Friday, July 30, 2010

Handjob World, or why it matters that women like sex.

One of the original tenets of this blog was simply that women like sex. (Or that I do, which has been amply proven.) But this statement isn't merely of prurient interest, isn't just a chance for me to go "whoo boys I'm the fun kind of feminist." It matters. One of the things I briefly touched on at Dating While Feminist is why it matters.

Imagine a world where women really didn't get anything out of sex: let's say a world where there was no sex act other than the handjob. It's mildly unpleasant, a lot of work, and you don't really feel anything physically. If you're really into a guy psychologically, if you're in lust or love, you can get kinda excited that he's excited, but only kinda. If you're submissive, you might get into it as an act of pure service. And if you're none of the above, you're going to have to be paid, tricked, or coerced into getting jizz all up in your manicure for no good reason.

Sex, in other words, would have to be a transaction. You'd have to get something, real or emotional, for it; being told "the way your hand feels is your reward!" would be a slap in the face. And even in relationships where initially lust or love was enough, eventually the thrill of that would cool and your handjobs would get kind of bored and perfunctory--yeah, you understand he enjoys it, and nothing against him, it's just, you know, rough on the wrists and you wish you could have the TV on or something.

Do these attitudes, the ones that would develop in Handjob World, seem eerily familiar?

But sex isn't just handjobs. Sex is a beautiful array of actions that feel fucking fantastic to both sides. Female orgasms don't just exist; they're earth-shaking, reality-changing, mind-shattering. Hell, even apart from the orgasms, getting fucked is just awesome. Boom de yada.

It's true that orgasms usually aren't enough. Sex comes with risks and can be a bit draining, and although some people do have purely orgasm-based sexual relationships, even I can't really sustain that. But sexual pleasure, like every other part of a relationship, is mutual. She's giving him sex and he's giving her sex; it breaks even, so no one owes anyone anything for that.

This isn't just about dinner whoring, although that's the archetypal example. (Quick digression: the pricing there always bothered me. We're talking like $15 if we go for Chinese or Applebees, maybe $30 if you're a little swankier, and then you want full service and an overnight? Shit, that costs like $1500 from an actual escort! You should be feeding me for a month!) It's about every gesture men do to "get laid." I'm getting laid too, buddy, you know? You don't have to sweet-talk me into bed, so sweet-talk me because you mean it. You don't have to buy me gifts to get me into bed, so buy me gifts because you want me to have them. (In the interests of really not having a double standard, I'll buy you gifts too!) You don't even have to clean the kitchen to get me into bed, so clean the kitchen because it's freaking filthy dammit.

I don't think men and women can be equal if sex is unequal. As long as sex is a thing, a transaction, something women give or sell to men, women are put in a really weird social place. (So are men, but it's a more powerful one since they have more than one thing to bargain with and it's not their own bodies.) If women are just as likely as men to fucking love sex, then sexual relationships start out on an equal basis, with the sex itself not a factor in either partner's favor. And that is why my neighbor-disturbing pillow-destroying orgasms matter to feminism.

31 comments:

  1. You just equated getting fucked to The Discovery Channel. You rock.

    Oh, and decent expansion upon last night's post.

    Geez, I hope that wasn't too patriarchal. :)

    Jack

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  2. There is a lot of great discussion by Thomas on the Yes Means Yes blog about this. He calls it "a Performance Model of sex" as opposed to the Commodity Model, which is what we're used to: Sex is a commodity that is possessed by women and men have to buy/beg/borrow/steal to get it from women. (I should add "trick" to that list for the PUA's.) I am amazed to realize how deeply that idea got buried into my brain by my early training about sex. (You "give" your virginity to your husband, and if you give it away, you will have nothing but crumbs left.) It seems so obvious now how that just isn't how it works, but I didn't get it, and hate to think of how I resisted and anguished over what should have been really fulfilling and adventurous times in my sexual life.

    Performance Model means thinking of sex as acts that people perform together for their mutual pleasure. There is no owing sex for a cheap ass dinner, no getting used up, because sex is something that only exists in the doing.

    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/whats-in-a-name/

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  3. Look at Tristan and Isuelt. Even in the dark ages, people had the vague notion that women (like men) would do anything, give up anything for consensual sex.

    Have you seen the Kinsey movie? I just saw it, and thought you might find it interesting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppZwSABxeYE

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  4. To a certain degree, though, the whole "I paid for dinner/sweet-talked you/bought you things, now give me sex" business also occurs for women. Except it's the "I ate salads for a month/got a boob job/spent a ridiculous amount of time putting on makeup, now give me sex" complex. Everyone wants the magic bullet that will get them laid. I mean, it's definitely gendered, but you could view it as a universal drive.

    And then you get into the women who get boob jobs so men will sweet-talk them so the women will give them sex, which seems unnecessarily complicated and makes my puny brain hurt.

    I liked this post because it gave me a rationalization for spending all afternoon writing kinky Inception porn. I'm advancing social justice by proving that women like sex just as much as men, dontcha know.

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  5. ^Ozymandias, which pairing?

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  6. Arthur/everyone in the entire universe. Not all in the same story, though.

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  7. Ozymandias:

    Hey, I'll read it! (... please?)

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  8. Getting over the impression that women don't really like sex is the reason I started reading this blog. Now, of course, it's to protect Holly from Jack. ;)

    As long as sex is a thing, a transaction, something women give or sell to men, women are put in a really weird social place. (So are men, but it's a more powerful one since they have more than one thing to bargain with and it's not their own bodies.)

    That's not how the thinking goes. Women can do all the same things as men, and have everything to bargain with that men do, plus if they want they can always sell their bodies for $1500 for full service and an overnight. Men asking for money for sex is comedy. Women are seen as being in a much more powerful position, and it's resented. That resentment shows up all kinds of places, including the desire to think men are better at SOMETHING.

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  9. hell yeah, holly! great post.

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  10. I shouldn't have posted that comment just before I need to leave IRL. It needs way more discussion, including why $1500/night is not generally an option and why it wouldn't be a good option if it was.

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  11. I would definitely read your Inception porn.

    Also, I really like Scarleteen's metaphor for sex. Instead of baseball metaphors which are all about competition and fit pretty well with the commodity model, they propose a pizza metaphor that's more like the performance model. You can read it here, but the short version is that most people like pizza. Some don't, and that's perfectly ok. Some people like to share a pizza with a partner, some prefer to eat it alone, and some like to have pizza parties and invite tons of people over. You can also put whatever toppings you'd like on your pizza without a whole lot of judgement or, as they put it, "No one thinks someone who likes ketchup on their pizza is going to burn eternally in hell."

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  12. Inception Kink Meme, peoples. One-stop shop for Inception-related porn, and also filk of I Jizzed In My Pants.

    I'm too lazy to link to the ones I wrote, but I wrote the one where everyone chokes the fuck out of Arthur, and also the one where Arthur ties Eames's arms together with a silk tie.

    Now get back on topic, everyone.

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  13. Mousie00 - That's not how the thinking goes. Women can do all the same things as men, and have everything to bargain with that men do, plus if they want they can always sell their bodies for $1500 for full service and an overnight. Men asking for money for sex is comedy. Women are seen as being in a much more powerful position, and it's resented.
    That sounds like "women are powerful because they can deny men sex" thinking, and I feel like I've amply addressed why I don't agree with that.

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  14. Hershele OstropolerJuly 31, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    Women can do all the same things as men, and have everything to bargain with that men do, plus if they want they can always sell their bodies for $1500 for full service and an overnight.
    I've seen a suggested etymology of the word "pussy" that traces it back to "purse." I'm not sure that requires that women can just deny men sex. But now I have to go, so I haven't time to elaborate

    You can also put whatever toppings you'd like on your pizza without a whole lot of judgement or, as they put it, "No one thinks someone who likes ketchup on their pizza is going to burn eternally in hell."
    Hm. I don't particularly like to associate with people who have pineapple, but as long as they don't scare the horses in the street and all that.

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  15. I dunno, I just saw it as a clarification of how the thinking goes rather than an assertion of this is how it should be or truly is; that some men see women as "possessing" sex and that it does cause resentment is kinda the source of 90% of your trolls.

    Meanwhile the women are going "...but *I* sure as hell couldn't sell my body for that price tag and I can't get laid on demand and you're not really talking about me, are you, am I even real to you?"

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  16. Holly said That sounds like "women are powerful because they can deny men sex" thinking, and I feel like I've amply addressed why I don't agree with that.

    I don't want to waste time trying to address something you've already amply addressed. I found the Satoshi Kanazawa is a douchebag post, is that the one you had in mind?

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  17. Um, yes, well, but the PUA community argues that that isn't enough, because those women will naturally choose only to have sex with a very limited subset of men, and most of the sociological data bears this out, in the aggregate. So, really, moving everything out of the Commodity Model isn't as decisive as you think, because tons of men still have a tremendous scarcity mentality that is a reflection of their lived experience. This is outlined on so many PUA blogs and I've discussed it here at length in the past, and I tend to object to Chi's "trick" terminology when in fact it's an elaborate form of screening.

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  18. Eurosabra - those women will naturally choose only to have sex with a very limited subset of men,
    All women will only have sex with a very limited subset of men, on account of the tremendous emotional and time challenges involved with having sex with ALL of the men. But it's not all the same men--please witness the existence of the Average Guy With A Girlfriend.

    tons of men still have a tremendous scarcity mentality that is a reflection of their lived experience
    The problem from my lived experience is, I don't have a big pile of pussy in the back of my closet to give away. My pussy supply is stuck to my body and wired directly into my nervous system. Therefore, sex doesn't seem much like a commodity to me--it seems like an experience. When you talk about a scarcity, I hear you talking about a scarcity of me, and I hope you realize why that would give me heebiee jeebiees up and down the spine.

    Chi's "trick" terminology when in fact it's an elaborate form of screening.
    Sort of it is. It's screening for the women with the absolute lowest self-esteem that will be easiest to treat like shit. (Or the ones that haven't been burned by PUAs yet, because an unburned bridge is a missed opportunity!) Give yourself a pat on the fucking back.

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  19. My lived experience is that I'm not getting laid nearly as much as I want to (or, ahem, at all). I am also female. And yet I don't go around complaining that guys and girls ought to have sex with me because I buy them dinners or whatever.

    I could see a theoretical PUA that isn't horribly misogynistic: a sort of "identify the kinds of people you want to sleep with, identify what traits they tend to be attracted to, work on those traits" deal. Something that acknowledges that some people like bad pick-up lines and giant fuzzy hats, and other people like Monty Python references and eyeliner, and that you can generally work out which group is which. But, clearly, that's not actual PUA.

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  20. Mousieoo, look at it like this:

    A very, very small subset of extraordinarily attractive, outgoing women with the right sort of personality could sell sex for $1500 a pop and actually make money at it. A similar subset of men could probably do the same thing. Yeah, probably there are more women than men making scads of money as high-end prostitutes, but either one represents a tiny portion of their respective population.

    So saying 'women can get laid whenever they want' is disingenuous, self-pitying bullshit. It's the same for us as it is for guys: a crapshoot of personal attractiveness and social skills and luck. The only difference is how some men seem to think they have the right to sex with beautiful, intelligent, skilled, and charming women without actually contributing anything to the situation. This is why that whole argument tends to get kind of aggravating for a lot of women.

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  21. ...oh, and how hearing 'I'd pay to fuck you' isn't actually really a form of power. In fact, depending on the circumstances, it can be really fucking scary.

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  22. I hate being a lurker who only ever comments with "I love you!" type comments, but I never have enough time to really elaborate on my thoughts. I truly am grateful for posts like this that you make, however, because I feel like someone out there is saying the things I think but don't have time to say. You rock.

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  23. not another "Wow Holly ur so awesome!" post...

    You made me hungry. Yeah for food too!
    Dinner?

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  24. aebhel - that's something like what I was planning to say before Holly said she'd amply addressed the issue.

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  25. Ok, this is a really sad comment but this post reminds me of a bit in the most recent series of Desperate Housewives, where Tom thinks Lynette first put out because he took her to an expensive restaurant, whereas it was actually because he turned up at her house with a lightbulb to replace the one that got bust in her apartment block, because he was worried for her safety in the dark (it was less patronising than I make it sound - promise).

    The way to get a woman into bed is frequently to be genuinely interested in her - radical or what! I thought that was totally self-evident! Mind you, for me, turning my brain to mush with kinky thoughts also does the trick.

    PS Your blog is fucking awesome, thanks for writing it. I look forward to being able to do some of the freaky stuff you do - I'm so bloody envious!

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  26. Scarcity as in "almost no one is attracted to my natural traits", something which is probably experienced by lots of women as well. So you'd better acquire some personality to boost that.

    I don't know about "burned" except to the extent that some PUAs use negative comments, prude-shaming and peer pressure as tactics. Ross Jeffries once remarked that it's not a karmically good thing to use others' vulnerabilities to get your rocks off.

    Some men don't think of their own "No"s as agency, because they're supposed to always be willing. Turning it down is also a failure--you'd get offers from someone decent if you weren't such a chump.

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  27. Maybe burned by landing on a PUA site and finding out what they really think of the women they're working their charms on, much less women in general?

    Not to get too far off topic here, but I am unbelievably sympathetic to the situation that draws some men into this. My husband would have been a prime target: geeky, socially anxious, has never picked up a woman in his life (yet is married to me! conundrum!). Most human beings crave sex, love and intimacy. I get it. If there was just a way to pull out the casual to horrific misogyny that underlies it all, I would think it was a useful social training technique.

    In fact, what I remember of Mystery's show did that (shielding the masses from the ugly underbelly?). Showed the guys how to groom themselves, how to walk into a room, how to have something to say, how to "open a set" by being cool and non-threatening, how to figure out when she likes you. Even the "neg" stuff wouldn't be so offensive if instead of being taught as a way to undermine confidence and smoke out insecurities (i.e. teach that bitch she's not so special), it was "differentiate yourself by treating her like just another person, rather than fawning all over her, especially if she's likely to get that the minute she walk she walks out the door every day." We watched that whole show and I got teary over these very sweet guys getting the confidence to get out of their own way and actually talk to a woman long enough for her to find out she likes him.

    But as long as the foundational messages are: women are the same and want exactly the same things, a woman's value is directly correlated to her "number," women who aren't "reasonably attractive young women" might as well not exist or only exist to be interfering bitches, and of course the granddaddy of them all: women owe sex to men and they withhold it for all kinds of evil and bullshit reasons because they suck, well, all of that mess has been well-discussed around here. So if I say something mean about PUA, that's the shit I'm talking about.

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  28. ...and I see there's a new thread about this exact thing, so off we go.

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  29. If women did not feel sexual pleasure, we could still have an equal society. Boys would have to be taught from an early age that women do not enjoy having sexual things done to them and that a decent person would never do such things to a woman. Boys would have to learn to control their desire to have sex just as we all learn to control our desire to hit people. It would be harder for women to achieve full equality in such a society, but probably not impossible.

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  30. This post is made of so much fucking win.

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  31. Hershele OstropolerAugust 27, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    Something I saw somewhere inspired me to come back to this post.

    Protip: Never Google the phrase "handjob world" if you're at all shockable.

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