Lying Media Bastards

January 13, 2005

Gender Skirmish

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Amanda’s got a couple of great posts at Mouse Words about gender roles and male-female interaction.

The first discusses the popular belief that men have a higher sex drive than women do. This has seemed to be generally true in my personal experience, but Amanda points out that women are so strongly socialized to not speak about– or sometimes even recognize– their sexual desires, we don’t really have good “data” to figure out who’s hornier. Maybe huge numbers of women are hungry for sex, but are just too afraid to say so, which would mean that we don’t know which gender is the bigger horndog.

Amanda then briefly links this to the teen idol/boy band phenomenon, and when you put it in this context, it’s rather mind-blowing. Due to the taboo on female sexual desire, it is okay for a woman to say “that guy is hot”, but is not allowed to say “that guy is hot, I want to fuck him.” Therefore all of those screaming teen girls who’ve wallpapered their rooms in NSYNC posters are expressing their desire to have sex with these young men as openly as is socially permissable. Unless she’s jumping on the bandwagon (as some of these young ladies surely are), your 12-year old niece with the Justin Timberlake t-shirt wants to have sex with Justin Timberlake. Millions and millions of young women aren’t “crazy” about Justin Timberlake, aren’t “in love” with Justin Timberlake, but want to have mad hot naked sex with him. Somehow this passion has been stripped and mutliated until it looks like sexless attraction.

Which means that boy bands and teen idols are an entire industry based upon the suppression of female sexuality. You can’t have Josh Hartnett, you can’t say what you’d like to do to Josh Hartnett if you were alone in a room with him, but you can buy his posters and DVDs and whatnot*. That’s really sad.

I hope you get the jist of what I’m trying to say here. I know what I want to say, but as I type this, it feels like I’m missing something.

Amanda’s other good gender post is about “homosociality”, friendships between people of the same sex. To quote a bit:

“Homosociality (as explained so well in Michael Kimmel’s Manhood in America) is the principle that all men, including heterosexual ones, are raised in our culture to be more eager to please other men than women.”

It’s so true that it’s invisible. What men will do to impress women is a joke in our culture, but what they will do to impress men tends to go even further, again especially amongst younger men.

This has baffled me for quite some time. Our culture is obsessed with male heterosexuality, and the logical result of this obsession would be for men’s lives to focus on trying to please women so that she would want to have sex with him. Yet somehow, the center of young men’s lives is more about pleasing and impressing their male friends, often to the extent that they are actually alienating women. You know how it is, some guys will insult their own girlfriend to their guy friends to somehow look cool. But actions to impress guys while driving away the person of the opposite sex that you could be sleeping with seems so anti-heterosexual.

I’m not saying that men should center their lives around seduction [wow, Freudian slip. I made a typo which created a new word: “seducation”], or that women deserve to be treated as such, just that such a lifestyle would be the logical conclusion to a culture so obsessed with male heterosexuality.

The quotes up there are the best explanation I can find for this, that as hetero-obsessed as our society is, pleasing other men is even more important.

Amanda does have the happy conclusion though: treating people based upon the quality and importance of your relationship to that person, not based upon whether they’re a man or a woman. Not as common a sentiment as I’d like.

* Gives new meaning to the International Noise Conspiracy song, “Capitalism Stole My Virginity”.

Posted by Jake on January 13, 2005 10:43 pm


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    I like that song and now will never hear it quite the same again. Not a bad thing, by any stretch.

    The boy band thing is actually quite deliberate on the part of the handlers. They go out and find young men who are good-looking but not so “manly” that it’s a little less frightening for young women to fantasize about them. But yeah, it’s all a way to channel burgeoning female sexuality into “safe” outlets that mostly are less threatening to parents, schoolteachers and teenage boys who don’t particularly enjoy seeing teenage girls swoon over men with more chest hair than they have.

    Comment by Amanda — January 14, 2005 @ 6:29 am

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    One small counter point to the later part of this article - Often the action that impresses other men the most IS the seduction of a woman. There is no better way to say “I’ve got a bigger penis than you” than by walking away with the pretty lady all your friends have been salivating over for the last hour in the club.

    Comment by Tobias — January 14, 2005 @ 6:40 am

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    Dude, now that song has a whole new meaning to me.

    Boys bands and teen idols are picked specifically for their boyish cuteness so they can be someone the girls fantasize over without alarming parents with some kind of manly virility.

    Comment by Amanda — January 14, 2005 @ 9:16 am

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    Whattaya mean men spend most of their time impressing other men?! Is *that* what I’m doing all the time? Then why do I spend so much mental energy picturing [women’s] boobs?

    I guess I’m of the school that, perhaps wrongly, believes that all male-created music, art, poetry, literature, architecture, etc. is ultimately plumage to impress *the ladies,* not the dudes. Sure, it’s swell to bask in the awe and admiration of one’s fellows (as Tobias rightly points out above), but isn’t a more productive non-zero-sum game the one among the reproducing sexes? The Ancient Greeks worshipped their homosocial->homosexual bonds, but ever since that wacky Catholic Church “successfully” stamped out those pagan brushfires, hasn’t it been a heterosexual hegemony?

    Also, what about intra-sexual competition, the destroyer of all that acceptance-seeking? What are we competing for? Is is homosocial respect or heterosexual conquest? Maybe we’re all just self-obsessed!

    Any way you slice it, I think I’m losing. I’m already near to giving up on this whole dating thing, but I’m going to frame my frustration in indignant libertarianism: I refuse to support an umpteen-billion dollar industry that continuously capitalizes on our desires and insecurities. Harumph.

    In the meantime, I’m reading Prof. Jared Diamond’s “Why Is Sex Fun?” this week; maybe I’ll find some answers.


    Comment by N — January 14, 2005 @ 11:16 am

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    N, by no means do I paint all men with the same brush. But read the dang post. I”m talking about “bros before hos” and stuff like that.

    Comment by Amanda — January 14, 2005 @ 1:03 pm

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    Amanda hit the nail on the head with the boyband issue.

    Plus it paints me in an uber-rebellious light when I go into explicit detail to my friends, b/f, basically anyone who’ll listen or anyone who has ears, about what I’d like to do with my 80s bands. Mmmm-mmmm. Old? Washed-up? Faithfully (ha!) married with kids? Who cares, I’d still be their groupie. It’s my feminist duty, dammit.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go listen to that Bon Jovi box set.

    Comment by Denise — January 14, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

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    Cute, but, uh… no. The libido holds far, far more power over men than over women, and there are legitimate evolutionary reasons for this (does the term “evolutionary psychology” mean anything to you?). The libido in vertebrates is almost entirely regulated by a single hormone, testosterone, of which males possess many times what females do.

    It is probably just as well. If women were as horny as men are, no one would ever stop fucking long enough to eat, and we’d all starve to death.

    Comment by Anonymous — January 15, 2005 @ 9:49 am

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