The good folks over at Colorlines made my week by posting this video of “Sh*t Steve Harvey Says” – which is not a parody of things Steve Harvey would say, but clips of things Steve Harvey has actually said. If Steve Harvey didn’t actually exist, we’d have to invent him. In these clips, Harvey plays the “Steve Harvey” persona for maximum entertainment, or revulsion, depending on how you feel about him. I’m not mad. I’m amused.
The romantic comedy “Think Like a Man” – inspired by Harvey’s popular relationship self-help book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” – has returned some of the book’s more controversial advice for women to the spotlight, particularly something Harvey calls the 90-day rule. Harvey advises women to withhold sex for the first 90 days of a relationship, to determine if the man is true relationship material. Harvey compares the 90-day no-sex rule to the way that auto companies like Ford Motor Company used to withhold employee benefits for the first 90 days of employment, a probationary period to determine whether or not the person is “worth” the additional investment.
I can’t argue with the notion that one should get to know a person before having sex with them. Whether the waiting period is three hours, three days, three weeks or three months is a matter of personal choice. But I cannot subscribe to the notion of sex as a prize that men earn by meeting various challenges and tests of endurance, sort of like “The Amazing Race.”
Still, I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about what it means to “think like a man” – and what would happen if women did, especially when it comes to sex.
Almost from their sons’ birth, mothers and fathers joke about how their sons start playing with their penises as soon as they figure out what their hands are for. For boys, masturbation is normal and expected.
This “boys will be boys” attitude extends through toddlerhood into adolescence and beyond. Once a boy gets past the “girls are icky” stage of early adolescence and moves into puberty, he is expected to be in constant preparation for his first sexual encounter. The goal is not to stop him from having sex – that’s generally considered inevitable – but to teach him how to do it safely and responsibly.
By contrast, it’s rare for a mother to talk openly about her infant daughter touching herself. Once a girl gets past the “boys are icky” stage of early adolescence and moves into puberty, she is immediately taught to fear sex and sexuality. “Boys are only out for one thing,” we tell them. They get that message from media and culture, even if we parents never say those words. The biggest fear of the parents of a teenage girl is that she is out somewhere having sex. (As the mom of a teen girl, I speak for myself here.) Yet at the same time, girls are bombarded with hypersexualized images of girls and women. In music, the ugliest rappers brag about taking a model chick (or two), “beating it up” and sending her tripping back home on her Louboutins. The flip side of “boys are only after one thing” is, “that one thing is all you have to offer.”
What if we taught girls that it is natural for them to have sex drives, natural for them to have thoughts and desires, and natural for them to want to make themselves feel good? What if we taught girls that their sexuality exists for their own pleasure and enjoyment, not simply for the pleasure of men? What if we taught our girls the same way we teach our boys about sex – wait as long as you can, but when you choose to do it, please be safe and responsible?
After adolescent boys and girls become men and women, there’s still a vast difference between what women and men are taught about sex. Men are expected to go out and explore. They’re expected to have multiple sex partners – one or more at a time – until they find “the one” and are ready to settle down. Men are supposed to have a decent amount of experience before they choose “the one,” so they will know both what they do and don’t like, and what it takes to satisfy a woman’s needs.
Of course, when a woman has attachment-free sex, she’s labeled a slut. Women convince themselves they can only have sex inside of “relationships,” so some of us say we’re in a relationship with every dude we’re having sex with. It’s now acceptable for women to have some past experience, but too much puts a woman in permanent ho class.
But while men receive a two-fold benefit from experience, the value of a sexually experienced woman lies in her ability to please a man, not in knowing how she wants to be pleasured. Women are encouraged to teach themselves how to orgasm by masturbating. This is a start, but since penises don’t work like fingers and they don’t vibrate, self-pleasuring only goes so far in helping a woman improve her own responsiveness during intercourse. Perhaps women should be taught like men to focus on and take charge of their own pleasure during sex.
So I’m just saying: think like a man? Unfortunately, when it comes to sex, it seems no one really wants women to do that.