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Is Sexism Men’s Fault?

UnknownIs male dominance natural and normal? Did sex inequality arise as men’s brute strength cowed women into compliance? My students often think so, saying things like, “Men have always ruled,” as though it’s inevitable. Or, “Men are bigger and stronger so they can bully women into submission.”

I guess we’ve made some progress since I don’t also hear the old argument that women are naturally dependent.

Most people don’t know that men haven’t always been in charge.

When Europeans first made contact with America Indians they were amazed – and appalled – at their equality.

Matrilocal, the husband took his place with his wife’s family after marriage. Matrilineal, relatives were traced through the female line. Property passed through women. Killing a woman brought a double penalty.

Europeans were aghast that native men needed to speak with their wives before taking action!

Men and women both had tribal councils. If the men voted to go to war and the women disagreed, the women could refuse to provide corn (their staple) leaving the men backing down.

Other egalitarian cultures include the Arapesh, the !Kung, and Tahitians (before European contact), to name a few. In fact, it appears that parity was not uncommon prior to agriculture.

Inequality seems to have arisen not because men purposely tried to hurt women and help themselves, but via some seemingly innocuous routes, 1) agriculture and 2) desires to avoid inbreeding by trading, selling, and stealing women (who could have more children and make the tribes larger and stronger). I’ll discuss these dynamics in a later post.

But we know that gender inequality is not predestined. And men do not inevitably try to dominate women through brute force.

Today many men work for women’s equality, too.

And I’d like to thank them.

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Are Women Culturally Monogamous?

We know that women aren’t destined to be monogamous by nature. Culture affects our sexual psyches.

Polygamist inclinations vary from person to person, but today’s Western women are much more monogamous than our Tahitian or American Indian sisters were before European contact. We are now also much more monogamous in our inclinations than men.

In surveys, men say they would prefer to have 14 partners over a lifetime. Over that same lifetime, women prefer to have only one or two.

A friend suggested that women were lying because they feared seeing themselves as sluts. Yet women admit to five real-life partners. (Here they are certainly underestimating. The real number is likely 8 or 9 for both men and women, given men’s estimate of 12.) But if they’re so worried, why not say they’ve had only 1 or 2 partners?

I was surprised by the low number of “one or two” as the preference, but I doubt women feel the need to go that low just to feel socially acceptable.

Younger women’s preferences may be higher. During the first year of college many willingly experiment with sex – and freely admit to it. But they quickly tire of random sexual contacts. Most drop out of the casual sex scene by sophomore year.

Men, on the other hand, don’t tire of the casual hook up, and want to continue even after college.

When it comes to open marriage or swinging, men are usually more enthusiastic, and more often initiate the idea.

So women seem less interested in casual sex than men. Quite likely because they are more repressed.

I feel that women are more repressed than is healthy. But I’m not sure that limits are all bad, for women or men.

When I read women’s studies literature, women are often advised to have sex more the way men do: have fun without guilt.

Yet men’s studies, which comes from a feminist perspective, often advises men to have sex more the way women do it. Don’t follow the 4 F’s: Find ‘em, Feel ‘em, F- ‘em, and Forget ‘em. Do not use women as a means of gaining a notch on your belt. Have sex in a context of love and care.

What do you think? How would you describe women’s ways and men’s ways of having sex? What are the positives and negatives of each approach? Is one way better than the other? Is there an optimal in-between? Do men and women tend to have different views on this issue?

I’m interested in exploring the matter. I’d like to year your thoughts, too.

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Are Women Culturally Monogamous?

We know that women aren’t destined to be monogamous by nature. Culture affects our sexual psyches.

Polygamist inclinations vary from person to person, but today’s Western women are much more monogamous than our Tahitian or American Indian sisters were before European contact. We are now also much more monogamous in our inclinations than men. 

In surveys, men say they would prefer to have 14 partners over a lifetime. Over that same lifetime, women prefer to have only one or two.

A friend suggested that women were lying because they feared seeing themselves as sluts. Yet women admit to five real-life partners. (Here they are certainly underestimating. The real number is likely 8 or 9 for both men and women, given men’s estimate of 12.) But if they’re so worried, why not say they’ve had only 1 or 2 partners?

I was surprised by the low number of “one or two” as the preference, but I doubt women feel the need to go that low just to feel socially acceptable.

Younger women’s preferences may be higher. During the first year of college many willingly experiment with sex – and freely admit to it. But they quickly tire of random sexual contacts. Most drop out of the casual sex scene by sophomore year.

Men, on the other hand, don’t tire of the casual hook up, and want to continue even after college.

When it comes to open marriage or swinging, men are usually more enthusiastic, and more often initiate the idea.

So women seem less interested in casual sex than men. Quite likely because they are more repressed.

I feel that women are more repressed than is healthy. But I’m not sure that limits are all bad, for women or men.

When I read women’s studies literature, women are often advised to have sex more the way men do: have fun without guilt.

Yet men’s studies, which comes from a feminist perspective, often advises men to have sex more the way women do it. Don’t follow the 4 F’s: Find ‘em, Feel ‘em, F- ‘em, and Forget ‘em. Do not use women as a means of gaining a notch on your belt. Have sex in a context of love and care.

What do you think? How would you describe women’s ways and men’s ways of having sex? What are the positives and negatives of each approach? Is one way better than the other? Is there an optimal in-between? Do men and women tend to have different views on this issue?

I’m interested in exploring the matter. I’d like to year your thoughts, too.

Georgia Platts

Sources: Brizendine, Louann. The Male Brain. Crown. 2010, Kimmel, Michael. Guyland. Harper. 2008

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