Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Sex: I'm a man and you're a...

I'm a man and you're a sl*t. There, I've said it. I know you don't like it; I know you're going to be angry with me but that is the truth. Yes? The fundamental reality we all live with can be expressed in these basest of terms: if a man sleeps around; he's a man; if a woman sleeps around; she's a sl*t. Why? That doesn't seem at all fair, does it?

It's a man's world. A woman may not like it but that seems to be a fact. Far better scholars than I have studied it, analysed it and written about it. History explains the antecedents of this patriarchal society in which we live while modern intellectuals who question the status quo have asked and still ask why we must continue to do what we've been doing. Change comes slowly; traditions die hard; don't rock the boat.

The Double Standard
The Women's Liberation Movement has long talked about this phenomenon which has existed in our society; the double standard which is applied to men and women. The saying is "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" but in relation to the double standard, it means that what is good for the gander is not necessarily what the goose gets.

Women did not get the right to vote in Canada and the United States (with exceptions) until the 1920's. Women were considered chattel. While North American society has changed, I am of the opinion that a lot of it has to do with veneer. Yes, we have laws about equality in the workplace but that doesn't mean that there is equality in the workplace. As a man, all I have to do is stand around the water cooler with other men and follow the conversation. Nobody is listening; nobody will criticize; what are you going to say? Sometimes, it's surprising to hear what guys do say.

True Story
I work with a guy who is the typical macho: still plays sports with the guys and does semi-dangerous activities. When we talk, he talks to me in that sort of man to man way, as if we're sharing something that only men can share. From time to time when he's talks about his wife, he presents her as a bit of an airhead: she likes to shop; she doesn't like to work; she thinks money grows on trees and he's going to keep providing her with it. Such dialogue is usually accompanied by eyes rolled to the ceiling. I know he's trying to be funny, funny in a chauvinist way but I have to confess being slightly perplexed by this. Why? I would never say such things. First of all, I wouldn't marry an airhead. Secondly, and this for me is the kicker, how macho, how manly can any guy be if he sits down with other men and confesses that he's married such a woman? That's like saying he's married the mistake of his life; he admits his wife is inferior to other wives.

The Female Eunuch
This book by Germaine Greer was published in 1970. In a nutshell, it said that men hate women; women don't realize this and they are taught to hate themselves. The traditional family represses women sexually and is an environment where we see the continuation of the power struggle of men over women.

I read it immediately. I was 18 years old.

I had already suspected that what I had learned, what I had seen around me, what society had been passing off to me, didn't really represent reality. I grew up in the 50's family model: man works; wife stays at home and raises the kids. This book confirmed my suspicions. Tradition did give us a structure, a framework for our lives and our society but at the same time stifled our ability to critically examine ourselves.

Since this time, however, I have very much grown to appreciate how difficult and slow change, true change can be. We as a nation can enact laws against gender discrimination but that does not mean people will not continue to practise it. I return to the men talking around the water cooler. Yes, we all say out loud that women are welcome but that does not necessarily mean that when we have 2 candidates in front of us for a job, one man and one woman, we might not just favour the man because... well, he's a guy. There's a joke in there about two heads being better than one but I will try and keep myself above board.

The S Word
I love Chris Rock. As a comedian he has a keen perception of our modern times; as a black man, he tells it like it is in America. In telling it like it is, Chris does resort to colourful language and I add here that only a black man can get away with using the N word. That particular word has such emotional force, such a history attached to it that merely uttering the word out loud in public is enough to send a shiver down the back of anybody within earshot. And if you're white and saying that word (Hello Michael Richards!), I would strongly advise you to make sure your will is up to date.

The S word also has a big impact. Qualifying a woman with that word is tantamount to heaping on her the sum total of all scorn we as a society have for any female who expresses the slightest amount of interest in sex. Now think about that for a second. If a man goes out and has sex with 10 women, he's a stud. If a woman goes out and has sex with 10 men, she's a sl*t. Stud = positive, sl*t = negative. How curious. We equate male sexual prowess as a good thing but we equate female sexuality as bad. But why?

The Hite Report
Shere Hite released her report on female sexuality in 1976 and her report on male sexuality in 1981. I read both.

I've never forgotten the book about men and the one specific thing she discovered in her research. There was this reoccurring theme to the answers from men: men were convinced that women do not like sex.

What? But the more I thought about it, the more that made sense. We men are told to get out there and chase women. We discover that women hold back, are particular, are careful in the selection of a mate, only want to "do it" after marriage, etc. Gee, why wouldn't we get the idea women don't like sex?

What an odd situation. Men are guided by society to want to marry a woman who is worthwhile, of value, a woman who is not a sl*t. But in doing so, men are marrying somebody who doesn't like sex. Men want sex. Men think they need a sl*t. Geesh, are we going around in circles here?

I've heard researchers try to explain all this by describing the primordial difference between the sexes: men are wired to spread their seed; women are wired to bear and raise children. This translates into men running around looking for places to deposit their seed and women trying to set up a successful environment for children. I'm sure my summation is quite simplistic but this is an idea I've heard from the pundits. Gee, where's Desmond Morris when you need him? (The Naked Ape, 1967)

What's it all about, Alfie?
There's no doubt about it; we are a confused species. We have been following roles which have existed on this planet since the beginning of time and now that we're looking at those roles with a critical eye, we are totally thrown for a loop in understanding those roles and figuring out not only what we're doing, but what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. Let's not forget that change comes slowly because we don't necessarily like change. I could say something amusing about inertia but I truly believe we have a difficult time changing because we don't like instability. Change involves tearing down beliefs and that means instability. At some point we will replace those beliefs but during the transition period, we are going to have to deal with some shakiness.


The Water Cooler
We enact laws; we force people to act a certain way. We build a social norm; we ostracize people if they don't conform. However, we can't always control their thoughts and people can be quite chameleon like depending on their circumstances. At the office, in public, somebody can put on a good show for gender equality then go home and beat the wife if not physically, at least psychologically. Laws try to force everyone to not commit a crime but will we arrive at a point where everybody does not want to commit a crime? Gender equality may be written into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada, but the man-talk around the water cooler will be the true litmus test of whether or not gender equality exists in society.


Final Word
I sometimes read an opinion piece such as this one and not being totally familiar with the material, I know that I either do not react because it is all quite a distance from my own everyday life or I may doubt what the author says and not necessarily take the time to prove the author right or wrong. In other words, the message gets lost in the daily shuffle of my life.

I would ask that you, the reader, to remember the following:
  • In 1989, in Montréal, Marc Lépine killed 14 women claiming that feminism had ruined his life.
  • In British Columbia, Robert Pickton, jailed in 2007, has been convicted of murdering 6 women, charged with the murder of 20 other women and claims to have murdered 49 women in total.
  • Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman, has been condemned to die by stoning because she is an adulterer. The men in question face no prosecution about this matter.
  • Every year approximately 25,000 women die from botched abortions in Africa and yet, not one man is harmed.
Are men confused about women? You bet. Do we have gender equality? I think not. Are we ever going to get things sorted out? Let's hope we don't have to wait until hell freezes over.


References

Wikipedia: The Female Eunuch
The Female Eunuch is a 1970 book by Germaine Greer that became an international bestseller and an important text in the feminist movement.

Wikipedia: The S Word
Slut or slattern is a term applied to an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous. The term is generally pejorative and most often applied to women as an insult or offensive term of disparagement, meaning "dirty or slovenly."

Wikipedia: Shere Hite
Shere Hite (born November 2, 1942) is an American-born German sex educator and feminist. Her sexological work has focused primarily on female sexuality. Hite builds upon biological studies of sex by Masters and Johnson and by Alfred Kinsey.

Wikipedia: The Montreal Massacre
The École Polytechnique Massacre, also known as the Montreal Massacre, occurred on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Twenty-five-year-old Marc Lépine, armed with a legally obtained Mini-14 rifle and a hunting knife, shot twenty-eight people before killing himself.

Wikipedia: Robert Pickton
Robert William "Willie" Pickton (born October 24, 1949)[2] of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada is a former pig farmer and serial killer convicted of the second-degree murders of six women. He is also charged in the deaths of an additional twenty women, many of them prostitutes and drug users from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In December 2007 he was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years —the longest sentence available under Canadian law for murder.

my blog: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani: an adulterer all by herself
In this morning's paper was a small article about a woman in Iran who was convicted of adultery with 2 men and condemned to death by stoning. In reading this, a couple of things came to mind: the brutality of this form of execution and is adultery a crime worthy of death? However, there was one small point of which the article made no mention and which piqued my curiosity. This woman has been condemned to be executed for adultery; what about the men? It takes two to tango; this woman can't become an adulterer all by herself.

my blog: Abortion: If we make it illegal, the problem will go away
I watched a news item on television last night which stated that every year 25,000 women die from unsafe abortions in Africa and 1.7 million are injured. Due to the restrictive laws governing abortions in almost all African countries, virtually all of the 5.6 million abortions performed annually in Africa are unsafe. Apparently only about 100,000 of them are performed by trained professionals in a safe environment. The news item went on the cover various religious groups in these African countries who are lobbying to keep abortions illegal and one minister who was interviewed proudly said that he has having a big impact in maintaining laws which make abortions illegal.

my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U - Mar 14/2012
Recently, the world has been atwitter on Twitter and other social media commenting left, right and centre about one Rush Hudson Limbaugh. Of course, it is easy to pile on by calling him an anal orifice or a Neanderthal or a meany... (I consult my notes) oops, that's a f**kin' meany... however I can't help feeling there is more, much more not just to this particular story, but to what the story represents. This is the tip of the iceberg. But first, let's recap what happened with the help of Wikipedia.


2010-07-13

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3 comments:

Not Guilty said...

This is a really insightful post. It is great to hear from men on these topics. The part from that book about society teaching women to hate themselves on behalf of men is incredibly true. I might try and spin a post off this; thanks!

NotBornButMade said...

"The man-talk around the water cooler will be the true litmus test of whether or not gender equality exists in society."
Eloquently put.

Anonymous said...

"Tradition did give us a structure, a framework for our lives and our society but at the same time stifled our ability to critically examine ourselves"
Aptly stated sir, an eloquent representation of main stream media. Disney comes to mind.

"As I've said elsewhere, my wife aptly compared ideology with fundamentalism whereby a person follows a line of reasoning without regard to the facts. In other words, we pick our solution then we try to change the problem to fit the solution."

And in still other words, a person follows a line of reasoning and fabricates the facts to support an ideologcal solution. Our love to be loved outweighs our love of the truth.