How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sex roles’

Rule Six: Do Your Part To Make The Affair Successful

Women claim that they want equal rights, equal respect . . . You don’t get respect because you want it; you get respect because you earn it; by being competent, intelligent, trustworthy, flexible, and generous.
—Marion A. Asnes

Women, especially young women and especially attractive ones, are used to being courted. They’ve often been encouraged to sit back and be entertained, to sit back and evaluate various offers from various men, and to take their time weighting one offer against the next. They expect to bring to the relationship first of all their beauty and then, if the price is
right emotionally or otherwise, the gift of their sexuality. They expect men to make the effort to amuse and to entertain; they expect to let themselves be won and not much more.

If women are going to move beyond a role in which sexuality is exchanged for many other things to a situation where sexuality is mutual and where they are allowed to court as well as to be courted, then they must also take responsibility for making the resulting love affair successful and satisfactory. Throughout this blog, I’ve been listing and describing the various things that make a man attractive. I’ve outlined the intrinsic attributes that he should have and have suggested many nice things which he could do. Now for the surprise: let the woman do the same.

Love & Respect

Love & Respect (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you like to hear him say your name, learn to say his as well. If you like clever, funny little love gifts, think of some to give him. If you like a man as well-groomed as possible and wearing some exotic scent, then come to him as well-groomed as possible, with an exotic scent of your own.

If you hate unilateral decisions on matters of joint interest, make sure you don’t make such decisions for him. If you rage at inaccurate generalizations about women, be sure you don’t make equally inaccurate generalizations about men.

If you hate the feeling of being pressured into having sex when you don’t really feel like it, be sure you don’t try to pressure him into it when he doesn’t really feel like it. If you need someone to understand the cross-pressures inherent in trying to juggle a marriage and a career and children and a love affair, then take note of the fact that he may have the same sort of juggling act to perform.

The golden rule isn’t news and it’s not perfect, but it’s still the best guideline there is. If you treat your man the way you would like to be treated, most of the time, he will be delighted. And most of the time, it will come back to you many times over.

Reciprocity: The Elixer of Mutuality

Watch out for men who have Mothers.
—Laura Shapiro, Ms.

The chauvinist is long accustomed to the idea that women will serve him and take care of him as in the personal service that used to be provided by servants. Indeed, in this expectation, he’s not far from wrong.

While the worlds of men and women have changed significantly over the past 50 years, men still routinely encounter waitresses, secretaries, clerks, chambermaids, receptionists, and others in service occupations—the majority of whom continue to be women. Women fetch and carry, they tend and attend, and they take care of him often in much the same way that mothers take care of children. Certainly in the same way that mothers take care of favorite sons.

Emancipated women who are sensitive to chauvinism in many other areas may make exceptions for their sons. The more devoted the mother is—and the longer the son has been at home—the more pronounced the attitude becomes. Guess who later gets to play Mommy and take care of him? The traditional attitude in marriage is that the provider brings home the bacon and the little homemaker cooks and serves it . . . after she has gotten him a beer, found the TV guide, answered the phone, and quieted the children.

In traditional marriages, a man who would leap to his feet when a strange woman comes into the room is the same man who, at home, automatically takes the best chair in the room, asks his wife to bring him the paper, and does not move until dinner is served.

Providing personal services is a way of being considerate and of showing affection. No one would want to have lovers and friends give up such nice little touches as making dinners and drinks, helping someone on and off with a coat, and putting the coat in the closet, running a bath, lighting a fire in the fireplace, fetching the mail, answering the phone, charging the cell
phone, plumping up the pillows, arranging a footstool, getting a sweater, finding your glasses, and a thousand and one other ways of making someone comfortable. What’s important in a lover is that these touches are reciprocal, not one-sided. And that they are not expected or demanded.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless you’re a commercial sex worker, you don’t have to continually give more than you receive, and you shouldn’t. If you are clear from the start about your expectations of quid pro quo and consistent in their application, most men will learn quite quickly how to scratch a back back.

Begin As You Mean To Continue

Meet the first beginnings; look to the budding mischief before it has time to ripen to maturity.
—Shakespeare

Each new relationship makes its own rules, its own interpretation of the ageless game of man and maid. In effect, by the time you can begin to talk of a relationship rather than merely an acquaintanceship, the rules have already begun. For all the abstract talk about the role of women and the role of men, in real life, all that really exists is the role of a woman as defined by her interaction with one man: her expectations of him, his expectations of her.

The same woman may play several different versions of the so-called role of women with different men or with the same man at different stages in their lives. The tricky part has to do with inertia. Whatever the script that a couple writes for each other or accepts as having been written for them, it very soon comes to be written in indelible ink rather than sketched out in pencil. Once a habit or an expectation is allowed to develop, then whether or not it is fun or fair or practical, it tends to persist.

SOPHIE'S CHOICE ...

SOPHIE’S CHOICE … (Photo credit: mrbill78636)

It is easy to look at past relationships and see the scripts that you have allowed yourself to play and to wish them in some ways different. Such an insight does not necessarily make it easier for you to change, or easier for you to change him, although that won’t stop you from trying.

But—and here is the magic part—with a new man, you get to begin to write a new script for your lives together. You can create habits and expectations which, although probably similar to your scripted scenarios with other men, can be slightly different in ways that are important to you.

How do you go about creating new scripts? For a start, you don’t let the old and undesirable habits from old and undesirable relationships repeat themselves. Suppose, for example, that one of your perennial laments with your high school steady was that he always decided where you would go and when so that you never got a vote or participated in planning things. If you later married that high school steady, as an amazing number of heads-up women seem to do, is it surprising that twenty years later, he is still automatically taking charge even though you are now thirty-six instead of  sixteen? With a twenty-year habit, he’s not now going to change. Attempts to take control may make him angry or confused or amused, but it will not change him.

A new lover, however, doesn’t know that men always make the plans. If you don’t want to get into that pattern again, you must begin immediately in the relationship to show initiative. If he makes the first invitation (and in changing times or not, this is usually the case), then you make the second. If he suggests one alternative, suggest a modification. “Yes, I’d love to go to a movie, but I always go to the gym to exercise on Tuesday nights. Would Wednesday be OK?” Or “It’s nice of you to offer to pick me up, but I’d rather go right from work and meet you there.”

These little modifications are polite, reasonable, and trivial. They do, however, make an important point in the politics of everyday life: events are something that we plan together, not something organized and structured by only one person.

On a more important level, consider the issue of initiation in lovemaking. If you have slept for ten years with a man who always made the sexual advances and if you now begin to come on to him, if the man in question is your very own husband, then he may react with startled embarrassment. However, your new lover doesn’t have that response set. If you want sex to be more mutual then, from the beginning, be sure that while you are sometimes responsive to his approaches, you also expect him to be responsive to yours. Many women who think they are assertive or even aggressive in bed don’t notice that they take on this role only after the man in question has said, by word or action, “Hey, how about it?”

The same principle applies in all other areas. It is difficult to change established habits, but it is not so difficult to establish new ones in a new relationship.

Rule Five: Accept the Inevitability of Chauvinism

There are three choices: to be a celibate, be a lesbian, or love a chauvinist.
—Jayson VanVerten

It would be a pleasant change if one could select as lovers only men who were free of chauvinism. Alas, since it’s the culture as well as individuals who are androcentric (man centered), there are still relatively few such creatures around. Although they are becoming less rare with each passing generation.

The misogynist is a man who hates women. The chauvinist isn’t necessarily full of hate: he simply has a fundamental sense of man’s superiority to women and, therefore, a fundamental belief in the intrinsic rightness of existing traditional sex roles. He views the exchange relationship of man the provider versus woman the nurturer as a satisfactory one, perhaps even an exemplary one. If you disagree, spend some time chatting to a conservative who champions “family values.” Although he may mutter compliance when challenged about equal pay for equal work, he usually doesn’t believe that work done by women is equal to the work done by men.

Gender equality poster

Gender equality poster (Photo credit: leitza*)

What are the signs of chauvinism in everyday life? In the early days of consciousness-raising in the women’s movement, they used to talk about the click, which was a sudden aha insight into a daily event symbolic of the arrangement between the sexes. Once you start to think in these terms, the clicks are everywhere.

A chauvinist is likely to expect personal services which he doesn’t reciprocate. He tends to make unilateral decisions that should be made jointly; he controls the content of conversations by refusing to participate on topics which don’t concern him directly. He seeks emotional support without returning it, he gives unnecessary directions, he assumes that his opinion is more valid and more accurate than a woman’s regardless of his expertise or lack of it on a particular issue. Etcetera. The analogy is that a chauvinist tends to treat women in the same way as an adult treats a child: he may be affectionate and even benevolent, but he isn’t an egalitarian.

If your consciousness is sufficiently raised to be aware of the chauvinism around you, what are you to do about it? You can opt for celibacy and try as much as possible to avoid the company of men. You can opt for lesbianism and the “lavender culture.” (Alas, you will find that some lesbian women are sexist as well, but that is another story.) Or you can resign yourself to the fact that chauvinism is endemic and simply try to minimize its effects. If you decide to become an active feminist and dedicate yourself to reforming and revamping the social system, that’s a fine political decision. It is, however, frequently a precursor of disaster in one’s personal life. You can end up defining almost everything as a political issue, which isn’t only exhausting and inefficient but also chips away destructively at even the most affectionate bond.

If you decide to go with the traditional role and model yourself on “total womanhood,” you must deny a large part of your selfhood and your intelligence. Total women are the scabs of sisterhood. In the women’s movement, they are the equivalent of Uncle Toms in the black movement. We call them Doris Days. Playing this part, even if you were willing to do so, would make you feel most of the time like an actress and a rather miscast actress at that. You might do it but would resent it, and that resentment would eventually sour your love affair.

There is a third alternative. You can learn to live with chauvinism, at least mild-mannered chauvinism, without  sacrificing your independence and self-respect. You’ll not be viewed as acceptable by some chauvinistic men. But you will be increasingly acceptable to enlighten men whose own consciousness has been raised and who, if not exactly feminists themselves, are at least sympathetic to the feminist cause.

Safe Conduct: Guidelines for an Affair of the Heart

It’s a wise man who profits by his experience, but it’s a good deal wiser one who lets the rattlesnake bite the other fellow.
—Josh Billings

In times of war, when it is necessary to venture into hostile territory, one is sometimes issued a “safe conduct pass” which is supposed to assure that the bearer can pass through the danger zone unmolested. Women who venture into the uncertainty of new relationships based on new social norms don’t have any more guarantees of fulfillment than their grandmothers did. There are, however, some guidelines that can serve as a kind of safe conduct pass which, if followed, will help you to actualize as fully as possible your nascent affair with the new lover you have selected.

Love Affair (1939 film)

Love Affair (1939 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Logan Smith, the American epigrammatist, points out, “There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.” There is no foolproof formula for a perfect love affair. There are, however, guidelines which, like other kinds of safe conduct documents, may offer more protection. In the tradition of commandments, I’ve listed a Decalogue of rules which you would be wise to consider carefully when pursuing an affair of the heart. I will address each of them separately in future posts.

DECALOGUE: GUIDELINES FOR AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART

RULE ONE: ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE AFFAIR.
RULE TWO: ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR BIRTH CONTROL.
RULE THREE: BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR INTENTIONS.
RULE FOUR: PICK THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE RIGHT REASONS.
RULE FIVE: ACCEPT THE INEVITABILITY OF CHAUVINISM.
RULE SIX: DO YOUR PART TO MAKE THE AFFAIR SUCCESSFUL.
RULE SEVEN: RESPECT PRIVILEGED INFORMATION.
RULE EIGHT: MINIMIZE JEALOUSY.
RULE NINE: BEWARE THE MONSTER THAT IS HABIT.
RULE TEN: TAKE TIME TO SAVOR LOVE.

The Seamless Seduction

Here is a perfect poem: to awaken a longing to develop it, to increase it, to stimulate it, and to gratify it.
—Honorè de Balzac

When one thinks of the verb “to seduce,” one thinks of it as something a man does to a woman. More stereotypically, you think of an unscrupulous man, perhaps a villain with a pencil-thin mustache, pressing his attentions upon a young and presumably innocent girl. He suggests, “Have some Madeira, my deara”; and muddled by Madeira and soft talk, she eventually fails to resist and he has his way with her.

In a different kind of world, women, however inexperienced, are not as innocent. Women today don’t and need not simply wait for a man to approach and seduce them. Rather, they can themselves select a man they think looks promising and initiate the next stage.

Some men are very indiscriminate and unselective. You can seduce them by the simple strategy of saying, “Wanna fuck?” And they will say, “Of course!” And do so immediately. And when you’re done, you’ll have been, well, fucked. For a man who is the kind of man who is likely to take love seriously, this approach would be, in most instances, a total turnoff.

The kind of man who will be a serious and attentive lover must be approached just as men should approach women: by creating a mood and an atmosphere conducive to the right kind of experience. That means that the communication must be subtle and indirect, with no connotation of obligation, and no suggestion of a need to perform.

Seduction is an invitation, not a command.

The offering of a seductive invitation should be done in such a way that it is possible for the man or the woman to decline gracefully, with neither party losing face. The person who is skilled in sexual matters will never make a pass at someone when the response to the pass is in any doubt. When the time comes to make a definite, unambiguous move, the other person isn’t going to be surprised and his or her reaction is certain to be positive rather than negative.

{12/365}

Photo credit: mattbeighton

Young people make a lot of mistakes in figuring out how to make a pass, how to see one coming, and how to accept or to deflect one. Older people who aren’t too experienced or those who come from a different tradition can also inflict considerable pain and embarrassment on each other because of their inability to “read” signals and passes.

The strategy for avoiding such confrontation isn’t all that difficult. In our culture, there are a number of sexual scripts as discussed earlier in previous posts. Think of the act of sexual intercourse as a kind of theatrical play with the man and woman being both actors and directors. A sexual interlude is a play with an overture at first curtain. It consists of three acts complete with intermissions and ends with a grand finale, followed by a period of denouement.

The sexual script starts with mutual looking. It proceeds, with or without words, to kissing and mutual touching. At each stage, the other person responds with an encouraging gesture (or sound) or a negative one. The skilled lover, male or female, listens to this conversation of gestures, murmurs, and moans and modifies his or her actions accordingly. There should be mutual, if unspoken, consent as to what happens next, if anything.

Because of sexual scripting, the sequence of erotic involvement is generally quite consistent. The man who is seen as a “wolf ” or the woman who is seen as “too fast” is merely someone who has skipped some of the expected steps. The sense of affront this creates may not be for the acts themselves but for the failure to prepare the other person by leading up to those acts in the right way. The actual time frame involved has less to do with the script than with the specific male and female involved. If the two are virgin teenagers who have been kept as innocent and uninformed as possible, it may take months; if they’re sophisticated New York swingers, it may take only a few hours. Since men aren’t as prepared as are women to have someone make a pass at them, it’s even more important that the sexual script be followed and that there be no surprises which might create a sense of threat and discomfort. The gestures involved proceed with very small increments and with great attention to the response they receive, if any. No one gesture should be so obvious that it must be acknowledged in a way which could prove awkward for either party.

If the gesture is declined, everyone should be able to walk away without embarrassment. If the gesture isn’t declined, the sexual interaction should flow smoothly and easily from one stage to the other—right through to the proverbial cigarette afterward.

Telephone Tyranny and Social Media

Instead of belles-lettres, we have Ma Bell.
—Donal Henahan

One familiar little dating game ritual played out in the dating market is the ritual of the phone number. If the man who meets a girl decides he likes her, he asks for her phone number so he can call her sometime; if the girl who meets a man likes him, she gives it to him. Once this little ritual is complete, he has a right to expect that if he calls her, she will remember who he is and will more or less welcome his call.

English: man on phone

Photo credit: Wikipedia

There’s nothing wrong with this little ritual in itself—except that you will notice that the action involved is all one-way. He asks or doesn’t; he phones or doesn’t. You may respond in various ways to his actions; but first, you must wait until he asks, and if he does, then you must anxiously wait for your phone to ring.

The game of “don’t-call-me, I’ll-call-you” is recognized in the business world as a standard status maneuver. Hopeful actors who must audition for parts hear it all the time as do job applicants. It’s equally a status game when played with men and women although a man may not immediately recognize it as such. If he offers you his phone number, he has put the ball in your court, and that is an encouraging sign. If he doesn’t, then when he asks for your number, make it an exchange and watch how he responds to that idea.

A promising variation of the telephone game is played by the man who spontaneously offers you his phone number and says, “Please call me if you want to.” By giving the number, especially by giving it without being asked, he shows that he expects the interaction will be a two-way interaction. This variation is especially promising if he gives you his number in such a way as to be sure that any attempt at communication with him would be effective.

A busy lawyer friend of mine, a very genuine man who unfortunately has a most unprepossessing appearance, was in ardent pursuit of a beautiful model. He not only asked for her phone number (she gave him the number for her modeling agency) but gave her his home phone number, his cell phone number, his office number, and a code word to use with his secretary so that, instead of automatically saying he was busy and would return the call, the secretary would actually put the woman through to his desk. The object of the lawyer’s affection wasn’t too sure about this man, busy or otherwise, but was convinced of his sincerity. Eventually, she did call him; and while they didn’t live happily ever after, they did become good friends.

In today’s dating world and ever evolving social media, the same game can be played just as easily via email or text messaging. Since email and text messaging don’t involve direct interaction with the other person, it’s less personal, making it easier to communicate either your interest or lack of interest without the risk of having to have a potentially uncomfortable phone conversation. Whatever the social media being used, it’s important to pay attention to whether a man voluntarily offers you his contact information when he’s asking for yours. If he doesn’t, and you’re interested, then ask for his. His response will be very telling. If he freely offers his contact information, then you need not passively wait for his call or spend your day constantly checking your text messages. You are free to contact him should you so desire.  On the other hand, if he is reluctant to give you his contact information or makes excuses for why he can’t, then walk away and don’t look back.

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