I have a question that I've been pondering on for a while now, but I wasn't willing to ask anyone who might be able to answer my question for whatever reason. What I've been pondering is the difference between sexism and sexuality. I've taken a few courses in Women's Studies in University, and am currently taking a course called Gender and Politics, which covers the political aspects of gender. Needles to say I've had some formal training in understanding gender. Some, but not a lot.
In every one of these classes, I have learned that women are oftentimes reduced to mere sex objects. I notice this on campus everywhere, all the time. Whether it is overhearing the two guys in front of me virtually drooling over a group of girls giving a class presentation, or on the weekend when guys on campus are talking about how many ‘chicks’ they’re going to ‘bang’ or those same guys during the week talking about how drunk he was and whether he banged his quota of chicks, or whether it is myself, whom I oftentimes catch staring- ogling, really- at women around campus who wear those damned Lulu Lemon yoga tights as pants.
I’ve read Margaret Atwood’s poem Helen of Troy Does Counter Dancing:
Here she is talking about how women are only seen as body parts: they aren’t whole or full or equal people. Now, unforuntately, I find myself in the chainsaw massacre position. I catch myself just sitting there, staring at, for lack of better expression, tits and ass. I’d like to think that I don’t drool while I do this, but I do stare.
This makes me feel extremely guilty. Is it wrong to wrong to stare? The message I have gotten, while not explicitly stated in my classes, is that yes, it is wrong for a guy to stare at T&A. Its wrong because I’m reducing them to a mere sexual object, or weighing them against the body type preferences that were socialized in me at a very young age. But is this guilt necessary?
I hesitate to write this at the risk of sounding essentialist, but as a male of this species, I have biological urges. The two primary ones are arguably get food and get sex. Of course, this is tricky territory, because another supposed male trait is the fight urge. This is the problem with essentializing things, or reducing things to a statement of "it is natural for men to be so." This is the type of argument that justified women’s subordination for so many years, and indeed still informs their unequal position in the world today: "a woman’s place is in the private sphere, not the public sphere!" The public/private dichotomy goes back to the times of Athenian democracy.
At any rate, if I am to follow this Freudian reading of things, what with biological urges, which I think played a big role in his understanding of humanness, then we have a superego, based on social standards in order to keep these urges of the id in check. I should note here that my understanding and reading of Freud is limited at best: for instance, the superego is supposed to be the idea of the status quo. But the conscience that informs me seems to run counter to the status quo, or counter to patriarchy.
My point is that I realize that we have the ability to overcome these so-called natural urges by reasoning, with help of social peers. This is partially why I am trying to reason through this question here, with you, my peers.
In attempt to resist the biological urges, I have removed myself from looking for relationships. I don’t even know how to approach women. Its like I have this religious guilt about how sex is a sin and I know that this shouldn’t be the case. Sex isn’t some sort of terrible act. It is a private act, at present, and from what I’ve heard, some of the most fun you can have.
And so here I am, reduced to stealing furtive glances at women walking by, not approaching any of them, or even the ones I know, even the ones I like, because Im scared of being some sort of male oppressor, and so sexual urges build up, and instead of a healthy release, both literally and figuratively, its a self-reinforcing feedback loop of guilt and self-denial. I wasn’t realizing that there is a difference between sexism and sexuality.
Should attraction be based on more than just outer features? When taking into consideration how beauty is constructed, and my attraction to certain body types, I would argue yes. Unequivocally. Shouldn’t it be based on a beautiful mind, or a compassionate heart rather than a chainsaw murder right before it happens? Of course it should. And this might be some explanation as to where guilt comes in. For so long I’ve had the idea that noticing the body is wrong. But I no longer think that is the case. Because in not noticing a woman’s body, then I’m not really noticing or appreciating her as a whole human being. Holistic love, one could say, is what Im looking for.
I realize that patriarchy affects men as well as women. Men have imposed standards of behaviour, gender norms, and pressures one them as well. One of these pressures I have detailed here: the pressure to ‘bang the chick’. In my attempt to remove myself from patriarchy, I drew on feminism’s critique of male behaviour towards women, namely their sexual objectification, and took that as a guide for correct action; namely, do not touch or look.
Unfortunately, I think I have been mistaken. Human beings are sexual beings. To deny that women are sexual beings, or to deny my own sexuality is to deny my humanity. Only recently have I come to realize that the point is that women are not MERELY sexual objects. They have a sexual side, just as do men, but that is not their only side.
I am still terrified of relationships. Maybe this is because feminism has done a good job of draining the patriarchy right out of me. I appreciate that: Im not sure if patriarchy exists in me still (I would like to think that it doesn’t), but I know that it needs to be purged. But it seems as though the part of me that is capable of loving relationships was being drained out as well.
As Thrice sings in their song All That’s Left:
We tried to bleed the sickness
But we drained our hearts instead
We are, we are the dead
Since I’m quoting poems and songs, I figure I should mention that it was this song, Refusing to be a Man, by Propagandhi, that prompted this line of introspection and self-analysis. It is also one of my favourites.
I’m not going to try to tell you that I’m different from all the rest. I’ve been subject to the same de-structure of desire and I’ve felt the same effects; I’m a hetero-sexist tragedy. And potential rapists all are we. But don’t tell me this is natural. This is nurturing. And there’s a difference between sexism and sexuality. I had different desires prior to my role-remodelling. And at six years of age you don’t challenge their claims. You become the same. (Or withdraw from the game and hang your head in shame). I think that’s exactly what I did.
I tried to sever the connections between me and them. I fought against their further attempts to convince a kid that birthright can bestow the power to yield the subordination of women and do you know what patricentricity means? I found out just a couple of days/months/years/minutes ago. It means male values uber alles and hey! Whaddaya know… sex has been distorted and vilified. I’m scared of my attraction to body types. If everything desired is objectified then maybe eroticism needs to be redefined. And I refuse to be a man.