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What If Women Thought About Sex Like Men?

15 May 2012

written by Carolyn

Steve-HArvey-Think-Like-a-Man-Interview1

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.


9 Comments on What If Women Thought About Sex Like Men?

  1. Andrea Morgan

    The double standard around wonen’s sexuality is disheartening and continuous *sigh*

  2. CaliGirlED

    “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.”…Bottom line.

    Great post!

  3. E brown

    Another winner. Dead on C. Smiles see ya Friday.

  4. Stesha

    It’s think like a man… but no too much like a man. Your post was spot on. We need to be open and honest with our girls about their sexuality and about their overall self-worth.

    Hugs and Mocha,
    Stesha

  5. RR

    Carolyn,

    Your essay conveys a basic lack of understanding regarding human sexual evolution. You (and many others) decry the sexual double-standard, but fail to grasp why the double-standard exists in the first place. The double-standard is not purely a product of patriarchy, although it is buttressed by it. The double-standard exists because sex is an inherently riskier proposition for women than it is for men. Only women can get pregnant from a sexual encounter, so women are naturally more circumspect and less cavalier when it comes to sex. Additionally, sexually transmitted disease is more easily spread from men to women than the reverse. Our culture recognizes the differences between men and women and seeks to minimize the negative effects of those differences through societal rules of thumb like the sexual double-standard. You wrote:

    But I cannot subscribe to the notion of sex as a prize that men earn by meeting various challenges

    What’s so wrong with this line of thinking? Sex is a test. The battle of the sexes is essentially a battle over sex. Men test women with sex. Men really like women who are casual about sex, we just don’t want to marry such women. Complaining about the sexual double-standard will not change the evolutionary sexual wiring of men. The complaints will serve to encourage women, especially black women, to make poor sexual choices and then BLAME MEN FOR THEIR POOR JUDGEMENT! Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with women exploring their sexuality. I do have a problem with women who are in the habit of sleeping with men after “knowing” them for three hours (or three minutes) and then complain about not being able to find eligible mates (i.e. marriage minded men) after they turn 30.
    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?
    We already do this, which is the problem. It is a problem because, as I explained earlier, males and females are different and have inherently different reproductive imperatives. Men want to have sex with as many women as they can attract. Women want to have sex with the highest quality men they can attract. Traditionally, men and women compromised their reproductive standards through marriage (with men forgoing the sexual playing field and women forgoing seeking higher status males). The double-standard has been significantly weakened with women increasingly thinking (and acting) like men. We see this in the illegitimacy rates, STD rates and decreasing marriage rates.
    Of course, when a woman has attachment-free sex, she’s labeled a slut.
    And rightly so, but it is not men who do the labeling. Remember, men like sluts. It is WOMEN who label other WOMEN sluts! And rightly so. Women used to have incentive for engaging in such labeling behavior. Sluts lower the price of sex, which is harmful to those women who wish to have sexually monogamous relationships with high status males. So, it is women, not men, who are threatened the most by sluts. Of course, this is the traditional view. Women, in the name of gender sexual equality, are now encouraged to be sluts and to be proud of it. Again, if this is what women want, I’m all for it. I could just do without women complaining about the consequences of unfettered female sexuality.
    the value of a sexually experienced woman lies in her ability to please a man
    This is complete nonsense Carolyn. Sure, some men might rank order women in terms of the women’s sexual prowess, but they certainly DO NOT take these rankings into account when sizing up women for marriage. There are essentially three things men take into consideration when judging a woman’s marriage potential:
    1) Beauty and youth.
    2) Intelligence
    3) Minimal sexual experience.
    These make sense from an evolutionary perspective. These criteria aren’t going to change. Men, generally speaking, are the performers in the bedroom. A woman’s lack of sexual experience will not hurt her chances in the marital marketplace. On the contrary, it will enhance her value, assuming she is youthful.

    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.

    You have misunderstood. Men don’t mind women thinking like men. Men are turned off by women who act like men when it comes to sex. Too many women, and this article is a perfect example, completely misunderstand men.

  6. Carolyn

    Your comment betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of everything this blog is and has from day been about. Arguments that women’s sexuality should be controlled because of evolution are silly at this stage of human development. More importantly, you already know that your restricted views of women’s sexuality aren’t welcome here. This blog is obviously not for you.

  7. RR

    Carolyn,

    Are you arguing that evolution is irrelevant to human sexuality? Really? So, we can just make ourselves up as we go along and be completely oblivious to the forces that shape human development? Have we stopped evolving?

    I gather you are looking for an echo chamber. I’m cool with that. I just thought you might appreciate a different perspective. Clearly something is amiss in male/female relationships. I don’t have restricted views regarding female sexuality. I have realistic views of female sexuality. Again, if women want to ape male sexuality, I say go for it. Those women who want to express their sexuality as fully as men do should be prepared to deal with the potential consequences of their behavior because, as we have seen, the consequences are quite substantial.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood the purpose of your blog. Please enlighten me. I thought the purpose of your blog was to foster discussion on various topical issues. Was I wrong? Are you expecting your comment section to be an Amen Corner?

  8. Carolyn

    This is my personal blog. It is not a general news site. And your comments are no longer welcome. Thanks.

  9. Nessa

    Women like Carolyn complain about how unfair it is that men are called studs when they sleep around, yet women get called sluts for the exact same behavior. It’s actually not a double standard though, because both scenarios are pretty different in terms of circumstances and consequences. I can think of at least four crucial differences:

    First, sleeping around is easier for women. Regardless of how you feel about promiscuity, we can all agree that a guy who manages to rack up a lot of sexual partners has to have some skills. It’s challenging for men to rack up partners, even for men with low standards. A man needs social intelligence, interpersonal skills, persistence, thick skin, and plain old dumb luck. For women, though, a vagina and a pulse is often enough. Whenever an accomplishment requires absolutely no challenge, no one respects it. It’s just viewed as a lack of self-discipline. People respect those who accomplish challenging feats, while they consider those who overindulge in easily obtained feats as weak, untrustworthy or flawed.

    Second, women have potential to do more harm by sleeping around than men do. Say a man sleeps around with a bunch of different women. He’s definitely doing harm to these women if he pretends to be monogamous while sleeping around. He may cause them emotional pain by his promiscuity. He may cause unwanted pregnancy. He may spread VD. When women sleep around, however, they can cause not only all these same ill effects but one additional crucial ill effect: the risk of unknown parentage.

    If one guy sleeps around with five women, each of whom is monogamous to him, and they all get pregnant, it’s a safe bet as to who the father is. If you reverse genders and have one woman who sleeps around with five men who are monogamous to her, and she gets pregnant, the father could be any of the five men. And if one of those men is tricked into raising a baby that isn’t his, he’s investing time, money, estate and property to provide for a child that isn’t carrying his DNA into the next generations, a costly mistake from an evolutionary standpoint.

    Our two basic primal drives are to survive and to reproduce, and promiscuous women traditionally make it hard for a man to know for sure whether he is truly reproducing or is secretly raising another man’s child. Men stand a lot more to lose from promiscuous women than the other way around. And it’s no picnic for the child to not know who his real father is either. And it’s a mess for the women carrying on the deception as well. Or just look at any random episode of the Maury show if you don’t believe me.

    Since the DNA test and the birth control pill didn’t exist until recently, there were no reliable ways to prevent pregnancy or prove parentage for most of human history. For this reason society developed a vested interest in preventing promiscuity among women, and society accomplished this by creating the slut stigma. And even though the creation of birth control and DNA tests have made this less of a risk than the past, longstanding traditions and customs are not easy for society to break so the slut stigma remains.

    Third, men have evolutionary reasons to be programmed to sleep around more. A lot of women roll their eyes when they hear that men are “hard-wired” to sleep around. But from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes total sense. If the two primal drives of humans are to survive and to reproduce, nothing leads to maximum reproduction like one man sleeping with multiple women. If one women sleeps with many men in a nine month period, she can only get pregnant just once. Nine months of rampant promiscuity would give the same result as nine months of highly sexed monogamy: one pregnancy. Now if one man sleeps with many women during a nine month period, you can get many pregnancies during that period. The more women he sleeps with, the more possible pregnancies.

    So from an evolutionary standpoint, there are concrete advantages to men being promiscuous compared to women being promiscuous. This doesn’t mean that women have evolved to be strictly monogamous. Women have evolved to be somewhat promiscuous too, something men badly underestimate. However they haven’t evolved to be as rampantly promiscuous as men.
    Fourth, promiscuity poses more risk to women than to men. A woman has more to lose from choosing bad sex partners than a man does. She’s the one who gets stuck with going through a pregnancy and taking care of a baby alone if she chooses a deadbeat. For this reason, promiscuous women throughout history have historically been viewed as being a vastly more irresponsible risk takers than promiscuous men, who rightly or wrongly could always run away from the consequences of unwanted pregnancies easier than women could.

    These four reasons explain why the longstanding tradition came about of men being rewarded for multiple partners while women get socially punished for similar promiscuity. Of course all this is gradually changing, but we’re up against millenia of evolutionary and cultural conditioning here, so don’t expect any dramatic overnight reversals.

    Understand that I’m just explaining why the double standard came into existence and not condoning or condemning it. This is not an attempt to pass judgment or be self-righteous in any way. It’s just an explanation of why the two conditions are treated differently.


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