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For those of you don’t know: steelmanning is coming up with better versions of your opponents’ arguments, and PIV-critical feminism is the kind of feminism that comes up with graphics like this:

[Assuming the following are all true: PIV = sex, oral + PIV = sex, digital + oral + PIV = sex. What is the value of oral? What is the value of digital? They are both zero. If sex = PIV and PIV = female risk and sex = pleasure, them female risk = pleasure.]

PIV is thought of in our society as “real sex.” To pick an example: it regularly happens that I will be naked with a dude, my hands down his pants, when he asks “do you want to have sex?” (which rather makes me wonder what he thought we were doing before). The question “do you want to have sex or just get a blowjob?” makes sense, rather than being an inquiry along the lines of “would you like food or just a pizza?” You lose your virginity the first time you have PIV sex, rather than the first time you share orgasms with someone or have oral sex. Vaginal orgasms are treated by a lot of sex advice as the end-all be-all rather than one more enjoyable activity partners can share. Premature ejaculation is an Enormous Problem rather than an opportunity to explore other sex acts. Et cetera.

Because of this, PIV is to a degree mandatory. Imagine the general public’s reaction to a woman who chooses not to give blowjobs versus a woman who chooses not to have PIV. Don’t get me wrong, ladies who don’t want to give blowjobs would still be characterized as prudish and unreasonable. But women who don’t want to have PIV? Are their relationships even real? Are they secretly asexual? What’s wrong with her?

(Note: I wrote the rest of this blog post with “uterus-owner” and “penis-owner,” and then with “cis woman” and “cis man,” and it was so clunky I cried on the inside, so now I’m going with the cissexist version. This is all your fault, rest of the trans community, for not giving me a good set of nouns for the different sexes.)

Mandatory PIV is misogynistic because PIV is kind of a shit deal for women. Women are more likely than men to contract STIs from PIV and less likely to have or notice symptoms so they can be treated promptly. Women get pregnant, which even in the modern US leads to a death rate of 11 in 100,000 pregnant women, and historically led to a death rate as high as 1 in 100. Most forms of birth control are solely the woman’s responsibility: they can be expensive and often have physical and mental side effects. (Yes, women’s control of birth control does mean that dudes are at a higher risk of reproductive coercion, but that doesn’t change that side effects are shit. I had vaginal bleeding for three months straight when I was on the pill. Mrer.)

And for what benefit? About three-quarters of women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone. (While I was Googling this, I found this article. Headline: Female Orgasm Eludes Majority Of Women. Study: 70% of women don’t orgasm during intercourse, but 85-90% do orgasm. While 10-15% of women being nonorgasmic is deplorable, it’s only the majority if you think “female orgasm” means “female orgasm during PIV.” Talk about mandatory PIV.) While of course you can enjoy PIV without orgasming, a significant part of that 70% are not particularly enjoying themselves– and besides it’s a bit shitty to have Real Sex be something that reliably results in orgasms for men but not for women.

PIV is more likely to be painful for women than for men. There is no male equivalent of having your cervix bumped, or a too-large cock stretching your pussy out too far, or sex without lube, or being painfully jackhammered, or post-PIV vaginal soreness. Psychologically, being receptive often feels more vulnerable for people than being penetrative does, which can be unpleasant, particularly if you don’t trust your partner (although as with every generalization about How Brains Work During Sex there are a lot a lot a lot of exceptions).

The way PIV itself is constructed is centered around male pleasure rather than female pleasure. A woman is ready for PIV when her vagina is wet, which is at best an unreliable indicator of how turned on she is; clit boners are typically not considered in mainstream sex advice. Many people talk about how hot a tight vagina is, even though vaginal tightness happens when a woman is insufficiently aroused by the sex to relax her vaginal muscles. (Or when she uses her Kegel muscles. Yay Kegels.) PIV typically ends when the man ejaculates; I know I’m not the only person who feels guilty about ending PIV before my partner ejaculates, even when my pussy’s sore and I’m not enjoying the sex anymore. On the other hand, if the guy comes before the woman’s finished, it is generally considered highly emasculating to pull out a dildo and finish up.

The flaw with a lot of PIV-critical feminism, I think, is that they ignore that the problems with PIV are not inherent to PIV itself but to the way we construct PIV. PIV is legitimately enjoyable to a lot of women– whether because they orgasm from it, they don’t orgasm from it but it still feels good, or they enjoy their partner’s pleasure. (Boyfriends, if you read this and decide not to have PIV with me I will be Very Sad.) It is incredibly shitty to those women to say “no, you don’t get to have PIV because these women over here don’t enjoy it but feel like they have to have it anyway.” I mean, the obvious solution here is that people who don’t like PIV shouldn’t have to have it, and people who do should.

So. Here is my list of solutions:

1) If you don’t want PIV, you shouldn’t have PIV. (Although it is wise to communicate this to people you might have sex with early on, in case they prioritize PIV highly in their sex lives.) Anyone who gives you shit about it is a rapey asshole and I hope they fall in love with a Joss Whedon character.
2) If you’re staring at the ceiling going “when will this be over?”, you can stop the PIV, even if your partner hasn’t come yet. While it is usually a good idea to make sure your partner orgasms too, you can give him a blowjob or a handjob or kiss and pet him while he masturbates. (And of course it is not mandatory that you make sure your partner comes if you don’t want to. Consent!)
3) Orgasms from non-PIV sources are just as valid as PIV orgasms. Orgasms from PIV assisted with a vibrator or a finger are just as valid as unassisted PIV orgasms. STOP CREATING ORGASM HIERARCHIES. ALL ORGASMS ARE EQUAL IN THE EYES OF GOD.
4) If you aren’t enjoying yourself during PIV, you should feel free to talk to your partner about this and figure out ways you can make it more enjoyable.
5) Male birth control! Please!
6) Sex without PIV is still “real” sex. Oral sex is real sex. Manual sex is real sex. Dry-humping is real sex. Kink is real sex. As long as your relationship or sex life is making you happy, you should feel free to select any of those you want and refuse any of those you don’t want, because ultimately it is up to you and your partner to do what makes you happy.