How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sex appeal’

The Oldest Profession

It is a silly question to ask a prostitute why she does it. These are the highest paid “professional” women of America.
—Gail Sheehy, Hustling

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with selling your body. It is, after all, the oldest profession. And it is, after all, your body and you have a right to do with it what you will, including making some choices that others may think unpleasant or unwise.

There are a number of circumstances in which some or another variation of prostitution may be a rational choice. If you are young and powerless, if you are young and powerless and poor, then you use what you have. Eva Peron, who became a political icon in Argentina, was a major spokeswoman for los descamisados (the shirtless ones). She herself was born into a slum family and, it’s alleged, began her career as a teenage prostitute. Under such circumstances, when all that a woman has is an attractive body, it’s difficult to condemn her for doing the best she can with what she has.

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a less dramatic level, the trade-offs involved in sexual exchanges can be very useful. Using your sexuality for nonsexual goals is a question of individual choice and is often a legitimate way to get what you want. In Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos quite rightly points out that “kissing your hand may make you feel very good, but a diamond is a girl’s best friend.” It’s more or less acceptable for nice girls to prefer men of wealth. While they may be considered gold diggers, they are also considered smart.

Granting sexual favors may not be necessary for survival, but it can be expedient. If the sex acts involved are at least not unpleasant, then having sex can be a convenient way of paying for dinner or of being nice or of exerting control or of creating a useful obligation.

If you want to get money from men, then there is no question about the kind of lover you should pick. Pick a rich one. The richer, the better. If you want to get favors from men, then there is no question about the kind of lover you should pick. Pick an influential one.

The exchange of sexuality for other favors can have important consequences. The legendary Hollywood “casting couch” is based on reality and has its equivalent in many other industries. Television celebrity Barbara Walters assures young women, “I didn’t get ahead by sleeping with people. Girls, take heart!” Perhaps she did not, but many have.

Many young women have come to realize that like Sally Stanford, the last grand “madam” in San Francisco who later became mayor of Sausalito, they too are “sitting on a fortune.” The folk wisdom is full of references to such exchanges, which don’t involve explicit prostitution but which do involve the trading of sex for nonsexual considerations.

It’s not only that one is advised to “go along in order to get along.” Women are also advised to “give head in order to get ahead,” and that happens at all levels. In a 1981 book The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People, Irving Wallace reports that when Marilyn Monroe signed her first major contract, she is alleged to have exclaimed, “That’s the last cock I’ll have to suck.”

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Tit for Tat: Sexuality and Exchange

The women who take husbands not out of love but out of greed, to get their bills paid, to get a fine house and clothes and jewels; the women who marry to get out of a tiresome job, or to get away from disagreeable relatives, or to avoid being called an old maid—these are whores in everything but name.
—Polly Adler, A House Is Not a Home

George Bernard Shaw, who was a master of one-liners, had a widely quoted conversation with a woman of note in which he asked if she would sleep with him for one million pounds. She said, “Of course.” “Well,” he said, “would you sleep with me for two pounds?” “Certainly not,” she said. “What kind of woman do you think I am?” “Madam,” said Shaw, “we have already established what kind of woman you are. We are merely haggling about the price.”

Cover of "Working Girls (Widescreen)"

If we define prostitution in terms of its minimum components, involving merely the performance of sexual acts motivated not by sexual desire but in exchange for some form of gain, then we cast a wide net. The impulse to go to bed, or to be taken to bed, is then based not on anticipation of joyous passion but on some other motive. The incentive may be as blatant as cold cash or as subtle as an improved chance for promotion, but it’s for something other than the sexual experience for its own sake.

One of the reasons it’s difficult to discuss prostitution objectively is that so many of the terms used to describe it are pejorative. Old-fashioned  terms like “tart” or “fallen women” or “harlot” sound strange in modern usage. The term “whore” is straightforward but very negative in tone. The terms “hooker” and “call girl” are less negative, but they refer to very specific kinds of activities.

The most neutral term is one now often used by prostitutes themselves, who refer to each other as “working girls” or “commercial sex workers.” By describing themselves as working girls, they convey the neutral attitude that prostitution is an industry like any other industry and that they are merely workers doing a different kind of work.

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.

Love, Oh Practically Perfect Love

Infatuation is when you think he’s as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Connors. Love is when you realize that he’s as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger, and nothing like Robert Redford—but you’ll take him anyway.
—Judith Viorst, Redbook

In the best of all possible worlds, it would be ideal to find that a lover who was just right for you in terms of emotion and affection was also just right for you in terms of erotic fulfillment. Unfortunately, in real life, that’s often not the case. The man with overtly tender and affectionate concern for you, the emotional marathoner, may not make love with you at all or may do so very seldom or may not do so very well when he does. The swordsman, who is turned on and gives of himself freely in bed, may not have much love or even much affection once dressed and out of bed.

Many a maiden is still dreaming of the perfect prince who will one day come, who will make her come, and who will love her at all levels all at once. But later, many a woman realizes that love in the many forms she desires isn’t to be found all at once in the arms of any one man. She gives up on the perfect prince and begins to look around for a make-do prince instead . . . maybe a mere duke, or maybe a mere commoner. The road to love is a series of compromises from the fantasy of girlhood to the world-weary cynicism of old age. There is Mr. Right, but there is also Mr. Right Now, Mr. Right for Me at this Moment, etc. Fortunately, in affairs of the heart, even mistakes can be glorious.

Cover of "Mr. Right Now"

Writer Suzanne Jordan is correct when she asserts that “the perfect mate, despite what Cosmopolitan magazine says, doesn’t exist no matter how many of those tests you take.” However, Merle Shain is also correct in asserting that “some men are more perfect than others.” What’s needed is a new oxymoron: things don’t have to be perfect; they only have to be perfect enough. A lover who is perfect enough is just fine. Finding him is a much easier task than finding the absolutely perfect man of your fantasies.

Our technology is so proficient that we can get quite carried away with our expectations of what we need—or think we need. With an imposed sixty-five-mile speed limit, we still delight in buying a car that can cruise at a hundred miles per hour without effort. Almost every kitchen has an eight-speed blender when most cooks only need one marked Fast and Slow. Home audio systems can be so elaborate and powerful that only your dog can hear the differences, and the speakers can never be turned up more than one-tenth of their volume capacity. A camera used for family snapshots nevertheless is selected because it is capable of shooting at one-thousandth of a second. This kind of technological overkill produces products which are far more perfect than necessary. A camera shooting at one-five-hundredth of a second produces satisfactory pictures for half the price. The man who isn’t perfect but who’s perfect enough may well be the one to love you throughout a lovely love affair.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is widely quoted as reflecting philosophically: “If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not, you will also regret it.” The same applies to your decision of whether to picking a lover. If you take a lover, you may regret it; if you don’t take a lover, you may also regret it.

The question you need to consider is this, when you are an old lady of ninety-two, reflecting on the past decades, which will you regret the most: the sins you committed or the sins you omitted? In my conversations with old ladies, guarded as they are, they usually suggest regret for opportunities lost, for time wasted, for doors not opened, and for experiences not enjoyed.

The poet Robert Herrick gives timeless advice, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” He is speaking “to the virgins, to make much of time,” but he might well speak to other women too. It’s healthy to enjoy the men of the world while they are as eager to enjoy you. It’s healthy to experience as much as you can of what life has to offer. And the devil take the hindmost, whatever that is. The philosopher Bertrand Russell offers a sound conclusion, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” If you must love, love bravely.

Picking a Lover: Taking Chances

Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?
—Frank Scully

The process of picking a lover is a process of prediction and projection. You think: “If I were to have Robert as a lover, how would he be? Would we fit well together? Would he make me happy? How would being with Robert compare with being with Michael? Who knows?”

Cupid

Cupid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one knows. It isn’t that we are left with an inexact science. We have no science at all. Cupid is, by definition, capricious and sometimes mischievously puts together two people who are complete opposites of each other. The most unlikely couples can be blissfully happy, drawn together by a magnetic attraction no one else can understand.

On the other hand, sometimes a marriage which seems made in heaven is, in fact, a private hell for the man and woman involved. Richard Needham, a former Canadian humor columnist for the Globe and Mail, puts it well when he points out, “You never know the truth about anyone else’s marriage; you only know the truth about your own, and you know exactly half of that.” Generalizations based on experience and common sense can suggest that some kinds of men are probably a better bet than others. There are guidelines about the kinds of men who might make better lovers for you than others. Alas, there are no guarantees.

Each man and woman is a complex individual; each relationship unfolds under unique circumstances. Since predictions must be made without the aid of a crystal ball, any advice which can be given is less than crystal clear. You could have selected some men for all the right reasons, men who had all the right attributes. Nevertheless, your choice led to a disastrous affair because something unforeseen happened. He crashed his car or lost his job or succumbed to a numbing midlife depression or encountered some other hazard no one could have predicted.

Or as often happens with young marriages, the man you picked may have been exactly right for you at the time, and then you grew up and changed your mind—or he did.

Sharing the experiences and perspectives of others will not give you absolute answers about what you should do next. It will, however, give you something to ponder as you sit by the phone, waiting for it to ring. Or in a bolder mood, as you scroll through your Blackberry or iphone address book, trying to decide whose number to call.

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