Kind of hard to avoid.

When I was eighteen, in an Indian summer evening, I went for a walk with a young woman.  We came to a park, and climbed up on a jungle gym, as eighteen year olds will sometimes do.  As I recall, there was a platform on the gym where we both could sit.  After we’d been talking for a while, I asked her if she’d ever had sex.

(To those of you who think this a horribly inappropriate question, I would say that eighteen year olds, curious about the world, should ask inappropriate questions.)

“When you have a boyfriend,” she said, “it’s kind of hard to avoid.”

Twenty years on, I remember this.

“It’s kind of hard to avoid.”

Maybe she was kidding.  Maybe she found my question too personal.  Her response, I imagine, was a throw-a-way line.

But still.


“In the contemporary United States, men generally are trained in a variety of ways to view sex as the acquisition of pleasure by the taking of women.  … Such ideas are prevalent in the culture, transmitted from adult men to boys through direct instruction and modeling, by peer pressure among boys, and in mass media.” (Jensen.)

In some sense, many men do see sex as the acquisition of pleasure by the taking of a woman.  But it’s also an idea transmitted from women to young men.  It’s even an idea transmitted, albeit unintentionally, from some feminists.

I remember a summer evening when I was twenty, going to a party that was largely a gathering of gay men.  I arrived with a friend who introduced me to some people, concluding with, “And he’s straight, so hands off.”  He said that, and I had an odd feeling, because I’d never really felt that someone could be attracted to me.

For women, who are used to being desired by another person, I think it may be difficult to grasp how utterly bizarre it is to have the fleeting sensation that you might be the object of another person’s desire.  I’m now on the far side of 35, and the difference between the way women react to me now, as compared to when I was 19 or 21 is…  Well, there is no difference.  I was invisible then and I’m invisible now.

So when feminists criticize men for viewing sex as the acquisition of pleasure, I would say that a lot of men view sex that way because, for men, that’s often the way it is.  If you don’t acquire a sexual connection, if you don’t take some kind of action, nothing will happen, because a woman’s desire for you is generally not strong enough to make anything happen.  And if you are at a vulnerable period in your life, if you aren’t so strong, women tend not to see you as a fully sexual person.

Okay, you’ve heard it all before.  You know what I’m saying.

But still.

Cold late night so long ago
When I was not so strong you know
A pretty man came to see me
Never seen eyes so blue.
“Magic Man,” Heart.

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3 Responses to Kind of hard to avoid.

  1. Jake Turner says:

    Fantastic blog, I’m trawling through all your posts now.

    I used to want women to reach out and empathise with me on their own initiative and still find me sexually attractive. I now know that is asking too much. They have a desired commodity; I am a buyer, they are sellers. It is very possible to transcend this dynamic (read: love) but it ain’t going to happen by itself.

    I know you probably dismiss it, but have you considered game? It’s not all peacocking and moronic one-liners, it’s intersex socialising 101. I went from a fairly sexless existence a year ago to sleeping with a number of attractive women on the back of changing my behaviour at a very superficial level, i.e. not core personality stuff.

    The door’s not opening? Find the doorbell.

    If you’re interested, I’d be happy to recommend some reading material; there’s a lot of rubbish and misinformation out there.

  2. Hiya Miguel,

    Well, I think what your saying takes away women’s “sexual agency.”

    That seems to be the hunter/prey model PUA’s love so much.

    Now I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a clothing optinal beach, I’ve found women look just as much as men, they’re just more, ahem, discrete……

    Rock On!

    Stoner With A Boner

  3. Lynet says:

    It’s also possible that she said “Kind of hard to avoid” because if she said she liked it she’d be risking looking like a slut.

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