In a prior article posted on a US site and afterwards republished in this magazine I discussed what I felt to be the misandric double standards which adhere to contemporary writers of erotic-themed literature who happen to be phallically-afflicted; that is, male. In short, women who write explicit sex scenes are applauded for not being repressed – you go, girl! — while men who do the same are looked at askance as queasy perverts, creepy stalkers, and likely rapists. It is part of a general cultural Zeitgeist-sponsored trend which promotes obstreperous expressions of female sexuality as good and proper exercises in ‘sex-positivity’ and ‘empowerment’, while denigrating male arousal as something altogether icky and gross.
Of course, this contemporary trend is complex, complicated, and weaves a tangled web through a forest of contradictions. The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, scandalizes mainstream feminists and left-liberal cultural commissars not because the book is so poorly written (E.L. James is hardly the first author of dubious talents to become rich and famous), but because its hero Christian Grey embodies all of the old-fashioned attributes of the sexy romance novel hunk: he’s ambitious, cocky, powerful, and dominant: a true alpha male, whose kinky tastes only heighten his appeal to women. To the more staid and orthodox of our ideological ruling elite, it is, of course, deeply improper for any woman to swoon over any man, particularly one whose tastes run towards putting women into positions of bondage and submission. Thus, like the 2002 movie Secretary, Fifty Shades offers an ironic challenge to the ‘you go, girl’ school of sex-positive feminism: it would appear that even in our enlightened time, women still tend to be turned on by the notion of being ravished, ravaged, and dominated by a dashing, lusty brute. Does sex-positivity still apply in such cases? The prim, priggish, and puritanical feminist old-guard and the younger, more free-spirited, so-called ‘do-me’ feminists appear to part ways, at times acrimoniously, on this front.
Still, it generally holds true that, with the exception of glamorous, handsome, and wealthy men like the fictional Christian Grey and his small number of counterparts in the real world, male kinks and quirks are not looked upon kindly in the Zeitgeist-influenced culture of misandry. For a case in point, let us consider a recent Saturday Night Live skit which functions as a humorous commercial for Amazon.com. This skit is illuminating as a portal into post-modern day prejudices, when one scrutinizes it closely and considers both what is presented and what is implied.
The premise of this segment is quite straightforward: with their children in tow, men walk in on their wives to surprise them with Mother’s Day gifts, only to find them masturbating to a recently Amazon-delivered copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. What follows is telling indeed. The kids are, naturally, oblivious to what is happening—one little girl seizes her mother’s vibrator and begins to play-sing into it as if it were a microphone. The women are embarrassed, but not overly so; in fact, they seem more annoyed by the interruption than anything else. (One burlesque exception is a grown man’s mother who’s lewdly gyrating against a washing machine in order to stimulate her crotch, and who doesn’t seem self-conscious in the least, though her son is mortified.) As for the men, they only appear ashamed of themselves, as if they’d committed a grave faux pas, and really ought to have known better. The message, though implicit, is clearly communicated: women have a right to their time of self-stimulated pleasure and privately-enjoyed orgasms, and if men interrupt these sessions, even accidentally and with the best of intentions, they’re going to wind up in the proverbial doghouse.
Now, let us consider a skit which features the opposite scenario. With her kids in tow on Father’s Day, a woman unknowingly busts in on her husband to find him jerking off to saucy online material.
Under such a circumstance, would we in any way expect the women to be apologetic? Would the men dare to display annoyance? Would there be any way to avoid the conclusion that the guy is an icky, appalling, disgusting cad, and that the poor lady has been horribly betrayed? Wouldn’t she, in fact, have grounds for divorce in such an instance, at least in the minds of many women today? Would the wife in our contrary scenario not at least be entitled to demand that her husband be dragged into therapy to discuss his ‘pornography addiction’?
But wait: if this is so, then why, in the first instance, do we find it understandable when the women in the SNL skit become irritated, and their husbands turn sheepish under the exact same conditions, mutatis mutandis?
Again, we see that, feminist claims to the contrary aside, it is hardly female sexuality which is loathed, feared, and reviled in popular culture today. Instead, behaviour which would otherwise be viewed with disdain if it had been performed by the man in the relationship is seen as perfectly appropriate, provided it’s the woman who’s privately indulging herself.
In other words, the doctrine of so-called ‘sex-positivity’ in no way applies to men, only to women. Is there some way to make sense of this glaring discrepancy, barring conspicuous misandry? I’m all ears, feminists. Explain this one.