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Author Topic: Libido and gender
fiveanddime
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One thing that really bothers me is the outlook that guys want sex ALL THE TIME and girls only want it when they're turned on. In my personal experience, this hasn't been true, but certainly, when my friends give each other relationship advice, they always say things like, "Well, he wants it because he's a guy."

What are your experiences with this?

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Heather
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This is one of those places where, IME, growing up queer and not just in heterosexual circles was really helpful. Of course, the discourse around this in the 80s was also different than it is now when we've got a bunch of conservative backlash people are growing up in, which certainly includes very reductive or regressive ideas about gender.

Would having some short answers to contradict this response be helpful for you, fiveanddime?

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fiveanddime
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Sure!

I've had a lot of issues with this given that since I began a sexual relationship, I've begun to see that a lot of other factors affect desire: stress, life circumstances, the relationship's general dynamic, etc. So my experiences can be hard to reconcile with these views.

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Heather
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I totally understand: these kinds of stereotypes can be so limiting.

So, to start how about:
• "You know, for a long time - and obviously for some people still! - this stuff had to do with gender roles. For men to be masculine or manly, they had to say or act like they wanted sex all the time, and for women to be feminine or womanly, they had to say or act like they didn't, or like they only did in answer to men or in socially allowed sexual situations, like commitment or marriage or with sex with men."

• "Know how stereotypes about how people are because of their race are usually not true for most people? same goes with stereotypes about gender or sex. And you're holding them up right now, which just gives them more power and makes people being truthful harder."

• "What you're saying may sound true to you, but it's not reflective of the diversity of people's lived experiences, of any gender."

• "People of all genders can, and often do, have sexual desires, but not because of their gender. Our gender or chromosomes aren't what make people want sex."

?

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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fiveanddime
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Those all make sense. Definitely makes me feel a little bit better! I only wish that more people said those things... :-/
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Heather
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Well, from the sounds of things in your other post, some of this might be about your own peer group. It's so, so easy to forget that our small groups of friends and communities really are just that, and don't respresent everyone. Those groups are also a choice: we can always work to expand our social circles if and when the attitudes in them aren't fitting who we are well.

And you know, even just in working in sexuality over the last 15 years, these attitudes have been changing a lot. When I look at this history of the study of sexuality and social sexual attitudes, looking at even just 50 years ago and now shows WAY more change than I'd say we'd expect with most things in such a relatively small amount of time.

So, this is changing: pretty fast, really.

All the same, I think we can also help ourselves with things like this by remembering that we have the power to recognize when an idea or an attitude just isn't right or is ignorant and not give it weight. I know it can be challenging to do when it's personal, but learning to be resilient with things like this is a pretty handy thing in life, and something most of us will need at at least some point.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Lilerse
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This is one of the two sexuality-related stereotypes/assumptions I run into most often (the other one is basically the virgin/whore dichotomy, but specifically: You're either having loving fulfilling good sex in a committed monogamous relationship/marriage, or you're having shallow empty meaningless alcohol-induced one-night stands that you regret the next day. Not only is that one full of judgment, but it excludes 95% of my experiences. Even a psych professor of mine was making statements essentially saying that - and seriously denying my experiences. I'm not delusional! My sexual experiences have not all been in my head! My God).

Sorry tangent. This topic. Yes. All the time. It constantly ostracizes me and almost makes me feel like a freak because (from my perspective/definition) I've always had a higher sex drive than my male partners. Always.

And I believe this assumption causes women to feel so much worse when they're rejected. While rejection tends to suck for any gender, men are more "expected" to get rejected for sex. It's acceptable, because they can just think, "Well, it's not about me; she's just not interested in sex." For women, being told that men constantly desire sex - will "always say yes," even - means that rejection must prove there's something seriously wrong with them. It can't be that the man is uninterested in sex; it has to mean you're unattractive.

It also harms men because it tells them they have no control. I had a great conversation/interview for my thesis with a male friend who claims he has a higher sex drive than anyone he knows and yet has rejected people as many times as he's been rejected. Being horny doesn't mean you can't say no.
(And it's no excuse for rape)

In "When Sex Goes to School," a book I read for my thesis, the point that most pissed me off (esp since the author didn't elaborate on it AT ALL) is where the auther argues "One of the benefits to abstinence-only is that it at least tells teens it's ok to not have sex, which is especially important for young women." In my opinion, it's almost the opposite; men are the ones who need to be told it's ok to abstain. Women are told that all the time. While most would argue that women are more likely to be pressured INDIVIDUALLY than men, I would argue that men are MUCH more pressured by society - and at a much younger age. I was amazed talking to one of my male friends the other day about his junior high experience and how much guys were desperate for sex or would brag about having had sex (probably lying, most of the time). I certainly never had that experience as a girl in junior high! We went to different schools, so it's apples and oranges, but even so, it's much more likely for a woman of that age to be shamed for having sex and a man to be celebrated.
Point is, her statement suggested that women are simply less likely to be interested in sex, which I think is bs.

The problem is, people use biology (false IMO). They argue that evolutionarily men possess higher sex drives. They try to prove it by number of erections per day or statistics on who masturbates more.
But this ignores the fact that sex drive is definable in many ways, that society *always* plays a role in the things we do, and that regardless of what evolutionary science claims, humans are diverse. So stereotypes are simply not good.

I totally agree with Heather though that it looks like attitudes are changing. I feel blessed that THESE are the worst problems I'm dealing with. Still, it hurts. And it especially hurts because I'm at the kind of school that's supposed to be so feminist and liberal and accepting that this kind of crap shouldn't exist here.
(Most recently, I had to deal with a guy I used to sleep with trying to bootycall me after a fight with his girlfriend. Thinking I would actually say yes to that. While he may not have intended it this way, I felt like he was doing what so many others do and assuming that those of us who have sex outside relationships must not have a moral compass, or a line that we stop at. That we must be just fine with participating in the act of cheating, even though I see the two acts as entirely different. I've had another friend tell me he wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone like me because "sluts can't be trusted." - Like consensual sex between two single friends is the same thing as deceiving a loved partner. Sigh.)

Ooh ooh and one other quick anecdote. A little over two years ago I found out a platonic male friend of mine was actually attracted to me. Continually, whenever I mentioned how surprised I was since he'd always acted so platonic with me, he'd always make claims like "Well of course I'm attracted to you, I'm a guy." Constantly. "I'm a guy." Similarly, a guy with whom I have a TRULY platonic friendship (we've discussed it extensively), is given shit by his friends for not making a move because he's a guy and so of course he wants to do me.
Rubbish.

[ 03-28-2012, 04:56 PM: Message edited by: Lilerse ]

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