Predator Versus Perception

Last night, I encountered an interesting reprise of an old argument: Why are women who are sexually active considered sluts while men who are sexually active–even to a higher degree–are praised and rewarded for the same behavior?

Maybe it’s just my generation, but vulgarity and deprecation towards women has gotten so commonplace that I almost don’t notice it anymore. Unless it’s the oh-so-subtle song lyrics to “Soldier Boy” which I just can’t abide.  Give me a break buddy, those aren’t songs, those aren’t even dirty limericks. But I digress.

Some women don’t bother trying to fight the double standard anymore. Even fewer men see it as an unfair comparison. As my opponent in this verbal sparring match, who shall remain nameless, put it: “That’s just the way it is. They [the women] are sluts and guys aren’t. I’m not saying it’s right, it just is what it is.”

Sorry, pal, I’m not buying it.

For one thing, saying the women ARE sluts and guys AREN’T is a flawed statement. Words like “is” and “are” are factual versions of the infinitive to be. A woman may or may not be promiscuous and she may or may not be considered a slut, but to label her as one of these things is an exercise of perception. Don’t know the difference? Look it up.

So, assuming that my enlightened companion meant women are perceived as sluts and men aren’t, let’s continue to the resulting question, shall we? Why does this double standard exist? What causes this perception?

Fact is–and see how “is” is used there?–we live in varying degrees of a patriarchal society. One of the amazing things about the internet is that while I’m writing from the American Midwest, you could be reading this from Indonesia. Don’t really know how society in Indonesia is, but here it is the descendent of a patriarchal system that’s existed for millenia. I stumbled upon an observation on the net that read something like “Men are predatory when seeking a woman, so if a woman gives in she is viewed as weak.” Well, why again are the men the predators? Whether we like it or not, men have historically held the power. And, like the true ruling class they were, they used their power to benefit them and suppress the lower class, women.

Now don’t go flipping to another page thinking “Oh no! I’ve stumbled upon a feminazi!” I don’t hate men. I don’t think that individually, our male ancestors had a great big “Let’s keep woman down” party. I think that it is the natural tendency of a ruling class to be selfish and suppress the lower class. In this case, the classes were men and women. We’ve seen it with race, religion, and nationality, why do people refuse to believe it happens with gender.

Sure, they admit that women had a short leash in the past, but that’s the past. We’re so much better than our ancestors. That’s like saying racism is extinct just because slavery was outlawed. In some countries, women can’t vote or drive a car. These are external manifestations of the same kind of deprecation visited upon women in America that are condemned for the same behavior for which men are praised.

Is it that big a step from “A woman can’t have the same sexual behavior as a man” to  “A woman can’t have the same rights as a man?”

Again, I’m not trying to scare anyone. I don’t think there’s some huge conspiracy. I just think there is a tendency towards apathy that should be fought. Women think “This is as good as it gets” and don’t fight for the proper respect. Men think “It is what it is” and don’t ask themselves if current perception–there’s that word again–is just.

Things are not as good as they can get. We as human beings have a right and a duty to always strive to make it better. If you settle for now, then you’re right: You don’t deserve better. If you are the ruling class and you just let the problem continue, hate to break it to you, but you are the problem. A man who lets his buddies degrade a woman unjustly is no better than them. A woman who lets herself be degraded is no better than those who degrade her.

So, next time you want to say “It is what it is” and judge someone, woman or no, because of the standard, always make room in your mind for perception.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dan O'Shea on April 15, 2010 at 12:30 am

    My first response, as a father, is “Damn, I got me one hell of a daughter.” Can I hear an Amen?

    As a man, i guess I’m disappointed. I’ve seen so many things changes in five decades on this benighted globe. Abject racism, at least amongst my peers, isn’t acceptable anymore. Not saying there aren’t racist, just saying that you can’t walk down the street throwing the N word around and expect the get a pass anymore. To a lesser extent, the same is true of disparaging Gays. I guess I’d hoped it had extended to the sexes.

    So far as any schmuck who thinks it’s OK to call some girl a slut for exercising her sexual freedom in the same way a man does, well yes, words do have meaning, and man is a word. Just not a word that said schumck ought rightly apply to himself. He ain’t a man. He’s a punk and a bully and probably in his heart is afraid of any woman who dares call him on his shit.

    Which isn’t to say I’m applauding promiscuity. I think physical intimacy ought to follow emotioinal intimacy, not preceed or replace it. Slut shouldn’t be a gender-specific term. Any guy who thinks counting coup with his dangles by dipping them in any warm hole silly enough to grant egress affords him some kind of social standing or accomplishment is a pretty sorry excuse for a human being.

    Stay strong, ladies. Steer clear of the assholes. There are real men out there. Find yourself one.


  2. Posted by Patrick O'Shea on April 15, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Wow….well said. I look forward to more to come. Can’t wait to hear your what you have to say about the Cougar-mania that seems to be prevalent in pop culture these days.


  3. Posted by Doug T. on April 15, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Here’s another amen. Excellent post.

    Your reference to apathy hit me hard. You do a great job of identifying the fight. It is the same fight in my classroom although the issues are different.


  4. Uncle Pat,
    The cougar thing actually came up in the discussion that sparked it. His reaction to the predatory idea was that it was natural for guys but despicable in woman. He used smaller words of course, with much grunting and pointing. And Mr. Telling, thank you very much! Now if only my apathy towards this math homework was as fun to fight.


    • Posted by Patrick O'Shea on April 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      Well, as some of my contemporaries have become labelled as “cougars” it is funny to see how the dynamic of the double standard you refer changes. From what I gather, middle aged men chasing after women half their age is viewed as pathetic but being a Cougar is some how liberating. Don’t worry … you won’t find me running around in the Viagra triangle. In the end it is a good essay on an ongoing discourse one has throughout their life. In the end, you are right about respect….for others and oneself.


  5. Posted by Allegra on April 15, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I cannot tell you how much I am in love with you right now Shannon! I like how you point out how close the double-standards of sexual behavior and rights in general are. That was really powerful. A lot of girls I know (and guys, of course) need to read this.


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