There is a rather infamous blog on Salon with the arresting name, “Why Your Wife Won’t Have Sex With You.” The author, an intelligent woman and self-described formerly frigid wife, provides a long laundry list of explanations for this unhappy state of affairs. She has entire sections devoted to: Disgust, Discomfort, Distraction, Insecurity, Anger, Fat, Misunderstanding, Boredom, Infidelity, Technique, Motherhood, Aging and Depression, Bad Company (as in toxic friends), Religion and Childhood Abuse.
Indeed, one wonders that women have sex at all after plodding one’s way through this morass of marital misery.
Now, Ms. Deckham Grey, the author, is no man-hater – the Tiger Beat pictures of Wesley Clark alone would disprove that – and perusing her material makes it clear that she’s fairly reasonable. But something about her blog reminded me of an e-mail I once received from a single male reader in response to one of my own more infamous columns, entitled “Spiting Their Pretty Faces.” This reader belonged to a church singles group, and after hearing an encyclopedic list of the ways in which modern men fail to live up to women’s expectations of their responsibilities, he said: “OK, that’s what men should do. Thanks. Now, what is a woman’s responsibility in a marriage?”
In the movie, “As Good As It Gets,” Jack Nicholson’s character, a romance novelist, is asked how he is able to write such effective and believable women. He responds: “I think of a man, and then I take away reason and accountability.”
Why is it that three disparate sources should all echo this same theme? Is it nothing more than a coincidental combination of overly demanding spouses, toxic spinsters-to-be and overactive Hollywood imaginations? Or is it possible that there is a fundamental difference between men and women when it comes to the notion of personal responsibility? And if so, could it be this, and not some outdated notion of physical prowess that accounts for what both men and women perceive as a lack of respect for women?
I suggest that this may well be the case. A weightlifter will certainly scorn a spindly-armed accountant’s inability to lift more than a pencil, but he is unlikely to carry that same lack of respect over to matters outside the weight room. And yet, even the most ardently sensitive New Age male, awash in feminist propaganda from kindergarten through university, usually finds it difficult to show even the most accomplished women the respect that they deserve.
Let me state that I don’t know why this is, I only suggest that it appears to be the case. Perhaps men are irredeemably sexist – although I fail to see how the husband-as-child motif so popular in soccer-mom circles is any less so. Perhaps women have been spoiled by a lifetime of freely saying things to others that would have earned a man doing the same a black eye. Perhaps it is the coddling of parents and teachers, which has led to things like female recruits in boot camp being permitted to turn in blue cards to their sergeants on days that they can’t deal with being yelled at.
It is strange, too, because women are by no means the second sex. As Camille Paglia conclusively demonstrates, women are without question the dominant sex in our society. No one who has ever seen the desperate attention-seeking of teenage boys or intricately-shaped lavender soap in the private bathroom of a rich and powerful CEO can doubt it. It is usually not much more than a decade, somewhere in the years from 15 to 30, that a man is not under the strong influence of a woman.
There is a saying, that a woman is, and a man must become. Perhaps it is this need on the part of males to become, this sense of a battle fought and won, that separates the sexes more than any other.
Or perhaps it is that women simply do not understand that male respect is never given freely, it must always be earned. And the only way it is earned is by taking complete responsibility for one’s words, one’s actions and one’s decisions. Avoiding responsibility for these things may be a successful strategy in the short term, but it will inevitably cause most men to regard you as a lightweight, little more than a child, whose opinions can be safely ignored at will.