Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coming down on the side of reverse sexism.

I've decided that the Letterman sex scandal, with the details that are known right now, is resulting in some reverse sexism, and I have a soapbox in thisy-here-blog, so I'm gonna use it.

Disclaimer: the discussion here is hetero-focused, since the sexual relations re: Letterman were heterosexual. It is also my personal experience. Please feel free in the comments to add in homo-focused experiences and dynamics that are similar or wildly different if ya like.

It seems all parties in this scandal were of legal age and were willing participants. And while Jezebel's Intern Katy was smart to point out that Letterman owes Polanksi a giant effing fruit basket of thanks for providing perspective on the transgressions... there is a good-sized contingency pointing out that sex in the workplace, especially involving the boss, creates an unpleasant power dynamic; it's is unfair to those having sex, also to those not having sex, and that an element of coercion or, at the very least, fear of retribution due to fights/ending it/whatever must exist.

But I say: Nay. I say, perhaps those things are true in some situations. But trying to establish hard and fast workplace rules when it comes to all flirtation, all relationships, or all sex between coworkers, even subordinates and managers? Especially when one is in great power - in the media, perhaps famous? It is nearly impossible to manage.

So I am coming down on the side of reverse sexism. Implicit - for me - in that argument is the idea that women in subordinate workplace roles are incapable of choosing to have a sexual relationship in said workplace, even with a superior. That sex, YET AGAIN, is something women endure or something that happens to them, and "good girls don't want it". Shenanigans. It seems to smack of the idea that women need rules to save them from sex. That men and women are incapable of being adults at work, when outside that work they might be attracted to each other.

Did Letterman cheat on his partner, now-wife? Yup. But the assumption that he coerced one or more women into sexual relationships accomplishes nothing but a continuing contribution to a culture which says young, pliable women can only be victims of being "swept off their feet" and "sullied" by "dirty" sex. He's the man and he convinces her. She's the "girl" and must be talked in to it. And in that line of thinking is a simultaneous consideration of these women as the only sexually desirable people in culture, and thus we later end up with comical adult female sexuality, a la the Cougar, who is a predator that takes advantage of young men in their insatiable quest for sex. If the only sexually desirable woman is also a woman who can't make decisions for herself... what does that set men up for? Failure.

Enter my claim of reverse sexism: this is sexist against men, and yup, against women too - who could never make sexual decisions, what with their tiny confused brains.

The conclusion I come to, women: you're told you can't be desirable and be interested in sex. You get one or the other, depending on age. What a load. And what a win-less situation for men and women. In the end, only the two people in the room (or in the relationship) really know what's what. Powerful men will probably be attractive to women for the rest of time, and let's give some women the credit of making choices and not always being coerced into sexual relations.


  1. Hey, I'm a little unclear on how you're defining "reverse sexism" in this context. Mind using this space to give a brief definition of the phrase as you're using it?

  2. Quick before my meeting, I think that I am talking about how midst the commentary of having to protect young women is the reverse sexism argument that says men can't help themselves. It is so incredibly sexist to assume men can't help themselves, it causes much damage. That women, such as a young subordinate assistant, must be coerced or taken advantage of is sexist in that it figures men can only get and/or only want sexual companionship in that form. Ew.

    I should add, or should have added, also that it is reverse feminism. In that same mess above is the idea that women need to be protected from men, or men in power, as well as their own sexuality. Double ew.

  3. Confucius said "Wisdom begins with a double ew."

    Quite. Like the argument that it is the woman's responsibility to fend off the man because boys will be boys and they can't control it. Er, well, actually exactly like it. Good comment Delaney.

    I would say that I think nowadays most positive depictions we have in society of a desireable woman are of a woman that is interested in sex. I think the opposite meme (as evidenced in the reaction to the letterman nonsense that you rightly pointed out) has weakened. The blushing, reticient woman we see idealized in traditional japanese culture, or puritanism or bad movies from the 1950s has largely disappeared.

    And I don't just mean like, I don't know, Tomb Raider or pornography. But Juliet for example. "Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day." Or Princess Leia "He's my brother."

    Although, I think it could be argued that Sally of Harry/Sally fame is an example of the more puritanical view of women. Dunno.