I’ve done a lot of whining on gender and double standards this week. For that, I apologize. I know that’s a real mood-killer. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer. Talking about these issues isn’t making anyone horny. That’s not good for my creative energy or my prospective customers.
That said, I’m not a fan of whining just for the sake of whining. That’s what children, internet trolls, and annoying reality TV stars do when they want to distract themselves from how little they actually contribute to society. I’m not a whiner. My parents had a low tolerance for whiners. Whining isn’t sexy and even the best erotica/romance writer in the world can’t make it sexy.
I bring issues like double standards up because it’s not just relevant in terms of where our society is at the moment. It also affects my work. When I’m working on a novel, I find myself hesitating at times to take the story in certain directions because of the gender of the characters involved.
One particular issue that came up recently involved my book, “The Final Communion.” That book has a sizable glut of erotica elements, to say the very least, but I did find myself struggling with certain scenes. I always intended to tell the story from the perspective of a female character. However, when I brought some male characters into the mix, I struggled at times to give them the depth I wanted.
This is largely because within those erotica elements, it’s hard to develop male characters outside the expectations we have towards society as a whole. Compared to women, those expectations are horribly skewed and unbalanced. We expect men to be aggressive. We expect men to be callous. We expect men to jump through any number of hoops just to get a chance at having sex. Do you see the running theme here?
I admit I played into some of those expectations in “The Final Communion.” I tried to add depth where I could, but it’s unavoidable in some respects. Our culture and our expectations shape our collective tastes. It affects how we relate to one another, how we seek love with one another, and how aspiring erotica/romance writers craft their novels.
So far, I feel like I’ve painted a bleak picture of sorts. I’m giving the impression that it’s hopeless. Men and women will never get along. They’ll never be equal. There will always be conflict between the horny men who just want to have sex without all the red tape and the horny women who want to just want to have sex without the stigma.
Does this mean double standards will never go away? Well, I don’t like to think in terms of such absolutes. At the moment, the research is not all that promising. According to an article in Psychology Today from 2014, which cited multiple studies, this is our current situation:
Unlike premarital sex in committed relationships, which was once a hot-button topic but now viewed as OK by most Americans, the battle over the acceptability of casual sex has not (yet) been won by either side.
A multitude of attitudes exist simultaneously among young people: Some consider casual sex wrong for everyone; others consider it OK for everyone; and others still consider it wrong for some but not for others.
Women continue to be more conservative than men in their attitudes toward casual sex in general.
There is still a double standard in the population as a whole, but only a minority of young men and women endorses it.
Among those who endorse a traditional double standard, most are men.
The data is mixed, as it often is with all the insane complexities of the human condition. It’s also not final. No study ever is and those claiming to be are probably funded by tobacco companies, the Koch brothers, and the Vatican.
At the very least, it does highlight some trends that offer at least some glimmers of hope. Most notably, it reveals that Rick Santorum’s efforts have failed miserably. Acceptance of pre-marital sex is becoming so common that we’ve stopped punching each other in the genitals over the issue. When there are so many health benefits to orgasms and promiscuity, I call this a win.
However, even as acceptance of pre-marital sex grows, our inclination to shame others and whine about it still lingers. This is to be expected. Human beings are amazing creatures, but we’re still at the mercy of clunky, inefficient biological processes that often manifest in our societies.
Hell, we still have countries in this world where women don’t even have the right to drive a car. We can’t expect some of these outdated attitudes to disappear just because enough people whine about it.
For me, the most promising revelations of this study is that, while the sexual double standards for men and women are still there, the participants don’t exactly approve of it. This, to me, is the glimmer of hope that’s worth highlighting.
A lot of these double standards aren’t overt. They don’t walk up to you, slap you in the face, and scream into your ear for five hours every day. We tend to fall into them for the same reason we thought wearing bell-bottom pants was fashionable. It’s just the collective tastes of our peers that we don’t notice or scrutinize.
However, if you point it out to people and make them aware of it, they see the inherent unfairness of these double standards. That’s important because fairness is one of those powerful concepts that’s very important to the survival of a highly social species like ours. We don’t have the teeth of a shark or the muscles of King Kong. We need to work together to survive. That means fairness is a big fucking deal.
Current research also supports this. According to a study published in 2012 in Psychology Science, infants in the second year of life already possess context-sensitive expectations relevant to fairness. That means even when some of us are still in diapers, we have bullshit detectors that reveal the inherent unfairness of these double standards.
I still concede that some of these double standards have some basis in caveman logic, but only to a limited extent. It’s culture, injustice, and unequal power structures that skew these standards to an excessive degree.
For this reason, I believe that the double standards we apply to genders with respect to sex will one day fade, just as our attitudes towards casual sex did. It won’t happen overnight. We probably won’t even notice it. Angry old people complaining about today’s youth will still probably whine about it, but some people will always find a reason to whine. It’s better for society as a whole if we don’t make it easier for them.
With that in mind, let’s try a little thought experiment, which I hope to explore in future books. Let’s imagine a time several decades into the future where these egregious double standards between men and women simply fall out of favor. By all accounts, society is equal with respect to gender, or at least as equal as any sexually dimorphic species will allow.
This means that men and women are punished equitably for the same crimes. Nobody shames each other for having too much sex or wanting more sex than they have. Radical feminists and men’s rights activists aren’t influential or are all dead from whining themselves to death. What kind of society would that be? How would it operate?
Picture the following scenario. It’s one I’ve used before, but let’s apply the thought experiment to it.
Man: Hello ma’am. You look very beautiful today.
Woman: Thank you. You look quite handsome yourself.
Man: Thank you. I appreciate that. Listen, I’m single at the moment. I’m not looking for any long-term relationships at this point of my life, but I find you very sexually appealing and if you want, I’d like to have sex with you tonight.
Woman: I appreciate your honesty. I’m single at the moment too. I’m certainly open to long-term relationships, but I respect your current desire. And since I find you sexually appealing too, I’d be happy to have sex with you tonight.
Man: Great! Would you like to do it at my place or yours?
Woman: Let’s do mine. I live closer. It’s just easier.
I admit this is a laughably simplistic scenario. It’s so simplistic that it wouldn’t even qualify as a script in a low-budget porn movie. Even so, it highlights the necessary elements.
Two consenting adults walk up to one another. They don’t bother with elaborate flirtations or games. They just honestly tell one another what they want and respect each other’s desires. That’s as simple and basic as it needs to be.
This same scenario could’ve even played out another way. Consider this.
Man: Hello ma’am. You look very beautiful today.
Woman: Thank you.
Man: Listen, I’m single at the moment. I’m not looking for any long-term relationships at this point of my life, but I find you very sexually appealing and if you want, I’d like to have sex with you tonight.
Woman: I appreciate your honesty. I’m single at the moment too, but I’m afraid I don’t find you sexually appealing. I’m also not really in the mood for sex right now. I appreciate the offer though. I’m sorry.
Man: That’s okay. I’m disappointed, but I understand.
Woman: Thank you.
Again, it’s laughably simplistic, but it reflects the same underlying theme. Both individuals are up front and honest with their desires. Men don’t have to act like James Bond and women don’t have to act like every female character in “Seinfeld.” They can just be fair and honest with each other in matters of sex, love, and desire. What a concept, right?
I offer this thought experiment because some of my ideas for novels take place in the future. I enjoy looking to the future and imagining how our world and our society will change, both in terms of technology and in terms of how we’ll relate to one another.
It’s a concept I don’t see explored often in romance or erotica. I’d like to explore it in whatever unique way my perverse mind can conjure. I don’t have any clear plans at the moment, but when I do, rest assured I’ll do what I can to make those plans sexy as hell.