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Men Watch Porn, Women Read Romance. Why?

Years ago I met a man who intrigued me. He was my first real love. But I didn’t go headlong into a relationship, I wanted to get to know him, understand him.

I became the detective, trying to determine whether he was right for me. Was he devoted, caring? Empathetic? Did he appreciate me? Was he in love with me or was I just a passing fancy?

He thought understanding each other was overrated.

My sleuthing confirmed my initial attraction – that he was deep. Unless the subject was sex and relationship, which he thought were the same thing. Big problem!

I eventually learned that this dynamic – men seeking sex and women seeking answers – is not unusual. It is even reflected in the erotica we seek.

A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal by Ogi Ogas says that men search the internet for two-minute clips that are all about skin and explicit sex. Women’s erotica is more like detective novel meets romance, and takes hours to read and digest. (The number of women romance readers and male online porn viewers are about the same. And keep in mind that one in 10 men are into romance while one in 10 women check out porn clips.)

The men’s interest is simple, uncomplicated. But women more likely want character-driven stories that reveal the lover’s nature. Sex is not for its own sake, and not with impersonal strangers.

As Ogas notes, the female cortex is highly developed and skillfully scrutinizes all available evidence – social, emotional and physical, somewhat consciously but largely not. All this leads to a general feeling of favorability or suspicion: Is he committed and kind? Is he a rouge? A player? Only if the detective work leads to a stamp of approval will physical and psychological arousal unite.

Men’s desire has been likened to an on/off switch, while women’s to a complex circuit board.

Why? Who knows? Some will point to evolutionary psychology: To best reproduce themselves women need a man who will stick around and support their children with resources. So women must be careful, picky. But men (having a great deal of sperm) best reproduce themselves by willy-nilly spreading their seed. It’s a popular theory, but I have my doubts since women in some cultures behave a lot like our sexual stereotype of men. American Indians prior to European contact, for instance.

Others say that in a world where women have less power, women’s lives are more affected by men than vice-versa, so they need to be more careful, even if their sleuthing isn’t very conscious. Women are more likely to follow husbands who are transferred in their careers than vice-versa, for instance. Also, men’s social status affects women more than women’s status affects men’s. When a waitress marries a dentist, her social status immediately rises to his. Not so much for the trucker who marries a female business executive.

And since men are typically bigger and stronger, abused women suffer greater injuries and have more difficultly defending themselves.

Women are also more likely to depend on men, financially, because they are more likely to stay home full-time with kids. Is he dependable? Can he keep a job? If men leave, women in our society bear all the responsibility for children (versus Ancient American Indians who parented communally).

Also, women’s sex drive is typically lower in our culture (largely due to repression), perhaps leaving women wanting emotionally connected sex more than variety and experimentation.

And of course, women were raised on a diet of Disney princesses living happily ever after with their one and only true love. Could have an effect.

Meanwhile, because men are bombarded with sexually objectified women, they come to see women’s bodies as objects that are all about sex, with women’s body parts as sex-signals. Hence the simple look-arousal response. (Surprisingly, the breast fetish seems to be learned, not natural.)

When women and men so often have contradictory ways of seeing and being, you have to wonder why (for about 95% of the population) women and men are thrown together in the first place.

That said, guys are getting more romantic. So while there are reasons why women are more likely to read romance novels and men are more likely to look at two-minute porn clips, in real life there is a bit more coming together.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Women Want Emotionally Connected Sex. Why?
Cartoonish vs Authentic Sexuality
Women Want Casual Sex? Yes and No

Making Relationship Violence Sexy

The blogosphere was abuzz last week with talk of TV’s Gossip Girl where antihero, Chuck Bass, humiliated ex-girlfriend, Blair Waldorf, by tattling on her sexual past in front of her new boyfriend’s mother. He followed up by telling Blair she couldn’t be with anyone else because, “You’re mine.” Enraged, he wrestled her onto a sofa before hurling his fist through a window, a shard of glass cutting Blair’s face.

A reporter from E! Entertainment called the cut, “the most perfect, beautiful, dainty injury.”

Are Chuck’s violence and controlling ways meant to be seen as “perfect” and “beautiful,” as well, set within the passion of unrequited love?

As the story goes along, it appears that Blair isn’t the one who’s hurt. Chuck is. He loves Blair too much for his own good, according to the show’s producers and this week’s episode.

Unfortunately, sexualized violence is hardly a new story. Popular romance novels are commonly called “bodice rippers.” The hero fears his love of the heroine and the vulnerability his affection might bring. He must stay strong and resist, in part by treating the object of his desire poorly. Finally he gives in in a torrent of ripped clothing.

In these stories the heroine reforms the rouge and wins in the end.

What message do young women get while watching abusive lovers in Gossip Girl or reading romance? That a lover’s harm exposes his love? That she will ultimately transform him? That it’s all so romantic? That it’s all so normal?

Maybe. Along these lines it’s interesting that one-third of abused women expect to marry their abuser. Why? First, they take the jealous rage as a sign of deep love and passion. Second, they believe that marriage will end his abuse-causing insecurity. Yet after marriage, violence escalates.

Signs of an abusive lover include controlling behavior, pushing for quick involvement, persistent jealousy (especially jealousy that leads to verbal or physical attacks), constantly checking up, isolation (cutting off family and friends), blaming others for his problems, insulting yet easily insulted, unrealistic expectations (you must be perfect and meet his every need), and rigid gender roles.

Should you choose to leave an abuser, contact a shelter or hotline to form a plan of action. Do not tell the abuser you plan to leave, as this is the most dangerous time. Knowing he’s lost control, he may seek to take ultimate control: your life. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800 799-7233.

Helping friends who are in abusive relationships can be difficult, for victims are often in denial about how bad the situation is, or about their ability to leave. Experts say that it helps if friends “continually counter with messages like ‘It’s not you. You didn’t cause this. This is not a normal relationship.’”

One battered woman who eventually left credited her friends, saying, “They saw the signs from the beginning. They would tell me I would go missing and my picture would end up on a milk carton. Over time, it slowly sank in.”

Of course, it might be a good idea to stop romanticizing and normalizing violent relationships in the first place.

Georgia Platts

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Women Seeing Women as Sexier than Men
What Happens When You Beat A Sex Object?
Rape Epidemic in South Africa. Why?

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