The author of Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert says men suffer more from the classic sexual double-standard more than women. Plus, read Susannah Breslin's rebuttal.
A new Canadian study portends that men have societal constraints placed on their sexual repertoire whilst women are enjoying an era of growing acceptance of almost any theatricality between, on top of, or, increasingly, completely divorced from the sheets. It’s taken the participation of 104 undergrads in a University of Saskatchewan study to determine something I’ve known for quite some time: While I’m supposed to honor requests to slap, restrain, throttle, and enable any Sapphic whim a woman may wish to actualize, a libidinous digression from me means putting an already tattered reputation on the line. Technically speaking, I’m a man, and as such, I’m obligated to keep it simple.
What was playful, de rigueur fun for a woman becomes a rather more complex proposition when suggested by a man—one that could see him at odds with his peers and ostracized from the dating pool.
From 2001 to 2004 I wrote an immersive, pseudo-anthropological column about fringe sexuality for Nerve.com. In the years since, a lot of the activities I wrote about have been brought out of the shadows into the sexual lexicon, enjoyed by people who don’t belong to a sexual subculture or have made a deliberate lifestyle choice. Furthermore, this trend doesn’t seem to be driven by men. The ubiquity of pornography, celebrity sex tapes, a decrease in the collective attention span— I can only guess what the causes are, but over the past decade girls have been, in my experience, getting freakier, particularly in more casual hook-ups.
Though I personally find some of these behaviors, amusing, icky, or occasionally mildly upsetting, I applaud and am inspired by the explorative and uninhibited attitude women are embodying in their sexual conduct. I don’t try to psychoanalyze or pass judgment; I dutifully do what I’m told to the best of my abilities and within the confines of federal law. But what would happen if I asked for what remains of my hair to be pulled, my ass slapped, or to be called a string of nasty names that refer to my undiscerning promiscuity? What if I suggested we invite another gentleman into a sexual act with a female partner? What was playful, de rigueur fun for a woman becomes a rather more complex proposition when suggested by a man—one that could see him at odds with his peers and ostracized from the dating pool.
So women seem to have carte blanche to express every hue of their sexuality. This is in addition to being able to pick and choose male sexual partners at will. Paradoxically, it’s resolutely acceptable for a woman to be uninterested in having sex at a moment’s notice. On several occasions I’ve been invited back to girls’ apartments in the early hours of the morning, ostensibly for intercourse. On a few of those occasions, upon arriving at their respective stoops, I’ve had second thoughts and declined their kind offer. Their befuddled expressions implored me to explain myself. When I didn’t, they verbalized their need for an explanation: “I’m allergic to cat dander,” I say. Or: “I have to pick up my parents from the airport.” “I have to cram for a real-estate exam.” In truth, I simply wasn’t wasn’t feeling like having sex with them or anybody else, and for no reason in particular.
Each of these incidents incited the miffed woman to disseminate mild hearsay about my sexual orientation or general oddness. On the many, many occasions when a woman has declined sex with me, no explanation was necessary. I just ran off into the night. I didn’t immediately cite their closeted homosexuality or some sort of sex-related trauma. I respected their good judgment and thought about getting some lifts in my shoes or doing more push-ups. And that’s the tragedy.
At 21, ungainly wallflower Grant Stoddard came to the United States from England in pursuit of true love. After eighteen months of couch-surfing and heartbreak, he stumbled into a job at Nerve.com as New York's most intrepid sex columnist, despite having little experience in either sex or writing. His memoir, Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert (Harper Perennial) has been optioned by Paramount Vantage. He currently resides in British Columbia, Canada.