Suck it up, Buttercup

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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.

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Sexual Misconduct: Not inevitable. Not adaptive. Not nice

From Facebook Ad

(picture from an “innocent” Facebook ad that popped up to make me feel terrible about my lips, cheeks, waistline, legs, and “rack” this morning…felt so bad I had to write something.)

The craggy, wizened trees are falling in the forest at alarming rates, chopped down by accusations of sexual improprieties—everything from running around in their presumably saggy old white underwear to texting themselves in poses that cause a gag reflex in most of us. Apparently, a lot of behinds, ample or otherwise, have been grabbed. Pussy snatched. Breasts ogled or stroked. Various openings penetrated by fingers and peckers in unwanted thrusts. Sexual commentary coyly blabbered, meant to arouse—but instead causing fear, pity, and disgust.

These acts have involved underage, unaware, unwilling, and (dare I say it?) sometimes, unwise human beings. Yes, there are power differentials, jobs (or even lives) to lose, and other legitimate reasons to endure the sexual nausea caused by revolting, arrogant beings who think they’re sexy. But show me your paunchy belly and private parts once–shame on you. Show me them again…it isn’t a game. At least for now, it’s illegal. Ah, methinks it may be time for a reality check and a sea change in our understanding and tolerance. Where do these beings get these awful ideas and what can we do about their damaging effects?

Oh modern better version of Kinsey, wherefore art thou? Masters and Johnson, come back. Update your research methods.

In the meantime, Dr. Bossypants has a few ideas. First, the advertising industry has endless images that suggest that sex is all anyone wants, day or night, in whatever form possible. Usually, the message is that all females, regardless of age or sexual orientation, want to be ravaged, and men, to be real (hetero) men, should step up and do some ravaging (while beating up a few bad guys, or even shooting them to death in the process). I don’t know how many editions of Killing Us Softly Jean Kilborne will need to make before we knock it off.

From Jean’s website: “Advertising is an over $200 billion a year industry. We are each exposed to over 3000 ads a day. Yet, remarkably, most of us believe we are not influenced by advertising. Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be. Sometimes they sell addictions.”

And may I add, sometimes the media glorifies violence. Oh yes it does. Hey, you deniers and wistful hopers, MEDIA SHAPES OUR IDEAS AND CHANGES OUR BEHAVIORS.

Yes, dear evolutionary psychologist, we are evolved beings, linked to basic biological urges by the fact that we’re alive. And advertising and other media work partly because they tie into these basic needs for food, sex, and companionship. But, as I’ve crudely pointed out in other posts, if we were directly tied to these biological urges, we’d just eliminate our bodily wastes indiscriminately. Instead, we’ve socialized ourselves to a much more pleasant and sanitary set of practices.

Not only are we evolved, we’re creative. We now participate in our own evolution. We make stuff up. We invent things to make life easier, more entertaining, less painful. For instance, we’ve developed pain killers that kill pain (perhaps an adaptive invention), but of course, we often end up addicted to this mellow state (definitely not adaptive).

So, back to survival as a species: sex between consenting adults is an excellent idea for companionship and sometimes, deliberate, thoughtful reproduction. This is adaptive. Pedophilia is not. Constant scanning for a way to cop a feel is not. Degrading and objectifying potential sexual partners is not. Using others to buoy up flaccid self-esteem is not. Violence and sexual manipulation are not. Forcing yourself on someone is pathetic and shameful, not adaptive. This is definitely not the kind of sperm we want floating around. It will not improve the species.

Here’s what Dr. Bossypants says: Excusers, shut up. Accusers, examine the factors. Predators, get help, get surgery, stay home. Stop running for office or locating yourselves in places where your addictions and predilections are unwelcome and hurtful. Power should not give you sexual access to anyone, ever. Survivors, heads up. Speak up. Things are not safe yet. Society, get honest. We are sexual beings. We have work to do to make this a good and healthy thing. For all of us.

How? I’m open to further suggestions. Boycott advertising that ruins self-esteem and sexualizes everything. Embrace a broader and more adventurous definition of beauty and sex appeal. Make fun of violent movies. Push back hard on men or women who violate basic respect and trust. Stop dressing our little people up like sexually-available props.

And here’s my sentimental and personal favorite: Let’s value, love, and teach our children well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkaKwXddT_I