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The Starfish Position

Yesterday as I sat under a hair dryer waiting for the highlighting bleach to do its magic, I scanned an issue of Glamour magazine since it was within reach once I was under the dryer. I haven’t looked at one in more than a decade. I usually bring my own reading material to distract me from the heat, but happened to forget to do so yesterday.

I was really struck by the intensity of the images, different from those in the People magazine that sits in my therapy office waiting room. Sure, there are make up and hair care product ads, but the ones in Glamour just jumped off the page. I sat there thinking about how incredibly difficult it is for teenage and twenty-something females to feel good about their face and body with these amazing images of perfection. Air brushing finished off what actual physical beauty failed to offer in reality.

I was also struck by the sadism of articles on figure flaws and similar topics. If the pictures didn’t do the job of planting insecurity, the articles would finish the job. I do understand that magazines are essentially about reader numbers and that playing to people’s fears increases readership – yet I found this pretty assaulting.

I know that I’m not writing anything new here – so far.

Later on, I remembered a comment that a client had made that week about some different types of casual sexual encounters. We talked about “Kleenex dates.” These were sexual hook ups in which the males essentially saw their female partners as the equivalent of Kleenex – a place to figuratively blow their nose and deposit their semen, nothing more.

Photo Credit: Kyle Flood

Then he brought up another facet of casual sex – a female who is what’s called a “starfish.” This was a term that was coined to describe that during sex some females merely lay there like a starfish – legs apart and arms outspread with no movement or participation. They provide access to their genitals but there’s not much else going on for them nor being done for their partner.

I wondered if there was any connection between the starfish and Glamour magazine. I thought of a few possible connections. Some women think that if they look good, that’s all that they need do in order to be a worthy sexual partner. Laying there looking good is the sum total of their participation.

I also thought about how sexualized the Glamour magazine ads are. Obviously, I’m all for sexuality, yet I wondered how many young women find themselves pulled into partnered sex by magazines and other cultural messages before they’re really ready, like swimmers in a rip tide. I suspected that some of these women were expert at the starfish position too. For them it isn’t so much that they think that it’s all they need to do, but instead because they don’t have a clue about what they could do.

I’d be interested in hearing from people (probably it would be males predominantly) who have been in sexual situations with women in the starfish position. Was it more about the women thinking, “This is all I need to do” or that they were thinking, “This is all I know how to do?”

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