sexual desire

The Paradox of Sexual Desire

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Alexandra O'Sullivan

I’m not cheap, I’m free.

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Some time ago I was sitting in a cafe alone, enjoying a coffee. I was watching a boy and a girl of about 10 and 8 years old respectively, roughhousing in the corner. The boy was saying derisively over and over, ‘You’re a girl, you’re a girl,’

‘What?’ she replied calmly, ‘Don’t you like girls?’

‘No!’ he scoffed, as if the question was ridiculously stupid.

‘So, you’re gay then?’

‘No!’ he replied vehemently, ‘I like girls, I just don’t like girls.’

And he paused, a look of utter confusion on his face. I don’t think he realised how accurate the thing he had just said was.

I like girls, I just don’t like girls.

This contradictory view of women is embedded in our minds from a young age. Girls are to be liked but not liked. Celebrated for what they offer for boys and shamed for what they for offer boys. Joyously conquered and then cast aside in disgust.

Why?

Germaine Greer talks about cunt hatred in the book The Female Eunuch. She explains how the shame surrounding sexual desire causes some men to have negative feelings towards the women they have sex with.

‘The man regards her as a receptacle into which he has emptied his sperm, a kind of human spitoon, and turns from her in disgust. As long as man is at odds with his sexuality and as long as he keeps women as a solely sexual creature, he will hate her, at least some of the time. The more hysterical the hatred of sex, the more extravagant the expression of loathing.’ Greer pg. 254

The shame of sexual desire is linked to the fact that boys are conditioned to despise the very group they are also supposed to desire. Girls are ‘sexy’ but they are lesser. Girls are not friends. Boys are encouraged, through the over-sexualisation of women combined with the fact that there are still so few platonic friendships between men and women in pop culture, to seek out girls for sexual pleasure only. Boys like girls, they just don’t like girls.

It’s possible that the effect of this lust combined with disgust has created a deep inner turmoil within the male psyche that, in part, leads to gender violence. For research, I spent some time on a MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) site. MGTOW’s are men who have decided to ‘go their own way,’ which probably means different things to different men, but broadly speaking, it seems they no longer want to ‘play the game’ of having ‘normal’ relationships with women. Perhaps it is a response to the fact that many women have, at last, started going their own way too, no longer allowing male opinions to dictate their actions. For MGTOW’s, women can’t reject them because they reject women. Yet you get the sense that they want women, so, so badly. Their posts are peppered with objectification of women. They talk bitterly about women having ‘golden vaginas.’ The inner struggle of being simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by women simmered under the surface of every sentence I read. The term ‘hate fucking’ is used to describe having sex with someone while hating them, and this is what some of them do. More than anything else, I find this sad. I would never want to have sex with someone I didn’t like, never mind with someone I actively hated.

After only five minutes of searching, I found a thread about the ugliest vagina they’d ever seen, and a thread about how you can never be friends with women, you can only fuck them. Cunt hatred and hate fucking, right there. These men are examples of an extreme manifestation of cunt hatred and hate fucking, but not the most extreme. Violence against women is unfortunately all too common. Here in Australia, an average of two women a week are killed due to intimate partner violence. Countless more are injured, and still more live in constant fear of their partner or ex-partner. I can’t help feeling that the seeds for this violence are planted back when that 10-year-old boy scoffs for the first time, ‘You’re a girl.’

Of course, these are at the end of the spectrum, but it is a spectrum, and we are all on it somewhere. As Germaine Greer explains;

‘Sophisticated men realise that this disgust is a projection of shame and therefore will not give it any play, but because they have been toilet-trained and civilized by the same process as the total victims of disgust and contempt, they still feel the twinges. They say ‘fuck you’ as a venomous insult; they still find cunt the most degrading epithet outside the dictionary.’  Greer pg. 256

Women often respond to this cunt hatred by internalizing it. Body dissatisfaction among women is a huge problem. Attempts to minimise what naturally occurs in the female genital area is something I find especially troubling.

The desire to control women may be the main reason for this dual view of them. Men are taught that they are the powerful sex, but they are also taught to crave, crave, crave the other sex, and perhaps this craving makes them feel as if their control of women is slipping. As if the fact that women are (in theory) able to decide who they do not want to have sex with is taking some power away from men, when in fact it is just the bare minimum of personal autonomy. Women are seen as sexual gatekeepers. Men want something women have, and if it is not readily given to them, it can lead to resentment, anger and violence. Although if it is readily given to them, it can lead to slut shaming and disgust. Having sexual desire is great, but it is the contradictory combination of desire, disrespect and disgust that causes problems. To move beyond this, women must be seen as friends and equals. As human beings beyond what they offer sexually. As the witty, intelligent, complex creatures that they are.

Men can like women if that is their sexual preference, but they should also like women.