Male ‘Slut Shaming’

This is all a bit ‘What about teh menz?’ but it’s important to me and it’s related to factors that have contributed directly to my depression issues.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this issue since it occurred to me to write about it. I’ve agonised over whether to even broach the subject at all because it’s just that contentious and dangerous to do so. It took me three days just to get up the courage to talk to my wife about my intention to write it and what would be in it and we had to negotiate a bit over the content because I tend to over-share.

I want to talk about sexual shaming. Slut shaming if you will.

However, I want to talk about the sexual shaming of men and the demonising of male sexuality, rather than that of women.

Slut shaming gets a lot of press and a lot of attention but the tribulations of expressing male sexuality don’t really get looked at at all, save in a negative light. There’s almost a new… taboo around discussing it. Male and female sexualities are seen very differently and the expressions thereof treated very differently indeed.

I’m going to draw on some of my own experiences to explain some of this. Not to try and claim that my experience is universal but, rather, to make the points relatable and as a jumping off point for discussion. I’m not going to go into as much detail as I could, partly due to my own reticence but also because I’ve been asked not to.

This just further goes to show what a fucked up situation this all is.

I am concerned and worried, deeply so, about the way male sexual interest and sexuality as a whole is treated and reacted to. It seems to me that it is always taken as threatening, as an imposition. You can’t look at a pretty girl, comment that she’s lovely, or even – it seems – ask her for a drink without being viewed as no better than a raiding Viking intent on rape and pillage. Every ounce of concern and thought goes to the lady’s reaction and possible offence and none to the feelings of the guy or the effect upon him of being treated like a criminal.

As a result, as a man, your sexual personality, your interest, gets bottled up, hidden, frustrated. If you’re in a relationship it’s assumed you can’t so much as look at someone else without upsetting them. You can’t ogle someone attractive without being told you’re objectifying or dehumanising. That goes double for pornography and – even more concerning for me – fantasy art.

The disparity in the way the genders are treated in this instance is certainly not in the man’s favour.

If a woman likes porno, erotica, sexy outfits, whatever, she’s seen as exciting, autonomous and in control of her own sexuality. Girls can go out shopping for sex toys and it’s no huge thing. She can go out for attention, being aggressively sexual in a way that would never be accepted for a man and it’s brushed off. If she oversteps his line, no big deal, if a guy oversteps her line, all hell breaks loose. A guy is supposed to be happy with any sexual attention from a woman, or not to let it bother him. Well, it is a bother when someone else’s girlfriend plops her arse down in your lap and tries to kiss you. Even if she is hot.

If a guy admits to buying porn or toys for his own satisfaction he’s creepy, disgusting, a failure as a man because he can’t get laid. A flasher-mac wearing saddo, a panty-snifffing reprobate. Admitting you need something to get you off and deal with your frustrations, or – heaven forfend – that you like it, whether or not you need it, is an admission of failure and – if you’re with a partner – it’s even seen as an insult to them.

If you’re in a relationship and there’s any disparity in desire then, really, there’s little wonder that one partner or the other might seek relief elsewhere. Better that they use porn than have an affair, right?
Typically it’s the male desire outstripping that of the woman, though it can happen the other way around, and if a man resorts to porn then it’s an insult. He doesn’t really love you any more. He doesn’t find you attractive, he’ll be off and away with another woman. Which in all likelihood is bollocks. It’s much more likely he’s just not getting enough and needs an outlet for the tension that doesn’t make him seem like a sex pest to the woman he loves.

For whatever reason these safety valves, these ways of coping, are considered off limits or hurtful to a relationship rather than a way of preserving it and keeping the peace. People break up over it. People are hurt and insulted by it and can’t understand how a man can jerk off over one thing and still find his soulmate sexy in her own right.

If you doubt that there’s a gender disparity here, take the example of Ann Summers parties.

Women can get together, as groups, play dress up in sexy outfits, get the opinions of their peers, buy sex toys etc all in their own living rooms.

Now imagine a group of thirty and forty something men getting together for a ‘Man Summers’ party. Waxing each other’s backs, trying on posing pouches and getting each other’s opinion on what’s sexy.

If you have any reaction to that other than amusement or disgust then I don’t think you’re being honest.

This is bad enough if you have entirely conventional desires and needs. If you just like pretty girls and want to have sex with them you’re already being regarded as some sort of barely restrained (wo)man-eating tiger or something. A pitbull who needs to be muzzled, licensed or ‘done’.
Suppose, though, that you’re a man who happens to be turned on by BDSM or rough sex, let alone anything stronger? Consent is a huge thing for these communities but even so, these sorts of desires are going to be considered beyond the pale for many and admitting them is going to be tantamount to wearing a sign on your head saying ‘Kiddie fiddler’ for all the reaction they’re going to get.

It’s not even as though these sorts of desires are unique to men. According to a variety of studies somewhere between thirty and fifty percent of women have rape fantasies.

It is, rightly, never assumed that this means that a woman wants to be raped.

If a man likes violent pornography, rough sex or rape fantasies the expectation is different. The alarm triggers go off and it is going to be thought they’re a risk. It’s going to be thought that because they enjoy the fantasy they’re going to want to do the deed. They are not afforded the same understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy that a woman is.

Why the disparity? Why is one ‘just’ a fantasy and the other a risk? How is such a person supposed to even dare to articulate their desires, their kinks, their turn ons without getting the kind of reaction normally reserved for homosexuals by the Westboro Baptists. Think of the danger involved in just finding people of similar tastes. The risk to partners, friends, family if you get found out.

It must feel much like it does for people who are gay. Afraid to come out, judging themselves by the standards of others. Shamed, guilt tripped without even saying or doing a thing. Afraid of the reaction to their sadism, masochism, dominance or submission.

I know that, for me, nothing more than a need to use pornography has wracked me with guilt, worry and concern for my partner. It has felt like a betrayal. I have reacted to it as strongly as I would have from having an affair. That’s certainly fed into my depression and self-loathing and exacerbated suicidal feelings of worthlessness.

So, then, from personal experience I can say that shaming of male sexuality and outlets can certainly be directly harmful and is grossly unfair. Because not having an outlet is also psychologically harmful. Just look at the Catholic Church for ‘Christ’s’ sake. We get so caught up in concern for women’s feelings – because that’s what men do – that we just suck up our own hurt, pain and shame and don’t speak up. It’s not healthy and it’s not right.

I don’t particularly buy into this objectification argument either. Maybe I’m some twisted, unique, freak of nature but I’m able to separate the item – the porn, the character, the image, the film, the erotic passage of text – from the person that makes or stars in it. The stimulus is the object, not the person.

I’ve known a handful of people who have worked in porn, fetish modelling or as camgirls. I know another fistful of lady erotica writers. Most of them are wonderful people (hey, they’re people, there are going to be a few arseheads), no different to anyone else, and I don’t treat them or think of them any differently just because I’ve seen them naked, seen them fuck or have read their fantasies written out in explicit prose.

Newsflash.

If you’re even slightly attractive (and even if you’re not) and you have friends or peers of the opposite sex, some of them have almost certainly had masturbatory dreams or fantasies about you to rival any porno. Yet they still treat you as a human being, despite having put you through erotic contortions in the burlesque of the mind’s eye.

Why would it, or should it, be any different for people who’ve done it on film?

You know Christian Bale isn’t Batman. Right? What’s the difference? He beats up the Joker for our gratification, Jenna Jameson takes a facial for our gratification. The entertainment doesn’t define the person.

Maybe it’s because consent is, traditionally, in the hands of the woman and the man is supposed to be the initiator? Is that why male sexuality is seen as dangerous and aggressive because we’re supposed to be the proactive ones? Because it’s on us to make the move?

Why isn’t the harm that sex-shaming does to men being recognised? Can this partly explain the rise in young male suicides? It certainly nearly helped end me.

Why are we expected to suck it up, accept the insults and suspicions? Why should we accept being feared for no good reason? Why should we just suck it up that a woman’s step is going to quicken, or she’ll pretend to talk on her phone if we happen to enter an underpass behind her? Why do always put women’s needs and feelings ahead of our own?

Would you not feel a slight pang of guilt for clutching your purse tighter as you passed a kid in a hoodie, especially if he were black? That would be racist or classist, wouldn’t it?

It doesn’t seem very fair to treat men as foul and slavering beasts. That’s also the rationale behind racial profiling and the stop-and-search laws that have lead to race riots. This kind of profiling creates dangerous levels of resentment and anger.

It doesn’t seem very egalitarian.

It seems more than a little sexist and for me, at least, it makes me unbearably sad and hurt.

If you want to discuss any of the points raised in this post you’re welcome to do so in the comments or privately.

17 responses to “Male ‘Slut Shaming’

  1. I feel like the whole equal rights for women has reached a point where equal rights means more rights. Though tat should not imply that women shouldn’t have equal rights. But men should have them, too.

  2. I love the honesty in your post and I certainly think this is something that should be explored more.

    I do feel that part of this is the backlash from women becoming more assertive after years of subjection in a very patriarchal society. I hope that eventually things even out and both sexes realise that we are different, yet the same in many ways, and learn to be more open and accepting of ourselves and others.

  3. Awesome post :). Being a woman I see that happening to men and it really upsets me. Men (fathers even) are made into villains for smiling or waving at a little kid. My husband worries that if he waves at a kid even with me around, someone is going to think he has evil intentions, which is not the case.

    I think society has made women into victims to some extent and this has helped to make men into the aggressive perverts.

    I love men and I do not hold the view that aggressiveness is bad. I’ve only recently been able to come to grips with the fact that I really enjoy rough sex, have rape fantasies and that sort of thing. As a woman, I found it difficult to admit this to myself because of the way women (are supposed to?) feel about that sort of thing. There are people who are hurt and do not give consent. I figure that if I admit these fantasies and likes to women friends, I would be shunned because… How can you want that when there are real victims? Well, I know it is fantasy.

    I guess my point is, I feel for you and for men. You should be free to be men, look, ogle, be aggressive. I find it flattering 🙂 in fact I think we need more men to be themselves. Thank you for sharing.

    G

    • I know what you mean about kids. For work experience back when I was fifteen or sixteen I worked at a primary school and there was a lot of fear over perception. Primary school teaching is utterly dominated by women and the hunger for a male role model and companion meant I was swamped by the little dudes the whole time I was there but there were constant cautions not to get too close and so on. Which was a shame.

      That was before ‘Paedogeddon’ struck.

      Later, when I entered the workforce at 21 I wanted to go back to working with kids and applied for a lot of school assistant positions. I even considered going back to school for teacher training to become a primary school teacher. If you’re a man wanting to work with kids, especially young kids, the automatic suspicion is that you’re a kiddie-fiddler and you’re subjected to so much paranoia, so many checks, so many fearful and suspicious looks that it put me off completely. I didn’t like being treated like a criminal and so I abandoned that path.

      No wonder there’s so few male teachers for kids and I’m betting it has a long term, negative effect on boys.

      Here’s hoping we can all come to peace about our desires, however kinky they are.

      • I love your word: Paedogeddon. I would love to use it because that’s exactly what’s happened to society. What we’re in the midst of. I took a film as literature class in my undergrad days, and we read/watched Lolita. We discussed pedophilia and essentially how the paranoia of it has created more pedophiles and not the reverse of getting rid of the problem.

    • I know. REALLY. And I can relate to you, AND this article. It’s time we gave REAL equality a chance now 🙂

  4. This is a fantastic post, and I’m glad as hell to see you speaking up about this. I’m a woman, and for a long time, I considered myself a feminist because of the equal rights thing. Then it’s as the first poster commented, equal rights has gone to superior rights/more rights, and I can’t stand it. So I call myself an equalist and I find myself standing up for men to feminist friends (just as I stand up for women’s rights to other people). I posted the link to this to my own personal blog on LJ because I think your voice needs to be heard. You’ve said everything I’ve tried to say in defense of men, and I’ll admit that I’m not always nice enough to put it so succinctly as you do.

    I really hope that as a society we can get beyond this b.s. that keeps separating the genders for no real reason at all except that it sells more books, it sells more clothes and it sells more sodas (Dr. Pepper that’s not for women, and all that b.s.). I’d just like to see people grow up and get beyond the limitations that are only making both genders feel inferior or feel ashamed to want what they want.

  5. I love you. This post said everything I have felt so many times. Why are we to hide even our desire to be sexual with a girl we find attractive and to be ashamed for wanting to find some girl that will want to do it with us? It’s inhumane and it has damaged me and made me suicidal so many times.

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  7. While I agree that men should feel comfortable buying sex toys, etc, I find this part problematic:

    “If a man likes violent pornography, rough sex or rape fantasies the expectation is different. The alarm triggers go off and it is going to be thought they’re a risk. It’s going to be thought that because they enjoy the fantasy they’re going to want to do the deed. They are not afforded the same understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy that a woman is.”

    and

    “You know Christian Bale isn’t Batman. Right? What’s the difference? He beats up the Joker for our gratification, Jenna Jameson takes a facial for our gratification. The entertainment doesn’t define the person.”

    1.) I would question what part of a supposedly benevolent, kind, and empathetic man fantasizes about raping women – this is a direct contradiction. If a man fantasized about killing people, beating people, etc, I would feel the same way. The only way you can reconcile this contradiction is if you admit that these fantasies don’t come out of the kindness of a person’s heart; why should I see a man who wants to degrade me as laudable? Utterly illogical.

    There are psychological studies demonstrating a link between violent porn and sexist and rape apologetic attitudes. It’s also fascinating to me how one can try to entirely obliterate the fact that fantasy is influenced by reality. For instance, women aren’t called sluts, whores, bitches, and hoes in porn because of a fantasy. Women are called these terms because these terms (that have no male equivalent with the same connotations) are applied to sexual women in day-to-day life and because we live in a still-sexist society. Nothing fantastical about it.

    2.) Jenna Jameson authored a book called “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star” that was quite critical of the porn industry. The difference is that Christian Bale isn’t actually beating up the joker (and hopefully people aren’t actually getting pleasure from another’s pain from a film), while that girl in a porno may or may be enjoying it for your pleasure. One thing worth mentioning is why porn has gotten increasingly more violent and degrading; facials didn’t used to be common at all. In fact, there are pornographers themselves who have gone on the record about needing to produce more shocking porn in accordance to the viewer’s taste, and yes, most of this porn is violent against women. It’s easy to say there’s nothing wrong with it, and I do believe porn portrays sexual acts that aren’t intrinsically degrading as needlessly degrading, but when many men are leaving comments along the lines of “make that bitch take it” and “cum on that fucking whore’s face” on porn videos, it makes me wonder.

    You aren’t addressing any of the negative effects of the porn industry which, sorry to say, exist.

    For instance:

    http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/7/4/454.abstract

    http://www1.umn.edu/aurora/pdf/ResearchOnPornography.pdf

    You also may find this interesting:

    http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Anti-Porn%20Activist/4

    http://www.heyepiphora.com/2011/02/porn-degradation-and-khan-tusion/

    While I don’t believe in censorship and think people should be able to do as they please, you don’t recognize intricacies and while I may agree that there’s nothing wrong with finding women attractive, porn is another issue altogether that goes far beyond that. If analyzed, it’s often a sociological study in society’s sexism, and even racism and classism, as evidenced by porn that scorns “white trash” women and utilizes negative racist stereotypes. I don’t believe porn needs to be sexist, either, and there is absolutely porn that isn’t problematic out there.

    If you don’t see any issues with porn, deeper issues lie with you.

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  9. Thank you, thank you thank you!! Thank you for speaking up about male guilt and shaming… I thought I was the only one. This piece has probably changed my life.

  10. Sorry this is really long but I have to get my thoughts out.

    This is the reason I’ve always disliked it when media articles claim that men are essentially free to do whatever they want and only females are attacked for their sexuality. Now I’m a very sexual guy, and I hate that females are slut-shamed probably more than actual feminists do. I want girls to feel comfortable being sexual with me and desiring me and slut-shaming is a barrier to that.

    I won’t say females can do whatever they want with no consequences, but males face far more severe consequences for sexual behavior than females do. Females are called sluts for being more sexual than society wants them to be, but slut is a very ambiguous term and its ambiguous enough that there are lots of girls who proudly claim to be sluts. Slut can really just mean you are a sexual person and if you are not ashamed of your sexuality then slut is not an insult but something to be proud of.

    Guys have different labels assigned to them for being more sexual than society desires. Guys are called, assholes, douchebags, creeps, perverts, and disgusting. These labels do not just say “you are sexual”, these labels say that your high sex drive has made you a bad person. The shitty part is that even if the girls consent to the promiscuous and frequent sex that these guys have, people still somehow warp it into him being a predator somehow. People are simply unwilling to believe that a girl can consent to casual sex for some reason and therefore assume promiscuous males have manipulated, preyed upon, or tricked all the girls they had sex with into it.

    Take the character Barney Stinson in HIMYM. He is very promiscuous and claims to have slept with over 200 women. The show never shows the women Barney has sex with as really consenting to it but rather him “playing” them into it. This is dangerous because it perpetuates the myth that females never want casual sex. What people don’t think about though, is that girls are not stupid, the idea of a girl having a one night stand with a guy because he convinced her he loved her does not happen because no girl would believe that bullshit.

    In the real world, girls do not have one night stands because Barney convinced them that he loved them when he didn’t. In the real world, girls have one night stands because they want to fuck a willing partner fast and without commitment. Promiscuous males are not borderline rapists as the media often portrays them as, they are just finding girls who want the same thing they do.

    It gets worse though. Even when a girl initiates a sexual situation, people still attack the guy for responding to it. The reason why they say, is that she is a girl and didn’t know any better. Even feminists spill this bullshit and I find it incredibly condescending to females. Females are essentially treated like children who can’t make their own decisions when it comes to their desires whereas men seem to be becoming the gatekeepers nowadays who should tell them they shouldn’t do it. The equivalent is essentially the same as people not blaming the child for wanting the lollipop but attacking the parent for giving it to the child. How do people not see how sexist this is towards males and females?

    And yes, this really does happen. I’ve encountered it twice where a female at work will grope and talk dirty to a male co-worker and when the male co-worker responds he gets blamed for it because “he should have known better”, and the girl is absolved of all responsibility for it.

    And its not just females who are perpetuating shame against males. Males are guilty of it to. There’s so many forms of social sanctions to combat though that I don’t know where to begin. We’ve made tremendous progress as a society because religious society was truly barbaric about sanctioning people. But we haven’t won yet and society still has serious problems to deal with. The most basic thing I guess, is that society needs to stop seeing sexuality as an inherently negative force to be controlled. We need to stop seeing it in the sense of “its only okay under these circumstances”, stop seeing it as: Its only okay under marriage, its only okay in relationships, its only okay if your 18 years old or older, you can only do that if you’re female, you can only do that if you’re male, you can only do that if you’re straight, you can only do that if you took her on a date first, basically, people need to shut up and stop placing arbitrary restrictions on everyone without bothering to explain how they make sense. And stop trying to make sex harder for people to get because of their age, gender, race or whatever. And this doesn’t just apply to sex but anything that people want and are not hurting others to obtain. That is the society I dream of.

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