Today at Jezebel, Anna North tackled the myth that girls can get laid whenever they want. This caught my attention because this is something I have heard from a number of guys, even so recently as last night. It usually occurs during a whining session, where one or both of us is complaining about sex and how we’re not getting any. When I try to commiserate with my sexually frustrated male pal, he will typically respond like this: “But you don’t understand. You’re a girl; you can get laid whenever you want.” This assumption, my friends, is flawed.
I was hoping that Anna North would articulate this for me, but unfortunately, she went in a slightly different direction by discussing the marginalization of women who do not conform to traditional standards of beauty. While she does make a valid point, there is more to the myth than just the fact that not all women are considered sexually desirable. Even if a woman IS considered sexually desirable, it is problematic to assume that she can get laid any ol’ time she wants.
I think I understand how this belief comes about. Women are often seen as having the power to say “yes” or “no” in sexual situations. From the male point of view, if a woman wants to have sex, all she has to do is say “yes” and sex is on. The problem here is that this line of reasoning goes on a lot of assumptions, the main one being that women are in a perpetual state of being propositioned for sex. This is simply not the case. If it were, straight men would have to be constantly propositioning women for sex, and I would argue that most straight men do not operate this way.
When it comes to being sexually frustrated, men and women have a lot more in common than one might think.
Have you ever been at a bar or party, staring across the room at someone you might like to have sex with, frustrated that you don’t know how to get their attention or demonstrate that you’re interested? This is a common experience shared by both men and women. I would even argue that in this situation, men actually have the upper hand since traditional gender roles dictate that it is more acceptable for a man to approach a woman than the other way around. The problem is that many men do not ask women out because they are too afraid of rejection, and this fear is a burden that women increasingly share as it becomes more and more acceptable for women to do the asking. If you are a guy who has “chickened out” when it comes to approaching a girl, it’s a safe bet that your female friends can relate.
The second false assumption here is that the only reason a woman wouldn’t be getting laid is because she’s too picky. If all a woman has to do to have sex is say “yes,” then her sexual frustration is her own fault. Her standards are too high – a notion that contributes to the stereotype of women as shallow creatures (or “bitches”) who will only mate with prime physical specimens; i.e. the ones with rippling muscles and waxed chests. I don’t mean to sound callous, but these are the arguments of bitter men who have experienced rejection – an experience I will once again argue that women share. Women have been judged and rejected based on their appearance and sexual desirability for centuries, and it sucks. And now the burden to be perfectly sculpted is one increasingly shared by men, for better or worse.
The reality is that you aren’t going to be attracted to a portion of the people who ask you out, whether you’re a man or a woman. It’s not fair to say that if a woman wants sex she should just “stop being picky” and have sex with whomever, when men are just as likely to reject people they are not attracted to.
Of course, there are some gendered double standards in the quest to get laid that men and women experience differently. One in particular comes to mind, something that we feminists refer to as “slut-shaming.” Let’s say that, for the sake of argument, a woman does want to have sex and doesn’t particularly care with whom. Let’s say she goes to a bar with the express purpose of finding someone to have sex with. No matter what happens next, she is already a “slut,” by social standards and therefore does not deserve respect from men or women. Any attempts to get the attention of possible sex partners will more than likely be interpreted as “dancing slutty,” “dressing slutty,” or “eye-fucking.” Men who employ similar tactics are not sluts; they’re “suave,” “smooth,” or “a player.” Even if it were true that women could have sex anytime they wanted, they would be considered sluts if they actually did it. But even this, the slut-shaming experience, is something that is beginning to cross gender lines as terms like “man-whore” creep into the lexicon.
It’s important to correct the myth that women can have sex whenever they want because it sets up sexual frustration as a male privilege: female sexual frustration is not authentic because it is self-imposed, whereas male sexual frustration is more “genuine.” The reality is that sexual frustration is something men and women have in common, and there is more to gain from thinking of it as a universal experience than a gendered one.