I stood in front of the bathroom mirror running my hands over the marks he’d left on me. Little nibbles and scratches, like sexual graffiti on my skin. Flashes of his flesh surged through my mind and I smiled as I fantasized about what we could do the next time.
Humans are not prairie voles. We are not guinea pigs or mice. We’re humans.
Pop science loves to trot out research on rodents to confirm or challenge behavioral assumptions. But what the writers often miss is that our behaviors are shaped by far more than food, fights, flights and fucking. Humans are highly complex social primates and, because of this, our responses to the world can be difficult to explain with simple biology or neurotransmitters.
Yesterday I did a take down of the myth of the sexually aggressive male using science. Now I want to share some stories as further proof that we’re buying into a harmful lie.
In my teen years I regarded romance as something created by men to convince women to have sex with them. My very few unsatisfying sexual experiences combined with a rabidly sex-negative culture reinforced my viewpoint that sex was solely a man’s prerogative.
The tired trope of aggressive male sexuality is a pervasive one. The story goes like this: because men are full of testosterone and sperm as well as unhindered by the consequence of pregnancy, their sexuality is naturally brutish and promiscuous. Testosterone fuels aggression, billions of sperm want hundreds of outlets and nature failed to offset these desires with physical dangers associated with reproduction.
The compliment to this heterocentric sex story is that women, with their limited eggs, lack of testosterone and pregnancy burden are naturally chaste and self protective. Any sexual adventurousness or licentiousness is only done to please men and keep them around so they will help with the child rearing.
Despite pervasive public images depicting men as violent, sex-crazed, idiotic, irresponsible louts, I can never believe men are somehow inherently bad.
I’ve met too many good ones.
Not just friends, family members, lovers and boyfriends. Perfect strangers who could have done any number of unspeakable things to me if they wished. Yet the overwhelming majority of men showed me nothing but charitable kindness.
I started traveling through North America when other kids my age were wrapped up tight in comfy but suffocating blankets of homework and high school drama. With no money and no job I made big tracks in big rig trucks. For two years I spent time in the male-dominated world of long-haul trucking, learning as much about CB radios and swearing as I did about the basic decency of most men.
Out of hundreds of rides, the overwhelming majority talked to me about their lives, their families, what they had seen in the world and swapped some really good dirty jokes and limericks. Often they bought me food or gave me an extra pair of socks when the weather began to turn cold. One guy was hauling a shipment of canned foods and gave me several cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew from his haul when we parted.
Outside of the truckers, other men I met on my travels showed similar hospitality. Men invited me into their homes with no other motive than to provide me shelter and have some company around. My collection of bawdy jokes and one-liners began to come in handy.
So, for me, the fact that so many perpetrators of sexual and physical violence are men is an uncomfortable truth. But I don’t think sexual and physical violence is so much urged by biology as it is encouraged by gender perceptions. The few men who tried to hurt me were always from geographical areas where the population adhered to traditional mandates of gender, an interpretation I’ve found to be backed by research. (This is only one study, but if you wish to see more studies about masculine gender ideology and behaviors, I will be happy to provide others.)
What I find more amazing is that, in a culture that still echoes misogynistic sentiments, the majority of men I have known are good men. They’ve heard the same messages but through experience (and maybe that simple human desire to be a good person) they make the decision to act decently towards others.
I dedicate this post to all the good men in my life, past, present and future. Please know how much I adore you.
Last week I went to Santa Cruz to see “The Lost Boys” on the beach boardwalk. That campy horror flick is a classic from my childhood and it looked a little different this time around.
The movie is still brilliant, of course, but a line in the film bugged me to no end. Gramps is talking to his freshly-divorced daughter and remarks “Lucy, you’re the only woman I ever knew that didn’t improve her situation by getting divorced.”
There is a strange social myth that women are pulling a fast one with divorce and leaving men in the poor-house. On the radio this morning I heard women quipping about alimony payments of the obscenely wealthy as if this is the norm for everyone else. It’s not.
Overall, women experience a 27% decline in standard of living while men experience a 10% increase after divorce. The big reason? Women taking on more domestic and primary caretaking work than men. You can’t really put “MOM” on your resumé.
The subject is complicated and I want to read more about it, but my finances are a big barrier right now. I can’t justify spending money on academic journal article access right now.
If you would like to read more about this subject, check out the following articles:
In case you haven’t heard, Israel developed a male birth control pill. The drug, which works by stripping protein from sperm that is necessary for conception, is about to go into clinical trials. Aside from being the first male oral contraceptive, this is also the first non-hormonal oral contraceptive. Awesome.
But the awesomeness is dampened by blatant sexism from men’s female partners. A snip from the Telegraph article:
A big drawback against men being in control of fertility is the fear they would forget to take a pill.
Polls have repeatedly shown wives and partners do not trust their men to remember to pop a pill every day.
But now that problem has been solved. The new pill can be taken either once a month or once every three months.
Professor Breitbart said: “I think most women would trust their man to remember once a month or once a quarter.”
So, women never forget to take their birth control pills since we are paragons of domestic and sexual responsibility? Spare me.