Sex as a Recognized Need
The trans woman interviewed for an ABC article about the rising number of women paying for sex is quoted making the following claim:
“Having the sex that is right for each person is, I won’t say a right, but something that I think we can reasonably expect.”
If Jocelyn had been named Joseph, such a statement would never have been allowed to pass without disapproving comment by the authors of the article. What kind of a man expects to have his sexual needs met—if not as a right, then as something to be expected?
One of the most heated and repeated of feminist demands over the past 50 years has been for men to stop expecting ANYTHING at all from women when it comes to sex.
And now here is Jocelyn, a trans woman, stating that women—or perhaps even all people—can reasonably expect the sex that is right for them. And she is featured approvingly in a feminist article.
Even more than that, Jocelyn is quoted at some length explaining that paying for sex can be therapeutic, a significant form of healing, a place to explore one’s body and desires without fear of censure and mockery. Sometimes, she says, she simply wanted to be hugged for an hour; sometimes she wanted to clear out her stress; and at other times she wanted to explore her sexual boundaries. Conventional therapy couldn’t have accomplished that: “Intimacy is a part of life for a lot of people,” she says: “to just ignore it and sit there and talk about it can’t do the whole job.”
Of course, she’s talking to women about women’s (claimed) sexual needs—and when it’s women who say they need something, the conversation looks very different, full of positives and affirmation.
So … what about men’s sexual needs? What is the case for affirming men’s reasonable expectations?
A friend told me about a documentary program he had watched some years ago in which men were interviewed about their relationships with prostitutes. The men talked about why they were willing to pay for sex and what they got out of it.
Not unlike the clients of sex workers described by Dr. Hillary Caldwell in the article, these men described the benefits of physical intimacy and pleasure as well as friendship and human contact. Some had quasi-romantic relationships with the women they paid, bringing them flowers and other gifts. Many saw the same sex worker regularly. Contrary to the received feminist narrative, they did not see themselves as exploiting the women whose sexual services they bought: perhaps, indeed, they were the ones being exploited.
Some of these men had disabilities or deformities that made it difficult for them to find willing sexual partners. Some were simply very shy. Many expressed thankfulness to have the opportunity to pay for sex. The program included a feminist academic who spoke about male power over women—but her censoriousness seemed entirely out of place in the film. These guys were grateful to have some sexual intimacy in their lives, and the last thing they wanted to do was dehumanize or harm the women who were providing it for them.
What would it look like to live in a society that recognized sex as potentially therapeutic, and thought that men had a “reasonable expectation” of having their sexual needs met? Or barring that, which at least recognized that men have legitimate sexual needs?
It certainly wouldn’t look anything like Canada, where prostitution has been redefined as a gendered crime of sexual abuse, and where men who buy sex, or even simply communicate for the purposes of doing so, are breaking a law that doesn’t apply to the woman selling the sex.
It would be a world where male sexual desire would be acknowledged as potent—and would never be automatically linked in public conversations with violence against women. On the contrary, it would be recognized as the life force responsible for the continuation of the human species.
It would be a world where a man seeking to romance and seduce a woman was not automatically considered a likely rapist. It would be a world where the boundaries of impermissible sex were clearly defined in order to delineate the boundaries of permissible, sanctioned sex.
It would be a world where men were neither mocked nor denigrated for wanting (more) sex, or for having trouble finding a willing partner (just as no one today would mock or denigrate a woman who wants a child).
It would be a world where an older man would pass on tips to a younger man about pursuing and making love to a woman rather than lecturing him sternly about consent.
It would be a world that attempted to see life from the male point of view just as often as from the female point of view.
It would be a more interesting world.