In 1954 all men wanted was sex ... and maybe some different pants. Photo: PNC
Cementing her status as one of the most prolific apologists for sexist behaviour worldwide, sex therapist Bettina Arndt caused a small amount of controversy recently by arguing that men are being led down a merry path of confusion by women and their dangerously loaded cleavage, and the naughty women are cackling into their cauldrons.
The screed itself is unsurprising – it’s been many moons since anyone’s expected sense to come out of Arndt on the subject of sex (presumably because she offers it from the distant dimensional ether of 1954) – and very little can be added to the already comprehensive tirades against her brand of dialogue.
What I think hasn’t really been discussed at great length is how the singular stereotypes of Arndt’s views aren’t all that different from a lot of general discussion about male sexuality, most of which seem to hinge on clichés about the voracious appetites of their indiscriminate appendages. Consider this. Among the majority of the community, it’s accepted that men aren’t Neanderthals about sex. Some members of that group certainly behave that way, but you can’t attribute that to an innate biological urge that drives them to poke their club into the lady cave of every woman they see. Most of us agree with this, and think we act accordingly. We bristle at suggestions that a woman’s choice of clothing can contribute to sexual assault, and within that conversation it’s not unusual to be outraged on behalf of the men who routinely ‘resist’ the urge to rape women just because summertime’s brought all their milkshakes to the yard.
Yet it’s also not unusual to hear blithe statements about male sexuality made in a way that completely homogenizes them – and not just uttered by Professional Throwbacks like Arndt. That eternally tiresome old chestnut about “real” women and their curves being favoured by men is a good case in point, particularly as it tries to pass off made up facts as peer reviewed, science based evidence. Or the one about men just wanting to degrade women because of porn. Or how men always want to have sex, and if they don’t there must be something wrong with them. Or what about the one where men are threatened by smart, independent women? I’ve heard that one from normally circumspect quarters of intelligent females. Heck, I’ve said it myself often enough when trying to justify why a man might have rejected my less than subtle overtures.
What’s denied by these discussions and the thousands like it carried on every week in women’s magazines replete with “10 Ways To Blow His Mind” cover lines, forums, sitcoms, radio shows and other cultural epicentres is that male sexuality can’t be relegated to a neat definition within a rigid box (pardon the pun). We need to stop citing purely anecdotal claptrap to perpetuate this homogenized brand of male sexual expression. As human beings, men should be afforded the same kind of flexibility as women to explore their sexuality in a myriad of different ways. Men aren’t mindless hydraulic drills, percussively thrusting their way through life. They’re perfectly capable of navigating the nuances of other people’s sexual behaviour and desire. When we assign a one-size-fits-all version of masculinity and sexuality, we reduce them to little more than a one-dimensional cliché that needs to be trained and fed biscuits when it’s been good.
Some men like fat women. Some men like skinny women. Amazingly enough, some men like a whole range of different kinds of women of all different sizes, often at the same time. Some men like men. Some men like cars. Some men like climbing into a giant rubber bag and rubbing themselves against its sweaty insides while murmuring the name ‘Barbara’. We don’t have a Ven diagram for this stuff.
Perpetuating our own myths about male sexuality doesn’t just fuel this kind of culture, it also limits the kinds of conversations men feel able to have about what turns them on. And as a woman whose own sexual desires include the witnessing of handsome, manly straight men getting their sex on with each other, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to indulge that fantasy make that society come about.