Why Is This Column Being Moderated By a Man?

The “Desire Lab” at Double XX.

I’m not one of those people who thinks novelists can only write about people just like them.  I don’t think men have nothing to say about female sexuality — in fact, I think dealing with it is to a great extent a man’s job.  Hey, someone has to do it.   (It’s when I imagine navigating the treacherous currents of someone like me that I thank God for not making me a lesbian, mostly.)

But a groundbreaking exploration of the still surprisingly virgin territory of women’s fantasies and desires — come on, isn’t that a woman’s job?  First of all, as we know from quantum physics, the observer affects the experiment.  The overseeing presence of a male may affect what women say, making it more stereotyped, exhibitionistic, or seductive.  There may be some vestigial tendency to play to the vestigial authority figure.  I had a male shrink for a short time in my twenties, and telling him about my sexual life, which pretty much was my life at that age, made me uneasy.  He was a good guy and seemed trustworthy, but I had the feeling that he could be psychoanalyzed to a fare-thee-well and there still had to be some prurience and voyeurism there.  Had to be.  Women’s desire is both elicited and deformed by men’s desire, like a pear tree on a trellis, or a high-cut bikini wax.  To get to the root of it, it might be useful to be talking just among ourselves, even knowing and welcoming that male readers are eavesdropping.  A woman could pose questions to other women that a man would never even think of.

And second of all, this is a good gig.  And why is a guy getting this good gig when the subject is the inner life of women?  Just because, echoing another male authority figure, he wrote a “fabulous” New York Times Magazine article called “What Do Women Want?”

Ugh.  It puts me off Double XX as a whole.  Mind you, most of its columns and blogs are written by women.  It’s just curious that of all of them, this one — on a subject so intimate, so idiosyncratic — was given to a guy.

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Published in: on October 3, 2009 at 11:05 am  Comments (13)  

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  1. Women’s desire is both elicited and deformed by men’s desire, like a pear tree on a trellis, or a high-cut bikini wax.

    It’s also deformed by other women.

    To get to the root of it, it might be useful to be talking just among ourselves, even knowing and welcoming that male readers are eavesdropping.

    It might be useful to stop talking among yourselves, to try verbalizing things to people who don’t “understand” what you are trying to say. Often we don’t truly understand something until we try teaching it to someone else.

    A woman could pose questions to other women that a man would never even think of.

    And women and men might pose questions to each other that a woman would never think of posing to another woman.

  2. Women’s desire is both elicited and deformed by men’s desire, like a pear tree on a trellis, or a high-cut bikini wax.

    It’s also deformed by other women.

    Here, Jason, I don’t think you know what you are talking about. You’re not a woman. (Though I’ve been told by a psychic that I was “a boy many times in former lives,” so who knows.) Women’s body image is certainly greatly deformed by other women. Desire, not so much. They’re not the same thing.

    It might be useful to stop talking among yourselves, to try verbalizing things to people who don’t “understand” what you are trying to say. Often we don’t truly understand something until we try teaching it to someone else.

    This advice doesn’t take because a) I don’t think we’ve ever really started talking among ourselves on this issue, and b) any woman in a sexual relationship with a man is doing what you recommend, though maybe not verbally.

    In fact, the chances of getting anywhere with this verbally at all may be overrated. Maybe the ultimate question is, “Why does this column exist?” or “Why am I reading this?”

  3. Also, I should make it clear that I’m all for discussing these issues openly with men or with anyone. My question was why a man is leading the discussion.

  4. Here, Jason, I don’t think you know what you are talking about. You’re not a woman.

    Maybe you don’t know what you are talking about because you are a woman, too close to the issues to have perspective.

    Women’s body image is certainly greatly deformed by other women. Desire, not so much. They’re not the same thing.

    So women have feelings about their bodies when other women are around, even have special terminology to describe it, but it’s not desire. Sounds convenient.

    Assuming feelings of desire warp women unnaturally (You keep using the word “deform” as if any feeling a woman had other than when she was alone was wrong.) would lesbians and any woman who looked androgynous be excluded from your group of women? And would a woman’s beauty ever be so great that the deformations she caused in other women’s body images would make women so unable to express themselves that she too must be excluded?

    This advice doesn’t take because a) I don’t think we’ve ever really started talking among ourselves on this issue,

    Then it sounds like you need some outside encouragement.

    and b) any woman in a sexual relationship with a man is doing what you recommend, though maybe not verbally.

    Women shouldn’t try verbalizing something because they’ve always tried expressing it nonverbally?

    I started with the idea that men shouldn’t be excluded, but talking to you I’m beginning to think that men must be included!

  5. My question was why a man is leading the discussion.

    Maybe it’s deliberate sabotage. If they ever figured out how to have the perfect orgasm every time and be completely fulfilled in all things they’d have to shut down the blog.

  6. I’m not assuming feelings of desire warp women unnaturally. I’m assuming that feelings of desire can get warped when poured into the mold of what you think you’re supposed to be to conform to some media or even porn fantasy. The version of the female designed to turn on men (whose desires have also been catered to and shaped by commercial culture) is not a perfect fit with the actual female; vice versa is also true (romance novels are female porn). The sexes are not perfect fits for each other most of the time, nor should they be. But women have gotten pretty far from home in trying to meet men on their ground — to be wanted, to be competitive, to be invulnerable. Straight women are often trying to be what men want (or trying to be as sex-for-sex’s-sake as men) to the extent that it drowns out even finding out what they want. Lesbians may in some respects be closer to the actual nature of female sexuality ’cause they have no reason not to be. Probably much the same could be said for straight and gay men.

  7. Lesbians may in some respects be closer to the actual nature of female sexuality ’cause they have no reason not to be. Probably much the same could be said for straight and gay men.

    You are pretty down on straight women. What is wrong with being sexy; with being sexy for a man? Something lesbians, straight men, and gay men have in common: they don’t act like it’s a crime to make themselves sexually attractive to someone they want to have sex with.

  8. I am a straight woman, at least around 90 percent. (I doubt anyone’s 100% anything.) And what makes me feel desirable (or, made — maybe I should use the past tense) is not at all the same as what makes me feel desirous. Not at all the same. It’s really nice to feel desirable, it’s good for the ego, it makes for a better chances of getting someone within range of your desires. But what’s sexy to a man isn’t sexual to me; it can even be a distraction and a suppression. If you’re concerned about looking and moving a certain way, it can be constraining. Looking at yourself from the outside is constraining (especially since women aren’t as visual).

  9. Another thought occurs to me: maybe this column is being moderated by a man because, if not for men’s fascination with the subject of female desire (which may be called “prurient,” but is really so much more), women wouldn’t talk about it, out of some combination of a) taking it for granted, b) a sense of privacy, modesty, or shyness, c) a difficulty in putting it into words. In that sense, maybe male interest and prodding elicits a courage and exhibitionism in women that’s a good thing. I guess my worry is that women will tell a man what they think he wants to hear, or think they’re supposed to say/feel.

  10. I was just thinking that even though we think we are brazen with our sexuality, it’s really more like we’re in the closet about it.

    The topic of women’s desire does not belong on a blog, it belongs on a field trip.

  11. I have to say that I think it’s incredibly infantalizing to suggest that women would shape their fantasies to please a stranger they will never meet on an anonymous blog.

  12. Yeah, especially given the great maturity of sharing one’s sexual fantasies with one and all.

  13. I think it’s our nature to lie to each other about sex as a matter of course. So, no one is honest, even about their lying. I punt on this one!


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