Power Imbalances and Sex

I saw a gif of a woman talking about how women (supposedly) make less than men in the film industry, ending with ‘the only industry where women make more than men is porn!’ Her point was about the objectification and sexualization of women, and that women are only valued as sex objects.

And this is true – women are definitely sexualized and objectified. They are featured half dressed to sell alcohol or to spice up music videos. Porn is a huge industry. Discussions on cat calling, sexist remarks during the Olympics, skimpy impractical women’s clothes, etc. are dominating the internet right now.

Why?

Because people want to have sex with women. A lot.

And let’s not blame them. Women are certainly very attractive. I also want to have sex with women a lot. And we are designed, not just culturally, to have a sexual response to the sight of a woman indicating sexual availability. This is how we’ve continued the human race for thousands of years, and we shouldn’t shame anybody for it.

I think this sense of unease among women from this “sexual gaze” comes from something a bit deeper. Men want sex from women, really, really badly. Women have the power (particularly in today’s society) to give it to them, or withhold. When women have this Thing that men want, and men have to submit/earn/beg/work/steal to get it, then this creates a fundamental inequality in interactions. The problem is a power imbalance.

A woman thinks – is this man interacting with me for me, or is he after the Thing I have that he wants?

A woman has to make sure she’s not accidentally using the Thing men want in order to manipulate men.

A woman has to be wary of men upset about her having the Thing he wants, and lashing out or taking it by force.

A woman has to deal with men focusing on the Thing she has rather than all of her other accomplishments.

A woman has to deal with the feeling that her worth to society depends on how much of the Thing she has and how powerful she can make it.

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Imagine you have someone who is very rich, with a bunch of poor friends. If everybody is civilized and sensible, the rich person can hang out with the poor friends, and the poor will be careful to pay for their own meals and not ask for anything, because they don’t want the rich person to feel like the friendship is about money. Even this can be a bit tiring, as all the poor people are constantly trying to ignore the fact that this rich person could fulfill all their needs with just a bit of generosity, and the rich person knows that the poor people, no matter how polite they are, are always going to have that desire.

And if everybody is a bit less civilized, then rich person would probably have to learn to always be on guard for friendly people who just want money. Maybe they learn to start suspecting all nice interactions. Maybe they start lying about their wealth. Maybe they start immediately ignoring anybody who asks for money. Maybe all they want to do is dress like they’re not rich and hope nobody notices that they have money.

And of course there are benefits to this. If you have a Thing everyone wants, you can use this to your advantage. You can make a lot of money in an industry where you sell the Thing. People will be nice to you if they see you have the Thing. People will give you gifts in hope that maybe you will share your Thing. You probably won’t have to do nearly as much as people who don’t have the Thing, and the standards for you will be set lower.

I think this leads to a sort of internal dissonance, because on one hand, there are benefits to having the Thing, and it’s nice to have a good standing in society, for people to treat you well, for images of your Thing displayed on billboards as objects of worship, to be powerful just by existing. But on the other hand, having the Thing means that everybody is constantly pawing at you for it, and that your life centers around protecting the Thing and trying to navigate dispersing the Thing, and suddenly your identity becomes confused and commodified, you lose sight of who you are without the Thing, and finding honest and vulnerable relationships becomes much harder.

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I think this also explains the differing views towards women’s sexuality. Some men look at women’s power and feel resentment. They are upset that women have this automatic, inherent Thing that they want, much like someone might feel resentment towards a rich friend who got all their money through an inheritance and is being so uptight they can’t even share a little bit. This is where you get things like The Red Pill, where the men focus on reducing the women’s power and heightening their own. “Here is how to get the Thing. It’s easy to get the Thing if you just follow these steps. Men who want the Thing and can’t get it are beta pussies.”

And some women feel very resentment about this whole setup, too. They feel upset at the world constantly trying to pry the Thing out of their hands. They feel as though their worth is reduced to the Thing and the Thing only, because that’s what everyone seems to pay attention to. A catcall isn’t just a catcall, it’s a symbol for the entire social structure around the power exchange of sex. It is no longer a compliment – an acknowledgement of the desirability of their Thing – but rather an insult, a claim that they are only desirable for their Thing.

And of course, some people love both sides of this. Some women revel in the power game, in withholding and dispensing their Thing, and some men love the hard journey (and reward) of getting to the Thing.

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My first thought about what differentiates “men who hate the game” and “men who love the game” was whether or not they are winning. Maybe men who don’t get laid are ones that hate the game? But this didn’t make sense – a lot of men who get laid frequently still hate the game and hate women. You probably know some of these people.

So my second thought was a loss of control thing. To be a man in the sex game is a very weak and vulnerable position, because you are at the mercy of unknown feminine forces you frequently don’t understand. You are the one asking people out, you are the one trying to be nice and getting nowhere, you are the one sending all the messages on dating sites, waiting for replies that never come, feeling unwanted and unattractive. It’s not a huge leap to imagine that some people feel like they’re humiliated, being kept at arm’s length, at the mercy of another. This is frustrating, despairing, and helpless. They probably really hate the game.

And what differentiates “women who hate the game” from “women who love the game”? I think this is a bit more complicated. If I had to reduce it, I would guess a deep caring about the way strangers and society perceives them. Women who hate the game hate that society perceives them as sex objects. Why do they care that they are reduced to sex in the eyes of society?
Some people might think this question is silly – obviously you don’t want to be seen as sex in the eyes of society! – but a lot of women don’t mind, or even enjoy it. The women I know who love the game don’t seem to care about what society thinks. Catcalls on the street are fine, because they are 100% okay with being a one dimensional sex object to strangers.

Sometimes I feel like women who are trying to end the game don’t realize that the game exists because women have the Thing, and people want the Thing and aren’t getting it. The only real way to end the game would be to equally dispense the Thing so that there is no more imbalance. This could be done in probably two ways – either we all start giving away the Thing until it’s no longer a rare commodity, or we invent amazing sex robots with good mobile joint movements and realistic audio sounds. I think we’re closer to the latter.

In conclusion, I don’t really feel that any of these views are right or wrong, because they all seem understandable. Everyone can relate to a fear of loss of control, everyone can relate to a desire to be viewed more than one-dimensionally in the eyes of society.

I feel like I fluctuate between all these views. Sometimes I am enraged for men at the helplessness, sometimes I am infuriated for women at the objectification. And sometimes I just gyrate on camera to hundreds of masturbating men, cause fuckit.

14 thoughts on “Power Imbalances and Sex

  1. “we invent amazing sex robots with good mobile joint movements and realistic audio sounds. I think we’re closer to the latter.”
    Well prostitutes exist, and they are cheap, and still didnt solve what you meant. So whats up?

  2. There has been research that showed women are much more likely to be interested in casual sex with a stranger if they are guaranteed that they will be safe, without risk of violence, shame, disease or pregnancy. Then they are as likely as men to chose casual sex.

    A lot of what we see as women being the restrained ones in the sexual exchange is that they suffer the greatest negative consequences. More likely to get an STD, the only one who can get knocked up, much more likely to be raped or murdered by an angry lover.

    And then there is attractiveness. People most want to fuck people they consider equal to themselves in looks, and status, that means sorting and rejecting many people.

    What the MRA twits don’t get is that all their frustration with women stems from them. If men could stop being violent, selfish dick monsters (ask gay dudes, men are like that to them as well) then everyone could get fucked more. But they can’t, so they don’t.

  3. What you described in this post is the MRA Red Pill defined.
    The Red Pill you cite sounds like the PUA/Return of Kings Red Pill.
    But in the Men’s Rights Movement, their description of “The Red Pill” isn’t about tearing women down and building men up or protecting patriarchy. It’s about acknowledging this power women have and the effect it has on men, and how men react to it, and how women react to men reacting to it.

    You can go back to the 1980s and read books from early MRM leaders like Warren Farrell, where he writes about this exact topic in about the same way and comes to similar conclusions. One of Farrell’s most famous books is “The Myth of Male Power” and THIS is the exact kind of power he’s talking about.

    He asks questions like, “If men do all of this stuff we call Patriarchy in the quest for consensual sex with women, while women stand on the sidelines and observe and select the best men they can based on their own status, who’s really in charge?” Sure, men technically run things, but they run things in the way that will make themselves most individually appealing to women so they can earn permission to have sex with them, share their resources with them, and maybe have kids with them. This is an agency that a lot of people don’t acknowledge exists.

  4. > And some women feel very resentment

    Just a grammar Nazi here. You may wan to replace “resentment” with “resented”

    Other than that, this piece of writing really spoke to me as a man. This is one of the BEST descriptions of the feminine condition that I’ve ever read. It’s very thoughtful and enlightening. It’s not a feminist diatribe that I gloss over. Thank you!

    -Doug

  5. There’s one very important difference in the money and sex analogy – a rich person who gives their money away a lot ends up losing something, whereas a woman who has a lot of sex loses nothing. We don’t run out of sex. Thus, the limits on the supply of sex are nearly solely the result of women’s choices, rather than of actual scarcity. And I think that’s where the resentment from some men comes from.
    Historically, there was a cost to having sex for a woman, in the form of pregnancy risks and increased consumption requirements. Today, the risks are negligible as long as everybody uses condoms, but the imagined value of women’s sex still persists. Yet we’re not seeing a drop in the perceived value, and everybody is thus getting their knickers in a twist. Either women need to stop guarding their sex like it’s precious, or they need to accept that it’s going to be treated like something valuable. You can’t have it both ways at once.

  6. seems like men are just as desired for sexual purposes though, aren’t they? but the dynamics are different because of the self-reinforcing power imbalance.

    men are accepted by society, especially male society, as being the ones who are allowed to do things – if women try to do that they’re met with resistance and called “nasty women”.

    women are accepted as being the ones who are allowed to be sexually desired – so even though men are similarly desired, if for slightly different flavors of sexuality, if a man breaks the mold by trying to get ahead with sexuality, he encounters similar problems to women trying to get ahead in nonsexual environments – he can still do it but it’s more difficult and he gets dismissed more easily.

    seems to me like these things are self reinforcing but that if we considered it normal for both men and women to get ahead sexually or nonsexually as they see fit; if we as a society were capable of not ignoring a man’s sexuality when he wants to be defined by it, or of ignoring a woman’s sexuality when she wants to not be defined by it – then I think we would find that that would be enough, and the power imbalance would disappear. I don’t think it stems from inherent desirability so much as from society’s willingness to understand desirability.

  7. What I want is your brain…

    It’s not just that you are really smart and truly *consider*. It’s also that your heart is always present. I can feel it in everything you do. Everything you write.

    Maybe 4 people can actually understand how it might be for men AND how it might be for women, honestly empathize and even try to imagine both sides. Seems most are tightening battle lines or defending their Thing (money for men?) or trying to get more of it or be better at it.

    Why can’t we all just get along? …as the saying goes…

    Thank you for sharing. Your beauty is valid on so many more levels and so much deeper than what our society has trained itself to see…

  8. That’s the sticky wicket, though. It’s like wealth. You give everyone wealth, and many would still be unhappy. Having the Thing, in and of itself, isn’t what makes it desirable. It’s having the Thing that others want but can’t get. It’s having a nicer house than your neighbors. Having a nicer car than your friends. It’s posturing . It’s all posturing.

    Looking back upon my sexual history, never has the quality every been dependant on objective physical beauty, and yet that is what I found myself subconsciously using as a comparative element, even when I was typing this, and feeling gross for it.

    But the more I reflect on it. The more I think it’s not just confined to sexual relationships. There were definitely kids growing up , “cool” kids, I wanted other people to know I was friends with.

    I think if we broke down some of the power posturing that people define as masculinity , we might see great steps in this. Because I’m thinking the “woman as sexual object” is just as deeply reliant as “woman as an achievement to bed” and makes men feel powerful to imagine.

  9. I think that there’s also the issue where many women seek some sort of self-worth validation from society, and so for that reason it becomes depressing for attractive women to realize they’re viewed only as objects by most of society (instead of taking pleasure in their good fortune at being attractive) — and arguably even more depressing for unattractive women to realize that everyone in society ignores them because they have low value as a mainstream sexual object (in addition to taking displeasure at their bad fortune of being unattractive). This wouldn’t affect men as much because other physical appearance does not matter as much. So the whole thing sort of fights against some ideas of gender equality — if it matters a whole lot whether women are physically attractive, then a lot of what gives women power in society is based entirely in luck (it being a dice roll whether she is physically attractive or not), whereas for men it is more often choices and other controllable things (not luck) that make them powerful in the eyes of society.

    Also, you brought up this point: “The only real way to end the game would be to equally dispense the Thing so that there is no more imbalance. This could be done in probably two ways – either we all start giving away the Thing until it’s no longer a rare commodity, or we invent amazing sex robots with good mobile joint movements and realistic audio sounds. I think we’re closer to the latter.”

    I agree that at this point it would probably be easier to aim for the latter, but I think that we actually have come as close as we reasonably can to the former, as well. I believe that the massive increase of access to porn on the internet has probably lowered somewhat the value of the Thing — as evidenced by the way rape and other sex crimes have decreased as access to porn has increased.

    (If this is a double post, I apologize.)

  10. I think that there’s also the issue where many women seek some sort of self-worth validation from society, and so for that reason it becomes depressing for attractive women to realize they’re viewed only as objects by most of society (instead of taking pleasure in their good fortune at being attractive) — and arguably even more depressing for unattractive women to realize that everyone in society ignores them because they have low value as a mainstream sexual object (in addition to taking displeasure at their bad fortune of being unattractive). This wouldn’t affect men as much because their physical appearance does not matter as much. So the whole thing sort of fights against some ideas of gender equality — if it matters a whole lot whether women are physically attractive, then a lot of what gives women power in society is based entirely in luck (it being a dice roll whether she is physically attractive or not), whereas for men it is more often choices or other controllable things (not luck) that make them powerful in the eyes of society.

    Also, you brought up this point: “The only real way to end the game would be to equally dispense the Thing so that there is no more imbalance. This could be done in probably two ways – either we all start giving away the Thing until it’s no longer a rare commodity, or we invent amazing sex robots with good mobile joint movements and realistic audio sounds. I think we’re closer to the latter.”

    I agree that at this point it would probably be easier to aim for the latter, but I think that we actually have come as close as we reasonably can to the former, as well. I believe that the massive increase of access to porn on the internet has probably lowered somewhat the value of the Thing (because it increases dispensation) — as evidenced by the way rape and other sex crimes have decreased as access to porn has increased.

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