Friday, February 17, 2012

Male Guilt

Decades of feminism in the public consciousness has had a peculiar effect - whether intended or not - on the sexuality of sensitive males. These are the type of men who do NOT oppress women but treat them with respect. Yet they are also male, and in many cases have a healthy sex drive. But feminist thought (or at least one extreme end of the spectrum of feminist thought) has constructed this world view of women disempowered by a patriarchal system, which manifests in the sexual realm as follows: women are vulnerable (as opposed to empowered agents) to the naturally aggressive sexual advances of men. For a man to 'get off' in the traditional way, it is believed that he must oppress or degrade a woman. Anything else would be unsatisfying. This dovetails nicely with the puritan attitude towards sexuality, that it is a disgusting (rather than beautiful or sublime) human activity.

The result is that you have men being shamed for their sexual feelings towards women. Maybe there are advantages to this trend, maybe it's just tipping the balance to hold men in contempt for the way they've, traditionally, been treating women, by scaring them straight. But the men who are dicks aren't going to be swayed by male guilt - it's the sensitive ones, the ones who don't want to hurt women, who are being subjected to shame for their sexual feelings towards women. These are the men who don't deserve the brunt of feminist ire. But they are afflicted when sexuality - particularly when construed as a male activity used to denigrate females (as if women can't enjoy sex, or enjoy being sexually desirable) is demonized.

It's really more to do with our sexual attitudes than feminism, but the feminism is where the guilt comes in. I feel guilty for the way women are mistreated, and I don't want to contribute to that. Yet if feminist thought dictates that my natural sexual appetite is harmful to women, what choice do I have? I can ignore the plight of females, and just indulge in my sexual appetite without shame, but I don't want to become one of the oppressive dicks who don't treat women with respect. Or I could shun my sexuality and toe the sex-negative feminist line. Well as PC as that might be, I refuse to denounce my sexuality. It just means too much to me.

The result I choose is to try to inform the public about sexuality. "Sex is gross" usually arises from an ignorant position on sex - one devoid of experience or even basic knowledge about human sexuality, and usually also inspired by pointed 'education' attempts that are really ignorance campaigns designed to misinform the public about sexuality (regardless of which conservative fundamentalist agenda is behind it). Hell, I'm sexually liberated and I still think sex is gross - but that doesn't mean I can't find the appeal in it, and it doesn't mean that I'm quick to call anyone who likes sex a disgusting pervert.

Because that's the problem. You have girls who are educated to shun sexuality, and so when guys appreciate their sexual desirability, they get all defensive and icked out. They throw out insults. Because they see "you're attractive" as an insult instead of the compliment it's intended to be (because they view sex as ugly instead of beautiful), they believe it's fair to counter with an insult of their own ("you're disgusting"). And the great rift between the sexes grows ever deeper and wider, and our attitudes toward sexuality - a fundamental human experience - remain as unhealthy as ever. Some men - the aggressive type - actively decide to treat women with the disrespect they've been shown, while others - the more sensitive ones - are wracked with guilt and recede into the shadows, which unfortunately lends more visibility to the jerks, and reduces women's contact with the men who are more likely to treat them with respect.

Come on, people. I've learned it. I know, not everyone is comfortable with receiving sexual compliments. But you can learn, just as I have, and there are polite and impolite ways to deal with the compliments you receive. "You're sexy" is a compliment (although it comes in many different forms, some more polite than others). Are people really that concerned about being considered sexually attractive? I thought that was something most people strive for? What's the point of advertising your beauty if you're going to bite someone's head off the instant they admit that they like what they see? Or are you so caught up in appearances that you think there are right ways and wrong ways to tell a person they're pretty? Am I a bad person because I find an erotic quality to your beauty, compared to someone who thinks your beauty is purely aesthetic, purely asexual (usually involving some level of denial or personal discretion, a.k.a. hypocrisy: the antithesis of honesty and truth)? Are people who shun sex, like you, inherently better than those that embrace it? Is the measure of a person's worth dependent on their approach to sex? Will you always be treated better by prudes than you will by perverts?

Don't fool yourself.

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