sniffing around men’s entitlement, as always
Here’s a thesis for you: Straight males are always going to look at women with desire.* There I go again, sticking my head out on a limb, which, to be honest, is quite a bit more painful than it even sounds.
How can I, a gay male, state this about straight men with such confidence? Weren’t we engaged in a project of social engineering that would change the landscape and remove from the mating dance all of the danger (and thrill) that makes the chase at least as exciting for men as the conquest, often more so?
Weren’t we now ready for an upgrade that would permanently install the very necessary and painful lessons of #MeToo in the heterosexual male brain, so that the social and economic equality of women with men (still unachieved, by the way) would translate effortlessly into a new sensitivity and restraint of men towards women in the playgrounds of bar, club and bedroom?
How can I talk about this and claim some standing? Well, I read a lot.
Also, gay men are still men (and, please note, not guys who were trying to be straight, but failed. We are a thing in ourselves and I just wish that didn’t sound the way it sounds).
If anything, same-sex attraction has an exponential effect on both gay male and lesbian behaviors, which is why the boys enjoy dinner at Canoe, where they complain about a fork with a smudge on it, then head out to blow twelve strangers through a glory-hole; while the gurlz can be found of an evening rewiring their condos and reupholstering their Montauk sofas before heading out to softball practice.
(Yes I’m shallow and prone to perpetuating stereotypes, but you hets forced me to notice that stereotypes are sometimes, sometimes rooted in the tiniest bit of observational truth, and anyway, I am not filled with malice or talking about Black people, I’m talking about my people, so shut up for a second.)
Men look. Men “objectify.” (So do artists.) It’s how we approach and make sense of the world, and no amount of tut-tutting is ever going to change that. If you see evidence that men have stopped looking at women, even pictures of women, dots of ink on paper and moving pixels on screens, with desire, you send it to me and I’ll eat all my back issues of Xtra. It ain’t happening.
I presume that, in the appropriate circumstances, women might actually welcome the idea that men look at them, even touch them (gasp!) with desire.
Appropriate circumstances do not include: the workplace, IKEA, the subway, the high-school classroom or any place that’s not primarily engineered to facilitate the lusty meeting of boys and girls.
The question is not: How can we stop men looking with desire at women? C’mon, sisters: you want your men to be hot, don’t you? The question is: How do we teach men not to assume that everything women wear, say, or do must be understood solely in terms of what men want, how men are affected, and whether men approve?
If I see a smartly dressed, or even provocatively dressed woman, what’s my first thought? Well, I’m gay, so obviously it’s “fabulous belt!” but apart from that, I think,
she’s dressing to please herself, feel confident, enjoy the way she looks, to be comfortable in her own skin, to signal that she’s the boss, for the sheer pleasure of dressing however she’s dressed. Or, she’s dressing as a second thought, because clothes are not the most interesting thing to her. Do I give a shit? The belt’s still a knockout!
I think it’s none of my business how she dresses, just like it’s none of my business why she wants an abortion. She doesn’t have to have “a good reason” for either of those acts. In both those cases, any old reason she might have about what to do with her body is a valid, good reason. I don’t have a uterus, and I look terrible in horizontal stripes, so I don’t really get a say in either of those cases.
I’m fully confident that women can dress themselves, get an abortion, choose where to go and what to do, and even say to a leering male, “get lost, buddy, where were you brought up, in a barnyard?” without my, a man’s, help.
Unfortunately, straight males do not always learn how to deal with their unruly sexual urges, because they are discouraged from examining anything that looks like a feeling. Male sexuality is unruly, potentially dangerous and it must be brought under control. This is the primary marker of a mature man: the understanding that the appearance of eye-candy in their vicinity does not equal de facto entitlement to said eye-candy.
Boys are not born with the ability to keep their sexual desires held in check. They have to be taught how to do this, and it’s an urgent and essential duty of fathers and other mentors to teach boys about this and to model respectful behavior.
Men must learn early on to keep their egos and their sexual urges in check, their hands to themselves, and little buddy zipped up. They need above all to understand that women do not exist on the terms that males set, or in order to be understood exclusively in terms of men’s desires. Women are also a thing in themselves.
This training probably will also require the dismantling of oppressive religions, the absolute banning of religion from jurisprudence, training in emotional intelligence for men in schools, and, frankly, a few boys’ nights out at the opera followed by frozen daquiris with parasols wouldn’t hurt, either.
Hetero sex makes the world go round, and we need it to be so. Why? Well, I ask you: How else will LGBTQ2+ babies be produced? We need you guys to produce the artists, communicators, choreographers, drag queens, nuclear physicists, non-binary luminaries and visionaries of tomorrow.
Just play nice, OK?
|* My thoughts here are based on my observations of cis-males and cis-females, not out of any wish to exclude or marginalize the trans / non-binary experience. I trust that transgender and non-binary folx can take whatever, if anything, is useful from my comments and apply it to their interactions in any way that gets an interesting conversation going.|