Male sexuality, un-demonized

 

[box]Understanding breeds compassion, and so, within the theoretical framework of the Compassion for Men Movement, we begin with an examination of one of the most demonized aspects of men, their use of the services offered by the sex industry.
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A survey of men who seek gratification through commercial sex services – either porn, or prostitution, or lap dances or any other commercial sex showed that rather than men seeking sexual gratification as rutting animals – modelled on the Dworkinian view of men as subhuman; men’s motivation to seek commercial sex is based on the human need to be recognized as desirable. This runs contrary to the populist notion of male sexuality as debased, inferior and pathological.

Socially, men are expected to validate women’s value as objects of sexual desire by exhibiting attraction, affection, and deference, but at the same time, men are also expected to weather a culturally normal climate of pre-emptive rejection. Further men must pass tests of fitness, financial and physical, to ‘prove’ the worth of their desire. All of these expectations validates the feminine fantasy of hyper-desirability; desirability beyond the humanly possible.

The self validation of women and girls by rejection of positive male attention is expressed in hundreds of small, socially normal gestures and practices. De-escalation of male initiated social contacts. Two messages or more required for a single call-back. Voice message left, but only a text message returned. All these variations on ‘playing hard to get’ reflects a normal social protocol in which men, on whom the onus has always been to initiate social contact, have to make a more overt effort than that which is returned, even when the woman in question desires that contact. This establishes a climate in which men automatically assume a low level of ongoing social rejection. This is normal across our culture, and masculine complaint can be easily punished through the censure of “wimp”, “sissy” and similar minor insult.

Feminine attire which puts secondary sexual characteristics on display is standard in casual clothing as well as evening attire or less formally “party clothes”. The obvious purpose of such clothes being to amplify the wearer’s overt feminine sexuality and command attention. Conversely, although all men are expected to respond with positive attention, only those passing the feminine test of high status or conspicuous wealth are allowed to express their stimulated attention. This is the social levy exacted, but only returned to those males overtly demonstrating their utility as dispensers of upward social mobility and feminine access to resources. Men expressing the attraction or desire socially assumed of them also risk censure if such expression is mis-timed, too overt, or for any reason, not reciprocated.

This elaborate, confusing dance becomes much simpler in the lens of manufacturing hyper-desire. The more obstacles a man must overcome to express his desire the more the woman feels desired by the man.

Romance novels can be reduced down to a simple formula in which female desirability inspires grandiose acts of self-sacrifice on the part of the male. The men in romance novels are ‘eyeballs and actions’, empty ciphers that exist only to illuminate the hyper-desirability of the female protagonist.

In fact this whole system, from shaming of male sexuality as debased through the expectation that men weather rejection without end in order to manufacture hyper-desire for women to it’s vetting of which men are allowed to desire—excludes men from a fundamental human need—developed through eons of evolution as pair-bonders—the feeling of being desirable.

In discussions of female sexual objectification for the purpose of marketing to man, the usual language describing imagery of women usually refers to “tits and ass”. However, research from the Center for Behavioural Neuroscience in Atlanta[1] shows that depiction of the feminine gaze is key to male attraction to such images. It is, in fact, the sexual agency of an attractive woman, as expressed through a direct gaze towards the male subject that lights up the male’s reward response system. [2] When an attractive woman is presented as a ‘sex object’ her gaze averted and herself unengaged with him—his reward system is unresponsive.

To put it simply, men look at porn to feel sexually desirable. Men pay strippers to get positive, sexualized attention from women. Men use prostitutes to feel like whole sexual beings.

It is, in fact, the basic human need to feel not only loved, but sexually desired turns out to be what drives the use of commercial sexual services by men. Most women are aware that being a woman does not detract from their sexual desirability; most men are acutely aware that being a man most certainly does. In that context male sexual fantasies revolve around male sexuality simply being desirable. Porn can be likened to the fantasies of an impoverished developing nation—it’s people imagine a world with abundant and plentiful food. Romance novels are, on the other hand, the fantasies of a prosperous nation—sprawling McMansions, yachts, vacations to the Caribbean.

In this context the social censure against men’s self medication for the psychic wound inflicted on them by women’s thirst for hyper-desirability is just as morally bankrupt as a prosperous nation sneering at the ‘base and animalistic urges’ of an impoverished nation for food and clean water.

We starve men, then shame them for their hunger and then when they reach for what little food is within their grasp, we smack their hand away.

[1] http://www.science20.com/news_articles/gender_and_porn_where_men_and_women_look_first
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOY3QH_jOtE&feature=player_detailpage#t=2743s

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