It is often said that women should not freak out about their men looking at porn. "Men need visual variety!" cry the proponents of porn. Advocates say that porn may help keep men from actually cheating because it allows them to feel like they got their rocks off with another woman in essence if not in reality. It gives them a release when their women aren't interested in sex. And these arguments are not completely without merit.
However, I started thinking about something. A reader of Dan Savage's column recently queried, "What's the female equivalent of porn? Where's our activity that might bother our significant other but, hey, girls will be girls?" The answer Dan came up with was cupcakes, which was decidedly lame and not in the least equivalent. The other day in the car, though, it hit me. The female equivalent would be MAKING porn.
According to studies that overgeneralize everything, women are turned on by feeling desirable. If the argument for why women shouldn't freak about their men looking at porn is all based in the idea that men are very visually stimulated, then it stands to reason that the female equivalent would be being in positions to be desired. Stripping for strangers. Posing for some nude photos and placing them on the internet where they can hear all about how sexy they are from commentors. Walking into a bar and flirting it up with other men just to get the feedback about how hot they are. If you're one of the aforementioned people who believes in the previously stated reasons for men to look at porn, then this idea shouldn't be all that unsettling. Is it? Because if it is, there's a problem.
Now, of course, many will argue that "women aren't like that." I always love this line when I hear it. Men are allowed to be sexual AND emotional. Sure, we talk about how men aren't as emotional as women all the time, but when it comes down to brass tacks, many of us will admit we've seen men fall in love. Men can love AND they can want to fuck. A man looking at another woman while with his significant other, we're told, is not a sign of his desire for infidelity. It's just the way they're built. But this culture is still in serious denial about female sexuality. The idea that a woman would be turned on by anything purely physical is immediately dismissed as preposterous. Women's sexual and emotional lives are assumed to be completely intertwined. I would argue that just as with men, women's sexual and emotional lives are like a Venn diagram: two separate circles with some overlap but also separate properties. Women want to eff the one they love--but, then, so do men. Women also get turned on by things that have nothing to do with the one they love. They're just conditioned to not even recognize when that's happening because we're taught that it's ludicrous. Studies have shown that many women are so mentally detached from their bodies that they can be experiencing full-on arousal reactions and not even know it.
How many men--men who look at porn on a regular basis and still love their wives and girlfriends because, hey, men can do that--would be comfortable with those wives and girlfriends posing naked or stripping? Some might argue that it's not the same thing, but I actually would argue that the two are strikingly similar. They're both situations in which two people are interacting without actually engaging with each other. So, what's the difference?
I point all of this out to show that there are still huge discrepancies in how we treat men and women's sexuality. Specifically, the ideas we have about women's sexuality seem to hem them in and make them seem controlled; the ideas we have about men's sexuality seem to allow them the maximum amount of freedom. We're told that these are natural states arising from our biology, but the biology of the female actually contradicts that. In different times and different cultures, it wasn't unusual for women to pair bond with the man with the most resources while having sex with the man with the best physical genes on the side. These women would pass these offspring off as their mate's because that's how they gained support. What does that tell you about women's natural sexual desire?
I don't point all this out to say that I'm in favor of or opposed to open-relationships. When it comes to one's relationship style, I think it's every man for himself. Some people (men and women alike) cherish monogamous relationships. Some people (again, men and women alike) cherish open relationships to various degrees. I'm also not saying that I think men shouldn't ever look at porn or that I'm going to run out and pose for Playboy. Sorry fellas. Actually, I'd probably be more of a Suicide Girl. Anyway, what I'm saying is simply that we need to further question the sexual assumptions we make along gender lines. Are some things typical of a specific gender? Certainly. But some things are not, and some ideas have been actively generated by a culture that is STILL afraid of letting women own their sexuality. Look at the idea that a woman only wants to have sex with someone she loves. This essentially makes her sexuality her beloved's property. She can't even help but give it away and allow her beloved to own it--she's built that way. I would argue that just like men, her sexuality is hers, and she makes the conscious decision about who to share it with. When a man is monogamous, we all act like it's this really conscious decision. When a woman does it, we act like it's just the way she is. Some women make this choice easily, almost without effort on any level--but, then, so do some men. But some women have sexual desires that are not fulfilled by their beloved. Hell, for some of us it's still hard to understand the first half of that sentence.
Again, I am not looking to advocate a specific lifestyle. I would not take the evidence culled from biological imperatives to advocate for an "anything goes" ideology. Neither would I condemn anyone for HONESTLY AND OPENLY pursuing an "anything goes" ideology. This is about general ideas we have about sex that, to my mind, just don't add up.
Seems to me that if men get to look at other women's tits, we should get to show other men our tats.
Book Notes - Jarret Middleton "Darkansas"
12 hours ago