Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Gonna Pinch Your Butt, Jacques!

Two odd opinion pieces have cropped up recently on the question of what American men think of French women. Weird, I know. The first one appeared in the Chicago Tribune some time ago. It's about an American man trying to score with a French woman, pretty much:

and you're thinking to yourself how wonderful it will be to date your own auburn-haired Audrey Tautou, someone elegant, smart, sophisticated, someone you wouldn't hesitate to take home to your family if things were ever to get that far with her (which deep down you know they won't, but deeper down you still hope they will), and then, after all this, as the scoreboard is up in flames from the baseball you've hit into it and you are rounding third base, savoring each stride, with only a few short steps separating you from the glory of your destiny — after all this, you both stand up, and it turns out she's 3 inches taller than you, and both of you, surprised and saddened, look at the floor, and then back at each other (you up at her, she down at you), and then she awkwardly, pre-emptively says that it was nice meeting you, and you smile and agree, but before you're even done agreeing, she is turning away and walking out of the coffee shop on her own?
There's that game metaphor again. If I decided to do a revelation piece about me and my many mythical lovers I'd use some novel metaphors and not the ones which men use about getting a woman to bed. But whatever. So he turned out to be short and the inches were on the wrong person and in the wrong place. Big deal. Life is like that and most of us deal with it. Or even decide that height doesn't matter.

This didn't seem to be worth writing about (though I did fancy doing a reversal for a while), but then Jezebel posted something even weirder on American men and French women, and now I have to figure out if that Jezebel post is a very advanced type of satire, so advanced that I can't really get it or if it's just the lamest post ever in the whole wide world.

You can help me if you wish:

Having just returned from living in Paris, I feel more convinced than ever that America gets many things wrong about sex. Right there near the top of the list is our attachment to the idea of consent.

In Paris, it seems as if the straight male attitude toward consent is that it doesn't exist. At clubs, bars, bistros, in the street or on the Metro, Parisian men lobby very aggressively for sex. At the clubs in the 8ème, off the Champs-Élysées, and all along Rue de Rivoli, it is fairly common to watch men literally grab and touch the girls who weave through the crowd. Men often draw a finger down an unknown girl's cheek or under her chin like a doting Uncle; they can be seen pinching girls' noses, throwing arms around shoulders and even stealing kisses. It's not for nothing that the French slang word for "kiss" or "make out" is choper, which literally means "to catch."

Parisian women deny or accept these advances with a decisiveness many American women lack. Naturally, some girls in Paris walk away and reject these strong come-ons. But one can observe many of them reacting with knowing laughter; these women understand the game. They often seem legitimately flattered by the attention and stick around for an introductory conversation. The men buy the women drinks. Sometimes they trade phone numbers or make out in a corner somewhere. And sometimes, of course, the whole exchange ends in sex. Whatever the result, women maneuver around male aggression to gain the upper hand. They are the ones deciding what to do with the onslaught of male desire. And though the men are leveraging these attacks as a pretense for familiarity (later on in the night or outside the club the ice has already been broken) it's the women who call the shots.
And so on and so on. Nothing about French men wanting their butts pinched by me! But of course if consent is not a problem I can do that and it's all seeeexx!

I bolded all that violent attack business in the post. Those are the bits that make me think the post is satire. The rest of it? I'm not sure what the writer tries to say. Either consent doesn't matter, in which case anyone can rape anyone anywhere, or it does matter, in which case you cannot aggressively assault women or men in the streets or elsewhere. Even if that would be convenient for you, like imagining all the women of the world as your private sex cupboard which you can sample as you wish.

Or perhaps he means that he should have the right to force himself upon unwilling women and find them turn willing? Or that women should be the gatekeepers in an aggressive type of game where you can only have a goalkeeper but no defense? Or nostalgia for the times of Genghis Khan (with the extra assumption that this guy is the only Genghis Khan, really).

It's a big soup, that post, and not well stirred. For instance, we don't have any evidence on what the French women think about all this and whether any of the described free-mating-without-consent actually happens on the streets of Paris or only in the mind of one "Edward Pasteck."

Am I really writing about something this inane? Because all of this is probably about clicks and saying the most outrageous things possible and I fell for it.