Should I tell them before sex?
January 4, 2006 2:47 AM   Subscribe

I have Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. To summarise its effects, I look like a normal girl on the outside, but my vaginal canal is considerably smaller than most women's. This makes penetrative sex with men, until my body gets used to it, very difficult. This has never been a problem because, until recently, I only slept with women. However, now I want to pursue sexual relationships with men. The first time I went to bed with a man, we knew each other well so he was aware of my condition and what it meant. However, I recently went home with a man I don't know that well yet, and didn't say anything and limited our activities to fooling around. However, this is not what I wanted: I wanted everything but intercourse. In order to deal with this issue, I could: a) Avoid clothes-off situations until I know a man well enough for the fact that I have AIS to be stated naturally. Not tempting. b) Before any intimacy, tell the guy in question about the fact that I have AIS. This would almost certainly necessitate mentioning it well before I would with any new friend. c) Tell the man that I simply don't want penetrative sex, and not say why. This is OK, but it is reasonably obvious to all but the most inexperienced that my vaginal canal is different from other girls'. So, my question: should I do (a), (b) or (c) (or a (d) that I haven't thought of). If (a) or (b), how should I go about doing the telling? With friends, it's easy, but I can imagine that a few straight men might have a problem with being intimate with someone who has XY chromosomes, and I should think that most will need to process it.
posted by pollystark to Human Relations (102 answers total)
 
Well, if you're looking for a long-time relationship, do you want to be with a partner that doesn't appreciate your condition? There are many ways to have sex that don't require penetrative sex.

So I would say that (c) is the right choice if that is really what it comes down to.
posted by keijo at 3:00 AM on January 4, 2006


And I used to have a girlfriend in the same position as you but taking it easy helped. I hope that you find a male that is patient.
posted by keijo at 3:02 AM on January 4, 2006


The question is: are you just looking for sexual partners? Or do you want long term relationships? If you want a long term relationship, it wouldn't hurt things too much to take it slowly ANY WAY, get to know each other before jumping into the sack, and all that.

Of course, you could also just, when it comes time to clothes-off, say "Listen, I have to be honest with you - I have a condition that makes it very uncomfortable to have penetrative sex. How about a little 69 instead?"
posted by antifuse at 3:55 AM on January 4, 2006


It is 100% reasonable to refuse penetrative sex, regardless of any condition. If you went with (c), and simply failed to disclose this condition, do you honestly believe your male partner would run away screaming when he got your clothes off? I don't find that particularly likely, and if you are just in it for the sex and not an LTR I think you are well within your rights to refuse penetration and leave it at that. If you're both just in it for some play, they don't need to know everything about you.

If you ARE looking for relationship material, take it slow, become somewhat intimate, and explain your situation once you are fairly comfortable with the guy. And yes, don't dislose while in the bedroom - as you note you should allow time to process. They also have the right to politely exit, which would be much more unpleasant in a bedroom setting. And hey, if they decide they can't handle it, they were probably interested in you for the wrong reasons, now weren't they?
posted by mek at 4:15 AM on January 4, 2006


I know we're all supposed to be PC about "intersex" conditions, but I think you're taking advantage of that expectation of sensitivity.

Genetically, you're male. You don't just have a smaller vaginal canal; you have (or had until they were surgically removed) testes. Or in the vernacular, balls.

Many heterosexual men have a strong distaste for having sex, or even "messing around", with someone who has balls. That may be, in your opinion, less than open-minded, less than sensitive and accepting, or whatever. But it's not -- it shouldn't be -- your decision, it needs to be theirs.

Ethically, it should be your partners' choice. By letting them assume you're a genetic female, you're lying by omission. You're tricking them into a form of sex that they would not have had, given a free choice.

In gaining their "consent" under false pretences, what you're doing is little different than getting someone to have sex by getting her drunk or slipping her a ruffie.

Yes, it would make your life easier if you could lie about why you don't want penetrative sex, and I'm sorry circumstances have made your life difficult. But sex is also difficult for people with herpes or AIDS, but we still expect them to be honest with their partners. You shouldn't get any more of a pass on this than they do.
posted by orthogonality at 4:15 AM on January 4, 2006


However, I recently went home with a man I don't know that well yet, and didn't say anything and limited our activities to fooling around. However, this is not what I wanted: I wanted everything but intercourse.

Does that statement make any sense? If you limited your activities to foooling around, then isn't that what you wanted, everything but intercourse?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:32 AM on January 4, 2006


ortho, did you think before posting your comment? It's one of the most ridiculous things I have read here in a while.

She is female. If you read the Wikipedia article, you'd know that your "OMG! BALLZ!" reaction would be unwarranted because said balls remain inside the abdomen and are invisible.

sex is also difficult for people with herpes or AIDS, but we still expect them to be honest with their partners

That's because you can catch herpes or AIDS from your partner. You tell him in order to prevent transmission of disease, not to protect your partner against intercourse with someone he finds theoretically repulsive.

Genetically, you're male

What relevance does genetics have if neither party has an expectation of creating biological children from the relationship?

To pollystark, the answer is obviously (c) until the point at which your relationship becomes serious enough such that information at that level of intimacy is appropriate. If he screams and runs away, you're better off knowing the extent of his shallowness anyway.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:41 AM on January 4, 2006


I would say I agree with two general points made in this thread by other so far. Firstly, you are well within your rights to refuse penetrative sex if you aren't seeking a LTR (and even if you are, you still have that right also, obviously, but the other party may find this unacceptable). But more so, I think that orthogonality is 100 percent spot on when he says that ethically you probably should tell them before sex, whether that be penetrative or simply "messing around." This is purely for the reason he stated; most guys have a strong distaste for having sex, or even messing around, with someone who has balls.

If nothing else, do it for yourself. I think that the experience of doing anything intimate is always heightened when you know that the other person is doing it because he or she wants to be with you. This means you for who you are, balls warts and all.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:50 AM on January 4, 2006


pollystark is astute enough to "imagine that a few straight men might have a problem with being intimate with someone who has XY chromosomes, and I should think that most will need to process it."

pollystark, realizing this, should be ethical enough not to omit informing those men, who might have a problem with it, that they may be doing something they'll have a problem with. Part of being a responsible adult is not tricking people into having sex under false pretenses.
posted by orthogonality at 4:54 AM on January 4, 2006


orthogonality: Genetically, you're male. You don't just have a smaller vaginal canal; you have (or had until they were surgically removed) testes. Or in the vernacular, balls.

In most cases of AIS, the testes are located in the abdomen since the biochemical switch that triggers migration outside of the body is broken. So I would have a hard time considering them "balls." In fact, one of the primary defining aspects of AIS is the complete absence of external abnormalities, so it's not as if in the process of disrobing one is likely to have a Crying Game moment. No guy without a speciality in medicine is going to suddenly discover, "oh shit, she had/has balls."

While I agree that honesty is the best policy, there are lots of conditions which can make penetrative sex uncomfortable. So you don't need to disclose the full details for a fling either. You could leave it at, "I have a condition that makes penetration tricky."

On preview: Saucy Intruder nailed the difference between having a communicable STD, and having a problem with penetrative sex.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:58 AM on January 4, 2006


I'd be inclined to say A. Ortho's first comment is a pretty good illustration of the sort of reaction early disclosure could spark in otherwise quite intelligent people. You don't want to be on the receiving end of a "gay panic" defence, and you don't want some idiot running around the city warning everyone about the "man".

If you want to go further without disclosure, though, you're still not obliged to tell. If you get intimate and then tell all, the potential danger to the man is that their pride might get a bit bruised, or they might feel a bit betrayed and lied to; the potential danger to you is death.

This is a very tricky situation, though. I've known people who've approached similar situations from every angle you've described, and there really is no satisfactory, catch-all answer: someone usually gets hurt, emotionally or physically. It just comes down to, "Can I trust this guy not to freak and hit me?" and even the best judge of character is wrong sometimes.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:59 AM on January 4, 2006


Why does this have to be a "sexual disease"? Many people have medical issues (sexually related or not) that they fear disclosing to their future prospects, and you should act no differently then they do. Maybe you don't tell someone on the first date that you have lupus, or a pituitary problem, cervical cancer or erectile disfunction, for that matter.

Many women find penetrative sex uncomfortable, painful or impossible for whatever reason. Sometimes the couples'... equiptment... simply doesn't match. For all intents and purposes, you are a female — you have breasts and a vag and act and look like a woman. Having what amounts to a genetic mutation does not make you a man any more than having 1/64 percent Asian ancestry makes you Chinese.

I'd say that if you are in it for NSA sex (vaginal or otherwise) simply explain in a non-specific way that you have a disorder that requires you take penetration slowly (or take penetration "the other way," if you get me). If you're looking for a LTR, then after several dates — when you feel it is right — explain to the person in detail and with as much medical information as possible what your situation is.

Many people with AIDS, herpes, whatever, are in loving LTRs with very understanding partners, and you don't have to be any different.
posted by Brittanie at 5:12 AM on January 4, 2006


Brittanie writes "For all intents and purposes, you are a female — you have breasts and a vag and act and look like a woman. Having what amounts to a genetic mutation does not make you a man any more than having 1/64 percent Asian ancestry makes you Chinese."


Perhaps you're unclear on the condition: pollystark, like all normal males, has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Females have no Y chromosome, and two X chromosomes. Yes, pollystark's single X chromosome has a mutation, which prevents pollystark's cells from correctly responding to the testosterone produced by pollystark's very male testes.

The definition of being "Chinese" isn't having "1/64 percent Asian" ancestry. The definition of male is having one Y chromosome and one X chromosome. That pollystark's mutation masks or hides that maleness doesn't make pollystark female, anymore than a chihuahua's mutations make it a rat. Yes, a chihuahua looks like a rat, but genetically it's a dog.
posted by orthogonality at 5:21 AM on January 4, 2006


ArmyOfKittens: Well, what I find interesting is that otherwise intelligent people can have the knee-jerk reaction that XY chromosomes = "man." Developmentally, we are talking about a condition that is frequently undiagnosed until adolescence. If there is low testosterone during the androgen surge in fetal development, the fetus becomes anatomically female. If there are no receptors for testosterone during the androgen surge, the fetus becomes (mostly) anatomically female. There could be enough testosterone flowing through that girl's body for Schwarzenegger, if there are no receptors, it might as well be glucose.

AIS is not that related to "intersexuality" in which doctors and parents attempt to resolve ambiguous genitalia in infancy. In terms of external morphology and psychology, girls with AIS can't be distinguished from XX girls.

The primary differences are that women with AIS don't have functioning ovaries or a uterus. Guess what, about 1/3rd of American women will have their ovaries and uterus removed by age 60.

orthogonality: Perhaps you're unclear on the condition: pollystark, like all normal males, has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Females have no Y chromosome, and two X chromosomes.

I don't know of many people who actually work with genetics, physiology or development who would agree with this assessment. Male/Female is a related set of phenotypes, not genotypes. The general consensus is that sexual dimorphism in humans defaults to female in the absence of an androgen surge, and receptors for those androgens.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:36 AM on January 4, 2006


The definition of male is having one Y chromosome and one X chromosome.

The definition of gender is not so rigid. In this case there is a discrepancy between genetic makeup and phenotype. You choose to take internal genetics as gospel but its not so clear. Sites on AIS make statements such as "The syndrome is of great interest because it conclusively proves (though perhaps still not to some judges and lawyers) that women can have XY genes" (Please take a look at pictures of women on that page)

orthogonality: your contributions to this thread are valuable in thet they point out to polly stark the prejudice and rigidity of mind she will encounter.
posted by vacapinta at 5:40 AM on January 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh dear lord. This is not the place for an argument about gender identity. Suffice to say it's a complicated issue, there are lots of different theories on what makes someone male, and none of us is any kind of authority on the subject. Ortho's stated his position, and we've heard some counter-arguments. Now let's drop it.

pollystark: Look, I'm not convinced you have to tell a guy about AIS before sleeping with him. But if you wanted to go that way, it might not be so hard as you think.

You say it "would almost certainly necessitate mentioning it well before I would with any new friend." That's true. But if you had a birthmark on your breast, or you were an uncircumcised guy, or liked your sex a little rough — if you had any distinguishing traits at all when it came to sex — your sex partners would find out before new friends. That's one of the funny things about sex — it gives your partner all kinds of inside information that you don't tell casual friends.

You can find a lot of articles online on how to tell potential sex partners all sorts of different things — that you're gay, or straight, or transgendered, or kinky, or HIV+, or have herpes, or whatever. Hell, there may be one on AIS too — I don't know. But if there isn't, go ahead and read some of the other ones. You might get ideas on how to handle your situation.

(It might also drive home the following point: People with HIV and herpes can be perfectly honest and still get laid. There's no way your condition is as frightening as HIV, or even herpes, to a reasonably level-headed guy. You can totally be honest and still get laid.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:40 AM on January 4, 2006


pollystark, based on your last few AskMe questions about sex, the way you seem to approach these situations, I'd really suggest finding a competent (read: knows about AIS and gender/sex issues) counsellor. I'm not saying you're doing or have done anything wrong in these situations, but you seem to have a sort of...detachment when it comes to relationships, and I think that's true of this question as well as the others.

At any rate, when you pick up a guy for a one-night stand, most of the time he's going to expect intercourse to be a part of it unless you lay out the itinerary ahead of time. If one-night stands or completely casual sexual relationships are what you want right now, Brittanie's advice is probably the best -- tell them before the clothes are off that you have a condition that makes vaginal intercourse painful (but yeah, don't be afraid to try anal if you haven't), but that doesn't mean you can't show him a great time.

Full honesty is even more important if you think you're headed for a long-term relationship, but since you don't want to wait to get to know guys before you get them into bed, I'd suggest the same thing -- non-specific condition that makes vaginal intercourse painful, and make further explanations forthcoming as (and if) the relationship seems to get more serious.
posted by Gator at 5:43 AM on January 4, 2006


orth, pollystark is not a normal male. She does not look or sound or feel like a normal male and there is nothing to be gained by her claiming ever to have been so. She has a rather special condition which is a little more complicated than your very stark male/female divide, and if you want to argue about it this is probably not the place. Also, on preview, what KJS said.

If you want to be sensitive about it, for the sake of her feelings and the feelings of the men she "comes out" to, then she is a woman with an unusual birth defect.

KJS: I have never fully understood why people react the way they do. Gender and sexuality can be complex concepts, and yet they never seem to be treated that way. My situation is even closer to the ever-jerking knee than pollystark's, and I've learned never to disclose my Y chromosome unless I have a very, very good reason. When a word that crosses the rigid line between male and female comes out (AIS, intersexed, whatever), some people stop seeing another human being, and start seeing red.

pollystark: my recommendation would still be that unless you absolutely trust the man in front of you, don't tell him. If you just want some fun, what little differences there are between you and other women can be easily waved away with an imaginary, non-serious condition, without resorting to the dreaded explanation.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:53 AM on January 4, 2006


Sorry, but...
posted by ascullion at 6:06 AM on January 4, 2006


A quick clarification:

My type of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome means that I look completely female externally and the only difference between my genetalia and a normal woman's is that my vaginal canal is shorter and narrower.

I have no womb and no ovaries and cannot bear children. orthogonality, your mind might be put a little more at rest when I tell you that I had my testes removed from inside my abdomen when I was two years old. They were not visible, but were removed to negate the possibility of them becoming cancerous.
posted by pollystark at 6:09 AM on January 4, 2006


I'm not sure if I'm more amazed by orthogonality's attitude or his ignorance.

pollystark, I'd suggest taking the simple-and-straightforward route. Say that intercourse is almost always painful for you, and you'd rather just do everything-but. I don't see a need for you to mention the fact that there's dissonance between your sex and your karyotype.
posted by Jairus at 6:37 AM on January 4, 2006 [2 favorites]


well, if it was me, i think i would prefer that you mentioned somehow in conversation that you had "odd genetics" (i said "if it was me" and i can imagine that could be an interesting conversation...) and, when we had very few clothes on, if you said something like "remember the genetic thing - i can have penetrative sex, but it takes time and practice, so why don't we .... instead").

i know that's restricting. it's quite possible to have a long term relationship with someone whose clothes you ripped off within an hour of first meeting, and you might lose out on that, which is a pity. but for me, that approach would work best.

in particular i think "i cannot have penetrative sex" at the last minute, without any background or explanation is a bad move. not because i expect it, but because it would be such a strange thing for someone to say. with a bit of preparation/forewarning there's much less room for negative feelings when emotions are running high.

a bit more generally - orthogonality's reaction is too strong, but i must admit that i read your question and thought "oh, so she's a man. no, that can't be right. hmm. well that's interesting. i guess it makes no difference. hmmm. i wonder what a narrow vaginal canal feels like..." so i think you're right, it does need "some processing", but that it needn't lead to negative conclusions...
posted by andrew cooke at 6:42 AM on January 4, 2006


ortho, calling pollystark a male is not just insulting, it's just plain wrong. Sex, let alone gender, is not determined by genes. This sort of silly genetic essentialism is not accepted by most people, biologists included. And comparing pollystark's condition to a sexual disease is also quite misguided. Pollystark doesn not put her partner in any kind of danger during intercourse. Period. As vacapinta points out, you have helped this thread if only to demonstrate what sort of reaction pollystark can expect from certain guys.

pollystark, don't let the particular nature of your condition worry you too much. Your problem falls under the big, wide umbrella of "intimacy issues." Everybody has intimacy issues. The question of when--or if--to share such issues with your partner in honest discussion essentially comes down to how much you trust them at the time or want to trust them in the future. This applies to psychological, historical, and more visible physical issues. For casual flings, there's no reason to share such a personal issue in detail at all. A vague explanation will suffice. For longer term relationships, you should tell the full truth to your partner when you're ready to share this part of yourself. Note, you may decide never to tell your partner and I think this is perfectly alright too. I once knew a guy who hid an important medical condition from his girlfriend for half a decade. He felt very strongly that the condition wasn't an important part of his identity and he didn't want others to treat it as such. Sickness and birth defects are among those things that humans simply don't handle well. The tendency to isolate such people is strongly ingrained but it has no place in the modern age. If you feel like this issue is such that it shouldn't be present everytime you enjoy intimacy, feel free to keep it to yourself forever. Just beware that this sort of secret keeping does have its own associated psychic costs.
posted by nixerman at 6:47 AM on January 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna say honesty is the best policy, here. there are plenty of guys who don't care what your genes are, if they're attracted to you and you don't have a willy dangling down below, but there are definitely some who would rightly feel betrayed/cheated/fucked with if they found out that they fooled around with someone who has AIS. whether or not they find out isn't the issue and shouldn't be a consideration. my $.02
posted by shmegegge at 6:56 AM on January 4, 2006


anyone who would feel "betrayed/cheated/fucked with" if they found out something non-contagious about someone's medical/genetic history isn't feeling "rightly" so, they're feeling unfairly and irrationally so -- and are a victim only of their own hysterical fears and neuroses.

what if you fucked someone and they later discovered that your great-grandfather was swedish, and they have a personal policy of never having sex with anyone of swedish decent, and accused you of tricking them, betraying them, lying by omission? wouldn't you think they were pretty stupid?

your personal preferences are your OWN perogative. if you don't want to accidentally fuck someone with AIS, you need to ask every girl you meet if she has AIS. period. she has no obligation to spill her entire personal history to anyone. just because someone lets you have sex with them does not entitle you to her medical records, complete ancestry, or anything else you don't yet know about.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:18 AM on January 4, 2006


I'll admit to not having any experience with the types of issues you describe, Pollystark, but it seems like you're worried about men not wanting to sleep with you if they find out about your genetic situation. I have to wonder why you'd want to sleep with men who wouldn't want to sleep with you if they knew about your genetic condition. I realize you're not looking for long term relationships with these guys, but even for one night stands, ya gotta have standards, ya know? Why not use this to weed out the orthoganalities of the world and leave yourself just with men worth sleeping with?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:19 AM on January 4, 2006


crabintheocean: Well, I think it's well said. On the other hand, I think that for some people the revelation of genetic issues might be a big deal if having biological children are a key concern.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:20 AM on January 4, 2006


Orthagonality is being a jerk, but I fear there are enough jerks in the world that you should be prepared for their reaction. Another consideration is that (in my inappropriately generalized experience) men want different things from sex than women. Some men may not be satisfied without intercourse.

If I were you, I would take him to dinner and ask "so what do you want from our sexual relationship?". Probe a little. If you can steer to common ground, take him back to your place. If you can't, part amiably.
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:21 AM on January 4, 2006


shmegegge writes "there are definitely some who would rightly feel betrayed/cheated/fucked with if they found out that they fooled around with someone who has AIS."

I've got to agree with shmegegge. Even though it wouldn't squick me at all I've got a friend who would have a real Ace Ventura "Einhorn is Finkle!" experience complete with bathroom scene if this was sprung on him afterwards.
posted by Mitheral at 7:22 AM on January 4, 2006


One wonders if those who think she should reveal that she's "male" have ever been tested to make sure they're genetically the sexes they think they are. I know I haven't. My understanding is that many people's genes reflect the opposite of their actual genders. But they'd never know it, because unless there are symptoms, why on earth would you get tested for something like that?

My instinct is that in casual sex, if you can't catch it, you have no obligation to reveal it. I think if you both consider it casual sex, you have the understanding that you don't want to know the nitty gritties about each other. I don't think a man should have to reveal he has ED if they're not gonna be doing anything that requires an erection. I don't think someone should have to reveal they have a telephone for a penis if they're just going to be making out. If we're talking about real relationships, that's another story. But because they WOULD be skeeved out if they knew is not a good enough reason to tell them. I'm sure there are things that would skeeve me out about all the people I've had casual sex with. That's casual sex.

That said, even if you aren't going to reveal it, I'd advise against hooking up or even hanging out with anyone you think would lose their temper about it. Master of the obvious, I know. Though it seems to me that any guy who'd have a huge problem with this syndrome would probably not be all that understanding about not having intercourse in the first place. I WANT to say you should go back to dating only women, especially after having read some of the comments here. But I know that's not what you're looking for.
posted by lampoil at 7:35 AM on January 4, 2006


crabintheocean writes "if you don't want to accidentally fuck someone with AIS, you need to ask every girl you meet if she has AIS."

i think that's expecting a little too much of the general public. I've been hanging out on the 'net since before I could drive, often it's more interesting areas, and I'd never heard of this condition before. There are a lot of ignorant people out there happily going about their lives.

nixerman writes "Sex, let alone gender, is not determined by genes. This sort of silly genetic essentialism is not accepted by most people, biologists included."

I'd bet the number of people that know that a female human can have XY genes is well under 50% nixerman. Biologists may know about this but your average person who never took more biology than dissecting a frog and never had more sex ed than how not to get pregnant probably never even gives the difference between gender/genes/sex a second thought.
posted by Mitheral at 7:39 AM on January 4, 2006


I'm not sure if I'm more amazed by orthogonality's attitude or his ignorance.

Then clearly you've not read his delightful missives in the past and should consider your streak of good luck at an end. Cancel that trip to Vegas. I concur that he serves here as an excellent object lesson in what kinds of reactions you might expect from getting into detailed discussions with possible partners that you don't know yet.

I'd suggest that as AC mentions you not wait to spring the "no penetrative sex" thing on them once you get home. Most people would probably be good about it but a few might not be so gracious and a larger percentage might be... whiney. Or pushy, or try to persuade you.

You can incorporate it into your flirtation wherever you meet them by making it part of inviting them home. "If you want to come home and not have sex, there's always everything else...." Or whatever delivery suits you.

And if you're a real smart-ass, you can pull out the Parchisi set when you get there and pretend to be confused by their surprise.
posted by phearlez at 7:48 AM on January 4, 2006


I'd bet the number of people that know that a female human can have XY genes is well under 50% nixerman. Biologists may know about this but your average person who never took more biology than dissecting a frog and never had more sex ed than how not to get pregnant probably never even gives the difference between gender/genes/sex a second thought.

If someone doesn't know any more biology than frog dissection, they shouldn't make sweeping authoritative statements about genetics.
posted by Jairus at 7:50 AM on January 4, 2006


[in case ascullion's link was unclear, there is a meta discussion happening over in metatalk, please send meta-discussion there]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:52 AM on January 4, 2006


"I think that's expecting a little too much of the general public. [...] I'd never heard of this condition before."

But that's not her fault, is it? I've never heard of hypohidrosis, but if I decide that my partner getting really sweaty is important to me, it's clearly on me to investigate that before I hit it. How dumb would it be for me to fuck first and afterwards get all enraged and "OMFG UR SKIN IS DRY WHY DIDNT U TELL ME?? LIAR!"
posted by crabintheocean at 7:54 AM on January 4, 2006


Hey, hooking up doesn't have to include vaginal sex. You've heard of blowjobs, right? It'll come up sooner or later, and Brittanic's got about the best advice. If someone like Ortho fucks you, it'll be good for 'em. For real casual stuff, you can always say that you're on your period. Lots of women don't like sex on their period, and most guys just respect that. If he starts to pressure you then, well, you didn't really wanna have sex with him anyway.
(Besides, don't describe it as "deformed," describe it as"tight" down there).
posted by klangklangston at 8:05 AM on January 4, 2006


The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has an interactive section to learn about some science topics. If you go here, scroll down, click on Gender Testing of Athletes, you'll find (and now I'm actually spoiling it to save you from clicking through the game) that people with AIS are considered female.
posted by easternblot at 8:08 AM on January 4, 2006


pollystark : With friends, it's easy, but I can imagine that a few straight men might have a problem with being intimate with someone who has XY chromosomes, and I should think that most will need to process it.

There's a point here : it's not like people that have "problems" with having sex with XY are straight and doesn't who don't are not.

Some people may find your situation to be disgusting FOR them even if they don't realize its their opinion and that disgust is individual (or at best shared by many) not universal.

You shouldn't be worried and become anxious or tense up because you feel their adverse reaction would be discomforting : it certainly would feel discomforting because they would feel discomfort ..but you're not the agent, the one who made the discomfort pop-up..it's their notion that isn't ready for more then male/female sexes.

It is NOT like their notion is wrong and that they're backward or despicable because of their not recognizing more then male/female...they just have their own notion of sexuality and their like/dislikes.

So let's start from this point: considering SOME male may find your nature (and that's not a condition, it's a situation) troubling or at worst disgusting , it would be better to learn how to recognize telltale sign of homophobia (fear of homosexuals or homosexual activities) because in my opinion homophobes are the ones that may react more to any "discovery"

For instance a male friend of mine considered my paying attention to his sentimental problems with his ex gf to be "slightly gay" so to say..and by association he considered my attention as gay attention. He's a simple binary person, otherwise rather intelligent and capable, but it took me time to make him realize I don't want to "fuck" him not in a thousand years nor ever ; a telltale sign of his homophobia was, in my opinion, his refusing being touched by a man even if casually and in no way that could be considered sexual ...and his vocalizing that he didn't like being touched.

Yet he was more then happy of being touched by her gf in any also not sexual occasions.

So my advice, for what its worth, would be to try to foretell people , try learning some of the repetiting behavior and follow your instinct of being bottolime "open" rather then " deceiving"..and don't be afraid of just being yourself.
posted by elpapacito at 8:17 AM on January 4, 2006


pollystark, this is obviously and understandably a big deal to you (hell, I just listened to the songs on your blog) and I think you're very brave for posting this question on an open online forum and wish you would pay no heed to your detractors. I don't mean that condescendingly, either - I probably wouldn't have had the guts.

That said, I'd go with a combination of a) and/or b), that is: inform them in advance, whenever that is (all depends on the circumstances, types of attraction etc.). This means, you can wait if that is more comfortable for you (a), but don't postpone the bomb-dropping if that feels unnatural or unnecessary (b). What it comes down to, I guess, is that you're looking for a guy who is okay with you having AIS - that may seem obvious, but hey, it's part of your identity, so it seems essential to me. So tell them like it's no big deal - which again I don't mean patronisingly - and it shouldn't be if you're comfortable with each others' bodies. Which is a major point of sex, in my opinion. Good luck, you'll be fine.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:18 AM on January 4, 2006


For every guy who's freaked out about AIS, there will be several who are ecstatic that there's no risk of accidental pregnancy.
posted by Eamon at 8:27 AM on January 4, 2006


for some reason i assumed you were asking about long-term relationships, but now i can't work out why. if you are just looking for casual sex and want to avoid penetration then i think any suitable excuse is ok, as long as it's believable. isn't part of the kick of a one ngiht stand that you don't know everything about the person you're with?

the problem is if you later decide on a long term relationship, of course, which is what i was referring to in my previous post. so maybe that was what i was thinking. i guess you have to choose between the risk of being "trapped" in wanting to take a relationship based on a small (imho) subterfuge further, and the risk of spoiling a fraction dates with some kind of "conversation". maybe someone will think of a better compromise.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:35 AM on January 4, 2006


pollystark, fear not. Plenty of girls without poorly-understood genetic situations often have reasons (physical, emotional) that cause them to prefer not to have penetrative sex every time their panties get damp. When you meet a boy into whose pants you'd like to get, just let him know what you are and are not okay with at the appropriate time. (I like phearlez's approach.) He then gets to choose if he's okay with that limitation. By the time you're on your way to naked, the explanation can be as simple as "birth defect" or similar euphemism (pick the one that seems least pejorative to you.)

(Don't worry about explaining why you can't get pregnant/why your parts are different unless/until it's a more serious relationship. Would we have this debate about a man who is fully sexually functional but infertile? Even if hypopituitarism or hypogonadism , for example, were involved, I think not.)
posted by desuetude at 8:36 AM on January 4, 2006


I agree with Eamon, not to be crude but I'm sitting here thinking "She's tight and can't get pregnant? That's just what a guy wants to hear!". I think with the fact you must condition your body to sex necessitates someone willing to take the time with you. Can't you condition your body with a penis substitute? That way you control everything and penetration will not be a big deal.

I think AIS is too complicated a topic to bring up, as most people see gender as black-and-white, as this thread shows. I think if you need to discuss it, simply state what he'll come into contact with, "Hey I got this condition I was born with, it's AIS and it basically means I can't get pregnant and my vaginal canal is small, so don't bonk me like it's going out of style." No need to explain the various nuances of the disease. I also think that you should be as clear as possible that he can't go below as soon as it becomes apparent you guys are going to go at it. You don't want to get drunk and think "Oh well" and then have a painful night, in case that wasn't clear already. Saying no during the middle of foreplay shouldn't be the first time, as you could very easily collapse under pressure.
posted by geoff. at 8:39 AM on January 4, 2006


I think I have to go with (c). I have a good friend who has kidney problems so bad that she has a catheter tube surgically implanted in her hip. Getting intimate with guys below the belt means she has to reveal this thing which she doesn't want to define her, yet is hugely important (and causes a much more massive disruption in her life than your genetics, I believe). If a guy isn't physically repulsed by the tube he he will often still run away from the drama. So I'm answering in light of knowing her.

For some limited time I'm afraid it's buyer beware in terms of the guys. You're under no obligation to tell them your story. They might not even want to spend more time with you regardless of your other problems. Give them a chance, first, to reject you based on your personality or whatever other reason. Lots of girls have 'issues' that make them weird about stuff, and "something's up with penetration" is enough information for a guy to decide to hang around or make himself scarce. Most guys when they are first dating are trying (among other things) to figure out what sort of fucked up neuroses this one has. Ones who want no complications will piss off without having to be told something that's not really their business.

And frankly, if they're just after the sex, they probably don't want to know that you are, in some respect or other, not quite female, if they can't themselves tell. It's not part of the game at that point.

If what you're after is a happy long term relationship or friendship, then at some point you have to tell. For my friend this is difficult because she is bringing this guy into a major life issue and she has to wonder "can he take it, will he disappear?" Probably a guy who wants to hang around will wonder naturally what the deal is, and his worst fear will be that you once had a penis. The important thing is that by that point you will know the guy much better and can judge when and how and what to tell him.

Or, you could make it easier and just put it all up front and see where that gets you. It depends on how feminine you look, and either how gossipy your social scene is or how easily you can ignore it. Do you want it to be a factor in why a guy decides to date you, or not? You'll be scaring off guys who probably could have handled it easily, but are turned off by any broadcast of TMI.

Hope you find what you're looking for.
posted by fleacircus at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2006


She wants to have vaginal sex; guys want to as well. I doubt a relationship that never includes such will prosper. Googling suggests one answer is self-dilation exercises and if necessary a little surgery.
posted by A189Nut at 8:55 AM on January 4, 2006


"I have a small vagina so we need to take it slow and be carefull." Nuff said.
posted by Carbolic at 9:04 AM on January 4, 2006


carbolic : and cook me dinner and clean my socks, you rotten male. Nuff said. Hello, diplomacy ?
posted by elpapacito at 9:16 AM on January 4, 2006


If it's a one night stand, then Carbolic's answer is succinct. If it's a relationship you wish to pursue then you better be up front about your condition as it "may be...something they'll have a problem with."
posted by furtive at 9:22 AM on January 4, 2006


pollystark, you know how there is always talk about there being two kinds of people in the world? Well, in this case its people who are curious openminded and interested in learning about unfamiliar things and the other kind.

Talk about your situation in a non-bedroom setting and hope for the best. Just be frank and don't make any excuses, you don't need any.

Someone will say "hmm, this is an interesting situation, lets deal with it."
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2006


I saw a comedian the other night who had a bit about a woman who had taken a vow to remain chaste until marriage, but who only followed the letter of the vow, not the spirit... The punchline was: "I've got some bad news, and I've got some GREAT news!" (making big, dramatic pointing gesture towards ass)

The truth is, a lot of guys are A) aware that women may not want to have penetrative sex, for a variety of reasons. "On my period" is universal shorthand for this. And B) are interested in a broader palette of sexual expression. Sometimes too interested...

If you want to take a fieldtrip to the nastier corners of the Boy Psyche, go visit Ye Olde Porn Shoppe. Not the fem-positive Good Vibes type, but the neon-lights and raincoaters type. The place where money and Id collide. Tally up the titles of the videos. I assure you "Hot missionary-position vaginal sex 4: sock it to me" is not the top seller.

I tell you this not as an exhortation to change your sexuality to accommodate anything you're not into, but to reassure you that Team Boy has a pretty deep playbook, and those of us who are stuck on the first page of said playbook are not worth the bother.

Sex is much, much more fun when both parties are upfront about what they want out of an encounter. (I think that's what makes sex in your 30's so much better than sex in your 20's - everyone has learned to open up a bit) If you communicate what you want and the guy bails - well, his loss.
posted by Triode at 9:44 AM on January 4, 2006


To expand on my comment here. In the short term I don't think you need to mention anything other than your physical limitation regarding the act. If things seem as if they might be headed to something more serious, of course, you would owe it to the guy to at least let him know you can't have children.

elpapacito: Huh?
posted by Carbolic at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2006


Here's my reaction to this thread, though I don't know how useful it wall be to you.

I understand the difference between sex and gender, the X and Y chromosomes and the difference between genotypes and phenotypes.

Initially, I read through the wikipedia entry and formed the conclusion that you should disclose this situation with your partner and that regardless of your gender you were in fact a guy. My reasoning was similar to orthogonality's. Then I clicked on the link from vacapinta and a face and a personality got attached to the situation.

I realized I didn't care and, outside of a long-term relationship where sterility would come into play, you shouldn't bother disclosing the disorder anymore than you feel is necessary.

Okay, so I'm a little shallow.
posted by 517 at 10:14 AM on January 4, 2006


Ortho's hyperbole is clearly over the top, but the basic point that you should tell a guy before being intimate is absolutely valid. From this thread it appears that a lot of guys wouldn't have a problem. It's also clear that some guys would; I would, for example. Perhaps that is irrational.

But it isn't your choice, it should completely and only your potential partner's choice.

People may think it's weird or unreasonable, but again, it isn't their choice. The only person who gets to have input on who can have sex with me is me. And that should be fully informed consent. It DOESNT MATTER if you or anyone else disagrees that this should be an issue. It isn't your call, it is the call of polly's potential sex partner. No one else. Period.

Polly, if you don't tell a guy before you get intimate with him, you may well run into trouble.
posted by Justinian at 10:26 AM on January 4, 2006


As a straight male, I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the least bit shocked or disappointed were a woman to briefly explain that she sometimes experienced pain during intercourse and wanted to take it slow. Were she willing to engage in other forms of messing around, all the better.

No need to go into the biological specifics of it though.

Not mentioning it at all, isn't a very good solution. I've experienced something similar to this in a relationship - it resulted in all sorts of mixed signals and a certain level of awkwardness. Far better to be straightforward.
posted by aladfar at 10:28 AM on January 4, 2006


Do you think you would benefit from the use of vaginal dilators? That's what women who have vaginismus use when penetrative sex is painful. If they got you to the point that sex wasn't painful anymore, you could avoid the issue of disclosure altogether.
posted by Some Day... Soon at 10:29 AM on January 4, 2006


Again, as per the meta thread, a lot of people accusing Ortho of being ignorant are speaking from their own ignorance without even knowing it.

Like it or not, pollystark is genetically male. Yes, genetically male. You cannot argue with this, it is a fact. Stop trying to. Here are references:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001180.htm

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition=androgeninsensitivitysyndrome

http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/en.aspx?articleID=525

I can provide as many medical references as people wish on this matter.
posted by Justinian at 10:37 AM on January 4, 2006


And, again, I'd like to stress that it is a moral and ethical imperative to inform a straight male you want to have sex with that you are genetically male before you have sex with him. The opinion of others was based on their misconception that AIS means that polly is genetically female. She isn't. She is genetically male, and a potential sex partner has the right to know that.
posted by Justinian at 10:39 AM on January 4, 2006


Justinian, I agree that "The only person who gets to have input on who can have sex with me is me". However, unless you have an extremely complete list of questions you ask before the act happens, chances are very good you are not having sex with who you think you are having sex with. You can not possibly know every detail you wish to. In fact, if every detail that could be significant were revealed up front, I venture to say very little sex would occur in this world. Is it a moral or ethical imperative that I disclose how big my equipment is, or if I slept with someone else last night, or if I know there is no chance for a relationship because I only marry partners with blue eyes? All of these would certainly have some impact on my potential partner's decision to have sex with me. I'd sure love to see that questionaire you use to cover all those bases.
posted by juggler at 10:46 AM on January 4, 2006


It's been a while sinve I read it, but is there anything in Jeffrey Eugenedes' novel "Middlesex" that is helpful here?
posted by Carsey at 10:48 AM on January 4, 2006


It's been a while since I read it, but is there anything in Jeffrey Eugenedes' novel "Middlesex" that is helpful here?
posted by Carsey at 10:48 AM on January 4, 2006


Justinian: So... You didn't bother to check the link that says AIS athletes are still female? And "genitically male" is a pretty empty term.
Again, you might as well be arguing that because she had a black great grandmother, she should have to disclose that before sex. Informed consent isn't an absolute, and since you're the one with the problem, it's your responsibility to ask (just like I ask if they're Republican).
posted by klangklangston at 10:51 AM on January 4, 2006


juggler:

You are seriously comparing "Should I tell my straight, male partner than I am also genetically male" with "should I tell how big my equipment is?" or "I only marry partners with blue eyes?"

I begin to see why Ortho went hyperbolic.

Whether your partner is genetically male or female is not just a minor detail. It is, if I may be understated here, rather important.

Would it be okay if I dressed up as a woman and didn't tell you until I'd already given you a blowjob, juggler?
posted by Justinian at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2006


"Genetically male" is not an empty term, it's what people took issue with Ortho about, in at least small part. You can't slam ortho for saying it and then when I provide medical reference showing he was right wave it off as unimportant.
posted by Justinian at 10:54 AM on January 4, 2006


I think it is a minor detail, considering if it is just casual sex, it is just casual sex. Now if you reason for picking some woman up in a bar and having sex with her is strictly for the purpose of trying to get her pregant, I think YOU owe HER a little pre-disclosure. If you had sex with her and went home and never knew the difference, how have you been harmed?
posted by juggler at 10:57 AM on January 4, 2006


Fine. If you consider it a minor detail, good for you.

Lots of other people would not, and it is THEIR call. They need to be told so they can make informed consent. Lack of informed consent is completely unethical.
posted by Justinian at 10:59 AM on January 4, 2006


And that should be fully informed consent.

Not possible.

XY means genetically male, yes. But "genetically male" means nothing, necessarily, other than XY. That's it. XY. It has absolutely nothing to do with sex [the act].

Have you been tested?
posted by lampoil at 11:00 AM on January 4, 2006


"Whether your partner is genetically male or female is not just a minor detail. It is, if I may be understated here, rather important."

Why? If there's no way to tell without checking the chromosomes, what's the difference? It's closer to having fake breasts: if I can't tell, how am I harmed?
(Because I just had sex with someone with a Y? OH NOES!)

And if you can't understand the difference between a woman and you in a dress, I gotta guess that you've never actually had sex.

(And "genetically male" is an empty term, because a) it has nothing to do with the sex act, and b) it has nothing to do with gender function.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:01 AM on January 4, 2006


"Lots of other people would not, and it is THEIR call. They need to be told so they can make informed consent. Lack of informed consent is completely unethical."

If THEY care, it's on THEM to ask.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 AM on January 4, 2006


Do you think a potential partner has the right to know that someone is a post-op transsexual?
posted by Justinian at 11:02 AM on January 4, 2006


Casual sex? If they can't tell, why should they care?
posted by klangklangston at 11:03 AM on January 4, 2006


That's bullshit, klangklangston. I guess I'm just a stupid troglodyte like Orthogonality.
posted by Justinian at 11:04 AM on January 4, 2006


Justinian, you are not even trying to answer the poster's question, you're doing exactly what orthogonality did, derailing the thread by defending your position over and over. Please confine it to MetaTalk, thanks.

Did anyone notice there was a picture of Ann Coulter on that page vacapinta linked to, with no other reference to her in the text?
posted by languagehat at 11:04 AM on January 4, 2006


I don't think a potential partner has a "right" to know anything which will not externally impact their lives.
posted by Jairus at 11:05 AM on January 4, 2006


Please, keep the meta-discussion in MeTa.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:06 AM on January 4, 2006


Justinian, she's female socially, mentally and by body-type. You can only tell she "isn't" by internal exam or using a PCR machine. You probably can't even tell with her clothes off. Telling her she isn't who she thinks she is is beyond unhelpful. Her identity is not just a social construct, there are very sound biological reasons for calling her female: her brain and body have both developed by and large like a "normal" female's. She's not the equivalent of a post-op transsexual.

This is not the either/or situation you're trying to make it into. Doing so just shows how ignorant of human biology you are. Humans are much more than genetics. Genes are just out blueprints and sometimes our builders interpret the plans creatively.
posted by bonehead at 11:10 AM on January 4, 2006


Justinian writes "Would it be okay if I dressed up as a woman and didn't tell you until I'd already given you a blowjob, juggler?"

I disagree. The issue is, I think, phenotype and not genotype.* I understand that you think differently, but that does not make you correct. If Polly has been a woman all her life, then Polly has the right to act as a woman in good faith in her dealings with others, even around sex. Her genetics do not matter in this case, and arguments that they do strike me as not simply pedantic, but as importing prejudice into the bedroom gratuitously. There are an awful lot of things that go into the intimacy of sex, and to pick out a completely harmless and invisible one like this seems very arbitrary to me. In the case of a one night stand, certainly, the man will never be the wiser.

Simply say that you're not interested in vaginal intercourse. In the case of longer term relationships, it should certainly be disclosed as the kind of intimacy being developed would depend on it.

*(I think that this is not true in the case of transsexuals or, from Justinian's example, transvestites, because the issues and complications involved are substantially greater. The nearest comparison I can make, and it is only a comparison, is that transsexuals/transvestites not disclosing their (former) maleness to potential straight male partners seems like a kind of fraud. Being phenotypically female and living as one for life does not savor of that type of fraud for me. It simply isn't a misrepresentation except to the most literal minded.)
posted by OmieWise at 11:17 AM on January 4, 2006


I think what Justinian is trying to say is that we all have the right to be squicked out by whatever squicks us out, even if it seems homophobic or unreasonable to other people, and that there are certain things (like gender issues) that it's not unreasonable to expect our sex partners to reveal before we sleep with them. Asking "Why should it matter to you?" isn't really fair, because some things matter more to some people than others, and that's their right (even if it makes them ignorant and narrowminded).

Also, I think it bears repeating that pollystark herself admitted that "it is reasonably obvious to all but the most inexperienced that my vaginal canal is different from other girls'." So, simply saying nothing isn't really an option; anyone who doesn't already know what her gear is like will almost certainly say something along the lines of "What the hell's going on down there?" if they haven't been prepared ahead of time.
posted by Gator at 11:19 AM on January 4, 2006


I'm not ignorant of human biology, it's my field. The people claiming polly is not genetically male are ignorant of human biology.

Languagehat: why am I derailing the thread but the people arguing with are not? Anyway, I don't in part agree. Polly's question is implicitly dependent on how men will react to her different scenarios. This thread is giving her a skewed answer because anyone disagreeing that her condition is of no significant import is being shouted down.

She needs to know that not telling them up front could be a serious problem with a lot of guys. That *is* a direct response to her question, not a derail.

I do agree that the discussion of finer points of genetics may be overdone at this point and not a direct response to polly and so will cease that part of the discussion in this thread.
posted by Justinian at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2006


And, FWIW, as a guy, telling me to be careful because it hurts most of the time (without going into why), would be enough for me, anyway, to suggest trying other fun things. If that doesn't work, a simple "I don't wanna" should be enough.

If he's serious about you, your guy should be up to being a willing partner in the "gets used to it period" too, if that's what it takes. There's no reason it can't be a good experience for both of you.

If you you get into a long-term relationship, sure, of course you want to disclose. When is a bit tricky, sure, but the describing the situation in terms of the "getting used to it period" seems like a good time to me.
posted by bonehead at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2006


pollystark posted "it is reasonably obvious to all but the most inexperienced that my vaginal canal is different from other girls'."


bonehead writes "Justinian, she's female socially, mentally and by body-type. You can only tell she 'isn't' by internal exam or using a PCR machine. You probably can't even tell with her clothes off. "


Look, first let me apologize if I was over the top; honestly, I expected there'd be a lot of enabling of not being up front about this, and I wanted to draw a line in the sand. But perhaps I should have tried harder to be gentle.

No, let's read the question closely: pollystark tell us that pollystark's genitals look "different" to "all but the most inexperienced". And pollystark, to pollystark's credit, acknowledges that "a few straight men might have a problem with being intimate with someone who has XY chromosomes, and I should think that most will need to process it"

So we can't make they argument that "what the guys don't know won't hurt them" -- unless they're "the most inexperienced", they're going to realize something isn't normal.

And if they do notice, they "might have a problem with being intimate with" pollystark, or have regrets afterward.

So it's patently unfair to the men, who might find intimacy with pollystark to be traumatic, to not let them know what they're in for, so they can make an informed choice.

It's in that vein that I made the analogy to STDs --- not that pollystark's problem is communicable, but in the vein that even if you were assured that you could have safe sex with an STD carrier ("I'm not having outbreaks now", "my viral load is low", "we'll use a condom") , you might still not want to take the risk. Just as there's a physical risk with STDs, no matter how safe the sex, there's a psychological risk (for some heterosexual men) in having relations with what pollystark describes as "XY" and the National Institutes of Health describes as "genetically male".

And just as an STD carrier should respect his partner enough to let the partner make an informed choice, so should a person, like pollystark, with AIS.
posted by orthogonality at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2006


Yes, exactly. I am shocked that the people arguing for actual informed consent are being lambasted. I am not saying that straight men shouldn't want to have sex with pollystark. I am not saying that lots of straight men won't want to. I'm saying that it is their call and no-one elses, and actual informed consent is a two way street.
posted by Justinian at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2006


orthogonality writes "The definition of male is having one Y chromosome and one X chromosome."

This isn't true. It's a radical oversimplification, and from any point of view outside of histology, a useless definition.

orthogonality writes "pollystark tell us that pollystark's genitals look 'different' to 'all but the most inexperienced'"

No, she didn't. You're inserting two words ("genitals look") that completely change the sense of her original statement.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:44 AM on January 4, 2006


I still maintain that there is a gross misunderstanding of pollystark's condition. I suggest doing some reading. To pick just one example, people with cAIS need permanent hormonal replacement therapy and surgical construction or modification of the vaginal. If there is absolutely no difference between someone with cAIS and a "normal" female save for some weird irrelevant genetic distinction, then I guess all that hormonal replacement and surgery is completely unnecessary. Let's call the science journals.
posted by Justinian at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2006


You know, I watched the documentary "Middle Sexes" last night, and apparently there are quite a few (genetic and physical) males who would be positively delighted by sex with pollystark, much more than they'd be interested in sex with a genetic female. And more power to them.

But pollystark shouldn't assume what any particular male would enjoy or not enjoy, that's why disclosure is important. The benefit to pollystark, of course, is that in disclosing, pollystark has the chance to find a male who's be really hot for pollystark.


mr_roboto writes "No, she didn't. You're inserting two words ('genitals look') that completely change the sense of her original statement."

Yes, point to you! Perhaps it's feel rather then look. In any case, pollystark tells us that, however determined, the difference is apparent.
posted by orthogonality at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2006


Has Polly ever reveled the phase of her AIS? I see we are now assuming she has 'Complete AIS'. Any clarification?

If an XY female is automatically 'male' (by certain standards being thrown around here), where does that leave XX males? Are they all automatically females?

Why are we forcing black/white differentiation here? There are shades of gray in this matter.
posted by daveleck at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2006


OmieWise writes "In the case of a one night stand, certainly, the man will never be the wiser."

pollystark has a blog which spells out pollystark's AIS. pollystark was featured in a documentary about AIS. pollystark has told friends and family about having AIS.

Couldn't the hypothetical one-night-stand-man learn of pollystark's AIS through any of these avenues, or by word of mouth?

Wouldn't some men, learning of this after the fact, feel betrayed or traumatized? Might they not suffer long-lasting psychological effects?


OmieWise writes "If Polly has been a woman all her life, then Polly has the right to act as a woman in good faith in her dealings with others, even around sex. "

Considering that pollystark has had surgery and other medical intervention leading to increased female appearance (removal of (internal) testes, hormonal treatments, possibly plastic surgery) how much different is pollystark from a trans-sexual? Would your advice be the same for a trans-sexual?
posted by orthogonality at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2006


To pick just one example, people with cAIS need permanent hormonal replacement therapy and surgical construction or modification of the vaginal.

That's partially true.

Yes, they need to take estrogen to prevent the thinning of vaginal walls, etc. Their bodies recognize and react to estrogen very well. There is some evidence that they may even be more sensitive to estrogen than XX women. Women with cAIS who don't take estrogen have bodies that resemble the bodies of post-menopausal women in some ways, not masculinized bodies.

No, vaginal surgery is not necessary for all cAIS women. The use of vaginal dilators at puberty is very common among cAIS women. Most find that this regime helps create a sufficiently deep and wide vagina for intercourse. Yes, some need surgery. If they don't use dilators or surgery, they resemble XX women with vaginal agenesis, who are born with no or rudimentary vaginas and uteruses, although they generally do have ovaries.

Except for the stunted proto-testes they are born with (which never turn into functioning testicles that produce sperm) and their typical taller, leaner physique, cAIS women show very few male characteristics. The two things you mention -- hormone therapy and surgery -- are not used to change masculine attributes, but to help them achieve a few typical pre-menopausal female characteristics that are blunted or absent.
posted by maudlin at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2006


Which is why informed consent is imporant. This isn't a scientific debate, it's an ethical one.
posted by Justinian at 12:14 PM on January 4, 2006


Tell them. A lot of partners would want to know. Even if it doesn't change anything for them, they still may feel more comfortable knowing. You may think this is unreasonable, but it may matter to them. And in the long run it'll matter to you. How will you feel if you don't tell your partner, then later you find out that they have a problem with it? Either you'll think that they're being an asshole, in which case you'll regret the relationship you had, or you'll think that they're reasonable, in which case you'll feel like an asshole for not telling them. Either way, it seems like honesty is the right way to go.
posted by unreason at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2006


pollystark, I think you can trust yourself with regards to figuring out when and what to disclose. If you feel like you should, you probably should. Most of the boys who are into you will probably be okay with it. (I like your site, btw. )

Your explanation should be rehearsed in your head, though, to explain your reality more clearly than a clinical description of AIS does. As has been pointed out ad nauseum in this thread, the average person isn't an expert in genetics and the average straight guy might harbor a little homophobia.
posted by desuetude at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2006


On the ethical issue: I'd advise letting the guys know in stages, working up to full disclosure before going to bed. If any of them are seriously weirded out by your unusual genetic condition, better that you both find out sooner than later. But you don't have to tell a guy absolutely everything when you first get to know him.

On the medical issues:

Considering that pollystark has had surgery and other medical intervention leading to increased female appearance (removal of (internal) testes, hormonal treatments, possibly plastic surgery) how much different is pollystark from a trans-sexual?

As I said in my previous comment, some female attributes such as vaginal size could yet be improved by surgery or dilators. If she is cAIS, her general appearance, her subcutaneous fat distribution, her breasts, and her vulva are very female and very natural to her. cAIS women are sometimes defined as more feminine in some ways than XX women because they are completely insensitive to the androgens they produce even after their testes are removed. Like XX women, they produce some androgens from their adrenal glands -- and their gonads (testes in XY women, ovaries in XX women). Unlike XX women, cAIS women's bodies ignore the androgens completely and respond only to naturally produced estrogen or prescribed supplements.

Oh, and the reason why cAIS women who don't get their rudimentary testes removed before puberty grow breasts and look very feminine as they grow up is because their testes also produced estrogen, to which their bodies respond very, very well, considering the amount of estrogen is so much less than is typically produced by ovaries. If these natural estrogen-producing organs are removed because of the risk of cancer, this is the only reason why these women must ever take estrogen. Leave 'em in, and no estrogen treatment is ever necessary.

So all this surgery you're referring to is, again, NOT a way of making a ballerina out of someone who would otherwise turn into a linebacker. Those odd little testes feminize cAIS women naturally just fine, but when they are removed because of the risk of cancer, these women have to turn to estrogen replacement, the same as women going through menopause or women who have their ovaries surgically removed. All these medical interventions enhance femininity rather than reverse masculinity.
posted by maudlin at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2006


"Do you think a potential partner has the right to know that someone is a post-op transsexual?"

No.

If you have a prejudice that might keep you from wanting to sleep with someone, it's on you to enforce it, by asking for the information you want to make your decision. It's not anyone else's problem but your own.

I asked before -- should someone whose long-ago ancestor was a member of a race that some people don't like be required to disclose that fact to everyone they have sex with, because their partners might not otherwise know?

The "psychological risk" comparison to STDs is just weak. You have the right to have whatever prejudices you want, but it's my right to not have them, and you can't require others to help you enforce yours.

Stop expecting other people take responsibility for your emotions. They're yours, and it's your responsibility to deal with them and protect yourself.

If it's a "psychological risk" to you (read: risk of dumb "OMFG FAG!!" frat-boy freakout) to sleep with people for whom you don't have a complete medical history, and you choose to assume that every woman you are attracted to does not have AIS and is not transsexual, then you should stop making assumptions that are so risky for you.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:44 PM on January 4, 2006


Considering that pollystark has had surgery and other medical intervention leading to increased female appearance (removal of (internal) testes, hormonal treatments, possibly plastic surgery) how much different is pollystark from a trans-sexual? Would your advice be the same for a trans-sexual?

Uhh.. She was BORN with a vagina. That would be a big one right there.

But Ortho, your right, she should have kept the testes, Let them become cancerous and then you wouldn't have to wrap your mind around this concept today, eh?

Personally if I was to enter a long term realationship with someone with this I would like to know, One night stand is something else. But I would consider it the same as knowing about any medical condition about any long term partner. I would want to know if they had diabetes or anything else.
"Making a male climax isn't at all challenging. Insert somewhere close, preferably moist, thrust, repeat. Making a female come, therein lies the challenge."
-Clerks
posted by JonnyRotten at 12:46 PM on January 4, 2006


To pick just one example, people with cAIS need permanent hormonal replacement therapy and surgical construction or modification of the vaginal. If there is absolutely no difference between someone with cAIS and a "normal" female save for some weird irrelevant genetic distinction, then I guess all that hormonal replacement and surgery is completely unnecessary.

OK, so why keep insisting it's so important that she's "genetically male?" Here it sounds like the important thing is that she would feel/look different than other women. In your other posts it sounds like the important thing would be that in some sense you'd had sex with a "guy" (which wouldn't be the case). While neither changes my mind, they're very different.

You may say that's not the point--the point is that the guy should be the one to choose based on "full disclosure," no matter what reason. OK. I happen to think that informing him that she won't be having intercourse with him is disclosing enough in a casual sex situation. He's free to ask why if he wants to know more, and she can either tell him, explain that she doesn't want to tell him, or walk away. And he can, in turn, say OK, ask more questions, or walk away. As long as she doesn't lie, I don't see anything unethical or inappropriate in that situation--and certainly nothing nonconsensual.

I will say, though, to pollystark (on preview, seeing des and maud's great comments), that if you're with a guy and you feel comfortable talking to him about it, that's a really good sign. In general, it's good to trust your vibes about people. If you're getting real bad vibes, you probably don't want to sleep with them anyway. I do think it's GREAT to tell, if you feel you can and want to.
posted by lampoil at 12:47 PM on January 4, 2006


I actually changed my opinion about this after visiting your blog pollystark. I think you should reveal your condition, that that is the ethical position for you to take. Why? I'm not very persuaded by the arguments here in this thread, but I am persuaded that you think of yourself as "intersex," that it's a big part of your identity. It's there in your blog header. That's fine, but when I first read your question you seemed to be saying that you consider yourself to be a woman and that AIS was not fundamental to your identity. Assuming that it is after reading your blog, I feel that it's incumbent on you to let potential partners know that. Otherwise you aren't being true to your identity (although I'm not even that sure what that means) and you're misrepresenting yourself to your partners.
posted by OmieWise at 12:54 PM on January 4, 2006


Lampoli: If pollystark doesn't intend to engage in sexual activity, there is no reason at all she should tell anyone anything she doesn't feel comfortable telling them. I agree completely.

But my position is she should tell them before engaging in any sexual contact, not just intercourse. Saying "I won't have intercourse" and then having oral sex or whatever is still sexual contact, and they deserve full disclosure before that.

You ask whether the imporant thing to me is that someone with AIS is genetically male or that they will in at least small part look/feel different than other woman. That's not the right question since I'm not involved with pollystark. The question is "What is important to pollystark's potential partners" and the answer is "we don't know for certain, so they should be given the information such that they can decide for themselves."
posted by Justinian at 12:58 PM on January 4, 2006


But my position is she should tell them before engaging in any sexual contact, not just intercourse. Saying "I won't have intercourse" and then having oral sex or whatever is still sexual contact, and they deserve full disclosure before that.

Understood. But given that true "full disclosure" isn't really possible in a casual sex situation, I just think that ruling out intercourse from the get-go is enough to either raise a red flag or spark conversation if a conversation is necessary. It's crab's comment (that it's up to you to enforce your own prejudices), but meeting you halfway, giving you the chance. Rather than going around asking everyone if they have AIS, you have the choice, once someone says "we're not having intercourse," to say "why?" In the spirit of "full disclosure," I admit I'd probably ask why (for different reasons--my own personal prejudices, in a way).

Furthermore, I can't help but think that if you want to engage in casual sex, you have to accept that you're risking some psychological trauma. It is, I think, inevitable. Not to be cynical. ;)

You ask whether the imporant thing to me is that someone with AIS is genetically male or that they will in at least small part look/feel different than other woman. That's not the right question since I'm not involved with pollystark.

I didn't really ask which was more important but rather why you were focusing so hard on the genetic component, then later changed your tune. But I do think it matters why you think it matters that men know this about her...you aren't arguing for "full disclosure" of every detail of one's life, and yet others may be more traumatized by other things. There's a reason you feel this detail is the important one to reveal. "Because it has to do with sex" isn't really enough, because without being crude, there are other things having to do with sex that you may not explain in detail before doing it. If that she was XY mattered at all to anyone, we would all get tested for it just like STDs and explain to all potential partners "I've been tested, I'm clean, and I'm definitely XX." The words "straight men" and "homophobia" keep coming up. (Hey, gay men have sex with women too, sometimes!) And there's a difference between being upset to find different-looking parts during a sex act, and being upset after the fact that you had sex with someone who had a syndrome you didn't even notice at the time. What I mean is that it's about more than average, everyday honesty.
posted by lampoil at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2006


Lampoli: I focused on the genetic component at first because it seemed to me that Orthogonality was being given all kinds of shit for saying that pollystark was "genetically male" (which is true) and my dander got up. That's maybe not very commendable, but it's the truth about why I was pounding it so hard. Being completely calm now... I still think it is an important component but it isn't the end all and be all.
posted by Justinian at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2006


Just wanted to chime in and say I think you should tell them you're XY. Personally, I would not have sex with you. And I would be extremely upset and disturbed if I did and found out later about your chromosomes. Is that fair? Probably not, but that's how I'm wired up.
posted by delmoi at 3:54 PM on January 4, 2006


My personal feelings aside, however, it's perfectly acceptable, even normal, for a girl to bring a guy home and then not have vaginal intercourse with him. You don't even have to say 'no penetration' before you get home.

If you really want you can say you want stay a 'technical' virgin, but are willing to take it up the butt. I'm fond of suggesting anal sex as a solution to problems.

Don't say you're having your period because if you naked they'll notice you're not, and on top of that some guys get grossed out by menstruation as well, and won't want to come back with you.

If you want to have a relationship with a guy then you should tell him, and if you want to stay friends with him afterwards, you should tell him. As long as he's never going to find out, though, it's not so bad. What he doesn't know won't really hurt him from a practical point of view. And what if he falls in love with you? Then what. Being upfront about this is the most practical thing, I think. It'll reduce the field, but not eliminate it.
posted by delmoi at 4:46 PM on January 4, 2006


Response:

Just wanted to say thanks so much to everyone for their comments. I feel I should respond with some clarifications, and let you know what I'm going to do.

* I am a girl. I don't care what anyone else thinks - I look, talk, think and act like a girl, so I am one. However, I recognise that some people may disagree with my self-identification, hence the question.

* What will I do?

Where there is emotional intimacy already established, I would bring the subject up voluntarily. Having AIS is a small part of my identity, and I want to clue in any potential LTPs about the fact that I can't have children, that sex may be a bit unusual initially etc. I don't think I could go out with anyone who is closed minded, so chances are their reaction will be favourable.

The question was about situations where sex can happen before emotional intimacy.

Casual Sex. I feel really uncomfortable with divulging something so personal to someone I barely know. This isn't about narrowing the field, or getting less sex. It's about protecting myself: from scorn, from the sadness caused by revealing something painful, from the tiny tiny tiny possibility of physical violence, from gossiping. However, it is clear that some men would feel deeply upset if they got to know that the person they had sex with had XY chromosomes. This means that maybe I just have to go ahead and tell them and hope for the best.

However, what makes me think that my silence would be reasonable is that this is an *emotional* issue rather than a physical one. I will obviously have to explain about there being no penetration and my particular external biology, but saying I have AIS is purely an emotional admission. When a person with herpes tells their partner about their condition, they are doing it because there is a danger and also it is specifically related to sex/physical stuff, rather than emotions.

So, I need to somehow come to a decision about what to do. A lot of parables have been suggested: STDs, infertility, erectile dysfunction, trans people etc. Most of these share only some similarities with my condition. One that might be better is the question of whether, before casual sex, a person should disclose the fact that they are not interested in a relationship. Some people would say they should disclose, because otherwise they are potentially taking advantage of a misconception about the meaning of the sex. Others would say, "Fuck no, it's up to the other person to ask what the sex means if they care, and anyway, the anti-commitment person isn't lying by not disclosing."

Like my situation, this issue, I think, can be resolved if one knows the stage of the relationship. Get picked up in a bar? You don't have to say. Have sex a few times? Maybe should move towards saying something. Have sex for a more extended period? You have to have The Talk.

* (Off-topic.) Gator and counselling. You're probably right - I do need to resolve my conflicted feelings about gender and sexuality. I've been thinking about going to counselling for a while, and think I might do it.

Thanks so much again to everyone for responding. And thank you to those who defended me against the few nasty comments that were made.
posted by pollystark at 6:02 AM on January 5, 2006


A bit late, but I thought that today's (Jan. 18) third something positive comic was apropos, based on some of the discussion.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:34 PM on January 17, 2006


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