How to Pick a Lover

Liberated sex means an end to the double standard about who can enjoy sex and who can’t, and how much, or who can initiate sex, and who can’t . . . It means an end to “nice girls don’t” and “real men must.”
—Charlotte Holt Clinebell, Meet Me in the Middle

In Victorian mentality, although marriage vows were considered sacred, they were considerably more sacred for wives than they were for husbands. Adultery for him was more or less expected as a regrettable but understandable consequence of the male sex drive; adultery for her was an unpardonable sin. The major issue of her adultery was the possibility of pregnancy and the resultant suspicion that any child born might not be the husband’s.

With the emergence of recognition of female sexuality and with the birth control revolution, it has become increasingly acceptable for women as well as men to be sexually involved with someone other than their mates. However, it still falls outside the range of acceptable behavior for many people; and like most sexual behavior, it is less acceptable for women than for men.

Married men often had mistresses while remaining attached to the women who were the mothers of their children. The wife-mother, loved as she may have been, fulfilled other kinds of needs than did the girlfriend, who was perhaps also loved but in a more erotic sense. It now became possible to think the unthinkable: if married men could have lovers, maybe married women could have lovers as well.

The sexual revolution of the sixties introduced the second wave of feminism which raised consciousness concerning the unfairness and chauvinism of the double standard in sex as well as in other things. Well, if men could have sex without marriage, they had to have it with someone. Given the new sexuality, why couldn’t that someone be a good girl as well as a hooker? If men did not have to give up all other women when they married, maybe women did not have to give up all other men. Maybe a married woman could have a lover or lovers without necessarily destroying her marriage or her life.

Many wives thought about such things late into the night, but they kept their opinions to themselves. Their fantasies were furtive. They existed in a kind of pluralistic ignorance: each one looked at herself in her bedroom mirror and believed that she alone felt this way, and that, if anyone else guessed the scandalous nature of her thoughts and fantasies, they would be shocked. The outspokenness of the second wave of feminism that washed through the 1960s swept women into consciousness-raising groups where they began to talk. One thing they talked about was the sexual poverty of many of their lives. For every wife who actually strayed, there were many others who thought about it and many others who were tempted and vulnerable.

Cover of "Sexual Politics"

Cover of Sexual Politics

Men and women still tried to divide the good women from the not-so good ones, but sexuality per se did not seem to be such an absolute standard anymore. Instead, there evolved a standard of judgment whereby the good woman came to be defined as one who had sex selectively and for the “right” reasons whereas the not-so-good one had sex promiscuously and for the wrong reasons. It was a distinction very hard to perceive from the outside. Kate Millett, the feminist-activist who wrote Sexual Politics, summarizes this way of thinking accurately when she observes, “Love is the only circumstance in which the female is ideologically pardoned for sexual activity.”

I hope the method of my madness is becoming clearer with each post.  My previous posts have been setting the stage and background for my future posts that will explore women’s ever evolving pursuit of sexual equality and fulfillment and happiness.  More to  come, so to speak.

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Comments on: "Women on Top: The Decline of the Double Standard" (3)

  1. Anonymous said:

    I do like the point that you are trying to make; my new book is coming out; the post (MAD) is published in the book; the piont is love and lust; both needed and accepted by both the sexes for true sexual equality. Feminism with femininity.

  2. […] Women on Top: The Decline of the Double Standard (pickingalover.wordpress.com) […]

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