I overheard a conversation between two men yesterday that sparked a lot of discussion in my own brain, & almost as soon as it happened I knew it would end up being a blog post. I cannot share many details of the conversation for a variety of reasons but I’m going to sum it up as best as I can below.
Man #1. “So this 16 year old boy is making racist statements towards me & also regaling everyone with tales of his sexual escapades from years ago.”
Man #2: “From years ago? And he’s only 16 now?”
Man #1: “Yep.”
Man #2: “Well, good for him!”
Being the person I am I couldn’t help but butt into the conversation to say “Just imagine if the genders were reversed. You would NOT be saying that.” Neither man acknowledged my remark in the least, which is fine. I wasn’t really part of the conversation but because of our physical proximity at the time I couldn’t help but overhear it. But I do think it’s interesting that neither of them so much as looked at me to acknowledge my remark. Not sure if that means they immediately dismissed it as irrelevant or if they realized I’d actually made a good point! Whatever. I’m certainly not going to report either man for having the conversation because they didn’t offend me. They didn’t intimidate me. And they certainly didn’t harass me. But I do think the second man’s remark is indicative of some greater problems within our society. Let me explain further.
Now let me preface this by saying that I do not consider myself a modern feminist. I did not march on Washington wearing a vagina hat- & I’m never going to. You won’t find me screaming about abortion rights or a gender pay gap. I do not identify with those sorts of women. As a friend of mine recently said to me, unfortunately modern feminism has largely been taken over by people who are in reality misandrists. They aren’t calling for equal rights for women so much as they hate men & are trying to tear them down. I hate that this has happened because they have turned feminism into a dirty word when it absolutely should not be.
Having said all that, I am bothered by the conversation above for several reasons. First, the second man’s comment implies that sex is by default good for males. I can almost guarantee that he would not have made the same comment if they’d been discussing a teenage girl who’d already been having sex for years. No way! (And that’s why I couldn’t resist saying what I did.) So the implication here is that sex is good for males but bad for females. Now I’m not an idiot- I am not in denial of biology. Obviously sex is inherently more dangerous for women because of the chance of pregnancy. Furthermore, some STIs can be more dangerous for women (or at least have more damaging long-term effects). Not to mention rape of course. So yes, I understand & acknowledge all of that. But danger (or the potential for danger) does not have to equal bad or wrong.
Second, I do not think that sex is healthy for young teenagers, regardless of gender. Neither teen boys nor girls are emotionally mature enough to handle the potential emotional consequences of sex, much less pregnancy or STIs. Therefore it is not a healthy thing for our society to joke about teenage boys having sex like they’re winning at life. You see & hear these same types of comments whenever a female teacher is on the news for having sex with a student. There are always men coming out of the woodwork saying “Oh man, I wish the teachers had been like that when I was in school” or “Good for him.” Have I laughed at such comments myself at times? Sure. But in the end I realize they’re really very unhealthy. No one says those things when a male teacher is caught having sex with a female student. In both cases, quite often the student was more than willing. But that isn’t the point! The point is that regardless of gender, an adult- much less a teacher or someone in authority over a teenager- should never be exploiting an underage person because teenagers just do not possess the capability of making such decisions.
A case of a female teacher having sex with an underage male student was in our local news a month or two ago. And it did not receive nearly the same attention it probably would have if the genders were reversed. People just do not view female sex offenders as dangerous in the same way they do male sex offenders. In a way I understand this because biology dictates that a woman grabbing a random man off the street & raping him is nigh impossible. But that does not necessarily make female sex offenders any less dangerous. Considering that the average teenage boy is itching to lose his virginity to just about anyone, an adult woman who exploits that, particularly a teacher or someone in a position of authority, is just as disgusting as a man who does the same thing with a teenage girl. Why does our society act like boys cannot be emotionally scarred or damaged by sex that happens in bad situations just as much as girls can be? Of course they can’t get pregnant, but that isn’t the only issue at hand here. It’s like we’ve forgotten- or are in denial- that sex is an emotional experience for men just as it is for women. (And any man who argues otherwise is clearly having bad sex.)
Here are a couple of metaphors for the “sex is good for men but bad for women” trope. Imagine a couple won the Olympic gold medal for pairs figure skating but only the man was actually awarded. Or suppose a football team won the Superbowl but only the offense was considered the winners & only they got the rings. Sure, the offense has the more glamorous job that usually results in scoring all (or most) of the points (don’t men love saying they “scored” with a woman?), but they still can’t do their job without the defense. It takes a team to win (or lose) a game. And when it comes to sex, it takes two to tango, as the proverbial saying goes. So it’s just plain inconsistent & illogical to say that sex is good for one person & bad for another when they are quite literally doing the same thing.
Feel free to comment with your own thoughts on this matter. It’s always possible I’m just overreacting. But I think it’s very important that we consider the underlying messages we send to our society as a whole by even our most “off hand” comments. One could argue such comments reveal our true, underlying values, even if we aren’t fully cognizant of them.
Moral of the story: watch what you say around me. You might end up in a blog post!