On Difference

April 7, 2005 § 3 Comments

I keep coming back to Nick’s last comment, and although I don’t disagree, I keep wondering, “why?” I don’t mean to be a pain in the ass, but I can’t let it go. Bear with me, will you?

I don’t think it’s as simple as “men and women are different,” although sometimes they are. Sexuality is too amorphous a thing, and far too malleable. Besides, there’s too much intra-group variation for the statement to hold, or at least for it to tell us anything more than what we already know.

Sex is a biological impulse that acquires form through culture. We learn sex in the world as it is, which is why those first glimpses are so important, and so memorable. They are our first encounters with an experience we are inexplicably drawn to, but which has no pure form except as a refraction of the world as we encounter it, in real bodies and in real time.

Boys live in a world of erotic images that are meant for them; they attract that vague impulse and shape it, refine it, pull it toward the visual realm. Girls have fewer images, and those that exist are a thousand times more elusive: the video image in China Girl that escapes in an instant. Quick, rewind, did you see it? No? Then rewind again. There, and then gone.

So that itchy, insistent need draws some of us elsewhere, to sounds and smells and the written word. The blind senses. And so we learn to respond to the colour of a voice, the rhythm of breath; we catch that smell on someone and it’s game over. Oh yeah, the smell thing. That goddamn smell thing…

More than anywhere else, girls find sex on the page. In less than a decade we make our way from teen magazines to Harlequins to real novels, and eureka, we’ve found it: a few passages by Miller or Lawrence, more by Anais Nin, or whole genres of erotic fiction. And so we learn sex in narrative, even when it’s macho and ridiculous, or frustratingly femme; we can still imagine this world and ourselves in it.

I’ll let you in on a secret, though: sometimes, we look too. The shirt that rides up, exposing the crest of a hip; the calf that tightens as it bears down on a bike pedal; the faded jeans that hang just so. But I think the way we look is more idiosyncratic; we catch glimpses of sex in a thousand places because that’s what we’re used to, because no one thought to direct our gaze. Girls have wandering eyes – consider yourselves warned.

Clearly, I’m obsessing. It must be spring.

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§ 3 Responses to On Difference

  • Nick says:

    When you say, “Girls have fewer images,” can it really be called a case of smutty male visuals not existing? Or is the problem that visual smut out there is dressed up in the trappings of men’s sexuality, so instead of smut that is appealing to women in a more understated way, you end up with…Playgirl. Or even better, porn as it exists today. You end up with gratuitous close-ups and huge gazongas. You end up with the idea of “gazongas” in general. Men’s visuals tend more towards the Hank Miller than the Anais Nin. Porn is cartoonish and brazen and leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. Which is the problem, I suppose.

  • Vila H. says:

    Well, that and the fact that gay men make up between 25 – 40 per cent of Playgirl’s readership. Hmm.

    Yup, I think in the end it comes down to a question of sexual aesthetics, to which surprisingly little attention is paid by pornographers, and to the lack of diversity in styles of erotic representation, which does not serve women’s sexual experience well. Does porn really have to be so samey? Hello, niche marketing?

    BTW, on the off chance that any pornographers are reading this, I would pay a not insubstantial sum of money to see Adrien Brody naked. Just watch where you put the staple…

  • Anonymous says:

    Indeed, it is Spring. And as my previous post demonstrates.. times they are achanging.. there was no internet back in our sexual “bloom” the worn out and rewound part of The China Girl Video or ahem, even better, the “un-cut” version of The Man Who Fell To Earth on VHS was all we had.

    Now young ladies everywhere have a “special alone time” pictures folder on their hard drive. Though granted it appears the pictures are not as “graphic” … sometimes.

    mAz

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