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On vulnerability, attraction and frankness

Preamble: this is going to be relatively short and a lot of things here won’t get necessarily their fair share of exposure and the detail level is somewhat lacking in places. I hope to write more on specific topics covered here later.

tl;dr: “This is a work in progress”

Essentially, I have two questions:

  1. Why are women deemed attractive by the majority of society/the media/you name it when they are seen as limited or vulnerable in some way?
  2. Why does the idea of a woman who is confident in herself and possesses a strong sense of agency and is able and comfortable in asking for what she wants seen as intimidating and somehow unattractive or a turnoff?

This is something that has been playing on my mind of late. A good friend posited that a miniskirt or high heels are just as effective in limiting women’s freedom as a burka and having reviewed the evidence in front of me, just looking at the average ‘girl on a night out’, for instance, I’m inclined to agree.

The burka and the hijab are ultimately designed to impose limits on, fundamentally, a woman’s freedom to move and interact with the world around them. If one tries to move in a way that a human body is made to move, it interferes with peripheral vision, itches and moves out of place, placing greater emphasis on maintaining one’s external appearance for the sake of propriety.

When was the last time you saw someone jogging comfortably wearing a hijab?

Equally, a miniskirt and high heels impose the same limits on a woman’s body. The view that they are much more ‘revealing’ and ‘sexy’ is in some ways valid (from a male perspective), but they still serve to limit women in how they can put their body to the fullest of use.

A tight, figure-hugging pencil skirt equally significantly impacts on the level of freedom a woman has when doing something so mundane as walking quickly. There is no option to hike it up higher to walk faster because it is seen as ‘unseemly’  and ‘ruins’ the look.

All of these also serve as unconscious distractions from being simply human with all the attendant quirks, flaws and imperfections and shift the focus to maintaining some semblance of propriety, however that’s defined in context.

So we return to the question: “To what degree is the standard model of ‘attractiveness’ or ‘desirability’ flawed?”

We’ve seen many examples in the media of women who have gone out in revealing or ‘immodest’ clothes and have been the subjects of male attention bordering on, sexual assault, with the excuse of “well if you wear such revealing clothing, you should expect to be groped”. I could expound on this and branch into a conversation about rape culture which is a topic that I couldn’t do justice to yet.

The impression that women are somehow in actual need of men to interact with the world on their behalf because they are too fragile or cannot be trusted to do so as well (“LOL WOMEN DRIVERS!”) as a man in equal possession of every degree of physical freedom is a surprisingly pervasive and insidious one.

We (men-folk) are conditioned that lots of flesh on show is a Good Thing and boner-inspiringly awesome. In a lot of cases, I’ll agree, this is indeed a Good Thing, but up to a point and contextually. How about that secretary who can’t quite reach the top shelf in the filing room because, gosh darn it, her skirt rides up just a little too high? Is this sexy? Why? Is it because there’s a possibility of her not noticing that it’s ridden up so high as to give you a view of her pert bum?

How about the fact that it somehow appeals to a part of your psyche that you’re not even unaware of? Maybe it is the idea of her being vulnerable and having to fight to maintain propriety – something you do unconsciously (unless you’re in the habit of shirtcocking at the office)?

See where I’m going?

I’m going to talk sex now.

You’ve been on a date with a charming, witty and intelligent woman. You’ve met a number of times and are starting to *expect* (also a tangent point, let’s avoid that) that you’re going to have sex sooner rather than later. When all’s said and done, you both find one another attractive, at least physically.

Tonight’s your lucky night. The chemistry’s threatening to become both endo- and exothermic and neither of you can keep your hands off one another. Awesome! You go to her place or yours, share a glass of wine and more delightful conversation.

Midway through the debate, she fixes you with a stare and says “I want you to fuck me right now. I don’t care how or where.”

How do you respond?

Are you used to the woman coyly suggesting that perhaps you should get naked with her now? Or maybe she offers to ‘slip into something more comfortable’ while you help yourself to more Malbec? Maybe she’s expecting you to make the first move?

I think a statistically significant proportion of men would feel suddenly, inexplicably pressured to perform. Why? What is it inside us that makes us respond this way? Is it somehow ‘not the done thing’ for a woman to be just as wildly, uncontrollably, achingly desiring sex as a man? This, incidentally, is ignoring the minefield of inferred signals and hints that form the prelude to sex in a lot of cases.

We’ve constructed this elaborate picture that sex is this other thing that we tacitly acknowledge as forming a part of our society but one that runs parallel to it as an undercurrent. What do we do about it?

We’ll need to drill a level deeper.

Communication forms both the problem and the solution.

We’re conditioned from a young age by influences all around us that we should be adept at picking up hints of attraction – there are volumes dedicated to the art and/or science of deciphering body language, linguistic patterns and social cues so as to determine whether someone wants us.

And yet, it’s staggeringly simple. Simply talking about what your thoughts, feelings, desires and, in some cases, potential expectations are forms the groundwork for an environment that’s more accepting of interpersonal relationships being the fabulously intricate, amazing, enriching and sexy thing that they are.

If it’s established that each of you enjoys sex just as much as the other and, “No honestly, I really do want to fuck your brains out. Now, preferably  No, I find the fact you’re sitting there voicing the same thoughts even more arousing.”, things become much simpler.

Remember, I said “simple”. I didn’t say “easy”. It’s not.



Itinerant photographer, firespinner, poly feminist, he/him.