This first article, “What if we admitted to children that sex is primarily about pleasure?” is about how sex is still considered fundamentally shameful. Author, Alice Dreger, also notes that HIV is code for gay and that by not having the courage to be factual and frank, we perpetuate sex shame and double standards for who should be having sex (meaning it’s ok for men, but not women). Denying that women find sex pleasurable also tacitly privileges male pleasure over female pleasure — which is inaccurate at best, and part of what directly contributes to rape culture at worst.
I learned the word intersex from this article. Education happens daily. Highly recommend checking this out.
On a related note, about women, sex, and double standards, this article discusses how women who are financially dependent on men increase the man’s fear of her being promiscuous and thus freeloading (fear of having to pay for a kid that’s not his). I don’t think being promiscuous and being freeloading are mutually exclusive but the article raises fair points on what fears men are operating out of and why this drives many men to want to control women’s sexuality.
My take away? Financial independence is crucial for women to be treated as equals. It’s not the only thing, but it is part of how equality will happen.
As humans living in patriarchal, male determined cultures, we have complex sets of sexist attitudes, beliefs, fears, that are learned both socially and are systemically prescribed and reinforced (laws and rules of state, religion, and other institutions that have power). Thus, the system(s) needs to be held as accountable as individuals (arguably, more so). I think Foucauldian approaches that prescribe impacting systems in small ways rather than giant revolutionary ways are most effective, but that’s just my current take. It might change. So: changing the attitudes and behaviors that are part of the system is crucial because financial independence by itself doesn’t do shit until the powers on top stop seeing powerful women with financial assets and independence as threatening and emasculating. It comes back to the feminine being second class, inferior, lacking (ah, Freud).
Being masculine is positive. Being emasculated = made feminine = no penis = BAD = negative = shameful = embarrassing = my self worth just tanked because you insinuated I was related to something feminine/female/womanlike.
So, until women are genuinely considered equals and there is no such thing as “emasculating,” because everyone will be on board with how awesome and cool it is to have a clitoris and labia and vagina* and lots of nifty pubic hair, until then, men will feel fearful of being compared to women because it knocks their self worth.
(*does everyone know that the vagina is only the part that’s the birth canal and it’s inside? i’m always thrown off by people who talk about the entire crotch region / exterior of the body between the legs as the vagina. it is not. that region is actually called the vulva. who knew! this page clarifies a lot.)
What can help with systemic and personal reprogramming?
I think pushing for increased legislation for equal pay, better legislation for equal treatment (including more rules about trained, outside justice systems for handling sex crimes, especially on college campuses, where judgement is typically handed out by untrained college staff who have vested interest in protecting their good name), and by educating early on what can constitute an loving, equitable romantic partnership. I think educating women on money, how to earn it, how to manage it, how to invest it, and how to believe you deserve it, will go a long way to help men curb their semi-irrational, and semi-rational fear, of being taken fiscal advantage of.
This suddenly started playing in my head, imagining a world of empowered women with fearless money management skills.
Interestingly, I had a conversation in the grocery store with a man wearing a suit and a yamulke about this yesterday. After he saw me standing next to my partner who wears a suit he said: “You better make sure he pays for it.” My reply? “Oh no. We split everything.”
“That’s not common.”
“Well, (laughing) who wants to be common? Better to live the uncommon life, no?”
He then proceeded to tell me the story of a his friend who married a woman twice divorced, with kids. He forced her to have a prenuptual agreement. The man is characterized as unpretentious but wealthy and, he didn’t say it but I will: suspicious of her intentions. So, he only wants to pay 50% in everything, sharing costs. He fears being gouged for his wealth in a divorce. I say “I think he’s correct on that.” He says, “Yeah they’ve been married four years now and are miserable.” Then, he proceeds to be checked out.
I’m pretty sure my interlocutor was able to draw his own conclusion that mistrusting your wife (aka not seeing your partner as an equal stakeholder in your relationship venture) is a miserable way to start a marriage. Maybe his world window opened a tad seeing that not all women are interested in skunking men of money. I’m into fairness. It was nice to share my stance on that with this man.
Note: My friends at A Blog About Love are amazing at lovingly reflecting on how to do marriage “right.” (my word) Check them out.
Part of what I think will change tides of sexism is if women take personal responsibility for participating in patriarchal values as much as men. Gouging a dude for all he’s worth is unethical and reprehensible. Seeking, and even simply imagining we are capable of, financial independence for our own merits and contributions to society, is important for women to be viewed as serious peers, I think. We have to believe it first and foremost. That said: I fully acknowledge that the world hasn’t caught up to this vision of women-as-peers yet and that women encounter barriers to accessing financial equality in the mean time.
I encourage baby steps on all fronts… it starts with calling BS when you see it, taking full responsibility for yourself, your words, your actions, and acknowledging your full, complete, built-in self worth.
AND telling the dude in front of you in the grocery line that his sexist assumption is completely inaccurate. Directly, respectfully, unequivocally. I’m pretty sure he was not expecting me to engage him in a conversation about gender equality at Key Food. But I’m so glad I did.