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    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Susie Bright on Men Who Love Burgers and Loathe Sex

    Bright's piece on Alternet:

    Why is sex problematic for men now, when such a "problem" was only women's in the past?

    You all are aware of how sad I feel for men, as the stereotypes applied to them are so thoroughly insulting.

    Heterosexual men were, for years, distracted from the question of whether or not they were desired (and/or cared for?) because they were doing the selection and the seduction. Now that heterosexual women are involved in selection and seduction themselves, rather than simply being chased, men are put in a position of considering their own desirability.

    Women are constantly told that "the female body is beautiful" and that we're works of art, blah, blah, blah. Men are told how gross they are- they're hairy, they smell bad, they're not works of art but animals, etc.

    The other issue is that men's sexuality is considered dangerous and pathological. Men of these recent generations have been raised to question their desires, indeed to feel guilty about them. I think women are being more and more encouraged to explore their sexual selves, and men are being more and more encouraged to repress their desires, for fear of the guilt that comes with just about any desire seeming "deviant".

    I have been fascinated by this anti-blowjob thread on I Blame the Patriarchy. One of the most interesting elements is how, even the men defending blowjobs as not necessarily oppressive to those who give them, feel compelled to point out that, even if this act is not necessarily oppressive, they personally don't particularly like it. Not one guy on this thread of 181 responses could admit to liking a blowjob. Color me skeptical. It's possible that NONE of these guys enjoys getting head, but is it likely? Would we believe it if a bunch of women protested they didn't like cunnilingus? Would we, perhaps, think these women were simply uncomfortable with admitting to their own pleasure?

    Men are supposed to just be happy and satisfied and feel fortunate to have any sexual interaction with a woman, whereas most women would be generally supported in asking for whatever it took for her to have an orgasm (or two) on each encounter.

    I recognize that the men who happen to be visiting I Blame The Patriarchy are not even remotely close to being a representative sample. I'm not pretending they are. But I think that the fact that a site that promotes women's equality would draw men who express personal distaste for receiving oral sex is telling: do men feel that, in order to show respect for and/or kindness toward women they have to stifle their own desires? I think, to some extent, many men do.

    After all, would you want to be seen as "thinking with your dick" or some other moronic construction that basically dehumanizes both you and the object of your desire?

    I was thinking about this when I read an article about the evolution of Playboy magazine in, I think it was the New Yorker, maybe a month or two back. I can't find the article, but the point was that Playboy was envisioned as tasteful and intellectual - consider the interviews, the politics, the criticism, the fiction, even the cartoons. Interspersed amongst high-brow commentary were pin-ups. The assumption therein: men can be both smart, considerate, intellectuals and sexual beings. Now, we have magazines like Stuff with a scantily-clad woman and crude sophomoric jokes in between. The assumption therein: heterosexual men who admit to sexual desire are idiots and cads. Of course, neither Stuff nor Playboy corners the market, but the transition of Stuff to the mainstream in front of Playboy is, I think, a microcosm of certain cultural shifts around interpretation of heterosexual male desire.

    I don't know if this is "the fault of feminism" or what. There is no doubt that many women felt legitimately victimized by the manner and manifestations of heterosexual men's sexuality. There is no doubt that a great deal of men did and do
    still feel entitled to women's bodies - I have myself experienced it quite a bit, even feeling victimized on occasion, and I think I'm the norm in that respect. But how does any straight guy with even a passing acquaintance with feminism square his own desires with some of the fundamental expressions of feminist thought in the last twenty years? A heterosexual man is somehow expected to desire all women, regardless of race, body type and size, or age, equally and, by equally, we mean not very much, or else it's scary, and he shouldn't initiate sex and should primarily prefer going down on his partners, rather than asking for any kind of sex act, and he should really just stand there while women evaluate whether or not he's attractive and come to him and how dare he reject a woman who puts herself out there.

    [And when you look at the consequences for things like being accused of sexual harassment, it's no wonder men fear their own sexuality and its potential for excess (excess being the spectre of most desire).]

    I don't mean to say that all feminists actually believe this; I am most definitely a passionate feminist, and I don't and I bet very few, in this day and age, actually do. But the residue is there. The equation of heterosexual men's desire with either a. violence or b. utter stupidity is still rampant in the media and in everyday conversation. How many times do you see men literally struck dumb by an attractive woman on television or on film, like actually standing there, mouth open and drooling, unable to think or speak? How many times do you hear that "men think about sex every seven seconds", which, even if true, definitely connotes a certain dangerous preoccupation that circumvents any substantive intellectual life.

    In other words, though there's much discussion about whether or not hormones or the environment or whatever are endangering the sex drives and sperm counts of twenty-something straight-identified men, I think, as usual, the first place to look is culture. When people look at culture, there's been a major tendency to point to the proliferation of pornography, especially on the Internet; its increased use as a cause, rather than an effect of, men's decreased desire for "real life" partnered sexual activity. But what if straight men use pornography so much because they are afraid of the way sex with "real women" diminishes them or their partners, as subject and object, as drooling moron or rapist and victim?

    3 Comments:

    Blogger Chris Clarke said...

    Well, there's at least one male IBTP regular who likes getting blowjobs if they're done well, but you think I was gonna step in there brightly and say so? You freaking kidding?

    11:53 AM  
    Blogger EL said...

    Oh, Chris. :)

    I don't blame you in the slightest.

    And thanks for stopping by.

    6:51 PM  
    Blogger Rebekah said...

    Great article! This is a point that has been trying to formulate in the back of my mind, but I could never pinpoint- you put it perfectly! Thanks!

    12:11 AM  

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