Scary stories from a lovely place
As alluded to yesterday, today’s blog post will be about another sexist stereotype that pervades society and which I take great offense to (after today I promise I will ease off on the femmo posts). It’s this idea that in a marriage or monogomous relationship the sex life must be negotiated to strike a balance. This involves the woman succumbing to sex more than she would like, and the man doing it less than he would like. This is an unfair stereotype for both parties, painting the woman as a begrudging, tired participant and the man as frustrated yet patient, but horny. This stereotype reinforces other unfair images of men and women and further divides gender into archetypes that can’t be fitted onto every individual experience. I have encountered these strange images, let’s call them willing Wendy and frustrated Frank, mainly in two places, Christian teaching on marriage and sex and literature on pregnancy and babies.
The audience of the latter is almost entirely women, though some progressive books try and include the men in their teaching. As the books and magazines teach and push their personal agenda on pregnancy and childrearing they always refer to willing Wendy as tired, regardless of what stage of pregnancy she is at, or what age her child is, harrassed by her crying baby, falling behind in the household chores, desperately missing her career and not managing to resist her husband’s sexual advances. Wendy is always encouraged to be willing in the bedroom, to give her husband just as much sex as will keep him barely satisfied, without unnecessarily adding to her tiredness. Depending on the slant of the book frustrated Frank is also dealt with. He is encouraged to always be patient with his wife when it comes to the cleanliness of the house or the quality of the cooking. Then frustrated Frank will be given what reads like a list of ways to trick his tired wife into sexual pliancy through such methods as foot massages, doing the washing up, brushing her hair, compliments (despite her somewhat large appearance) and going out on a date. Maybe, just maybe, if he can do these in the correct order Wendy will be a little more willing.
As for the scary world of Christian literature, a young believer must exercise great discernment in his or her engagement with the teaching, on any issue, but particularly marriage and sex. There’s a lot of crap advice out there. Again we come across Frank and Wendy here. In Christian books about marriage, Frank is told to hold strong and not touch Wendy until the wedding night, and Wendy is encouraged not to be too scared about that hallowed evening of intimacy, which will most likely be unpleasant for her. I have had too many conversations with female Christians where this fear comes out, and it makes me really sad. God’s word praises sex. He clearly made it and likes it. Even Paul, the nerd of the New Testament, tells husbands and wives not to deny each other sexual pleasure. Why is there this fear then? I think it’s because the teaching compounds the idea above, that sex in marriage is about the woman doing it more than she wants and the man doing it less then he wants. And in an effort to ensure purity young men and women are discouraged from talking or learning about sex before they are engaged. It is possible, with a little self-control (we’re not animals after all), to talk about sex in a useful way before this stage.
It’s just mean for these two sub-cultures to stereotype men and women in this way. It’s unfair to make men seem like clueless machines who can’t figure out why their wives don’t like sex as much. They then try and be patient, while bearing their sexual frustration. And it’s unfair to paint women as these tired creatures incapable or ignorant of sexual pleasure bent on fending off their husband’s advances just enough so that he is somewhat happy. Maybe if Wendy and Frank talked to each other and sought the best thing for the other person they wouldn’t be so willing and frustrated.