Brand building through storytelling

A double standard in the bedroom

I had just settled in at a neighbourhood cafe with a toasted sandwich on wholegrain (crisp bacon, green apple and cheddar) when I picked up an abandoned copy of today’s Toronto Star and found the latest column by Antonia Zerbisias, a reliably feisty observer of the passing scene. Her latest target is bedroom inequity: why should men be entitled to brag about their sexual conquests while a woman who admits to many lovers is still cast in the role of slut?

“Most of us expect men to be experienced, or to have ‘notches in his gun,’ as my mom would put it,” she writes. “And yet women still can’t admit to sleeping around, hooking up, whatever you call it, and not be branded sluts, skanks, hos, nymphos…Even on Sex and the City, when Miranda listed her 42 partners, she was mortified.”

Surely it’s no accident, Zerbisias says, that the amputation of the clitoris–the only organ that exists for the sole purpose of physical pleasure–is a rite confined to the world’s most patriarchal cultures.

Good point. And yet there’s more at stake here than equal rights to ecstasy. Women, by and large, do not think like men–about our work, our children or our sex lives. We want to care and be cared for, instead of just going through the motions. This doesn’t mean we’re planning a wedding for 300, or even cherishing hopes for a getaway weekend, every time take a new partner. But sooner or later, most of us figure out that the studs who ramble from bed to bed are commitment-phobes destined for loneliness. Is this any example to follow?

The question gets me thinking about Kerry Cohen, whose pull-no-punches memoirLoose Girl: a Memoir of Promiscuity I recently reviewed on this site. The author, who discovered at 11 that men wanted her body when no one else seemed to want her at all, had thunderously bad and dehumanizing encounters with about 40 men before she realized it was time to stop separating sex from love (or at least from affection).

A finger-wagging parent could invoke Cohen’s book as a warning to footloose daughters (“Men are only out for one thing, honey! And once they get it, they won’t respect you in the morning!”). That would reinforce the tired and destructive notion of sex as barter (as in the cliche “Women give sex to get love, men give love to get sex”). Sex is supposed to be the greatest, most exalted of pleasures, and the sad irony of Cohen’s story is that her exploits brought no rewards except a fleeting sense of power over men.

Do most women want to divorce their physical and emotional lives? Is this part of our notion of freedom? I don’t think so. I’m just waiting for the day when a naked woman can luxuriate on the bed in post-coital splendour without pulling the sheet over her thighs. A typical man, after all, feels no need to cover his pot. We’re not there yet, nowhere close. But I can dream. And if we all dream together, we just might make it happen.

Posted by Rona

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