I have been investigating the rift that exists between female and male sexuality heavily the past few years, but it wasn’t until I read a current article[i] published in the New York Times that I was incited enough to put my thoughts and observations into written word. The article centers around a letter Kavanaugh wrote in 1983 to his high-school friends regarding a rental they had made for a beach vacation in Maryland. In the letter, Kavanaugh writes: “I think we are unanimous that any girls we can beg to stay there are welcomed with open…” The word choice of ‘open…’ is sleezy, but on its own is not something I personally find issue with. Open legs or arms are fine things to have, when they are open for personally-desired reasons. It is the word choice of ‘beg’ that I find issue with as it shows that 1) the girls would need to be begged into staying for what is insinuated as sexual purposes 2) the girls wouldn’t want to stay on their own accord and consent gained was likely given via coercive measures.
Before I delve into the assumptions that can be gained from the mentality that Kavanaugh and his buddies had on female sexuality, I would like to mention another written piece exposed in the same article, an excerpt of an underground newspaper that Kavanaugh and a few friends circulated called The Unknown Hoya, titled The Truth about Holon. Below is a screen shot of this piece, as well as a transcription due to the hazy quality:
THE TRUTH ABOUT HOLTON:
What is Holton Arms? Is it a training academy for The Rainbow Inn? Quite possibly, but let us investigate further. We do know that Holton is the home of the most worthless excuse for an underground paper. In fact, it is also the home of the most worthless excuses for human females.
If you will care to look below, you will see all it takes too have a good time with any H.H. (Holton Hosebag). Just ask any one of their leading ladies, (name redacted),
“Sure, says (name redacted), “A library card is all it takes.”
Sorry, Holton, we may spank our monkeys, but we’ve seen what evil effects you have on the male population.
Now, this article was not claimed to be Kavanaugh’s words. And nor does that matter, as this essay is not meant to accuse or exonerate Kavanaugh. The writer- who was perhaps some young man either indignant towards a crush, lover, or girlfriend or having troubles in sexual conquest[ii]– is not what I care to focus on, as focusing on specific facts and persons can often blind us from evaluating the widespread implications of such a deeply ingrained thought pattern. It is the words of both the letter and the article and the juxtaposition that they pose in regards to the portrayal of female sexuality that I want to examine.
In Kavanaugh’s letter, he describes the men as needing to beg the woman to stay, and made it seem as if it would be an unlikely, hard-won result. In contrast, the article depicts a world where women are seen as sexual beings (monkeys?) that- although spanked- incite evil effects on men.
So which one is it? Are women frigid innocents that need to be begged to? Or evil temptresses that need to be spanked?
Well, let us discuss the deep-seated ideals of sexuality in our culture that promote such a polarized assumption.
The depiction of a woman as either a prude or a whore is an ideal that dates back centuries. Those who uphold this ideal do so mainly by referring to the differing reproductive system of both genders, stating that because women uphold the burden of childrearing, and can produce children to a lesser extent than men, females are biologically less inclined to have sex, and thus there is a need for begging and coercion by their male counterparts. In this boys will be boys culture, the pervasive teaching is that males have a drive to reproduce with many fit females, but the same does not apply to females. Yet, because having a diverse genome applies to both genders, females are also driven to mate with more than one partner, and their desire to reproduce with fit male specimens with quality sperm does not lie dormant. In looking at our close relatives- that of the great apes- female gorillas actively solicit dominant males for mating when in estrous, and if rejected they pursue the less established, smaller members of their clan regardless, as their sole preoccupation at the time is to mate.[iii] And although the dominant silverback male gets the majority of the females attention, while the female is ovulating it would be in her best biological interest to mate with more than one male in a very short span of time so that a fit and fast sperm will fertilize the egg.
Essentially, a female or male having several children with one partner is disadvantageous from an evolutionary perspective. And both genders physically desire sex with the youthful, fit individuals around them. But human sexuality is driven by more than biology, and in current technologically-inundated societies, monogamous partnering is highly advantageous. This has caused the manner in which we now approach sex to be more emotional than it is physical, especially given that in many[iv] of the sexual encounters occurring worldwide, both partners are actively attempting to avoid pregnancy.
Our need for birth control and chaste or monogamous behavior due to the rising financial and opportunity costs of childrearing and increased STD rates is a logical one. However, our repressed biological needs are only exasperated by the fact that, as youth, we have continuously been trained (many of us even before we are sexually viable) not only to overt our biology and avoid pregnancy, but also to shame and repress our physical sexual needs at the same time that we elevate the sexual act to a godlike depiction.[v] Moreover- and this is generally the case for men- our repressed sexual energy is played upon by media and advertisements for profit revenues that both condone and prize those- mainly females- who express themselves in a sexual way. This places both genders in a frustrating conundrum that frankly leaves no gender well-off. Men are forced to contain their sexual energy, but when they turn to the environment around them they are shown many arousing individuals. Women are told to contain their sexual energy, but also quickly learn that they must dress and present themselves in a pleasing or sexual manner in order to get the attention of a sexual companion, an attention that the majority of us crave both physically and emotionally.
Such beliefs, teachings, and environments are what helped birth the double standard of the virgin or the whore. And- due to years of ingrained sexual biases in our society- the female gender is now pegged as the picky and more frigid sex, and those that defy that characterization get labeled as whores, sluts, and a gander of derogatory words.
This result is near inevitable in a society that is hyper aware and acquiescent of male sexuality. For centuries, it has been the woman’s job to please and be pleasing sexually. Whereas a woman is encouraged to put emphasis on her appearance and spend several hours weekly improving upon her looks, many men spend maybe an hour total a week on their body, hair, clothes, and face. Men’s clothes are often neutral and non-flashy, as well as loose fitting and modest. On the other hand, women’s clothes are bright, intricate, flashy, form-fitting, and revealing. Sex scenes in movies are viewed from the male vantage point. Advertisements often depict visuals of beautiful women in low-coverage outfits. Nudity is focused on the female form to the extent that the nude-art world revolves around male producers and female subjects; likewise in the film and porn industry. Porn especially is created with the male viewer in mind, resulting in a noticeably smaller female audience; and not because women aren’t interested in porn or sex, but because women aren’t as aroused by the content being produced.[vi]
Even when we keep in mind the fact human sexual attraction transcends the physical, females continue to remain the desirable sex as a friend and partner. Women are raised to be caring, kind, empathetic, encouraging, loving, harmonious, cooperative, collaborative, compassionate, and so forth. In other words, pleasing to be in a relationship with. Men, however, are raised to be aggressive, self-focused, determined, abrasive, disruptive, instigative, forceful, controlling, combative, demanding and so forth. In other words, not so pleasing to be in a relationship with.[vii]
And to make matters more in favor of female desirability, women are often given the role of caregivers. This means that the initial bonds of love and friendship for both girls and boys are developed with a mother, grandmother, female teacher, or female caregiver. Contrarily, our male counterparts- when present- are often absent for long periods of time, and- when they return- they remain taciturn, distant, and emotionally cold due to societal expectations of masculinity. Therefore, we grow up with the experience of females as easy partners to love and desire and men as difficult partners to love and desire.
In light of these stark realities, I would argue that it isn’t so much the case that one gender prefers sex over the other. This discrepancy happens because females are portrayed as the more beautiful, loving sex- a portrayal that incites sexual desirability. This, alongside the sexualization of the female form, the shame and repercussions of expressed female sexuality, and the fact that- in general- most individuals have more positive experiences bonding with woman over men- makes it so that many men currently lack the power to incite women sexually.
Moreover, females have to bear- sometimes daily- unwanted aggressive approaches from men, especially in cultures where such a masculine ideal of sexuality is promoted. This is not only exhausting and discouraging, but results in women forming a negative correlation with sex and their sexuality. But instead of these men questioning why they aren’t being approached, why their girlfriends don’t find the same pleasure in intercourse, and why their aggressive tactics are scoffed upon, the reason (and some say blame) is placed on women. In other words, in the minds of these macho men, it’s not their lack of physical or emotional draw or their aggressive sexual tactics of groping, following, catcalling, and at times rape that deter women sexually. It’s that women don’t want or desire sex in the same way that men do, and biologically so. Furthermore, these macho men- even though they shame and deride females who actively promote their sexuality- reward them with the attention, touch and connection that we are socially inclined to desire; generating a dense and at times competitive conundrum for females actively searching for a mate and/or relationship: to flirt with ‘revealing’ clothes and mannerisms in order to get male attention at the expense of being judged as undesirably promiscuous, or to be prude and shy and lose the attention of the desirable male to a more sexually attractive and/or sexually explicit female? This is often the delicate balance[viii] that women are placed into when navigating the modern dating world, and it’s a reason why women can seem so complicated and challenging to men when courting, as our value as a romantic partner is often an impossibly-curated mix of being a virginal Madonna outside the bedroom, but a selective whore in the bedroom who holds the burden of repressing the sexual urges of the pair until the right timing.
It’s a love-game viciously played by both genders.
And it’s a love-game that no gender wins overall.
So how can we fix this as a society?
Well, let’s look at three separate options:
- Desexualize women to the same extent as men.
- Sexualize men in the same manner we sexualize women.
- De-shame sex and advocate for sexual discussion and expression in our society, starting from childhood, while sexualizing both genders to the same extent.
Number One: As a person who wishes all members of society could openly discuss and express themselves sexually in a positive manner, this is- in my opinion- a regression and it only serves to shame and repress our human need for sex, touch, and companionship.
Number Two: Being a straight female, this is a highly attractive choice. Walking around with men with long hair, nice bodies, and attractive style in conjunction with watching movies, media, advertisements and porn where males are the sexual focal point would incite my lacking sex drive in a casual dating market where looks are the predominate draw and reaching the point where personality plays a role in sexual attraction is hard to come by. However, I would never wish on anyone the issues I have had to experience being consistently viewed as a sexualized object. Furthermore, I would be subject to incessant sexual arousal and the urge to partake in a slew of sexual encounters that would inevitably end up less fulfilling than the story that the sexualized advertisements and media would have me imagine them to be. And- as men are now- I could easily become annoyed by my partners reasonably attained lack of comfort in their sexuality.
Number Three: In my opinion, this is the best option we have. Both genders are equally sexualized and spend equal effort in attracting the opposite sex. Male and female bodies are equally represented. Both genders are viewed as equally sexual and are not shamed for their sexual expression. Sex is not a taboo topic, so deviant sexual disorders that are harmful to society have a place to be discussed in a non-judgemental manner and individuals who possess them could learn to express these desires in other ways. And- most of all- both men and women can live in an environment that encourages sexual encounters where both parties can comfortably express their sexuality and emotions rather than play one’s social advantages over the other.[ix]
But such an equal dynamic has been heavily discouraged recently, and this winner takes all, boys-club mentality promoted by the administrations of many of the world’s governments this past decade is negatively influencing and affecting both genders in a severe manner. And this divide in sexuality is growing increasingly violent and tense on both sides.
And- to bring it back to current political events- in light of this Kavanaugh scandal and ruling it has just been incited further.
It’s time to prepare for a tense- and perhaps violent- political battle that could last for years as politicians of both ideologies cannot seem to put partisan bias aside and- since the 1980’s- a majority takeover has been the main political goal by both Democrats and Republicans.
It might be a battle that destroys the power and prominence of the United States as we know it.
At some point, punitive measures are generally faced, regardless of the immunity one holds. Only a select few escape retributive action, as aggression attracts aggression, power attracts power, and combative natures attract combative natures.
And that is something that the rich, often white-male elite, should greatly fear.
[i] Kelly, Kate and Enrich, David. “Kavanaugh’s 1983 Letter Offers Inside Look at High School Clique.” The New York Times. 2 Oct. 2018: A20. The New York Times. Web. 8 Oct. 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/02/us/brett-kavanaugh-georgetown-prep.html.
[ii] (This is an unsubstantiated personal conclusion, but nevertheless a likely one due to the harsh tone of the article.)
[iii] Gorilla Mating | Mountain Gorilla | BBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDaHPi8HOGA.
[iv] (-and I would assume the majority-)
[v] Which, I would argue, is a one of the reasons why sexual perversion, sexual dysfunction, and general mood disorders are so pervasive in societies that shame sex and require sexual repression.
[vi] Also: girls and women are more shamed for viewing it than their male counterparts are and don’t often have such a brazenly sexual community around them that boys and men do.
[vii] Admittedly, there are individuals that look for such ‘macho’ traits in a sexual encounter or in a relationship. Furthermore, you might notice that this essay uses most of the sexual biases that are promoted in society- men being less concerned with looks, men being distant and cold, etc. Understand that these are judgements and biases that ring true not because of inherent aspects in either gender- although hormones and physical characteristics could generate differences- but because of social structures and norms.
[viii] It’s interesting to note that men are now suffering from a delicate balance of their own, and it is why many of the reactive ones are angry. They have to court and take action, without being seen as aggressive. This is definitely doable, just as it is doable for a female to be sexual without being overly flirty or sensual in mannerisms and attire. But- as this is a delicate balance that takes effort and a necessary amount of quiet observation- personalities who are more reactive are less inclined to take the time to get this balance right and thus are negatively affected by the delicate attention needed to surpass such double standards.
[ix] (For any men reading this struggling with what I wrote about in the footnote above: if men put effort into their physical appearance to the same extent that the women they desired did, then they wouldn’t have to rely so much on being the pursuers and aggressors.)
Are women frigid innocents that need to be begged to? Or evil temptresses that need to be spanked?
Thank you for reading my essay!
Your views, comments, and likes encourage me to continue creating content for your enjoyment and education in emotional intelligence.
For more of my short stories, click here
For more of my essays, click here
This process is a l o n g one. So much needs to go through a shift: becoming more mindful, accepting and respecting cultural shifts, more support for working women with children from the government (longer maternal/paternal leaves, affordable child care), acknowledging female sexuality as powerful, accepting sex as lovemaking and not as power play.
Yes, I agree. As someone who has worked in several sectors of the childcare and teaching industry, there is so much to change: educational quality, better pay and recognition for the service of teaching and caring, parental support and aid, affordable means for working parents and society in general so parents can focus on raising children without severe financial reprocussion, etc. And as long as those in power have money so that these needs are inconsequential to them, we will have to fight hard for change.
So, in full disclosure, I only found this blog via your OkCupid profile. Ignoring the possible motivations of either side- perhaps I am only replying to leave an impression, whatever that may be, or you only linked it to gain a greater audience for your blog like some people do for their Instagram, I do want to reply to what you actually wrote about. I’m not making any specific argument here, just moreso sharing some insights from my own perspective.
Overall, I think it is excellent, balanced writing, and I largely agree with the solutions you have laid out in the end. I work in an industry that is focused 100% on “outward beauty,” and the dichotomy in male & female marketing and offerings has always been of particular interest to me. As someone with an economics and social science background, I have always thought of this as a “chicken and the egg” problem. Do these companies generally focus on women because they believe they can push greater consumerism among that audience, or is it simply a reactionary response to a reality that women are much more concerned about outward or “superficial” beauty? It’s important to note I don’t actually believe women are superficial, but that if one made that assumption, the economics would reason to be. I’m also someone who actually does wish there was more hyper-sexualization of men in the media and fashion/beauty offerings for men, if only to even-out the imbalance at times (and satiate my own desires for having more variety in what I wear).
Some other things to consider might be going back to the very thing that even brought me to leave this comment: online dating. There is simply statistical data to support the truth that in this technologically-supported realm of courtship and romance, women tend to have an abundance of options to choose from, and men are left to be the pursuer. That is why apps like Bumble with a women-message-first concept would even exist, and why OkCupid made the changes they did to ‘likes’ and messaging, because men, on average, send 6x more initial messages than women. So when the economics of these heterosexual relationships are evident, it is hard not to reason that a potentially unhealthy cultural attitude- one where women need to focus on their sexual propriety, would follow.
Anyways, loved what you shared here, and if you want some more reading on this topic, these are some things I’ve saved in the past that may be of interest: https://www.alternet.org/when-women-wanted-sex-much-more-men & https://psmag.com/education/admitted-children-sex-primarily-pleasure-81691
Hey Landon. Thanks for bringing your thoughts to this page. And for notifying me that this blog is in my OkCupid profile. I have changed that.
It is interesting to see whether this is a chicken or an egg problem. But when we remember that so few advertising executives, CEO’s, and directors (I just was told that currently only 2% of advertising executives are females. It’s a statistic I cannot rightly back with research, but the number doesn’t matter so much as the obvious dearth of a male-beauty focus in our society due to the lack of female input in such arenas) it seems that it is mostly the manner in which our society has emphasized feminine beauty that makes females more ‘superficial’ in this manner.
Furthermore, you must remember, just a few decades ago the only stable manner in which a female could acquire what society considers a ‘successful’ and ‘good’ life for themselves was to attract a high-power male with their looks and agreeable traits. And that mentality is still pervasive as even I- a child growing up in the 90’s- was conditioned in this manner and such a belief system still subconsciously resides in me.
It’s important to question why men both feel the need to work detrimental, unhealthy hours and women feel the need to place such a detrimental and unhealthy importance on their appearance. And why women are essentially the ‘peacocks’ in our society.
In regards to females getting the brunt of likes and messages on OkCupid, it might be interesting for you to note that I have spoken to some highly attractive men on OkCupid who place importance on their visual appeal and they have informed me that they are also inundated with likes and messages. Which is something that shouldn’t be surprising, as both men and women (unless they suffer from blindness) rely on sight as our dominant sense and physical attraction plays a major role in reproduction and mate selection.
In modern society though, females have been reminded on a daily basis the importance of focusing on their looks since they were children, have clothes and make-up to improve their natural aesthetic, are generally conditioned against being the instigators and initiators in social situations, and their image is negatively impacted if aggressive or what is considered ‘slutty’ traits are attributed to them.
To end this (and I won’t be reading over this much, so sorry for any typos or lack of sentence clarity and continuity) it is likely that many of these factors must be changed in order improve the dating lives of men who struggle with approaching/being approached (unless they work within these factors and take matters into their own hands to become more attractive to those they wish to attract). Furthermore, conversations such as these that include the masculine and feminine perspective on sexuality are essential if we want to generate healthy, supportive, open, and understanding heterosexual relationships.