Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Some Thoughts on Attraction

Amanda's taken on the "do women actually have sex drives"? crap, and since it's something I've been meaning to say a lot about, I'll dive off her post and take the opportunity.

I'm tired of arguing biological crap about differences between men and women. The big difference is, was, and for a while more at least, will be only this: most women can bear children. Men can't.

Because of that, we're going to view some things differently, particularly the sex thing, cause if women get pregnant, guess who's got to spend nine months giving blood and breath to creating a kid, and who's gonna be stuck raising that child? And women, built as we are, are also more suseptible to STDS. You've just got more surface area. It sucks, but it's true. For these two reasons alone, I'm incredibly picky about my sexual partners.

But let's not forget our social pressures, shall we?

And how fear of the female body and its desires can really fuck you up into thinking that women aren't people.

I was always pretty nuts about boys. In kindergarten, I had two "boyfriends," which I remember thinking was pretty risque at the time (looking back on it, it's funny, because the boys, Nick and Brian - damn, I remember their names 20 years later - were great indicators of what my grown-up taste would be. Troubled home lives, one of them skinny, smart and dorky, the other one more punkish, stout, with the spiked hair and leather jacket - seriously, his parents suited him up very well in kindergarten) and I spent most of gradeschool forming gangs of girls who would chase boys around the playground and tie them up to playground equipment with our scarves.

Later, as I got plumper and dorkier, I attached myself to good guy buddies. Dorky Matthew and Aryan Adam were the two biggest ones from this period. I had very few female friends because it's tougher to find girls who won't play the girly game when you're in gradeschool, since that's the time when you're all rushing around trying to fit in.

After kindergarten, I always formed crushes on one boy in particular, and stuck with that crush for years, sometimes. Not only because it was expected of me to give an answer when asked what boy I had a crush on, but because it helped me narrow down the playing field. It just didn't seem appropriate to go wacky over that many boys, and I do think that I'm sort of hard-wired into serial monogamy. The idea of polyamoury just never worked for me on an emotional level, though there was a point in highschool when I did consider "sharing" a boyfriend with a girl I was hot on. This never happened for a number of reasons, but the big one was just because I couldn't do it, emotionally. I'm not built that way.

Highschool, I was pretty much just batshit insane. I hit highschool theater and there were all these available guys, and suddenly they were actually interested in me *back.* I'd never gone so wacky over so many guys in one year. This was also the first time where I could honestly say that, looking back on it, I had a crush on a girl - let's call her Mistress, who had this amazing, girl-next-door sexual appeal to both men and women, and who made the most of it (she was the one who wanted to share a boyfriend with me [which I couldn't deal with], and then she later got married, and invited me into a threesome with her husband. I was so drunk at the time that I told her, "You know, I'm totally cool with you, but your husband freaks me out. Maybe if you'd married somebody else...?"). Ah, batshit insane.

Undergrad was my second real girl crush, the one that was so incredibly wacky that every morning I woke up wishing I'd become a boy so I could date her (this is where my "and that girl in Speech class wasn't bad either" line comes from). After that, my last two years of college were a frickin' boyfest, which I won't go into detail about because my parents read this blog.

We had a lot of fun in Alaska.

The funny thing is, I always thought I was really weird for liking boys as much as I did and for thinking about sex all the time, and the masturbation thing for women is really tough to figure out because our culture's focused so much on penetrative sex. So you're kinda like, "OK, I'm doing that, that's not doing it for me. And it's kinda messy. Is there an easier way to do this? What's the trick, here?"

The trick, of course, is to gear yourself out of the "penetration" mode, and go for the "What would lesbians do?" mode.

There's a lot to be learned from watching lesbian porn.

You also get a lot of "fear and disgust" of the female body thrown your way pretty early on (there's that crazy moment at puberty when you suddenly realize you're not a real person after all, you're the "other" you're one of those *women*), so you're also battling a lot of "don't touch yourself, ewww gross" stuff. To be a woman in a society that says women are weak and icky can be... tough. To say the least.

So you don't learn how to masturbate in sex ed, and it's not as incredibly obvious as men's masturbation, which always seemed to me like it would be easy to figure out. If you know the mechanics of penetrative sex, you're going to try and simulate it. Trouble is, stimulation for women is mostly about the clitoris, with the penetration part a sort of added bonus for most people.

Luckily, once you figure that out, honey, it's all over.

Funny thing is, though I was always sure I had a serious sex drive, I was always worried about it. Most of the women I talked to in high school didn't actually like sex. Or, they said they didn't. It was something they sort of "gifted" to their boyfriends to keep them happy, they said.

This never made sense to me, as I was always happy to jump on my boyfriend (`till things soured, of course)... and would have been really happy to jump on other people in highschool, too, but women have that "slut" label hanging over their heads. Once you sleep with a guy, you've gotta keep on for a "decent" period in order to be... decent. As previously discussed, this one got me into a lot of trouble, and I stayed with somebody far, far longer than I should have.

It's only been recently that I've fessed up to my attraction for real and allowed myself to stare at boys on the train - never face-on of course, as that "invitation to harrassment/rape" thing is always over my head, too (look at all these social inhibitors to the visibility of female desire) - but you better bet that when the tall, pretty guy in well-fitting suit turns around, I'm totally checking out his ass.

And for those women who keep track of such things: during the four days a month or so when I'm ovulating, I know it - sexual drive spikes on par with any guy's at any time of the day, because suddenly all boys everywhere are beautiful "and that sweetheart female cello player on the train with the short hair isn't bad either." I want to bundle up all the boys and take them home and shower them in kisses. When I'm ovulating, even Blaine the football player looks damn good for a night.

It's really awful.

And it took me forever to come to grips with it, because "girls aren't supposed to feel that way." Girls aren't supposed to think so much about sex, and though I'm still emotionally a serial monogamist, I recognize that the myth of the libido-less female just doesn't apply to me in the least.

I think we're raised to be afraid of our bodies and what they desire: sex, food, strength, and so we don't listen to our bodies and acknowledge what we want.

If you want to know what a lot of female hysteria/wackiness is about, I'd say it's this: being taught to be a non-person, somebody who's not supposed to feel any sort of desire for anything at all, and trying to operate on that level.

That'll drive anybody batfuck insane.

5 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Hell, sometimes I feel like the best thing my mom did for me was get really sick when I was in 5-7th grades (she later got totally better - transplants rock!). I was so wrapped up in her and the multitude of other family issues going on at the time that I was pretty much left friendless and I spent all my time with my nose in a book. I rarely noticed and never internalized all this crap about women not having sex drives or women not being able to be friends with other women. By the time I came out of that isolation my first close female friend introduced me to romance novels (the good ones where the women are spunky and intelligent and heroic and get their way because they're right) so I always thought of sex as a good thing. [Though I must admit I caught myself having a very strange reaction when I read the second Alanna book a few weeks ago. I had read Trickster's Choice first - about Alanna's daughter so I knew who Alanna married and I was therefore seriously taken aback/upset when she had sex with Jon. My default for both fantasy and romance is that sex before marriage is fine but I expect those characters to end up getting married. While I, intellectually, realize that having three sexual partners in a life time is neither excessive or objectionable I still had the gut reaction of "No, you can't have sex with him! You're going to marry George!"]

I guess what I'm saying is that I missed out on having all those girly conversations in Middle School, so when I thought about having sex all the time (and seriously, it was insane even if I didn't act on it) I just assumed everyone did.  

Posted by Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Now I look at that last post I seem a bit too perfect, which I'm not. I may have never learned to think of myself as female and therefore icky, and I have no problem acknowledging my sex drive. But I don't actually act on that sex drive, because that would require something along the lines of social skills, something I probably should have developed in those years I spent with my nose stuck in a book. So, you know, everything has trade-offs. Now I just need to find somebody who appreciates and can match my sex drive while simultaneously dealing with the fact that I am unable to make any overtures towards a person that I consider attractive.  

Posted by Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Oh, I always secretly hoped she'd end up with George. The Jon sex was just like an added Alanna bonus: that hot guy you always lusted over but never got to go to bed with... The guy you actually want to hang with till your last breath leaves your body, though, is gonna be your buddy. George is great. I was gleeful about that pairing.

Damn, I need to reread those books. Alanna so rocks.

But yes, I had a similiar reaction to reading Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders books - I actually stopped reading after book one because it really bugged me that what's her name - Altea? Althea's? - first sexual experience was her lusting after some random sailor. My brain went "slut," and I lost all respect for her. Funny, how you internalize that stuff.

And yet, I was in love with Kennit... Kennikan.. whatever the hell the pirate's name was, and the prostitute he's hot on, who ends up kicking some ass, and saves him by chopping off his leg.

Yea. Good stuff. ;)

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

I think the last time I reread them I was ass over teakettle for some dude who reminded me of Liam, the fighter guy. (Tangentially, the same guy reminds me of a number of fantasy characters, notably including Tiger from the Tiger & Del books by whoever she is. I'm so glad I'm not dating him.)

But of course George is better. Of course Jon was going to be all like, but you're beautiful when you're a lady. (Also tangentially, I once had a student tell me all the things I was doing weren't lady-like. Since we were on a backpacking course I was leading, I was simultaneously amused and taken aback. Who the hell wants to be lady-like on a 7-day backpacking trip? Certainly not the kind of person who leads it.)

Kameron, I'm going to have to pick your brain for spec fic recommendations. Are you ok with random web folks emailing you? I'd send you to my blog to prove that I'm a decent/interesting person, but I don't have one. 

Posted by Laurel

Anonymous said...

::snicker:: e-mail away. If I think people are psychos, I just don't write back as much... kameron_hurley AT hotmail.com

Incidently, it was Jennifer Roberson who wrote the Tiger & Del novels. I love those books.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley