Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Collaboration over Confrontation

I found an article I liked a lot titled The Danger of Demonizing Male Sexuality that talks about the way that we talk about and understand hetero relationships.  The basic point is that as long as we continue to frame these relationships as men pursuing women and women fending off men we are going to perpetuate some of the big issues we see today like rape culture and sexual assault.  In order to combat these things we need not only to tell men that they need to behave (which we do, for a certainty) but also change the very way we all think about hetero relationships from a pursuit model to a collaborative model.

When we portray male sexuality as predatory and men as beasts while simultaneously portraying women as lacking sexual desire and as passive targets we set up everyone involved to fail.  I think dick pics are actually a great way to understand how this arises.  Women who are involved in online dating often complain that they are bombarded by pictures of penises.  The reaction to such stories is usually "Ewww, gross, who wants to see THAT?"  While this reaction is definitely understandable, especially from people who get a lot of pictures and don't want them, it should not be assumed to be universal.

The problem here is twofold.  First off, sending pornographic pictures to random people who may or may not want them is rude and unpleasant and people should stop doing that.  However, there is another problem on the other end when people suggest that in fact nobody would ever be attracted to a penis or that a picture of one could not possibly be arousing.  Plenty of people (not limited to women, of course, but that is the focus of this particular discussion) are in fact attracted to penises and some like pictures of them.  Telling people that penises are never attractive sends the message that straight cis men need to be aggressive and predatory because nobody is going to want to have sex with them unless that other person is forced, tricked, or bribed into doing so.

Demonizing straight male sexuality is actually a thing a lot of PUA and MRA  types yell about.  They often attack feminists using this as a strawman, claiming that all feminists just want men to disavow their desires and accept that they are wrong, bad, and immoral.  It isn't true of the great majority of feminists of course but these undercurrents in the way our society talks about male desire do exist and they matter.  We aren't going to fix all of the problems with PUAs or MRAs with any one change but I think altering the way we talk about male sexuality so that we aren't demonizing it and talking about relationships as cooperative ventures instead of competitions will keep some men from falling into these destructive groups, hopefully by helping them fall into good relationships.

The message that we need to send is not that men and male desire are icky but rather that particular actions are icky.  Unsolicited spam of pornography is icky.  Sending naked selfies to people who have indicated a desire to see said selfies on the other hand can be super sexy and that is true no matter who the sender and receiver are or what bits they have.  The message we need to get across is that people are all sexy to some people and not sexy to other people and this is true across all body types and genders.  We also need to make it clear that relationships and sex are about mutual desire, working together, and collaboration.  There is somebody out there for everybody though certainly some people will have an easier time finding partners than others.

Everyone is beautiful to someone.  Our desires are not wrong, no matter what they are.  What we need to focus on is finding other people to cooperate with to make our desires come true in ways that make everyone involved happy.

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