The Rules of Sex Like Men

May 13, 2007

What does having sex like men involve? Moving freely from partner to partner, engaging in sexual activity without emotional attachment, not talking about your feelings (although you are allowed to talk about the technical aspects of the encounter, a la Samantha Jones), and foregoing shame, guilt, and the expectation that the other person is going to call you.

Last summer I tried to have ‘sex like men’ with an ex. The next day he asked, “Do we need to talk about this?” “Eh. What’s to talk about?” I shrugged. It felt pretty damn cool as I said it, but the second he agreed I became worried and mopey. At the very least, I wanted him to want me to want to talk about it. Clearly I had failed at ‘sex like men.’

Of course that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I think under the right set of circumstances it definitely can, and for some people it comes more easily than others. But if more men can have sex in this way, it’s simply because they’re accustomed to a culture that objectifies women–if women are simply sexual objects, of course you can just use them and toss them away. Here we encounter one of many snags in the Sex Like Men campaign. When men have sex like men, it’s kind of gross. They can walk out of a sexual encounter with ease because they don’t feel the need to respect or value their partners. So why would I or anyone want women to do the same? Isn’t this just the continued exploitation of one another?

It is, probably, a lot of the time. But there’s also a pretty significant upside to the sexual liberation of my generation. For one thing, vibrators are more available and acceptable. We can get free condoms almost anywhere, we don’t feel ashamed of our healthy natural impulses, and we’re paying attention to women’s sexual pleasure. Check, check, check, and check. We can be feminist and sex-positive, as long as we’re willing to confront the contradictions and the glitches. It’s a good thing that we can value our sexualities, be open about our desires, and–when the stars align–enjoy sex with someone else in a safe, respectful environment without needing him to call the next day. Plenty of people attempt this without success, but perhaps what Happy Sex Like Men really requires is a certain amount of comfort and maturity–knowing and respecting yourself and your partner.

That’s why people worry about horny college students having sloppy, unfulfilling sex. A friend of mine told her thesis advisor she was going to Myrtle Beach the week before graduation. All of a sudden the professor became very concerned about my friend’s safety and cautioned her about the drunkenness and promiscuity endemic to such college vacations. “Don’t have random sex, Christi. It’s so cold and alienating.” Christi didn’t really feel like she needed the warning, but she thought it was pretty funny that her professor was offering it.

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