Asexual Sex Objects

This past month has brought me three pieces that have tweaked my interest in gender/sexuality issues. The first came from John Siracusa’s gracefully retired Hypercritical where he talked about misogynist nerds who rage against so called “geek girls.” The second is Jezebel’s defense of the now defunct Nice Guys of OkCupid tumblr, and the last and most recent is E.J. Graff’s piece connecting purity and rape culture. Each of these pieces touch what I see an as an overarching issue: the screwed up effects on women’s sexuality caused by traditional and religious gender roles.

The crux of the problem is that girls are socialized to seem disinterested in sex, while simultaneously expected to compete amongst each other to be as sexually attractive as possible. In short, they are expected to be asexual sex objects. This seeming contradiction is everywhere in our culture. Television and film are filled with gussied up models who, for the most part, rarely seem to have any carnal sexual motives of their own. Instead, their desire for sex is portrayed as a means to further a more meaningful romantic relationship. While gradually eroding, this false representation is a hold over from tradition driven gender stereotypes and pervades our lives beyond fiction. Still today, a woman motivated purely by sex is not only shamed as a slut, but also not reprimanded as “not marriage material” thanks in-part to Christianity’s “Madonna/whore” influence on western culture.

The three pieces mentioned above all have to do with men being misogynists at best and violent criminals at worst, so how does women’s sexuality even matter? Aren’t these guys still going to be misogynists anyway? The socialization that women are asexual sex objects impacts girls in horrible and obvious ways, but it also directly affects boys. Like women, there are many men out there who buy into the women-are-asexual narrative wholesale and while women have their own sexuality to remind them otherwise, men, especially socially challenged ones, remain hopelessly oblivious. The false premise then leads to false deduction. Two such conclusions come to mind.

The first line of thinking is that if women are asexual, then sex will only result from some sort of negotiation or trade-off. This rational is bolstered by the related notion that women only see sex as a means to or feature of romance. Both OkCupid and comic/sci-fi/anime conventions are filled with men trying to meet, date, and fuck women entirely with romantic gestures, pleasantries, and favors. Without any attempt to appeal to women sexually, these same men are then repeatedly disappointed when they end up in the “friend zone.” Worse yet, many of these men are quickly angered when the focus of their affection displays any sexuality unrelated to them. For example, if a girl responds to another person’s usually more forward advance, she is a crazy bitch who only dates assholes. Even dressing provocatively can be a petty callous tease to the misogynist with the assumption that women are asexual. By their logic, these actions aren’t for herself so they must be directed at them or some other male.

The second is that women as asexual sex object must exist solely for the purposes of men. The thinking is dangerously simple: if a woman is present and acts or dresses in a way that provokes them sexually, intentionally or not, then she must be there to serve since she can’t possibly be that way for her own enjoyment. This rational, while minor in some circles, is still pervasive. “Nice Guys” illustrate this in their profile and survey questions. Con goers display this in acting incredulous when “Gamer Girls” ignore them. Religion also plays a particular role with this line of thinking because many faiths divine rules that determine how, when, and which women can be used as props for sexual pleasure and assault such as in the recent gruesome gang rape in India.

There will always be misogyny if for no other reason other than to hate is easier than self examination, but take away the traditional social notion that women are asexual sex objects. Let women’s sexuality be as obvious and unrestricted as men’s. Just the basic idea that women have sexual desires and motives will affect many’s logic in a way that eliminates misogyny before it is even a possible conclusion.

References: (Starts about an hour in.)