Men’s lack of respect for women’s sexual boundaries is informed by our lack of care for their sexual pleasure
Women as nothing more than bio sex toys is a concept so deeply built into the male psyche.
by Chris Saltmarch
Like many of my contemporaries, I never really gave much thought to the sexual desires of women. Much of my life, when I really sit and think of it, I was totally oblivious to the needs and desires of my sexual partners.
This was due in part to being raised in the puritanical south. Talk of sex was reserved to very limited situations. The only time I even heard adults talk about sex was at church when married couples would have a special night with the pastor and first lady to discuss the marital bed interaction. Some of the younger and more open minded couples would share the information from these discussions with me. One thing that was vehemently preached by the church was that sex in any position other than missionary was sinful. Married couples were told that humans didn’t have sex like animals, we weren’t dogs.
My parents, being the good Christians they were, never even had “the talk” with me. My brother received this talk only after getting caught watching something “inappropriate” on Pay Per View. From what he said, it wasn’t very informative and seemed to be more of a warning against sex, something that should be seen as negative. Therefore, my introduction to sex was through the lens of R rated movies on Cinemax, music videos from Uncle Luke, and XXX porn given to me by an older cousin.
Sadly, I must admit, the epiphanies about learning to listen to the sexual desires of the women I slept with did not come until my mid to late twenties. Around that time, I was in a place where I didn’t have access to lots of different books, so I read what was available, and fantasy romance novels written by women happened to be among this small selection.
Reading literature from a woman’s perspective was an eye-opener. Wow, I thought. So, this is how women think about sex and fantasize about physical interaction? In addition, reading women’s magazines with articles, opinion, and comments sections in which women lamented about troubles with men in the bedroom, made me wonder if I was actually as good of a lover as my ego led me to believe I was. I certainly didn’t find myself living up to the standards of all the things I was reading. From that point, I made it my mission to ask my partners questions, to be more open to communicating, and not be so caught up in myself.
I once read an article about women who directed lesbian porn. Intrigued, I sought it out and studied their work. As I watched these women engage with one another, it dawned on me just how piss poorly I had interacted with my partners. Sure, I was aware of the clitoris, but I had zero clue as to how lacking I was and how neglectful I had been. I wish I had a better story to tell, but the truth is that watching lesbian porn, created for and by (cis) women, is how I learned how to better approach clitoral pleasure.
The idea that sex is merely a vehicle to be enjoyed by men and “just something men do” had shaped my whole life. The myth that women would be sufficiently pleased by simple sexual interaction with men, on the most basic level, had been ingrained for over a decade. Women as nothing more than bio sex toys is a concept so deeply built into the male psyche that I still sometimes have to actively remind myself that a woman’s value as a human is not determined my desire to have intercourse with her.
I am now in my mid-thirties, and I didn’t begin to think deeply about some of the disgusting things men do when it comes to not respecting women’s boundaries until about three or four years ago, and it’s connected with our lack of care for their sexual pleasure. The pushy way men harass and coerce women into sex, insisting and persisting until finally turning a “No” or “I don’t feel like it” into a begrudging or reluctant “Yes” is unacceptable.
Movies and media taught us this is what we are supposed to do. In TV shows, women who clearly are not interested are somehow, by the end of the episode or season, ready to be yours if you just keep pushing. We are taught that, regardless of what she says, just about anything is really a “Maybe” or “Convince me.”
My professional work with abused women and abusive men has taught me lessons I didn’t know I needed to learn, but most of us are not afforded opportunities such as this. In order for men to get help to correct their abusive behavior, they first must recognize that they have a problem, they will never recognize they have a problem if they don’t even see that there is a problem in the first place.
At this point in my life, I find myself calling out other men on their trash behavior, to help them see that it is a problem, because now I realize just how bad it is. I’ve learned how rewarding sex can be when you actively seek to please your partner. I’ve learned how misogynistic and patriarchal ideas portrayed in the media are played out and how harmful, disappointing and empty it has made things for the women in our lives.
I’ve learned to really listen to a partner as opposed to seek out the ways I can use her words to possibly turn her “No” into a “Yes.” I’ve learned that women are not objects to be obtained and conquered sexually. I’ve had some questionable sources such as porn, but I’ve grown and I continue to learn by reading scholarly feminist literature and, most importantly, by listening to the women in my life.