Foucault (or Dworkin or Butler) may have had something to say about penetration politics—not the measure of electability in the professional political arena, rather the type that occurs in interpersonal sexual (or protosexual) relationships.
Although different cultures treat this differently, at least in the West, there is a certain polarity between the penetrator and the penetrated, with the penetrator presumed to be dominant and the penetrated to be passive or submissive. I’ve not done any deep research—especially cross-culturally—but I’ll guess that this is more prevalent in patriarchal settings. Religion adds the element of shame and fetishises sex in the first place.
Even in Ancient Greece and some African cultures, same-sex penetration is allowed, but only when the penetrated is of a lower station, whether by age or class standing.
Anecdotally, female same-sex interaction is less of an issue than the male counterpart. I suggest that this is because of the penetration involved. It is also statistically speaking, the least risky. In BDSM parlance, there is a top and a bottom. The choice of these terms is not merely coincidental. And whilst they could represent the actors in physical space, they also relate to the power hierarchy.
We can also visit idiomatic speech—at least in English. Penetrative notions are most typically negative. I can’t think of any that are positive, so correct me if I am wrong.
‘I got fucked’ and ‘He fucked me’ are both terms of being taken advantage of. ‘I got screwed’ is the lighter version. ‘I got fucked in the ass’ ratchets it up a notch, perhaps. ‘Fuck you’ is not a term of endearment. I suppose I’ve heard people exclaim ‘fuck me’, but I don’t think one is supposed to reconcile that literally.
People we don’t like are cocksuckers. This one has always been a bit curious to me. It represents cocksuckers as some negative actor, but—as a fairly typical male—who doesn’t like a cock-sucker? How could this possibly be a negative? It’s because of the penetration. It’s yet another double standard. Most guys I know want to get their cock sucked and even enjoy it, but the sucker—that person is of a lower order; clearly a loathed order. Myself, I can’t use the term—at least not as a pejorative.
Sex seems to be a power play. Some people use sex as a weapon, either through teasing or withholding, which as I think about it are one and the same. If the receptor (allow me to stay with a heterosexual model for a while) gives in, the penetrator; if she doesn’t, she’s got the upper hand.
Don’t get me wrong. In a functioning relationship, this is an activity of equals, but many relationships are dysfunctional on one level or another, and so it becomes a power struggle. He or she wants it less. One or the other party ‘gives in’ in order to remain in the relationship for some other reason, and so we are back to politics.
In the spirit of TMI (but hopefully not too too much ‘I’), my first wife hated doing dishes. Though I would have preferred not to wash them, I didn’t really care either way, so we alternated turns every other day. On her days, she’d offer a blowjob in exchange for my taking her turn. To me, it was a win-win proposition. Although I might have, I never viewed it as a power thing, though I did view it as transactional. Firstly, it was her idea; secondly, it seemed so consensual.
But where is the shame in sex? There is even shame in being seen nude in most circles. How did this happen? And why does there appear to be more shame in being penetrated? I’ll blame religion. It seems to be like a cancer that ruins everything it touches—like a reverse Midas touch.
I understand that in the past, sex could lead to death in childbirth or sexually transmitted diseases or infections, but with the widespread availability of barrier protection, this risk is substantially reduced. Think about this. What is the difference between a wife having (protected) sex with her husband each day for a year and a woman who has (consensual, protected) sex with different men each day of the same year? Ostensibly, nothing.
It’s not so much that the wife would advertise to the world that she had had sex each night—because sex is somehow shameful—, but if she let it slip that she and her husband had shagged the night before—or the past trend of nightly sex for a week—, there would be likely little more than a blush. For the unattached woman, there would likely be judgment and scorn. But this would be for no other reason than the taint of religious dogma.