Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Staying Single

Notice that I am not just single currently, but that I am  staying single. This was not a conscious decision. I did not sit down one day, feminist ideology in hand, and decide to stay single for political reasons. It just happened. I haven't been in a relationship for two years. For a woman in her twenties, this is so odd as to be alien.

When I was in middle school, nothing could have been more important than being in or wanting to be in a relationship. Boys were just beginning to notice me, probably because I was one of the first girls to have her breasts grow beyond the mosquito bite phase. Luckily for me, I did not grow up in the Paris Hilton era. Britney Spears was still keeping most of her clothes on the late 90s when the pre-teen girl uniform of choice was polo shirts, short shorts, and high ponytails.

Regardless, my desire for a boyfriend and to look good had nothing to do with my sexual desire. Although I had curves and breasts to rival any grown woman, my sexual drive had not matured. I heard about masturbation, mostly from the eighth grade boys, but such things held no interest for me. Even the extremely progressive books on puberty that my parents bought me detailed male masturbation explicitly, although some of them spend a bit of time on female masturbation as well. Curious, I attempted this masturbation a couple of times. Nothing really much happened, presumably because my sexual drive had yet to develop (it would in high school), so I gave that up.

Why then, was the pinnacle of pre-teen social life the drive to attract boys? I obviously did not know what to do with them when I got them, and I had no sexual desire for them. I was putting on a performance, plain and simple. The dominant social message of the time, and I assume it has gotten worse lately, was that a girl should aim to look sexy and have sex, but her own enjoyment of the sexual act had nothing to do with it. This held true for my twelve year-old self: I was not attracted to boys in a sexual manner, and I had no personal desire for sex. I was simply responding to social norms. If I said a boy was cute, it was not the case that I was attracted to him. I simply recognized that he fit within the acceptable range of male appearances, and I wanted him to want me. My desires did not play into the equation at all.

As I moved on from middle school and entered high school, my sexual drive finally blossomed. I had a healthy desire for sex and masturbation by the time I was fifteen. Still, however, I cannot think of a time that I wanted a boy more than I wanted him to want me and the social power I would gain by being sexy and attached to a suitable male. I was also doing battle with my monstrous crush on my female friend at the time by denying to myself that I probably was not as straight as I would like to be. Nevertheless, the idea of a boy competing for me or spending time on his appearance for me was laughable. By the time elaborate hair and makeup routines were the norm for girls my age, boys had yet to grasp the concept of showering daily.

Simply put, being sexy was more important than being sexual. The conflicting messages of abstinence and MTV had done battle, and the result was "be sexy, be hot, be available and wanted. Your sexuality is shameful." It was not important that boys were attractive, and they largely were not, it was important that I was attractive to them. Due to my extremely extroverted personality and unwillingness, even then, to play weak or dumb, I never succeeded.

In college, the drive to be wanted and not to want became funny in its intensity. The antics of my peers inspired mental images out of a porno: buckets of male ejaculation everywhere, but no elusive female orgasm. Men were still boys, and still had not grasped the basics of hygiene that were common sense to the average eleven year-old girl. And why would they? All around them women were wearing next to nothing and viciously fighting for their attention with deeper tans, deeper v-necks, and higher shoes. All they had to do was sit back and enjoy.

After a disastrous series of boyfriends where the male orgasm was far more present in our relationships than the female orgasm, I had the luck to fall into Feminism by way of a Women's Studies course. Among the considerable changes in my life, I stopped wanting men to want me if I did not want them back.

Simply, if my sexual pleasure had no part in the equation, I wanted nothing to do with men. If they were not attractive, their attention was gross and creepy. It was surprisingly easy to find my dry spells becoming longer and longer, only broken up by my mostly pleasurable forays into lesbian relationships.

How was this so? Once I gave up performing the sexy routine, guys largely did not want me. Which was fine with me, because most guys my age hadn't touched a razor or bar of soap in half a week. My university was like a scene out of a pornography: most of the women were conventionally attractive, but the men were as lazy with their appearances as they were with their health.

Today, I find it pathetically funny how my pursuit of my own pleasure--wanting attractive men, wanting sexual fulfillment--removed me from the dating scene. By raising my standards to men that I wanted, instead of men that wanted me, I had to find men that spend a comparable amount of time on their appearance and would be invested in my pleasure as much as their own. Unsurprisingly, the men who spent as much time in front of a mirror as I did (which wasn't much, considering that I stopped tanning and wearing large amounts of makeup) were the ones that dated the most feminine women, who had the personality of swine, or who were more interesting in acting out their favorite pornography than pleasing their significant other.

What I realize today is that the dating scene revolves around male pleasure. Male orgasms, male lust, male appreciation of beauty. If I wanted female orgasms, my lust, and my appreciation of male beauty I was holding out for something that did not exist. Or, if it did, it was not available to me once I stopped tanning, obsessing about how flat my abs were, and wearing hundreds of dollars of makeup.

In conclusion, I stay single because it's pathetically easy, but not by my design. Perhaps one day I might stumble upon a man who is as invested in looking good for me as I would be invested in looking good for him. Instead of me wanting him to want me and him wanting me, I would want him and he would want me. Then we could meet in the middle, form a relationship based on mutual attraction, admiration, and lust.

How sad that society has made such things the exception, and not the norm.



judgesnineteen said...

SO true. I wish I could go back in time and tell my adolescent self that. Of course, I kinda knew it anyway, but being liked by guys was so important that I wasn't willing to stop trying to achieve it. I think it took having serious overkill on the he likes me and I don't like him back thing to make me realize that that's not a desirable situation.

Renee said...

These men are out there...I have been with a feminist man for 18 years now...keep your eyes open your diamond in the rough will appear.

jmcrofts said...

I do have that kind of ideal relationship (but not without rough spots). The most difficult part is that he's not always that confident in the parts of his personality that I value as a feminist. It's not always obvious at first blush whether a man truly values the women in his life or if he's just playing the game -- that's the frustrating part about finding the good ones.

Anonymous said...

Your comments come off as incredibly shallow.

Why is it, if a man wants an attractive woman, or wants a woman to be attractive FOR him, he "hates women", he "objectifies women", and he wants a "trophy", and "arm candy" and "doesn't think women are human"...

But when YOU, a woman, demand the exact same thing of a man, it's good, right, and commendable?

I'd really like that explained to me. Because it seems very ridiculous and hypocritical as hell.

You've basically created a situation where you somehow think you "deserve" an incredibly handsome, well-dressed man, but if a man wants a beautiful, well-dressed woman, he's scum.

musingsofabittergirl said...

Anonymous - could you miss the point just a little bit more? The actual scummy thing pointed out in the post is that most men do not care whether or not they are desired by women and make no effort to appear attractive to women (think of the university frat scenes for example) the way that women will for them, and that is reflected down into the actual act of sex and orgasms. (I am sure you watch porn - how many of them focus on a woman cumming (.0005%?) vs how many focus on the shoot off of a man during oral, anal or vaginal sex?). The majority in society affirm this status quo and women play along as much as men do. If a woman dares to break ranks and demands to be with a man who will make an effort in both the appearance and female orgasm department or in the opposite direction if she ignores her appearance in the way that frat boys do and waits for some man to fall into her beer-belly lap, she is all to often labelled a 'ball breaking bitch', 'feminazi' or is ignored socially (and oh how you prove that so well in your insightful comments).

Jen said...

Anonymous - just like bittergirl said, you've done a commendable job of constructing a straw man. If the world is totally equal, dressing up for a woman would indeed be a loss of power for you. But, because women do dress up for their men all the time for an orgasm that they probably will not have, you dressing up for them isn't even close to equality.

But, you know, it's a nice start.