Owing someone the possibility of sex.

Is it ever okay to “expect” your sexual needs will be met by “others?”  Is it ever acceptable to believe it is “reasonable and due” that another person will meet your sexual needs?

A woman always has the right to say “no,” of course.  But how can this be reconciled with what I said in an earlier post, that I had a right to have my sexual needs met by some woman, somewhere, at some time?  Can I feel it is “reasonable and due” that my sexual needs be met by “women” (Plural), while at the same time believing that “a woman” (Singular) always has the right to say “no?”

I was thinking about this in the context of a piece by Judith Warner, “Like a fish needs a donut.”  In her essay, Mrs. Warner describes a disagreeable conversation she had while sharing donuts with two male friends.  What she found distressing was that her friends described women they would prefer to date if they were single as being young, hot babes:

“The suggestion from me that men like themselves might actually prefer to date contemporaries, women who’d lived, matured, grown wiser and more human with the experience of parenting, and, at the very least, could recall the 1980s, was met with nothing but outraged looks and half-chewed-donut silence.

Why?’ one of them finally said.

Why,’ the second one swallowed to spurt, ‘would you want all those complications?’”

As a result of this conversation, Mrs. Warner was disillusioned:

“I spent the following days nursing a sputtering sort of rage. The conversation marked the end of an illusion, you see. I’d thought that in our little bubble, a bubble, it should be said, that was defined not by class or money or education, but rather by goodness and decency and values and realness (even I am laughing now), the men were somehow different from the men Out There who dated women multiple decades younger than themselves, prized them for their looks and their fecundity and fell in love with the magical rejuvenating mirrors they found in the women’s adoring young eyes.”

So Judith Warner was upset because the values she thinks would make for a worthy sexual partner – what she calls “wisdom, maturity, and realness” – were not what her male friends thought would make for an exciting hypothetical partner.  And this left her in a rage for days.

So is her “sputtering rage” justified, or is she being completely irrational?  To answer that, you have to answer another question:  Is there anything wrong with Mrs. Warner’s friends’ desire for younger women?  And if so, can you give a non-tautological reason why?  (Something other than, “Older men shouldn’t date younger women because men should date women their own age.”)

Is it that women in their twenties are incapable of giving consent?  Clearly not, as women in their twenties, while young, are adults and can consent.

So then what, if anything, is wrong with an older man having an exclusive preference for hot, young babes?  And is Mrs. Warner’s rage irrational or justified?

The answer, I think, relates back to what I said in an earlier post:  I have a right to have my sexual needs met by some woman, somewhere, at some time – even if I have no right to expect or demand to have my sexual needs met by a specific woman at a specific time.  It follows from this that “women,” at least in theory, have an obligation to keep an open mind about having sexual relations with men who stand at different levels in the unspoken social hierarchy – that is, men who may be shy and not comport with traditional notions of masculinity – even if no individual woman ever has the obligation to reciprocate my sexual interest.  And the obligation to keep an open mind means that it is wrong for women to develop habits of thought and behavior which are categorically dismissive of the sexuality of men who are not confident and – I hate to use the term – not “alpha males.”

Not true?

Well, by analogy, consider the case of a woman over forty.  She, for example, does not have the right to expect me to become romantically involved with her, if I don’t feel an attraction and don’t want to have a sexual relationship.  Furthermore, she does not have a right to feel “entitled” to a sexual relationship with him, or him, or him.  But she does have a right to feel “entitled” to some kind of sexual validation from “men.”  Which isn’t to say that it’s always wrong for an older man to have sexual relations with a younger woman.  But men do have an obligation to at least keep an open mind in regard to the sexuality of older women, and it is wrong for men to develop habits of thought and behavior that are categorically dismissive toward the sexuality of women over forty.

I think this explains why Mrs. Warner was so angry about the behavior of her male friends.  They were being flippantly dismissive of the sexual wants and needs of middle-aged women, needs which include the need to feel sexually desirable.  And so she was justifiably upset, because her friends were being extraordinarily rude.

Fortunately for her, many people in our society would tend to agree that older men who exclusively date women decades younger than themselves are behaving somewhat piggishly.  And sexual marginalization of the middle aged woman is generally held to be unkind, something which ought not to be.

But there is no corresponding opprobrium attached to the young woman who fulfills her youthful sexual desires exclusively in the arms of the aggressive rogue.  And it seems to be accepted as the natural order of things that the less aggressive young man is going to get poleaxed in the gladiatorial sexual arena.  (Tough luck, sport.)  Why is this?

I think first, there is a strong, if unspoken, belief in our culture as to what the characteristics of a  “good” man are, and which men “deserve” sexual relations with women.  Only the brave get the fair, so to speak.  It’s as though confidence were some sort of global indicator of a man’s worthiness as a sexual partner.  (I believe it was Plato who said that, in his ideal society, only the warriors would be allowed to kiss the beautiful women.)  So as to Judith Warner’s talk of “inherent value” and “friendship” and “being a human being,” I’d say sure, if you’re a nineteen year old virgin talking to a beautiful young woman, go ahead and tell her all about all those things and see how far it gets you.

Second, we all seem to have agreed to pretend that sexual exploration in youth – when men happen to have significantly less sexual power than women – is trivial and unimportant.  “Just a bunch of crazy stuff we did back then.”  But sexual exploration is not at all unimportant, as Katie Dobie observed:

“In our teens and early twenties, sexual relationships are less about intimacy than about expanding our intimate knowledge of people… Through sex, we discover irrefutable otherness (he dreams of being madly in love; she hates going to sleep alone), and we are scared and enraptured, frustrated and inspired. We learn less about intimacy in our youthful sex lives than we do about humanity.”

I don’t know, “learning about humanity” sounds sort of important.  Yet we pretend it’s all a farce.  And from the trivialization of youthful sexual exploration, it follows that the pain caused by the sexual marginalization of the shy young man is, well, trivial.  This is in contrast to the pain of the neglected middle aged woman, whose non-youthful sexual desires matter because they are sacred.  Which is why the loneliness of the middle-aged woman is seen as something that ought to be rectified, which indeed it is, and yet the sexual isolation of the young man is looked upon as something of a joke.

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18 Responses to Owing someone the possibility of sex.

  1. Xamuel says:

    Throughout culture and time, the men and the women deserve each other. When she herself was a hot young babe, no doubt she dismissed right out of hand all those shy guys, dorky guys, sheltered guys, wimpy guys. She gets no sympathy now.

  2. Dave says:

    1300+ words about peanut butter and chocolate (speaking metaphorically, obviously), and by the end of it you still haven’t thought of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup.

  3. Glaivester says:

    Dave:

    And in your analogy, what would a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup be?

  4. Dave says:

    The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup would be the pairing up of the lonely 20-something guys Miguel writes about and single older women such as Judith Warner.

  5. nothingbutthetruth says:

    BS. Nobody has a right to have their sexual needs met. Sex is a consensual act between two people: it is not a right. One of the signs of decadence of our culture is that people feel entitled to everything, people think their desires are rights.

    Neither the young men nor the middle-aged women can force people to want them. You cannot choose what you want. I understand that young women don’t feel attracted by nice guys (like I was when I was young). I understand that men don’t feel attracted to middle-aged women. This is biology. Men are wired for fertility. Women are wired for dominance. If you have complains, please send them to God or to evolution. We didn’t made the rules of the game.

    The fact that the pain of the young man is trivialized in contrast to the pain of the middle-aged women is not because college years are considered as a crazy time. It is because people are more worried about the women’s problems than about men’s problems. This is why women complain about everything. A woman complains and people want to help. A man complains and everybody labels him a loser. This has biological roots.

    I am 40. When I was twenty-something, women won’t give me the time of the day. Now my girlfriend is 27 and the unattainable princesses of my youth would want me -after having spent their youth for other man they preferred to me, after having had kids with other men. After nobody wants them, they think they have a right to be wanted by people like me, who they despised and treated with contempt in the past.

    Should I have remorse for not wanting them? BS. They didn’t want me when I was young and they don’t have remorse either (I don’t think they should). Back then, it was their time. Now, it is mine.

  6. mike says:

    Yeah, and unemployed people should become doctors. There’s a doctor shortage, after all! Why didn’t anyone think of that?

  7. Gah. says:

    “Women are wired for dominance.”
    This is bullshit, biologically inaccurate (see chimps banoboos, the incidence of pregancy from rape vs sex where females orgasm, and which baboons end up actually biologically fathering baboon babies) and justification for rape. I’m about to get divorced from an otherwise excellent man who believes this shit. Consent is not negotiable. Dominance is not compatible with consent.

  8. Kyra says:

    I see active disdain from these two guys here—not just a “I’m not into all that/I like simplicity” but an “ugh, why would I want that?!” at the prospect of women their age. This is rude, and given their own age, is a double standard as well.

    I think anger is justified at that, and does not indicate any entitlement on her part of being found desirable “by men.” She doesn’t articulate the specific mechanics of how their reaction made her angry, and I suspect it has more to do with the attack on the desirability of older women, than the lack of desire for older women.

    If one flips their attitude around and applies it in a different direction, “I’m not into the really young, really pretty women; I like someone with more world experience and who has grown into herself” is different than “I don’t like all these stupid bimbos, they’re all looks and nothing else.” The latter is an attack; the former isn’t.

    I dislike the concept that “women plural” or “men plural” or “the universe” owes a person sexual fulfillment. A group obligation may broaden the likelihood of a person in that population being willing to fulfill it, but it still requires that somebody fulfill the obligation, independent of whether there actually is anyone willing to do so. One has the right to consider oneself worthy of sexual fulfillment (not entitled, but worthy, as in it’s not wrong to desire it), and to seek it out in non-invasive, non-coercive, non-fraudulent manners. Sometimes it will be fulfilled, sometimes not. No harm no foul either way.

  9. Bo says:

    After thirty five years of marriage my wife was contacted by a man who had been an ex-boy friend. An affair evolved.
    His wife contacted me and I suggested a meeting in a city about 50 miles away. On Saturday afternoon she met me in a hotel lounge and within less than two hours we were engaged in a sexual affair. Twenty years later the affair still exists.
    We find each other to be very compatible, fulfilling and enjoyable. We are not “in love” to the point we will ruin the lives of our children or jeopardise our lives. Both families are very comfortable financially. The occasion’s we meet are not as numerous as they were but we find ways to communicate.
    A lot of people would not tolerate or approve but there are more of such affairs than anyone can imagine.

  10. Marle says:

    Some people do like dating younger people. I’ve never dated anyone older than myself, and I imagine when I’m in my 40s I will still like 20something people (I am a bisexual woman). However, if someone asked me why I didn’t date people who could remember the 80s, I would have to admit that the life experience differences have been complicating and I don’t relationships can last too long when people are at vastly different stages. Despite that, they can be quite fun in the short term. The man who responded “why would you want all those complications?” in response to the question of dating a woman with more similar life experiences is bizarre, and shows that he cares more about sex when it comes to relationships and less about his partner’s personality and life outside the relationship.

    It’s not a problem of who you’re attracted to; it’s a matter of not saying sexist crap and being an asshole.

  11. Ari says:

    What Marle said, mostly. As a woman in my mid-twenties, I have flirted and dated with men considerably older than myself. (Joe is 41 I think? Scott is 53, we’re mostly just friends now due to schedules and such.) It depends on perspective and stage of development, these things are not inherently identical to numerical age.

    Kyra makes an excellent point that I think you’ve missed in your post, Miguel, that the dismissal, in a very rude way, of “Why would anybody want that?!” referencing middle-aged women as inherently undesirable… Is very different from saying even, “I’m interested in short-term youthful flings right now.” At least that would be more honest. In fact I think Mrs. Warner herself may have given up too soon in her own analysis of why it was she was really angry.

  12. Pingback: Noli Irritare Leones » Blog Archive » On John Stuart Mill’s view of rights, and on owing someone the possibility of sex

  13. John E. says:

    But men do have an obligation to at least keep an open mind in regard to the sexuality of older women, and it is wrong for men to develop habits of thought and behavior that are categorically dismissive toward the sexuality of women over forty.

    Why is this true?

    I’d agree that men might do well for themselves to keep an open mind and also that it is foolishly limiting for men to develop those sorts of habits of thought.

    But I don’t agree that this sort of thing rises to the level of “obligation” and “wrong”.

    As the kids say, e gustibus non est disputandum

  14. Solaris says:

    I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but to those of you who are saying she was right to be angry that they’d unfairly reject older women, would I then be justified as a young sexually [avoided let alone] inexperienced man in being mad at the young women who rejected/prejected me based on my nerdiness or lack of “alpha” characteristics that grope at her amygdala? If you say no then you are a hypocrite.

    One more thing, this post and the comments are ample examples of why prostitution ought to be legal…

  15. B405 says:

    It’s been my experience–and I’d bet that of most men–that there are a heck of a lot more men willing to date an older woman than there are women who will date a nerdy man.

  16. April says:

    Really? Define “nerdy.”

  17. B405 says:

    Highly intelligent, socially awkward, more introverted than most, interested in subjects that fall outside the mainstream.

  18. Worzel says:

    I’ve read a lot of your posts, and up until now had not been aware of the incel “community” but this post really defines what bothers me about your writings- the basic premise that you expect (in either sense of the term) to have your needs met by another person. There is no right to have sexual intimacy with another person. Whether you are an awkward 19 year old man or a 40 year old woman past her prime, no one should ever assume that they have the right to have their sexual needs met. Men (as in every man, no exceptions) have the right to prefer young, attractive 20 something coeds to their 40-something mothers; and women have the right to prefer desirable men over undesirable ones. If you find yourself on the undesirable end of the spectrum, then it’s up to you to improve yourself until you move a little closer to the other side.
    I haven’t read many entries, but you seem to be putting the responsibility for your own sex life onto everyone but yourself- mostly onto women who only wants “alphas” (which is patently ridiculous- lots of nerdy, unattractive guys have girlfriends) and your solutions involve somehow, magically making other people acquiesce to your desires, rather than taking responsibility for what it takes to meet your own desires yourself.
    I used to be like you, years of being ignored by the opposite sex, resentful of others and of being so lonely- but eventually I realized that I need to fucking man up and be responsible for my own happiness- worked out, took an improv class, paid a modicum of attention to fashion, and took up a couple of hobbies- not because it would make me more appealing to the opposite sex, but because it made me a better, more interesting, more enjoyable human being.
    If I hadn’t come to my senses, who knows, I’d probably STILL be sitting in front of my xbox, wiping my cheeto stained fingers on my xkcd shirt and complaining that I deserved to have my sexual needs met. The truth is, at that point, I didn’t deserve it, and wouldn’t have wished my smelly, antisocial self on my worst enemy, much less on someone attractive who i hoped to bed.

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