And now let us bring Sex Offender Week to a close. Did you enjoy talking about manhood and TV and the music and the bros? Well, don’t run off yet, here is one parting thought on the matter of contemporary gender relations!
“The last few decades have left us so profoundly disoriented about the most urgent personal matters — gender roles, sexual norms, the possibility of creating lasting romantic relationships, not to mention absolutely everything to do with family structure — that it’s no surprise to find people embracing a theory that promises to restore order.” -William Deresiewicz, “Adaptation: On Literary Darwinism,” The Nation, May 20, 2009.
The basic features of the male sexual character are concisely enumerated in Uncyclopedia’s exquisite description of Bertrand Russell. “He liked sex. Lots of sex. Sex with women, Sex with men, Sex with animals, Sex with your mum, sex with a tree, sex with a surfboard. If it had a hole or could be straddled, he was on it or in it.” *
Bertrand Russell was a Nobel-prizewinningly priapic proponent of Free Love, and he had enough theories on the subject to choke a horse. These theories mainly involved a lot of “freedom” to engage in heaps of free-lovemaking, for he was an eye-crossingly randy devil who married four times and had an unbelievable number of lovers. Though it must be said that Russell did not fare quite so well in the courts of Venus in practical terms as he did theoretically. His first marriage to Alys Pearsall Smith started to unravel when he went out on his bicycle one day in 1901 and decided he didn’t love her anymore. They didn’t divorce until twenty years later, by which time the old goat had boffed a zillion other women, including but not limited to Lady Ottoline Morrell, Helen Dudley, and Lady Constance Malleson. Several of Russell’s lovers went crazy, unsurprisingly. Reflecting on the mess when he was nearly eighty, he wrote, “[W]hat a failure I have made of my life, as a husband & as a father. I have tried to think the fault was other people’s but the repetition seems to show that it can’t be.” Then he got married again.
In what can’t have amounted to much spare time, Russell also co-authored Principia Mathematica, went to jail for conscientious objection, founded analytic philosophy, met and was appalled by V.I. Lenin, nearly died of pneumonia in China, and told his protégé, Wittgenstein, to put down that poker at once.
The reality but rarely fits the theory of a person’s love life; the reality is a very, very difficult business to control, even if you have a mind as fine and agile as Russell’s. The body has a way of betraying us. We’ve very often observed that the men’s bodies, especially, are forever getting the better of them; this is true even in our own enlightened age, as illustrated by the Facebook exchange just yesterday between my 22-y.o. nephew Max and our cousin Lou:
Max: Women who listen to hip-hop are sexy.
Lou: At your age, women who breathe are sexy.
Max: You make a valid point!
Men! They simply cannot control themselves; we know this. It’s the overarching, undergirding lizard-brain reality of men, especially the younger ones. If they had their druthers, every female that would stand still for long enough would have her skirt up over her head, there is no question. The gay ones are just the same, except with trousers. Men really are not generally built for the deep, “meaningful” variety of love, let alone for monogamy, at least not until a terrific quantity of oats has been sown. I don’t say that men don’t want a lasting emotional connection; they do; they’re just too overwhelmed by their physical imperatives to think about anything else. This is why it has traditionally been up to the women to Say No.
Saying No to a new partner is not too difficult for women; Science calls this relative difference between us the Coolidge Effect, and it is a real, measurable difference. Saying No is also easy for female hamsters, and also rats, and pretty much every other species that has been tested, including hermaphroditic pond snails.
The underlying reality, then, is that the gentlemen always want to and we do not always want to; and how to alter that, by means of mere theories?! Why try to alter it, even? What is wrong with all those fun things like at least holding hands first and poetry and getting to know someone’s sense of humor, and maybe even waiting for ages and being well and truly pursued? I ask you. There is something in it for all parties to wait for the dial of anticipation to turn up to eleven, instead of just giving in when it has only reached an anemic two.
There are a number of ways in which a man might induce a woman to say Yes. The pleasurable, sporting methodology here involves raillery, wit, chocolates, flowers and the composition of fruity poetry and/or songs. A softly-strummed guitar may appear on the scene. A loaf of bread, a jug of wine. Breathless phone calls that last half the night, etc.
The unpleasant, unsporting method of getting a woman to say Yes is to appeal to her political duty. A more drably uninspiring rationale for love can only be found among those Christian sects that go in for the “temple garments.” In any case, it’s all the same thing! Even the Mormons make a duty of sex for women; in their case it’s wifely procreation we’re supposed to feel all dutiful about, rather than gender politics. Make no mistake, however, there are all kinds of institutionalized coercion. If you want to complain about male hegemony, here you go! They’ll use literally any pretext available to get you to take your clothes (except the garments, which by the way won’t stop â€˜em) off.
The requirements of this newfangled “performative” sexuality are totally intruding on a valuable cultural preserve: the art of courtship. We are all of us winding up with less romance; is there anything of value that we are getting in exchange?
The new swiz works as follows. It is exactly like the “free love” of Russell, exactly like the bra-burning 1960s and exactly like the “liberated” 1970s. The current thinking likewise requires women to divest themselves of all their antiquated notions, and pants, and thereby “free” themselves to couple according to “their own wishes.” By this reckoning, it is the duty of every enlightened female to put across in order to show how enlightened she is. She won’t submit or succumb, perhaps she will even aggressively pursue. And because banging a lot of guys is a demonstration of enlightenment, the traditional blandishments are no longer required in order to get girls into bed. Also de rigueur for girls is a lot of noise about the condition of their own libido, which evidently makes them not unladylike or blabby, but “equal.” Any woman with the slightest bit of restraint is going to be yelled at for being a dowdy, outmoded essentialist. An enemy of the state, practically. And meanwhile, no romance for anybody.
Cui bono is the question we must ask. And the answer is almost always: the men. They bono. Believe me, I am happy to see the gentlemen getting all the love they can, provided they are kind, candid and pleasant in their ways. But we women are being hoodwinked, and surely it is only fair to say so. It seems we’re being had (again!) and in more ways than one.
* They are kidding, but still.