Thursday, September 23, 2010

Celebates and sluts living together--it'll be...anarchy!

And what's anarchy but another word for freedom? Today is National Sexual Freedom Day, and I shall now mark the occasion in the appropriate manner. Or, at least, one of the appropriate manners. The others are not available to me at the moment.

The other day I read an article about research into women's sexual desire. It was mostly talking about how to unleash it. The elusive desire of women. How, oh how, do men convince us to have sex with them?

The story is seemingly as old as time. Man and woman meet. Man and woman have lots of sex because they've just met and damn, that shit is awesome! Man and woman fall in love. Man and woman get married. Man spends the rest of his life trying to touch woman's breast and getting told, "Not tonight, honey. I have a headache." Man slouches off to watch porn in his office while the woman watches crappy woman-centered television shows about women and their feelings. The moral of the story was always thus: men love sex; women love feelings (and don't want to have sex later in the relationship because they never really cared much about sex to begin with). Women use sex to get love; men use love to get sex.

We were all raised with this story. Maybe we saw it first-hand in our own households. Maybe we just saw it on sitcoms. As we grew up, we didn't realize it, but this narrative became a central part of how we viewed male/female sexual relationships. Some of us--maybe even most of us--recognized at some point that this story didn't match up with our own feelings about sex. Maybe the men recognized at some point that they love to cuddle or they like women-centered television shows about women and their feelings. Both of my brothers love Gilmore Girls. Maybe we women realized we love sex. The problem was that while we were able to question what we'd been told about our own genders, we carried on believing whatever it was we'd been taught about the other.

The aforementioned article came with some information that rocks that cultural myth. Research is showing that women lose interest in sex as their relationship moves forward because they aren't particularly turned on by familiarity. Once they know they have a man in the bag, they find him much less sexually attractive. What?! But wait! I thought it was because women are these pure-minded souls who just love love and do not care much for sex and certainly don't care much for sex with anyone other than their beloved! Oh, my, how this information flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

Apparently men and women have more in common sexually than we care to believe.

It seemingly serves men to believe all that claptrap about women, love, and sex. It allows them to believe that their women would never want to sleep with someone else. It also allows them to believe that they hold a lot of the power in the relationship. Men supposedly have women under their thumb because women will do anything for love, including never leave and never cheat. Tell men that their wives have "headaches" because they're bored with their husbands and all hell will break loose. Men will actually have to work for it or, worse, won't be able to do anything at all to win back the sexual favor of their lady love.

Meanwhile, women are told that men have a sexual thought "every seven seconds." Actually, according to the Kensey study, 54% of men think about sex every day--which could mean once every day. 30-something percent think about it every week. Some only think about it every few weeks or once a month. That seven seconds statistic? That's just a cultural myth as well. I shared this interesting information with my boyfriend the other day, and he seemed relieved. He said he'd always wondered about that because he's not even sure he has a thought--any thought, sexual or otherwise--every seven seconds.


That seven seconds thing has always perplexed me. Here I am, a woman who loves sex, wondering how it is that so many men aren't in the mood all the time! When women are told that men are thinking about it constantly, what are we supposed to think when they don't want to do it with us? We have no choice but to think a) there's something wrong with us, or b) there's something wrong with our partner. But only about half of men think about it every day! That's a huge discrepency.

Another phrase that's trotted out and treated like science is the old "men are more visual." It's essentially used as an excuse as to why men just can't bring themselves to date ugly chicks. Men also use it as a way to prop up their egos. "Luckily for us dudes, we can get fat, lose our hair, and wear sweatpants and our ladies will still love us!" This might be true--love is crazy like that--but it's got nothing to do with women being less visual. Just like you men, your lady love checked out the hot piece of ass she saw wandering the produce section of the grocery store while you and your sweatpants were across the room in frozen foods. Women are visually stimulated. Don't believe me? Check my internet history. The argument here is not that we need to fight against the idea of men being visually stimulated. We just need to understand that a lot of people are visually stimulated. And we can be visually stimulated by all kinds of looks. And people--people, not men and women--have all kinds of sexual tastes and desires.

However a woman will not want to have sex with a man unless he has lots of money. That shit is the truth.

I kid. What we're seeing in that tale as old as time is the idea that relationships are power plays. For most of human history they were. Women and men needed something from each other. The modern belief that she controls the sex that he needs so badly because men love sex and he controls the love that she needs so badly because women love love is just the modern version of her having the womb in which his genes will survive and he controls the resources that will feed her while she's busy having babies. As people have become more independent, this outmoded power play no longer serves us. It causes more harm than good in the post-modern relationship.

Is there a place in all this for love? Is there a place in all of this for mutually satisfying sex? Is there a place in all of this for both simultaneously? Certainly. I'm just saying that some men like to cuddle and some women like to fuck. My love of sex has been met with varying levels of shaming on every front. Even progressive types like to imply that maybe I love sex because I have a desperate and unnaturally strong need to feel attractive or have security issues and will do any "sordid" thing to feel loved. You know, because that's the only reason women like to fuck. We need to challenge these deeply ingrained gender beliefs about sexuality. We all seem to think that just because women now pose in their underwear on album covers a la Britney Spears that the sexual revolution won, as if the only issue was whether or not it could be okay for women to be portrayed as sexy. But the old cultural trope of "men love sex, women love love, and the two are mutually exclusive" is still at play, and until it's played out, we won't have anything resembling a sex-positive culture.

And why would we want that? I think the term "sex-positive" speaks for itself.

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