Thursday, May 29, 2008

Men don't want virgins and women lie about sex

Much has happened in terms of sexual liberation for women in the 21st century: Cleavage competed with koalas and gave chick magazines more shelf-space than a Readers’ Digest or National Geographic, Aung Su Kyi was forgotten while Carrie Bradshaw’s stiletto-ed serial man-changing became the beacon for new womanhood and Coupling showed where the modern relationship was going with a boyfriend watching his girlfriend’s with-ex-sex video to see if she did things any differently ‘back then’.

For long feminists have screamed hoarse about men’s double standards when it comes to sex: How men have a different set of rules for themselves and another book for women, how a man who’s had many women is a ‘stud’ while a girl who gives up her hymen before she marries the Right One is a ‘slut’ and how a man will gladly sleep with a woman with prior sexual experience but will look at a virgin when it comes to marriage. If latest surveys are to be believed, it seems the feminists have still much longer to cry: Sexually experienced women might be seen as liberated and ‘sexier’ but they are also seen as scarier!

The latest Kinsey Institute study (published April issue of Archives of Sexual Behaviour) suggests that while younger men feel threatened by sexually experienced women the older men find them desirable and arousing. But that was the result when the men were asked about the kind of women/woman they like to have sex with, would the results be any different if the research was on the kind of wife a man looked for? Given pre-marital sex is still frowned upon in India and arranged marriages are the norm for the majority, one wondered about the results in an Indian context…

In an e-mail survey of 25 people – 13 women, 12 men, urban singles, aged 20-35, all working in industries that demand close man-woman interaction and all of whom have equal opportunities when it comes to meeting and mating with the opposite sex – the answers one received were startling. For one, most of the women polled DEMANDED their men have prior sexual experience.

The orgasm is my birthright

The first question was common to both men and women: Would you like your partner to be sexually experienced?

Of the women polled, 69 per cent want their men with prior sexual experience, 23 per cent didn’t mind someone without experience and only 8 per cent insisted on their man being a virgin. For all the newfound sexual forthrightness of women, men are still supposed to take the lead when it comes to bedroom antics. Women, irrespective of their having prior experience or not, would rather have a man who is not a virgin. Why? “I am looking for a boyfriend/ husband and not a child who needs to know stories about bees and birds,” says one 25-year-old feisty woman. For another it does not matter if he has any experience “as long as he is attentive”. Someone who knows the moves and someone who is attentive: From holding on to their ‘virtue’ for the Right One, the focus for the girls seems to have shifted to ‘what’ the Right One does for them. In other words, the pressure is on the man to keep the woman happy.

The pressure’s showing on the men as well and it’s perhaps no surprise that the younger lot is ‘scared’ of demanding, sexually experienced women. If on one hand there is performance anxiety about being compared to past lovers, there is now the added pressure of even inexperienced women having high magazine-propagated expectations of a man’s bedroom prowess. Despite men being considered sexually hypocritical when it comes to the marriage market – and wanting to marry virgins – the men polled were quite open-minded towards women with prior sexual experience. While 54 per cent were happy with their partner whether a virgin or not, 46 per cent insisted on preferring women with prior experience: A case of the stereotype of what men consider ‘ideal wife material’ changing or simply a case of the men giving politically correct answers?

Further probing revealed it could well be the latter, but with both men and women being equally hypocritical…

Heard about too much experience?

The second question, though fundamentally the same, was tweaked a bit for the guys and girls keeping in mind the assumption that men are considered more sexually active than women. The men were asked if they were okay with their partner having slept with three men (or more) while the women were asked the same but with their partners having slept with eight or more women.

Despite majority of the men and women saying they were okay with the idea of a sexually experienced partner, the limit to what each group considered ‘experienced’ differed. A whopping 76 per cent of the men polled said while they were okay with their partner’s prior experience though they’d rather not know details or numbers. Only 14 per cent said they would be bothered if their girlfriend/partner had had sex with more than three men.

Compared to the men, only 23 per cent of the women polled were comfortable with their husband/partner having had multiple sexual encounters while 73 per cent said they would be decidedly uncomfortable if their man had “slept with the whole world”. Even the women who said they were okay with their man having had multiple partners were comfortable “only if he was in relationships with those women and not just one night stands.”

Some women however felt “More than six or eight intimate relationship in case of a man mostly suggests he treats women as play things, has no integrity and is absolutely unstable”. Can the same then be said about women who have had relationships with three or more men? Not so, declare the girls and insist women cannot be ‘judged’ on the same terms because women would have multiple partners only when “forced to” or when past relationships didn’t work out. Somehow that does not quite gel and sounds like women resorting to the same double standards they have hitherto accused the men of…

Let sleeping dogs ‘lie’

Finally both men and women were asked if they would be forthcoming in talking about their past relationships with their partners. The answers were far from comfortable…

For long magazines and feminists alike have demanded that when it comes to sex, men and women should be judged equally. ‘If a man can sleep around so can a girl’ be the cry for equality. Women today seem to be doing exactly what the men were earlier accused of and getting away with it in the name of bridging the gender divide. For instance, in a scene from Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway’s character has a one-night stand with a colleague when she is on a break-up-to-think-things-over with her boyfriend. Had it been a man in a similar situation he would have been labeled a slime ball and an opportunist who didn’t waste time in sleeping with another woman. Since it was a girl though the situation was deemed as her “finding her own footing” and giving men a taste of their own medicine. Equality or reversed hypocrisy again?

When asked about discussing past relationships, 76 per cent of the men polled said they would be completely honest with their partner, though a majority said, “only when she asked for it”. Only 15 per cent said they would “downplay” the number of partners but mostly only if their partner was inexperienced. Again for the men, they did not have many hang ups about their partner’s past life as long as they were told about it and did not “find out after marriage” according to one and as long as “she did not keep bringing up her past”. For the women though, they were more curious about their partner’s past life and more forthcoming in volunteering information about their own… with a clandestine twist.

Of the women polled, 31 per cent said they will be happy to talk about their past relationships while 69 per cent said, “Only after editing bits here and there”. While most women seemed okay with discussing heartbreaks, almost all – barring those who have had no sexual experience – were hesitant about discussing numbers with their partners. If relationships are built on trust, does it not tantamount to lying? The girls don’t think so, as one 25-year-old put it, “Never about past experiences. I did it once and it was always brought up every time something went wrong. The number of men should not matter, everyone has a past and it’s not something you can change.” However, it’s not about the unchangeable past that has women “editing” details. As one woman put it, “In my experience guys don't usually want to hear about it.”

So while women seem to be marching towards more sexual freedom and demanding their men come with a “has done it” certificate, they would withhold information about their own experience. If earlier a man with multiple sexual partners was considered a ‘player’ and someone to be “scared of”, the Kinsey Institute study suggests that men are equally scared of “player” women. One wonder then, are we really breaking stereotypes and making ‘progress’ or is it a case of the entire sexual double standard and gender divide reversing, with women now becoming the new men?

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