Thursday, August 19, 2010

Female Desire

Here is an excerpt from a fantastic post by Hugo Schwyzer demonstrating the damage done by the lack of freedom for women to express their desire openly:
For better or for worse, most young women grow up with a cultural awareness that their generally speaking, women’s bodies (though perhaps not their own) are intensely desirable to boys and men; strategies for managing that desire are much-discussed facets of women’s magazines, the advertising industry, and conversation.

But we don’t have a culture in which many young men grow up with the experience of being seen and wanted, in which young men grow up with the sense that their bodies are desirable and beautiful as well as functional. Our cultural discourse about young men teaches that managing their own (presumably insatiable) sexual desire is the defining task of their adolescence. A “jock discourse” that encourages young men to “score” with as many women as possible and an “abstinence discourse” which encourages young men to restrain themselves heroically have essentially the same perspective: your job as a man is to channel your libido, either into sexual conquests or radical restriction. Both discourses center male desire, just as most discourses aimed at young women teach teenage girls how to gain, manage, and direct that same titanic force. The missing element, of course, is the idea that female desire can be directed towards men in general, and towards their bodies in particular.
So many straight men have no experience of being wanted. So many straight men have no experience of sensing a gaze of outright longing. Even many men who are wise in the world and in relationships, who know that their wives or girlfriends love them, do not know what it is to be admired and longed for for their bodies and their looks. They may know what it is to be relied upon, they may know what it is to bring another to ecstasy with their tongue or their touch, but they don’t know what it is to be found not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye but worthy of longing.
Read the rest of this great post here.

As any woman knows, being an object of desire can be many different things: infuriating, flattering, annoying, titillating, disappointing, exciting, and everything in between. What we don't know, however, how it feels not be an object of desire, not to imagine that one can possibly be desired physically.

I like Hugo's posts because they demonstrate perfectly why the patriarchy is as damaging to men as it is to women.


SereneBabe said...

So excellent. Thanks.

Lindsay said...

I also think Hugo writes really well, and sensitively, about men's experiences of compulsory masculinity and heteronormativity, but I don't think that this:

"... how it feels not [to] be an object of desire, not to imagine that one can possibly be desired physically"

is so alien to some women. Some of us, even when young, deviate so much from the accepted ideal of beauty that we're treated, not as objects of desire, but as either objects of revulsion or as if we don't exist at all.

It can be just as astounding, just as unthinkable, to us to be lusted after as it is for the men Hugo speaks for.

(Again, this is not to dismiss what Hugo is saying about overall differences between what men's and women's bodies mean in our culture --- women's bodies are seen as inherently desirable in a way that men's are not --- and about the taboos on women expressing desire that mean so many men have never been told they're hot, but I did want to point out that it's only *SOME* women's bodies that our culture deems inherently, automatically sexy and desirable. If your body does not look like that, even if you are female and straight your experience will probably resemble what Hugo describes more than what you describe).