How to Pick a Lover

The New Courtship

The pleasure of love is in loving. We are happier with the passion we feel than in that we arouse.
—François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

For decades, for centuries, for a millennium, men have had the right and privilege of choosing as sex partners women who turned them on. If they wanted a partner who was young or mature, short or tall, blonde or dark, quiet or bold, curved or slender, they could pursue the women most pleasing to them.

Of course, not all men were successful in winning the kind of women they most preferred. And of course, some men didn’t allow themselves such indulgences but made pragmatic choices of wives who were heiresses or the daughters of bosses or women who were otherwise useful for disparate ends. Such marriages did not necessarily preclude their simultaneous quest for other women who would be mistresses. In most instances, the women selected as sex objects or as love objects were selected because they were judged to be sexy or lovable.

In contrast to this pattern, women for a millennium have selected men for practical considerations. A woman needed a provider for herself and a provider and father for her children. In most instances, the most valuable commodity a woman had, to negotiate with in the world, was her body. She used this marketable asset to her best advantage, offering virginity and then fidelity in exchange for protection and security.

It wasn’t so much that men had to be attractive as that they had to have attractive compensating features, such as money or power. For the good wife, sex was business, and sexual intercourse was work. Many good wives were happy in their work, but it was work all the same. If she refused her husband, she could be out of a job. In fact, she couldn’t refuse him. He provided for her, so he had a right to her body. She had been, in effect, sold to him and couldn’t be used by anyone else without his permission.

Supposedly, North America has experienced a social and sexual revolution over the past thirty years. Supposedly, there are now different options for women – compared to our grandmothers and mothers –  who are liberated in many new ways and who have given up old stereotypes. If this is indeed the case, then, shouldn’t we now think about sexual encounters from a new perspective.

sexual revolution

Photo credit: cdrummbks

Let’s assume for a start that the new woman is enough in tune with her body and its erotic potential to really like sex. Touching feels good, arousal feels good, and orgasms are nonproblematic. Sex for her is or can be joyous. Fun. Wonderful. At a minimum, nice.

Let’s further assume that the “new woman” is enough in charge of her life and destiny that she can make her own way. If she has enough resources to support herself and her children at a level she considers to be adequate, she can then afford the indulgence of evaluating men as sex objects in the same way that women have been evaluated over the centuries. Whether she works as an executive secretary or is herself an executive, she has a living wage which comes to her in some other way than trading her body for favors or protection.

Such a woman can afford to pick a lover because he’s sexy or lovable, not because he owns three apartment buildings in prime locations. She can try to find the kind of man most to her liking, using intrinsic rather than extrinsic criteria. She’ll have to pay her own bills, but in return, she has control of her own body and a wide range of opportunity for personal and erotic development.

The woman who is not physically or psychologically forced to have sex when she doesn’t want to has a new kind of freedom. She can opt for celibacy if she wants, but she can also opt to have sex for purely sexual reasons. For many that is a revolutionary idea. It’s an idea that is long overdue. It’s an idea whose time has come. It’s an idea that needs to be openly acknowledged.

I will explore this paradigm shift in female sexuality in future posts in greater detail.

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Comments on: "The New Courtship" (2)

  1. Your first two paragraphs are filled with assumptions – about both women’s roles/options and men’s opportunities/obligations.

    It would really be helpful to start with some good grounding in the actual realities of the past – the recent past (generations from mid 19th century to today), and then also generations farther back. Also, let’s consider the cultural influences of those eras – for we often assume the culture of today in America is the definition, without exploring how it came to be.

    “…for…millenium men have had the right and privilege…[to choose their partners]” Which men? Certainly not all, especially the farther back you look – the peasantry had little choice relative to the ruling classes. How much choice did they have? What societal obligations came with their choices (what could happen to a man who didn’t uphold his end of the marriage contract?). What differences were there for ruling classes vs. the commoners? What about men being legally required to raise bastard children as their own?

    I’m not saying your wrong, just that the history is far more nuanced. Also that today we have a VERY different paradigm re:love, relationships, marriage, than even 100 years ago, owing to the comparative life of ease we enjoy (which saw a dramatic shift post-WWII). From what I’ve heard from people “who were there”, much of what’s bandied about as “how it was” re: sexuality pre-60’s, isn’t quite accurate.

    Le’s start with that history to better understand what life was like “back then”.

    • Your points are well taken. Today’s relationships are nothing like those of distant past, as well as the not so distant past. My posts are progressive in nature. Don’t know if you have read earlier posts but I covered some of the issues you raised, and this post builds on them. I am clearly taking in generalities. Not all men, nor all women, are exactly alike. They fall much more on a continuum. I would argue that, while less obvious than perhaps a century ago, subtle vestiges of the fact that more choices in our society are subscribed for women then they are for men, are inequities still exist. Particularly, in the area of sexual freedoms and expression, putting aside any moral judgements. Your point about class differences is also well taken. We still don’t enjoy a classes society, and the choices and lives circumscribed to women born into privilege are different from those born into poverty, as is true for men as well. We are evolving and will continue to evolve as a society, and hopefully, for the better.

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