I like sex.
I realize that this is the sort of declaration that ranks right up there in obviousness as “Hey, the sun rises in the east!” and “water’s a bit wet, i’nit?” but stick with me here, I have a point I’m getting to.
I’ve been reading Clarisse Thorne’s “Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser” lately and it’s been a thought-provoking read. Beyond being a fascinating and surprisingly even-handed look at PUA culture and techniques, it also has a lot of cross-over with sex positivity. Some of the attitudes expressed by members of the PUA community she interviews reminded of some of the ways I looked at the world not that long ago, especially with regards to sex and sexuality.
When I was younger and less experienced – back in the bad old days – I liked sex but didn’t really know much about it. Less of a case of not understanding the mechanics or only routine in my repertoire being “writing letters with my tongue” but about human sexuality. I had absorbed a lot of misinformation about sex and sexuality from the culture I grew up in, especially as a white, hetero, cisgendered male. As far as I knew, sex was something of a transaction: guys bargained, cajoled, argued, convinced, begged or otherwise persuaded women into performing some sex act – ideally some penis-in-vagina action – and women would give in. Sometimes reluctantly, sometimes with enthusiasm but rarely without some form of negotiation. The fact that men wanted sex was something of an inconvenience at best, something actually shameful at worst. Being called a pervert – if, say, you were caught watching Porky’s, Embrace of the Vampire or the Phoebe Cates scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High – was among the worst things you could label a guy.
After losing my virginity, I was – I shit you not – shocked when my girlfriend was interested in having sex again… like, the very next day. Without my having to put on a production or anything! Oh, what brave new world that had such people in it!
Still, even after being introduced to a world where women actually -gasp- enjoyed sex, I still clung to the belief that men were the horny ones and women had to be persuaded – which is to say, turned on or seduced – into wanting sex in equal measure. This colored a lot of my interactions with women, especially with how I was going about trying to convince them to go out on a date (and then, ideally, come home) with me. I wasn’t seeing sex – or romance, for that matter – in terms of “here’s a fun thing we can both enjoy”, I was seeing it as “what do I have to do to get you to sleep with me.” It was an adversarial process – one encouraged by society at large – and one that simultaneously demonized and praised male sexuality while insisting that female sexuality was less important, if it existed at all.
Dating was a ritualized kabuki dance; while we both knew that sex was a possibility, I had to take care to not express any overt interest in it lest I look like a pervert who Only Wanted One Thing. I had to display enough value in order to make it worth her time to give me the opportunity to try to persuade her into sleeping with me. It was exhausting and it meant that I wasn’t treating her as a person but as a vault whose combination I had to learn in order to get inside.
And from talking to my friends… I was decidedly not the only one who felt that way. We all felt the annoyance that we had to pretend that we didn’t want what we so obviously did and the frustration that women just didn’t know what it was like for guys. Men and women were just too different.
It took quite a bit of effort to break out of the antagonistic view of sex and realize that a) women were sexual beings too and b) it was ok to want sex. The problem wasn’t the interest, the problem was the way that we were all taught to go about getting it.