I guess that was a little too complicated

Maybe this is what I get for only spending an hour banging out my last post, but it’s received some genuinely confused reactions on YouTube – and I don’t really know whose fault that is:

Jesus Christ, man. Your post used to be slightly insane, but now you’re just lost it.

What the fuck are you even talking about?

This is a very bizarre choice of topic and an even more intellectually constipated way of talking about sex. Don’t try to *sound* like you are intelligent. Just *be* intelligent. Otherwise you just look like a pseudo-intellectual making up crap. You don’t have to construct these over long sentences in order to talk about gay sex.

ZJemp uses sneaky NLP (Neuro linguistic programming).

While speaking and using this technique, he tries to manipulative his viewers and sound interesting, making his videos seem better than they are.

I’m afraid you’ve lost me on this one. We are what we are; just as you want me to accept you for who you are, you have to accept me for who I am. We are products of out culture, and the dominant culture points the majority to PIV sex. Now it doesn’t make me a bad guy because I don’t find other forms of sex appealing-it’s a line I won’t cross. As you ask for respect for your preferences, I ask the same for mine. That’s MY choice.

Boring, you just said the same thing over and over. :/

This seems like a strawman – What exactly are people doing or thinking now that you think they should change, and which people are doing or thinking those things?

I like the video however… I think it was arrogant to claim that hetros somehow looked down on homosexual sex because it wasn’t PiV sex. I think you’re just making stuff up now.

I enjoy most of your videos a lot. You have a excellent mind and put forth some very impressive arguments. This video however seems like a complete waste of time. I’m a straight guy, and I have no interest in the mechanics of your sex life. It’s not personal, I have no interest in the mechanics of any other persons sex life either unless it’s the person I’m fucking. Then I care. Otherwise, TMI.

Are you saying you don’t fuck your girlfriend? Why would you even say that? How is that anyone’s business? WHy would you even talk about that?? I’m confused.

man, this looks and feels like a justification video for something that happened with your woman and your penis and her vagina… really sad.

(Yeah, even when people insist on trying to read into what I said in spite of the “I’m not going to get into specifics here” and “that isn’t anyone’s business”, they still manage to get it completely wrong.)

It would be easy to blame all this miscommunication on the poor listening skills and other general shortcomings of some people on YouTube, but concluding that they’re just inept individuals only gets us so far if we actually want to explain things effectively. Put all blame and responsibility aside for the moment: The fact is, somewhere, something failed to connect. Why?

Not every response provides a clue as to what was misunderstood – accusing someone of being “insane” or a “pseudo-intellectual”, being “manipulative” with “neuro linguistic programming”, or making “a justification video” doesn’t really help to clarify anything. But some are informative, even if only minimally so. Did I use too many big words? Did I fail to provide enough concrete examples of the phenomena I discussed? Did I not give people a reason to keep watching beyond the first 30 seconds, leading them to conclude that this was a personal video and they would learn nothing useful? Was I not explicit enough about criticizing people’s ideas and not people themselves? Did I not explain things in enough detail? Or was I actually too verbose? Could it be that I was just wrong?

Maybe some people really did need an expansive overview of the various items that can be applied to someone’s body for sexual purposes. Maybe they required a deeper explanation of virginity’s history as a tool for marking women as valuable or worthless, and why it’s an incoherent concept because of ambiguous ideas about what constitutes “sex” and misconceptions about what the hymen is and how it works. Maybe they needed to hear some instances of conservatives characterizing gay sex as less fulfilling and less genuine than heterosexual sex. Maybe they wanted to see some examples of how penis-in-vagina sex is the most common representation of sex in the media. Maybe they actually wanted to know more about my personal life, or maybe they didn’t want to hear about it even in passing. (Maybe I should have learned what “NLP” is so I can avoid doing it by accident.)

Obviously, we can’t please everyone. For every explanation, we have to decide on a certain level of detail and how much background knowledge we expect people to bring to the table. There shouldn’t be a need for a comprehensive review of all lower-level topics from the ground up every time before we can get to our actual point, especially in a 5-10 minute video where only so much territory can be covered. Sometimes we just have to go from Point 1 to Point 2, without stopping to rest at Points 1(a), 1(b) and 1(c). Unless the subject really warrants such a thorough explanation, this is likely to be even less effective at conveying our core points – not everyone is interested in a book-length treatise on our argument.

Yet even for what seem like fairly obvious concepts to some of us, there are essential foundations that many people truly aren’t familiar with. Sometimes, our expectation that they’ll have a basic grasp of the subject turns out to be completely and utterly mistaken. The less accurate our appraisal of their current knowledge, the harder our attempts at communication fail.

There’s one topic that so exemplifies this phenomenon, someone once described it as “the Kobayashi Maru of Reddit” – and there’s certainly no end of opportunities to try your hand at it. That topic, roughly speaking, is the existence of transgender people and the validity of their identities. It can come up almost anywhere nowadays, and the gulf between those who understand the subject, and those who don’t, is vast and often unbridgeable.

Attempts at trying to educate someone from the fundamentals all the way to the conclusion are too exhausting for most, so people on either side tend to talk past each other: the less informed hold a variety of misconceptions at the most basic level, and the more informed make their arguments based on facts and theories which their opponents are not aware of or do not recognize as legitimate.

Almost no one has the time required to bring a single person up to speed on the difference between sex and gender, the fact that gender is not always congruent with sex, the sexual differentiation of the brain and how this process can go awry, the various studies about trans people and their findings, the effectiveness of transitioning, the ineffectiveness of attempts at a “cure”, the importance of evidence in forming our beliefs about the world, the painful realities of dysphoria and transphobia, the value of being decent toward others, and everything that’s necessary to bring trans people into their personal Sphere of Individuals Who Are Treated Like Human Beings and Have Their Suffering Taken Seriously and Their Knowledge, Experiences, Identity and Self-Determination Respected.

Even fewer are willing to bet that their conversational partner is actually interested in knowing these things. Instead of caring about the truth, they might instead value some personal model of reality which reinforces certain ideas and views that they consider too important to give up. This often seems to be the case, and so genuine cases of successful persuasion are especially rare. The occasional positive outcome gives us hope – but not very much. Few of us bother trying anymore. Success may at least be possible, but failure is far too likely to justify investing ourselves in this.

So we make the decision: We’re not targeting the 101 crowd anymore. Someone else can try, but at some point, we need to move past the basics and deal with more advanced topics within a shared background of knowledge. Those who wish to join that conversation are responsible for educating themselves to the level needed to understand what we’re discussing. The cost is inaccessibility to those who lack the requisite knowledge, which may not be such a great cost when so many of them apparently don’t care anyway. The benefit is actually getting stuff done without being eternally bogged down in molasses, arguing over fundamentals with people who care more about their preferred beliefs being seen as right than changing their beliefs to reflect what really is right.

With everything I write, I have to draw that line somewhere, and it’s a delicate balance. Not everything I say will be within everyone’s grasp, and neither will it always be something completely revolutionary that you’ve never thought of before. Sometimes, ideas are complicated. Other times, certain fundamental elements need to be established before we can move forward. I can only hope that I manage to strike a balance that’s useful to everyone on some level, rather than no one on any level.

I guess that was a little too complicated
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38 thoughts on “I guess that was a little too complicated

  1. 1

    Honestly, the only thing you could do to avoid swabbing the 101 deck that maybe-kinda helps is to link to someone else’s 101-level explanation at the beginning of your post to lay the groundwork. Or they could, you know, learn to use Google.

  2. 2

    It would be easy to blame all this miscommunication on the poor listening skills and other general shortcomings of some people on YouTube, but concluding that they’re just inept individuals only gets us so far if we actually want to explain things effectively.

    Are you sure about this? Your first hypothesis fully explains all available evidence and provides a very functioning model to describe this behavior.

    1. 2.1


      Sure, saying “nu-uh, you’re just stupid” can be lazy and unrigorous. However, there is such a thing as a bunch of morons. They can be encountered in the wild. Especially by people who read comments on posts.

    2. 2.2

      As an educator, if you address yourself solely to people who already have good listening/reading/study skills, you don’t reach many people. Fundamentally, a blogger (like a teacher) is a trained communicator, and the average member of the audience (or class) is not. It’s up to the expert to bridge the gap as much as they’re able. (Or, to put it more simply: your students are morons. Deal.)

      The extent to which it’s okay to do that at the expense of other goals depends on the context and your general objectives. I think that’s the problem Zinnia was musing on in this post.

  3. 3

    I thought your previous post was very clear, and the failures of understanding should be attributed to the ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the readers.

    1. 3.1

      No, that has it exactly backwards. The audience is never at fault. The speaker is always responsible for communicating to them. It is an incompetent educator indeed who assumes that any failures are the responsibility of the student.

      1. Actually, some of responsibility does fall on the student. While, a speaker should consider hir audience & speak clearly, the rest is up to the student. Listening & comprehension are key when it comes to being a good student. Also, good students ask questions. Good teachers answer questions. But the exchange must be done in good faith to be helpful & worth the time.

        Zinnia did not walk into a classroom full of “non-English speakers” & she didn’t force her video on anyone. Clicking “play” is 100% voluntary. Zinnia’s commentaries are smart, critical, & cover a range of topics. Perhaps she should have linked to an “alt sex 101” or “Trans 101” resource for those who have ZERO experience w/ anything that’s not the heterosexual PIV “norm”. Other than that, Zinnia was articulate & spot on.

        1. “some of responsibility does fall on the student”

          But this isn’t a student/teacher relationship. This is mass communication with what I would assume is a desire to inform and hopefully convince people that sex is more than just vaginal intercourse. Really? There’s a need for that? On YouTube your videos are advertisements and you are selling a product. The product is your way of thinking about things. How much sense then does it make to blame your audience for your failure to sell your goods?

          “Zinnia’s commentaries are smart, critical, & cover a range of topics.”

          Maybe, I see no evidence of that but it’s clear you all *think* she’s smart and that’s super annoying. She does seem to be really worried about Bristol though, can’t imagine why.

          1. You said, “It is an incompetent educator indeed who assumes that any failures are the responsibility of the student.” So, I referred to the teacher/student relationship also. You also used that “non-English speaker” analogy.

            I’ve read Zinnia’s writing here & at Huffington Post. I’ve watched her videos. That’s my evidence she is smart. Perhaps it is a subjective observation. She’s articulate. She’s logical. Sometimes I find her delivery flat but I like that she never loses her temper, even when she covers a touchy subject.

            While sycophants are annoying, many people are merely grateful Zinnia addressed an issue so many of them face. They’re telling her so. They might use her video to help themselves explain something to a family member or friend. Also, when it comes to the annoying PIV ideal, most of us agree with her.

  4. 5

    Wonderfully stated. There’s also the unwillingness to accept that we are unwilling to accept new information. One of the first lessons of skepticism is “I am wrong about more things than I think I am.”

    That plays out in so many ways when current beliefs are challenged, and we unfortunately live in a culture that lionizes as a matter of national identity resilience to changing one’s beliefs.

  5. 6

    This was a well written article and I hope you make a you tube video of it soon.Sometimes when you put out a big idea most people will be just too clueless to understand it all (I’m one of them).If that’s the case then that’s their loss and not yours.There’s no one else on you tube,here or anywhere else that can put out a well thought out idea like you can and make people think about it.

    For most people their world revolves watching Dancing with the Stars,playing on-line video games,watching hours of internet porn,eating unhealthy foods,ignoring the news about the world around them every chance they get.If you have not done so already please see the movie “Idiocracy”,


    most of the general public act like what is seen in that movie everyday,due to circumstances beyond my control I’m forced to work in a customer service job and have to deal with people like them on a daily basis (let me tell you a secret,it’s not fun!)

    Please don’t let anyone on the internet get you down in the dumps.If they ever do just ask yourself a question “Why should I care about what a stranger on the internet thinks of me?”

  6. tE

    > the difference between sex and gender,

    there’s none; “sex” as a category is socially constructed too; different sex-gender aspects are regularly conflated; a sex and gender distinction harmfully appears to solve the conflation (by defining two distinct groups) but actually furthers the conflation (within these two groups); any kind of “born (fe)male”, “(fe)male-bodied”, “of the (fe)male sex” etc phrasing should not be applied coercively, especially not in everyday language where anatomical details would basically never be relevant if not for cissexism or similar; abloobloobloo

  7. 8

    For some of the complainants, I think your running into the fault Ayn Rand called “concrete bound.” They can’t think abstractly. They think only in concretes. They think if you’re talking about sex, you must be talking about your personal sex life.

    There isn’t much you can do to reach these people.

      1. And Rand herself. Despite making that very cogent point about concrete thinking vs. abstract thinking, whenever Rand wrote about sexual ethics, ostensibly in general, she praised only those sexual practices that were healthy and fulfilling for her and called anyone who had different sexual urges deluded or immoral.

    1. 8.3

      Any Rand was not capable of abstract thinking. Her creative writing is turgid and insufferably self absorbed. Her attempts at philosophy are just… well they’d be funny if so many didn’t buy into her insanity. She tries to talk the way ignorant people *think* intellectuals talk.

  8. 9

    Perhaps they read a different post/watched a different video than I did, because if it had been any clearer, it would have included the sentence “Run Jane run”. (Definitely a good job, on your part!)

    I’m voting for the “morons” theory. The “raised by wolves” theory might work for some of those who disagree with your thesis; clearly anyone who’s ever consumed any sort of mainstream–or even just not explicitly queer–media with any sort of sexual content could not possibly think otherwise.

    1. 9.1

      The morons and others you mention are one of the reasons I was so sorry to see HBO’s Real Sex (as shallow and silly as it often was) docuseries go. I grew up sneaking viewings of that show, trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. One thing that it was good at making very clear was that there’s not just one kind of sexual intercourse and never has been. I just don’t understand how so many people can be so unrelentingly ignorant in thier beliefs and attitudes about what physical contact of a sexual nature entails.

      It’s a primary school level failure, really. Everyone is not like you. They seem unable to remember that.

  9. 10

    I thought your previous post was very well written and clarified some of the thoughts I’ve had about the way the definition of the sex act has changed since Bill Clinton denied having sex even though he had a blow job.

  10. 11

    No, I will not make jokes about YouTube commenters…

    No, I will not make jokes about YouTube commenters…

    But it might explain a lot.

    (I really liked the post, and thoroughly agree about the weird privileging of PIV sex.)

  11. 12

    This may be due to my previous familiarity with the subject matter blinding me to the depths of honest ignorance some people plumb, but I can’t really see failure to understand your last post as anything other than deliberately disingenuous.

  12. 13

    Zinnia, you can’t make a video or write a blog post that is going to be useful to everyone on some level. You can hit most of your target audience, but there will always be some people who are just either way too familiar with the material, or too uninformed to even comprehend it, not to mention those who don’t want to change their veiws, who are intentionally obstinant. Your discussions are clear and interesting to anyone who is interested in the topics you present. Most of the comments you cited sound as if they are from the people who are intentionally trying not to change their preconceptions.

  13. 14

    I actually read this piece first, then watched the video. The fact that you were accused of TMI & insulting people who prefer PIV is just… wow. And not long after you did that piece about listening…

    The Nerd’s suggestion of linking to a 101 explanation is a good idea. I was just talking to my friend, Tanya-Louise. She is transgendered & people feel perfectly comfortable walking up to her & asking personal questions. She doesn’t mind answering but I expect it can be tiring, revisiting the same questions over & over.

    Cis privilege: “I’m entitled to your highly personal info when I ask for it. However, if I enter your space & you try to educate me, I will claim TMI & tell you to shut up.”

    I respect your work, Zinnia. I’m so happy to see you over here at FtB. 🙂

  14. 15

    That one person said they wouldn’t cross “the line” into anything but piv sex… But I bet that person does lots of other sex like kissing etc.

  15. 16

    If you are looking anywhere else other than in the mirror you’re wasting your time. You uploaded the video, no one asked you to, so any failure to communicate is entirely the speaker’s.

    “Did I use too many big words? Did I fail to provide enough concrete examples of the phenomena I discussed?”

    How about you just try to talk the way any normal person would talk instead of like you’re giving a dissertation? But frankly, even for an academic audience your style, at least in this video, was stilted and contrived. No one, not even academics, talks like that.

    I don’t believe that you are so stiff and repressed in normal conversation as you seem to be in your videos. Assuming that away from the camera you are actually able to express emotions and your inner feelings to others try to address the camera as you would your friend or partner. As they say, make love to the camera or at the very least try to treat the camera as if it is someone you care for rather than as unwashed masses about to receive pearls of wisdom dropped from your brow.

    Oh and don’t be so afraid, relax, they can’t hurt you. Just be yourself.

    1. 16.1

      So, folks, is this a tone troll, a concern troll, or some variety not cataloged yet? I’m honestly not sure where to file this post. Brenda, sometimes when you don’t understand something, it’s because it was poorly communicated, but sometime, it’s you. If this is the level your discourse usually operates at, I think I can guess which case is more common for you.

      1. “or some variety not cataloged yet?”

        Disagreement is not trolling. I am giving my honest opinion. Let me put it as clearly as I can.

        If it is your intent to communicate with someone then it is your responsibility to do so in a way that meets your goals. So if I address an non-english speaking audience in English it is not their fault for not understanding me. It’s mine and it would be the very height of arrogance for me to blame that audience or call them morons because they didn’t understand English.

        Obviously ZJ feels that she failed in her objective. I doubt she would expect no negative feedback at all. This is YouTube after all. But negative feedback is information that any educator should take into consideration and adjust their message.

        My advice is to lose the ponderous verbiage, loosen up, relax, use ordinary terms, drop the pseudo intellectualizing. And most important, don’t be afraid. They can’t hurt you, honest.

        1. Nah, the trolling part is where you condescendingly give stupid advice, while pretending that it’s intended in good faith. Calling Zinnia’s style pseudo intellectual, and contrived is not actually what constructive criticism looks like, and wouldn’t be even if your claims were accurate. As it stands you seem to have a really low threshold for big words, if the language Zinnia uses doesn’t strike you as ‘ordinary terms.’

          1. “the trolling part is where you condescendingly give stupid advice”

            It isn’t trolling when you are asked for your input. ZJ asked the whole world for advice, well, all of YouTube, which is pretty much the same thing. And frankly, you shouldn’t want other people, especially friends and acquaintances, to tell you what you want to hear. Sycophants can always be bought if you really need them.

            ZJ’s affect is rigid, flat and emotionless. She cloaks her thoughts in pretentious prose and convoluted grammar. Then is surprised when people don’t respond properly. If Zinnia is truly honest in seeking an answer to why she got the replies she did she’ll welcome criticism and that is going to be about her, not her viewers.

            “you seem to have a really low threshold for big words”

            I am not the topic. Zinnia and her failure to educate her targeted audience is. I assume that by posting her video she wanted to reach outside of her usual crowd and inform casual passersby. The comments do seem to point to a massive failure on her part. Many couldn’t even understand her pompous prose. I thought it was pretty opaque myself. Clearly only those who were already in the know knew what the hell she was talking about. If the only people you reach are those in your immediate circle you haven’t really educated anyone have you?

            I think the biggest problem is the absolutely flat and mechanical delivery. Smile once in awhile. People are not interested in a female version of Harry Kissinger.

  16. 17

    Hello, first time commenter.

    I read your previous post and found it very clearly written and understandable. I didn’t watch the video, but I doubt hearing those same words would make them any less clear.

    Those comments on the other hand… they seem to me like they might be coming from people who wouldn’t grasp the concept even if you explained it using colored graphs and hand puppets. Words “denial” and “deliberately obtuse” come to mind.

  17. 18

    I just want to chime in here and say that your previous post was perfectly clear to me. I am not really well-educated about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community and still I think I was able to comprehend your point. If I were you, I would ignore the hostile comments, they don’t seem to be coming from reasonable people.

  18. 19

    Zinnia, the one thing I never have trouble with is understanding what you are saying. The primacy of PIV sex is vastly overrated. I suspect my heretical view on this subject is influenced by my discovery of my bisexuality, which of course puts anything I have to say on the subject utterly dismissable…

  19. 20

    Dunno what you know about it, but anyone talking about “NLP” is pretty well guaranteed to not know what they’re talking about. It’s terribad pseudoscience (and, since I’m in speech/language neuroscience, it’s brought up by people I meet all the time).

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