Saturday, January 12, 2008


I always got a sense, growing up, that the general script for sexual relations was "Men pursue, women deny." A boy asks for a date and unless he is very well suited a girl says no. She doesn't really want to date, see, but if there are enough compensating factors she'll put up with it. Then on the date the boy asks for sex and unless he is very well suited the girl says no. Because she really doesn't want that.

Hell, they even taught us this script in health class--I remember most of our "hey kids, don't fuck!" education (it wasn't strictly abstinence-only, but it was close) centered around statements like "girls should feel comfortable saying no." A lot of talk about "respect your body" and "don't let boys pressure you." These are good and important messages, taken literally, but my teachers used them to mean "don't fuck." The implication was that of course girls wouldn't want sex. Girls want boyfriends and self-esteem and peer approval and if they don't know any better, they'll endure sex to get those things.


Even as I was aware of this paradigm as a kid and teenager, I was also brutally aware it didn't apply to me. I was unpopular, ugly, and horny. I saw girls being cool by denying boys dates ("like so awesome you totally shut him down girl!"), but I didn't do any of that myself because nobody asked me out. Not once. I went on my first date in college. (When I was fifteen. But still.)

And I remember some jokes made at my expense. The boys in my math class discussing how much they'd pay to sleep with different girls. "Rebecca? Hundred bucks. Katie? Eh, seventy-five. Holly? Twelve cents!" I'm probably a crazy chick for caring what some dumb assfuck said when I was thirteen years old, but at the time it broke my little heart. I desperately wanted sex, wanted it worse than a boyfriend or popularity or anything, and I had boys and girls telling me to my face that I'd never get it.

So when I first got it, I went a little nuts. I was in love. This guy, who was way older and never did much for me besides fuck me, was a saint. I didn't know how he could swallow back the nausea long enough to touch me but I was so goddamn grateful he did. When we broke up I thought I'd never have sex again.

Well, then about six years and a bunch of other partners went by and gradually I got used to the idea that there are people who'll desire me and I'm able to have a sex life just like a regular person. (Better even. Hah.) I'm not totally over my insecurity but it's a fuckload less than it was.

But I still haven't applied the "men pursue, women deny" paradigm to myself. I've never denied without a damn good reason, never played even slightly hard to get. I have never taken for granted that a man will want me.

I've had this conversation with at least three different guys:
Him: So, do you wanna... y'know?
Me: Oh hell yeah. I just didn't want to pressure you.
Him: Pressure me? I'm a guy!

What does that mean? Men will screw anything? Men can't not want sex? You don't have to ask a man's permission? God damn, this paradigm totally sucks for men.

No, wait, it sucks for everybody.


  1. How does it suck for women who don't want sex?

  2. Bruno - It sucks because men think they're just "playing the game" rather than actually saying no.

  3. This had never made sense to me, either. And I have next to zero sex drive, so you'd think it would apply.

  4. Aebhel - Actually, I'm kind of curious what it's like for a pretty and unhorny person, as my knowledge of that situation is lacking. I have a few pretty friends in real life, but they're either:

    a) Horny sluts with 800 boyfriends (hi Moogie)

    b) Unwilling to discuss gender politics with me because they are uber-conservative Puritans (hi Amy)

    So, um... what's it like?

  5. Speaking for men, it's safe to say that we think about sex all the time and women who offer it to us are regarded with a bit of incredulity. I mean, honestly, we've been bred to believe that no means no and that women are secretly not as interested in sex as we are.

    Honestly, Holly. Why do you think I love your blog so much? Your honesty is refreshing. (:

  6. Scott - Oh yeah, no means no, but does no also mean "you're not worthy" or "I hate sex" or (god forbid) "try harder"? Sometimes, unfortunately, I think it does.

    I can never speak for women because they're all unique individuals and shit, but I know that at least a woman can genuinely love and desire sex for its own sake.

    And thanks. :) I worry sometimes about the emo posts because no one likes a girl with Issues, but it's truer and (hopefully) more interesting to write about how sexuality fits into being a person, right?

    I don't think my sex life is defined by body anxiety and the Patriarchy, but it's dishonest to pretend they're not influences.

  7. For me the drive to have an orgasm versus the drive to have sex with another person are almost totally unrelated- I'd rather shower in acid than have sex with someone I had no emotional or mental intimacy with. (I could get really annoying and high-horsey about this, but I like to think I recognize I just have some strange psychological wiring.)

    The net result of this- I was a pretty teenager, just one that scared boys my own age shitless with the 'tude I was packing at the time- was that I was able to opt out of the game entirely. My personality kept unwanted attention to a minimum, and when I eventually decided I did want somebody I got what I wanted.

  8. LabRat - For me the drive to have an orgasm versus the drive to have sex with another person are almost totally unrelated

    Oh, me too, with one difference--the second drive is also overwhelmingly powerful for me.

    As for intimacy, well, I don't think I could have satisfying sex with someone I disliked or a total stranger, but my threshold for "intimate" is probably closer to what you'd call "slightly friendly."

    (I don't think you're strange. You're probably more normal than me.)

    My personality kept unwanted attention to a minimum

    Mine kept wanted attention to a minimum. :(

  9. Responding late to say - yeah, what she said.

    I guess the thing that bugs me about this paradigm is that there's all this baggage wrapped up in me not wanting to have sex. I've had boyfriends try to bully, guilt, and/or nag me into sex (because they'd decided that I was a prude and it wasn't possible and/or worth the effort to try actually getting me in the mood) to the point that I'd just give in and fuck them so they'd stop harassing me about it, which is, you know, not really conducive to the healthiest sex life.

    It's not so much that I dislike sex as that it's not really at the top of my mind, ever. Except in rare cases, it takes more than 'hey, let's fuck' to get me into the mental state where I'll actually enjoy sex.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that the fact that there's this idea that women don't like sex and will only have it with men who are worthy in other ways. This means that a lot of men won't 'waste their time' trying to arouse a woman who isn't naturally horny; they'll just try to impress on her that they're worthy enough to be worth the attention. So women with a minimal sex drive never learn how to enjoy it, and men are always begging for it. Which sucks for everyone.