Nahida makes an interesting point about male sexuality:
Male sexuality has been socially conditioned to comprise of the same components as sports: it is aggressive and domineering, and it views women as “opponents” to defeat in order achieve high status within a male social order. Boys are taught to drive forward to see how far their partners will allow them to reach sexually, preoccupying themselves with wondering what comes next rather than enjoying the moment, essentially displacing the excitement of intimacy with the excitement of competition, until finally, in order for a man to be aroused, a woman must be objectified.
Am I saying that this is how actual men in the real world have sex? Nope, nope, nope, and nope. All but the biggest assholes value their partner enjoying themselves as much as they value themselves enjoying themselves; hence, only a fraction of people (one could call them “rapists”) have a purely conquest-oriented model of sexuality.
Nevertheless, I do think it’s valuable as a discussion of how the patriarchy views sex. The sports/sex model is apt: after all, both are ways that you prove that you’re a Real Man. Sports is basically a kind of mini-war. The most important thing is winning. Play through your injuries, you don’t need your health! Come on, the ref won’t see you break the rules, do it! Don’t bother about having fun! What are you, a pussy? A lady? A wimp?
But that’s not true, is it? For most people who play sports non-professionally, sports is about having fun. You might win or you might not, but the important thing is getting out there, hanging out with friends, getting some exercise, and having fun. Other people like competing– that’s what they find fun– and as long as they don’t let competition get in the way of enjoying themselves and compete with people who actually like competing, that’s cool too.
The same thing is true about sex. There are two models– one could call them the “rape culture” and the “consent culture” models. Very few people are pure rape-culture or pure consent-culture; nevertheless, I’ll describe them in their purest forms, so you can see them clearly.
Rape culture: Sex is about a man, who is the only one who actually desires sex, pushing a woman as far as she is willing to go. Sex occurs in a rigid set of steps: kissing, then breast-groping, then manual, then oral, then PIV; any other sex acts are signs that the man has Super Won (or that he’s a pathetic loser). Any tactic, short of ignoring a direct no (and even then) is allowable. Rape is basically like committing a foul: as long as you don’t do anything that’s technically against the rules, it’s all good, and calling someone a rapist for ignoring a “I’d rather not” is like the ref calling the ball out of bounds when it was clearly inside. If they have intercourse, the man has won and the woman has lost: he’s awesome, and she’s a slut who needs to learn to respect herself. The woman’s goal is to get a man into a relationship; if she gets his commitment, he’s pussywhipped and she’s a Smug Married/Be-boyfriend-ed (God I love Bridget Jones). Queer people can, with some straining, be fit into this model; the general idea is that one is the ‘man’ and another is the ‘woman.’
Consent culture: Some people decide that sex (whatever that means to them) would be fun and then have mutually enjoyable sex with each other. The end.
Can we agree that the rape culture model is absurd? It’s absurd.
There has been ample feminist critique of the rape-culture model of sex on the basis that it removes female agency in sexuality and ignores the fact that, you know, women want sex; however, we often ignore the ways that this model harms men too. To quote Nahida again:
Yesterday I overheard a man stating that he uses men for stimulating intellectual conversation and women for sex, and all I could feel was sorry for him. Imagine not being able to relate to your partner on an intellectual level!
She goes on to state that she can’t quite extend her sympathy to those men, since they are weaponizing their sexuality. Personally, I can’t help looking at a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist with anything but the greatest sadness. My relationships are with people– men and women– who are my equals: we have similar interests, we value each other’s opinions, we support each other when necessary and, yes, sometimes we have hot sex. I can’t imagine having a relationship with someone I have nothing in common with and can barely stand just for the sex; even being a fuckbuddy to someone I have nothing in common with seems ultimately empty. Give me sex with friends, man.
See, this is why gender equality is eventually going to win. We have the best sales pitch.