Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Manifesto

I mentioned on Saturday that I was attending at lecture at The Philoctetes Center called Mating in Captivity: Sexuality and Monogamy. Among the speakers were Michael Kimmel, a socialogist and author of Guyland, Pamela Paul, famous for writing the book about starter marriages, and Esther Perel whose new book Mating in Captivity inspired the lecture in a way. The actual title Mating in Captivity actually comes from a DH Lawrence poem where he asserts that domesticity is a cage. Questions were thrown out by the moderator, why does great sex fade? Why does intimacy not always lead to great sex?

One of the first comments by Pamela Paul was the fact that people today live longer, into their eighties and nineties. Whereas in previous centuries, women died off in childbirth, which meant that men could have two or three marriages, and women whose husbands died, married again for financial security, if the previous husband had no money. Since people are living longer, they are facing being in a marriage or relationship with someone for fifty or sixty years. Look at the Queen and Prince Philip, last year they celebrated sixty years of marriage, while three of their children have been married and divorced, and remarried. I'm sure Prince Philip never imagined that for sixty years, he was going to have to walk 3 paces behind his wife!

The panel discussed the fact that people marry for more than just great sex (or they should), that marriages change over time, and that people in happy marriages accept and expect that the relationship will change and grow, that there is an ebb and flow of desire and intimacy. Esther brought up the fact that for the first time in history, people expect their partner to be not just a provider, but a lover, and a best friend as well. Up until the 19th and 20th century, love was really at the bottom of the list in terms of attributes for a husband/wife. The more important questions were: was he a good provider, and was she going to be a good breeder?

Michael Kimmel mentioned that if there is equality in a relationship or some kind of equilibrium, the relationship is happier. Meaning that if men pull their weight, by helping out with parenting etc. there is less resentment from their partner, and more sex. Both Pamela Paul and Esther Perel brought up that you lose sight of your partner as an individual, seperate from the relationship, that is where the problems can come.

There was much discussion about the role of fantasy in relationships, and how some people are threatened by the idea. And how many people are afraid to admit their deepest desires to their partner, for fear that there partner might reject them, if for instance they want to indulge in a little bondage, or role-playing. Remember the episodes of Desperate Housewives, when Bree discovered that her husband was going to the neighborhood dominatrix?

Francis Levy brought up the idea of romance novels. At first I wasn't sure where he was going with the idea, particularly when he brought up the idea of being ravished, which is so 1980's bodice rippers, but then he mentioned a man wanting to be ravished and having his partner in control and I remembered the scene in Hope Tarr's new Blaze release Bound to Please, where the heroine has her way with the hero. I'm just glad that no one brought up that old chestnut about romance novels giving women unreal expectations of relationships and marriage, because I would have had to go all Wendy Williams on them and it would not have been pretty.

In the end there was no consensus about what the right answer was in terms of preserving a monogamous relationship. Esther Perel mentioned that one can never really know one's partner. That your partner was sort of on loan to you with an option to renew.

I didn't get to ask my question which was: Why is it that it is still the responsibility of the woman to do all the work in a relationship? Every month in women's magazines, there is a constant stream of articles of how to make a relationship thrive, and top 10 tips to wow a man in bed. You never see articles like that in men's magazines. It's either cars, money, with pictures of hot women thrown in the mix. No articles on how to find her G-spot, or how to deal with your wife who has post-partum depression. Even most self-help books about relationships are geared towards women. Everything from The Rules to advice books written by gay men.

But the saddest question was from a 70 year old physician who was wondering what to do, since there is a limited supply of older men given that they still die off sooner than we do? She wasn't interested in dating younger men, because of insecurity about her 70 year old body vs. his younger one. Than another woman got up and suggested that an alternative was having a relationship with another woman.

Seriously? These are our options? Giving up on men altogether and becoming a lesbian? Or just resigning yourself to being alone?

You know what I think of that?

No offense to anyone who opts for either of those choices, but I'm not ready to give up on the penis just yet!

I refuse to believe that there isn't man out there who can see just how fabulous I am. Someone who see me for exactly who I am and can still say, "Look at her, isn't she just amazing? And sure she can't clean for sh#%t, she sometimes takes things too personally, and she's a sarcastic bitch 80% of the time, but she can make an amazing spinach lasagna, give a kick ass back rub, she'd give the shirt off her back to a friend, and did I mention she's smoking hot?"

Can I get a hell yeah?


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