Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Feminism and the ruination of sex

Over at Pandagon, there's a discussion going on about another blog where there's a claim that feminism has damaged sexuality in some way... as if feminism was to blame for guys believing that women want to be romanced, rather than just, well, "taken" might be the best word.

It raised some thoughts. See, feminism has affected my sex life. I heard a lot about the crap women put up with in the sexual arena. Being felt up in crowds; being leered at, having crude comments made; being groped at random, and having the guy insist "oh, it was just an innocent misunderstanding"; being raped, sometimes by guys they desperately wanted to trust.

I got the wrong message out of that. The message I got was that women lived in a world made terrifying by sex, and therefore, the worst thing you could do was desire to do sexual stuff to a woman unless she wanted you to.

Now, it is pretty bad to do sexual stuff to anyone if they don't want you to; I specified women only because I don't have any interest in doing sexual stuff with men. The problem is, you can't always tell what a person wants. My solution was not to try.

Well, if you don't try to make a move on a woman, she assumes you don't want to, and she's not all that likely to make a move on you if she doesn't think you're interested. It's a bad situation from both ends.

There were two things that I needed to get straight in my head.

First, the issue with women is not that they're surrounded by sex; it's that their boundaries aren't respected. Most women are okay with their boundaries being nudged in a careful, respectful way. It wasn't that I shouldn't make a move on a woman; it was that I should do so in a way that left her in control of the situation, not just in the moment (i.e., that I'll stop if she asks) but in the future (I'm trying to find what she likes, and what she feels comfortable with, and I'll respect those boundaries as best as I can).

For those guys who aren't motivated by being gentlemanly, let me point out that this also makes a woman feel safer, which generally shortens your seduction time. Women don't tend to want to get naked and busy with you until they feel safe doing so.

The scary part for me, at that point in time in my life, was that I had to learn how to try without feeling like a rejection meant that I'd done something horribly wrong. Because the only way you learn to make a move is by trying to make a move, and the only way you find out that you were moving too fast, and mis-reading the signals, is by moving a little too fast, and realizing you mis-read the signals. The solution was to make my moves slowly enough that I could back off with minimal embarrassment if I read the situation wrong.

The second thing I had to get straight in my mind was this: sexuality is a gift. If I want to have sex with a woman, I'm offering her a fine and wonderful gift.

Does that sound egotistical? I suppose it might, but it's the right way to look at it, in a variety of ways.

First off, offering a gift means that the recipient can say yes or no to it. It's not really a gift if you're trying to metaphorically shove it down her throat.

(The earthy part of me wants to point out that there's also a literal warning for guys there... if she's giving you head, *she* gets to control how deep. Don't you dare ruin it for her next guy by making it awful for her!)

Also, while you might be disappointed if your gift is rejected, you shouldn't be sulky or whiny or petulant or even annoyed. If she's not allowed to say "no" without it bugging you, you were making it so her "yes" wasn't able to be as freely given, either.

Second, while this is a gift that is good for both the giver and the recipient, giving a gift means you think it will, first and foremost, be happy making for the recipient. You don't give a gift solely out of hopes of the rewards it might bring you.

Third, giving a gift means you'll care about the gift itself; you'll do what you can to make it nice, and you'll appreciate and value the gift you're giving.

In short, you won't think that sex is dirty, or nasty, or feel less about the woman who wants it; you'll love what you're doing, so long as it's making you both happy, and not hurting either of you.

This last bit... I have to admit, it stems from a strange feeling of mine. I think a lot of men of older generations (I'm 40, so I'm talking guys born near WWII and older) got the idea that sex was dirty, and one of the reasons they were so worshipful of women was that women would let them do this dirty thing, yet still make men feel good about it.

I don't know why I got the feeling that this idea existed; it's not explicit anywhere. So why do I feel that a lot of men felt that way? It's hard to express, but part of it plays into the whole virgin/whore dichotomy of ages past, where there were women a man would fuck, and women he'd marry. You can't think sex is a fine and wonderful thing, while thinking that the women who also love sex are dirty sluts.

If you don't think what you're offering is good, beautiful, and even noble, then why are you offering it in the first place? If it's not a lovely gift, then isn't it pretty icky to be seeing if someone you care about wants it?

Anyway: realizing that the main issue about women was control of their boundaries, and realizing that sex should be seen as a precious gift, were the things that made me into the much more sexually confident (and active) man that I am today. I don't know if this has any relevance to anyone else's life, but hey... sex is supposed to be personal. These are my answers; maybe, if you need to, you'll find some answers of your own by thinking about them.

Thank you for this post. The gift analogy is very appropriate, and you articulated it well.
I found what you said helpful, interesting and well stated as well as caring.

I find the entire area of "sex" difficult and troublesome - particularly where we - as Males - are to be seen as the "Pursuers" and our Sex - as being "Conquests".

It would be nice if we could be affectionate in potentially intimate situations without it necessarily being or becoming sexual.

As men we need to recognize that women often can't see us as ourselves, where we may be a "good man" because of too many bad experiences they've had with other men.

We also need to be honest with ourselves and recognize our own issues and insecurities.

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