Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Buy A Pig When You Can Get Cheap Sausage?

That is my (or probably someone else's) extremely rude reversal of the usual "Why buy a cow when you can get cheap milk?" (And yes, stupid spell-checker, I know that else's is wrong but it flows.) I wanted to put it into the post title because I'm so very nice and so very boring and so very snake-slippery that I have to provide something for the anti-feminists to attack later on (when I'm famous).

That reversal is most enlightening, I humbly think. It's worth 20,000 words at least, because it points out something many automatically take for granted when talking about heterosexual premarital sex and such, which is that men want the milk but women want the pig.

I have argued a zillion times that this stereotype simply isn't true. The evidence is visible if you want to look for it. For instance, women commit adultery, too! Women actually like sex! Some women like sex with people they don't love! Men actually like the cow! And so on and so on.

And not only is it not true, it is built on presumed animosity between men and women as groups of people, and yet that view does not come from feminists who are more likely to discuss gender as a group thing. It comes from the anti-feminists who believe that men just want sexual access and that women must refuse it until they get the ring and the meal ticket for life and other such goodies.

Note that I'm not describing my own views here but what I see as the invisible premise in all those conservative girls-gone-wild stories: Women should be the gatekeepers in the sexual soccer world cup and men should keep trying for goals all the time! Because you are on opposite teams, see.

Those are some of my thoughts when I read Amanda's response to a book review in the Atlantic Monthly(where else?) about a new book called Chastened, all about a woman who decided not to have sex for a year and lo and behold!:

Are you in love at the moment? Is there someone in your life?

I joked to a friend a couple months ago, "Oh, God, this book's coming out again. Maybe I should just hire somebody. Even my male friends took on the part of fiancé for that happy ending, however cynical we are, we still...But I think in a way it makes it more informative, and makes it more the experiment I was thinking of, because I'm implementing these lessons that I've learned. And I'm actually quite happy, actually quite content. There's been a lot less sex, but more romance. And a lot more emotional closeness.

So now she is all chastened.

The interview isn't that bad, I think, and the topic contains interesting angles. It refers to pornography and its coarsening (sticks out tongue here) effect on real-life sexual expectations. It points out that people, both men and women, may desire something more than just physical sex from at least one relationship. But then it hints at the ring on the ring finger as the ultimate reason why women, and not men, should choose to be chastened.

That's back to the-cow-and-the-milk argument*, though the author of the book makes other points, too, one being the right to say no when you really don't want to go to bed with someone.

*Writing about topics like this one is difficult because I have two frameworks in my divine head. One is about an ideal world and what the rules would be in that, the other one is about the world I think exists right now. Sometimes the obvious solutions in the former make things more difficult in the latter, and sometimes the obvious solutions in the latter delay the wonderful day when we all tiptoe into that ideal world of the future.

And the reason why the title of this post sounds so impossibly silly is partly because marriage has not really been mostly about sex for women. It has been about survival, about a way to have enough to eat and a roof over one's head and about getting a group of people to support one in child-raising. Having sex without contraception outside marriage made the achievement of all those other objectives less likely, because of the labeling a woman would get and because she might now come with ready-made children that needed more support. Yet the conservative argument here assumes that men prefer milk to cows always and women prefer pigs to sausages always. It's just how it is.