Thursday, June 16, 2005

On Being "Easy"

This post grew from the one below about a sexual etiquette for women and some of the comments on it, especially those that discussed the reputation of American women abroad as being easy lays, easy targets for sexual predators.

A feminist analysis of all this seems necessary to me at this point and I will offer my feeble attempt of one. Consider the selection of terms to describe these women: "easy", as opposed to difficult or challenging, and "target", like something that stays immobile and will be shot at. Both of these make the man into an active participant, a hunter or a predator, and the woman into an object or at most an animal that is hunted.

Both of them also assume that the woman doesn't want to be sexual, isn't in fact searching for the very intercourse that she is supposed to be an easy target for. Perhaps she is like a fisherman, sitting on the pier, patiently waiting for the big fish to bite the hook? See how the discourse is nonegalitarian? How the woman's sexuality is completely ignored?

Though of course the woman might not want to be sexual at all. In that case what we are describing is a raping game. But then the underlying assumption is that such a raping game is somehow acceptable, at least in the sense of it being unavoidable, in the sense of "this is how the world just is". Men want sex more than women and don't care how they get it, and it's up to the women and their chaperones to stop this from happening.

If I was a man I'd find this assumption incredibly insulting. The assumption that I am nothing but my testicles, and that I'm so weak I can't but follow their urgings, even if it makes me do violence. Yet though I see this reaction in some of the discussions on this topic it is a lot less frequent than I'd expect. Why is that the case?

Probably partly because we all tend to view the world in which we live as somehow unchangeable even if it changes all the time. But there is also a deeper reason, one that Amanda of Pandagon alluded to in one of her comments on Alas, a Blog, and that is the fact that there is a certain amount of sexual entitlement which goes to most men in our society. If the price of this entitlement is to pretend that men's sexual needs are so powerful that they can't be controlled, well, maybe this is an acceptable price for some men to pay.

Several commenters point out that men indeed appear to be more sexual than women. Just think of all the pornography that is available. Isn't it the case that men have a stronger biological urge to be sexual than women do? Isn't this why we can't really change the rules of sex, to stop calling women "easy", for example? Because it would spoil the hunt?

I have no idea how to compare the sexual imperatives of men and women in a biological sense. For that I'd need to strip away all the cultural imperatives that have been inserted into us for decades, and I'd need to somehow ignore the effect that potential pregnancy has on women's sexual behavior or the effect that the knowledge of the greater average power of men might have on a woman who considers a one-night stand with a stranger. I have tried to think these questions out for myself and find it incredibly difficult to see how we could even test women's sexual desires as compared to their culturally affected sexual behavior. I mean, "a good woman" is still one who has very little sex. Why would this rule be necessary if women indeed care less about sex in general? Why would so many societies put such enormous pressure on women to stay chaste or virginal if women are actually fairly lukewarm about sex? What about my own, er, rather passionate nature?

It's odd to find this whole business of being "easy" coming back at this late stage. It sounds Victorian to me. The corresponding term for a man would be a Don Juan or something similar. The associations are almost totally opposite to each other. A man who wants to have a lot of sex is a stud, a winner. A woman who wants a lot of sex is easy, a whore.

Then there is the darker side of the issues, the side where we talk about an "easy target" in the context of the terrible events in Aruba. Where death enters the discussion and somehow we still prattle about sex and whether the woman or her parents were to blame for her lack of knowledge on how to avoid a psychopath. As if death is a likely outcome of casual sex, something that every woman should be trained to avoid. Now contrast this with what I mentioned above: the idea of men as the more sexual beings. Do you see the societal influences here? Do you see how women are expected to bend and adjust and protect themselves even against psychopaths?

The Aruba case is about murder and, as Pseudo-Adrienne so eloquently stated, the guilty party is the murderer. Let's not forget that and let's not confuse this horrible reality with sex and with the many ways that women are expected to behave in this world.