How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sexual liberation’

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.

Single Women May Now Seek Lovers and Not Husbands

The difference between an old maid spinster and a bachelor career woman has a lot to do with sleeping on a single cot or in a big double bed.
—Jayson VanVerten

Love is important to most women. With increasing sexual freedom, the importance of love has come to mean granting importance to erotic relationships as well as to affectionate ones. Not all women want a lover. Single celibates do not: Grandma would have called them good girls. Traditional wives do not: Grandma would have called them honest women. Lesbians do not, at least not the male kind: Grandma probably did not include them in her lexicon at all.

Apart from these three alternatives, there remain those who are no better than they ought to be. Grandma would have considered them fallen: she would have called them tramps. When you think of a man who is a tramp, you think of an unwashed hobo, taking handouts, sleeping on park benches, and living hand-to-mouth on the open road. When you think of a woman who is a tramp, you think of one bold enough to have a man in her life without the honorable permission of being either married or at least engaged. A “real tramp” has more than one.

Two Lovers (film)

Two Lovers (Wikipedia)

It is this residual category of women, not a small minority by any means, who are eligible to consider taking a lover or even lovers. They may be tramps from one perspective, but from another, they are emancipated. They are the vanguard of the third wave of the feminist movement, and their ranks are drawn from both unmarried women and married ones.

Unmarried women make up a large part of our population. They include not only those who have never been married but also increasing numbers of those who have been widowed or divorced, sometimes more than once. Some of these women basically believe in marriage but do not want to get married yet. If an unmarried woman in this category were a man, we would say she was sowing her wild oats. All she is doing is having fun. Later, she expects to settle down to one man; and when she makes that decision, she will start husband shopping. Usually, but not always, the basis for her reformation is the desire to have a child and the recognition of the societal benefits of family life versus the single motherhood alternative.

Women of today who expect to remain single for the rest of their lives consist of basically two groups: those who have rejected marriage per se and those who simply predict that marriage, desirable or not, is unlikely. In the recent past, women who never married were assumed to be either the unchosen who could not get a man or those dedicated to a career who chose to work instead of getting married. Such women became the familiar stereotypes of the old-maid teacher and librarian. Since women now do not experience the same career-or-marriage conflict, modern women who reject marriage are likely to do so on ideological grounds. They would concur with Gloria Steinem’s widely quoted maxim: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle!”

Women who have resigned themselves to not getting married include those who have some unsolvable problem which makes them less marriageable than others. Being six feet six inches tall or having six children or being seriously disabled can be genuine handicaps in the marriage market. Other women, who are by ordinary standards attractive to men, may understand that their chances of finding a husband, at least the kind of husband they would want, are slim. This certainly applies to many young and not-so-young widows as well as to the overachievers who are over-educated and over-affluent compared with the men they are likely to meet. There are simply not enough eligible men available to go around for the women at the top. Statistics showing population distribution by age, sex, and marital status bear out that this is more than a perception. As columnist Maureen Dowd, of the New York Times, aptly notes, “Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.”

If there is a surplus of women in the given category and if a number of them therefore cannot marry, what then? Women who do not feel any significant sexual urges or women who are comforted by a deep religious faith and so prefer to devote themselves to God may be content to live celibate lives. Other women who do not meet these two criteria want to experience, if not marriage, then at least something of the potential to be found in man-woman erotic relationships.

A young woman friend of mine, tanned and glowing and just back from a Mediterranean jaunt with her man of the moment, exclaimed, “I think I’ve found the secret. Being a wife is a drag, but being a ‘bride’ is terrific. I think I’ll skip committing matrimony and just commit honeymoons. They’re probably the best part anyway.”

The Wanton Factor: On Lust and Womanhood

 

The great question . . . which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is: “What does a woman want?
Sigmund Freud,
The Life and Works of Sigmund Freud

Poor old Freud never figured it out. Neither did lots of women who, several generations later, are still having trouble with the same question.

Over the past few pivotal decades, women have both wanted to learn and learned to want. One thing they have learned to want is to explore and to savor their full erotic potential. And what they want to learn is just what that potential is and how to seize the opportunity to experience it. As women begin to realize the possibilities inherent in sexuality, they feel increasingly entitled to partake of this important element of life. They feel entitled not only to be sexually active but to be sexually active in the ways which are most rewarding to them.

WWW - What Women Want poster

Photo credit: Jonathas Scott

If you asked men why they want to have a mistress, they would reply almost to a man, “To get laid, of course!” They might phrase it more delicately and might hasten to add that that was not the only thing they wanted; but it would be obvious that a prime motivator, if not the prime motivator, was to expand their erotic experience. For many men, especially young men, the desire for sexual expression is a constant urge needing little, if any, prompting from outside stimuli. The desire seems to come directly from the hormones, and it is not only constant but relatively urgent.

It should no longer be very shocking to discover that spontaneous sexual urges may also be a prime mover for a number of women, some married and some not, some happy and some not. The erotic poet Irving Layton makes this point when he opines, “A woman who is attractive, well educated, and sensible has only one thing on her mind—to get laid.” Layton is given to hyperbole and so overstates his point. One can be forgiven for suspecting him of optimistically projecting his own feelings. Even adolescent boys occasionally have their minds on football, hamburgers, motorcycles, and cold beer.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember what should be an obvious point: in many cases, if not most, the erotic component is one factor, and an important one, in what contemporary women want.

 

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