The Sexual Desert
By Rod Van Mechelen
Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink;
Supply and Demand
Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
-- S. T. Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
1991 Bellevue, Wash. - Men may go months or years without dating or having any kind of romantic relationship. Many women, on the other hand, seem to find it difficult to conceive of a Friday without a date, or a year without at least one boyfriend. These two sets of conditions create different sets of values. One for women, based on abundant sexual opportunity, another for men, based on scarce sexual opportunity.
When it comes to sex, comparing women and men is like comparing a desert dwelling Bedouin to a native of Seattle. Seattlites reputedly don't tan, but rust. In Seattle, officials declare a drought if it doesn't rain for a few weeks or the snow pack in the Cascade mountains is less than normal. In Seattle, the only people who really worry about a water-shortage work for Puget Sound Energy or Seattle City Light, and it's not drinking water, but water to generate hydro-electric power that silvers their hair. Water? We usually have more than we need, and sometimes it can be a real nuisance.
In the desert, on the other hand, the Bedouins reputedly watch every drop. To them, it's a precious commodity they go out of their way to get. A typical Bedouin, who may expend far more effort than any Seattlite in pursuit of water, likely drinks less than even the driest resident of the Puget Sound region.
Analogously, the same can be said of women, men, and sex.
Mothers and female teachers instruct girls and young women to be aloof, withhold sex, and give it only to the most persistent, exciting or richest men. Conversely, mothers, female teachers, and social myths all teach men to value female sexuality above male sexuality, and to believe women supply the sex men must earn. Thus, women grow up in what Roy Schenk calls a Sexual Rainforest, while men grow up in a Sexual Desert. (The Other Side of the Coin: Causes and Consequences of Men's Oppression, Roy U. Schenk, p 72)
During the peak of their sexual power, single women have the attention of about 4.5 million extra men. (Men and Marriage, George Gilder, p 54) That is, for most women in their twenties, there is one plus 4.5 million men. In other words, supply far outstrips demand.
Having such a large selection from which to choose (read: accept or reject offers), women are less preoccupied with sex than men are. In fact, many of them even feel harassed by it, just as a native of Seattle is frequently irritated by the abundance of rain. But this can change.
If most women stopped turning men into success objects and treated them more like objects of love, would men reciprocate in kind and stop turning women into sex objects? (Are most women ignoring most of the men who already treat women with respect?) If most women stopped inflating the value of female sexuality, and started initiating relationships with "regular" guys more, everything would change. Women, however, seem unlikely to change:
Traditional women were and are deeply suspicious of the package we call the sexual revolution. They know that in the past women were valued for sex and reproduction, and they believe that wives should hang on to their monopoly on legitimate sex for the very simple reason that it enhances their value. -- A Lesser Life: The Myth of Women's Liberation in America, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, p 330
Many men have already changed. They don't sexually objectify women, they do approach women as equals, they are attentive and nurturing, and, while some people call them "nice guys," others, primarily women, call them "Just Friends," or "Wimps." Thus, most men have met women more than half-way, and most women are demanding more. This isn't fair. Men know it. And soon men may change again.
As the men's movement matures, men will stop deflating the value of male sexuality and demand the respect and equality with women they deserve. In the sexual desert, this is inevitable.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.