Thursday, June 21, 2007

*sigh* Here she goes again!

A little while ago, Sarah Hampson, from the Globe and Mail, attempted to convince her readers that married women are responsible to meet their husband's sexual demands, regardless of their own preferences, desires or state of mind, because otherwise, they would essentially be pushing their spouse into the arms of another - and arguably more "responsible", i.e. sexually submissive - woman.

I was therefore a little sceptical when I started reading her newest article: "Good sex, or she's an ex". Nevertheless, I figured that I would read the whole thing first, and give the woman a chance to redeem herself.

At best, I was hoping that Ms. Hampson would write equivalent "advice" for married men who are not able to keep up with their wife's sexual needs. A very legitimate expectation. I mean, isn't that what the title of the article suggests in the first place?

Well guess what? She did not.

Unlike her previous opus, she starts with a relatively neutral tone:

It is not just the male need for sex that is misunderstood, as I wrote in my previous column (Sex, or he's your ex, June 7). In the interest of sexual reciprocity - hey, what's good for him needs to be good for her, too - I should explain the other half. And that is simple: Women's expectation for sex in marriage has changed.

But then Ms. Hampson continues:

Make way for the CEO of Pleasure. Female empowerment has reached a climax in the bedroom. She wants what she considers her right: good and frequent sex.

"It's a real role shift," says Betty Stockley, a veteran marriage and sex therapist in Toronto. "Women are calling the shots in the bedroom. Power has shifted."

*sigh* Here we go again with some classic "female empowerment" crap and the "pussy power" myth (with respect to the latter, please check out what the Happy Feminist has to say about it).
Anyhow, I fail to understand how this assertion is supposed to support her ramblings about the sacro-sanct duty of married women to be sexually accessible to their husband on a 24/7 basis. I'm sure such women view themselves as "CEOs of Pleasure"...

Others complain about poor sexual technique. "I was 18 when I met my first husband," a 40-year-old professional woman tells me. "He was not my first sexual partner. I had had maybe two lovers before him. But I was his first. He didn't know what to do. He really wasn't able to satisfy me, and he wouldn't talk about it."

They remained married for four years. "I tried for about two or three years, but it got to the point that when he expressed interest in sex, I just said, 'No thanks. Unless you're going to help me out and not just roll over, then forget it.' Oral sex was distasteful to him. He wasn't into masturbating me. I could do anything to him. There were no limits there. Finally, I told him, 'You're not good in bed.' It was a huge blow to his ego. I regret saying those words," she offers. "But I don't regret how I felt. It was completely valid."

So? That's it? I mean: that's just it? How come this woman remained married to this guy? Did she not ran into the arms of younger, hotter studs? She stayed with the guy for four fucking years? And only then did she tell him how she felt about their intimacy? And she regretted telling him?

That "CEO" obviously needs to attend some leadership seminars or something...

Back to the main issue. How come is it that women are dissatisfied in bed? I mean, besides incompetent sexual partners?

Apparently, it's a question of geography.

It's just that men are a continent and women are an ancient civilization. A woman has to explore his topography, which is very exciting, but all rather easily discovered. There are flat plains, some lovely undulating ones, and then there's Mount Vesuvius.

Women, on the other hand, have to be unearthed. In the past 40 years or so, since the Pill liberated women from sex as merely reproduction, much energy has been devoted to this emotional archaeology, with female orgasm as the coveted treasure in the deep, dark womb-tomb place.

Uh... wtf? What better argument to convince a woman of her innate sexual inadequacy than to compare her vagina to a "dark womb-tomb place"? Isn't it sweet to be compared to something dead, cold, rotten and potentially hazardous, and that needs to be unearthed by a third party? Now that's empowerment.

Silly me. For all those years, I had believed for some wacky reason that a vagina and a uterus were two separate organs. But I must have been wrong. After all, how is a woman supposed to know anything at all about her own bodily functions?

But constant compromise rubs against the feminist grain. "It's not like compromising on other things, like when to go out for dinner," says Joan Sewell, author of I'd Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido, published earlier this year. "This is your body. There is nothing more personal. When you don't have desire, it's not merely sexual, it's invasive. Continual compromising like that is going to poison you. Men might be clueless, but the resentment in the woman will eventually pop."

She almost gets it right. But she forgot to point out that sex without willingness is, if not full-fledge sexual assault, at the very least, sexual exploitation. At worse, a criminal offence. At best, mental or physical cruelty, i.e. a cause for divorce.

Ms. Sewell asserted her power by defining the limits of her willingness to service his sexual needs. On the brink of divorce, she wanted to save her marriage by satisfying her husband, Kip, in ways that didn't fuel her resentment. He wanted sex five or six times a week, whereas her preference was once or twice a month.

"Servicing" someone else's sexual needs is NOT a good reason to engage in any form of sexual activity. No one should have to ask herself what are the limits of her willingness to do so.

Finally, they reached a sex agreement. Male orgasm became optional. She could take breaks. Plus: "When I know Kip wants sex, and I'm not that keen, we know what sex acts are neutral for me, but there are conditions on those, too. Oral sex, for example. Well, what if it goes on for 15 minutes? If it does, well, I'm out," Ms. Sewell says. "And there are days when I don't care what you're doing down there to me, I am not going to play."

"She could take breaks." Whoa. What a gentleman, ladies. You know, it's not as if, like, women had a legally protected right to withdraw their consent to sexual activity at any point in time. Shit. It's really too bad that Kip dude is already taken...

She has been called "anti-feminist and pre-Victorian," she confesses, but she believes that women are fed unrealistic images of abundant female libido. Lack of desire may be the new taboo in today's sexually explicit culture, but Ms. Sewell maintains that a lack of libido is just as important to take power of, if that's what women feel.

Du-uh! Anti-feminist? Right you are! A healthy sex-drive and the idea that (1) you should not have to submit to sex when you don't feel like it, and that (2) when you feel like it, you expect your partner to make a genuine effort to please you, do not constitute in my mind "unrealistic images of abundant female libido."

And seriously, is it just me or the idea of using one's "lack of libido" (that is, in Ms. Hampson's language, a woman's preference not to have sex at a given point in time) as "power" has no merit at all?

Absolute control in the bedroom is never healthy, Ms. Stockley says. The skill, which a therapist can help develop in couples, is how to talk about sexual compatibility without hurting either partner's feelings.

"I do think many women abuse the power in the bedroom," she cautions. ... But I tell them [women] that having power should not be about being overpowering."

So, to sum up the last couple of points, and the whole of Ms. Hampson's article, it's not as much "Sex, or she's your ex" as "Sex: it can be lousy and she might not want to, but you my male friend are gonna get some anyways." If sex is unsatisfying, your husband need not chastise himself and force himself to "sexually service" you, because you're not expected to just dump him for that. Again, it's all about the women. It's women who, once again, are expected to be "responsible" and solve the problem by compromising their own desires and needs.

Moreover, by refusing - again, not completely, but only to the extent that the guy doesn't get exactly what he demands - to engage in sexual activity, women are supposed to feel empowered. But on the other hand, they are warned that by so doing, they might be abusing their so-called power, or be *gasp!* overpowered.

Different articles, same conclusion. If you're a woman, whatever you do, it's always your fault.

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