Feminine Sexual Entitlement
I recently came across this essay by Naomi Wolf – apparently it’s a recycled essay that was originally written four years ago. Nevertheless, this is the first time I’ve seen it. I’m not actually going to engage her main point here, because there’s a paragraph that really caught my attention. In the context of complaining about how “porn” has made it more difficult to keep a man’s sexual attention, she writes (emphasis mine):
When I came of age in the seventies, it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman. There were more young men who wanted to be with naked women than there were naked women on the market. If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up.
I think it’s instructive the way that statement reeks of a sense of entitlement, and it dovetails with the attitudes of women I’ve known. They think it’s perfectly normal to have one’s pick of several, if not many, potential lovers. That simply wanting to be sexual should be sufficient to guarantee male attention (in this vein, it always amuses me when women who brag about the number of men in their lives complain about how difficult it is to find a female lover).
I remember mentioning to a female friend once that I was considering seeking out an escort. Her reply was that she didn’t understand why I couldn’t just go out and get pussy for free. This same friend was surprised to hear that my personals ad didn’t get any actual response, when hers gave her an avalanche of responses, with the only difficult task to find the ones worthy of her attention. Women take their experience – an abundance of attention from the opposite sex – as normal, and fail to understand that the male experience is one of a fundamental lack of attention. Hence, men who are intersted in casual sex must approach and actively engage women, reinforcing a situation where women are given attention simply for being female. Granted, this does have a dark side; the constant attention by men, particularly when that attention is aggressive, is undoubtedly difficult. But I’m focussing here soley on the question of access to sexual and romantic attention. And when it comes to casual sex, women unquestionably have greater access to partners than men.
This article on the “myth” of women preferring Type A men (perfectly true in my experience) has some interesting points, as well:
If a woman sees that a man is a jerk but decides to go to bed with him anyway because he’s just so cute or she’s just that bored or whatever, this is a case of her deciding how she wants to spend her time, not of him tricking the delicate flower (who couldn’t possibly want casual sex, being female).
And later, the author says:
It assumes men are by nature sex seekers and women are by nature sex awarders, thereby stripping women of any power in the scenario… other than the power to award sex to the dull and/or obnoxious who are being framed as the “right” choice.
She apparently misses the fact that that assumption is proved by the way she frames the issue – it is the woman’s decision that matters, not the man’s. Far from stripping women of power, the scenario strips power from the man. Men can only present themselves as best they can to women and hope they are more appealing than their competition – and there will always be competition. Men are not “by nature sex seekers”. Instead, we are forced into that role by social expectations – the very expectations reinforced by women. When it comes to casual sex, despite the prevailing cultural myth, women are in control. By railing against the stereotype, the author doesn’t engage the deeper issue of how women benefit from the benevolent sexism of this construct. Instead, she snarkily reinforces women’s entitlement to have men fawn over them, and deciding who will be graced with their attention. “Which toy will I play with tonight?”
But, like Male Privilege, women also have the privilege to not be aware that this situation places them at an advantage. They assume, falsely, that men also have their pick of potential mates. When, of course, the reality is that if one isn’t rich or naturally charming (and funny! Can’t forget the all-important Sense of Humor!) one ends up settling for a woman who turns out to be an abuser.
I long for a world where the sexist (in both directions) paradigm of “men approach, women choose” is replaced by a world where naturally aggressive people of both sexes engage the people of their choice, while those of us who don’t fit that mold, both men and women, are not unduly punished for that fact. But that would require women to examine their own attitudes towards dating and sex, and I’m not hopeful that will happen any time soon.