Thursday, May 31, 2007

Predatory Men, Predatory Women

Chani's use of the phrase "predatory sex," referring to propositions of admittedly questionable taste, brought to mind recent comments in a post-marriage support group in which I serve as a discussion facilitator.

We were talking about dating and three women told of similar approaches by men. "I have never been asked for a date [since the marriage breakup]," said the one who expressed it best, "but I have been asked for sex several times."

What I found most appalling about this was the manner in which the approach was made. One man told the woman he was approaching that she was "so hot" he was already masturbating about her!

In what barn have these guys learned their etiquette?

Of course, men and women alike are drawn to sex with one another. Both fantasize about it and now and then do something about fantasies privately. (See here if you don't believe that, yes, Virginia, women do, too.) But there's an invisible boundary between what is private and public.

Many American men have given the rest of us a bad name by stepping over that line.

Similarly, less talked about because ... I don't know why, women are perfectly capable of stepping over boundaries in ways that are predatory, sometimes even over the felony line. Trust me on this.

Granted, most women do not mix up violence with sex, most women derive power more surreptitiously than men (millennia on the slave side of the master-slave relationship, Hegel might have said), but just like men, women can objectify, exploit, use and abuse other people in relation to sex.

The same three women who complained about being asked for sex, for example, did not think it even necessary to offer to pay half for dinner (even though refusal is almost certainly guaranteed). They assumed that -- by virtue of what, other than their sex? --they had an automatic entry to a man's wallet. Yet all of them would have assumed that they had the right to decide if and when they would kiss the man.

Let's take this off the table so there is no confusion: I am not proposing for an instant that a dinner buys sex (kissing to whatever).

However, anyone who thinks that the mere act of dressing up tantalizingly and putting on cosmetics (many purchased for their romantically suggestive brand names) deserves a free meal needs to think about what kind of reasoning would justify such a conclusion. It looks to me like sex buying dinner, although I'm open to alternatives.

The point is that both men and women are predatory in that we search for mates like hawks.

Traditionally, men have taken the active part of the hunt and women have tried to draw circles and arrows around themselves to be "found." The distinction between active and passive roles does not erase the mutual desire to find one another and mate.

Of course, there remain boundaries that neither one should cross. Some of these boundaries are clear and spelled out in codes of law, others are unwritten (yet not immutable) social norms.

Less explicit customary limits attach to groups within society (caste, class, ethnicity, etc.). In a society with such a large variety of subgroups and such ease of travel from one to the other, inevitably some misunderstandings will arise.

If the people of the opposite sex you encounter are all crossing your boundaries, I would suggest that you are simply in the wrong circles.
Post a Comment