Who loves the idea of self-control? This instantly conjures images of narrow-nosed thin people sanctimoniously forgoing dessert or wide-nosed big-bosomed matrons shaking a finger your direction. On the other hand, the conscious control of impulses signifies maturity, and is the foundation of civilization.
Self-control exists in other species. It is a wonderful and slightly-disturbing thing to watch a well-trained dog sit quivering, waiting for the command that allows it to eat the treat. I relate so deeply to the agony in those ebony eyes, and when faced with certain temptations, do not often do as well as the dog. Think caramels in dark chocolate.
Food is one thing. Sex is another. When it comes to sex, contrary to what Hollywood might portray, humans have generally agreed that sexual interaction involving two or more people should be consensual. The myth that a weaker sexual partner finds it pleasurable to be overcome and “taken” has little basis in reality. However, we must admit that we’ve built a powerful storyline about the sexiness of pursuing, or being pursued. I grew up in a hunting culture. A successful pursuit meant killing the pursued and eating it. This is definitely not sexy.
But how many Disney movies insinuate the reward for the smart pursuer is the breathless acquiescence of the pursued? And how many ways do we tell physically-weaker potential sexual partners to be coy and play hard-to-get, yet to also present themselves in ways that are alluring as possible? This whole notion of conquest as an acceptable sexual practice has got to go. Men and women who know what they want, politely inquire about the possibilities, and then respect the answer must be elevated to heroic status, not decried as easy or weak.
It isn’t necessary to ditch the thrill of the chase, or the fun of seduction. But it is necessary to define some limits and redefine success. Just because you are rich and powerful, and can use that to attract all sorts of admirers, you cannot cross the line and force yourself on anyone who doesn’t explicitly indicate he/she welcomes your advances. This is uncivilized, uncouth, shameful, and often, illegal.
Which brings to mind this whole notion of “exposing” oneself. I had a friend who was a carhop (I realize this is a prehistoric occupation). She delivered a Coke and a hotdog to a guy who’d unzipped his pants and had his penis out, all big and pink. She backed away, shaken, but told only me. In retrospect, I so wish we’d had the wherewithal to gather a few carhops and a manager to peer in the open window, evaluate his “manhood” and give him a score. Comments like “not pretty” or “sort of small” may have curbed this behavior. Informing the community might have done so as well.
I doubt the impulse to show one’s stuff is limited to those with penises, large or small. Apparently, it’s erotic to be seen naked, or nearly naked. Maybe the fantasy is that showing one’s stuff will cause instant desire in the viewer. I don’t know. I’m a psychologist, but I’m not a Kinsey. My point is that there are vast differences in levels in aggression, inappropriateness, and ways to inquire about sexual interest. The hanging-out of one’s usually-covered parts is just a sad bid for cheap thrills.
We must teach ourselves and our children to be less squeamish, more honest, less selfish, more tolerant, less judgmental, and more centered. We need to tell ourselves and our children, “Hey, if someone shows you their privates, or tries to grope or kiss you, glare at them, back away, say no, tell someone, and if possible, throw up on them.” And of course, we have to continue to work on making these responses safe.
We’ve got to promote, honor, (and insist upon) self-control, civility, and assertiveness. In the grand scheme of what it means to be human, all adults must be free to define their sexual preferences, and seek partners and fulfillment within their values, using their own internal barometers. But that freedom stops—and I mean FULL STOP—if it ever encroaches on or overrides the preferences of the other partner(s). So, how’s a person to know if he/she has encroached? Dr. Bossypants has a few guidelines.
- No one whose consciousness is impaired can give an honest, thoughtful “yes” to any sexual activity. An impaired “yes” is not to be trusted.
- Though it varies state to state, generally no one under the age of 16 is thought to be able to give legal consent. I know a lot of 15-year-olds who would disagree. Be that as it may, the fallback is the law. If your desired partner is 16 or younger, and you are four years older, this is not going to fly legally. Don’t mess with it.
- No one is giving unfettered consent when in fact, if they say no, they lose a job, status, or other opportunities the asker may hold. Power differentials are sticky wickets and need extra caution, even if the less-powerful one says yes. For instance, we would have far less concern if Trump made a pass at Angela Merkel than if he copped a feel from an 18-year-old admirer.
- A sexy, reluctant, alluring “No” is still a “No.” Back away. It isn’t worth it to test the hypothesis that the potential partner is using “no” seductively. (BTW, potential partners, let’s give this Disney-driven conquest notion a rest, okay? Learn to say what you want, for real. It’s okay to change your mind, but you have to make that verbally clear.)
For many, sex is better than chocolate. Harder to resist. More rewarding. In fact, few things even approach the gratification of an orgasm. But bottom line is this: We will be a far better, safer, happier, healthier civilization when every sexual act is fully consensual and enjoyed by all involved. And here’s a bonus: By observing the Bossypants guidelines, you may get to stay in office, or keep your job. Look, if a dog can develop the internal maturity to forgo a tasty treat, so can you.