How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘female roles’

To Choose, To Court, To Woo, To Win

The pleasantest part of a man’s life is generally that which passes in courtship, provided his passion be sincere and the party beloved, kind, and discreet. Love, desire, hope, all the pleasing motions of the soul, rise in the pursuit.
—Joseph Addison

Traditionally, the term “courtship” has been used to refer to something which a man does to a woman. He goes to court her, he pays court to her, he woos her; and if he is successful, he beds her and, maybe, later weds her as well. “To court” is an active verb, but traditionally, it is the man who does the acting.

Within the context of the new roles of a lover that I have been focusing on in my posts, women also have an active part to play in the formation and conduct of relationships. It follows, therefore, that courtship will become a two-way process. He will still court her sometimes. But on some occasions, she will also court him.

The new courtship may be the pleasantest part of a woman’s life as well. If, as I’ve suggested in my posts, men don’t yet have enough practice at being sex objects to do it very well, it’s also true that women don’t have enough practice at courting to do it very well. The process is, or should be, subtle. The result should be flattering and pleasant whether the courtship itself is successful or not. In addition, men need to learn to let themselves be courted; and often that means that you, as a woman, must teach the man in question this role, if it is unfamiliar to him. If you are going to presume to pick a lover, then you must do more than collect applications and sift through them: you must also be willing to pay court to him. Doing this requires essentially the same attentiveness and delicacy that one would hope to find in a lover who is courting you.

Even though we are in the 21st century, the new courtship is a revolutionary idea for many. Traditionally, women have been trained to seek out relationships by making themselves as attractive as possible and then to wait hopefully to see who might come along and take notice of them. They follow what amounts to a cupcake method of courting: they sit like cute little cupcakes, complete with icing, and wait to be gobbled up. Consider the celebrated ski bunny who wiles away her day in the ski chalet bundled in a fashionable sporting outfit, patiently waiting for the ski wolves, filled with the rush of adrenaline to return from the slopes to gobble her up.

Stop trolling !

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The new courtship isn’t so passive. Consider a metaphor from the world of fishing. One way of fishing is called trolling. When you go trolling, you move your bait slowly through the water behind a trawler, and various kinds of fish may or may not bite. In traditional courtship, women were trolling for suitors. The bait was put out there: some suitors took the bait and were hooked and reeled in; some just swam away.

The new courtship is more like fly casting. In fly casting, you are after a specific kind of trout which is found in a specific location and is tempted by a specific kind of fly. You must make just the right fly dance temptingly before just the right trout to get your fish. In trolling, you have to reel in your line to see what you have caught and then decide whether or not to keep it. In fly casting, if you do hook a fish, you know in advance it will be one you want.

It is worth remembering, while exploring metaphors, that both kinds of fishing require patience. And fishers of all kinds, like women of all kinds, are prone to exaggerate the wondrous qualities of the ones that got away.

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Women on Top: The Decline of the Double Standard

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.

Women in Contemporary Relationships

I think we can all agree that romantic relationships have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

A mere two generations ago relationships and marriage were rather vanilla. Couples were heterosexual, of the same race/ethnicity, religion, social/economic and political background – so much for diversity. Also, marital roles were fairly circumscribed – men were the breadwinners and women the homemakers. There were shared expectations about sex roles for men and women, which were primarily based on what constituted masculine and feminine behavior. Premarital sex was taboo – at least for women. There were “good” girls and “bad” girls, and I don’t think I need to tell you what made a good girl good or bad girl bad. In any given couple, the man was usually older, taller, better educated, and financially better off than the woman.  All things that defer more power to the man than the women. Few women worked outside the home. And when they did, it was to supplement her husband’s substantially larger income.

Well, so much for the good ole days. Today’s relationships run the gamut of the rainbow – heterosexual/gay, interracial/ethnic, interfaith, binational, older women and younger men, couples from widely different social, economic, political backgrounds. Women have full fledged careers and they are financially independent. For women, being a virgin – or almost a virgin – is no longer a prerequisite to marriage.  All in all, women today have a range of options and opportunities that far outstrip those of our grandmothers or even our mothers.

It all sounds wonderful.  However, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, many of our social values that govern love, sex and marriage remain markedly different for men and women in many ways. While both men and women may openly and freely engage in the pursuit of love and sex, how they reach their quest is not always the same.

"The world turned upside down" (gend...

“The world turned upside down” (gender-role reversal) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our cultural traditions are strong and differences in the socialization and physiology of men and women remain a reality. And unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on your personal views–many traditional sex roles remain deeply embedded in modern-day relationships – straight and gay. When these traditional roles collide with the realities of modern day – which they often do – couples find themselves in conflict.

While contemporary relationships may be much more rewarding than the those of our parents and grandparents, they are also much more complex and difficult.

Through this blog, I want to explore the relatively new emotional and sexual freedoms that women have gained through their struggle  for equality and freedom of sexual expression in contemporary relationships – including a woman’s option of having a lover(s) if she so chooses.

Each week I will post some specific thoughts about women in contemporary relationships for comment and discussion. Hope you will join in on what I believe will be a fun, enlightening and rewarding blog.

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