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Monday, 12 February 2007

Why do men seem so much more eager for sex?

Being new to blogging (even though I've been hanging around for a while) means that I keep seeing fairly old posts. This one is about 1/9 of the way down the huge pile of comments on this thread:

In casual social situations of single people, if a woman suggests sexual activity to most any man there, he's willing, probably eager, and more than likely thrilled. If most any man there suggests the same to a woman, she'll say no, probably be offended, and very likely will decide that he's a shallow jerk, regardless of whatever interests and attitudes he might have.

I quote it not to refute that statement in particular, but because I have my own thoughts on this phenomenon, and I was finding it difficult to describe without sounding silly. I kept saying things like "People think women can have sex whenever they want, whereas men have to keep asking and asking", which is ridiculous, everyone knows there are plenty of sexually frustrated women out there (don't they?), and the reason men have to 'ask' is because that's the convention and women don't usually break it (my discussion below should suggest some reasons why they don't break it to anyone with sufficient imagination). Described as above, though, it at least seems to be getting at something that looks like it might have a grain of truth in it. I do think there is a(some?) genuine social phenomenon(s) here, buried under the inevitable generalisation.

Before I get to my main point, though, I wouldn't be me if I didn't nitpick:

In casual social situations of single people, if a woman suggests sexual activity to most any man there, he's willing, probably eager, and more than likely thrilled.

Ok, can I just ask something? How many men have actually been in that situation? I mean, when men say they'd be thrilled, can they point to any examples? And if so, was the man in question in fact thrilled? I'm not a man, let alone an "average man", so I don't know if the average man would be thrilled if the average woman suggested sex. I have had at least one male friend mention being propositioned with the remark "not flattering, trust me", so I know it's not always true. The question needs to be asked if it is true in general. I'm wondering if part of the reason men can say that is because they've never seen the reality, but I don't actually know if that's a reasonable suggestion.

Now that I've got the minor question out of the way, I'll get to my main thought on this matter.

As far as I can tell, in a "casual social situation between single people" it is just about impossible for a man to lose status by having sex.

There are some notable exceptions to this, the cruellest and most obvious being "unless the girl is fat", but, in the main, I think it holds.

Similarly, it is just about impossible for a woman to gain status by having sex.

Exceptions to this rule tend to be both equivocal and reliant on there being some commitment between the two people. For example, a woman might gain status by having a successful husband (personally I think such 'status' would probably annoy the heck out of me, but some might disagree). However, this is a far cry from a casual sex situation. In general, a girl having casual sex is going to have to fight to keep the status she has, let alone gain any. Sometimes I scare myself by wondering if the word 'slut' has more synonyms than the word 'good'. If it's true, I don't want to know. The idea behind the word is pervasive, and it means more than 'promiscuous', it means more than 'woman who has sex'. Mostly, the meaning which bothers me is that of woman who is used - used sexually by men. And if being perceived as being used doesn't lower your status, I don't know what does.

A woman is less likely to be perceived as being used if she makes a show of being choosy. That's a point in itself and I'll leave it there.

Another point, though, is that if a woman appears eager for sex, she might end up with less control over the situation. Unless she trusts the man, she can't be sure he won't just do whatever makes him happy with no care for what she wants. Ideally, she would have a say in these things no matter what, but there are men who would be oblivious to their own sefishness (especially if she was begging for sex in the first place), and there are women who would find it hard to protest.

Add that to the fact that the man is essentially asking her to put the way people see her on the line in a way which simply isn't true for him, and the fact that it still isn't conventional for the woman to do the asking; add the stereotype that women are less interested in sex...

... and biological determinism really has only so much explaining left to do.

EDIT: It occurs to me that I didn't really need to reference biological determinism to make my point. The stuff I've shown gives reasons why women might appear less interested in sex that do not rely on any actual difference in sexual interest between the sexes.

There may well be a difference between male/female sex drive, on average, but I think people probably overestimate it - there are just so many reasons why they would.

5 comments:

Cigr said...

In casual social situations of single people, if a woman suggests sexual activity to most any man there, he's willing, probably eager, and more than likely thrilled.

As a man, I would say that that is a very true statement, in general terms.

Anonymous said...

2x for the 'most likely thrilled'

Although I'll add a caveat that it's entirely possible to turn guys off by all the obvious things, at which point, it's more 'most likely horrified'. But that's pretty hard to do.

Pax said...

Come on. Being a mathematician you understand both numbers and asymmetry. There are 26 million sperm per shot in a male orgasm on average. There are 420 eggs in a LIFETIME in women. You do the math

Julian Morrison said...

Speaking as a guy, I think the stereotype of "yes please!" is oversimplified several ways. First off, if the setting wasn't one where a proposition might be expected, especially if he's not used to women bothering him, the guy is going to flip straight into cynical mode. Why is she offering? Is she setting me up for a turn-down and an ego knock? Did her friends put her up to this for a laugh? Has she got some kind of a sneaky or criminal motive? Is she looking to be paid? Then second, he's going to ask himself "I'm taking sloppy seconds to how many other men, and what diseases did they leave behind?". Third, "why can't she get a boyfriend to get laid, what's wrong with her? Is she a psycho or something?". Fourth, it doesn't feel any better to be impersonally "used" from the guy side. Fifth, guys can too lose status for slumming and risking disease if they fuck random women off the street.

Basically, to accept a casual proposition, I suspect most guys would have to know, value and trust the woman, and believe the proposition was personal and honest. Under comparable circumstances, maybe a woman too would accept?

Lynet said...

Fifth, guys can too lose status for slumming and risking disease if they fuck random women off the street.

Fair point - and, especially among teenagers, there are groups of girls in which having had sex gives you status, too, or so I have heard (and whose members might be more likely to be thrilled at a suggestion of sex?). So I may have been overgeneralising somewhat.

Basically, to accept a casual proposition, I suspect most guys would have to know, value and trust the woman, and believe the proposition was personal and honest. Under comparable circumstances, maybe a woman too would accept?

Well, see, here we come to the point where I don't know if there's a difference or not. I mean, yes, there would be a high probability of acceptance under those circumstances, when I view it "in general". Sounds awesome to me. In practice, well, it depends whether I'm attracted to him. Are men more likely to be attracted to women than women are likely to be attracted to men? I don't know. Can sex be fun for men if they aren't really attracted to the woman in a way that isn't true for women in a similar situation? I don't know.

When men differentiate between "fuckable" and "unfuckable", do they mean what they say? If the woman making the proposition was "unfuckable", would the guy still be thrilled? And if not, anonymous, is being "unfuckable" "pretty hard to do", as you say?

None of you have mentioned that you know of a specific example in which the man in question was, in fact, thrilled (you don't have to give me details, btw). Of course, this may well be because you know of no specific examples at all, but I'm just trying to inject a little realism into the debate. I'm wondering if the reason men view it that way is because the woman in their imagination is always "fuckable" or something, and I'm wondering if that's a reasonable generalisation.

Come on. Being a mathematician you understand both numbers and asymmetry. There are 26 million sperm per shot in a male orgasm on average. There are 420 eggs in a LIFETIME in women. You do the math

Wrong math to be doing - those 26 million sperm are only going to be going into one woman in the first place. But I'll cover for you and mention a better argument that drives in the same direction as the one you've tried to give: the amount of effort that women are forced to put into any child they produce is greater than the amount of effort that the man is biologically forced to put in, because at the very least they have to put in a full nine months of pregnancy. Moreover, men are biologically capable of having more babies than women are biologically capable of having, because they are always fertile (unlike women, who are only fertile at certain times of the month), and they can make more than one woman pregnant. So your contention is, I suppose, that women have a biological reason to be more choosy (since they can't make so many), and that as a result there may be biological differences between the sexes (that are not entirely alterable by society) which result in women being more choosy.

Yeah, maybe. I still think the differences are exaggerated by currently unnecessary societal constructs. I think we still contain ideas in our heads - completely alterable ideas - which were built on a society in which women had more to lose by having sex because (a) there was no birth control and (b) society didn't give a single woman many options.

Let's face it, some of these things don't have anything to do with whether a woman wants to have sex. A direct, no-warning, unsoftened proposition from a really hot guy would still turn me off. A strong part of my psyche just defines it as discourteous - at which point I'd have trouble trusting him or believing the proposition was "personal and honest".