Breezing through cyber space this evening I found a really interesting article over at Sirens Magazine, which was actually very uplifting. As a woman in my early twenties I am suspicious of most men who show a romantic interest in me, assuming that to a certain extent their actions are motivated by a desire to nail me more so than a want to get to know me. Harsh but, in some instances, probably fair. This is an attitude shared by the majority of my female friends – of course, any man in his twenties and above is ruled by the contents of his underpants, right? Actually, no, and reading this article by Julie Bogart made me realise that I am doing a lot of men a disservice by believing what is nothing more than an outdated gender stereotype.
Bogart draws on her own experiences with an ex-partner, a 26-year-old man named Alexander, who did not want to have sex until he felt ready. He wanted to be “serious” about a woman before he slept with her, which frustrated Bogart who didn’t understand “why sex meant serious.” Women who choose to abstain from intercourse at the beginning of a relationship are not required to provide an explanation to society – they’re considered virtuous, “nice girls,” the total antithesis to the “slut” (who unfortunately seems to be any woman who enjoys sex). Some would consider her “frigid,” but that margin of society is one whose opinion we probably wouldn’t value that much anyway. We’re supposed to only have sex if we feel it’s invested with meaning, whereas men are expected to harbour a desire to fuck anything, any time, any place, any where. Those who do that are criticised, of course, but those who don’t are somehow considered less masculine than their shagging counterparts.
Meaningful sex is something women are supposed to crave, and although a number of fantastic women have emerged over the last few years, describing their desire for sex for sex’s sake through their own stylised language (Abby Lee for example), there has been little done to eradicate the assumed ‘archetypal male’ who wants to fuck and chuck and then fuck some more without the burden of ‘feelings.’ Bogart’s friends and brother offered explanations for Alexander’s abstinence, which ranged from speculation that he was being unfaithful, holding out to make her want him more, but finally settling on the belief that he was “weird.” Bogart tried to reason out her reaction:
“In spite of what popular culture would have us believe, could there exist a large population of men that wants meaning with a side of sex, as opposed to the other way around? Is a no-sex policy a growing trend among younger men? Just as we women become increasingly comfortable with meaningless sex, just as we’re unleashing our sexual desires and exhibiting power both inside and outside of the bedroom, men, it seems, are saying no. But why? And more importantly, how are we—women raised to believe any straight man worth his masculinity should want sex anytime, always—supposed to deal with that?
As Alexander drifted off to sleep that sexless night, I began to sympathize with the men who masturbate in bed next to their sleeping wives (think Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty”). Worse yet, I suddenly understood the frustration that drives sexually unfulfilled men to cheat on the women they love. What had I become? A woman who relates to cads? Were my feelings even fair? As a feminist, didn’t I vilify men for the ways they pressure unwilling women into sexual acts?”
Why was it so important to find a ‘reason’ for Alexander’s choice? Why couldn’t it just be accepted? Is it because to a certain extent we, as women, have been conditioned to believe that our attractiveness is only validated by man’s want to have sex with us? Was this discontent emanating from vanity? What struck me by this article is that men can be just as easily victimised by society’s desire to make them fit a certain template as we can. I suppose it’s easy to forget considering that men have always been the more dominant sex, but this article is definitely worth a read.
Photo by inflatable jesus, shared under a Creative Commons License.