How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘mate selection’

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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Sex For The Joy Of It

In real life, women are always trying to mix something up with sex—religion or babies or hard cash; it is only men who long for sex separated out, without rings or strings.
—Katharine Whitehorn, Man’s Ideal Woman

Back in 1913, H. M. Swanwick speculated in The Future of the Woman’s Movement that women of the future would have men on only honorable terms—“love and liberty and mutual service”—or would go without. Nearly a hundred years have now passed and the projected future has presumably arrived, but many women are still settling for other terms as well. Many women, but not all of them.

If you can, pick a lover because he is the kind of man who turns you on and for no other reason. If you can pick such a lover, then determine the time and the place where you will make love. If you can pick such a lover, then share with him a mutually responsive and guided experience. If you can do all this, then you have a chance to enter the erotic world in the full sense of the phrase. And if you are very lucky, then you have a chance to explore the other limits of the realm of the senses.

If you think sex is not all that wonderful, then you’re not doing it with the right man.

 

Freedom Of Choice, Freedom To Choose

You cannot decree women to be sexually free when they are not economically free.
Shere Hite

If you ask a young man his thoughts about being a gigolo, he would likely reply with some scorn that this isn’t a role for a “real man” and that the man who does take up such a role must not be good for anything else. The same young man, however, would be pleased if his sister were dating a rich man who was generous with her, even if that rich man was of questionable physical appeal and devoid of personality.

If you asked the same young man what he would think of finding a rich woman to marry, he would likely reply with some variation on the aphorism, “The man who marries for money earns it.”

Gold Diggers

Gold Diggers (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

For the man who thought of this homily, it was, perhaps, an insight. For women, however, marrying money and then having to “earn” it is a fact of life that every girl of sixteen has already considered to be a clear and present option as well as a clear and present danger. If she marries for money, she expects to earn it. She is expected to give up control of her life in exchange for a comfortable lifestyle which will be afforded her as long as she submits to her husband’s will.

The young man who arbitrarily rejects a money marriage for himself sees no inconsistency in his profound hope that his cherished little sister will have a “good” marriage, which means a marriage to a man of means even if he is a little dull. For the woman of few resources, a husband to take care of things may be the only solution. With limited education and paltry self-confidence, it may well be better for her to marry for money than to work for peanuts.

If a woman is financially dependent upon a man, she is in his power, no matter how generous he is with her. It’s the degree of financial dependence which determines, in large part, the degree of power. Women need to obtain their own resources and to be content to live on them, however modest. If they can achieve a minimum standard of living for themselves, then sexual barter is not necessary.

If a woman has sexual freedom and has a degree of financial and social independence, then she has a new option. She has the luxury of choosing someone to love, and perhaps to marry, not because he is rich and not because he desires her, but because she desires him. Or better still because they desire each other.

Billie Holiday says it well when she sings ruefully, “Mama may have, Papa may have, but God blessed the child who’s got her own.”

Don’t Be a Working Girl

The prostitute is the only honest woman left in America.
Ti-Grace Atkinson

While there may be nothing intrinsically wrong with selling your body, there is something wrong in ending up in an exchange of sexuality for some sort of gain when the situation occurs unintentionally.

There’s something decidedly wrong in selling your body when you are not fully aware of what you are doing. You’re being exploited when you’re conned or manipulated into a “deal” you didn’t want to make.

There is something decidedly unwise, and perhaps wrong, in selling your body when the rewards are slight and the exchange is unnecessary. Such selling is usually not worth the price in terms of its psychological and emotional costs.

The well-known feminist, Ti-Grace Atkinson, undoubtedly overstates her case when she claims that the prostitute is the only honest woman in America. However, it is valid to observe that there are many women who don’t think of  themselves as working girls who are dishonest about the extent to which they use their sexuality for nonsexual reasons. If you find yourself in a situation where you end up having sex for reasons other than the anticipation of a good sexual experience, then you are in fact acting like a working girl.

Working Girls (2010 film)

Working Girls (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Margaret Sanger pioneered the Planned Parenthood movement and fought for birth control to free women from the tyranny of pregnancy. However, she also fought for freedom from sexual coercion. Writing way back in 1917 when such sentiments were not usually expressed, she declared, “A mutual and satisfied sexual act is of great benefit to the average woman, the magnetism of it is health-giving. When it is not desired on the part of the woman and she has no response, it should not take place. This is an act of prostitution, and is degrading to the woman’s finer sensibility, all the marriage
certificates on earth to the contrary notwithstanding.”

What Sanger is talking about is nothing like rape in the usual and violent sense of the word. It’s nothing like prostitution in the stereotypical sense of streetwalkers standing under streetlights and taking on all comers. What Sanger refers to is the not uncommon practice of women going to bed as a result of feeling sexually intimidated.

Respectable women, who don’t think of themselves as working girls, may have sex for many nonsexy reasons: for protection, for a new diamond necklace, for drugs or a fix, for simple companionship. Many young women act like working girls without realizing it. And having accepted this role, they wonder why it is that under these conditions, they don’t enjoy sex very much. They’re not in helpless situations, yet they continue to use their sexuality as an informal medium of exchange. Or sometimes they continue to put out simply because they feel they don’t have a choice.

If a man asks you to have sex with him, you need not be offended, but neither need you be obliging. A working girl may have sex in the absence of desire and may be tactful and cheerful in putting up with men who are unappealing or who are simply inept lovers. As a non-working girl, you don’t have to, and you shouldn’t. If you don’t want to have sex, your negative reply should be as polite as possible but also firm and unambiguous. The absence of desire is in itself sufficient reason to decline.

The correct answer to continued pressure and harassment from someone you don’t feel passionate about is quite simple. “Harry, you’re a toad. I don’t sleep with toads!” But even if the Harry in question is a toad, nice girls are too considerate and nice to say so in quite those terms. They might even imply it and have Harry look so injured and tearful they then have to go to bed with him just to provide reassurance that he’s not a toad.

The correct answer may be that you would rather watch television. That the room is too hot or too cold, and you are too energized or too tired, and he’s too big or too small, too young or too old, too this or too that. In any case, the correct answer is simply, “No, thank you, I don’t want to.”

It’s fine to let yourself be seduced, if you decide that’s what you want to happen. It’s not so fine to let yourself be coerced by force or by emotional blackmail. It’s not so fine to let yourself be bribed by presents or trips or dinners or promises of introductions or other benefits. Real sexual freedom, instead of the ersatz kind, is the ability to say no for the simple reason that this particular person, at this particular time, is resistible. When responding to a man’s unwanted advances, Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl, had this witty response, “You’re really lovely, but do you honestly suppose I can sleep with every man who asks me?”

If you pick a man because he really does understand pork-belly futures and he has the Swiss bank accounts to prove it, then you don’t have a right to complain that those are the only bellies he understands, and that he couldn’t find a clitoris even if he had a global positioning system at his disposal. If you want to enjoy your own sexuality, don’t be a working girl.

On Scoring and Seduction

The worst sin—perhaps the only sin—passion can commit is to be joyless.
—Sayers

One of the biggest differences between the sexes is that, for him, a casual encounter is almost certainly going to be physically satisfying. Despite how he may feel psychologically, he will be turned on and he will come to a climax almost always. For her, however, a casual sexual encounter may or may not be one which leads to a climax. For many women, especially many young women, sex per se is not all that wonderful; the enjoyment derived from a casual encounter, if any, is often from some secondary aspect of the interaction rather than from the erotic part.

Film poster for Casual Sex? - Copyright 1988, ...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

And yet . . . young women do have sex with their young men and with old ones occasionally too. They lie down in parks and are awkwardly supine on the backseats of cars and hide in recreation rooms when no one is home. They are taken to cheap motels and smuggled into dorms. They are often not really being turned on, but neither are they being forcibly abducted. They are not willing, yet they go willingly. Why is that?

Young women have been taught, directly and indirectly, that it is more blessed to give then to receive and that sexual pleasure is something she can and should give to the man she loves. The man’s desire is for her, but her desire is often only to please him. If she loves him enough, or if she is generous enough, then his pleasure should be all the pleasure she needs.

Many times, women are not that generous. If a woman doesn’t want to give this gift to him when he requests or demands it but does it anyway, then men and women, in general, feel that she should expect some sort of compensation for the act. She is “putting out” for him, and he is “scoring” with her. What’s in it for her? The basis of the trading partnership becomes obvious.

Recently on a Los Angeles freeway, I passed a jazzy car adorned with a bumper sticker: “Gas or ass—nobody rides for free!” I didn’t notice the driver, but I am sure it was a man and I am equally sure he wouldn’t be the kind of man I would approve of for my sister, niece, or daughter. There are still many men in the world who believe that doing you a favor—be it giving you a ride to the local mall or buying you dinner—somehow entitles them to have free access to your body.

In her article “The Dating Game: The Dangers of Cash-Based Courtship,” Anne Morse recounts the dilemma experienced by a sixteen-year-old girl named Carrie after she had gone on her very first date ever with a young man named Trent, a senior she knew slightly at the large high school both attended. The pair went to a spaghetti house for dinner and then drove to the mall to see a movie. When the movie was over, they went to a restaurant for dessert. As Trent pulled his car into Carrie’s driveway, he asked Carrie for a kiss. Carrie didn’t want to go lips to lips with Trent (he was a little bit of a geek), but her first thought was, “He spent all that money on me!” In the end, she didn’t kiss him—and he never asked her out again.

Men who think of ordinary gestures on a quid pro quo basis aren’t usually as explicit as the man who puts up a sign saying Gas or Ass. Dealing with strangers might be somewhat easier if they did. The man who buys you dinner is entitled to polite attention during dinner and a polite thank-you afterward. He may hope for something else, but he is entitled to nothing more. Nevertheless, nice girls often find themselves putting out for many nonerotic reasons. They go to bed out of gratitude because a man has been nice to them. They go to bed out of sympathy because a man is sad or hurt or full of self-doubt. They go to bed out of boredom. Or as an alternative to being raped. They go to bed sometimes just to get a little peace, having been exhausted by the impossibility of maintaining an adequate defense against continuous pressure.

Lovers and would-be lovers offer a thousand and one reasons which amount to emotional blackmail but which are, nevertheless, effective. “Why not?” men used to wheedle. “If you get pregnant, I’ll marry you.” The offer of marriage was supposed to be the ultimate sacrifice. “Why not, you’re on the pill, aren’t you?” “Why not, we will use condoms?” “Why not, I’ll pull out just before I come?” “Why not, you’re not a virgin, it’s the twenty-first century for God’s sake!” “Why not, didn’t you like the dinner?” Etcetera. Unfortunately, the litany of reasons is quite familiar even to some fourteen-year-olds.

Her Sexuality: His Sexuality

Show business is like sex. When it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful. But when it isn’t very good, it’s still all right.
—Max Wall, The Listener

Its true that the sexual revolution has led to an increased permissiveness regarding many kinds of sexual encounters, including relatively casual ones. The so-called new morality, however, doesn’t yet take into account all of the implications of the discrepancies between male and female patterns of sexual response.

Even if 90 percent of young women are now orgasmic and proud of it, there remains another fact of life to be taken into account. The sexual response patterns of most women are different from the sexual response patterns of most men. This difference may be innate, or it may be simply due to different socialization patterns. Whatever its origin, it is nonetheless real.

Generally speaking, men tend to be more sexual creatures than do women. His sex drive tends to be stronger than her sex drive; his sexual urges are more frequent and more urgent. The differences that men and women experience in erotic desire are most pronounced when you compare the rapacious enthusiasm which is often characteristic of teenage boys with the reticence often characteristic of teenage girls.

Most young women may very well seek love or affection or contact comfort; but they are, for the most part, less driven by the overt need for sexual release. While recent studies have shown that teenage girls have sex almost as often as teenage boys, they do so for very different reasons. Teenage girls are far more likely to have sex to please their boyfriends or to experiment or because of peer pressure or because they want to feel loved, whereas teenage boys are far more driven by an overarching physical desire for sex.

For the most part, men are more easily turned on than are women. Alex Comfort, the noted British sexologist, observes, “Male sexual response is far brisker and more automatic. It is triggered easily by things—like putting a quarter in a vending machine.” At seventeen, a young man may be turned on by anything vaguely suggestive although he may not be able to do anything very effective with all his erotic energy.

The discrepancy in sex drive tends to be less pronounced when you compare older men and women. With age and with lowering levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, a man’s sex drive becomes less compelling. With experience and perhaps with resulting loss of inhibition, a woman’s sexual responsiveness may increase with age. She may be more of a sexual creature at forty-five than she was at fifteen or at twenty-five. In spite of this rapprochement, however, for most men compared with most women, sex per se is more compelling and important.

It starts with her beauty in my eyes, it moves...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Differences in sex drive also relate to differences in sexual satisfaction. For men who are potent, which is most of them, achieving an orgasm is seldom a problem although postponing one may be. In contrast, for women, having an orgasm is something that has to be learned, and it is not always easily achieved. Except for the very lucky, doing what comes naturally just doesn’t work.

A woman, especially an inexperienced woman, often needs a longer time and a particular frame of mind to be able to achieve an orgasm. She needs a lover who is patient and sexually skilled enough to provide the right kind of stimulation. With time, she becomes experienced enough to know what she wants and comfortable enough to tell her partner what works for her. Most often, she also needs a partner whom she trusts enough so that she may feel psychologically secure.

Viewed from this perspective, the shopping list of a woman’s sexual “needs” is, in fact, quite extensive. Without all of these components present all at once, having sex may not be all that appealing to her and, on many occasions, she would really prefer not to have sex at all.

The British comedian Max Wall may think that, for him, “when it isn’t very good, it’s still all right.” But legions of women would disagree. For them, when it isn’t very good, it can be annoying, intrusive, degrading, painful, or just plain boring.

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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