It must be spring, because we’re talking about sex again.
Althouse had a thread about prostitution in New Zealand and, predictably, like clockwork, the “all women are whores” meme surfaced. Though this was “all women trade sex for material goods” which is the complement to “all men pay for sex,” I guess. (You don’t hear “all men are johns”, much, though, do you?)
I stayed out and let Freeman tangle with it for a while, and then Darcy added her two cents, and finally–I swear, it’s like a mouse to cheese, putting up these dubious philosophical propositions–I caved and wrote a very lengthy response. Which I’m going to repost here and add a few things because, believe it or not, I had even more to say.
First off, the emphasis is wrong. And men are likely to make this mistake because they’re so strongly sex driven, but relationships aren’t “about” sex. Sex is part of a relationship. If it’s the reason for your relationship, you probably are better off with a prostitute or–if you’re more monogamously inclined–a mistress.
But it’s such an impoverished view of the whole man-woman dynamic. Anyway, here’s what I wrote, with some additional notes:
Actually, the theme of the “cheapskate girlfriend” is not at all uncommon in a relationship where the woman has or controls the money. That particular phrase isn’t common, I’d grant. (“Stingy bitch”, maybe.) This reflects more the fact that men don’t complain much about their women not giving them money because society associates masculinity with economic prowess.
Women talking about cheapskate men was used as evidence of their material natures. But women also complain of stingy lovers and, truthfully, stinginess in all areas of life. Sometimes people just complain. Other times, well, it’s easier to say “He’s tight with money” than “he doesn’t love me.”
And, certainly, women make this association, too, to a degree. Women who use this as their primary criterion are known as “gold diggers”, a phrase which most wouldn’t appreciate as a descriptor much more than “whore”.
Saying that “most women trade sex for material goods at one time or another” but then trying to defend it as “well, it’s not professional, so they’re not whores” seems a bit specious to me. Isn’t “trading sex for material goods” the very definition of prostitution? How is it not “professional” if they’re getting paid for it? Are they pro-am?
I also don’t buy Sofa King’s addition of “a close personal relationship”, either. The phrase was “material goods”. There’s a qualitative difference between “close personal relationship” and “jewelry”.
There was a little sleight-of-hand here. Revenant used the word “material” and Sofa King added relationships as something men give women for sex. This is one of the creepier notions. Young people get into relationships because of sex–and, certainly, women were traditionally the gatekeeper (“no sex until we’re married”) because they were risking more.
I’ll get into this more later, but sex sex. In other words, if a man and a woman have sex, it’s not necessarily an equal exchange. In fact, it’s probably almost never an equal exchange. The woman’s risk is greater, partners’ sexual apettites are almost always going to be different or out of sync, and just the raw value of time and attention is unequal from person-to-person.
Men and women in relationships do things that lead to sex. You could cynically attach a monetary value to all those things, and say they were both trading things for sex.
This is belied by the fact that the exchanges continue even when sex isn’t in the picture. And sex continues even when there’s no material trade.
One might: have sex to strengthen a unit that better survives in the word; have sex to get pregnant; have sex because it has a physiological and psychological benefit for your partner; have sex just for sex–because it’s fun.
None of this is prostitution or “trading for material goods”. Most of it falls into the category of “moral”.
Sofa King actually said “What is the moral basis for saying that any one of these forms of compensation is superior to any other?” Which is just kind of silly. Morality has all kinds of things to say about when sex is okay and when it’s not. Sex is one of the driving forces of morality.
But the part that made Darcy sad and which I thought was–well, demonstrably false as well as cynical–was when Rev said “A guy who tries building a relationship on kind words and deeds and going dutch on everything isn’t going to get any. The relationship is probably going to die early on, too.”
If I were to make an observation about women, it might be that they’re shallow. I’d say the same thing about men, too, though, and I’d add a caveat: They’re superficially shallow. Heh. That is to say, we all judge based on outward appearances at first. Guys go for the pretty girl, women go for the rich guy–and, frankly, I’ve never seen good looks work against a man, or money work against a girl.
But ultimately, most of us look a little deeper, and a guy can go a long way on kindness–even if he doesn’t mean it.
As clichéd as all this stuff about women + gifts is, isn’t there also a cliché about the poor young couple starting out with nothing but love? (True story: A friend of mine is celebrating his wife’s birthday by taking her to the park and picking flowers from their garden, etc. Guaranteed he’s “getting some” tonight.)
There are a lot of other clichés that don’t fit neatly into the women-as-whore paradigm. Lots of men are supported by women. Medical students hook up with nurses (and then when they’re established drop them for showgirls). Starving artists hook up with waitresses. Starving artists mutually work menial jobs, supporting each other as best they can.
No, in practice, there are only a few situations where this idea works out at all.
Do women sometimes receive an expensive gift that they respond to with sex? Sure. Some relationships degenerate to the point where the only worthy expression of affection is money from him and sex from her.
But in a healthy relationship–one that isn’t going to end when her beauty or his money runs out–when an expensive gift moves a woman to sex, it’s because it represents something else: The attention of the male and his demonstration that he values her, that he’s willing to work or sacrifice for her, and so on.
In other words, there is an exchange going on. It’s just not a material one.
Rev and I have locked horns many times over materialism. He’s a materialist; he believes in nothing but matter. I think that’s pretty silly because, you know, why would I bother with a piece of meat? Heh.
But a materialist is sort of stuck here: If there is no spiritual component to life then there has to be a material exchange of some sort, if you are kind to someone, that has to trigger something in their brain that releases a chemical that makes them feel good, or some damn thing.
In the stereotypical situation, where the man wants sex more than the woman, his sexual attention is at less of a premium. It can be self-centered. If she’s not in the mood, sex can be her gift to him. (Wise women know this and wise men appreciate it.)
But how does he reciprocate? However good and considerate a lover he may be, where’s the exchange in terms of doing something for your partner that you wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to?
You think women respond to expensive gifts? Try doing the dishes. Paint a room. Fix something around the house. Rub her feet. Give her a back rub (that doesn’t end up as a breast massage). Try easing her burden a little bit. Do something you wouldn’t do except that it makes her feel good.
Try writing a poem or a song or doing something that demonstrates her place in your heart. Yeah, you stink at it, and it’s embarrassing, but she loves it. Perform it in front of an audience.
Hell, just show her affection during day-to-day life. Maybe you both have jobs and kids and things are crazy, but you give out the same sort of “we’re on our honeymoon” types of signals as you pass in the hallway, and see if that that diamond ring doesn’t turn brass.
The “sex for stuff” paradigm only works with particular sorts of relationships with particular sorts of women.
Most women won’t put up with it.
Boy, is that last line true. My favorite female commenters: knox, Darcy, Freeman, Ruth Anne, Amba–I can see them kicking a guy in the nuts who gave them a shiny bauble and expected sex in exchange for it. Women with any sense of self-esteem have a sharp sense of when you’re calling them a whore, no matter how masked.
Women are funny that way: They’ll give freely and generously something you couldn’t ever buy from them.