How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sexual enjoyment’

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.

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“Please Sir, I Want More”: The Desire For Erotic Fulfillment

Is that all there is? If that’s all there is,
my friend, then let’s start dancing, let’s
break out the booze, if that’s all there is.
—Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is”

In the classic scene from Dickens’s masterpiece Oliver Twist, Oliver is emboldened by hunger and proclaims to the headmaster, “Please, sir, I want more!” Women, too, are emboldened by hunger; and they also feel that they want more. Unfortunately, their hunger is more diffuse than hunger for gruel, and many are not exactly sure what it is they want more of.

Until several generations ago, the lives of most women were quite circumscribed. Their options were limited and most of the outcomes of their lives were determined by the choice of a husband, a choice which, as often as not, was practically made for them. The expectations of mother, father, and husband were reinforced by the dictates of religion and by well-established custom.

While such women may or may not have been happy with their restricted horizons, most of them seem to have been resigned to it. They had minimal aspirations; and when they did aspire to life beyond the conventional one, they received little, if any, support. There were early feminists and later suffragettes, but most women lived quietly within the confines of Kinder, Kirche, Kūche—children, church, kitchen.

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first wave of feminism, which brought the vote and other legal reforms, saw the beginning of women working for pay outside the home. The second wave, which washed over the country in the 1960s, created a generation of women who not only had the Pill but were led to expect that their lives would blossom beyond the confines of “the feminine mystique.” Betty Friedan posited that prior to the 1960s, an idealized image of femininity, which she called the feminine mystique, permeated society. According to Friedan, this ideal image served to confine most women to the narrow roles of housewife and mother, limiting their ability to realize their full human potential and ultimately causing them to feel unfulfilled and unhappy. It was “the problem that has no name,” as women did not recognize “the feminine mystique” as the source of their discontent.

While Friedan was ahead of her time, she was more eloquent in describing “the problem that has no name” than prescribing what to do about it. Many young women, and some not so young ones, were left with a pervasive but vague sense of discontent. They did not want to be confined only to Kinder, Kirche, Kūche; but neither were they quite self-confident enough to pay their own bills and make their own way for the next forty years, let alone dream of being astronauts. They wanted to be “equal.” However, they thought more in terms of equal opportunities than they did of equal responsibilities. As we enter into the 21st century, there is a growing number of women who seek lovers simply for their own personal erotic fulfillment, independent of the bonds of marriage and the financial support it may provide. Arguably, these women represents the front line of the third wave of the feminist
movement.

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