Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Bad dates (and mates)

This is going to be about sex.

No, I am not an expert. I do pay attention to people, and I think there are some points I can make.

This is starting with an account of a date with Aziz Ansari. If you are not familiar, the account is here:


Many people were indignant on Ansari's behalf, and that totally wasn't rape because she could have said "no" at any time. No one was suggesting that he be charged with rape, of course, but that doesn't make it a good date, or a good experience for the woman.

Yesterday I wrote about how when women are deciding how to respond to unwanted advances, they don't know how the man will react. Fear is an element of that, but it is not the only thing that comes up. We have been socialized for a long time to please others, to not create problems, and to not expect a lot from men. Sometimes wanting something romantic to happen can be a factor, because even though he is being disrespectful maybe he doesn't mean it, and really cares about you even though he isn't showing it at the moment. Making excuses for men doesn't end up being good for men or women, but there's a tradition there.

Now I want to leave Ansari behind and move on to something else that I had been reading about around the same time, and to which many women were responding in agreement: sex is often painful for women, and not in a "hurts so good" kind of way.

There were two things that worked together to be of particular concern, in that women often don't feel comfortable mentioning it, and also that the pain could be a sign of a serious health problem, and thus should not be ignored.


There is also a long tradition of inadequately exploring women's health issues, and a long tradition that only slutty women are supposed to enjoy sex. These are not helpful for anyone. "Thinking of England" may get you through the pain, but it won't heal a prolapsed uterus and is seems like it would make sex much less of a bonding experience.

Now I'm going to zag one more time, to an old episode of Everybody Loves Raymond: "No Roll!"

Ray buys an erotic board game, Sensuopoly. He is surprised when Debra agrees to play, but then he keeps just trying to jump her. As they argue over this, Ray thinks the issue is that he isn't romantic, but it's really that he isn't that good at sex.

My family several sex-centric episodes saved. They are funny, but also I think they handle the content really well. They make important points, getting around prime time constraints with humor and hints, and still being pretty clear.

Debra's specific issues were needing more variety and needing Ray to be less selfish. This is really logical. A man's shortest path to completion tends not to be the most effective path for a woman. So, if sometimes she is not too enthusiastic, it may be that she won't get much out of it.

And sometimes you are feeling pressured, and even though you tell him and he seems to agree to back off, he pressures you more, leaving you feeling gross and used.

And sometimes it hurts, maybe like being stabbed in the uterus.

Sometimes the point of faking an orgasm is to get it over with already.

Here is where we get to applying it personally: do you know if your significant other is getting as much satisfaction as you? Could they be putting aside pain and feelings of degradation for your sake. Possibly most important of all, if making things better for them means more work or less sex for you, are you willing to change?

We are in a transition here. More people are willing to accept that sex should be good for women too (though there are still a lot of people who think that makes women sluts). Some women on their own are able to be more assertive, and also able to decide that they don't need a selfish and disrespectful man. Some men are frustrated with that, and don't seem to recognize the frustration on the other side that leads to it.

There are still a lot of women who do not feel free to speak up. They were trained to be nice, and not talk about these things (and be highly criticized for even trying to talk about them) or be selfish (where it feels like any self regard is selfish). They may say "yes" to things out of guilt, and they feel the criticism when men complain about how heartless and shallow women are.

Many of us fall somewhere in between.

There is room to examine personal attitudes there, but that would be incomplete without looking at the history and the traditions and how these behaviors have developed. Legally women are no longer property, but the attitudes haven't completely gone away.

To fix that, many people will have to change their thinking, seeing women as fully functioning humans with agency over their bodies, having both the right of refusal and the right of consent.

Part of that is going to be listening to women, and letting what they say matter.

When women try to open up about their worst experiences and they are shouted down, we are not honoring that.

Yeah, eventually I'm going to talk about Matt Damon.

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