I’m a man who respects women. I’m also a man who is sexually attracted to women. Sometimes it feels challenging to navigate that tightrope without being sexist.
I talked about this last week with Lisa Hickey (our Editor-in-Chief), Frederick Marx (Oscar and Emmy nominated filmmaker), and Kat Gordon (Founder of the 3% Conference) in preparation for our panel on Gender in the Media at the Better Man Conference (come out to see us!).
What came up was really fascinating. See, we get this mixed message about male sexuality from the media. On the one hand, there is this constant message that boys and men are (supposed to be) overtly sexual beings all the time. We shame men for having E.D. We shame teenage boys for being virgins. We shame husbands for being routine in bed. The ubiquitous plot point of “men need lots of sex” has not gone away. But it goes deeper than that. It’s tied directly into our mixed expectations of male identities.
In every format – the covers of magazines, billboards, radio, commercials, sports, TV/film – our culture encourages men to be superheroes, and then paints our superheroes as highly sexualized lotharios (Bond, Captain Kirk, Iron Man). Then when men/boys in real life act like the culture’s heroes, we condemn and shame them for being too sexual or not feminist enough. It sounds like, “We need a hero! No we don’t!”
Male feminists must walk the line of being sexually assertive while also being socially acceptable. In the current evolution of redefining consent, that tightrope can be confusing.
This is also true for women. Pro-sex feminism tells women to be sexually curious and adventurous, but then our culture actively shames (and violently attacks) women for being slutty… a double bind that Amy Schumer exploits with genius. This refrain sounds like, “We want a lady in the street but a freak in the sheets!”
It seems to boil down to this question: How do you respect a person’s sex while simultaneously desiring sex with that person?
If you want to see what our panel does with this question, come to the Better Man Conference in San Francisco.
Photo Barbarella (1968) Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law – by Flickr/Classic Film