Taylor, 26, is a Gender Focus guest-poster, Vancouver-based theatre performer and barbershop singer. He became interested in gender equality while doing a double major in Theatre and English Literature at the University of Victoria. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared at his blog, No Greater Male Supporter.
“Sheridan Simove has produced a 200 page book entitled “What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex”.
The 200 pages are, of course, blank. HAR DEE HAR HAR. This book is currently outselling Harry Potter, and is number 744 on the Amazon bestseller list. It was intended as a novelty gift, but is being used by students across Britain (“author” Sheridan Simove is an Oxford grad) as a notebook for lectures. Simove is making quite a few pence off of it.
I’m pissed, though.
But Taylor, it’s just a joke! Oh really? Here’s what such humour reinforces:
1. The assumption that men are wired dominantly for sex. I have intellect, spirituality, emotions, humour, activities in which I participate, ambitions, fears, joys, and various other things that occupy my mind. Don’t reduce me to being an emotionally bankrupt sex addict.
2. The assumption that men are pigs. Chauvinism/misogyny is a problem in need of radical change, but I’m offended by a counter-strategy, joking or otherwise, that dehumanizes me.
3. That the answer to misogyny is misandry. That’s right. The joke this book attempts to make is a reaction to a cultural assumption that men never stop thinking about sex, which is draining on their female partners (I don’t say male partners, because this kind of one-dimensional gendered humour almost never fails to be heterosexist). There are tons of blonde jokes, wife jokes, etc. that we mostly label as sexist. But publish a sweeping generalization about men that reduces us to sex-crazed robots (and women, by extension, to sexually frigid ones), and there’s no problem?? Not fair. Sexism is sexism, whichever way it is directed.
4. That the male sex drive is exponentially larger than the female one, if women have sex drives at all, and that having a greater sex drive than a partner should be attached to shame. Bullpuckey. Women desire sex, sometimes more than their male partners, and that doesn’t make them sluts, and men having a higher sex drive than their partners doesn’t make us assholes. Sexual desire is sexual desire, being an asshole is being an asshole, and we shouldn’t slut shame, period. Let’s not conflate the very fact of being “turned on” (another term that turns us into robots) with being a jerk.
5. By reinforcing the myth that men desire sex more than women do, this kind of humour reinforces the assumption that sexual intercourse is something obtained by men, rather than something in which men engage mutually and enjoyably and consensually with a partner.
6. That the male sex drive is purely of the physical, and supersedes or cancels out an emotional/empathetic connection with a sexual partner. Bull-freaking-crap. Reinforcing sex as unemotional for men is unhealthy and contributes to a culture of toxic masculinity and emotional puritanism.
7. That male sexual agency is unimportant. In order for us to find the idea of a man having a “one track mind” re: sex funny, we have to on some level trivialize men’s sexual desire as being something beyond our control, or, rather, something that controls us. Therefore we internalize a single-minded, emotionally absent sexual drive that contributes to rape culture by making it more likely for men to think they should be so hyper-focused on sex that caring about non-objectification and consent and mutual enjoyment are at best peripheral to the impetus of intercourse. By relying on our “uncontrollable” sex drive as an excuse do we not take responsibility for our actions and come up with the “boys will be boys” defense.
Looking at rape culture from another angle: if men should be expected, at all times, to want sex, then men are under constant sexual pressure…but nothing bad can happen to men sexually because duh we always want it right? Thusly we raise our eyebrows when a man says he has been sexually assaulted as though it were, you know, something traumatic that happened to him.
8. That the sexual differences between men and women are unbridgeable. If we continue to buy into the gender binary that suggests men are singleminded about sex and women just have to deal with it in order to be sexual partners with men, we will continue to limit the potential of our sexual relationships.
9. That lazy, sexist, old-hat, one-dimensional assumptions about gender should pass for wit in the first place. Come on, people. We can do better.
10. That trees are less important than our ability to keep making these dumb jokes.
“What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex” isn’t “just a joke”, it’s a symptom and a reinforcer of sexist culture, and I don’t appreciate it at all.