to turn the volume way up, because that would bother people and stop them from being able to work. But as long as we keep things pretty quiet, we can play a game if we want to WHEN IT'S OKAY FOR US TO BE NOT WORKING.

We can view CNN, even if we're looking at bloody, violent images, we can use Facebook, etc.

We can't look at porn.

Why not? Because it bothers other people so much that they can't get their work done if they know that we're looking at porn or happen to see it on our computers? It makes them uncomfortable to know that one of their co-workers is having sexual thoughts at work.

Do we think that if we stop porn in the office, doing so will stop sexual harassment in the office? What's the evidence for that?
posted by grumblebee at 9:57 AM on June 28, 2010


Maybe use MyAsk and filter out relationships and health and fitness for reading during work?
posted by kalessin at 9:57 AM on June 28, 2010


It makes them uncomfortable to know that one of their co-workers is having sexual thoughts at work.

At this point you are eliding the distinction between thought and activity. I think very few people are made uncomfortable by the knowledge that, yes, at any given moment during the day, one of your co-workers is probably thinking about sex. OTOH, watching (or listening) to a co-worker rub one out at the desk adjacent isn't something likely to be received with equanimity by most employees. Is this because we're all deeply repressed and full of shame and loathing over our sexual natures or it is simply embarrassment at watching Grumblebee make the "O" face to Sluts with Truck Nutz while we're trying to prepare for a meeting?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:17 AM on June 28, 2010


Yeah, that's totally hilarious there. I almost took a blatch in my pants.

I blatched.
posted by fatbird at 2:31 PM on June 28, 2010


At this point you are eliding the distinction between thought and activity.

Fair enough.

And you're eliding the distinction between looking at porn at work and masturbating at work.

And I'm going to work hard to assume the crack about grumblebee making an "O" face was just a good-natured joke and not a dig at me, because we can disagree without making personal remarks.

Let's imagine two cultures:

Culture One: it's normal to go to work naked. It's normal to talk about sex at work in a casual way, e.g. "When I was fucking my wife last night, it occurred to me that we should finish that earnings report before April 19th..." It's not normal to harass people, sexually or otherwise. Sometimes, during their lunch breaks, workers look at porn if they feel like it.

Culture Two: it's normal to wear clothes at work. It's not normal to discuss sex or look at sexually-charged images at work.

Okay, you probably think my goal here is to say that Culture One is the better or "more natural" one. That my goal is to prove that grumblebee is more "advanced" than you are. Actually, I would have a very hard time living in that culture. I'm way too repressed. In fact, if my boss suddenly allowed everyone to view porn at work and everyone started doing it, I wouldn't. I'd be too embarrassed. I'd probably quit that job.

I just think it's interested to compare the two cultures and ask if they are both possible. We know Culture Two is possible. Is Culture One possible? Could it have ever existed (or could it ever exist) on Earth without genetically modifying humans?

I think it could, but I can't prove it. The reason I think it could is that I see no evidence that sexual modesty is genetic. I see SOME evidence that it isn't. Kids need to be taught to wear cloths. Our animal cousins aren't particularly modest. And there are big differences in modesty between human cultures. (It's interesting that zoos and nature programs then to display chimps more than bonobos. Both are equally related to us. But bobobos fuck all the time.)

Let's say, just for the sake of discussion, that modesty is entirely cultural. Do you agree with me that if something is cultural -- if we have the choice to bring people up a certain way or not -- it's worth evaluating?

I guess the word "prudish" is ugly. I'm not bothered by admitting that I have some prudish tendencies, but maybe other people don't like it, so I'll stop using the word.

Do you think it's possible that the level of modesty in our culture MAY have some negative effects? Is that worth discussing at all? Or is it better to just say, "Come on. We all know X, Y and Z is inappropriate at work"? Which closes discussion like a door. Slam.

Okay, like you, I don't want to see grumblebee (or anyone else) whacking off at work. Why not? I won't psychoanalyze you. Since I'm the only prudish person here (I can apply the word to myself), I'll just examine my own brain, backward thinking as it is.

Let's me get rid of the "it interferes with work" issue. What if a room is set aside in the office for masturbating? It's not near my office. No one is forced to go in it or near it. But people can go there if they feel like it. (They can only go during free time, e.g. during lunch.)

Does that idea bother me?

Yes.

I don't think it should. I wish I didn't. It's pretty stupid that it does. But it does.

Why?

As far as I can tell, it's because there's some prudishness in me. There's a part of me that doesn't want to think of my coworkers as sexual beings, and if I saw one of them walk into the O-room, I'd be unable to not think of them that way.

I actually think and O-room would be a really good idea (with certain safeguards in place). It might help people be much more relaxed at work.

But it would still bother me.

You are now free to scoff at me or pity me for being a conservative rube who is actually bothered by something people might be doing inside a closed room that I never have to enter. Luckily, I am the only person who is neurotic that way.

But imagine a sci-fi story about a world in which there were other people like me. What do you think some of the ramifications of that world world be? Is it POSSIBLE some of them might be bad? Is it possible some people in that world might have attitudes that aren't 100% practical but, rather, grow out of various prejudices that the world's inhabitants learned from their parents and peers?
posted by grumblebee at 4:20 PM on June 28, 2010


Perhaps you mean that when a gay person comes out, he is not intending that act as a sexual statement.

But you are receiving it that way, and I don't understand why. It's even hard for me to articulate what I don't understand. So... the default human is heterosexual, but this doesn't make you think of them as a sexual being, but when a person states that they are not the default, this does make you think of them as a sexual being, even though both groups have sex. Do you see a baby and think of the parents having sex? I am not trying to be rude here but I am imagining that your day is potentially filled with reminders that people do, in fact, have sex. Which does not at all make sense to me; other people's sex lives are barely on my radar.

Do we think that if we stop porn in the office, doing so will stop sexual harassment in the office?

Total strawman and also absurd. Obviously there are many kinds of sexual harassment that don't involve porn.

To be clear, I am not calling you a bigot or a homophobe or anything of that sort. I just do not understand your thought process.
posted by desjardins at 4:29 PM on June 28, 2010


To be clear, I am not calling you a bigot or a homophobe or anything of that sort. I just do not understand your thought process.

Don't worry. I'm not offended.

But you are receiving it that way, and I don't understand why. It's even hard for me to articulate what I don't understand. So... the default human is heterosexual, but this doesn't make you think of them as a sexual being

If someone talks about "that heterosexual accountant," then, yes, I think of him as sexual. But I don't if someone talks about "that accountant," which is, in my experience, the normal the way folks talk about straight people.

If someone says, "that homosexual teacher," then, yes, I think of him as sexual. Same if someone says, "Guess what? I'm homosexual." (And, of course, it doesn't matter if they use the work "gay" instead of "homosexual," because I'm instantly aware that the words are synonyms.)

Of course, if someone said, "Guess what? I'm heterosexual," I would also think of him as sexual. But I never hear people say that, so, since they don't, I don't get the opportunity to go through that thought process.

I guess I am just as baffled by your thought process. Are you saying that when someone says the word "homosexual," you don't hear the "sexual" part? What enters your mind? That they are claiming to be different from some other group in some vague way?

Do you see a baby and think of the parents having sex?

No, because I don't always think about causes. When I look at an iPhone, I don't generally think about the factory where it was made. But I do if someone says "iPhone factory."

I DO think about people having sex when they say things like, "My wife and I are trying to have a baby." How could I not? There's only one way to "try to have a baby." (People don't generally talk "having a baby" when referring to adoption.)

Maybe the confusion is that you think I'm talking about graphic sexual thoughts. I'm not. When someone says, "I'm gay," I don't picture his penis sticking in some guy's ass or anything like that. But I do think, "He likes having sex with other men." Because that's what "being gay" means.
posted by grumblebee at 4:44 PM on June 28, 2010


Do we think that if we stop porn in the office, doing so will stop sexual harassment in the office?

Total strawman and also absurd. Obviously there are many kinds of sexual harassment that don't involve porn.

I was responding to the idea that allowing people to look at porn at work would "over-sexualize" the office and thus make more harassment happen. I am skeptical of that notion. (Skeptical in the literal sense. It wouldn't surprise me if it's true or false.)
posted by grumblebee at 4:50 PM on June 28, 2010


And I'm going to work hard to assume the crack about grumblebee making an "O" face was just a good-natured joke and not a dig at me, because we can disagree without making personal remarks.

For what it's worth, that's how I read it.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:25 PM on June 28, 2010


For what it's worth, that's how I read it.

How? As a good-natured joke? I'm leaning that way, too. Sorry, if I got suspicious.
posted by grumblebee at 6:32 PM on June 28, 2010


Grumblebee,

Brief comment: First off, what if a coworker said they were straight? If that doesn't turn to "heterosexual," hence sexual, your conditioning is inconsistent. Even if it does, there's still a context of heteronormativism that's unfair to the LGBT sandwich; if folks are unable to mention being gay without you thinking of them doing the nasty, that's frankly your problem, not theirs. You're placing the onus of not making you uncomfortable on them and with that denying part of their identity.

Which, from what I remember from talking to you, you'll probably admit without much reservation, from which I'd agree with you that basing culture norms on individual discomfort is ultimately flawed in absolutes, but I'd still hold that it works moderately well in practice—especially when it can be balanced in opposition to utility, such as the utility of having people able to ask questions about sex here in a normal, non-judgmental atmosphere clearly outweighs individuals feeling uncomfortable with the questions.

Gawd, that comment wasn't actually brief at all! Curse you, Grumblebee, for making me prolix!
posted by klangklangston at 6:47 PM on June 28, 2010


Brief comment: First off, what if a coworker said they were straight? If that doesn't turn to "heterosexual," hence sexual, your conditioning is inconsistent.

Of course "straight" makes me think of sex. I'm trying really hard to understand how someone could hear that and NOT think of sex. Isn't sex integral to the definition of the word? Are there non-sexual (in thought as well as deed) straight people? If they never even think about sex, in what sense are they straight?

I feel like you're suggesting I'm odd for thinking of "sweet-tasting" when you say "dessert."

Even if it does, there's still a context of heteronormativism that's unfair to the LGBT sandwich;

Agreed.

if folks are unable to mention being gay without you thinking of them doing the nasty, that's frankly your problem, not theirs.

WHAT? Why are you talking about it being someone's problem? It's not their problem and it's not mine either. It's not a problem. Someone says "one plus one" and I think "two." That's just a natural thing to think of when someone says that.

It would be a problem if someone said "Jew" and I thought "likes money," but "Jew" doesn't mean "a person who likes money." Homosexual MEANS...

1 : of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex
2 : of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex


It's my PROBLEM if I think of sex when I hear a person claiming to be someone who has "sexual desire toward another of the same sex"?

You're placing the onus of not making you uncomfortable on them and with that denying part of their identity.

HUH?

I'm not placing any onus on anyone. I'm baffled by what you're talking about. No one is making me uncomfortable. Gay people don't make me uncomfortable. I never said they did. I never said gay people should (or shouldn't) do anything. Where are you getting this from?

You're ... denying part of their identity.

Isn't that the part of their identity the same part that likes sex with other people of their gender?
posted by grumblebee at 7:10 PM on June 28, 2010


I meant to link where I got that definition of "homosexual." It's from Merriam-Webster.
posted by grumblebee at 7:14 PM on June 28, 2010


There's this scene from 21 Jump Street (yeah) where Dom Deluise's son and Johnny Depp are in a car doing a stakeout or something, and they're both eating Chinese food. And Dom Deluise's kid is just INHALING the stuff, and Johnny Depp goes "Y'know, if you slowed down, you might actually be able to taste it." To which Dom Deluise's son says "I already know what it tastes like."

I think that for lots of people, we already know that "gay" means "sexually attracted to people of the same gender", so we don't have to think that every time we hear the word.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:41 PM on June 28, 2010


I think that for lots of people, we already know that "gay" means "sexually attracted to people of the same gender", so we don't have to think that every time we hear the word.

When you hear a word, you don't think about what it means?

Are you saying that when someone says, "I'm gay," as far as you're concerned, they might as well be saying, "I'm lhewl;rhl;wehrwelhrwe;wlw;rhwlehrw."
posted by grumblebee at 7:45 PM on June 28, 2010


Again, in case this is the confusion, as I said above, I when someone says, "I'm gay," I don't imagine them fucking. I don't see a little porn movie running in my head. So if that's what you think I'm claiming, it's not.

I'm saying that when a person says he's gay, I realize that he means he is a man who has sexual desire for other men. (See the definition, above.) And "sexual" is part of "a man who has sexual desire for other men."

23skidoo, are you like that with other words besides "gay." You know what "apple" means, so, since you know, do you not think about what it means when you hear the word? If I say, "I want an apple," does no image enter your head because you already know what it means?

I don't get it.
posted by grumblebee at 7:50 PM on June 28, 2010


Simply, when someone talks to me using words that I am familiar with, I do not access a personal definition of each word in my head.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:55 PM on June 28, 2010


I am going to stop polluting this thread with this debate. I am not tired of discussing it, and I'm super-baffled by people's response to what I said and would LOVE to understand, but it's too big of a derail. I'm happy to discuss it in MeMail with anyone who is interested.
posted by grumblebee at 7:59 PM on June 28, 2010


"Of course "straight" makes me think of sex. I'm trying really hard to understand how someone could hear that and NOT think of sex."

First off, when I hear "straight," I think "not gay." That aside, when I hear "gay" or "straight," I tend to think—unless contravened by context—of love and romantic relationships, which are a far larger category of human interaction than sex. Now, part of this might be because all day long I'm working to legalize gay marriage, and I don't immediately think "sex" when I think marriage; perhaps you do. I see gay people all the time, I discuss their relationships and the legal status thereof, and I don't ever think of them having sex. So it seems odd that in the midst of the constellation of social relationships that come with being gay or straight, you're fixated on sex.

"I feel like you're suggesting I'm odd for thinking of "sweet-tasting" when you say "dessert." "

No, I feel like you keep saying that whenever someone mentions dessert to you, you can't help but picture them eating a big bowl of ice cream. And that people licking spoons makes you feel icky, so could you please not mention dessert?

"WHAT? Why are you talking about it being someone's problem? It's not their problem and it's not mine either. It's not a problem. Someone says "one plus one" and I think "two." That's just a natural thing to think of when someone says that."

Discomfort necessarily implies problem. Saying that thinking of your coworkers as sexual beings bothers you inherently implies problem. In that heteronormativity (which you did grant without excepting yourself, though frankly, given that you tend literal, this may be unfair supposition) gives ways to discuss romantic love without raising the context of sex—you don't have to think fucking when you think wife or boyfriend or parents or any number of other associated terms—whereas "gay," the most innocuous term for, what, homophilials?, raises discomfort for you. As per prior, discomfort necessarily implies problem. Luckily, the locus of that problem, as I mentioned, lies with you—you own your feelings, and they have no necessary bearing on anyone else. That you, according to you (and I generally believe you act in good faith), don't act on any of that discomfort adversely, shows that you already own that discomfort and are responsible for it.

Finally, an argument appealing to what is natural is particularly fallacious in this case—not only is your interpretation by no means universal, thus "nature" is inapplicable, but also natural doesn't necessitate good, and in the context of same-gender-expressed love (is that non-sexual enough for you), the argument of nature is often used to silence the non-hetero.

I'm not trying to attack you, simply to explain a different point of view you've said you don't understand.
posted by klangklangston at 8:17 PM on June 28, 2010


Whups, missed that last one. Sorry.
posted by klangklangston at 8:17 PM on June 28, 2010


No worries. I don't have to have the last word.
posted by grumblebee at 9:16 PM on June 28, 2010


I find that it helps to imagine that everyone has 4 sets of matching male and female genitalia and are in fact quadra-hermaphrodites. I'm the only one who doesn't suffer from this condition, but it's okay.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2010


you're eliding the distinction between looking at porn at work and masturbating at work.

There isn't a great deal of difference. I mean, yeah, you don't need to put you hand in your pants to look at porn, but arousal is the main purpose of looking at porn. Looking at porn is an autoerotic activity; looking at porn is a way of having sex. People like having sex; having sex is much more fun (for most people) than working. And that's another reason why workplaces tend to ban porn; it's very distracting.

I'm going to work hard to assume the crack about grumblebee making an "O" face was just a good-natured joke and not a dig at me, because we can disagree without making personal remarks.

You're the one advocating for the right to view porn at work, I don't see why you should care if someone makes a joke about your "O" face or not. Are you embarrassed?

Do you think it's possible that the level of modesty in our culture MAY have some negative effects? Is that worth discussing at all? Or is it better to just say, "Come on. We all know X, Y and Z is inappropriate at work"? Which closes discussion like a door. Slam.

In general, I don't doubt that some people internalize modesty in less than happy ways. Ideally, such people deserve partners or therapists who can help them express their desires in more comfortable ways. In the context of this particular discussion, i.e., the desirability of freely accessible workplace porn, no, I don't think it's worth discussing. I think the discussion is pointless and a little sophmoric. (In the micro-context of this discussion, i.e., what's appropriate on Metafilter, I think the responsibility lies largely with the reader. I try to err on the side of caution, myself.)

What if a room is set aside in the office for masturbating?

This is called the restroom. But if you're giving a lot of thought to your co-workers masturbating in there, well, that seems a little weird to me
posted by octobersurprise at 9:30 PM on June 28, 2010


You're the one advocating for the right to view porn at work

No, I'm not.
posted by grumblebee at 9:41 PM on June 28, 2010


"I want to be clear that I would never look at porn at work. Why not? Because I know it would make some of my co-workers uncomfortable. And I don't want to make them uncomfortable. I have no problem with "make reasonable attempts at not causing others discomfort" as a principle of Etiquette." -- grumblebee in this thread.

"It MAY be practical to stop people from viewing porn at work" -- grumblebee in this thread.

"I understand that if people start talking about sex at work, the workplace gets 'sexualized,' and it's possible that will lead to the return of a Mad-Men-ish work culture in which women get abused" -- grumblebee in this thread.

"I don't want to see grumblebee (or anyone else) whacking off at work." -- grumblebee in this thread.
posted by grumblebee at 9:47 PM on June 28, 2010


Er, so the status quo is more or less quite workable and a decent compromise. Issue resolved!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:51 PM on June 28, 2010


No, I'm not.

Well ... ok. I don't really know what you're on about, then.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:45 AM on June 29, 2010


I'm on about what I said I was on about:

I understand that if people start talking about sex at work, the workplace gets "sexualized," and it's possible that will lead to the return of a Mad-Men-ish work culture in which women get abused. The flip side is that by saying "anything EXCEPT sex," we're sending a message that sex is shameful in some way. It should be kept secret. Which I believe leads very directly to (amongst other things) gay bashing.

If I say, "I think there's a problem with our water supply," do you take that to mean I'm necessarily advocating we all stop drinking water? No, I'm saying there's a PROBLEM and that we should do what humans do when there's a problem. Bicker about it and call each other names. Er ... no ... I mean we should DISCUSS it and see if we can come up with a solution. If we can't, then we should talk about how to best live with the problem.
posted by grumblebee at 8:15 AM on June 29, 2010


grumblebee, it's not a binary thing. People can refrain from discussing sex at work without it becoming some atmosphere of Puritan repression. Nor will it necessarily escalate to a frathouse if they start. This is all spectacular conjecture going precisely nowhere.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2010


I respect your opinion, Burhanistan, and I recognize that you're in the majority. I believe that we ARE living in an atmosphere of Puritan repression. (At least in America, where I live.)

We stop living in one when people talk about fucking as casually as they talk about eating, because there's no real difference between the two activities. They are both normal, every-day activities that the human machine does. (Though when I was in high school, fucking was more like a once-a-decade activity.)

I am not advocating porn at work. I am advocating that we discuss why sex is in a special category of taboos. Saying, "because it makes people uncomfortable" is not a full answer. WHY does it make people uncomfortable?

Two answers -- if we're talking about the workplace -- are "Because it leads to sexual harassment" and "Because it leads to people not getting their work done." I think we can dispense with the latter. There should be a general rule at work that you're not allowed to goof off -- except during designated free time. I suspect most offices already have such rules in place. To make further rules against particular work-avoidance-temptations is condescending ("You're not allowed to bring your iPod to work!")

IF allowing people to look at porn leads to harassment, then that's a powerful argument against it. Which is why I asked for evidence of that.

If looking-at-porn does not lead to harassment and it doesn't cause people to goof off when they should be working, then why does it make people uncomfortable?

And what's wrong with me asking that question? I am not saying people are stupid for being uncomfortable. I admitted to being uncomfortable myself. WHY am I uncomfortable?

I can only think of two possible reasons, but please tell me if I'm leaving one out:

1) Because people are genetically built to find overt shows of sexuality uncomfortable.
2) Because some of us have been trained to find them uncomfortable.

To me, this is very worth discussing, but you might find it boring.
posted by grumblebee at 8:37 AM on June 29, 2010


Shitting is a natural function. Do you want to discuss that at work? Do you want to watch that? Let's remove the doors on the bathroom stalls. Why would you object to that? Do you believe in fecal repression?

I am, of course, not drawing a parallel between sex and defecation (fetishists notwithstanding). But both are generally private activities for a reason - few people want to watch someone they know doing it, or discuss it with them. It's a polite fiction that your coworkers don't have sex, nor do they shit. As octobersurprise said, porn is an extension of sex since it's meant to arouse. Therefore I don't want to know about my coworkers' porn habits. (I stumbled on my dad's cache once and was mortified, even though of course he'd had sex or I wouldn't exist.)

As regards our above conversation, I think you are in the minority if you think about sex when someone says they are gay or heterosexual. Like klangklangston, what crosses my mind is loving relationships. Honestly my first instinct upon a guy telling me he's gay is "I wonder if he's dating anyone I know" because I know lots of gay guys, or if he's single and looking, "who can I set him up with." If it's online (and therefore unlikely that we know anyone in common) I tend to forget almost immediately unless they bring it up a lot (i.e., dnab and Blazecock). I couldn't remember if you, grumblebee, were gay or straight until this conversation.

Hetero/homosexual doesn't initially occur as sexual for me, because sex is just aspect of a relationship; of course there are people who just have sex and not relationships, but most people do want a long-term relationship at some point, so that's the default I think of. Or maybe it's personal bias because I'm married.
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on June 29, 2010


I can only think of two possible reasons, but please tell me if I'm leaving one out:

3) People have evolved to develop a taboo against overt displays of sexuality just as they've developed aversion to incest (like many animals). I.e. it's biologically instinctive and also reinforced by culture.
posted by desjardins at 9:17 AM on June 29, 2010


The flip side is that by saying "anything EXCEPT sex," we're sending a message that sex is shameful in some way. It should be kept secret. Which I believe leads very directly to (amongst other things) gay bashing.

This assertion seems central to whatever argument you are trying to make but you've spectacularly failed to support it with anything besides "I believe." It isn't obvious at all that prohibitions against sexually-charged language or activity in the workplace sends a message to anyone except you that sex is "shameful." And it's almost hysterically un-obvious that these prohibitions have any direct connection to "gay bashing."

because there's no real difference between the two activities.

This assertion is equally unfounded. For all the metaphorical similarities between eating and fucking, they are two different activities, my friend, with different purposes, different constituencies, different meanings, and different social and historical contexts, all of which you seem blithely unaware. You might as well assert that there's no difference between eating and shitting. I mean, it's all food and they're "both normal, every-day activities that the human machine does."

I can't see any argument here. I see a Asperger-y-sounding conversation with your self about your own discomfort, but no argument at all.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2010


But, grumblebee, sexing and eating are not the same kind of activities! It's not just a repression problem, it's a civilization problem and most of all a language problem. Or limitation, really.

We all have to eat to survive. So I get how the consumption of food is a machine like activity. But I don't need sex to survive and I don't fuck like a machine. Fucking like a machine is not even right, I would argue, because it takes (at least) two to fuck. We are not machines, and what I think is hot and what gets me off are incredibly complicated, private things that cannot even begin to be encompassed by language, and I would be wrong to assume that other people are turned on by or into the same thing I am, no matter how broadly or narrowly I define it. Even saying that sex is a normal activity is an assumption - because for many people it already isn't. What are you going to do about those people? Force them to listen?

Cooking and eating are simple activities that can be done with as many people as you like - they don't have odd, unforeseen interpretations or bad consequences (well, nothing worse than a bad meal). Sex on the other hand, being a mutual activity and that too a primarily word-less one, is rife with the possibility of misinterpretation, assumed consent or downright mistreatment of other human beings.

Yes, I desire both food and sex. I'd like to fuck as often and as easily as I eat. But it's neither easy nor okay to buy/consume sex or use "but I needed it" as any kind of justification for engaging in it with someone who neither needs nor wants it. My desire for food I can put in words. My desire for specific people or acts or sexual experiences - not so much.

Most importantly, sex is a Selfish act, driven by desire and removed from logic (I should eat even when I don't want to - but I don't want to fuck when I don't want to, and when I do, well, I can't describe how much or how exactly I do!). I think that what you are discounting is desire, and the unknowable, threatening extents to which people can go in order to fulfill them. You cannot encapsulate it in language, words do not mean what they say (and that's part of the fun, when it's good).

Also - you are discounting the very different types of satisfaction that we (usually) get from food and sex. And the unique satisfactions of sex.

I'm not arguing that there is a private language that is or should be different from a public language - and I think that is what you were also trying to say. I agree. But sex, and the desire for sex, well - they're beyond language, and civilization so far has not come up with a way to talk about sex (as a group) that doesn't kill the sexy part and just reduce it to some kind of sociological or humanistic or animalistic thing (like eating, or talking). That's cool, sex is a human activity, but ohhhh it's so much more than that! And that's where language can't get to. And that's kinda hot.

So this is why it's not the same, I think. As for why sex makes us uncomfortable, well, repression, yes, but also - we already live in the world as it is, and it has shaped, to a great extent, what we think is hot and desirable and fuckable. Repression is very much woven into that, as is taboo.

From a woman's perspective: it's easy to talk about sex on a message board, or with friends. In the former case it's all words and there is no physical element of attraction, and in the latter I know my friends well enough to ask them what they mean or to trust that they don't mean anything that could threaten me. In either case: I'm not threatened by what I can't know and what the person across can't or doesn't want to convey. IRL, like in an office, first, there is the actual physical forces at play. Then there's the fact that I simply don't know this person well enough to know what they're thinking or what their intentions are. And I don't know whether or how to politely convey my own (usually lack of) any kind of possibly similar intent. So I think you are also discounting the fear and threat of "casual" sex talk from a female point of view. If I don't know you enough to trust you, it's not casual for me.

Sorry about the jumbled response. But that's kinda what I mean!
posted by mondaygreens at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2010


Shitting is a natural function. Do you want to discuss that at work?

No. Neither do I want to discuss sex or porn at work. Is it POSSIBLE for me to say I'd like to discuss the pros and cons of something without people thinking I'm advocating it?

I am, of course, not drawing a parallel between sex and defecation (fetishists notwithstanding). But both are generally private activities for a reason - few people want to watch someone they know doing it, or discuss it with them. It's a polite fiction that your coworkers don't have sex, nor do they shit. As octobersurprise said, porn is an extension of sex since it's meant to arouse. Therefore I don't want to know about my coworkers' porn habits. (I stumbled on my dad's cache once and was mortified, even though of course he'd had sex or I wouldn't exist.)


This is a description. It neither explains anything or comments on whether the thing explained is good, bad or a mixture of good and bad. If I understand you correctly, you're saying that both worl-sex and work-defecation make you uncomfortable. Me too. I'm asking (1) why and (2) whether or not this discomfort (and the rules we build around it) cause problems.

3) People have evolved to develop a taboo against overt displays of sexuality just as they've developed aversion to incest (like many animals). I.e. it's biologically instinctive and also reinforced by culture.

How is that different from "1) Because people are genetically built to find overt shows of sexuality uncomfortable."?

What's your evidence for that? I see some evidence against it, though it's not strong enough to conclusively prove you're claim wrong. But it is strong enough to make me skeptical of your claim.

Historically, there have been cultures that are much sexually freer than ours. Many of our primate relatives shy away from sex with siblings, and yet they don't shy away from sex in front of the group, etc.

As regards our above conversation, I think you are in the minority if you think about sex when someone says they are gay or heterosexual.

I am happy to discuss this in MeMail.
posted by grumblebee at 9:27 AM on June 29, 2010


"And it's almost hysterically un-obvious"

"they are two different activities, my friend,"

"you seem blithely unaware."

"I see a Asperger-y-sounding conversation with your self"

octobersurprise, I hope you can forgive me if I'm misreading you, but I'm feeling a strain of antagonism and condescension in your tone. I really want to discuss this with you, but I have a personal policy against discussions that get personal or rude. So I'm not going to reply. I think we can discuss this politely.
posted by grumblebee at 9:34 AM on June 29, 2010


Okay I guess here's what I was trying to say, in a nutshell: Sex, when it is a choice, is driven by desire, which can be strong enough to feel like a need but is still very much a choice. Desire for sex is often fixated on specific (other) individuals or types of individuals, and sex itself is done with other individuals. Those individuals have rights and desires too. Plus, the language thing.

So the force of desire and the limitations of language add two big Unknowns to talking about sex with a person. If I don't already trust this person and he or she is a person of greater power - physical or socially given (like men/women or employee/boss or child/adult) - then I'm uncomfortable, and I think that's totally legit.
posted by mondaygreens at 9:35 AM on June 29, 2010


mondaygreens, I agree with all that. What it comes down to, for me, is that no one should be allowed to force sex on anyone else.

I don't really see what that has to do with porn. Me looking at porn in front of you is not me forcing sex on you. It may make you worried that I MIGHT want to force sex on you, but I might want to do that whether I look at porn or not.

Here's an argument against porn in the workplace: whether or not me-looking-at porn is actually a threat to you, it may FEEL like a threat to you, and if you feel threatened, you probably won't be able to get your work done.

I think this is a VERY compelling reason to rule against workplace porn.

I do think that whenever we say "We're making a rule against X because it makes people uncomfortable," it's worth thinking long and hard about the wisdom of doing that, because "making people uncomfortable" isn't a clear and present danger, and there are all kinds of times when we -- as a culture -- have wisely decided that people don't have a right to be protected against discomfort.

Still, I would probably rule against office porn.
posted by grumblebee at 9:46 AM on June 29, 2010


Absolutely - I think every damn "rule" we have should have a little paragraph about the logic or wisdom of that rule. Just last week I was reading the Constitution of my country (on a kick) and basically it was just a bunch of assumptions that - no matter how much "sense" they make to educated, liberal adults - have never once been explained to me as reasonable. I just have to follow, the making sense part is both completely my responsibility and also entirely irrelevant. And when nobody else seems to understand or care Why we are doing the things we do, it's very easy to get hysterical or misguided. (Like patriotism, or workplace rules, and most other things.)

This is also why I love MetaFilter - you can always ask WHY!

I'm not an anarchist, but I would like not to be treated like a child that needs to be disciplined or a problem that needs to be repressed. Sigh.
posted by mondaygreens at 9:56 AM on June 29, 2010


I'm not an anarchist, but I would like not to be treated like a child

I feel for you. I've found that if you're unwilling to except "just because" as an answer, you get a lot of grief in life. Many people feel that questioning something is the same as opposing it.
posted by grumblebee at 10:22 AM on June 29, 2010


So I'm not going to reply.

No worries. There wasn't a lot of dialogue heretofore, anyway.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:31 AM on June 29, 2010


I sent octobersurprise a private email to this effect, but I want to apologize to everyone here. To be honest, I'm not completely sure what I'm apologizing for, but that's kind of the point.

A few people here have been dick-ish to me. (Maybe in my perception, only.) One reason for that might just be that they're dicks. But it's also possible that they're treating me that way because I treated them that way, and that the only reason I don't think I did is because I'm looking out from behind a window of ego.

So if anyone felt personally insulted by anything I said, I'm sorry, and I hope you can forgive me. I have no ill will towards anyone here. And I thank you all for the intelligent discussion (even when there was some bile flying, it was still intelligent). I am happy to continue if people want.
posted by grumblebee at 11:21 AM on June 29, 2010


This assertion seems central to whatever argument you are trying to make but you've spectacularly failed to support it with anything besides "I believe."

You are quite right. I am relying on several axioms. I don't think they're unreasonable or even all that uncommon, but I'll put my cards on the table, and you can judge for yourself.

=====
Axiom I Can't Prove* #1: many of us associate sex with nudity. We don't think they're the same thing, and we recognize that there can be forms of sex without nudity and definitely nudity without sex, but still we associate the two concepts. When sex happens, generally there's nudity.

* I guess that's redundant. Is there such a thing as an axiom you CAN prove?
====

We're born naked. We have no shame about being naked when we're babies. I assert that's true (it's not an axiom). I think there's research to back that up. So, in other words, we don't have an innate need to wear clothes. That need (or desire or feeling-of-duty or whatever) is learned. There have been "primitive" cultures in which people don't wear clothes or wear way less of it than we do. And Victorians would be shocked by how "naked" we are. (There's a girl where I work who sometimes wears short skirts in the office. No one cares. The Victorians would have considered this similar to looking at porn in the workplace. Had one of them said, "I think it's a bit repressive to make women wear these huge skirts," he probably would have been told it's not repressive, it's just done to make everyone comfortable in the workplace.)

We are taught that there are certain things you don't do in front of other people.

=====
Axiom #2: We are (by and large) taught that the things we shouldn't do in front of other people are things that are shameful, distasteful, disgusting or dirty. We don't defecate in front of others. Why? Because it's dirty. We don't (often) yell and scream and throw tantrums in front of others. Why? Because it's distasteful. We don't "show our food." Why? Because it's disgusting.
======

======
Axiom #3: So we learn to associate things-which-you-don't-do-in-front-of-others as shameful, dirty, disgusting or distasteful. Since we don't do sex-related things in front of others, we (some of us) learn that sex is at least somewhat shameful, disgusting, distasteful or dirty.
======

Sexual desire is natural and inevitable. Not every single person has it, but most people do. This is not axiomatic. It is backed up by scores of research.

There are no signs of sexual desire that are sanctioned in public. (We've been focusing on the office. But I don't think the office is the main problem. I think it's just part of the problem. In fact, if we lived in a generally sexually-open society, I don't think "but not at work" would be a problem at all. In the same vein, it's not "Vogue's" fault that all these air-brushed versions of women are fucking people up. They are part of the problem, but they wouldn't be if they were the only magazine that did that.)

=======
Axiom #4: When you take a natural human function and deem it shameful, disgusting, dirty or distasteful, you create a perfect storm for neurosis. I got us on a huge derail by bringing up gay-bashing as an example. I just meant it as a possibility. My main point is that if you tell people what they're naturally going to do is bad, look out!

NOTE: This is NOT the same as saying natural=good. All I am saying is that there on consequences to repression. Sometimes it's worth living with those consequences.
=======

There are MANY forms of desire that are unquestionably deemed shameful by our culture: for instance pedophilia. (If ANY of you claim I'm championing child molesters or suggesting people should be allowed to look at child porn in the office, expect a turn in your mailbox!) Many people think extra-marital sex is tainted, even when it's not cheating. Ask poly folks how many of them feel comfortable talking about their multiple spouses (or however they think of their partners) at the office party.

I'm interested in fetishes, so I read a lot posts on fetish sites. There are THOUSANDS of people who feel that their desire for giantess women or people-in-furry-animal-costumes or whatever is shameful. Finding others like them is a HUGE relief. What made them think their desire was shameful in the first place.

Of course, until recently, homosexuality was considered almost universally shameful. Thankfully, that's beginning to wane, but we have a LOOOONG way still to go on that front.

Hell, I saw a guy at work flush with shame because he realized he'd forgotten to zip up his fly. You couldn't see anything except maybe a flash of boxer shorts. But he reacted as if he'd been caught licking his monitor.

MANY people went ape-shit recently when Janet Jackson ... well, you know the story.

=======
Axiom #5: This all goes to further a culture in which you have to be very careful about what you say. You have to think about where you are, who you're with, etc.
=======

I am not suggesting we allow porn at work. I am suggesting that this stuff is worth thinking about and talking about. Is there a way for us to have the modesty we want without repressing people? Are any of the above axioms wrong? Are you SURE they're wrong? I'm not sure they're right.
posted by grumblebee at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2010


There have been "primitive" cultures in which people don't wear clothes or wear way less of it than we do.

Where it's warm. You don't see Inuit peoples doing this. People in Florida in August wear way less than people in Wisconsin in February, though that's not any evidence that Wisconsinites are prudes. I'd say clothing absolutely has a biological basis due to the fact that we're mostly hairless. If our ancestors hadn't figured out how to cover ourselves, we'd be confined to equatorial Africa or not have evolved into homo sapiens at all. Genitalia are probably the things you most want to protect from the elements, and that had a nice evolutionary advantage.

So we learn to associate things-which-you-don't-do-in-front-of-others as shameful, dirty, disgusting or distasteful.

Not all of these things need to be learned. Animals don't eat their shit, not because it's shameful but because it will lead to illness. My cats didn't have to be taught not to eat moldy food; in fact they won't eat anything that smells weird to them. They're not fickle due to cat food advertising. My dogs are stupid and will eat food out of the garbage. I'm the one who is disgusted when I have to (warning: disgusting) wipe up their vomit, because it induces a natural physical reaction in me.

There are no signs of sexual desire that are sanctioned in public.

What? Go to the beach. Go to a nightclub. Yes, not all forms of sexual display are sanctioned in all areas of life, but there are definitely public spaces in which sexuality is common and expected. Last weekend was Gay Pride in many cities.

Is there a way for us to have the modesty we want without repressing people?

You say that you are not suggesting that porn be allowed at work, but then you seem to say that by not allowing it, people are being repressed. OK then, my right to sleep is being repressed at work.

I am suggesting that this stuff is worth thinking about and talking about.

What makes you think that people aren't talking about why porn isn't allowed at work? Aren't we doing that now?

P.S. I have not felt personally insulted by anyone or anything in this thread, or by you in general, in case I am one of the people to whom you were referring.
posted by desjardins at 1:04 PM on June 29, 2010


MANY people went ape-shit recently when Janet Jackson ... well, you know the story.

One organization was responsible for 99% of the FCC complaints.
posted by desjardins at 1:08 PM on June 29, 2010


P.S. I have not felt personally insulted by anyone or anything in this thread, or by you in general, in case I am one of the people to whom you were referring.

You weren't, but thanks.


Is there a way for us to have the modesty we want without repressing people?


You say that you are not suggesting that porn be allowed at work, but then you seem to say that by not allowing it, people are being repressed. OK then, my right to sleep is being repressed at work.

Can you explain how your response (bold) has is actually responding to what I wrote (italic)? I don't get it.

Yes, you are right when you say I'm not suggesting that porn be allowed at work. That would be a bizarre and problematic change if done in isolation. I am not sure whether or not we'd be better off if we got less modest in general, but I'm pretty sure that JUST getting that way at work would be harmful.

but then you seem to say that by not allowing it, people are being repressed.

Yes, that is what I'm saying. In totality, I'm saying that we MAY be doing something harmful at work but that we shouldn't stop doing it. There's nothing contradictory about that (I'm not sure you're saying it there is). I think cigarettes are harmful, yet I don't think they should be outlawed. It's possible to think that a cure is worse than a disease. I think allowing porn at work would be a cure that's worse than the disease.

When we realize a cure is worse than a disease, we should obviously not administer the cure. But that doesn't mean we should stop trying to fight the disease in other ways.

OK then, my right to sleep is being repressed at work.

Yes, of course it is. If you want to sleep and you can't, your ability (I don't know about your "right" -- I never said anything about rights) is being repressed. All sort of things are repressed at work (your ability to hit your coworkers). The question is whether or not any particular repression leads to problems. I'd say that since talking about sleep is socially acceptable in most places, it's not.

desjardins, you may think I'm going way overboard. I have no problem with that. But can you clarify whether you think we have ANY sort of sexual-repression problem in America? If we don't, do you think the Victorian Americans also didn't? Has repression never happened in the history of America? If it HAS happened, has it ever been a problem? At what point isn't it a problem. At what point do people have enough sexual license that modesty-constraints pose no problems at all?
posted by grumblebee at 1:21 PM on June 29, 2010


What makes you think that people aren't talking about why porn isn't allowed at work? Aren't we doing that now?

I was responding to the suggestions that my aim was to promote porn at work.

"You're the one advocating for the right to view porn at work"

"I think you are also discounting the fear and threat of 'casual' sex talk from a female point of view."

I was countering that by explaining that wasn't my aim. And I was explaining what, in fact, my aim was.
posted by grumblebee at 1:31 PM on June 29, 2010


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