Monday, June 24, 2013

Naked men and French pastries

-Daniel Bergner, whose book I still need to track down, is soliciting information from women about whether they find naked men attractive:

How important is the visual to you? How does it play out in your sexual life? Is it essential? Peripheral? Do you bring home the visual turn-ons of the day when you get into bed with your partner? If the visual is important to you, is your partner aware of this? As always, please write from personal experience and be as specific and honest as possible, but stop short of pornographic.
This is, if nothing else, one heck of a writing assignment. How exactly does one talk about not merely "the visual" (which is nice and abstract) but the sexiness of naked people without this veering into X-rated territory? What could one possibly say, other than something that sounds like a description of a painting in a museum? It seems as though anything frank one could say on this topic would risk titillating, no matter the intention. As much as it would be great to get rid of the myth that straight women merely tolerate naked men in exchange for the social role of girlfriend or wife, it doesn't really seem like collected PG-13 anecdotal evidence would get us there.

-The NYT food-writer whose specialty is lentil-based cardboard (recipes that sound like they'd be great if whichever ostentatiously removed full-fat ingredient or animal-products were brought back in) has revealed a secret life as a pastry-cookbook ghost-writer. At least one vegan is furious. But in a sense, this kind of adds up. One of the rules of healthy eating is that anything's OK as long as it's French. White flour ceases to be poison when it goes by the name farine de blé. That's either because within the context of a traditional French diet, croissants seem not to pose a problem or because all of this is really about demonstrating class status with food choices. Or perhaps a bit of both.

 -A conversation between Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan. Highly recommended. All the more so if you have a day "off" that you've devoted to turning the "study" in your apartment from messy-adolescent-bedroom to space-work-could-actually-happen-in. Makes the time fly.

When they got to the part about female desire being different, though, I tried not to preemptively wince. Were we really about to hear two men explain that women are like so? Because it started to seem to be going in that direction. And it wasn't even that they're gay - I'd heard both make this argument in the past.

As it happened, we only heard one do this. Sullivan asked Savage to agree that there are differences between men and women, suggesting that one would have to be all kinds of politically-correct (and not a tell-it-like-it-is libertarian) to dispute this, and Savage kind of agreed, but kind of laughed this off, agreeing vehemently that "gay men are men." But when Sullivan tried to insist that women are set on monogamy, whereas men inherently crave variety, Savage was like, no, that's not what the new studies are saying. And to his credit, Sullivan responded that this was the first he'd heard of it, but didn't insist that these studies were wrong, and did indeed seem open to the idea that social construction plays into what we think female sexuality consists of.

But what struck me was what Sullivan's claim that in heterosexual relationships, men are fine with cheating, but women are not, would imply. It would imply that, while women object to men straying, men do not object to women doing the same. Which contradicts not so much what gender-is-a-construction types may believe about women's vibrant and varied sexuality, but also what's been popular-to-the-point-of-stale cliché for ages: that (many but not all) women accepting that 'men have needs', while (many but thankfully not all) men are jealous and possessive. It would seem that these gender-normative men who are fine and dandy with fooling around are happy to do so themselves. That that's the "open" they favor.

So this may not be that much about women being like so after all. Men, as a rule, appear to have a different expectation of fidelity from female partners than from male ones. Is this because, on some primal level, babies? Is it because of popular assumptions that women would only stray if they intend to leave - that their betrayal is by definition emotional betrayal? The patriarchy (she says, burning her bra, so as to further rile the bra-fit sub-Reddit)? Whatever it is, it does sort of seem the missing piece.

No comments: