Lou delves in the horse manure in College Times
Last Wednesday an article posted on Collegetimes.ie (since taken down) caused a lot of controversy and a lot of anger. It was entitled ‘one night stands – a guide for men’. Written by a woman, it was supposedly intended as satire but with content encouraging likening women to animals, targeting women who appear vulnerable and low in confidence, promoting sex from behind to limit any personal connection – essentially dehumanising women in every way, satire it was not.
And that’s even before the connotations to disregarding consent – that key differentiator between sex and rape – encouraging the predator plies his prey with alcohol, aiming to get the woman as intoxicated, and incapable, as possible. There’s since been a good deal written about the piece (Indo and Daily Edge for example) and although the original article has since been taken down it was based on an online ‘agony uncle’ reply, which can give you more than the gist of what the College Times ‘guide’ contained.
I don’t condone the piece in any way but it seems as if much of the controversy has been focused on how it was a woman who wrote it and what she said, rather than the more disturbing fact that this is an accurate depiction of many people’s realities. (Not all people of course; I am aware there are many happy, sexually fulfilled people out there!)
While it has the potential to influence impressionable men, it is more likely it would only further legitimise behaviour that is already culturally accepted. Both men and women are taught from a young age that females are less equal than males and that sex is something men can take from an acquiescing, if not willing, woman. While popular discourse tells us that Irish people have now been sexually liberated; no longer do you have to pretend to be a virgin on your wedding day, indeed you don’t even have to know somebody’s name to have the best sex of your life.
Except that’s just not true is it? Not in Ireland anyway. Before anybody thinks this is about ‘slut shaming’ it most certainly is not. So long as consent and communication are present, I firmly believe we should all have the freedom to express ourselves sexually however we so want – whether that’s not having sex at all, one person your whole life or being with somebody different every night of the week. However when it comes to sex I see less of ‘freedom’ and ‘want’ and more ‘feel like I should’ and alcohol.
I wrote about one night stands for Gaelick before after a year of celibacy, my sexile – as one commenter wittily put it – gave me plenty of time to think about all of these things. One night stands in this country, while I know of course not all one night stands are like this, seem to involve a lot of alcohol and a lot of trying to forget it ever happened. It’s no wonder, since the inception of the republic our history has been built around sexual inequality and repression.
It is so complex it would take a book, rather than an article, to pick it all apart; from our constitution, to not allowing women to have control over their own bodies and reproduction, to the denial of equal rights of people who are not heterosexual or cis-gendered. This has permeated down from the powers that be to feed the minds of a society that have been taught to see certain people and actions as ‘wrong’ and ‘deviant’, teaching people even now to associate sex and sexuality with guilt and silence. No need to say so much of this came from the control the Catholic church had over this country and people’s mentalities for so long. Now people have left the church, but kept the guilt and never learned how to interact without alcohol.
As with whenever men come under fire for something, people all of a sudden love pulling the equal card and saying ‘women do it too, sometimes they’re even worse’. Consensual one night stands are not the same as preying on vulnerable women. I often go out in straight venues and am surrounded by straight friends and family. And never, EVER have I seen a woman look around a crowded nightclub for a man who appears emotionally vulnerable. Ever.
I have also yet to witness a woman seek out the drunkest man in a place, a man who can barely retain consciousness to be their one night fling. I don’t know all that much about male anatomy but I gather if he’s lying limp it sort of defeats the purpose of a one night stand! So no, men and women choosing each other for sexual encounters based on pleasing aesthetics is not comparable to a woman being sought out and targeted based on her vulnerabilities.
The same way this article is not about ‘slut shaming’ it ain’t about ‘man hating’ either. While the ‘guide’ was aimed at men, and they are mainly the perpetrators of this blur between what’s consented to and what is predatory and sexual assault, I believe that men are also victims of this dangerous attitude to sex. There’s no question that it is worse for women, women are globally and privately often treated as objects to be used and discarded, yet I also feel as if perhaps men aren’t all that fulfilled with this state of affairs either. If they ever stop and give it some thought.
I was listening to a discussion about this on the radio the other day and a male texted in that yes he does that but ‘a moment of awkwardness [the next day], is better than a night of loneliness’. Which says quite a lot really. In a society where many people struggle to interact sober, loneliness is rife and one night stands are often more about temporarily dispelling or distracting from that lonely feeling rather than about sexual desire and satisfaction.
I feel like this is a pertinent issue in our society. Just because I don’t have sex with men, doesn’t mean it is not something for me to be concerned about. Perhaps there are some people who are thinking that this is not relevant to them because they identify as lesbians, and have little contact with the kind of heterosexual dealings of which I have been discussing.
Unfortunately it’s not just a ‘straight thing’. I see it happen amongst lesbians all the time, and I don’t just mean drunken one night stands, but a growing acceptance that it is ok to objectify women. From experience I can say that I have been spoken to on gay nights out by women the same way obnoxious men have approached me. It has been said to me that it’s because of how I look, because I’m girly, read ‘straight looking’. So because I look how some people would deem to be straight it is ok to speak at me or grab me the way straight men do?! NO! No it is not! It is not acceptable for anybody to do that to anybody else, sexuality or gender irrelevant.
Aping the monkeys
Just because LGBT people are slowly becoming more accepted in society does not mean that we should be mimicking this trend of our straight counterparts. There is an opportunity to create a different approach to sex and sexuality, we have always been treated as different why start to conform now?
While no LGBT person in this country exists solely as their sexual identity, they are of course living with the same history and norms as everybody else, to a much more detrimental effect in many circumstances. As a community (and yes I’m always reluctant to use that word in description of the ‘gay community’ in Ireland but this is a community issue) we have the chance to start the change in attitudes.
I see how this can be tricky, as gay nights out are where gay people are often most concentrated and you’re less likely to get into an awkward ‘whoops thought you were a lesbian’ situation on a gay night out than in some other places. And like most club nights, gay nights tend to involve alcohol for many; which can both increase insecurities and lead to people behaving cocky and ridiculous.
I’m not calling for an end to one night stands, what I want is for people to feel good about themselves and to lose the shame and guilt. To not be so afraid of approaching someone that they either end up shyly eying up someone the whole time while having the perfect conversation in their heads and never actually speaking to them or mimic sleazy behaviour because it’s what everyone else does. To not see alcohol as the main tool to meeting someone, and to go for attraction rather than desperation.
I am nobody’s ‘it’s half two, you’ll do’ but if you see me, even during the day – actually especially during the day – glancing at you with dilated pupils and a smile, and you feel a bit of a buzz between us, ditch what society tells you about needing to be drunk or late at night and smile back – you’re in!!