Friday, August 15th, 2008...9:20 pm
John Edwards + Sex = Looove!
People who think of themselves and their loving relationships as Disney after-school specials are careening. Maybe they are unaware–though I doubt it–but still, you cannot live a vapid, uninvolved relationship and expect things to stay together.
And it’s not because men are shallow. Just the opposite, in fact. Men need intimacy. Real, involved intimacy. We need you women to know and care what’s going on in our heads and we need to be as involved with you. We may not want it, but we need it.
We may hook up into a relationship where both partners are talking love and the sex is great, and we sit together and watch great movies and kiss goodnight and do our chores happily. But, ladies, if your man isn’t connecting with you deep down inside, and you aren’t connecting with him–really–you are just waiting for that Elizabeth Edward’s moment to drop on your head. Don’t be devastated.
If you are a political spouse, just get over it, like Elizabeth and Hillary did, and go on collecting what you worked for. He’ll predictably come crawling back, confessing sin, and then he’ll really watch his step. That will be your reward: those years Hill is reveling in now with Bill faithfully at her side.
If Edwards was not a phony by trade, he would have just said, hell, I’m sorry, but this other woman was looking at me with such eyes and making me feel so good about myself, and I was soooo into her and who she was in those moments.
If it’s real love, a guy has no control over himself.
And real love beats punching a Valentine’s-Day-card time-clock any day of the year.
The news coverage/blog discussion of the Edwards mess is just like what we heard when Bill Clinton was exposed for what any semi-observant soul could’ve told he was even before he was elected. Not a word of serious discussion about the male libido then or now, but rather, long after the much heralded “Sexual Revolution,” all we hear is people reflecting on whether or not they are let down, and whether or not it is our business.
If I ran a news show, I’d send a man out on the street to ask the question of men: “Do you ever get so horny it interferes with your career?”
The reason such discussion does not take place is so as not to offend people. Male sexuality is offensive. In the context of a TV news interview, the word “horny” is too offensive, and “aroused” (a nicer word, more often used with reference to female sexuality) does not really work to describe the mentality that might lead a man to act improperly on the job.
In order for us to avoid the nasty topic of male sexuality, we’ve got to be able to sum things up quickly like there’s nothing to discuss. Representations are consequently limited to the primal Rhett Butler-type seizing and spewing. At least that’s all I know of, whether the source be fishing trip car talk between guys, feminist treatise, mainstream movie action, or the wisdom imparted by the free-speaking fiftyish psychologist-hippie who lives in the apartment below mine. The male sexual urge is seen simply– as a glandularly motivated need to ejaculate, an undesirable agitation that can lead to frustration unless defused by a generous, understanding woman (Scarlett O’Hara’s character was flawed in this area,) or by masturbation. And we men, feeling the strength of our urges and used to inhibiting them, are quick to accept this view. We are cretins. We accept it. Let’s not talk about it.
Though I can see a large segment of men busily conforms to this stereotype, I don’t believe male sexuality is merely physical or even self-gratifying at its impetus. My sex is an intimate exploration of the bond between me and my mate. It is driven by an expression of love and a desire to feel loved. My commingling with a woman I love, making full physical contact, lets me feel I’ve touched base–made that vital connection; that I am allied with another and not just alone, floating back and forth to work each day.
And I know my loving feelings are not for the sake of the sex, because the love came first for me. As a boy, I was drawn to girls long before I had any sense of the sexuality brewing in my loins. I was nervous, a little breathless, around certain ones. It was the loving urge, the same way I feel it now, there in the fifth grade, fully developed two years before it was joined by its glandular service provider. Earlier than that, I adored certain girls, my mind thinking about them impulsively.
Our adult sexual impulse is a progression from the mother-loving baby boys us guys once were, but we men cannot–or don’t want to–see that enough to credit ourselves. Credit ourselves with this great emotional capability.
It’s a dirty secret that men are capable of feeling tender and loving towards all sorts of women we run across. Men are capable of empathizing so intensely, so quickly with women that we can be protective over and lovingly drawn to a wide variety of women after only an acquaintance. The caustic line that men are always/only interested in sex would not be an insult if male sexuality weren’t so tabooed, but it would support a view of open, empathetic men with a great capacity for love.
Such a view would require mostly everyone to change their conceptions of sex roles, incorporating with the male role defining aspects of the feminine role–a role boys are trained by their fathers and mothers to banish from their complexion as they would the plague. We buy them toy guns, swords, and plastic psycho monsters, and encourage them towards violent fantasy, but we never put a baby doll in their hands, so they can practice what dad does with their little baby brother. We are secretly proud when our boys hit, and we are secretly let down when they coo their love too much.
A mother in my daughter’s play group told me she had to pull away from her toddler, purposely rejecting him in small ways, physically and emotionally, for fear that the boy, who had been going through a period in which he was particularly clingy to her–especially over her husband–would some day become homosexual. She’s going to teach him not to seek intimacy with his female parent so he’ll like sex with females more when he’s grown.
Despite the fact this type of whacko logic is typical of the way we prepare boys to be men, there are plenty of men who turn out to be sensitive and caring lovers of women. But such a guy doesn’t have much room to operate. A strict role exists for men, outside of which he is on his own, never able to be so sure of how much approval he can expect. You can see that male role the clearest when there are no women around–like at those suburban parties where men and women segregate themselves from the time they enter the home. I’ve always felt awkward in the cardboard role played by men at those gatherings. The phoniness is the men acting like they don’t have an empathetic bone in their body. That’s the act, simply put. It’s as pathetic as the Uncle Tom or the Playboy Bunny. Really–you don’t have to know a damned thing about football to fit in. You just have to seem emotionally lobotomized. If the virtues of male sexuality were acknowledged, such a role would cease to be plausible.
Stepping back and taking a logical look at how alike men and women are biologically and how closely they work together to mold family and society, it’s apparent the sexes can not be so different between the sheets as the difference between impassive stooges and paragons of tenderness. It’s not moral turpitude that makes us different, but the means by which we express our love.
To too many women, love is forged from words and deeds. The marriage certificate is the document of love. These women express their love through alignment and commitment, sex being more a recreation prerequiring love, rather than a means of expressing love. And it ain’t that way for me. The sex is as much an expression of the love as are the words of affection–more so. In fact, I’d rather say the sex is a “part” of the love.
I once attended a wedding reception in Kansas, where I found myself among a group, composed mostly of remarried women in their late thirties. As we milled about outside the door, getting ready to go our separate ways, the new bride mentioned the hot tub that equipped her hotel suite.
“Sure, I’ll take the hot tub,” responded one of the women, casting a narrow gaze at her own husband, “…but, I’m sorry. I just want to be in there to rest.”
After lots of laughter, another reinforced the sentiment: “Yeah, mine starts coming around with that, and, you know, ‘Sorry honey–you go have a few beers with Joe.’ Hey, he’s got his life, and I’ve got mine. Those days are over.” The conversation continued that way, bouncing back and forth between the women, each reinforcing the other’s need to air this joke. The men stared dully ahead, thinking perhaps of the drive back across the prairie.
I was struck by the need for each of the women in the group to have her turn spinning the joke, as though each was aware something was wrong with her relationship, so wrong it was purging to recite the sentiment openly. It also seemed an initiation rite for the new bride–the older women maybe a little nervous she wouldn’t become one of them.
The conversation is a type I have heard before–one which in no way is particular to Kansas. I’ve stumbled into New York-based female email strings of essentially the same Kansas joke, only with a plentiful helping of explicit, obscene language. There is a righteous overtone to the joke in the woman’s ability to liberate herself from the man’s sexual demands, the sex being a dirty chore she endures for him, like getting the skid marks out of his underwear. The joke only works, though, if you see male sexual desires as degenerate and self-gratifying.
Under such conditions, the gulf between a man and woman grows. As Court Assistant for Bronx Family Court, I used to spend my days writing up support and paternity petitions for parents. One day, a female client glanced at my wife and kids’ picture on my desk and asked, “I notice you are not wearing your wedding ring. Why is that?” I told her my father never wore one.
She ignored my answer, and started complaining about her husband. “Here, I give him a good home. I raise his children. That isn’t enough for him. Why isn’t that enough? You’re a man who doesn’t wear his wedding ring–you tell me. He has to go out and get some young girl the minute he turns forty.”
Though I was not supposed to be having such discussions, I couldn’t resist. “Maybe your relationship wasn’t where it should be. Sometimes people live together with a happy family and all that, but they don’t spend time together. They aren’t really into one another.”
She sat up straight, then leaned into me intensely. “What do you mean?” she accused. “Do you mean to tell me, a nice home, a wonderful family, a happy marriage–that isn’t enough for him to keep his vows?”
Since she didn’t answer my charge directly, I brashly inferred their love life was not what it needed to be. “Two people need to be close,” I maintained. “Intimately close.”
She turned away crossly, shaking her head in disagreement. “After all these years I’ve put in, and now it’s all gone.” She hounded out my eye contact again. “But we bought a house. We built a savings.” She was too intense, as if I was him.
I couldn’t resist. I felt like him. “Yeah, but love is more important.”
Disgusted, she told me, “Now we’re going to spend all our savings on lawyers and separate homes, and I guess we’ll have to sell the house.” Her eyes pleaded with me. I could see it her way. She was completely right in a way. But she did not understand what it is to be a man. There has to be glory. Without glory, you cease to exist. If you are not living inside a woman’s sincere adoration, you are dismally alone.
When women complain they aren’t loved, that their husbands don’t fulfill their emotional needs–by talking with them, by cuddling with them, by sharing personal moments with them–their complaints are respected. These needs are admired by our culture. However, a man’s sexuality, the vehicle for his deepest, strongest emotions, is belittled and fearfully stashed where he will use it as privately and sparingly as possible. So repressed, he is expected to persevere with important loving relationships. Well, men are not emotional clods, and relationships cannot be successfully structured on such an assumption, no matter how hard the guy tries.
Which brings me back to Edwards. The framework our culture allows for images of male sexuality is one simple dimension. Dare I suggest his extra-marital relations were a loving and healthy sexual play, innocent and interactive, like the play between a baby and his mother, the nervous laughter and mockery I’d be inviting would easily turn scornful.
How could so self-serving an act be honorable?
When I make love with a woman, there is little self-serving about it. During most of the experience, I am appraising her pleasure. In fact, my sensing of her pleasure is what generates my orgasm. I’m sure most men are likewise considerate in their sex, but we don’t know it, because we don’t do much thinking or talking about it.
No one does.
… I said all that, and not once did I have to mention Elliot Spitzer. (Who doesn’t deserve to be mentioned because his way of dealing with his socially and professionally-unacceptable desire is to take the super-pompous, mega-virtuous step of preserving his own precious righteousness by dehumanizing the person providing him with the love.)
Mark Crane August 15, 2008 Motormanmark.com