Tuesday, March 31, 2009
As a feminist, this often puts me in a strange position. Most of my drinking buddies (when I still had time to be out drinking all the time) are male. It's not uncommon for me to be sitting at a booth at the bar with 4 or 5 guys. This means it's not uncommon for me to be in on the conversations they have about the women in the bar, which has led to a number of (ahem) "interesting" conversations.
But the thing that really strikes me lately is a certain feature of hetero male culture that seems deeply inconsistent to me. If a group of straight guys is discussing something unpleasant, like a tax audit, or some stressful event at work, or an upcoming exam, or some interaction with police, they always, always, always use the same analogy. Which is? ...you guessed it: getting fucked in the ass. Yep. That's it. In hetero-man-language, this is how you convey that something is veryveryvery unpleasant and/or painful. It's a staple in movies that are meant to appeal to men. The most recent instance of this that I've seen was in Hancock. But most male-oriented comedies and action movies play off this meme. We could talk about the latent homophobia involved here, or take this discussion in a number of different directions. But what's really interesting to me is the deeply contradictory message involved.
At the same time as anal penetration is held up in hetero male culture as the ultimately painful/humiliating/unpleasant experience, it's also held up as one of the premium sexual experiences any man can have - IF he's on the penetrating end. The plethora of articles in men's magazines and on men's websites that instruct men on how to get their girlfriend/wife to have anal sex is staggering. Based on the sheer quantity of coverage, it seems like they're obsessed with it. For examples, click here or here or here or here or here. Seriously. So on the one hand, anal penetration is the thing hetero males are supposed to spend their entire lives working as hard as they possibly can to avoid, while on the other hand they're exhorted to pursue it at all costs with their female partners. Which leads to this question. If anal penetration is the horrible, painful, humiliating thing you imagine it to be, why would you ever want a woman you love, or one you respect and to whom you're attracted, to experience it? If it's this horrendous experience, why, oh why, are you expending so much energy trying to inflict it on someone else? And if you expect women to be open to trying it, why continue to use it as the ultimate analogy for all things negative? Don't you think we hear you when you talk? Don't you think we get that you associate anal sex with pain and humiliation? Seriously. Someone needs to explain this to me. It seems to me like there's some deep and subtle misogyny involved here. Tell me if/why I'm wrong.
*Possibly coming soon: a summary of the paper I wrote in grad school on ancient Greek/Roman sexual attitudes toward actively penetrating vs. being penetrated (which probably answers my own questions...).