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Power Imbalances and Sex[web search]
I saw a gif of a woman talking about how women make less than men in the film industry, ending with ‘the only industry where women make more than men is porn!’ Her point was about the objectification and sexualization of women, and that women are only valued as sex objects.
And this is true. Women are featured half dressed to sell alcohol or to spice up music videos. Porn is a huge industry. Discussions on cat calling, sexist remarks during the Olympics, skimpy impractical women’s clothes, etc. are dominating the internet right now and probably forever.
Why? Because people want to have sex with women. A lot.
And let’s not blame them. We are designed, not just culturally, to have a sexual response to the sight of a woman indicating sexual availability. This is how we’ve continued the human race for thousands of years, and we shouldn’t shame anybody for it.
I think the sense of unease among women from this “sexual gaze” comes from something a bit deeper. Men want sex from women, really, really badly. Women have the power, particularly in today’s society, to give it to them, or withhold. When women have this Thing that men want, and men have to submit/earn/beg/work/steal to get it, then this creates a fundamental inequality in interactions. The problem is a power imbalance.
A woman thinks – is this man interacting with me for me, or is he after the Thing I have that he wants?
A woman has to make sure she’s not accidentally using the Thing men want in order to manipulate men.
A woman has to be wary of men upset about her having the Thing, and lashing out or taking it by force.
A woman has to deal with men focusing on the Thing she has rather than all of her other accomplishments.
A woman has to deal with the feeling that her worth to society depends on how much of the Thing she has, that society only really values the Thing, that the rest of her doesn’t really matter to society.
Imagine you have someone who is very rich, with a bunch of poor friends. If everybody is sensible, the rich person can hang out with the poor friends, and the poor will be careful to pay for their own meals and not ask for anything, because they don’t want the rich person to feel like the friendship is about money. Even this can be a bit tiring, as all the poor people are constantly trying to ignore the fact that this rich person could fulfill all their needs with just a bit of generosity, and the rich person knows that the poor people, no matter how polite they are, are always going to have that desire.
And if everybody is a bit less sensible, then rich person would probably have to learn to always be on guard for friendly people who just want money. Maybe they learn to start suspecting all nice interactions. Maybe they start lying about their wealth. Maybe they start immediately ignoring anybody who asks for money. Maybe all they want to do is dress like they’re not rich and hope nobody notices that they have money.
And of course there are benefits to this. If you have a Thing everyone wants, you can use this to your advantage. You can make a lot of money in an industry where you sell the Thing. People will be nice to you if they see you have the Thing. People will give you gifts in hope that maybe you will share your Thing. It’s easier to feel intimacy and love from people if you have the Thing, because the Thing draws them in and gives them the motivation to see you for who you really are. You probably won’t have to do nearly as much as people who don’t have the Thing, and the standards for you will be set lower.
I think this leads to a sort of internal dissonance, because on one hand, there are benefits to having the Thing, and it’s nice to have a good standing in society, for people to treat you well, for images of your Thing displayed on billboards as objects of worship, to be powerful just by existing. But on the other hand, having the Thing means that everybody is constantly pawing at you for it, and that your life centers around protecting the Thing and trying to navigate dispersing the Thing, and suddenly your identity becomes confused and commodified, you lose sight of who you are without the Thing, and finding honest and vulnerable relationships becomes much harder.
I think this also explains the differing views towards women’s sexuality. Some men see primarily the “unfair power” side of women’s Thing and feel resentment about it, much like someone might feel resentment towards a rich friend who got all their money through an inheritance and is being so uptight they can’t even share a little bit. This is where you get things like The Red Pill, where the focus is entirely about fixing the unequal power distribution. “They have the Thing, but it’s no big deal, it’s easy to get.” If you read TRP posts it’s obvious how much of it is about trying ‘take the power back’.
And some women feel very resentment about this whole setup, too. They feel upset at the world constantly trying to pry the Thing out of their hands. They feel as though their worth is reduced to the Thing and the Thing only, because that’s what everyone seems to pay attention to. A catcall isn’t just a catcall, it’s a symbol for the entire social structure around the power exchange of sex. It is no longer a compliment – an acknowledgement of the desirability of their Thing – but rather an insult, a claim that they are only desirable for their Thing.
And of course, some people love both sides of this. Some women revel in the power game, in withholding and dispensing their Thing, and some men love the hard journey (and reward) of getting to the Thing.
My first thought about what differentiates “men who hate the game” and “men who love the game” was whether or not they are winning. Maybe men who don’t get laid are ones that hate the game? But this didn’t make sense – a lot of men who get laid frequently still hate the game and hate women. You probably know some of these people.
So my second thought was a loss of control thing. To be a man in the sex game is a very weak and vulnerable position, because you are at the mercy of unknown feminine forces you frequently don’t understand. You are the one asking people out, you are the one trying to be nice and getting nowhere, you are the one sending all the messages on dating sites, waiting for replies that never come, feeling unwanted and unattractive. It’s not a huge leap to imagine that some people feel humiliated by this. It’s frustrating, despairing, and helpless. They probably really hate the game.
And what differentiates “women who hate the game” from “women who love the game”? I think this is a bit more complicated. If I had to reduce it, I would guess a deep caring about the way strangers and society perceives them. Women who hate the game hate that society perceives them as sex objects. Why do they care that they are reduced to sex in the eyes of society?
Some people might think this question is silly – obviously you don’t want to be seen as sex in the eyes of society! – but a lot of women don’t mind, or even enjoy it. The women I know who love the game don’t seem to care about what society thinks. Catcalls on the street are fine, because they are 100% okay with being a one dimensional sex object to strangers.
Sometimes I feel like women who are trying to end the game don’t realize that the game exists because women have the Thing, and people want the Thing and aren’t getting it. The only real way to end the game would be to equally dispense the Thing so that there is no more imbalance. This could be done in probably two ways – either we all start giving away the Thing until it’s no longer a rare commodity, or we invent amazing sex robots with good mobile joint movements and realistic audio sounds.
The first seems to be present in more liberal, hippie-esque communities I’ve been in. In some circles, all the men seem to be satisfied, and all the women seem to have a lot of sex with a lot of people. I’m extremely curious about what are the causal factors of these types of groups. They seem to have solved the problem.
In conclusion, I don’t really feel that any of these views are right or wrong, because they all seem understandable. Everyone can relate to a fear of loss of control, everyone can relate to a desire to be viewed more than one-dimensionally in the eyes of society.
I feel like I fluctuate between all these views. Sometimes I am enraged for men at the helplessness, sometimes I am infuriated for women at the objectification. And sometimes I just gyrate on camera to hundreds of masturbating men, cause fuckit.
15 thoughts on “Power Imbalances and Sex”
The Red Pill you cite sounds like the PUA/Return of Kings Red Pill.
But in the Men’s Rights Movement, their description of “The Red Pill” isn’t about tearing women down and building men up or protecting patriarchy. It’s about acknowledging this power women have and the effect it has on men, and how men react to it, and how women react to men reacting to it.
You can go back to the 1980s and read books from early MRM leaders like Warren Farrell, where he writes about this exact topic in about the same way and comes to similar conclusions. One of Farrell’s most famous books is “The Myth of Male Power” and THIS is the exact kind of power he’s talking about.
He asks questions like, “If men do all of this stuff we call Patriarchy in the quest for consensual sex with women, while women stand on the sidelines and observe and select the best men they can based on their own status, who’s really in charge?” Sure, men technically run things, but they run things in the way that will make themselves most individually appealing to women so they can earn permission to have sex with them, share their resources with them, and maybe have kids with them. This is an agency that a lot of people don’t acknowledge exists.Historically, there was a cost to having sex for a woman, in the form of pregnancy risks and increased consumption requirements. Today, the risks are negligible as long as everybody uses condoms, but the imagined value of women’s sex still persists. Yet we’re not seeing a drop in the perceived value, and everybody is thus getting their knickers in a twist. Either women need to stop guarding their sex like it’s precious, or they need to accept that it’s going to be treated like something valuable. You can’t have it both ways at once.