A Pleasure Working Under You

The war between men and women continues unabated. One of the most emailed and popular articles on the NY Times has been, Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? It is a very long article, and very speculative, but the upshot is that the author feels that equality leads to a happy wife, a happy life, but not necessarily more, or passionate sex:

No matter how much sink-scrubbing and grocery-shopping the husband does, no matter how well husband and wife communicate with each other, no matter how sensitive they are to each other’s emotions and work schedules, the wife does not find her husband more sexually exciting, even if she feels both closer to and happier with him. … “The less gender differentiation, the less sexual desire.” In other words, in an attempt to be gender-neutral, we may have become gender-neutered.

According to the article, both men and women are hard-wired to expect that passionate sex will involve male dominance and female submission. Though the devil is in the details, that idea rings bells for me. When I was a boy, my mother and I were watching a movie on tv (Number One) with Charlton Heston as an aging quarterback. In one scene he argues with Jessica Walter, who plays his disaffected wife, then forces himself on her. She initially resists, then starts to respond. “And they call that rape,” my mother said. That was … a surprise.

During one of our necking sessions my first (much more experienced) girlfriend dragged my hand to her breast. I had no idea what to do then. (OK, I had some idea, but wasn’t sure what was allowed.) She soon dropped me for someone that presumably did. Quite a bit later my first lover asked me to talk trashy to her during sex. I had no idea what to say. Tom Jones and Balthazar B were about the extent of my sexual heroes, and neither waxed eloquent while making love.

But on the other hand, many lovers later, I made passionate love during a thunderstorm, at one point holding my arms around her arms around her head. She always loved thunderstorm sex, but grumbled that me pinning her down reminded her of the time she had been raped. I’ve dated one woman who showed me a picture of her black eye, one who was intimidated into office sex, one that was date-raped, one that was raped in her dorm room by an intruder and whose ex-husband used to spit on her if she couldn’t achieve orgasm. Yes, the one that was raped had trouble enjoying marital sex.

Here is where I’m supposed to give a pat rejoinder to the article’s premise, but I’m still as confused about women as when I had a crush on a little blonde girl in Kindergarten.

It does seem clear to me that women are attracted to powerful and wealthy men who can take care of them, but at the same time it is an article of faith among self-identified nice guys that women are drawn to the bad boys. Does that sound like a plot quandary from a Woody Allen film? If so he solved it by becoming rich, powerful and a bad boy. In light of the Dylan Farrow furor, XoJane asked, What Is It About Our Artists and Very Young Girls?:

It’s no mystery why teen girls would be drawn to the powerful men who court them. Young girls, a traditionally fairly powerless group, wake up one day to discover they wield enormous sexual power, power they may use without the perspective or emotional maturity to fully understand the consequences. Many 13-year-olds with access to rock stars and visionary directors would be thrilled to capture one’s interest, but unable to fully understand how unlevel the playing field truly is.

I’ve never courted younger women, but in three musicals I dealt with teenage girls in the cast flirting with me. Over the run of a show everyone becomes close through common purpose; it is easy to confuse that closeness with other feelings, and some guys do take advantage of that. I realized that these girls weren’t looking for a lover, they were just charmed that a man would actually talk with and listen to them, and had turned me into a fantasy boyfriend. Just before dress rehearsal one actually dragged me out in the hall to show her friends.

I wonder now – if I had taken advantage and groomed them for sexual encounters, and later been accused – I wonder how many male internet commenters would step up to defend me and attack them? In, Victims Of Sexual Assault Need To Take Their Share Of Blame, Too, TPM continues to report on blaming the victim:

[Wall Street Journal columnist James] Taranto is a reliable soldier in what he’s called the “war on men.” He wrote last June that Democrats … were trying to “criminalize male sexuality” in their efforts to eliminate sexual assault from the military.

Taranto had quoted a New York Time article, Stepping Up to Stop Sexual Assault, which reported on an effort to recruit bystanders to stop the rape of approximately one out of every five college women:

According to an account in New England Monthly at the time, an extremely drunk freshman was led into a Stoke Hall dorm room by three drunk sophomores who took turns having sex with her. One went into the hallway and bragged that they had a train going, high-fiving his friends. Several students, including the resident assistant, knew what was going on but did not put an end to it. Nor did the roommate intervene as the three boys tried to pressure the girl into saying it was consensual. …

College men use two words to describe when a man gets in the way of another man’s business, and it is not “bystander intervention.” For the purposes of a family newspaper, call it “shot blocking.”

In the Urban Dictionary, Cock Blocking is defined as, “To hinder, by whatever means, the chances of another male from getting a sexual encounter with a female.”

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