Why Do We Demonize Men Who Are Honest About Their Sexual Needs?
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This is an article about men, but I'm going to begin by talking about women's experiences. Many of us women go through our daily lives fending off unwanted male attention; most of us have worried about being attacked by men. If I stroll down a city street or take public transit alone, I can count on being approached by men I don't want to talk to. If I walk home after dark, I can't help fearing assault -- so much so that if a man or group of men come near me on the street, I feel my heart lodge firmly in my throat until they pass.
So it's completely understandable that we're all on high alert for predatory expressions of male sexuality. While certain situations and certain people deserve the designation "creep" -- like, say, the guy who once leered at me as I walked out of the public library and whispered, "I can smell your pussy" -- most guys really don't. The pressure put on men to be initiators, yet avoid seeming creepy or aggressive leads to an unpleasant double bind. After all, the same gross cultural pressures that make women into objects force men into instigators; how many women do you know who proposed to their husbands?
So how can a man express his sexual needs without being tarred as a creep? After all, the point of promoting sex-positive attitudes is for everyone to be able to be open about their needs and desires, right?
When I was 23 years old, I was still coming to terms with my S&M orientation, and so I posted to an Internet message board about how "illicit" desire was messing up my life. Soon, I received an email from a guy in my area. He accurately guessed the cause of my anxieties ("either you want some BDSM play, or you maybe want to add other partners into a relationship") and offered to fulfill all my wicked, dirty lusts. In fairness, the guy actually referred to himself as creepy during our text-only conversation -- but I still feel guilty that when I told the story to my friends, we all referred to him as "the creep."
I obviously had every right to turn down my Internet Lothario. Still, I shouldn't have called him a creep; all he was doing was being overt and honest about his desires, and he did it in a polite -- though straightforward -- way. If he'd emailed me with "Hey bitch, you obviously want me to come over and dominate you," then that would have been impolite and unpleasant. But he emailed me a quick and amusing introduction, then asked what I wanted. After a few rounds of banter, I called a halt, and he respected that. I think the word "creep" is too vague and prejudiced to mean anything anymore. But if I were willing to use the word, I'd say my Internet suitor was the opposite of a creep.
Although I've become more aware of it recently, I think I've always had the sense that men are particularly vulnerable to the judgment of “creep." Over a year ago, I wrote a series of blog posts on the problems of masculinity, and in Part 3 I noted that -- unlike men -- "I can be explicit and overt about my sexuality without being viewed as a creep."
Of course, I could be labeled a slut, which could damage me quite badly. There's a reason I do all my most explicit writing under a pseudonym. We feminists often say that men's promiscuity is lauded while women's is stigmatized, and one point of this argument is purely linguistic: "stud" is a complimentary word for a promiscuous man, while "slut" is a hurtful word for a promiscuous woman. Besides, our culture hates sex, no matter who's doin' it -- even vanilla, consensual, heterosexual, private sex between cute white married adults is hard for some folks to acknowledge!