Is female satisfaction so hard to achieve? Women mostly need to be content with this similar phrase. “I’ll be there in a jiffy. Just be happy with this quickie. You can’t tie me down, baby girl; I get around.” –I get around, Tupac
Who Men Are Today
If you inhabit one of America’s coastal megacities, you might well think that Toxic Masculinity is dead, or at least dying. Stroll down any avenue in Seattle, Miami, Boston or Los Angeles and it won’t be unusual to encounter trans men, gay men holding hands, emo guys behind makeup and pouty faces, hipster male feminists, doting househusbands, and so many other varieties of men that seem to have replaced the John Wayne stereotypes of old.
In a January 10 New York Times article, however, Peggy Orenstein takes us outside of our progressive bubbles to explore the real lives and thoughts of American boys and teens, and what they actually think and do regarding sex, consent, pleasure, queer issues, and the like.
Her work, which we recap here, may disappoint those who believe Matt McGorry is the new Woke male feminist standard. Unfortunately, misogyny is still robust in the West, as Orenstein discovered in her research. Female satisfaction seems so far away.
Meet the New Man…Same as the Old Man
Orenstein suggests that misogyny remains rife in America, in some ways worse than ever. And this misogyny, which is culturally systemic, largely informs young male behavior. Change can only come from radically dismantling a society that consistently churns out boys and young men who have little respect for women.
Orenstein went on, “We need to tackle something larger and more systemic: the pervasive culture that urges boys toward disrespect and detachment in their intimate encounters.” She pointed out how too many boys measure one another by the number of sexual conquests instead of female satisfaction.
And despite the widespread, seemingly successful, #MeToo movement, notions of consent and/ or female satisfaction barely registered among these young men. As one teen said, “Guys need to prove themselves to other guys. So to do that, you’re going to be dominating. You’re going to maybe push. Because, it’s like the girl is just there as a means for him to get off and a means for him to brag.” Within these cultural issues Orenstein identifies several factors that drive sexually aggressive male behavior.
“Your lips tell me no, but there’s ‘Yes! Yes!’ in your eyes.”
–There’s Yes! Yes! in your Eyes, Dean Martin
Little or No Sex Ed – Is Female Satisfaction So Hard?
Orenstein found that the boys she interviewed had had few or no conversations on the topics of sex, consent, female satisfaction or love with their parents—despite more than a few coming from affluent, educated families. This goes beyond the risk of having awkward conversations.
If boys don’t understand what consent means, and aren’t taught to respect women who communicate disagreement with an act, things can take a tragic turn when female satisfaction is not understood.
For example, about 75% of the boys had not been taught not to press themselves on girls who were too drunk to consent. Nearly all had not been taught not to catcall women or verbally degrade them.
And schools do not fill in the gaps of what homes don’t provide. Orenstein points out that sex ed in most American schools is usually limited to a cursory review of human reproductive systems and the dangers of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, with a stress on abstinence in general —all these being only marginal improvements over the 1950s. There are almost no school discourses on love, sexuality, pleasure, female satisfaction or queer issues.
Mr. Internet: The Primary Sex Ed Teacher for Boys and Teens
And since boys and teens are learning about sex or female satisfaction neither at home, nor at school, their primary teachers are by default pop culture and the Internet—the worst instructors imaginable.
Of course, the primary online sex ed instructor is pornography, often of the rawest kind. Orenstein reserves special criticism for mainstream, non-ethical, non-feminist porn. Orenstein correctly pointed out that in mainstream pornographic genres, men often yank women around like ragdolls, doing things to them, rather than with them or for them.
In harder pornographic genres, men viscerally degrade women in all sorts of ways. This is why Orenstein links most pornography with misogynistic myths, harassment, female objectification, and the general rape culture that pervades the United States. That’s why female satisfaction is underrated.
This is bad enough in itself, but, Orenstein notes, the Internet is only one of many outlets bombarding boys and young men with precisely the wrong messages they need in order to become respectful, informed, and sexually mature adults.
Boys, teens, and young male adults are constantly deluged with sexually violent songs, games, and imagery. Indeed, imagery of sex, love, religion, commitment, female satisfaction and family are now the exception, not the rule, in American pop culture.
“I know you want it. Tried to domesticate you. But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature. Just let me liberate you. I’m gonna smack your *ss and pull your hair.” – Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke
Interestingly enough, teens themselves acknowledge the role of both popular culture and porn on their own psychology. As one high schooler explained, “I think music has some of the biggest impact on how guys treat girls. In the car, my friends and I listen to all this stuff. When you hear that, like, five, six, 10 times a day, it makes it hard to escape having that mindset.”
Is this all generational? As far back as 1928, Cole Porter sang, “Let’s Do it.” Even Elvis and the Beatles were considered racy in their day. Looking back, it may seem ridiculous that parents were once upset about songs like Hound Dog or I Want to Hold Your Hand. But today’s music is another universe altogether.
Billboard’s analysis showed that 65% of modern pop songs had lyrics degrading women. These are songs that very explicitly reference insults, forced prostitution, threats of violence or actual violence (including murder and rape), and much more. By contrast, only about 10% of these songs contained mentions of love, family, and long-term commitment which indirectly affects how female satisfaction is perceived.
The Role of Alcohol
Alcohol can lead to non-consensual sex but definitely not female satisfaction.
“I’m going to make you do what you’ve already said you’re not going to do.” – Blame it on the Alcohol, Jamie Foxx
Although one or two drinks can lower inhibitions and potentially lead to a romantic evening, experts caution that binge drinking is common among young people. Although the legal drinking age is 21 in the United States, alcohol consumption is common among high schoolers and college students, as are parties where nearly all participants are pressured to drink to excess.
With much less body mass to absorb it, alcohol has a more severe impact on females, and can lead to impaired judgement or even blackouts. Unfortunately, for too many American male teens, female blackout drinking is a feature, not a bug. Male teens even give nicknames to especially powerful drinks, such as “panty dropper” or “leg opener,” the obvious inference being that a woman plied with alcohol of this strength will become unconscious or otherwise pliant.
At the same time, large amounts of booze enable even the shyest man to “unleash the beast” as youngsters say, and plow ahead on their partner regardless of any protestations from her. There goes female satisfaction.
As Orenstein elaborated, “Alcohol has also been shown to diminish men’s ability to hear “no” or notice a partner’s hesitation. Wasted young men are more likely than they would be sober to use coercion or force to get what they want.”
But even consensual drunken sex rarely produces female satisfaction.
“Why don’t we get drunk and sc*ew?” –Jimmy Buffett
Orenstein goes on to point out the obvious: even when drunken sex is fully consensual, it is very seldom satisfactory, at least to the woman. In addition, blurred, slurred, and boozy sex is rarely the basis for strangers to become long-term partners. One female college student narrated her experience of a series of drunken casual sex encounters, “There’s not much eye contact.
Sometimes you don’t even say anything. And it’s weird to be so open with a stranger. It’s like you’re acting vulnerable, but not actually being vulnerable with someone you don’t know and don’t care very much about. It’s not a problem for me. It’s just — odd. Odd, and not even really fun.”
Too often, though, for a young man, this is exactly what he wants: a few minutes of fun and sexual release. Then, he zips up his pants and heads back to his dorm room to resume playing video games. And don’t be “uptight, uncool or clingy” by hoping for at least a phone call from him the next day.
In other words, consuming half a bottle of vodka and then getting in the sheets with a stranger is unlikely to create a romantic memory, much less a first step to marriage.
What Gay Teens Can Teach Straights
With little or no sex education, and with popular culture encouraging boys to “take what they want,” Orenstein does not see any culture of consent or respect taking hold nationwide anytime soon. And without that baseline, other important factors in mutually satisfying and egalitarian sexual relationships and partnerships cannot even begin.
While Orenstein’s doomsday analysis may deflate the dreams of those reading this from an intersectional vegan café or social justice collective in San Francisco or Manhattan, her work also finds cause for hope.
Specifically, she notes that gay teens have much more of a consent and respect culture. As sex advice columnist Dan Savage said, “the four magic words gay guys will use during a sexual encounter: What are you into?”
By initiating conversations about sex acts before they actually commence, ideas and preferences can be expressed, boundaries set or tested, and curiosities explored—all the while pleasantly building up arousal that the couple can then put to great (consensual) use in the bedroom.
In this sense, straight male teens and young adults can learn from their gay counterparts: communication is key to developing a healthy, consensual, mutually respectful and safe foundation for sexual activity, and perhaps a robust relationship and marriage.
“Whatever happened to a boyfriend? The kind of guy who tries to win you over? And I want a boyfriend.” – F*ck and Run, Liz Phair
Communicating Your Desires….and Fulfilling Them
So men need to be open to communication prior to intimacy. But Orenstein also notes that women may have to lead these conversations. There should be no problem for the women of today to lay out their sexual expectations, questions, and desires.
Entice your guy with what you like (and don’t like) in bed, and what you may be open to. You might want to set some firm boundaries in some places, and be fluid in others. Exchange ideas and explore. He’s certain to eagerly respond in kind.
You should know that men are aroused by flirty and frank sexual banter, and your partner’s ability to communicate this way–and respect your boundaries– is also a measure of his character and willingness to respect and fulfill your own desires.
Here at ZaZaZu, this is part of our wider mission of encouraging women to educate themselves about their own bodies, dreams and desires, and to actively communicate with their partners—whether our client is a single college girl or a wife and mother who’s been with the same man for 35 years. It’s never too early, or too late, to get informed, take control, and build a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.