Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A decade of ....?

I read this morning in the Washington Post that today is Viagra's tenth birthday, but certainly not the tenth anniversary of the deification of male arousal and the peddling of silly myths about female desire. That has been going on for far too long.

Consider another story that came out yesterday on yahoo news (I can't give a link because, well, yesterday's news, or even last hour's news online is old news) that men who did housework had more sex than men who didn't.

The implications of this made my jaw drop. Oh, I suppose there's a certain erotic quality to a man manfully handling the vacuum cleaner or thrusting the toilet brush into the depths, but ... we reward men with sex? Like handing out candy? How insulting is that, to both genders? Have we really evolved no further than ooh Ig bring home big mammoth steak, must now assume mating posture?

When the media, or anyone, insists on sex as a favor women grant to men it's a denial of female sexuality. But back to that Washington Post article, which is really about the search for a female equivalent to Viagra, led, naturally by the pharmaceutical industry. The industry argument is that erectile dysfunction used to be considered to be a psychological problem but the research that led to the development of Viagra proved that in many cases it was physical. So now there's the untapped market of women who "aren't in the mood."

I really find myself undecided here. In a sense I'm in agreement with Leonore Tiefer and her colleagues who argue that the problem is not chemical but

"...for many women the solution to their libido problems isn't that exotic. Maybe they have a partner who hasn't a clue about technique. Maybe they're stressed out. Maybe they can't possibly get in the mood because they're so busy raising children. Therapy, counseling, even free day care, says the New View Campaign, might do more for women's sex lives than any drug company ever could."

But maybe it's not that prosaic, either, for men or women. It's not a question only of lubrication and circulation, or phsyical/emotional wellbeing and opportunity. People can succumb to desire in the most inexplicable circumstances and situations and ultimately I don't know that science can ever explain the phenomenon.

Maybe it's something we should leave to the poets:

And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

What do you think?
And would you ever take a "female Viagra"?


Kate Pearce said...

I don't think I'd ever take female viagra-I like to keep my man guessing what mood I'm in and whether I'm approachable, so he has to work harder :)

Rachel Hawkins said...

I once had a friend who told me she doled out sexual favors to her husband when he did chores because, "Well, women don't like sex us much as men do." This was from a woman in her 20s with a freakin' Master's degree. The whole "sex is a chore for ladies" thing has GOT to go!

As for female viagra, I wouldn't take it. Let him work harder!

Pam Rosenthal said...

Susie Bright once took Viagra to see what would happen. It worked, sort of, she said -- unfortunately, the piece she wrote about it is no longer available. She also wrote a hilarious and brilliant follow-up, saying that the real losers were the trophy wives who'd hitherto never thought they'd have to have sex with the old farts they'd married (unfortunately no longer available either).

Tumperkin said...

I can't claim to have come up with this line - but I think it's pretty accurate:

'Women don't have sex unless they feel appreciated; Men don't feel appreciated unless they have sex.'

I don't think it's a case of women have sex with men who do housework, I think it's more cyclical than that. You know: man contributes to the 'family workload'; woman feels appreciated and - possibly without irritations to dwell on - is more amenable to sex; man feels appreciated as a result of sex and is more amenable to helping out... etc. etc. etc.

Jane Lockwood said...

But I don't get sex when I do housework. Not that I do it very often. This is the whole issue, I think. Why is sex seen as some sort of reward to be earned or bestowed?

Eva Gale said...

I wouldn't take one, but if a female pill ever comes out, all I ask is that a bunch of women don't sit in a circle smiling and singing Viva Viagra (or whatever the name is) because it's Just Not Right. A commercial like that shouldn't make me cry from laughing so hard.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Sex and housework???? No linkage whatever that I can see... no wait, my husband once said that the definition of a pervert might be anyone who'd marry me for my housekeeping abilities.

Celia May Hart said...

Hey! Is she bonking a swan????

E. M. Selinger said...

Did the article say that the sex was a reward? Maybe it's epiphenomenal: i.e., the guys who do more housework take stress and resentment out of the relationship and items off their wives' / girlfriends' to-do lists, which means that the women feel, not just "more amenable" (as Tumperkin said) but more sexual in their own right.

Or maybe it's just a correlation, rather than a cause. Maybe men who do more housework also have other attractive qualities: they're confident, funny, and really enjoy making their wives happy, especially in bed.


Maybe they're sexual submissives who like to be ordered to do housework? (Housework Bottoms?) Ooh! Maybe they're singularly shivery Doms who feel guilty about not being feminist enough and expiate their sins through chores?

Lots of possibilities!

Jane Lockwood said...

Hey! Is she bonking a swan???? Yes, or more strictly speaking, Jove, in one of his more inventive moments, is bonking her (Leda). Why he couldn't just offer her dinner and a movie is I suppose one of the differences between mortals and gods. And why would a god--the grand poo-bah of Olympus--have to resort to such tactics anyway--isn't omnipotence good for something?

Jane Lockwood said...

My husband (who should maybe form a support group with Pam's) claims there's nothing sexier than being able to walk across the floor without encountering obstacles. Not that I've ever reaped the benefits.

And I've found that most men who "enjoy" housework actually enjoy the bossiness aspect of it: "No! Not like that! Do it this way!"

E. M. Selinger said...

The business aspect? Not me, Jane--I'm more into the "hey, kids, Mom's at church--let's clean the bathrooms before she comes home and surprise her" approach. Unscheduled, unsystematic, but somehow things get done.

On the other hand, I will say that I'm neurotically unable to do anything--write, grade, you name it--while my wife does housework. MUST STOP! MUST GO HELP! I blame my mother: she drilled into us boys, back in the '70s, that when we grew up and got married there was "no way on God's green earth that we were going to sit around and watch the news or grade papers while our wives did all the cleaning." Not that my Dad ever noticed her saying that, alas! But my brother and I sure did.

Pam Rosenthal said...

I've always thought that your generation, Eric, was my generation's best achievement (until I get jostled yet again in restaurants by the overpaid little squirts who work in Silicon Valley or in biotech). But you and my big smart boy give me hope (even if he's as bad a housecleaner as we are).

As for your question about the gods, Jane: And why would a god--the grand poo-bah of Olympus--have to resort to such tactics anyway--isn't omnipotence good for something?

Believe it or not, I deal with that very question in my November The Edge of Impropriety

E. M. Selinger said...

Well, Pam, I'd like to think that there's a real generational shift here, although I know plenty (too many) men my age who somehow never got the message.

My son & daughter will grow up, though, with no clear sense of housework as either men's or women's work, which is a good and deliberate thing; they've seen us both clean, cook, shop, and all the rest. (Except, I guess, for budgets & bills. Those go to the one with the head for such things, and no, no, no, it ain't me, babe.)

Whether or not they'll grow up thinking of men's doing housework as foreplay, I really don't know, and don't much want to!