The Pay-Off From Pretended Frigidity

When the earnest young Evangelical ladies of the mid-19th century started berating men for being cynical libertines Who Only Wanted One Thing (or Objectified Women, in today’s jargon), we may wonder whether this was one part adolescent rebellion against their own Regency-buck fathers and Vauxhall-Gardens mothers, one part genuine religious and social idealism, and one part social status-mongering and price-raising. A fourth component might be a move in the war of the sexes, retaliation for ancient monastic misogyny; for in any Christian or even sub- or post-Christian culture, to say that a given person or group is very horny is to say that they are Bad, which means that the group making the complaint must correspondingly be Good. The claim to be non-horny is thus a claim to moral superiority.

But tactical derogation of sex is open to misinterpretation. When men hear a woman apparently waxing indignant with her Creator for having arranged for the continuation of the species by means of sexual intercourse, we are uncertain whether this rage comes from a genuine aversion to sex in the individual, or from a complete refusal to recognise her own sexual desires. For the notion of ladies “protesting too much” certainly antedates Freud. Being simple creatures, men are inclined to think that it must be either the one or the other, whereas in reality it might also be the result of the “stadium effect”: if everyone is trying to enhance their social status by playing more-refined-than-thou, they are obliged to be continually raising the stakes, and so any woman who so much as hinted that she enjoyed sex would take a serious hit.

The question is, therefore, whether such processes of social playacting can affect the underlying mentality, so that the women of the relevant social strata come actually to believe that the female of the species does not feel sexual desire like the man, or else the men come to believe it, or both. It is more probable that only the naïver members of both sexes came to believe this, while their socially-intelligent peers know all along that it is all a game of one-upmanship. If so, we might expect that all the books about those bestial men and angelic women were written by the naïve – the socially-intelligent being too busy elsewhere.

Posted on July 21, 2012 at 12:32 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, The Nature Of Frigidity

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