Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Two Myths of Desire.

When I started this blog, one of this first myths I wanted to tackle was that women weren't horny. (My counter-evidence consisting largely of "fuck, I'm horny.") Figleaf has a refinement he calls the Two Rules of Desire:

1) It is simultaneously inconceivable and intolerable for a woman to have sexual desire.
2) It is simultaneously inconceivable and intolerable for a man to be sexually desired.

I want to be careful how I present these. Obviously they're not true. And they're also not that widely believed; tons of women know they're horny for men and tons of men know that and love it. But they form a sort of infrastructure for a lot of misconceptions about gender and sexuality, from "sluts are psychologically damaged" to "pretty boys are gaaaaay." These two rules are the base myths that lead to Cosmo sex tips and "evolutionary" pop-psych and everything that Maxim has ever printed that wasn't about sports cars.

How they apply to some of my personal bugbears:

Cosmo - It is inconceivable for a woman to have sexual desire, so here's some tips on how to be attractive to him and how to please him in bed. When we do speak about your own sexuality, we'll assume you've barely thought about it so we'll either ignore it, or write "how to have an orgasm" articles that assume you've gone twenty-odd years and never touched your down-theres before.

Radical feminism - It is inconceivable for a man to be sexually desired, so heterosexual sex (or if not sex itself, any deliberate sexiness) must be all about pleasing men out of fearful or brainwashed submission. When a woman insists that no, she really desires guys and kinda likes them as people besides, this only shows the depth of the brainwashing or her lack of commitment to the cause. I've seen radical feminists propose a sort of Lysistrata solution to patriarchy, where we all withhold sex and sexiness until the happy-bunny Revolution comes; it's usually compared to a "strike" but for me it would be a lot more like a hunger strike.

PUA - It is inconceivable for a man to be sexually desired, so here's how to trick the bitch into giving it up. NO HEY REALLY IT'S ALL ABOUT SELF-IMPROVEMENT AND CONFIDENCE SO STOP BEING DIFFICULT BITCH.

Evolutionary psychology (not necessarily as a whole but when used as shorthand for "pop-psych articles about relationships that compare people to elephant seals and/or Neanderthals") - It is inconceivable for a woman to have sexual desire, so here's some misapplied animal analogies and poorly-researched assumptions about "cavemen" that explain that she may think she's horny but she's really just looking for genes for her babies. Ladies love them some babies.



PROGRAMMING NOTE: I know updates have been sparse lately and that's partly because I've been sick with the Lung Crud for the last month. I finally went to see a doctor today and got a bunch of medications and hopefully I'll be feeling sexier soon.

(It's also partly because of Fallout 3. But I didn't tell the doctor about that because I don't have a problem, I can quit whenever I want.)

25 comments:

  1. Hershele OstropolerDecember 1, 2009 at 2:31 PM

    It's also used as a response when feminists et al point out that the best way to reduce the incidence of rape is for men to forbear sexual activity absent enthusiastic consent. Since only a woman sexually desiring a man, as well as vice versa, could result in enthusiastic consent, and if that never happens, enth. con. is too high a bar.

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  2. Hershele - Indeedy (and worthy of an entire post). Sex should never be the difference between "no" and "yes," but between "no" and "mmm ahhh OH GOD PLEASE YES."

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  3. I think you need to look at Hugo Schwyzer's post "Of Never Feeling Hot" for a more subtle look. Most men who come to PUA are familiar with the bar/club scene, the SCA Ren-Faire scene, the cosplay scene, all sorts of social contexts in which they PERSONALLY are not chosen for inborn factors beyond their control which they compound by socially awkward behavior. Most everyone knows our society is awash in female desire and female sexual agency, so the one-sentence summary of PUA would be "Evol Sluts Choose Only Alphas Always." Again, it's a straw PUA to chalk that up to a lack of female desire, the problem from the PUA+MRA perspective is that female desire is now totally free of outmoded social-shaming and free to be satisfied by only the 10%-20% of men whom women "naturally" desire on the savannah.

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  4. Eurosabra - Wow, that didn't take you long.

    It's not about being someone women "'naturally' desire on the savannah"--it's about becoming someone a modern-day woman might desire, and I'd say that just about any man has that potential. Sure, some guys are born bug-ugly, but that doesn't mean they're hopeless. I know plenty of bug-ugly guys with hot girlfriends.

    (Or even... UNTHINKABLE... bug-ugly guys with bug-ugly girlfriends and they're happy together. One of the failings of PUA--besides being insane--is that it treats women's experiences as totally different from men's. 80-90% of women don't come naturally savannah-beautiful either. You think makeup just grows on our faces?)

    So yeah, men have to work to be attractive, I agree that much, but I think PUA is a terrible method of becoming attractive. Everything I read about PUA is based in deception, pseudoscience, manipulation, and sexism. "I wasn't born Brad Pitt" is a real problem; PUA is a bullshit solution.


    (Oh, and would you quit this "female sexual agency" shit? I don't get Brad Pitt delivered to my door with a bow on. And Aunt Bertha with her skin condition and all the cats out in Pasco--still technically a "woman" under today's terminology!--definitely doesn't get that.

    Women don't get laid with desirable partners much more easily than men. Maybe I have a better chance of fucking Uncle Joe-Bob than you do of fucking Aunt Bertha, but I think my chance of fucking Brad Pitt is quite comparable to your chance of fucking Megan Fox.)

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  5. Sure hope you feel all better soon. Nothing sucks like the crud. And I know you can quit any time you want; you just don't want to!

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  6. One point I'd like to add.

    There are guys (myself included) who find it difficult to believe that someone is sexually attracted to us. And due to social training/conditioning, can't initiate sex the first time or two.

    And hope you feel better, had 2 sinus infections, flu, and pneumonia in the last six weeks myself. It sucks.

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  7. Wait, does all that mean that Holly understood what Eurosabra said?

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  8. I guess it does mean she understood it.

    Funny, I went to an eastern school, and the radical feminism women aren't attracted to men combined with good girls don't have sex unless they're drunk to yield a really toxic brew.

    Dan--it took me years to get the confidence and security to realize that I am attractive, that people WILL desire me, and not everyone will desire me. So, you move on. YEARS. But you get there eventually

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  9. Don't forget that obligate lesbians, assault victims, and "radfems" are held up (mostly by anti-feminists) as exemplars of feminism and, by extension, what all women would be like if women ever reached social, financial, and political parity with men. Rule #1.

    And yeah, the rules are amazingly baseless but wow do a lot of people (ok, men) fall for them.

    Love your Cosmo and PUA examples too.

    figleaf

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  10. If women just want to make babies, then considering how much men try to spread their seed around, men must *really* just want to make babies. [/snark]

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  11. William : Think part of it is our justice system, a woman even whispers a thought about sexual misconduct we're in jail and publicly battered about for being an ass. Not a situation I want to find myself.

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  12. And related to what I overshared about elsewhere - there is no such thing as a man who has a lower sex drive than his female partner (unless there's something medically wrong with him).

    flightless

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  13. I admit to have a problem overcoming both myths, although I'd never separated them out like that. And that's been part of the problem: From an individual perspective, "she doesn't want me" is indistinguishable from "she doesn't want sex" -- and "she doesn't want sex" is much easier than accepting "she wants sex with someone else" or trying to understand why, if she wants sex with me, she's so passive. ("So" is a deliberately ambiguous term.)

    I wrote a much longer response initially, but realized Holly had covered pretty much anything I wanted to say. It boils down to treating people as individuals rather than as members of whatever group you're trying to educate/protect/fuck/analyze.

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  14. I can think of what would happen if a male EMT, unattractive but not pushy, tried using your ER as a "woman farm." His job would be in danger in about 5 minutes. Whereas a woman just has to stand there, have a pulse, and say "Yes" to a decent offer. Your "Aunt Bertha/Brad Pitt" dichotomy skews the reality that the problem for the AVERAGE woman is TOO MUCH sexual interest from TOO MANY incompatible men, while the problem for the AVERAGE man is eliciting attraction from the AVERAGE woman.

    PUA is blamed for inauthenticity when it's a product of social circles and social rituals (the LA club scene) where people are at their most superficial. And some men really DO need a road map to seduction, and as someone brainy suffering from depression who has dated a lot of brainy depressed women (and one or two women with Asperger's) I have a lot of experience with "naïve rapport", attraction, and sex being something almost totally learned and enacted through social ritual ANYWAY. I get that you don't get the sort of total social invisibility that awkward men experience, or that PUA requires enough extroversion to overcome that "raw", without techniques and routines.

    fl is totally correct that PUA holds that on reaching socio-economic parity with men, women will cause a nose-dive in the average man's sexual life. This is because that is what happens, as the not-so-sotto-voce requests for someone "ambitious" "successful" in personal ads attest. (It may be that as an Israeli-born Jew I have a warped perspective on American society. Nah.)

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  15. Eurosabra - Most Americans have a warped perspective on American society, as a general rule we aren't sane. I know there is an ever decreasing percent of the population I can stand to be in the same room.

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  16. Eurosabra - I can think of what would happen if a male EMT, unattractive but not pushy, tried using your ER as a "woman farm." His job would be in danger in about 5 minutes.
    Ha ha, you think they don't? Male EMTs be all about that fine ER-nurse booty.

    Of course when I say "farm," that's a goofy euphemism for "place where we share a break room and thus have opportunity to strike up conversation," it's not like I'm out in the hall grabbing asses.

    Whereas a woman just has to stand there, have a pulse, and say "Yes" to a decent offer.
    Ha ha NO. Talk about "invisibility"--I feel like you think "woman" means "hot blonde hardbody", when in fact it encompasses Aunt Bertha and everyone in between. Bertha's not going to get far just standing there with a pulse. And neither are most women, and frankly, neither are most hot blonde hardbodies. I've met boys in lots of places, and not a once could the situation be described as "just standing there."

    I really don't know where you go that women are just standing there with take-a-ticket machines and men submitting applications. This is totally outside my experience.

    Your "Aunt Bertha/Brad Pitt" dichotomy skews the reality that the problem for the AVERAGE woman is TOO MUCH sexual interest from TOO MANY incompatible men, while the problem for the AVERAGE man is eliciting attraction from the AVERAGE woman.
    No. The problem for both sexes is that we all want an above-average (however we define that, it's hardly objective) partner. Again I have to ask where you see women (real women, not two or three highly visible hotties) turning away men left and right. I sure don't have that kind of problem...

    fl is totally correct that PUA holds that on reaching socio-economic parity with men, women will cause a nose-dive in the average man's sexual life. This is because that is what happens, as the not-so-sotto-voce requests for someone "ambitious" "successful" in personal ads attest.
    But... I want to fuck. So some man or other's going to get lucky. And since there's a lot of women out there who also want to fuck, and most of us aren't that into sharing, a lot of men are going to get lucky. And this is in fact what happens in the world. Money hardly enters into it.

    Why would being rich make me less horny, or more willing to sleep with a guy who has twenty other girlfriends? If anything, more powerful women would expect more exclusivity, thus increasing the net pussy supply.

    (Also, not all "ambitious" personal ads are looking for sugar daddies; some are really just trying to say "doesn't live with Mom.")

    Finally, PUA has shit-all to do with this because IT DOESN'T WORK. If that shit worked, brother, you'd get laid. You clearly do not get laid despite being an ardent student of the discipline for several years... learn to recognize a pattern, huh?

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  17. Dan - Hey buddy, with an attitude like that most of us Americans don't want you in our rooms anyway. :p

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  18. Holly - Ouch, I understand it, but still ouch.

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  19. Holly: It's really deeply weird to watch you having the same argument with Eurosabra that I have with my lover, when we debate male vs: female perspectives on courting. :)

    But I guess that means that both of us have noticed the same things, from our respective sides.

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  20. I'd like to mention that I don't play the PUA game, though...

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  21. flightless -- No such thing as a man with a lower sex drive than his female partner?

    First data point: I seem to need sex way more often than my boyfriend (I would be okay with it if we had sex once a day, but no less often than that; he turns me down more often than not), and (second data point) I was just having a conversation with a male friend who ended a relationship with a female partner partly because she wanted to have sex all the time and he seemed to find it annoying. I also, third data point, have another male friend who said he felt bad that he never wanted to have sex with his then-girlfriend when she initiated it (so he didn't).

    The myth that men are always hornier than their female partners is incredibly destructive for both men and women. Please stop propagating it. Men and women are individual people with individual variations.

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  22. I can easily believe the invisible woman thing. I am a slightly more attractive than average guy; I make eye contact and smile at less-than-average women, and they light up. (I like doing this, it makes everyone happy). The degree to which they light up makes it clear that this small acknowledgement does not happen all the time.

    Still, I have to be the one to initiate it. I don't believe an invisible woman is normally as invisible as an invisible man in our society; I've been an invisible man, in a college with 5 times as many women as men. I've been told I was rather attractive then too, but I couldn't tell, because back then I didn't initiate contact at all.

    Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent was a good exploration from one of the few people who has ever explored this from both sides.

    Now, I treat attractive young women as invisible; being at the young end of middle-aged, I don't want to seem like a creepy old man. The younger or the more attractive, the more invisible to me. I wonder how common that is?

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  23. "The myth that men are always hornier than their female partners is incredibly destructive for both men and women. Please stop propagating it. Men and women are individual people with individual variations."

    Um yeah, I brought it up AS a myth. Sorry, I thought that would be clear from what thread we were in; I should have expounded as you did.

    flightless

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  24. Hershele OstropolerDecember 8, 2009 at 9:23 AM

    It occurs to me that feminists are guilty of these, when they (we?) criticize women who change their appearance to attract a man/men.

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  25. Actually, it's probably because I personally don't meet a physical attractiveness threshold independent of pick-up, coupled with the total female agency I credited above. For the most part, I can totally see WHY a man with my appearance, finances, etc. is going to face challenges others don't, and in fact I am mainly giving/getting sex-for-sex's-sake with "invisible women." Pick-up seems to work stunningly well for men with at least a little bit of fashion, money, heat, or masculine social dominance, so my (lack of) performance is indicative of precisely nothing.

    Again, I think your socio-economic position and geographic location, as well as your relative youth, skew things a bit, because Jews are free to be non-wealthy and still date where you are, whereas here things are pretty grim for men who aren't wealthy, because, after all, "Jews are good with money."

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