Webcomics Are From Uranus: Sex in a Box

Last November, Hard, author of Sexy Losers, asked in his comic’s Livejournal why women read his comic. He was asking because he had so many women writing to him, and as he put it: "…sometimes they will add ‘Yes, there are females that read your comic’ as if I am suddenly shocked that there would actually be females that would find sex humour at all interesting…"

In my high school days, it was both shocking and amusing for bunch of girl friends and I to get together and watch soft-core porn, MST3K-style. This type of porn has the flimsiest of stories, the least amount of actual sex going on, and the stupidest ways of not showing anything but breasts. My favorite was one where the guy enters the room starkers, his genitalia covered in each shot by a random object in the room, which, as he stormed in, would get knocked down immediately before the camera changed angles… We laughed ourselves silly, but didn’t stop there. The next day at school we laughed again as we related our fun to our guy friends, teasingly. It both shocked and intrigued them, the "intrigued" part being what we were coyly going for.

We wanted them to be a little turned on that we were that sexy, and a little mystified over what exactly we said when the boys weren’t around. It was an evil high school thing to do – flirting without actually flirting. We were growing up when Ally McBeal was on the air, and using sex for power was a much-tossed-about concept. Now TV has Donald Trump critiquing women for trying to rely on the same tactic. It seems a little lame now that I’m older and married, but the tactic is still attractive.

Women still like perpetrating the myth that we should be shocked by blatant sex, if only because we live in a time where it is cool to go against the stereotype. It makes a simple choice have so much more meaning if we declare that it goes against ‘type for us to make it. Doesn’t it pack more punch to say you’re pro-choice if you hedge the statement by first saying you’re Republican? It makes the stance significant, not an idle thing based on what you’re "supposed to think."

Basically, what I’m saying is that it’s a great thing to perpetuate stereotypes if that keeps individuality and independent thinking in the "hot" category. We need even more independent thinking when it comes to sex. Too often people are lumped into puritan or hedonistic sides, with no option for middle ground. We’ve pushed sex into a tiny margin of possibilities.

I think I can best show how society is moving in terms of sexualism by comparing the two Shaft movies. In the Richard Roundtree original, sex is matter-of-factly THERE and it’s good, honest lovin’. It’s hot, sexy, masculine and feminine. It’s also a bit of showing off – sex is what makes the man. The violence, in contrast, is a little more realistic. A gun is just a tool and violence just what happens.

Now, take the remake with Samuel L. Jackson. Here you have violence busting out the seams – blood gushing out, guns, guns, and more guns. It’s Hollywood violence, not street violence. Sex is nowhere, but Richard Roundtree makes a cameo as the only guy getting anything on, walking out with two honeys in arm. Jackson is just a gun named John Shaft, not a man. The lovely Vanessa Williams is wasted, to boot.

This may only be one example, but I believe it’s characteristic of entertainment in general. We’re more comfortable with violence than with sex. Even James Bond is getting PC-ified. Still cool to kill people, but can’t use sex as a weapon anymore. Sex can only be one thing, pinned into a little box.

I’m from the Peter Gabriel school of thought on sex. Sex is life-affirming and life-creating as a positive force that’s open and bright. It’s also a mystery, something dark and private. It can hurt and harm and yet inspire the best in a person. It’s cheap and trashy, yet one of the greatest things in the world. It’s great fun, and great to make fun of.

Which brings me back to Sexy Losers. I was initially attracted to this comic back 4 or so years ago when I saw Hard’s art on OCAD. The art drew me in first – it’s so distinctively his own, very realistic and clean and simple. It’s capable of great beauty and great humanity. Still, it fits in so well with the devastating sense of humor that Sexy Losers thrives on. Sex exposes people in more ways than one, and Hard delves into these many and myriad ways, finding the humor in each. Here is a comic that really shows sex the way I sometimes see it, as something petty and human, and on top of that is very funny in its own right.

Yet for all this praise, how many women would even I expect to find reading it? It’s not that the comic is male-centric – it’s actually quite balanced, if not making more fun at men. The first excuse I think of is that most women would not want to admit to reading it. Most women don’t admit to anything sexually explicit, unless it’s a stereotypical love story. Maybe it’s been beaten into us by extreme feminist agendas.

Or maybe I like it better that fewer women read it, making me more special by default? Maybe I want fewer women to read it, so when I declare my fancy, it comes as a shock? Things that shock are few and far between these days, especially on the Internet where we’re already seen everything, at least twice.

Whatever the reason, it’s far from the truth. Many, many women read this and other comics like it. Due to the anonymous nature of the internet, it’s far easier for women to find these things without having to walk into a store, curious yet without a clue of what’s out there to be curious about. And maybe it’s better to have read it. Laughing at ourselves is always a good thing, and being more comfortable with something that is a basis of life and a basic thing in life can’t be bad. We should find it less and less shocking, even if we choose to be coy and flirtatious about sex towards others.

There can be no life without sex, and life’s not much fun without the humor.


  1. It would have been interesting to compare all this to actual readership, but even with reader surveys, it’s hard to get a clear picture of what SL’s audience is. It could be mostly female, you never know. What’s interesting is that the girls, for the msot part, don’t seem to /think/ the readership is very female.

  2. Amoebae AREN’T reading my column, and that’s all I care about. ^__^ I’m a speciesist!!

    Sex is a big, weird, objective thing with a misleadingly small word for it.

  3. then i better not mention that i am really a sentient slime mold trying to understand humanity through its literature.

    i might be wrong again, but to me it appears that trying to seperate sex from everything else is like trying to seperate a quality like red from its context.

    imagine a world where it is considered inappropriate to draw something red because it might offend someone (“better dead than red”). it would not matter if that something is a cherry, a strawberry, roses, blood, or the martian sky.

    if something red was unavoidable, it would be drawn in a different color.
    and the audience would need to be encouraged to just imagine red to be there.

    wouldn’t that make red a vast, complex concept with a misleadingly short name?

    now the question is, why are women supposed to be not interested in it, and men to be unconditionally?

    maybe women assume that women are not interested, because they tend not to talk about that particular subject with other women, but rather with men? that would also explain why men are hardly surprised about women being interested.

  4. The problem would be that you couldn’t just survey the readers. The reader base might be 40% composed of 60-year-old guys, but somehow, you’d get a survey that reports that 75% of the readers are 17-19 year old female virgins with bra sizes C through DD.

  5. i am confused already.

    what is sex proper?

    i grew up believing that women in general were not interested in sex and only engage in it for the money, which rendered the whole subject pretty much uninteresting to me. (after all, if it is not interesting to the people i am interested in, why should i bother?) now that i know better, i find that i do not even know what it is.

    there are articles, magazines, ads, webcomics, featuring sex of some sorts in several ways. they all seem to agree that it is something enjoyable. if so, then why don’t people just go on and enjoy it? what makes it so complicated or dangerous?

    i think different people enjoy it in different ways. so what defines it, and what distinguishes it from everything else? women in general stopped talking to me when i mentioned that i like hugs better than porn. am i wrong?

    i am probably wrong about sex being a way to express one’s feelings towards another. otherwise interest in it would not be specific to gender, but i am in fact relieved everytime a woman admits to taking an interest in that subject, but not so when a man does the same.

    what am i supposed to assume?

    meaghan, you mention that life is impossible without sex, so i assume that amoebae are doing it all the time?

    ps: i like the drawing.

  6. If Sexy Losers has truly male-heavy readership, I don’t know that it’s based solely on the NC-17 content — every female webcomic reader I know has checked it out at least a few times. My unscientific, estimated guess (judged basically from emails, forumgoers, tagboards, etc.) is that webcomics *overall* seem to have predominantly male readership. It’d be interesting to see how the gender-balance on a comic like SL compares across the board.

  7. Amoebae, frankly, are a horrible audience.

    They really don’t get a fair number of the jokes.

    Oh, and despite the many efforts of a great many, human mitosis has yet to be properly achieved, no matter how many unborn rights activists you see in front of the Clearasil plants.

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