Tonight I had a conversation with my mother about male and female desires. She told me about the recent scandal over the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger had sex with one of his and his wife Maria Shriver’s maids. She paused thoughtfully for a moment and then said, “I don’t think men are supposed to stay monogamous in long-term relationships. I think they’re supposed to play around.” I was already armed and ready with a response. I took out her day-planner and proceeded to draw a simple diagram on one of the pages.
In fact, I want you to do this right now. Seriously. Do it. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Draw three or four Mars signs on one side of the paper, and three or four Venus signs on the other side of the paper. Now, draw a line connecting the first Mars sign to each one of the Venus signs. Then draw a line connecting the second male sign to each one of the Venus signs. Do the same for all subsequent Mars signs. Now, do the same for each Venus sign–draw a line connecting each Venus sign to each Mars sign. Once you are finished, you will see that every single Mars sign connects with every single Venus sign. The point of this exercise is to show that men cannot have sex with lots of women without women also having sex with lots of men. It is basic logic.
My mother is quick. She figured out what I was doing even before I had moved on to the third Mars sign. After recognizing my point, she said, “Yes, I understand what you are saying, but I think that women are more promiscuous in their youth, and more monogamous in their later years.” In other words, she was saying, all the women who were having sex with all the other men were doing it in their youth, whereas men spread it out into their later years. And I value her opinion as a woman–maybe this is what she has observed–but I still have qualms even about this “women are sluttier in youth and more loyal in old age” model. Why should women be more loyal their partner in old age, and men more disloyal to their partner in older age? It creates a disconnect, a conflict, between the man and the woman. And we always say something like, “Oh, well, the woman should understand the man’s desire to have many mates, and she should accept that”, but we never say that the man should respect the woman’s desire for monogamy. It’s always easy for men to say that. And that’s just assuming that women are “supposed” to be more monogamous in later years.
Why should they be? To me it suggests that women should be able to enjoy novelty primarily in youth, and men, evenly throughout their entire adulthood. But this still creates an insoluble and illogical conflict. If women are supposed to be slutty when they’re young (they reach puberty first and have menopause midlife) and men are supposed to be more or less slutty throughout their lives (they can breed until they die), there is a conflict of interest between women and men. We can be like John Gray (the author of Men Are from Mars; Women Are from Venus) and say, “Oh, they should learn to understand and accept one another”, but that’s easier said than done. They can’t be expected to understand and accept one another when their interests are fundamentally opposed to the core. So I provide a novel solution. Women should learn to embrace sexual experimentation later in life, and men, in their youth. We should challenge ourselves to think and act differently according to our present-day needs, and not those of our ancestors on the primordial savanna. And if you tell me that there are innate brain differences, let me tell you this: We are not slaves to our brains–our brains are our servants.
That brings up the whole issue of sex differences in the brain. Lord, god. I could go on a tangent about this, but I won’t. With regard to sexuality, the basic argument is that men have a greater libido than women because men have more testosterone, which contributes to sex drive, and also because in heterosexual men the third interstitial notch of the anterior hypothalamus is both bigger and denser than in women. (In gay men, it has the same rate of neuronal density as in straight men, but it is the same size as in straight women. As usual, they left out lesbians.) My response is: So what? So what if the male brain has been constructed (by whom?) to be more sexually opportunistic? That doesn’t mean that it should be. It only means that it has been. We would not say that white people should avoid tropical climates because their skin lacks melanin; no, we would give them skin-block. Similarly, we would not say that black people should be more susceptible to heart attacks just because in some environments they are more susceptible to high cholesterol levels. And we would not say Native Americans should be more susceptible to liver disease just because they are more sensitive to alcohol. And, finally, we would not say that a man should rape somebody just because he has an overload of testosterone. In all cases we would concoct a medication to correct a condition deemed undesirable. Natural does not equal right, and unnatural does not equal wrong. A thing is not right just because it is real, and it is not wrong just because it is not real. If it is real in the first place.
Why should I care? In a recent news story, a man from Long Island, New York beat his girlfriend’s toddler son to death because he acted like a “girl”. And the man said so in the police statement. That’s right. A man beat a small boy to death because the boy acted like a “girl”. (Whatever that’s supposed to be.) We think that the whole macho “men like sex and things” and “women like people and feelings” thing is so normal, but what is normal is not so palatable when a parent’s little two year-old boy is beaten to death for being too emotional or delicate. It is for such unfortunate reasons that I wake up every day and write the material I do. It is because of such horrors that we should think hard about how we present gender to our very vulnerable children.
Children are so pure and free. Let us launch them up and see where they fly, what they can be.