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This is what's right - or at least reasonable to assert:
1. Sex gets better with practise - absolutely
2. The strings are attached - absolutely; as they are for pretty much everybody in one way or another; it's not the healthiest way to engage, but as soon as anybody says 'i want this' they're placing conditions; wouldn't it just be simpler to say 'i'll love you the best i can, for as long as i can, for as long as it feels good for both of us'?
3. Young men are (often) not paying attention to the reality of their lovers' experience; young women aren’t either
4. If you're looking for hot, NSA sex, older men (typically) won't find that with older women
5. We want equals; and hot sex - damn straight - who doesn't want that? Please respect me as your equal and permit me to exercise my own intelligence and self-awareness to determine who is mine
6.There is a very real danger of women unconsciously commodifying their sexuality and using it transactionally rather than embracing it as a part of themselves; the same, unfortunately, is increasingly true of men.
7. We need to redefine sexy; amen
8. Women in their forties (now) are hotter, hornier, smarter and more fun than they ever were in their twenties and thirties. Yes!
If you've made it this far, congratulations. It's not so much a 'comment' as a response. The final thing I will say is that the piece of this article that most resonated as truthful, and that made the entire article palatable was, unfortunately, buried at the end of the article and, punctuated, most regrettably, in the post-script. It's the author's roar, her unrestrained declaration of self - one, I suspect, that resonates for all of us, regardless of gender, or age or experience:
" … for those who value me for all the things that I am, and are lucky enough to know the lover I’ve become, it was worth the wait. No games. No drama. No goal. Just the powerfully awesome autonomous sexuality of a powerful wo/man, shared freely with a wo/man who values it, to create something greater than the sum of its parts ... None of us are perfect. None of us are going to be perfect. It’s okay. The learning curve is long, hard and slow; but being open and talking about it is the best way to learn.”
As a powerfully autonomous sexual man, wedded to a love that is greater than myself, I hear you. Thank you. Deep gratitude for sharing your self with us, for providing an opportunity to be heard and for stimulating a healthy enquiry. Most importantly, congratulations on your marriage!
So, here's a break down of what's wrong with this article (followed by a breakdown of what's right):
1. Everybody wants something; it goes with being human; if you don't know what you want, or don't know how to ask for it clearly, then you manipulate in order to get it; almost everybody does it, whether we want to or not
2. Claiming that most people in their 20's don't really know themselves is matronising (no, it's not a real word, but it bloody-well oughta be!). I'm confident that most folks in their twenties reading elephantjournal know themselves well enough to not even express outrage at such an asinine assertion
3. Men like having sex. Period. So do women. Most people (I believe) would like to be having more sex, more often, with more people. What is each individual looking for in that experience? Who-the-fuck knows and, frankly, who the hell cares? We're all looking for different things based on an incalculable number of variables. There will always be patterns to be discerned (including those the author points out). Some may well point to a social malaise that would benefit from interrogation. Others won't
4. Men, by and large, enjoy having sex with younger women. Not always, not exclusively. But they do enjoy it. Why? Well, far be it for me to take up the torch for men everywhere but I suspect that it's because they are (often) more physically vibrant, less hung up about life, have more available time, are more relaxed about sex, often don't have kids, or careers or weighty obligations and don't view chivalry as an affront to their 'she-ness’ (thanks Californication) but as an expression of care. They view sex as a playground - and why the fuck not? Who decided it all had to be so goddamn serious anyway? Ask a bonobo what they think (of course they won't tell you, they'll just welcome you to the party!)
5. There is no consistent timeline; the author goes from talking about 'women in their twenties' to coming 'into our sexuality in our late teens and early twenties'. I agree that there is a substantive difference between being 18 and being 28. If you're going to make generalisations, at least make them consistent; now I don't know if I agree or disagree with you because you just redefined the parameters of your argument
6. I'm delighted that divorced women in their forties are claiming their sexuality for themselves for the first time; it's awesome; it's exciting, enabling and, quite honestly, as sexy-as-hell; just don't let your own unbridled enthusiasm for your new claimed power make you so arrogant that you ignore the possibility that women in their late teens - through late twenties might have a lot to teach you about sex and sexuality as well; youth ocassionally have good cause to be ‘arrogant’
7. I've had amazing sex - heart-connected, intellectually-stimulated, physically mind-blowing sex - with women in their forties. It's been a while since I had sex with a woman in her twenties, but from what I hear, it can be just as good; ultimately, you bring yourself to the experience, and you gain more from what you give than from what you try to take; isn’t that always the way?
8. Consent is consent. You can't manufacture a new form of consent called 'true consent'. We all give our consent to the experiences we have in our lives based, again, on an incalculable number of variables.
9. It's a weak choice for a man to go for the younger, hotter, more contemporary, more energetic, more stimulating women? Really? Sex isn't the NBA. It's not a competitive sport. But it should be fun. Who wouldn't choose the more fun option if it were available to them?
10. The dominant message for women is that they are only as valuable as they are sexy - maybe. It's undeniably a strong message, but the truth is that young men are suffering too. Boys are beginning to drop out of more academic pursuits because girls are getting so much of the attention. One of the core messages that young men hear in the media today is that women are better than them - they are smarter, more capable, more balanced, more hopeful, more responsible, MORE MORE MORE than men. When was the last time you saw any major social mission focused on the education, employment, self-awareness and support structures for young men? Boys are learning that they are, in every way that seems to matter, less than girls
11. the double standard on slamming men but not holding women to the author's imagined standard of healthy sexual behaviour with younger partners is a mote in god's eye
All meaning is contextual. I have no doubt that the world the author grew up in (late sixties / early seventies) was still a fiercely patriarchal world (despite the necessary rise and rise of the feminist movement). To suggest that the past twenty years bears much more than a passing resemblance to the twenty that preceded it, strikes me as an abject denial of reality. The world is different and we - men and women both - are different as as consequence. A woman born in 1990 has grown up in a world in which, despite the multitude of insidious ways in which women continue to be marginalised, she (by and large) has the right to vote for who she wants, be educated about what she wants, make her own choices about her own body, decide where, when and with whom to engage, work where she wants, live where she wants, travel where she wants, easily gain access to finance, and generally know far more about the past, present and future than any other adult generation before. Most women I meet in their twenties are far more self-assured than most women in their forties would report as being back then.
That doesn’t make it universally true, of course, but it is a common experience I hear from folks in their forties talking about folks in their twenties.
There's much less need to fight for ones right, to demand to be heard, to insist upon being taken seriously (yes, the need is still there, stipulated). There are far greater protections in law and in social normalising then there were for a woman growing up in the seventies. Many more women in their twenties grew up with self-empowered, educated, fiscally self-reliant, politically active and socially connected mothers than most women in their forties now could claim. To labour the point, it's not the same - and it's entirely unreasonable to use one's self as a data point to make sweeping generalisations about this current generation of women. As a man in my early forties, it's equally unreasonable for me to imagine that I have my finger on the pulse of that generation of women either.
There may well be elements of truth to the authors contention about men my age; it's challenging, however, to wade through the polemic, and a real exercise in self-awareness to not jump at the myriad of baited hooks this article is peppered with. It's written in a way that, not surprisingly, evokes a strong response in the men who've commented. I want to call bullshit on the author, but there is definitely much in here that demands consideration (it's just unfortunate that the reader is expected to wade through so much unsubstantiated, ill-informed, self-referential rhetoric to find it).
Here's what not only I, but many of the men my age who have taken their own process with a little more mindfulness would likely say given that this sort of discussion is neither new nor particularly evolved. Men have been accused of much worse - often with good reason - and have specifically been called out as assholes by the women of their generation for millennia. Yawn. We're bored, and unilaterally wish that instead of grinding axes you were using them to cut dead wood.
Again, it's possibly a fair characterisation of some men, but its baseless to assume that all men who date much younger women are either latent abusers, party to some unconscious paradigm of suppression or out and out manipulators. Beyond that it's unnecessary and completely counterproductive to what I'm hallucinating is the author's intent (to make us aware that, perhaps sometimes, this is, in fact, exactly what is going on).
I've read the article, and your various responses Lori, and while I admire the intent, there are many men, myself included, who are tired of being preached to as if we are fundamentally unaware. Should a man write an article like this to women, the backlash would be extreme. Just because men might be more measured in their response, doesn't mean this is any less matronising / diminishing (funny how we don't have a word for when women speak down to men, but we certainly have the reverse!) than when a man speaks to a woman in the same way.
I've often thought to write such an article but have held back because I don't consider it would be useful. I'm an intelligent, self-aware and loving human being, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with my gender, just as your nature has nothing to do with yours.
Articles of this nature seem to consistently reinforce some separation, and diminish the profound value that men bring to the world. Change happens by meeting each other where we are. If we're meeting each other from the place of needing to be different, we're visiting a subtle violence upon the world that is counter-productive to our intent. I wonder how many women consider that their approach to men has as much of an impact upon how we behave in the world as men's approach to women. None of us is without hypocrisy - it goes with having a body. Surely we need to meet each other as we are?
Women have struggled for centuries to be free of socially proscribed ideas of who they can and cannot be. Attaining this freedom doesn't mean that they have the right to inflict a whole new set of social proscriptions on men.
In short, I for one don't need yet another list (despite this being quite a good one). I'm more aware of how I move in the world that is unloving and incongruent with engendering a loving and peaceful world than anyone outside of this body could ever be. That's the point of this work, of 'knowing thyself'.
The point of most significance is your closing line: "Whatever the divine really is, let’s find it together."
An invitation isn't proscriptive, it's an opening. There are many men who exemplify not only these qualities, but many that are far, far beyond. Perhaps it's time women started approaching men as equals, as opposed to unaware, ignorant relics of a bygone era in need of better tutelage.
anyway - not about requiring permission, simply that even though opinions may arise, i don't consider that i have the right to push that opinion onto someone else - in essence, it's the same sort of dysfunction that says 'you are responsible for my happiness'
love to hear your response to the balance of my comments too
the risk factors associated with cervical cancer are many - and being an HPV carrier is considered to be almost a pre-cursor to getting it (more than 99% of invasive cervical cancers contain HPV); yet of the roughly 80% of sexually active women worldwide who carry HPV, only 10% go on to get cervical cancer; and of those who die from it, more than 80% are in developing countries where access to pap smears, adequate nutrition and other preventative measures are limited in availability
ask yourself how many 'successful' people would be so if openly non-monogamous. ask yourself how much (inter)personal suffering results from the socialisation of sexuality
i for one have found myself consistently conflicted between the seemingly opposing aspects of 'doing the right thing' and doing what feels natural; sex and love may well be inextricably linked, but our ideas about them have been conflated to such a degree that it seems nigh on impossible to accept that loving someone doesn't necessarily equate with remaining sexually exclusive
socially there can be little doubt that being monogamous is easier; personally, resolving my ideas about ownership (of self and others) is a task that i frequently doubt i have the emotional maturity to deal with; so i'm monogamous (generally) because, more than anything else, i'm lazy
to be frank, i don't consider i have even the right to an opinion about what my partner does with their body - as long as it doesn't impact upon the health of mine
stimulating healthy debate about the socialised sexual status-quo might seem purposeless, but i suspect it's an issue that continues to arise because, to a certain extent, we are at war with our own humanity
if we're so devoted to loving each other to the best of our ability, why are we still so generally Victorian in our attitudes towards sex?