Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass – Part 3

The exceptional value of virginity notwithstanding, it is also fair to mention that (future) copulation itself is often used as a medium of exchange. While the object of bartering was a piece of meat or physical protection against wild animals ten thousand years ago, it could be a film role, a job, a sales deal, or better final grades today. Although not too many people will easily admit it, it is an unwritten law (in Chinese: 潜规则, qián guī zé) that men lure women with the offer of resources, and women lure men with the offer of sex. As long as there are enough supply and demand to regulate the market, this kind of commerce will remain common practice in most societies. Yet it shall be noticed that the actual transaction does not always take place. Rather, the mere promise of such a favour is often enough to entice one’s vis-à-vis into a desired state or action. As part of the courting process, some men will boast that they are rich and willing to share their wealth with their target if only the latter accepts to go to bed with them. But once she has succumbed to his advances, a rake will just drop her like a hot potato and soon look for greener pastures.[1] Most women are easy prey and will quickly fall into the trap because the blackmail “if you do not want to have sex with me, someone else will” is so compelling, even in today’s world of security and affluence.

But this does not mean that females have no leverage against this form of emotional or sexual coercion. On the contrary, those who understand the “equation of sex for money”[2] and are able to solve it by themselves can also deliberately employ it for their own pur­poses. Given males’ noticeable interest in uncommitted sex, many girls quickly get the hang of the ruse that all it takes to suck a man in is to suck that man. In many cases, the simple promise of pleasure (without the actual delivery) is enough for women to be presented with resources and other benefits, for example, a drink at a bar, a dinner, a promotion, and so on. Indeed, womankind is equally capable of deceit and manipulation, specifically by using sexual wiles, such as their youth, resplendence, or charm – just as the lyric goes:

If ladies be but young and fair,

They have the gift to know it.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

What is remarkable here, and quite a contraction to the traditional image of female demu­reness is that some of these ladies will go so far as to provide sexual access to (particularly sought after) males with the only purpose to affirm themselves and boost their own confi­dence. The more attention and time they get from these otherwise unreachable high-flyers (rock stars, professional athletes, famous actors, etc.), the more worthwhile they will see them­selves. This time, it is not their heart or feelings that matter, nor that of their playmate’s towards them[3], but the challenge to successfully seduce a man highly in demand (and who therefore has a lot of choice in poten­tial sex partners) and the thrill to beat the rest of the women in the field. To them, inter­course is nothing else but an exercise to test their attrac­tiveness in competition with other coquettes.[4]

Unfortunately, all these aspects contribute to perpetuating the problem of the sexual objec­tification of women.[5] Under these premises, it is very difficult for them to get rid of the image of being an instrument of men’s carnal pleasure. Such practice is particularly tragic because it reduces a real person to the status of a commodity with purely utilitarian functions. These can be sexual productivity (e.g., women as breeding machines), physical grati­fication (prostitutes used as playthings or sex toys), the display of a certain standing (trophy wives). Instead of a partner, these men only seek a status symbol, an object of admi­ration. For them, only appearance or desirability matter, just like for a luxury apart­ment, a yacht, or a sports car. Prominence is given to her orna­mental value (in terms of gene­­rally per­cei­ved beauty, attractiveness) or freshness (age, virginity) whereas aspects such as perso­nality, senti­ments or fondness are completely neglected. Therein lies the ignominy of such objectification of females: It simply ignores the fundamental axiom that a woman is always more than the sum of her parts.

Related proverbs and citations:

千金买笑

qiān jīn mǎi xiào

A smile is worth a thousand ounces of gold.

To spend endless money for temporary pleasures.

老骥伏枥,志在千里

lǎo jì fú lì, zhì zài qiān lǐ

An old war-horse may be stabled…Yet still it longs to gallop a thousand miles.

Ambition survives even in senior age.

荆棘是玫瑰的卫士,只会刺伤摘花的人

jīng jí shì méi guī de wèi shì, zhī huì cì shāng zhāi huā de rén

A thorn defends the rose, harming only those who would steal the blossom.

男人有钱就变坏,女人变坏就有钱

nán rén yŏu qián jiù biàn huài, nǚ rén biàn huài jiù yŏu qián

Men with money just turn bad, women turned bad just have money.


Notes

[1]    For other techniques and the rationale behind such behaviour, see chapters 6 “A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart” and 35 “No cat can resist snatching fish”.

[2]    Campbell (2002), p. 193

[3]    See chapter 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”.

[4]    See Townsend (1998), p. 159

[5]    See chapter 4 “Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters”.

Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass – Part 2

Although widely romanticised in film (see Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation) and litera­ture (The Lover by Marguerite Duras) the acceptance of such older male/younger female rela­tion­ships is generally quite low. The man may face ridicule for failing to cope with his age, while outsiders could question the woman’s integrity and the sincerity of her feelings. The level of (dis)appro­val depends on how significant the age gap is, which in turn, is a value that varies over time and cultures, and may also be influenced by the law or ethical systems. Economic disparities between age, social or ethnic groups also play a role in how such partnerships are perceived. In China, for example, the contempt and criticism are much higher if the couple consists of a local girl with a foreign guy (老外, lăo wài). A common insult she will hear is that she is a gold digger (傍大款, bàng dà kuăn), i.e., someone who likes or takes interest in someone only because he is rich. The perks they can get from their relation­ships are well worth the price. Common gifts include dinners, smartphones, hand­bags, jewel­­lery, trips, apartment rentals, etc. For the luckiest ones, it can even lead to a nice wed­ding party with a subsequent divorce settlement. This might not apply to all women falling in love with much older fellows, but those who do should be aware that this is the impres­sion that they give to others, whether they like it or not. Moreover, ladies who decide to go after the quick buck by choosing loaded partners should not be surprised by the epheme­rality of their relationships. After all, tricks like the immediate display of abundance and hol­dings (including the lavish spending of cash, the invitation to a high-end restaurant on the first date, the generous tipping of waiters, the ordering of mixed drinks in bars, the joy­ride in a new sports car, the buying of expensive gifts, etc.) are generally recognised to be effec­tive for attracting casual sexual partners rather than long-term mates.[1]

Anyhow, some females do not mind being labelled as “gold diggers” and deem it as accep­table to maintain an affair with a “sugar daddy” who offers them money and/or gifts in return for their company or sexual favours. In Japan, the practice of compensated dating, or enjo-kōsai, is already well established, yet heavily contested within the society. One impor­tant aspect that needs to be highlighted here, however, is that the female participants, ranging from school-aged girls to housewives, do not necessarily sell their bodies or engage in physical acts. In this regard, they can be compared to modern day courtesans, as defined in the traditional sense, i.e., “a well-educated and independent woman of free morals, […] a trained artisan of dance and singing, especially one associated with wealthy, powerful, or upper-class men who provided luxuries and status in exchange for companionship.”[2],[3] This form of entertainment has a long history in many cultures and regions of the world, where the representatives of very similar trades are known under different denomi­nations, such as hetaerae (in Ancient Greece), tawaif (South Asia), yiji (艺妓, yì jì, in Ancient China), sing-song or flower girls (19th century China), or kisaeng (Korea), oiran or geisha (Japan). As performing artists, they were carefully trained and frequently accomplished in the fine arts, poetry, music or dance. They also offered primarily spiritual interaction to their clients, and some of them were able to deny engagements, respectively to choose who they wished to spend time with. Sexual activity between them and their patrons was not always expected, and in fact was fairly rare. If it happened, it would not be based on monetary affairs, but as the result or the side-effect of an affectionate affair.[4] For all the other clients hoping to play patty-cake with their doxy, they had no other option but to wait for whoredom come.

Nonetheless, in the case of geisha (芸者, literally: art doer), the meaning of the present pro­verb is particularly poignant. Under the Edo era, geisha apprentices, or maiko (舞子, dan­cing girl), had to undergo a special ceremony, mizuage (水揚げ, hoisting from water), mar­king her coming of age. The observances also included the deflowering of the girl by a patron who had previously acquired this right of first access. Although the sum paid by the “sponsor” was significant, geisha would not consider mizuage as an act of prostitution. In other countries as well, even today, virginity is regarded as a valuable possession or mer­chan­dise that can yield significant return, either by selling it for a certain amount or other­wise trading it against rights or privileges. By the same token, the so-called “droit du seigneur”[5], or lord’s right, which entitled the feudal overlord of a medieval estate to deprive his serfs’ maiden daughters of their virginity, illustrates the preciousness and the coveted nature of youth and pureness.


Notes

[1]    Buss (2003), p. 100

[2]    Notice that it is only recently that the term “courtesan”, which originally comes from the Italian word “cortigiana”, i.e., the (courtly) ruler’s mistress, acquired its pejorative meaning as a prostitute with wealthy, or upper-class clientele.

[3]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enjo_k%C5%8Dsai

[4]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiji

[5]    Similar French terms include “droit de jambage” (from jambe, i.e., leg) or “droit de cuissage” (from cuisse, i.e., thigh), which are used as synonyms for “jus primae noctis” (Latin for “law of the first night”). For more information, see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droit_du_seigneur

Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass

老牛吃嫩草
lăo niú chī nèn căo

Whoever strolls in a major city’s hip locations at night will notice the number of May-December couples, i.e., pairs where one mate (usually the male) is significantly older than the other. This proverb fiddles with this phenomenon and is based on the observation that older men seek younger women (as wives, but also as mistresses, girlfriends, one-night stands, etc.), and that older women sometimes like to date younger men (most pro­bably as toy boys only) – if, of course, the financial situation and physical attractiveness of each part­ner respec­tively, allow for such a match. Yet this apposition is not highlighted for any rea­son. As shall be seen in the following, economical or material considerations indeed often play a major role in such relationships.[1]

According to statistics available for Europe, most men marry women who are about three years younger than them on average.[2] This fact can easily be explained by biological and social consi­derations: From a survival perspective, it makes sense for women to choose a better half that can protect them and their offspring. Given that people’s wealth normally increases with age, an old man is likely to have a higher status, greater resources, a larger network, and therefore a better ability to provide for her. The reason why the age difference is not much higher than three years is equally perspicuous: If a man is too old, he is expected to die earlier, mea­ning that his (or the couple’s common) resources will dry out or will be reduced in the wake of the inheritance division. In this regard, the genuine love story bet­ween Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall, an oil business mogul 62 years her senior, should certainly be remembered as a historical exception.

Furthermore, mature men display comparatively lower testosterone level, which makes them more stable emotionally, more reliable, and thus more credible with regard to long-term commitment. They are also recognised as being more generous in bed, more under control of their own desires, and more understanding, respectively knowledgeable about what women want – all qualities that should not be underestimated when it comes to (short and long term) heterosexual relationships. On a similar note, studies show that the sex drive of a man in his forties, for example, is more compatible with a woman in her early twenties (that is, in terms of interest and need, not physical performance).

Likewise, the existence of “cougars” (a slang term referring to a women who date and sleep with much younger men) can be justified with analogous arguments: While human males’ libido peaks at age 19, the sexual functioning of females tends to reach its highest point when they are around 36 to 38.[3],[4] Hence, from a purely biological and lust-technical stand­point, it is apparently this combina­tion, a Mrs. Robinson in her late thirties with a 19-year-old Benjamin Braddock, that pro­mises the most action in bedrooms worldwide. This has not only to do with the fact that only younger men have the appetite, potency and the physical ability an older woman yearn for. Other aspects, such as hormonal changes within a woman’s system, life experience, self-confidence, comfort with one’s own body, play an equally crucial role in explaining such unions that make no sense from an evolutionary perspective, as women have virtually lost their reproductive value at that age. Other than true romance or momentary lecherousness, the only plausible reasons a stripling would go for this kind of arrangement are power, connections, reputation, celebrity, or money. That being said, the key insight here is not that “coupling between an older woman and a younger man can’t last”, but as Alan and Barbara Pease point out in their 2009 book Why Men Want Sex and Women Need Love: “[S]ome do – but most don’t.”[5]


Notes

[1]    A deeper discussion about the importance of age in mate selection is held in chapter 14 “Fair lady is what gentleman seeks”.

[2]    Cited in: Wardrop (2009)

[3]    Pease / Pease (1999), p. 222

[4]    Pines (2005), p. 101

[5]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 62

Chapter 3: Men like, women love

男欢女爱
nán huān nǚ ài

This tetrasyllabic phrase is generally employed to describe the love or passion between men and women.[1] In the context of this blog, however, it shall be used as all-purpose sentence recapitulating how human males think and how they are programmed when it comes to sexuality. Another chapter is dedicated to the same topic but viewed from a female stand­point.[2] Understanding the differences between both genders on this very issue is criti­cal if one wishes to figure out what creates sexual desire and what drives us to sleep with another.

When describing male sex drive, many people will tend to sketch it in rather simple fashion – for example like an on/off switch. Female sex drive, on the contrary, will be described as a complex ma­chine, involving several buttons, controllers, commutators, which all need to be monitored and co­ordinated in order to carefully ramp up and later on to maintain the mood.

Similarly, in their seminal book Why Men Don’t Listen And Women Can’t Read Maps, Allen and Barbara Pease liken men to microwaves and women to electric ovens. Indeed, males can be ignited immediately and may reach peak capacity within a matter of a few seconds, but are just as quickly and easily turned off once the meal is cooked. With females, conversely, one has to wait until top temperature has been reached, which can be quite a lengthy process, while it may also take a while for them to cool down as well.,[3],[4]

The difference in speed between men and women cannot only be observed in terms of how quickly both genders can get aroused sexually, but also how fast they decide to sleep with each other. In general, men have much lower thresholds for seeking sex, many of them expressing the desire and willingness to engage in intercourse with a total stranger. Accor­ding to a study carried out on an American college campus[5], 75 percent of men would res­pond positively when confronted with the following offer from an attractive female: “Hi, I’ve been noticing you around town lately, and I find you very attractive. Would you go to bed with me?” On the other hand, 0 percent of the women answered “yes” to the same question uttered by an attractive man. While the vast majority of women are likely to feel baf­fled, displeased or downrightly insulted by such an odd request coming out of the blue, many men would be flattered by it. Thus, time or familiarity do not seem to make any dif­ference to men when it comes to the question of whether or not to have casual sex with a woman – they are always ready to go, no matter if they have known the woman for ten minutes or ten years.

This “easiness” of males is also reflected in the frequency of thinking about carnal plea­sures. In a seemingly rather cautious study, the Kinsey Institute at the Indiana Univer­sity found that more than half (54 percent) of men think about sex at least every day, while 43 percent have it on their mind a few times a week or month, and only 4 percent said once a month or less.[6] Other reports depict an even hornier image of men. In her book The Female Brain, for example, Louann Brizendine mentions that for 85 percent of twenty- to thirty-year-old males, sexual thoughts wander through their brains several times every day. Females, by contrast, “only” think about it once a day, or up to three or four times on their hottest (i.e., most fertile) days. Yet another study goes one step further, calculating that men think about sex about six times per hour on average (not including dreams), or about 750 times per week![7] Bearing in mind a regular couple copulates one and a half times per week, it is not difficult to understand the frustrations of men complaining about not getting enough sex. Unfortunately, the problem of quick arousal is not limited to fantasies and wishful thin­king about the quantity of nookie they can get. Legions of men, especially younger ones, feel the urge to let their “member of congress” ejaculate many times a week or even several times a day. Whoever has heard that call knows that it can be quite an uncomfortable and dis­turbing sensation. In that case, the best way out is not to debate or deliberate, but to inten­sify the proceedings, reach a climax, and to finish it. Notice at this point that there is nothing corporal forcing men to come in(to) a vagina. As pointed out in The Hite Report, even if a male has a strong physical desire for orgasm (for instance, undergone through an erection) the excitement he feels is not linked to any craving for intercourse as such, but only for the need of sexual release. Thus, the animal “itch” a man feels is not a desire to penetrate a woman’s genital organ but a yearning for further stimulation of the penis, and ultimately for orgasm.[8]


Notes

[1]   Although the origins of this proverb remain unclear, it may be attributed to Féng Mènglóng (冯梦龙), a Chinese poet and vernacular writer of the late Ming dynasty (which itself lasted from 1368 to 1644 AD). In his short story Prefect Kuang Solves the Case of the Dead Baby (况太守断死孩儿, kuàng tài shǒu duàn sǐ hái ér, published in the 1624 compilation Stories to Caution the World, 警世通言, jǐng shì tōng yán), he refers to a particular “kind of rendezvous, where a woman loves and a man (only) likes” as “a great mistake made in a moment of weakness” (这般会合,那些个男欢女爱,是偶然一念之差”, zhè bān huì hé, nà xiē gè nán huān nǚ ài, shì ǒu rán yī niàn zhī chā).

[2]    See chapter 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”.

[3]    Pease / Pease (1999), pp. 221-223

[4]    See chapter 30 “You can’t help shoots grow by pulling them up higher”.

[5]    Cited in: Pines (2005), p. 91

[6]    Ellis / Symons (1990)

[7]    Cited in: Kramer / Dunaway (1990), p. 19

[8]    Hite (1981), p. 256

Chapter 2: A good woman doesn’t go with a second man – Part 3

But even in cultures where the use of such extreme methods was not common, the mental conditioning of women to remain chaste and faithful seems to have worked out in favour of men as well. Alas, female sexuality is still subject to restrictive, mostly unwritten, social norms that impede its development. Ladies should be ashamed of their desires. Many socie­ties around the world have a lot of tolerance for those women who choose to live out their sexuality freely, without restriction. Although one could argue that the situ­ation has improved over the last fifty years, it is very hard to find females who have com­pletely shaken off all these constraints. Instead, they prefer to hold them­selves back as a way to signal purity, honour and worth. Thus, females’ own sexual repu­tation remains a key preoc­cu­pation for them, as they try to preserve an image of virtue.

Generation after generation, parents have raised their daughters to be “good girls”, barely telling them about sexuality. If at all, they bring up the topic of menstruation, reproductive organs or contraception, but seldom cover other important sensitive parts of the body (for instance, the clitoris) or issues such as orgasm. Instead, they caution their children about the dangers of the dark path of indulgence, call upon their vigilance against “dirty” beha­viour, or implore them to ascertain that their names are not stained by rumours of looseness. One immediate risk of such education is that the needs and urges of young girls become bottled up for many years, which they release in an exaggerated and emotionally unhealthy way later on. Another arguably negative conse­quence is that even the most well-intentioned women have to cope with a dilemma when it comes to the decision to whether or not to allow intimacy with a man they have a strong affective connection with. The subject is diffi­cult, and good women do not agree. Worried about their reputation, women will experience feelings of embarrassment and guilt if she has the impression that she “sold herself under price” or “gave herself to someone too easily”, for example by having inter­course with a man she did not really love. A woman who just slept with a man for the first time might be concerned about what he thinks about her, what she means to him, how strong his fondness for her is, etc. She could also be speculating on how the guy will treat her in the future, won­dering “whether sex was all he was after”.[1] Any doubts about his sincerity or heartiness are likely to demean her and spark off the suspicion that he exploited her, a feeling that most women hate. Then, if she beds someone without any senti­ments of affec­tion, her distress is likely to be even worse. Such an experience will lead her to lose her self-respect, leaving behind a bitter taste of degradation and cheapness.

This explains why women are likely to reject or at least demurely resist the sexual advances of a prospective mate if he fails to convince her about his good intentions (as, for instance, expressed through sympathy, caring, investment of resources, etc.). If he treats her as a one-night stand (and provided that she is herself not interested in a casual liaison), she will con­sider his moves as a violation of her desire for emotional involvement, shutting down to him, and losing her attraction for him. Furthermore, men should not be surprised to see women make it difficult to “get” them. Even if they “want too”, their inner code forbids them to surrender to their lust. Rather, they restrain themselves and wait until a male has demon­­strated enough engagement and devotion towards her. This strategy follows three main purposes: First, to make herself believe that she did her best to resist her carnal cra­vings; second, to allow enough time for the inception of amorous feelings within her heart; and third, to signal to her social surroundings that she is not an “easy girl”.

Thus, whenever passion befalls a “good” woman, she faces a Catch-22 with her eros. Let’s consider the following case: A traditionalist bachelorette falls in love with a conser­vative man. At some stage, she will want to consummate her love towards him. However, if she does have such desires, she must know, or at least her intuition probably tells her that coitus produces posi­tive sensations. If she is aware of the stimulating effects of sex, she cannot be fully innocent (i.e., she has been exposed). Prudish and prudent as she is, she will not take the gamble to open up to her target, fearing that any hint of impurity will repel him. In turn, this (imaginary) thought of potential rejection from the man she loves could potentially cause disappointment in her heart, disturbing her emotionally and destroying her feelings for him. Her love will fade away and eventually vanish… Although not impeccable, the argumentation developed here shows: Sexual puritanism may lead to emotional deadlock and, in the worst case, to a lose-lose situation. This cannot be the purpose of human devotion. Instead, let us liberate ourselves from the chains of sexual conservatism and carry through our passion: Lovers of the World, Unite!

That being said, men who wish to seduce or woo a lady should still be careful to observe her desires as well as her ethical standards. Every woman wants to be respected and to feel valued. In a “post-first-sex” situation, this requirement can be easily translated into slushy or over­charged questions such as “does he see me as wife material or simply as a mistress?” in a female’s mind. She fears that if she has been too fast, she might be put into the “mis­tress”, or worse, the “slut” category. She is well aware that any clue of profligacy or promis­cuity may ruin her reputation and therefore jeopardise her chances to find a husband. Social norms and warning signs such as “you just cannot jump in the sack with a guy so quickly” are deeply incised in her mind. On the other hand, human females are known to be highly sexual in nature: They love sex, they want sex, even if they do not admit it openly. Instead, they will argue that they do not just want sex, or that they want to make love.

Once men see through this line of reasoning, it becomes quite effortless to lure a woman into temptation. In many instances, all he needs to do is to join forces with her and help her find a way to outfox society and circumvent the cultural norms working against sexual free­dom. In reality, it is the male’s role to provide an alibi to women to be naughty and let nature take its course. Sometimes, nice words or a simple “I really like you”[2] will do the trick. Other females prefer to drink alcohol so that they can blame its dis-inhibiting proper­ties for their failure to control themselves. Or both partners construct a scenario in which intercourse “just happened”. Billy Crystal, the American comedian, once declared: “Women need a reason to have sex; men just need a place”. Based on what has just been said in this paragraph, however, it seems that what women are looking for is not a “reason”, but rather an “excuse”.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

男女授受不亲

nán nǚ shòu shòu bù qīn

It is improper for men and women to touch each other’s hand in passing objects (even more so to hold hands, kiss, possibly to communicate).

 

路边的野花别乱采

lù biān de yě huā bié luàn căi

Don’t pick up wild flowers on the roadside.

 

此地无银三百两

cǐ dì wú yín sān bǎi liǎng

“No 300 taels of silver buried here”.

A guilty person gives himself away by conspicuously protesting his innocence. A clumsy denial resulting in self-exposure.

 


Notes

[1]    Townsend (1998), p. 52

[2]    Notice the usage of the word “like” rather than “love”. Although many women claim that they first need to love a man before having sex with him, liking or actually being liked, is enough for most of them. How to express “liking” or what feelings it encompasses for a woman is elaborated in chapter 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”.

Chapter 2: A good woman doesn’t go with a second man – Part 2

Yet the tight corset of mores did not only impede widows. In Victorian England, couples in general, were also imposed various forms of abstinence. Seeing their sexual needs denied by the power and social norms in place, women had no right to bodily pleasures. Popular and pres­crip­tive literature promoted fashions and standards of female innocence and tempe­rance, reasoning that sexual desire was now out and that ladies had naturally a greater capacity than men to keep their ardour under control. Older images of femininity as sensual and fervid were replaced by the new exemplar of a fundamentally “passionless” woman. Consequently, intercourse between a husband and his wife was transformed into a mere obligation within the scope of duties of the union, that of consummating the marriage. If men had passion or other feelings to express or to share, they were welcome to live these in the company of prostitutes. Women themselves had no such right though.

Such a philosophy advocating abstinence gave birth to various anxiety disorders or attitu­des. Victims, which can be individuals as well as entire cultures, will be prone to erotopho­bia (i.e., the fear of nudity, pornography, sex education, sexual discourse), homo­phobia (the aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people), asexuality (the lack of inte­rest in sex or, in the broadest sense, lack of sexual attraction), or antisexualism (the oppo­sition or hostility towards sexual behaviour and sexuality). The latter is quite easy to spot, especially when a suspect utters opinions such as that sex is addictive, complicates or des­troys relation­ships, discriminates against unattractive people, is the cause or the root of many problems in the world, is a means of oppression, may induce a person to lie or cheat in the pursuit of sexual gratification, and so forth. Some antisexuals even reject the idea of roman­tic love, as it represents a form of addiction to a person. As opposed to antinatalists (who assign a nega­tive value to birth, like the members of the Club of Rome do), however, they do not necessarily disapprove sex for reproduction purposes. Despite the fundamental dif­ferences in ideology of both groups, sex is the only real (common) enemy they have. Remove sex from the scene, and the root cause of hunger (for antisexuals) and over­popu­lation (for antinatalists) is abolished forever.

It was in the coming of this kind of value system that the marriage institution turned into a fierce subjection of women and that the cult of feminine chastity became an obsession with men. In such societies, the virginity of unmarried women and loyalty of married women remains the standard for women’s morality. Females are not allowed to explore their femi­ninity or sexuality but are rather encouraged to repress their sexual needs and desires. They are supposed to stay shy and coy at all times, in particular in the presence of men. Women who disobey these principles are quickly labelled as lose or downright immoral. In old times (in some countries, still today), those who got caught in actual promiscuity or in other forms of transgressions could be put to death, for instance by stoning. Likewise, “nympho­ma­niacs” unable to resist impure feelings, or women deemed at risk of being troubled by such drives, became subject to severe public criticism, or were put in prison, where they could cleanse their filthy conduct.

What makes these customs all the more reprehensible is that women are sequestrated, disciplined, mutilated or otherwise violated without even being “guilty” (in the sense of horny or lusty). While clitoridectomy (the partial or complete ablation of a girl or woman’s clitoris to reduce or eliminate her sexual pleasure) and infibulation (the excision of the labia and the sewing together the vulva’s edges to prevent penetration) presumably constitute the most abomi­nable experiences of all, other traditional practices (such as foot binding, chastity belts[1] or claustra­tion) cause only slightly less trauma­tising physical or emotional wounds. And let’s do not forget various forms of female seclusion that exist in different cul­tures, such as the harem (i.e., the living quarters reserved for wives and concubines and female relatives in a Muslim house­hold), the purdah (the obligation to conceal women from men by having the former live in a separate room or behind a curtain, cover parts of their heads or faces with a veil, or, in some extreme cases, wear all-enveloping clothes), which also represent a kind of sexual imprisonment. Although unjustifiable, such victimi­sation of women have a simple, biologically explai­nable, purpose: To restrict wives oppor­tunities for sex with men other than their husbands, and therefore to ensure, or otherwise to boost the lat­ter’s confidence in their own paternity. No matter how one looks at these instances of mis­treatments, it is always about controlling females’ seductiveness, keeping them out of the sight of strangers, reducing their interest in initiating sex, deterring them from straying, or guarding them against sexual infidelity.


Notes

[1]    A chastity belt is an anti-temptation garment or device designed to prevent sexual intercourse or masturbation. Its origins date back to the Crusades when men had to join lengthy campaigns in the Holy Land. During the absence of a knight, his Lady would wear a chastity belt to uphold her faithfulness to him.

Chapter 1: Men are like mud, women are like water – Part 3

Interestingly, research shows that economic independence of women has a direct impact on pre-marital sex, as measured by the defloration age and the frequency of sexual activities before marriage. In societies where females are not so emancipated, i.e., necessitate rela­ti­vely high investment from men, women gain a lot from being married. This condition renders promiscuity much riskier, simultaneously intensifying the competition for a do­mes­­­tic partner. Consequently, rivals have a much stronger incentive to keep their virtue, which, in turn, lowers the incidence of fornication. Conversely, luxuria is no luxury for young ladies in control of their own economic fate. As the pressure to fulfil potential mates’ prerequisites is not so heavy for them, they enjoy much more freedom, and can there­fore indulge in carnal pleasure earlier in their lives.[1]

On the other hand, it is quite understandable for men to expect female passivity and mora­lity – if they can afford it. The natural disposition of males to systematically attach a certain value to virginity can be observed around the world, even though differences across cultures can be observed. Not every society displays the same level of attention to this matter. In coun­tries such as China (including Taiwan), Japan, India, Indonesia, or Iran, for instance, people lay great emphasis on pureness when it comes to choosing a partner for life. At the other end of the spectrum, the French, Dutch, Scandinavians, or Germans tend to think that chastity is prac­tically meaningless in a prospective mate. Similarly, in the United States, this prere­quisite is more important to college students in Texas than to their counterparts in Califor­nia. Furthermore, the insistence on sexual morality in this country seems to have eroded over the last fifty years, an evolution apparently linked to the advent of artificial contra­ception. While men viewed this factor as virtually essential in the 1930s, ranking it as the 10th most valued quality in a damsel, it only came in 17th place in the late 1980s.[2]

Such puritanism or sexual favouritism toward maidens may look archaic to some readers, but in order to understand where we are coming from, one needs to look back no further than the Victorian era, i.e., from 1837 to 1901. At that time, society was governed by a strict code of moral values that repressed sexuality and its pleasant derivatives. Male homo­sexua­lity was prohibited, while the law downrightly negated the existence of lesbianism. As sheer nudity could provoke arousal, it was equally frowned upon. Women who wanted to take a swim at the beach were invited to do so in bathing machines near the premises. People in mixed or polite society would prefer to employ the term “limb” rather than “leg”, simply because the latter was deemed out-of-line. So was chicken “breast”, which ought to be cal­led a “bosom”. According to some historians, prudery was taken so far as to cover tables and pianos with embroidery or crinolines in order to conceal the furni­ture’s “legs” and thus to avert any kind of frenzy of lust and shame. Casual contact between boys and girls at unsu­pervised social events was not supposed to happen. Once a young man had chosen a demoiselle to court, he had to request an audience with her family and seek their approval. If permission was granted and the encounter took place, a chaperon would escort them for the whole duration of the rendezvous. One possible next stage in the suit consisted in a cus­tom called “bundling”, which allowed an unmarried couple to occupy the same bed without undressing. Wrapped in separate blankets, or sometimes segregated by a board (meant to obstruct inappropriate contact), they were asked to converse through the night with the mis­sion to better know one another before a probable marriage.

Although rules are much laxer nowadays, one should still bear in mind another reason why the loss of virginity remains a highly sensitive topic to girls. Let us not forget that their first act of sexual intercourse usually goes along with at least some degree of physical discom­fort. The tearing of the hymen itself (which can be compared to a layer of skin ripping inside the body), as well as the resulting vaginal bleeding, may have traumatising effects on some of them. A woman’s uncertainty about having chosen the right partner for this life-chan­ging occasion can contribute to a further exacerbating her irritation. As this happening marks the sexualisation of her entire being and thus end of innocence, integrity, or purity, she knows that nothing will be the same again. While virginity has been associated with the notions of virtue, honour and worth, losing it is still considered by many to be an important personal milestone. Hence, a young lady certainly has the right to treat her virginity as her own private holy grail, and to warn every admirer, every suitor, every Prince Charming that “none shall pass” and that she is ready to defend her reputation by all means. If she has saved herself for someone special to her, it is a gift that no one should take lightly. In order to protect her from emotional pain, or at least confusion, her first man would be well advised to be very careful with his rosebud, and to take to heart the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince: “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”[3] So if he is gentle, respects her, takes his time, makes sure that she is ready, she will know that she made the right decision and will remember him all her life.

Related proverbs and citations:

男人不是好东西

nán rén bù shì hăo dōng xī

Men are not a good thing.

All men are creeps.

生米已成熟饭

shēng mĭ yĭ chéng shóu fàn

The raw rice has been cooked to meal.

All has been made and could not be reversed.



Notes

[1]    Cited in: Buss (2003), p. 69

[2]    Ibid., p. 68

[3]    Original: “Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

Chapter 1: Men are like mud, women are like water – Part 2

Furthermore, females are also associated with images such as vulnerability, delicacy, and passivity (Bǎoyù’s love of his life Lín Dàiyù (林黛玉) certainly personifies the archetype of gentle­ness). In the world of male chauvinists, however, the stronger belief in women’s fra­gility natu­rally comes along with the expectation of innocence. In fact, the impression of the soft little girl triggers feelings of empathy, which in turn may give rise to emotional involvement or even attachment. For many men confronted with such purity, it may be very hard to resist put­ting the entire womankind on a pedestal of virtue. In its most extreme form, such a defe­rence can lead to the so-called madonna-whore complex (or virgin-whore dichotomy), an uncons­cious psychological dilemma where the male sufferer finds himself unable to love any woman he desires (or who can satisfy him sexually), and inversely cannot desire (or be sexually satisfied by) any woman whom he feels he could love.[1] In this perspective, the vene­ration for feminine virtues like sinlessness and moral strength is merely another aspect of the female gender role in Latin American-style machismo.[2] From this idea of marianismo[3] derives our understanding that women are semi-di­vine, morally superior to and spiritually stronger than men and that an ideal woman should be immaculate and eter­nally giving.[4]

The notion of marianismo is not limited to a mental image. It also establishes a set of rules for wives and unwed females to follow in order to achieve true femininity, most promi­nently sexual abstinence until marriage and the restraint from intercourse unless explicitly for impregnation purposes. No matter how sexist it may appear, this former demand that girls be unspoiled when they first marry also has biological and rational motives. In fact, imposing chastity constitutes the perfect method to ensure paternity. For marriage to be worthwhile for our male ancestors, the latter had to make sure that their partners would bear their offspring, and only theirs. Even prior to the invention of birth control devices, the fact that a woman had not given birth was not enough to certify that she had remained as pure as a unicorn (or was it a rhinoceros?). Hence, the solely most effective way for a woman to prove her whiteness was simply to live up to the paragon and to refrain from copulation until her wedding. Notice the symbolic meaning of that colour which is quite power­­ful. Accor­ding to some cultural customs, the bride’s virginity had to be attested by the presence of an intact hymen, which was ascertained either by an ex-ante physiological exa­mi­nation or by an ex-post “proof of blood” in the form of a stained bed sheet to be displayed publicly the morning after the nuptial night. Only under such a constellation could she convince her groom that she had taken her maiden flight together with him.

A man could not afford to be negligent in the assessment of his mate and had to perform a thorough attitudinal or sexual due diligence on her, before selecting her. This was important for two reasons: First, because of the public shame and humiliation incurred in case of cuckoldry; and second, because pre-marital looseness is a particularly compelling indicator of possible future dissolution. For, in the event of failure to recognise cues of infidelity, the time and efforts employed in prospecting, vying, and wooing must be regarded as com­pletely wasted from a reproductive or genetic survival point of view. Indeed, by the time the treachery had been exposed, the betrayed hubby may already have invested pre­cious resour­ces into the development and protection of chromosomes that are not his own.


Notes

[1]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna%E2%80%93whore_complex

[2]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machismo

[3]    The word “marianismo” is derived from Virgin Mary (or Maria in Spanish).

[4]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianismo

Chapter 1: Men are like mud, women are like water

男泥女水
nán ní nǚ shuǐ

Incidentally, the first expression in the series is not a proverb in the truest sense of the term but a quote from Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦, hóng lóu mèng) by Cáo Xuěqín[1] (曹雪芹), arguably one of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese literature.[2] The words are uttered by the male protagonist, Jiǎ Bǎoyù (贾宝玉). A tactful, compassionate and sensi­tive young man, Bǎoyù asserts that women are made of water, or, at the very least, remain as pure as water, whereas men are mere chunks of clay or mud, unformed and soiled. He shuns the latter for their moral and spiritual inferiority, quite in the image of his own cousin, a disso­lute rake known for his amorous exploits with both men and women. Indeed, Xuē Pán (薛蟠) embo­dies all the possible deplorable and disgusting charac­teristics of a male, inclu­ding indolence, uncouthness, inconsideration, and so on. A local bully, he even kills some­one over a slave girl and has his case covered up with money, demonstrat­ing how far cor­ruption can go. Although not all men reach this level of tastelessness or de­pravity, they undoubtedly repre­sent the gender with the lesser grace, mildness and vir­tue. Men’s pilosity, deeper voices, crime statistics, the volume of body noises emitted, or their greater incli­nation to con­sume sti­­mu­lants (alcohol, tobacco, etc.) are but a few examples to under­line this state­ment.

Yet, if men’s physiques are rough and angular, their temperaments pugnacious and impul­sive, and their manners vulgar and selfish, it is only because it has been made possible by evolution. Their bodies and minds were originally fashioned for strength, agility and speed, as their pur­pose was to run, to seek, to capture, and to kill in order to provide for their community. Testosterone gushing through their blood vessels plays an instrumental role in the process. Not only does it drive the fabrication of male reproductive tissues (in parti­cular the testis and the prostate) and the maturation of sex organs; it also fosters the growth of body hair, the building up of muscle mass and strength, the increase of bone density, etc., giving men their muscular and robust, i.e., virile, shape. Since men have about ten times more testosterone in their blood than women, it is impossible that the human anatomy stays unaffected by this sexual differentiation. The brain itself constitutes no exception and is heavily influenced by the amount and magnitude of hormonal fluxes. Consequently, testo­sterone levels play a major role in the explanation of gender discre­pancies in the develop­ment of essential cognitive and sensorial functions, such as attention, memory, spa­tial abi­lity, attachment, caring, risk tolerance, aggressiveness, the tendency toward vio­lence or sui­cide, and so forth.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

Inversely, the female body is much curvier, fuller, and softer. Just by looking at it, one understands immediately that it has been designed for protection, cosiness and nourishment. The key biological ingredients in the formation of that source (others may also worship it as a temple) of comfort and well-being are oestrogens. While they are part of both males’ and females’ blood chemistries, they are usually present at significantly higher levels in women of reproductive age, dominating their hormonal balance. Oestrogens are involved in the shaping of female secondary sexual chara­cteristics (for example, breasts, larger fat stores, redu­ced muscle mass), are partly respon­sible for regulating the menstrual cycle, and contri­bute to other cardinal functions of the repro­duction system (e.g., the increase of uterine growth, acceleration of vaginal lubri­cation, thickening of the vaginal wall). Finally, they are also connected to mental health, as a fluctuation, persisting low levels, or a sudden with­drawal of oestrogen may cause a woman’s mood to decline.[8],[9],[10],[11],[12]


Notes

[1]    Following the local convention, all Chinese names throughout the text are written with the family name first (in cap­ital letters) and the given name next. In the present example, Cáo is the family name, while Xuěqín is the given name.

[2]   Dream of the Red Chamber (also known as The Story of the Stone) is arguably the most famous of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese (四大名著, sì dà míng zhù, literally “Four Great Masterpieces”), the other three being Water Margin (水浒传, shuǐ hǔ zhuàn), Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义, sān guó yǎn yì), and Journey to the West (西游记, xī yóu jì).

[3]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone

[4]    Ridley (1993), pp. 254-258

[5]    Pease / Pease (1999), pp. 187-189

[6]    Campbell (2002), pp. 35, 290

[7]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 15

[8]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estrogen

[9]    Pease / Pease (1999), p. 182

[10]  Brizendine (2006), pp. 33-35

[11]  Pease / Pease (2009), p. 188

[12]  See chapter 8 “A woman’s heart is as deep as the ocean”.