Some night last fall when the college kids had come back to campus, I walked around the university district, using the scene as my own personal voyeuristic fishbowl. At one point a jacked-up, enormous, gleaming white truck came cruising by at a glacial pace. Horn blaring at a decibel level fit for a cargo ship, a twenty-something man perched halfway out the passenger window yelling come-ons at every group he saw. The hormone and douche levels were so high, I was revolted and steered my male companion to a quieter street, but not before I heard a woman behind me remark, he’s a scrub! A brilliant and apt TLC reference, as the guy met the criteria: hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, he was certainly trying to holler at women. What we heard off the beaten path however, was a similarly vivid illustration of male sexuality at its worst, and most naive.
Behind us, a guy was monologuing to his friend about a girl with whom he’d recently had an encounter, which almost hadn’t happened because of her willingness to have sex. They had been out and drinking and toward the end of the night, he was testing the waters to see if she would fuck him. When she eagerly responded, he apparently immediately felt his interest wane, because why was she being such a slut about it? He continued to wax philosophically about how girls really can’t expect guys to respect them when they just offer up sex like it’s nothing. He spoke earnestly, with naked judgement. He seemed nonplussed by “girls today” and their cluelessness about how to approach men. His buddy listened quietly. He went on about the lack of respect girls have for themselves and how it’s incredibly unattractive because then all he can think about is how many other guys she’s fucked, and how girls who fuck casually are fucked up. And it’s not hot. I mean, how is he supposed to react when a girl will just go home with him like it’s nothing after she’s been out drinking? Honestly, he had to let her know that the way she readily accepted just wasn’t sexy, as a favor to her.
“So did you guys have sex?” his buddy asked.
“Yeah”, he said.
At that point I couldn’t resist turning around to see the face of this juvenile, morbidly insecure young man. He had the inflections and colloquialisms of a type of man I remember from my undergrad days (and I’m just going to shamelessly stereotype here, feel free to challenge me in the comments) as the typical frat boy. I was transported back to the late 90s and expected to see spiked-front short hair, baggy faded jeans, a polo and Timberland boots. Maybe a white baseball hat if it was a bad hair night. Of course, the year was 2013, and I saw a dude of average height wearing slouchy basketball shorts and slip on “athletic” sandals. I didn’t find him sexual, and instead had the impulse to pinch his cheeks, exclaiming, “goochie goochie goo!” at his infantile nature. On its surface rendering, his tone had evoked confidence, conviction and sensitive honesty. He spoke as though he represented wizened, ideal male sexuality. His buddy’s intent listening only strengthened the kid’s resolve in his own beliefs. I saw something different, and my male companion and I discussed our reactions to his stunning oration, as he turned the corner and was gone. He was lucky he left, because I was close to lecturing him, accompanied by a large man who lifts weights as a hobby. I just can’t bear to hear how little progress we’re making in sexual relationships, and as a former Planned Parenthood counselor, I can’t help but preach on occasion.
My male companion shook his head saying, “are you serious, he was in the exact same situation as her, doing the exact same things and she’s the slut?” We started laughing in disbelief, at the opacity of youth to itself, and the absurdity of the entire diatribe. “No, like honestly was he so checked out of himself that he didn’t notice he was describing himself through her?” Wow. Just wow. He didn’t appear drunk and this made it even funnier. “Wait, he had this brilliant reflection…not under the influence? Deep, man, deep.”
And his buddy! Nothing to add, no challenge, no agreement, the philosopher so captivating he was intimidating? Darling, say something! But of course, we don’t often challenge the status quo, especially when it’s being spoken with such strength of conviction. It was a familiar line of reasoning, that I remember well from high school. I found it maddening that when I went for a guy I was attracted to, offering my sexuality and body, I was frequently, mysteriously rebuffed. I was eager, assertive and excited and struggled to find guys who matched my sexual intensity. I knew then that the reasons were because there was something wrong with me and my sexuality. I just wasn’t like many of the other girls around me who played it cool, passive and out-of-reach. I had sexual needs that had to be met. Now. And some of my desired objects (oops, I mean people) rejected, recoiled or retreated from my advances. It was confusing, and a constant blow to my self esteem. But my sexuality was never crushed (at least not from rejection). God, was the issue I faced what this kid was outlining? A deep lack of sexual confidence seeks truth in the oldest of sexual double-standards? So it wasn’t that her willingness lessened your attraction, it was that your real or perceived inadequacies might be exposed?
When I began this post, I meant to trash the double-standard, but it’s well-worn territory. Instead I think I’m really questioning our continued discomfort with sexuality, at any age. If two consenting adults (or teenagers, because let’s be realistic) want to have sex with each other, they and everyone else should just be all like, “yay, people getting off together! it’s what makes the world go ‘round!”. Because what else is there?