Since the era of the permissive society and the mainstreaming of modern feminism, western society has gone a long way towards liberating women's sexuality. Younger women have, to an unprecedented extent, been encouraged to believe they can be as sexual as they like and to experience and express their desires as they wish. Even the age-old proscriptions on female promiscuity have been largely broken down, exemplified by the glorious flowering of the SlutWalk movement.
Simultaneously, and perhaps not coincidentally, male sexuality has been increasingly seen as a problem. You can hear it in the gentle, dismissive mockery that says men are simple creatures who "only want one thing" or, at the extreme, outright vilification. The male gaze threatens, male desire is aggressive. Our primal instincts are pathologised with the jargon of gender studies. Righteous and necessary efforts to reduce sexual crimes have had the unwelcome effect of teaching generations of men that our sexuality can be dangerous and frightening.
[...] Again and again the message came out: girls have problems. Boys are problems. And yet does anyone doubt that there should be concerns about how easy access to porn impacts upon boys' sexual development, their self-esteem, their body image or performance anxieties? It's not as if young men bask in perfect mental health and happiness – young men commit suicide at nearly four times the rate of young women, and sex and relationships rank high on their list of concerns.
[...] Perhaps the greatest concern for men and women alike should be the way male sexuality and sexual expressiveness balances on a narrow tightrope of acceptability. One step off the wire and you tumble into the realm of perversion. As feminist blogger Clarisse Thorn noted last year, any man who hits on a woman and gets it wrong risks being branded a "creep" – sometimes deservedly so, of course, but often for no greater sin than being insufficiently attractive or socially skilled, or having misread a perceived signal of invitation. I've never heard of a woman being stigmatised or disparaged for expressing an attraction to big men, rough men, geeky men or whatever. A man who expresses similar desires for women who don't conform to standard norms of beauty is a perv, a fetishist, a weirdo.
[...] Male sexuality is no less diverse, complex and wonderful than women's or, for that matter, no more base, coarse and animalistic. [...] Women have been entirely justified in asking that we blokes respect their rights, autonomy and wishes, that we respect them as sexual beings. It shouldn't be too much to ask for a little of the same in return.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Why are we afraid of male sexuality?
An interesting Guardian article found via Arne's blog: