Non-Musical Title: Conflicting Emotions About Sex

I’m about to try to write something painful and honest. Bear with me.

Like most boys growing up in the western world of the late 20th Century, I was introduced to sexuality through the pages of Playboy and Penthouse magazines. I was never sold on the idea that women were at their best when being admired for their conventional beauty. But I was never completely convinced that there was or is something truly awful about admiring women of striking physical beauty. It doesn’t preclude my admiration of their personalities or capabilities. In fact, for me, it’s a prerequisite. I might glance at you and note to myself that you are beautiful, but I don’t really decide for myself if you are someone I need to know until we’ve had a chat about something that interests both of us. Then I become an ardent fan… or not.

What this means to the men I know and still call friends is, we like you. Simple, isn’t it? Well, it’s clearly not so simple, because in the age of rape culture and rampant misogyny, the battlefield went from the Sexual Revolution of the 60s and 70s to the AIDS Scare of the 80s and the rise of a neo-puritanical fear that there really IS something inherently evil about sexual relations. I don’t want to hurt, insult, offend or especially demean women in any way. It horrifies me, actually. And yet, I still catch myself smiling or even getting excited in the presence of women whose physical beauty actually does enhance their overall beauty as a human being.

Understand, I’m not planning on doing anything about it. I’m a married man, and I love my wife. I don’t expect a prize for this statement. I don’t even expect to be let off the hook. I’m as guilty of admiring women for their bodies as any man alive. I don’t defend some male priviledge to male gaze. I’m bisexual. I used to be young and pretty, too. I know what it feels like to have men look me up. It can be intoxicating and it can be terrifying. I get it, is what I’m saying. I’ve never been harmed sexually, but I know that many men in this world have ill-informed, unfriendly attitudes towards sexuality. I know women are not anywhere near safe from this plight. I understand, but I don’t live with the fear that women today still do. So I know my sense of urgency hasn’t been fully engaged, unlike many women who are studying feminism and gender studies to learn about how they might be able to live without fear and prejudice. I appreciate their need. I support it. I even admire the pursuit of female emancipation and equality between men and women. Actually, I even support and admire men and women who realize they are actually in the wrong body, or who prefer to maintain an asexual appearance and lifestyle.

I also think men have a major transformation ahead. Our society no longer requires brute force to survive. In fact, it’s a hinderance to our continued progress from mere primates to truly enlightened and advanced human beings. We still justify and insist that there are people in the world who are too primitive to be trusted with a purely pacifistic society. I know as well that I am in the minority on this opinion. We’re just not there yet.

But what we do have is a sexual imperative. We need to keep our society alive if we’re ever going to finish evolving into whatever it is we’re drifting towards. I hope fervently that it will be wonderful.

Getting back on topic, though, I have conflicting emotions when I see friends and loved ones struggle with their sexual identities. Our society is only beginning to wrap it’s brain around sexual equality, and learning to respect and admire gender fluidity and non-binary sexual identity is proving to be a struggle for many of us. We can’t all be bodhisattvas, but we can’t all reclaim our heritage as primitive cave dwellers, either. So, what am I supposed to do. I know not to look at a woman’s body when I’m talking to her. I know where her eyes are, and invariably, that’s where I derive the most joy reaching engagement. Women these days are rightfully scared to engage strange men with the simple act of looking in their eyes as they pass. I experience the slightly off-putting feeling of being measured at a distance and judged to be a threat by women before they are even within eye contact range. I’m not a very imposing man. It’s a disturbing realization that I still qualify as a threat, even after all these years and all this work to be recognized as a safe person to be around.

But I don’t blame women for protecting themselves. It just hurts that they must protect themselves from me, too. And there it is.

I’m not asking for the world to recognize me as a ‘nice guy’. Hell, that’s the last thing I want, in these days when many ‘nice guys’ have been outed as outrageously misogynistic man-children who can’t handle their dicks with anything approaching a conscience. Leave me out of it.

But I DO still like to admire women. And men, if I’m honest, but mostly women. And that’s proving to be a problem. What seemed innocent and titillating as a young boy discovering his uncle’s stash of Playboy magazines from the 1970s (back when women were still admired for having comfortable curves and such) now feels like the very thing we were trying not to live with: fear of sexuality. It feels creepy looking at modern pornography (which I do, on occasion, BTW). Heck, I find most modern pornography to be pretty fucking sketchy and off-putting. Men subjugating women. Slapping them in the face. Choking them. It really is becoming a misogynistic problem. Men who want to continue feeling like what their fathers and grandfathers taught them is the very meaning of being a confident male are now being hounded. And they are fighting back. And it’s getting truly ugly. Spouse battering is still with us. Sexual subjugation and the disrespect for feminist icons and strong female leads in movies who do not spend the film trying to woo a mate. Gamergate. Sad Puppies. Filth.

So while I refuse to canonize the late Hugh Hefner for living a life of sexual self-empowerment disguised as sexual revolution, I don’t enjoy hearing or reading friends hurling venom and invective at the man for engineering this mess. I don’t think he engineered this. I think we all did. And we still have a long way to go before we can look each other in the eye and share real love.

Lee.

Don't be shy. Tell me what you really think, now.

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