Continuing the debate over sexual attraction, gender roles and power

The discussion on this thread – originally about an Ohio rape case – has gotten too long, and has drifted considerably. So I’m closing that thread and starting a new one.

The new topic appears to be questions of lust, gender roles and power. Do girls and women have more “sexual power”? Do boys and men feel more lust than girls and women do?

I’ll quote parts of recent posts by Aegis and La Lubu to start this thread off, but feel free to respond to any post on the old thread, here on this thread.

Aegis: Understanding the disadvantages that a certain social system grants in one area should not lead us to ignore the way that system also grants certain advantages in another area. Obviously, the pressure on women to be beautiful, and the pressure on men to earn money are both disadvantages. But because of that pressure on men, they often succeed in earning more money, granting them economic power (although this power require sacrifices in other areas). Those poor men, being forced into having all that financial power! Likewise, the pressure on women to be beautiful may result in them improving their beauty, and consequently gaining sexual power over males. Of course, female sexual power does not always translate into respect from males, and it often comes at a price of other types of power. […]

Surely being viewed sexually can often be a very positive experience for females! Isn’t it nice for an attractive woman to have a guy she really likes become totally smitten with her? Isn’t it nice for her to be able to wait for a guy to approach her, and then let him do most of the work when he does approach?

And some of my first experiences not being viewed as sexual were negative. I felt competely unnattractive to women until I was age 18, and this had horrible effects on my self-esteem and ability to interact with women. I also remember one time when a friend of mine who went to middle school with me told me only half-jokingly that she would like to marry me some day… just so she could sit in my big house and look at my artwork. I don’t think she would have been interested in dating me in a million years, but apparently I was good for earning money to buy a big house and adorning the walls of said house with paintings. Imagine how you would feel if a guy told you that he would like to marry you simply for your looks.

I am not saying that a guy who encounters comments like this and feels unnattractive necessarily has things as bad as a woman who gets catcalls and creepy older suitors all the time, just as I am not saying that a man never being seen as sexual in the business world has as much advantage as an attractive women who can easily attract men. Those comparisons are difficult to make.

One thing that bugs me about claims of “women’s sexual power” is that, insofar as it exists at all, it’s entirely indirect power. A woman’s so-called sexual power doesn’t mean that she gets to decide which project will be funded, who gets hired or fired, etc; at best, all it can mean is that she has the indirect “power” of influencing men who in turn get to make the actual decisions.

How much power did Monica Lewinsky actually have to determine US policy? I’d argue, virtually none. But no doubt it could be claimed by some that she had “sexual power” over Bill Clinton.

La Lubu: Aegis, being viewed sexually can be a positive experience for females. However, I would argue that most women have experienced being viewed sexually as either equally positive and negative, or more negative than positive. Why? Because we don’t get to keep being viewed sexually within its context, in other words, our perceived sexual persona is elbowing into all the nonsexual areas of our lives.

Like the professional world, for example. No matter how neutral our dress or behavior, the mere fact that we are Female, with a Female Body, brings sexuality into the equation as work. For women, this often translates into reduced opportunities at work. Potential mentors shy away from us because they don’t want to be tagged by the inevitable sexual rumors. Higher-ups don’t want to believe that women are on the job to work rather than find a husband. The Mommy Track is real. Even when we’re not mommies. How attractive we are or aren’t can translate into what work opportunities we are given, or aren’t. I once had a foreman on the job walk me around to all the journeymen already there, asking the guys if it was ok if I worked with them…he didn’t want to make anybody’s wife mad. Out of thirteen journeymen on the job, all said they’d work with me, that it was cool. But only two of them thought the whole idea of singling me out like that, for that reason, was complete bullshit. Only two other journeymen on the job thought it should have been irrelevant whether anyone’s wife got mad. The other guys thought it was nice of him to ask!

* * *

Again, don’t feel constrained to responding to only the above on this thread. Any of the posts on the old thread may be responded to here.

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304 Responses to Continuing the debate over sexual attraction, gender roles and power

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    Daran says:

    […] is a comment left by Shiloh on a previous thread. I’ve edited it a bit to make it “stand-alone,” rather than […]

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