Monday, December 12, 2005

On Brokeback Mountain and how women really feel about hot guys making out

I saw a really interesting discussion over at Pandagon the other day which, due to my recent blogging hiatus, I didn't stumble across until everyone else had moved on, so I thought I'd resart the conversation here. The initial post was about the movie Brokeback Mountain and one homophobic little weenie's horrified response, in which he asserted that all American as disgusted by the very thought of anal sex, and that no-one wants to see two hot young actors going at it on the big screen, therefore the movie is destined to be a failure.
It took me a while to stop laughing for long enough to be able to type, but now that I've calmed down a bit, I wanted to address the many layers of bullshit in this idiot's argument.
First of all, no one wants to see two hot young men men making out? Is this guy smoking crack? Firstly, about 10% of the male population is gay, and an unspecified further number are bisexual/bicurious. Does this guy think that these men don't buy movie tickets? Like I said, the idea is laughable.
The more interesting thing that he's overlooking, at least to me, is a quite different phenemenon, though. Namely, that a significant percentage of the straight female population LOVES to watch hot young men make out. Tempting as it is to just mock our homophobic little friend for his sexual ignorance, I suspect that many other straight men in this country are under exactly the same illusion, and I find that interesting. A quick poll of my female friends finds that at least 50% would be VERY happy to watch a couple of hot young guys making out, although most of us are less enthusiastic about gay porn per se, the reason cited usually being that it's a bit too agressive for most of our tastes. Given that, why the disconnect between what so many women actually find sexy and men's perception of what women find sexy?
I don't really have an answer on that one, but I do have a few theories. Firstly, I think it may just be an aspect of the generalised idea floating around in our society that women are fundamentally asexual, and that our sexuality only exists as a function of what men need in order to get off. I'm sorry to be so crass, but that does seem to be a fairly common viewpoint. From that point of view, the idea that women have any desires that aren't useful to the average straight guy becomes puzzling.
The bigger thing going on here, though, is our culture's continuing insistence that men cannot and should not ever be viewed as sexual objects. Or, to put it in academic language, one of our culture's central myths is not so much that women do not have "the gaze" (although that's a part of the issue), as it is that men are not ever supposed to be the objects of the gaze.
As I've said before, I think this idea is ludicrous. I objectify men all the time. So does every other straight or bi woman I know. The fact that our culture stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that that ever happens is a source of frequent amusement to me.
This underlying cultural phenomenon becomes immediately apparent when discussing the idea that women like looking at men making out. Most men I've ever had this conversation with have looked at me with blank incomprehension, as if I had just suggested something that their brains were simply not able to process. The idea that men are never sexual objects, and that women don't have enough sexual energy of their own to feel the need to objectify others, is so prevalant that most people never even question it. Try to talk to anyone in academia about "the gaze" and you'll see what I mean.
The wierd thing about this is, this idea about who has the gaze and who does not is not universal across all societies. Example - as anyone reading this probably knows, I'm interested in Japanese pop culture. Within that pop culture, there is a positive glut of homoerotic imagery produced specifically for female consumption. You see it in manga, you see it in anime, and you see it in the music industry. In fact, one of my favourite Japanese pop stars is notorious for the fact that all of his live shows feature a great deal of homoerotic play between him and his band members. Watch a video of those live shows, and you can clearly see that the homoerotic moments are what really makes the little girls scream in Beatlemania-like ecstasy. The singer in question refers to these cleverly staged homoerotic tableaux as "fanservice", and claims that he himself is straight and is putting on a show in order to make his female fans happy (and on behalf of those female fans I say - thanks, babe, we appreciate it!).
If you're a woman who likes looking at hot guys fool around in Japan, there is an entire section of the pop culture devoted to making you happy. This is perfectly logical, as the people who produce music, movies etc are not stupid and know which side their bread is buttered on. The question is, why is there no equivalent material catering to the desire of women to watch hot boys make out in the US? Given the worship of the almighty dollar that prevails over here, you would think that someone would have identified this market segment which is so woefully underserved and come up with some product to sell women like me and my friends. Why haven't they?
Postcript : for those who are shaking their heads and wondering what the hell I'm talking about in regards to the prevalance of pretty boys fooling around in Japanese pop culture, I recommend Googling the term "bishonen". It's very illuminating, and does tend to make you wonder why our culture has failed to produce much in the way of a similar phenomenon.

PS Does anyone here know how to create trackbacks in Blogger? I feel like I should be giving Amanda credit for starting me musing on this topic.


The Haikuist said...

Of course women can and do view some percentage of the men they encounter as sexual objects. But most of us individual men don't have any personal experience with what that's like to be on the receiving end of that objectification. Thus the incomprehension. This gets back to the problem that most men are not attractive to very many women.

It is so removed from the experience of most us males, who don't have movie star looks or a movie star body or some other attractive feature, to know what it is like to be a sexual object--that we only know that this phenomenon exists through second hand information, from things like watching mass media in popular culture, like when Entertainment Tonight or People magazine talk about so-and-so being a "male sex symbol".

Sexual objectification of men is quite overt in the gay community. Go to the Castro, and you see the worship of the male body everywhere, in storefront windows with pictures of half-nude males and representations of male organs. Yet if you ask women if they think that the penis is an attractive body part, and most will say no, not at all. I don't think that female heterosexuality is the same as male homosexuality in terms of how it manifests itself towards men. Nor do I think that male and female sexualities are identical or simple mirror images of one another.

At least one study has shown that women, when presented with erotica, respond physiologically to all kinds, regardless of the sexes of the people involved. But men, on the other hand, respond physiologically only to the images that match their own sexual identity--gay men are turned on by men having sex, straight men by women. Thus women seem, at some level, to be more bisexual than men are.

None of that means that women don't objectify men. Of course they do. But it is more complicated than just stating that.

FoolishOwl said...

I think we've compared notes before on the weirdness of Craigslist personal ads. Women on Craigslist often complain that men will email them photos of their penises. I don't think that it's the case that most men are not attractive to women, but that men have very little idea what women think is sexy. A lot of men assume that, since their sexuality centers on their penis, that must be what women find sexy.

It surprises me how rarely I do hear women talk about what they find sexy, and when they do, it seems to include personality traits or minor quirks of behavior as much as physical characteristics.

I wonder how much of this is that men are pretty much trained to take an instrumentalist view of sexuality -- it's all about contact between body parts. Speaking for myself, I think what I find sexy in women is as complex and varied as what I described women saying -- but I still find it easier to describe a woman's attractiveness in terms of her physical characteristics, and treat everything as a part of the emotional relationship, as if they were really separate things.

I often find love stories about non-heterosexuals more moving than love stories about heterosexuals. I think this is because there's often a sense of liberation through love in such stories, whereas in heterosexual stories, they often seem to end in accomodating to some stifling set of conventions or another. Of course, avoiding the many such traps is a major problem for real heterosexual relationships -- and no small problem for non-heterosexual relationships, either.

I find that porn that actually turns me on seems to fall into one of two categories: stuff that's utterly fantastic and involves things that are physically impossible; and stuff that actually portrays sex as part of an emotional rapport. In the latter case, the genders of the people involved don't really matter all that much to me.

Arwen said...

I think this may be an example of (yet again) a place where culture trumps biology. "The Gaze" has been a way that men have been encouraged to share/describe/appreciate their own sexualities. It's appropriate for men to share their sexualities with other men with the sharing of porn (which has always seemed a little weird to my straight husband - he's not particularly interested in getting turned on in a room full of men...)

Women, on the other hand, are encouraged in subtle and no so subtle ways to be turned on by male straight porn - "don't be a prude", "it's necessary for men", and the self protection of participating in a sexual expression of your partner's just to be there. On top of music videos and the cover of every pouty-open-mouthed magazine out there. We're bombarded with visual sexual images of women.

On top of that, it's way easier for us to express ourselves sexually with other women: from the sensual and "innocent" - playing with each other's hair, going shopping and changing together, stroking makeup onto each other's faces, holding hands... - to the sexual exploration and experimentation of the "collage" lesbian or even the threesome. With the notable exception of the bisexual lovin' goth culture, of course!

So are women more bisexual? Are men more visual? Or, are those culturally appropriate ways for men and women to express themselves? I'm going with the second, only because I've seen it change in my relatively short lifetime. Heck, I've seen things change in *individuals*.

I'm not particularly visual when it comes to getting turned on, but I'm definitely in the minority amongst female friends. I'm waiting for Smell-O-Vision.

Arwen said...

Oh, and I think that why things have changed in my lifetime, and more and more of the women I know are embracing their own sexual gaze, is that looking at *is* aggressive to the culture that women have been taught to embrace.

After all, you aren't invested in what the object of your energy is thinking or feeling. ( The essence of the "romance" necessary for women. )

You're NOT worried that he or she will laugh at your sexuality because you're not a model.

You're not evaluating what you're bringing to the table.

In essence, you're confident that you have the right to your sexual impulses.

Anyone who examines our culture over the last 200 years will see the denial of female sexual impulse in the gold-standard approved ideal... Of COURSE we couldn't have "the gaze".

I find it very interesting: My grandfather (who was an atheist) had internalized the "sex is wrong" messages he'd gotten and used to be extremely strict with his boy children regarding masturbation including such things as whipping a kid whose hands strayed beneath the covers. My mom, on the other hand, never got any attention towards hands and sleeping. Which is of course good, but also sends a pretty clear message: she just didn't have that impulse. Heh! Given my mom...

Cassandra Says said...

I'm always puzzled by the fact that so many men assume that the sexuality of straight women must be centered on the penis, and that therefore if women don't get that excited about looking at random penis pictures they must be asexual, or lesbians. It's a ridiculous assumption, but it seems to be fairly common (note to Brian - I've been sent a few sketchy pics through craigslist, even though I've never placed a dating ad).
Note for Haikuist - I know lots of men who are quite aware that they are ogled and objectified by women on a regular basis. None of them are movie stars. I suspect that many men are simply not aware when they are being ogled, since women tend to be more discrete and polite about it. That was part of my point, actually - I don't think there's anything inherantly wrong with objectifying people, the problem is when that leads to socially inappropriate behavior like staring, catcalling etc. If people want to ogle in a polite and non-creepy way I don't see any problem with that. Women do it all the time.
Obviously female heterosexuality and male homosexuality are not the same at all. for one thing, gay men tend to objectify parts of the body completely separately to the whole person (thus the penis molds in shop windows in the Castro), which women typically don't do. I think that's a key difference between male and female sexuality in general - men tend to fetishise certain parts of the body as if they weren't even attached to a person at all, whereas women tend to lust after the person overall (thus having little interest in looking at penises unless they're attracted to the man the penis is attached to).
Brian - I agree that women rarely talk about what they find sexy IN FRONT OF MEN. That's an important distinction - we talk about it quite openly with our female friends, and even with our gay male friends, but usually not in front of straight men. It's not surprising that so many straight men are clueless about what women find sexy - there's not a lot of information out there in the culture for them to go on.
That's part of why I'm writing the piece I'm working on right now, actually - I think it's about time that there was more stuff out there in our pop culture addressing female sexuality and how it works, including what arouses us about men.

Cassandra Says said...

Also for Brian - I suspect that the tendency to find weird, individual things sexy is actually the more natural human impulse, but people are trained to be more instrumentalist about it. Since our culture tends to assume that women just don't have any sexuality (see Arwen's comment about her grandfather), they get less of the instrumentalist brainwashing, and so it's not surprising that they tend to retain more of a tendency to be attracted by very individualistic things. There isn't an entire arm of pop culture trying to tell us what we SHOULD find sexy as much as there is for men. In a wierd roundabout kind of way that might actually be a blessing in disguise.
Arwen - I think that naturally women and men would be about equally bisexual without the social programming. In our current reality, women are more open to being bi, which may largely be because our culture defines things which actually are pretty sexual (playing with each other's hair, cuddling, sharing a bed, etc) as non-sexual when done by two women. Think of it this way - if you heard that two male friends always slept in the same bed when they crashed at each other's houses post-clubbing you'de probably assume that there was something esxual going on, right? And yet women who identify as straight do that all the time and nobody thinks twice about it. There's a definite double standard in play there.

Cassandra Says said...

To clarify my comment to Haikuist - what I'm trying to say is that I think your perception that most men are never objectified is wrong, and the reason I think you have that perception is that men are not trained to be aware of what women find sexy and are therefore often oblivious to the fact that they're being looked at in a sexual way. I've seen enough male friends be genuinely surprised to learn that a female acquaintance had been lusting after them for a while to suspect that this is actually pretty common, even though in every such case the fact that the women in question was ogling the guy was clearly obvious to me, and I found it surprising that the guy was failing to notice it. From a woman's point of view, with a lot of men you pretty much have to hit them over the head and announce your intentions loudly and clearly before they realise what you're thinking.
The sad caveat being, it's always the men who really are completely unnattractive who walk around assuming that any woman who says hello to them is lusting after them. Funny how that works.

The Haikuist said...

Cassandra, I don't think that there's anything wrong with ogling either. I think there is a tendency, however, for people to want to make male and female sexuality mirror images of one another, when that isn't really the case. As you point out, men tend to fetishize body parts more, which is one difference. It isn't just the penises that you see in Castro shopfront windows--you also see barechested men, objectified buttocks, and so forth.

The issue, as I've mentioned before, is that any given woman (on average) is just attracted to very few males. I don't have movie star looks myself, but I have managed to attract the occasional woman in my life, on rare occasions, including my present relationship. I've never said that it doesn't happen, but that for the average man it is extremely rare. My point is that the rarity of it happening is what makes men not really think about themselves being objectified. And as I get older and proceed into middle age, I know that the odds of being objectified have slipped from rare into never. That's the reality of being an average man--knowing that you are not really that attractive to most women. That doesn't mean women are not physically attracted to men at all (obviously), but it does mean that the male sexual dynamic is different from the female sexual dynamic. Wanting women to be just like men in some sense doesn't make it so.

The Haikuist said...

By the way, one of the most interesting ways that I discovered firsthand some of the ways that of male and female sexuality differ was by answering a lot of personals ads back in the early-to-mid nineties. (I tried placing a few ads, but got few responses, while women who placed ads always got swamped--another interesting sign of male/female differences in their sexualities). I answered many ads, talked to many on the phone. I sometimes developed incredibly intimate phone relationships with some women whose ads I answered--not necessarily sexually intimate, but personal-intimate, where we became very close and felt a strong bond with one another. Then I'd meet them in person--most times, when they saw what I looked like, they lost interest very rapidly.

In some cases when that happened, I was simply out of their league in terms of looks anyway, so it didn't matter. (Yes, there are leagues out there, they do exist and some of us are out of them.) But in other cases, the woman wasn't necessarily that good looking either. The problem was simply that I just wasn't their type, physically. They weren't attracted to me. End of story.

Looks and physical appearance of men do matter to women. I know this to be the case. My point is not that looks don't matter, or that women don't ogle men, but that they matter a lot to woemn, and for that reason most of us males just don't trigger any response that would lead to ogling. That's why it is so rare when it does happen.

Tuomas said...

the haikuist:

Methinks you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I do that too occasionally.

And as I get older and proceed into middle age, I know that the odds of being objectified have slipped from rare into never. That's the reality of being an average man--knowing that you are not really that attractive to most women.

I don't want to consider your personal experience meaningless, but think how much time and effort the average woman puts in making herself attractive to men via makeup, clothing, dieting (of course, this is not the only reason for those behaviours). Not to mention the fact that my (purely anecdotal) evidence indicates that women tend to be more worried about growing old and becoming less attractive. This would indicate that looking good is more important to women, and thus men would care more about looks, wouldn't it (and women would consider men attractive just the way are) ?

Also, it seems to me that the claim "most men are not very attractive to very many women." is quite meaningless, because there are so many undefined, subjective terms in it (very attractive, very many women)

I also think you really have to consider Cassandra's words about women ogling men in a far more subtle way. I worked with a woman who was not subtle (and was married, but with a sense of humor/flirting), and it seemed to me that some of the men she found attractive or whistled at were definitely not filmstars. Most were average men. But Finnish women are probably more straightforward in their preferences than American women are (perhaps the reason why most women don't overtly ogle average women is that they don't want to be considered "cheap" or "easy"?).

The point in all this is that the dating scene (or the "sexual market" -scene, in a more blunt way) is cruel for many people. It probably is more fun for people with "sex symbol" -status, but most men and women don't have that. Looks and physical appearence matter to everyone in varying degrees, it is not a staggering revelation to realize that they matter to women.

No offense intented in any of this.

Tuomas said...

Oops! perhaps the reason why most women don't overtly ogle average women is that they don't want to be considered "cheap" or "easy"?
I meant average men.

Cassandra Says said...

Where did anyone claim that male and female sexuality are exactly the same? That certainly wasn't my point.
To repeat, I know plenty of men that I consider quite "average" looking who get plenty of attention from women - ogling, even. I think the issue here may be that many men have a highly skewed perception of what both "average" and "good looking" mean. I've seen men who are flat-out unnattractive from a purely objective perspective ( fat, bad skin, bad clothes, receding hair, asymmetrical and unnappealing facial features) describe themselves as "average", while men who are in fact quite average often perceive themselves as being in the Brad Pitt league. This REALLY shows up online, where men consistently overestimate their attractiveness and women consistently underestimate theirs.
I think Tuomas hit on an important point - men on average make a lot less effort to beautify themselves, and it shows. Men who DO make an effort are consistently more likely to be looked upon favourably by women. If most women were as lazy about keeping up their appearance as most men are, I'm willing to bet that very few men would find them sexy either.
The men I know who do make an effort to make themselves attractive are considered attractive by the majority of women they know. I know this because women talk about this amongst our friends. Within my group of friends, I can't think of a single guy who is considered unnattractive by most women. And it's not like all my friends are people who are paid to be pretty like models, actors etc - it's just a matter of the men making an effort, and probably a bit of the "birds of a feather flock together" effect. I remeber a very similar dynamic amongst the friends of my parents when I was growing up. The idea that the majority of men are unnattractive to most women just isn't true. The only women for whom it really IS true are those who have a very specific type, in which case anyone who doesn't fit the type is dismissed out of hand, but there are plenty of men like that too.

Cassandra Says said...

"And as I get older and proceed into middle age, I know that the odds of being objectified have slipped from rare into never. That's the reality of being an average man--knowing that you are not really that attractive to most women."
Also, I have to point out that most average middle aged women aren't exactly in huge demand either. The really sexy ones are still ogled well into middle age, of course, but the truly average ones? Not so much. I think that part of the problem when men make this complaint is that their idea of the concept "woman" often seems to translate to "pretty woman in her twenties or thirties who's in good shape, well groomed and has decent social skills", whereas their idea of the "average" man is pretty much "bathes regularly and with no major facial disfigurements", and that's about it. There's a pretty clear double standard in play.

Tuomas said...

I agree about the bias about average on women, but I haven't heard men making inflated claims about their own looks (cultural differences are the key here, being arrogant is extremely frowned upon here. Our national sin is excessive jealousy). I have a friend who once claimed that he would want (physically, he isn't single so he wasn't going to anyway, but was tempted) to have sex with what he decribed as "about 99% of women". We were at a restaurant, and I asked him about every single woman who passed in the street (i tried to be subtle about it towards the women) and of course, the actual percentage was much lower. We philosiphized for a while about the fact how our eyes are biased and just skip over women who aren't that hot to the possessor off the said eyes.

Of course he admitted being wrong.

The Haikuist said...

Cassandra--"The idea that the majority of men are unnattractive to most women just isn't true."

Obviously we disagree. Part of it, I suppose, depends on the definition of "attractive". When I say attractive, don't mean in the sort of platonic, objective sense that a friend or relative might describe another as "attractive" without actually ever thinking of them as fuckable or as a desirable sexual or romantic partner. After all, I can identify a man as "attractive" even though I am not sexually attracted to men. I know what "attractive" in a certain sense means, for both sexes. Straight women can describe other women as attractive as well. I have a lesbian acquaintance who told me, in response to a self-derogatory comment I made about my appearance, that in her opinion I was "cute". That obviously doesn't mean that she'd fuck me, though.

I am saying that most average men, whether they fix himself up or not, are not desired in the sense of a wanted sexual partner, or thought of in that sense, by the majority of women. This has nothing to do with older men and younger babes. It has everything to do with men and women of the same age group and same levels of "attractiveness", however you choose to define that. I know that I am not desirable to the vast majority of women of my own age group, and that was true when I was younger as well. I am lucky that I have found someone who does love me, so I don't have to deal with those kinds of terrible odds in the sexual marketplace anymore.

I will concede your point, however, that men may like to believe that they are so desirable to the opposite sex, because, after all, it feeds their egos. I think I did speak incorrectly by saying that men "know" they are unattractive to most women. But this, too, has little to do with reality and everything to do with the male ego. Men at a certain level have to delude themselves into believing they are attractive to most women, because it gives them greater hope of success with each individual sexual/romantic endeavors. If men knew how poor their odds really were, they might be more inclined just to give up.

tuomas--I think the story about the man who claimed he would fuck 99% of women is a good one. No man is attracted to all (or almost all) women, although I know a woman who claimed that men will sleep with any women if they are drunk enough. I disagreed with that--there are some women I just ain't attracted to, no matter what, and alcohol won't change that. It would be interesting to see what percentage of women on the street the average man would consider fuckable, and then compare that to a similar survey with women and men on the street.

Just because I recognize that men find more women desirable than vice versa, that doesn't mean that I think that men find all women attractive. That is obviously not the case. And of course individuals vary--I am talking averages. Maybe some women find more men attractive than others, and similarly with men. The fact that so many women have a "type" (as in, "he's not my type") doesn't mean that they are not attracted to any men at all--it does mean that they are selective about who does and doesn't conform to that "type".

I saw this time and time again when I was doing personals. Personal ads give women a chance to really specify what they are looking for--what they are attracted to. I found out just how few women found me attractive. It was truly instructive--including those with whom I bonded intimately over the phone. Yet I did find the occasional woman who actually found me fuckable. Generalizations are just that--general statements that don't necessarily apply to all individuals. What that kind of generalization does do is give an insight to what happens when you start talking about larger numbers of people participating in a sexual marketplace. Then you have not just individuals, but statistics.

StealthBadger said...

Tag! *runs for cover*

sugar said...

Cassandra this was a very good topic and I actually might post some of my own thoughts on my blog I just started. Being a more submissive woman... actually I shouldn't say more, I should just say submissive... I objectify many men. I don't care what thier age is or if they are beautiful, handsome whatever. I'm 26 years old and many of the men I find attractive are 5-15 years older than myself. It has NOTHING to do with thier physical characteristics really at all. It has to do with thier demeaner. Are they a strong personality with opinions, are they someone who is fun, are they someone who understand that women aren't just objects of sexual desire. These are the things that attract me to the opposite sex and make me want to jump into bed.

I think american society is extreamly sexually repressed period. Not just in this area but many others. Women are still thought of as sexual objects by men and still told to be quiet about sex by women. As a society we still aren't very accepting of alternative lifestyles be it Homosexuality, Bi-sexuality, BDSM, or other fetishists. I'm speaking in very general terms here when I say Americans. *laughs* Just to clarify. For instance, no one in my real life understands exactly how sexual of a creature I really am. I have a bigger sexual appetite than most men do. I'm quiet about it even with my closest friends because I know they would not understand. I would be considered some not so nice words.

haikuist I would dare to venture that You have probably been ogled by a good many women and just as Cassandra has said, were simply oblivious to it. Women find the way a man speaks sexually attractive at least I do. I find a mans intelligence sexually attractive. I honestly could care less what a penis looks like or how big it is. We women tend to be just a lil' bit more demure about how we ogle another *smiles*

Cassandra Says said...

Interesting. See, I'm not submissive at all (when I was still doing BSDM I was always a dom), and yet I'm pretty tactful about my letching too. It's not a matter of being demure, since I don't do demure, it's just that I think being too obvious about it is bad manners. It's rude, regardless of who's looking at whom. Being a Brit rudeness is a cardinal sin of course (see John Cleese's famous comments about the English being born apologetic).
Haikuist - we're going to have to agree to disagree about this. I still think that the frequent male perception that they are not objects of desire is due to a combination of not being aware when women really are checking them out and overestimating their own place in the looks heirarchy (ie the men who are in fact considerable less attractive than average who perceive themselves as being "average").
By the way, in the case of the men in my social group who I was referring to earlier, I really did mean that the women in our group consider many of them fuckable, and that the only reason they are in fact not fucking them is that everyone in already in some kind of a long-term relationship. For every woman in the group, there are a few guys who she would quite happily jump into bed with if both parties were ever to find themselves single at the same time. It's been this way in every social group I've ever been a part of all the way back to high school. The disconnect may be this - I'm not sure that most of the men know that the women think of them in that way. It's that tact and politeness thing again. Women just aren't as open about their sexual feelings as men outside of a sexual relationship.

Cassandra Says said...

Also, for sugar - I think that the tendency to have a sexual response to someone's voice is actually pretty common. I know that there's a type of voice that always gets to me, anyway.
This is not a universally female thing either. The singer I was talking about in my initial post? Says he has a "speech fetish". I wonder if people are sort of pre-programmed to respond to certain sounds the same we are to respond to certain smells (see Arwen's comment about pheremones)?

The Haikuist said...

I don't want to belabor this issue, but I'll just add a little bit of personal experience to illustrate my perspective on this matter.

When I was doing personal ads back in the mid-90s, I spoke over the telephone with a woman who lived down in Mountain View. We instantly hit it off, and spent virtually an entire weekend on the phone with each other. I had never become so close with anyone so quickly. We talked about our fears, our disappointments, our insecurities. I warned her that she might be disappointed in my looks when we met. She said no, I would be the one who was disappointed in her looks.

I drove down on a weeknight from San Francisco to see her. I was the one whose prediction proved to be right. From the moment we met, she became aloof. The transformation from our phone conversations was instant and utterly obvious. Her disappointment in my appearance was palpable. I've never really gotten over that experience, and I still think about her from time to time.

On at least two other similar occasions, women who I hit it off with and who I had long and multiple intimate conversations with on the phone, found my looks deeply disappointing when we met.

After a few experiences like those, I soon learned my lesson. I recall one conversation with a woman on the phone, who bragged about how beautiful she was and how important looks were to her in a partner. When I told her that my experience had indeed taught me that looks were important to women, she laughed and said, "What else is there?" I just knew I was out of her league and didn't even bother to try to meet her. On another occasion, after talking for a while with a woman who was friendly enough, but at one point who bragged about her appearance, I just said, "It was nice talking to you," and ended the conversation. She seemed a little surprised that I ended the conversation in that way without taking it to another step, presumably because the conversation seemed to be going well, but I knew better than to waste her time or mine by pursuing it.

There is no doubt in my mind that the male ego is an ever present problem in the male-female dynamic. Women often complain about men who mistake their platonic friendliness for a sign of interest. The problem is that many men, convinced of their own attractiveness in particular, and the general male attractiveness to women in general, mistake platonic friendiless for something else, and respond to the woman in question according to that misconception.

It seems to me that the last thing in the world that women need is for men to be even more deluded about their attractiveness to the opposite sex. That will only result in more women getting more unwanted attention from men than they already get. If anything, it would benefit women if more men got a hard, cold splash of reality, like I got when I did the personals ads in the 90s. Men need to be more aware that, yes, just because that woman over there smiles at you, that doesn't mean she has the hots for you.

My 2 cents worth, anyway.

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