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The in-equality of the sexes
I was just reading an article relating to how women are judged more severely for cheating than man do. Connected to the Monogamy discussion here, but criticizing a double standard where when a woman has sex with a man it is taken to be more serious than when a man has sex with another woman. So far so good.

I then notice a link to another article in the same section of the paper, concerning sexual positions – the headlines papers will use to get readers - which is a description/complaint on how men can be immediately aroused from the slightest visual stimulation while desire for women is more complicated and she needs a lot more to really be into the sex, she needs a sense of intimacy and closeness, (foreplay) etc.

I find this juxtaposition extremely telling. On one hand women want to claim total equality, but on the other hand they also care to say that they are different from men. Why shouldn’t behavior be judged differently by who you are? If you claim sex means more to you, is a deeper experience, then obviously people will judge you more harshly for having it with someone else. More importantly, this problem is at the core of the current problem of what does equality of the sexes mean, given that they are actually different.

Of course the problem is that we are also talking about stereotypes. There are men who would fit more the stereotypical woman's relation to sex and vice versa, so why judge someone not by who they are but by their stereotype? But then who knows what the person is really like. People in general shouldn't be judged "in general" but by who they are specifically, but that's not how the law works, nor even how our morals work.

How should we then deal with the question of the obvious necessity for complete equality of the sexes, with the sexes actually being very different?
Here we go again… no other subject arouses such rabid responses.

No other subject has so little revealed about it, and so much about who is aroused by it.

But, Roy, are women really telling us that they want to erase the differences between us, men and women?  None that I know.

I think what they would like is equal ACCESS to social power.  Couples can pair off in an infinite array of arrangements, partners attracted in complex ways.  All women realize that, I would suppose.  I would also suppose that it would be hard to find a woman who would want to impoverish those possibilities.

What some of us want is to flatten the social terrain so that everybody stands on the same ground.  The Rule of Law is about as impersonal an institution as we have.  It can bracket out the complexities, the psychic and sexual complexities within intersexual relationships, giving a “de-militarized zone” where we can work on common goals.
This question appears to stem from a misunderstanding, nonetheless an interesting one.

As an analogy, let us consider women and food. It is well known (I don't mean necessarily true, I mean well known) that women's relation to eating is much more "emotional" than that of men. Women are traditionally the guardians of access to food, they have secret recipes their lovers (male or female!) will never be able to reproduce, they work magic with those cauldrons, and even if men (men as a genre, not men as individuals) have professionalized the craft of cuisine and developed it as high art, it is what is often demeaned as "comfort food" that provokes revelations like that great moment with the food critic in Ratatouille, that raises up the sick and makes grown men cry.

Which brings me to my point. The affinity between, say, women and food in general, and women and cheesecake in particular is also (by the above definition) well known. The angst which rises up around women and diets is, it seems to me, a pretty good analogy with your cheating scenario. If a man and a woman both cheat on their diet, and the woman has more of a communion with the cheesecake, does that make it more serious? Maybe she just enjoys it more.

I think this idea of "women care about emotions in sex, therefore any man they have sex with must be someone they care for" is a backhanded way of complimenting men, meaning, it is really the sort of theory only a man would come up with -- oh yes, obviously whenever we touch a woman with our magic wand, she falls under our spell and is a little bit ours forever, whereas we can gallavant from woman to woman unscathed. I don't think women would necessarily describe it that way. For instance, just because you feel that sex is about intimacy and personal expression doesn't mean you always have more of a personal connection with your partner, or even that it is necessarily about them. For instance, maybe it is more cathartic for you, or a more satisfying self expression.
That’s an interesting idea Emily, but once I think about it, not too surprising.  So many of our beliefs are agreements with what we have constructed socially, rather that personally.

I don’t remember hearing that sex is about personal expression, but in my experience personal expression is paramount.  Without that there may be love, but what kind of love would it be without its expression?

But to return to equality, do you, Emily, suggest that the idea that a woman's sexuality is emotionally based tips the balance of power away from her and toward her partner if her partner is a man?  If true that may be keeping alive the distributions of power behind the idea we thought dead: that a woman gets no pleasure from sex. 

If time travel were possible how revealing and how strange it would be to go back through time marking each era by being sexual with your partner, who in each instance would have the same relational affinity to you.  Some believe that our era is marked by personal expression, and if so sex in another time would probably be less expressive.

I believe you’re correct Emily, absolutely.  Women have no monopoly on the emotional/sexual.  To take another example, the extreme one magnified by its suitability to drama and narrative, of the violent male; violence is certainly ,in addition to a real, objective act, also one that is felt emotionally in the perpetrator.  Perhaps even to the extent that the emotions he feels are his main payoff.

To take your excellent observation further, maybe it’s time to admit that men are as capable of emotion, sexually and otherwise, as are women.  I wonder if that would alter the structure of desire all our activities are based on?

That would rightly move the question to one of quality.  What are the feeling-tones each gender primarily experiences...  or even communicates?
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Latest Post: October 6, 2010 at 5:35 AM
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