Thursday, November 23, 2006

Men Will be Men.....

A short note to follow on from my post on youth and sexuality.

A few years ago I bought into the myths promoted by a large section of the feminist movement. I believed my sexist and abusive father was the way he was not because of his individual character but because a system called 'patriarchy' planted the idea in his brain that women were inferior and it was the mark of a real man to be a misogynist arsehole. I did not realise that I was doing what my long suffering mother had always done throughout the course of her marriage - I was making excuses for him. If the thesis was true then all men would be like him. The fact is they are not. Sexism simply gives men like him a rationale for their behaviour. If it wasn't sexism it would be something else.

I also had other views. While I supported the rights of sex workers (as I still do), I also believed there would come a day when men would no longer feel the need for pornography. I swallowed the patronising attitude promoted towards women in the porn industry. I just failed to grasp the fact that visual stimulation is a legitimate aspect of male sexuality. I failed to recognise that men need their privacy, their fantasies, just as women do. I fell into the trap of politicising the differences between male and female sexuality, and hence demonised aspects of male sexuality I did not understand or relate to. But guess what? My male partners have found it extremely difficult to relate to aspects of my sexuality and fantasies. Sometimes they expressed boredom, other times they felt as disturbed by my theme based fantasies as I was by their visual ones.

It is true that women do often feel uncomfortable if their male partners use porn. They often complain about feeling unattractive, not good enough etc. Having had such feelings myself in relationships I can readily empathise with this. But what is at play here is our own insecurity in ourselves, which often manifests in sexual jealousy. It is not porn that is really the problem here but our own lack of self esteem. We can criticise the sex industry for promoting one standard of female beauty but that is as far as we should take it. It is wrong, so wrong, of the feminist movement to capitalise like this on women's insecurities and tell us that we must continue with the thankless task so typical of the female sex - trying to make men change. Trying, in other words, to make them more like us. It won't happen.

We can't plead with men to be 'nice'. We have to fact the fact that there is an aspect of male sexuality that is predatory, and of course it has it's mirror image in the submissive aspect of female sexuality. So how does this relate to my post on youth?

Teenage boys are walking barrels of testostorone, ruled by their hormones. So, of course, are teenage girls ruled by their hormones but it expresses itself differently. Boys will say anything to get sex. So will some full grown men who lack scruples to know any better. So rather than hopelessly dream of the day men will change we should learn to respect ourselves and not put ourselves in vulnerable situations where we may get hurt. This is what we should be telling our daughters.

In relation to the current issue of binge drinking and date rape - women do not 'get themselves raped'. We are entitled to go out drinking without fear of being molested or having our drinks spiked. On the other hand we should still be cautious and not get so out of it we don't know what the hell we are doing, drink ourselves unconscious and hence put ourselves at risk. It is foolish. But then I'd encourage nobody to drink themselves to that stage due to the great amount of other accidents caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

I hope none of this has sounded like male bashing. I simply believe that men and women are different, with their respective strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes these traits compliment each other but other times they appear to clash, leading to distrust between the sexes. Rather than seeking to change men it would be far more productive if feminists could make the effort to understand them (and asking them to understand us better of course). That would go a long way to improving relations between the sexes.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I quite agree. Differences between men and women are something to be recognised and understood. An element of the feminist movement that always astounded me was the insistance that men and women were the same. That they have the same strengths and weaknesses. This is clearly not the case and the sooner that we accept this the sooner we can improve harmony between the sexes via mutual understanding. I laud your approach!

james higham said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Liz,

Must say I'm very disappointed to see you readily trotting out the old and totally unsubstantiated cliche that men are more 'visually' turned on than women. Why on earth would this be? What research has been carried out on this? There is no scientific basis for this whatsoever - and whilst I'm sure that some dubious stats may confirm this - how on earth can they be viewed objectively against the backdrop of a society that so continuously churns out sexualized images of women, presented to men for their enjoyment. I suppose it could be seen as a classic chicken/egg debate, but I for one remain totally unconvinced.

I would actually describe myself as quite a 'visual' person - in a general sense. I am quite good at painting/drawing and also at spelling - which I think is a fair indicator of someone who relies on visual memories, if you see what I mean. There are also many other ways in which I think I am more of a 'visual' person than most, but it's difficult to go into here. There is one male friend of mine who I think is similar in this sense - but I really cannot see any gender based evidence in all the people I know, in terms of the way they think and respond to visual stimuli.

Sorry, I really enjoy your blog :-) But this is one cliche (being as it so often seems to be used to sort of excuse men ogling women etc) that really annoys me!

Hope yr feeling better by the way!

Sarah X

Liz said...

Hi Sarah,

Perhaps what I said was a bit of a generalisation, it does not strictly apply to all men or all women. And I guess it is a bit of a chicken and egg debate - the media does contain more sexual imagery of women aimed at men. But when there have been visual mags containing images of men's bodies (aimed at women) their circulation has not been very broad. Yet Black Lace and romance novels seem to sell well. This may be partly why that assumption is often made. I don't think it's down to prudery in the modern age as black lace novels can be pretty explicit sexually! In my experience the female fantasy tends to focus more on time, setting, theme etc whereas the male fantasy is more straightforwardly visual.

It is true there is a lack of research covering this, and it could be argued that the ability of women to enjoy sexualised visuals may have been surpressed to some extent. As for myself I'm more of a literary person than a visual one, although I can look at and admire visuals sometimes with a sexual content.

Liz said...

I have been feeling better - getting a change of scenery helps a bit! Thanks Sarah.

Liz x