Male Sexuality (un)Demonized

This is the first article, coauthored by Typhonblue and JohnTheOther, within the ‘Compassion for Men Movement’ theoretical framework.

The Compassion for Men Movement
1. Men deserve compassion and recognition of their humanity.
2. Compassion for men does not mean less compassion for women.
3. Compassion is not pity; it is composed of respect for an individual’s vulnerability and recognition of that individual’s agency.
4. Because the Compassion for Men movement, in respecting men’s vulnerabilities recognizes women’s agency, it also offers true compassion, not pity, to women.
5. The Compassion for Men Movement is thus the Compassion for Women Movement as well. And everybody wins.

Understanding breeds compassion, and so we begin with an examination of one of the most demonized aspects of men, their use of the services offered by the sex industry.

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.

25 thoughts on “Male Sexuality (un)Demonized

  1. 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.
    Agreed. I think people are too quick to say that men engage in these behaviors with the purpose of exercising power over women. While there are men that engage in that reasoning (but even then it may not be that a given man started from get go wanting power over women but grew to want power over women after something happened to him, but good luck finding that out in a culture where men are actively discouraged from talking about their pain) I can very easily see how there are also men that watch porn and hire strippers/prostitutes because they want someone to want them.

    Desire to be desired + Desire for sex being held up as a defining part of being a man = A man that wants to be desired in a sexual manner

  2. Can we move #2 down to second to last? That’s where it belongs…

  3. This hit very close to home. Feminine gaze is something that is very important in my fantasies while watching porn. Yes, I fantasize while I watch porn. I don’t just get off on looking at tits and asses as porn users are often described as. No, I create a complex narrative in my head that incorporates the visual side offered by porn and the fantasy I create in my head. For the women I’ll even invent a personality.

    Being desired is a fantasy that often comes up. For example it could simply be a picture of a coy woman into which I add myself and the picture is her reaction, maybe because I just got out of the shower and I’m naked. A woman surprises me with lingerie in an attempt to turn me on and get me ready for sex. The idea that she is practicing her sexual agency is also a total turn on. e.g. she gets excited by exploring her kinks and is willing to include me in the activity. I don’t really get turned on by just looking at flesh. Also this isn’t really objectifying her, she’s a thinking person with full agency, albeit a fictional one :)

    Porn movies already provide the fantasy. I like POV blowjob videos mainly because they’re so easy for me to place myself into the scene, and often the girl is enthusiastic about giving oral. Actually they are always enthusiastic about giving oral sex. I wouldn’t watch a video where that wasn’t the case. Enthusiastic consent is needed for the fantasy. Generally porn movies make the fantasy easier to create, but images give me more of a blank canvas for the fantasy, so to say.

    Also, as someone, who has used the services of a sex worker once, her enthusiasm was a vital part. Had she not shown such great enthusiasm for it (feigned or otherwise), I wouldn’t have gone through with it. I wouldn’t even have been turned on.

    I haven’t received much sexualized attention in real life. The best I ever received was a gay man’s responses to an intimate image of myself. That’s why I fantasize about it in porn. Being wanted turns me on and porn helps create the illusion. I even own underwear that could be described as male lingerie, because I feel they enhance my appeal.

    Damn, this was some very personal stuff for me to write about. Sorry if it was something too intimate to share.

  4. Thank you. I needed to see that written out by someone else.

    What follows is most likely messy, disjointed and not entirely on topic. I apologize, but I have never had the opportunity to get my thoughts in any kind of order on this topic due to the fact that society appears to go stark raving mad whenever it comes up and has left me with very muddled idea as a result.

    This imbalance is a big part of the reason I never became involved in the dating “scene”. The model of a romantic relationship presented to me by society is nothing but an endless sinkhole designed to absorb incalculable time and effort in exchange for no meaningful result. I have never felt desired, sexually or otherwise, and while that hurts me and causes me a decent amount of mental anguish, I have never felt the need to jump through someone else’s hoops for it. Desire obtained in that prescribed manner would be meaningless and do nothing to alleviate my condition. I don’t get the effect you describe out of pornography because I am at all times acutely aware of fantasy as fantasy, and I would not hire a stripper or a prostitute for the same reason. I do, however, make use of some forms of pornography for the benefits of the chemicals produced in the brain as a result (it does a lot to clear away built up stress; something which would otherwise require the use of drugs I would prefer to avoid). As others have said, the narrative and personality attached to pornographic images are what actually makes them work and, as with the above poster, the presentation of female sexual agency is important. I believe this is the most detail in which I have ever discussed the matter. Cultural standards and constant haranguing from all sides have left me with a lot of guilt and uncertainty about the whole thing and I have never felt comfortable discussing it in detail with anyone, even anonymously.

    The other reason I decided to stay clear of the whole relationship game is that the list of absurd, one-sided, often contradictory expectations involved is so absurd, so insultingly deranged, so incompetently designed, that if a person were to write it down, hand it to me and ask me to comply with it I would skin them alive and roast them in their own juices purely on principle.

    The real clincher, though, came when I actually stopped to think about the value of people. I realized that I myself was accorded no inherent value as a person, only value accrued through my actions, and I failed, and still fail, to see why it should be different for anyone else. Looking at things in that light, the women around me, whose validation society tells me I am supposed to be seeking, are utterly incapable of providing that validation because they fail to do anything I find to be meaningful and therefore fail to have value in my eyes.

  5. “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.”

    This is exactly why a gay man is such an affront to a straight woman, so much so that he can become an object of fascination. One way this gets worked out is by recruiting gay men as buddies to show off to other men. Note how even in the supposedly oh-so radical Redstockings group this dynamic is is full force, with gay men condemned as the ultimate embodiment of male privilege. Men going their own way and ignoring women is something that cannot be tolerated.

  6. This is an extremely important point that many feminists would deny to their dying breath: male sexual behavior is driven not by greed, but by hunger. The vast majority of men face an issue of genuine scarcity that no woman will ever have to endure. There are support systems for women (unacknowledged though they often are); a woman can ask for, and receive help if she’s in trouble. A man who asks for help proves himself unworthy of it because he has failed at being a man.

    In terms of sex, men do want orgasms, of course. But they also want intimacy and female attention, and to feel desired (something many, many men will never know even once in their lives). Women may feel ugly and unwanted and rejected and any number of things, but at the bottom line, no woman ever has to go without intimate touch if she doesn’t want to. Men do.

    A recent discussion on TGMP used the ‘grocery store’ analogy. Women are living in a supermarket. Now, a lot of them can’t afford the best quality items, or the most nutritious, or the best packaged; they may have to subsist on junk food and even eat things that they’re sick of and are bad for them. But while they argue about quality, nutrition, price and portion size… there are men outside starving to death.

  7. @Typhonblue, you keep managing to say a lot of what’s been on my mind, but in such a pithy way. So lately something personal has been weighing on me to the point where I’ve been thinking, “I can’t be the only guy who goes through this.” And then it hit me, when I put two and two together.

    How do these statements look like when they appear side by side? First yours, then WebMD.

    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…

    WebMD:
    http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/signs-of-a-codependent-relationship

    Codependency can also arise when a partner is self-absorbed or uninterested, Tessina says. This may happen “in a relationship where only one of you is ever asking to get together or making moves toward the other one.”

    That, right there. That is the trouble.

  8. In other words, dating a typical woman and having to follow the male dating script is a lot like dating an alcoholic. I rest my case.

  9. Just gonna say that even talking about this is an excuse for certain types of feminists to shame men. As in, (as THEY say, not me) “oh it’s always about men not getting their wienies touched”. Or to say something about the “fragile male ego” because men don’t want to be putting themselves out there to be rejected.

  10. “Or to say something about the “fragile male ego” because men don’t want to be putting themselves out there to be rejected.”

    So what do they call it when women shy away from putting themselves out there, or complain about how often they get rejected? “Men say they want women to approach them, but when I do, some of them turm me down!!! Such misogyny!!”

    “In other words, dating a typical woman and having to follow the male dating script is a lot like dating an alcoholic. I rest my case.”

    The way this socety distorts so many girls into this kind of woman is no better than foot-binding. It’s psychological foot-binding. Society rips the conscience right out of them. They do behave like alcholics, demanding, wheedling and unaccountable.

    “Codependency can also arise when a partner is self-absorbed or uninterested, Tessina says. This may happen “in a relationship where only one of you is ever asking to get together or making moves toward the other one.”
    That, right there. That is the trouble.”

    The very first thing you learn in any couple’s counseling is that the one who wants it the least has all the power. It’s the same as when you are trying to make a sale. It’s Negotiating 101.

  11. Debaser:
    Why should I care?
    That’s a shaming tactic, not an argument, and a shaming tactic only works as long as its targets value the opinions of their attackers. Refusing to discuss real issues out of fear that they might get upset and start name-calling is handing them control of the debate. Refusing to crumple or hide in the face of their temper tantrums is a huge blow to the kind of power they have been accustomed to wield.

    I do not care what flies have to say, except when it is my duty to debunk it, and neither should you.

  12. “As in, (as THEY say, not me) “oh it’s always about men not getting their wienies touched”. ”

    debaser, it’s a good sign when your opponent has to resort to misrepresentation and strawmanning.

  13. @Ginkgo, the problem, of course, is that a relationship is not just a sales negotiation. The problem is that women are trained to leave men who do not engage in codependant behavior. Women are trained to threaten the entire relationship if the do not get what they want, how they want it, when they want it. Remember the ones who will tell a man, “if you don’t propose, I’m leaving!” This is female sociopath at work and it gives men very little choice. If you love someone, it hurts a lot more than a failed sale over a failure to agree on price. It is not an acceptable outcome. And unlike a sales negotiation, this happens over and over again, so that a man is at risk of losing it all if he simply attempts to be passive and allow the woman to initiate once in a while.

  14. “@Ginkgo, the problem, of course, is that a relationship is not just a sales negotiation.”

    Only for a healthy person with a moral sense. You for instance.

    “The problem is that women are trained to leave men who do not engage in codependant behavior. Women are trained to threaten the entire relationship if the do not get what they want, how they want it, when they want it.”

    That is a transactional approach to relationships. It is sick and immoral. It does in fact turn a relationship into a sales negotiation. And that turns them into prostitutes.

  15. “Remember the ones who will tell a man, “if you don’t propose, I’m leaving!” This is female sociopath at work and it gives men very little choice. If you love someone, it hurts a lot more than a failed sale over a failure to agree on price. It is not an acceptable outcome.”

    That degree of manipulation is sociopathic. Yes, it hurts to be treated like an object, disposable, but the threat of rejection is a godsend; it may be your only opportunity to get free. Believe me, as someone who was deeply in love with a narcissist, that that hurt of rejection is the best possible outcome you can have. Far, far worse is to have them decide to hang on to you. They are much better at hanging on than a a normal person is at breaking free.

    Narcissists are very, very good at getting people to fall in love with them. They can do it on many levels. It’s a manifestation of the way they objectify the rest of us and manipulate us. That aide of John Edwards who is testifying now said he fell in love with him, on a non-sexual level, at a rally, and the by the time it was done he was doing yardwork for him along with his normal campaign job.

  16. Just for the record, I never played the dating game. I never “hit on” anyone. And, even though a tried for a short while to converse with certain kinds of feminists, I’ve stopped. (NSWATM, for example) Too many don’t want to have honest discussions. Too many want basically to preach feminist dogma at you. They have nothing to offer me. I have better things to concern myself with than the shaming tactics used by girls half my age.

  17. I don’t think that transactional or even prostition describes how i feel about it. Its like buying bombs from a bombmaker who has one ready to go off underneath your pile of bombs. And if you don’t like the price she is asking for, or if someone else offers her a higher price… then so long, sucker… the prior investment that you made in your relationship doesn’t matter to her at all. The longer you are in it, the more you have to lose, yet the less accountable she becomes. The more power she has over you, the more whimsical and flippant her actions become. It gets to the point where she invites you to her house but refuses to let you in by the time you got there. And it turns out that there is a whole other side of her that you never knew. The more she cheats on you, the more she actually demands of you. Its the damnedest thing. Instead of breaking up with you like a normal person would, she starts taking you for all you’re worth. And then when you finally find out, she gets mad and says that it’s all your fault because you are a horrible person who kept her captive this whole entire time…

  18. “I don’t think that transactional or even prostition describes how i feel about it.”

    No. What you are describing is sociopathy, not prostitution. flush twice just to make sure it doesn’t float back on you.

    Do you meet a lot of women like this? Do you meet any men that act in a similar way? Do you think your location has anything to do with the density of people who behave this way?

  19. Do you meet a lot of women like this? Do you meet any men that act in a similar way? Do you think your location has anything to do with the density of people who behave this way?

    I met her when I lived in a mid-sized rust belt city surrounded by lots of small, brain-drained working class towns, one of which she grew up in. I met several women similar to her over the years from that same part of the country. Obviously, I don’t want to take the most extreme example of something that I had ever experienced and apply it to all women across the board as if that’s how they all are. So I can’t really answer that question. I did two deployments to Iraq but this relationship has come closer to breaking me mentally than anything else.

  20. “I met her when I lived in a mid-sized rust belt city surrounded by lots of small, brain-drained working class towns, one of which she grew up in. I met several women similar to her over the years from that same part of the country.”

    You know, I fell stupidly in love with someone from western Arkansas, a true narcissist, another such emigre from mediocrity who fled to the bright lights to find his true destiny. There may be a commonality there. I don’t think it has to do with a specific part of the country; I think it has to do with thinking oneself too talented to waste their life in obscurity in the heartland.

  21. Well, TB, there’s another (smaller) issue involved as well.

    When you invite a woman out on a date, whether or not she actually arrives is basically up to her. Maybe she’s got a teeny headache. Maybe she doesn’t feel like it. Maybe, I dunno, she decided to screw some other man so she forgot about you. Hey, who can keep all of her appointments straight? Right?

    But when you hire a prostitute to show-up at a certain time and there’s money on the line, she may actually show-up.

    It’s a little bit to have a sexual relationship with someone who stands you up.

  22. It’s a little bit HARD to have a sexual relationship with someone who stands you up, I mean.

  23. Unfortunately the “girls should just sit around while guys queue up to hit on them until she picks one” unspoken social rule is probably centuries old, they’re in Western fairy tales where princes and some handsome poor farm boy compete for the princesses hand in marriage.

    Some women I know are even scared that if they go up to the man they desire, he won’t see her as feminine enough any more. I should have known that was BS, I’ve always gone after men I’m interested in and it seems a hell of a lot better than playing hard-to-get. (Though this behavior might come from me thinking I was a boy until middle school). I sympathize with this article, all of the burden for pursuit and rejection in the dating game is expected to be placed on men. Many of my male friends have stated that they would rather settle for dying alone than continue to play the game. Unfortunately for women I think this is related to the recent popularity of the term “friend zoned” which I hear thrown around by guys when they get non-sexual attention from women. Under the assumption that women have all the power to choose and reject potential mates, it makes it impossible for women to have male friends without men assuming she has chosen them as a potential mate. In that way, there’s reason for women to be against this custom as well.

    Which brings me to Ginkgo’s very earlier post about why women have gay friends. I think those women actually just want a male friend that will never accuse them of ‘leading them on’ or try to make their relationship more than friends. For me personally, all of my close gay friends (a whopping 2, so I’m not an expert on this) started out as friends and then decided to come out of the closet. For the years I spent as part of LGBTQ groups, I have yet to meet a gay man that didn’t recognize when he was being used by his straight female ‘friends’ (whether they choose to continue the friendship is another issue). So in my experience, I believe your opinion is inaccurate and outdated.

  24. @Ginkgo, yes I think that the process of urbanization creates those kinds of people starting in the heartland and then concentrates them in big cities. So I don’t think it’s an either/or type of scenario where true narcissists can only be created in New York or LA. Either way, I also don’t know how peculiar that problem is to women, but I must say that the combination of gender roles and cultural memes makes it particularly toxic to individual men when women do it. I think that perhaps a male sociopath has more potential to harm a large number of people but the women are more adept at creating personal hells that go largely unnoticed as a pervasive social issue. So I will conclude to say that it is female gender roles and narcisism, which are independent of one another in how they develop, but when combined within one woman, that seem to cause a very special kind of abusive behavior.

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