Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sex on the Third Rail

If you grew up in or near a major city with a subway system, you know what the third rail is. It’s the rail on the outside of the two normal rails that the train travels on; that carries the kazillion volts that the train needs to operate.

And if you touch it, you’re dead.

A lot of political issues are referred to as “third rail issues,” because the politicians know that if they discuss them, or any changes to the current system surrounding them, they’re dead. So they keep far, far away.

Almost a year ago I touched what is considered by many guys to be a third rail issue: women and sex. And as far as I can tell, I’m still alive. A little burned, but still alive.

It all started when I read Anne Lamott’s post on Salon.com about her year looking for romance as a member of Match.com. I posted on my Facebook page her quote that said:

I had loved the sleeping alone part. I rarely missed sex…I wanted someone to text all day, and watch TV with.

After posting this, I suggested that if she didn’t care about the sex, then maybe she just wanted a gay man as her best friend. Seeing as how I’ve actually heard a number of women say that in many ways a gay guy would be the best companion, I figured that I was making a fairly innocuous, fairly obvious, and fairly funny comment.

Wrong. That was when I first felt a little tingle in my foot, as women started responding with comments along the line of “not every woman is a sex maniac.”

Whoa! Who said anything about a woman needing to be a sex maniac? I was simply suggesting that based on what she had said, maybe she was really more interested in a gay male best friend. After all…I’ve heard it before…from women.

So then, when I mentioned Ms Lamott’s comments about women not really enjoying sex, and seeing it as a chore, akin to cleaning the toilets, that they simply get to check off their lists so they can be left alone for a few days, weeks, or month, the voltage really went up; and suddenly it seemed as if all guys were being painted as “sex maniacs” who didn’t care one whit about intimacy. I was told that women’s feelings about sex are more complicated and nuanced than men seem to be able to understand…without the women understanding that men’s feelings about sex are more complicated and nuanced than they’re able to understand. Wow.

And all this time, not a single guy (or a married one either) joined in. I suspected that they were all crouching there in the background with their heads covered, listening while I asked the questions they wanted to and took the voltage that they were avoiding. No problem…I’m a librarian…asking questions and getting answers is my job. Even if it hurts.

Now, to be fair, later on in her piece, Ms Lamott did mention a guy she dated where there was no touching at all, and it made her crazy. So, I guess she’s really not looking for a gay male as a best friend. But then this raises the questions of when does she want to be “bothered?” When is it not a chore? Is it only when she’s in the mood? Is it only when she initiates it? Or does she want the guy to initiate it sometimes? And if the guy tries to initiate it at the “wrong time,” how many “wrong times” does she really expect him to have gone through before he says “screw it already” and just doesn’t bother anymore? And then…after he’s given up, will she get all upset because “he doesn’t act like he thinks she’s attractive anymore?”

I didn’t get to ask those questions. Not because the voltage was too high for me, but because the women involved in the discussion would accuse me of not being able to let one of them have the last word…since, after all, they’re correct and I’m not.

I decided to let them have the last word…in that venue. I still have questions though, and being the curious person that I am, I’ll still ask them.

For you see, it’s very nuanced and complicated on both sides.

Oh! Did I just feel something in my foot again?

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