female sexual desires and male misplaced chivalry

by Violet Blue on November 25, 2009

The question I posed:

An email is making me wonder — are men more disturbed by certain sexual fantasy situations than women out of a misplaced sense of chivalry?

Last week I got an email from friends (a couple) who run a fetish website that is about fantasies involving female submission in scenarios that include the models being sexually objectified as food objects. The women at the center of these very over-exaggerated cartoonish scenes are submitting to other women, are never portrayed as doing anything against their will, yet the scenes are very graphic with the use of food and cooking implements. It is certain that were this to happen to people in real life, they would not survive skewering or cooking. There is an element of devotion from the submissive female to her chefs; it is often done with a smile and playfulness. On the website it is repeated that these scenes are fantasy only, and anyone wanting to make them real life should seek help immediately. (If only slasher films came with the same extensive warnings and explanations.)

Naturally, as with all extreme fetish and fantasy, some people take the site lightly and jokingly, some think it’s just plain weird, others think it’s kinda hot, while others are freaked out and honestly offended by the material. Such is the nature of sex: like a particular food, some will hate it, some will love it, while most will have a passing reaction not the least of which is neutrality. For instance my friends who work in restaurants thought the images were hilarious and not charged with intent at all, while I did notice that a couple men reacted with strong “ew” to the site’s images.

But how do women feel about it? My friends who run the site said,

In 10 years of doing [redacted], we have noticed an interesting pattern: When our work is exposed to folks who have never seen it before (and never even imagined such a fetish could exist!), men are more likely to get ruffled over it and women are more likely to find it intriguing. We’ve thought about why this is so and our (admittedly very unprofessional) conclusion is that women sometimes enjoy the combination of danger and desire (think vampires) and can see the sexiness in purely fantasy situations, while men might be reacting out of a slightly misplaced sense of chivalry. (Of course there are exceptions; men who are already into the fantasy need no explanation of what is sexy about it and some ladies are so shocked by the images that they are immediately turned off.)

So, intrigued by the concept of misplaced male chivalry as directed at female sexual fantasies, I asked the question on Twitter. (“are men more disturbed by certain sexual fantasy situations than women out of a misplaced sense of chivalry?”) And the response was overwhelming. One person answered, “Not misplaced chivalry, but confusion over when objectification is hot and when it’s not.” A woman wrote, “I would say that’s a totally valid theory. Couple of friends don’t do fellatio bc *he* feels its degrading to her tho she luvs it” while a guy replied to me with “I think social pressures can lead men to confuse chivalry (I know what’s good for u) and feminism (u know what’s good for u).”

One man said, “Absolutely! Can be worse for feminist men with internal conflict b/w quasi-chivalrous 2nd wave and sex+, self-defined 3rd wave.” Gay male BDSM porn performers and female BDSM porn performers alike said that occasionally male fans/viewers want to “save” them from their supposed perils. In a few responses, chivalry and feminism seemed to be at odds (“I’d want to distinguish between ‘chivalrous’ & feminist men. Same result (unease) but different origin.”) One man wrote, “I think you’re right on the money with that. A lot of male sexuality can be explained by expectations of what you call chivalry.” A male friend wrote, “”Taking charge” and “the pedestal” are justifiably confusing to men. Both sexually and socially. Taken together, they’re counter-intuitive.” Another, “Very possible. A lot of us were raised to be “good” and nice to women. Sometimes seen as lack of strength.” A female pal wrote, “in all my Years of phone sex i discovered i was WAY more open as a lady to dive into certain fantasies with ease.”

What do you think?

{ 14 comments }

1 Agile Cyborg December 8, 2009 at 5:35 am

I wish I could have previewed that last statement. I didn’t close my strong tag so the whole post is bold. Sorry.

2 Agile Cyborg December 8, 2009 at 5:33 am

I’m definitely one of the more deviant men you’ll run into. I am anti-chivalry, actually. I would think nothing of smacking a woman in the face if she clearly requested this for pleasure. If you want pain, I am happy to provide. Notice I am compelled to provide the perfunctory sentence: I have never, ever hit a woman out of anger a single time in my entire life.

But, this article caught my attention and there is little doubt that the current brand of male under modern social engineering is tending toward lackluster and wimpish. He fears crossing boundaries and is often wafflish.

Men should be outlaws with big hearts and deep intellect. Fuck the pansie-movement! We have paranoid, hardcore feminists to blame for this trend.

This is why I consider Violet Blue to be a gem among women. One of the rare females I truly respect on the intellectual level. She doesn’t fuck around and will go where most women don’t dare.

3 Michael Brady November 29, 2009 at 6:10 pm

W00T quoted twice!

It took many years of having women as friends, or even best friends, to realize why I wasn’t perceived as dating material: I was too nice. I’d look at the “bad boys” and wonder how they got all the action and attention despite treating the women “badly” (using quotes as it’s in the eye of the beholder).

Like a lot of guys my mother taught me to respect women and treat them well, and I’m sure her heart was in the right place. But I think the lessons communicate something very different in practice. The dinners and the flowers and the compliments don’t show an erstwhile suitor to be much of a challenge, which despite all denials, is what a lot of people really want in a relationship. No one wants what’s sitting right there in front of them, they’d rather go off in pursuit of something that takes effort. We’ve all done it, or had it done to us. Ergo, that chivalrous gentlemen can easily be seen as a doormat. And clearly, the bad boys are doing SOMETHING right.

I’m sure my mom wanted me to be the kind of guy she wished she’d been attracted to while dating, the kind she didn’t notice till all that was out of her system. But relationship experience isn’t learned in the successes, it’s in the fumbles and the mistakes, and I’d give anything to go back and teach the youngster-me that a man who is a challenge is irresistible.

It finally dawned on me after college, when I was doing ballroom dancing as a hobby. Without exception, every woman who learned that I was doing ballroom (or would dance AT ALL) said the same thing regardless of generation or background: “Oh, a woman likes a Strong Lead.” And you could hear the capital letters in their sincerity. And what is partnered dancing but the man firmly and confidently Putting The Woman Where He Wants Her? It’s literally the courtship ritual on display. When done well, it’s a lot of work for the man and a ride for the woman.

Want to go crazy? Think about this. It sounds almost chivalrous, doesn’t it? Taking on more effort solely for the woman’s benefit or enjoyment? She WANTS you to spin her around AND be in control when you do it. Logic like this is why most men look confused all the time.

“The pedestal” that we’re supposed to put women on is entirely at odds with “taking charge.” It’s counter-intuitive, making us wonder if we’re going to be accidentally insulting and roll back decades of women’s rights. For most of us, doing both is like the old joke about how trying to climax while performing in a 69 is like trying to blow bubblegum and play the clarinet: You can only really do one or the other. And that mindset is unfortunate.

It took a long time for me to gain the confidence that I have now, and the knowledge that behavior I would have shunned as a teenager, thinking it disrespectful, is actually what a woman wants. I now keep the storybook chivalry to a minimum, so it’s always a surprise when it happens, and since I’m not doing it constantly, usually a happy one. But I know now that the nicest, most respectful thing you can do to a woman is be a Strong Lead.

4 Abolitionist November 27, 2009 at 10:35 am

Most of the men I know delve into this area based on the so-called super-new-feminist-induction they received from their mothers. The only rules of that being that “she comes first” and “be gentle, she is a flower.” The rule of chivalry also being ingrained as well brings into being not conflicting ideals but overbearing similar ones. I’ve been “retraining” my male friends to learn that it’s ok to spank her if she likes it. The fear of legality is the largest one, second to the fear of social repercussions.

5 Nerdboy November 27, 2009 at 2:08 am

It’s very hard to get turned on by that kind of fantasy, knowing that there are sick people out there who would actually cook and eat someone for real. Two guys in Germany did just that and personally I don’t think that’s hot. Nothing to do with chivalry, misplaced or not.

6 Jevon November 25, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Interesting question, I think you would have to ask the men who are disturbed. That’s definitely not me. I don’t subscribe to the schools of binary gender, though.

(Found this post from a RT on Twitter.)

7 JF November 25, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Brad, you hit the nail on the head. It’s not necessarily chivalry, but the product of a very real and productive social reform movement designed to make men suppress and disassociate from their natural desire to rape and pillage. For me, these rules emerged not only from guidance on how to behave like a chivalrous gentlemen, but from the many 2nd and 3rd wave feminists who raised and influenced me over the years.

On one hand, I like to think that women have a lot more societal freedoms as a result of said conditioning. On the flip side, I know that many a woman was left frustrated with my earlier self who would not take them as hard or as rough as they wanted.

8 Gentleman Pervert November 25, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I’ve seen some of the type of images you describe, and the squick for me was more the lack of artistic merit than the images themselves.

In RL, my chivalry prevents me from doing verbal abuse or overcoming strong physical resistance in a rough-sex or rape-fantasy scenario, no matter how thoroughly negotiated the scene might be in advance. Heavy impact play, no problem, if that’s what you’re into, I’ll spank you ’til you scream. Play piercing? I’ve done more than a little. Stressful bondage? I have a wicked imagination and the technique to match. But if you’re fighting me and saying “NO,” like you mean it, I stop.

9 Nobilis November 25, 2009 at 8:59 pm

My friend Ann Regentin says that there’s a fine line for men between “Ooh!” and “Ew!”. Whereas women have a much bigger “meh” zone between them. At least, that has been her experience.

I think in my case, the rather intense squick that I experienced when looking at the woman-depicted-as-food images was because of this. I like BDSM images. I’d probably subscribe to kink.com if I had the time to make the subscription worth it. But this went further, and I think this is important.

No sane person would want to be cooked and eaten.

A sane person can want to be tied up and slapped. A sane person can want to be chained to a bed and fucked by a hydraulic piston until her privates are sore. A sane person can even want to have needles run through her body until blood is dripping down her body. There are horrific aspects of it, but they don’t, in my imagination, overcome the “play” aspect.

I like, very much, that the kink.com videos almost always include an interview with the models involved to talk about their reactions, and often show genuine smiles and satisfaction with the experience. That’s important to me. It reinforces the “play” aspect.

Now the images in question are VERY sanitized. There’s no blood, no injury, no wounds, no burns, no death. As a result, the glee of the “cooks” in the images isn’t for real torture and murder, it’s for the play of it. It’s all a step removed from that. But those things are implied, at least in my mind, and that’s where my squick came from. My imagination filled in those gaps, and it bothered me.

Now intellectually, I understand that this is all an as-if construct. Nobody is actually getting cooked and eaten. And I can even imagine that a sane person would want to pretend they were about to get cooked. But to my mind, when I see the images, the play aspect isn’t strong enough to overcome my imagination.

And you know what? I don’t see it as my responsibility to work towards that goal. I don’t need to be able to enjoy or even understand every fetish imaginable. If nobody is actually getting impaled on a rotisserie shaft, then go ahead, have fun. I won’t try to deny you your fun.

But I reserve the right to turn a little green and look away.

10 Soren November 25, 2009 at 6:20 pm

The idea of any human as a food object is honestly creepy and terrifying to me. It’s a valuable discourse, really, but I don’t want to see it. Your kink is not my kink, but your kink still kills my boner dead.

I think Brad hit the nail on the head with regards to early socialization and violence. I would add that we conflate male violence and sexuality in a way that leads to a lot of guys thinking of their sexuality and of their bodies as something shameful that, (unless they have ridiculous muscles or a twelve-inch dick or an eight-inch tongue) women have to be deceived or coerced into loving.

11 Pen November 25, 2009 at 5:27 pm

I can understand the confusion. I just don’t subscribe to it. I think that, for the most part, men and women believe they should live in defined sexual roles and rarely stray from them. Or at least, their public persona rarely strays from what society expects.

BDSM, is, of course, one of the most vilified sexual practices, second only to sex with underaged women. The main stream media almost always portrays BDSM as sick and abusive, but quite frankly, a healthy BDSM relationship is one in which communication is paramount. I’d suspect the same is true for BDSM ‘performers’, who’s performances are often anything but. Unfortunately, America is a very sex-negative country, so naturally anything even slightly outside the norm is ‘evil’.

There is a major difference between real abuse and BDSM play (or even rough sex.) — something our oh-so-moral America can’t seem to understand. One doesn’t need to use BDSM as an excuse to abuse a partner. Personally, having had a fair amount of experience with RL BDSM, I can say that for me, anger has no place there. Have I hit my partner? Certainly. With all kinds of things. But the word hit has, its self, a very negative connotation. At least to me. It implies, again for me, anger and violence, which I feel have no place in my BDSM life.

When I lived in California, they banned Playboy and Penthouse magazines from 7-11 stores so they could ‘protect’ our children. I noticed that they didn’t bother to ban Detective Magazine, which often had a cover showing a half naked, brutalized and bound woman being threatened by a male in black or para-military clothes. Personally, I’d rather a kid see an appreciation for the beauty of a woman’s body, not something that shows a woman beaten and abused. But that’s our society for you: Can’t show a naked breast, but it’s okay to show a body completely sliced apart. Go figure.

12 JNgaio November 25, 2009 at 5:10 pm

My experiences have no been especially diverse… but I’ve definitely come up against far more male discomfort about my BDSM tendencies than female. In fact, many females I have discussed this with have lamented the fact that it’s tricky to find a guy who is a nice, feminist friendly bloke… who is also willing to engage in a little slap and tickle when the women desires it for their own sexual gratification.

Perhaps these chivalrous men are actually just the ultimate sadists… like that old joke that everyone knows;

Masochist: Hit me!
Sadist: No.

… Sad, frustrating story of one’s past life, sigh!

13 Stuart Bedasso November 25, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Yeah…I can see where guys may freak a bit. But if you’re a “sensitive” guy, then you should know what your partner likes, or are willing to talk about it.

14 Brad Hanon November 25, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Superb point, something I’ve been noticing for a while but never quite put my finger on. I would add that I think there’s a component of fear of violence. Men learn quite young that we are creatures of violence, and in those crazed teenage years when we’ve got more testosterone than blood, we learn to keep that violence under rigid control. The ones who don’t learn that are all in prison before they turn 20. The forms of control vary; some allow for violence in certain understood situations, others ban it completely.

Those rules for control are all that keep us out of jail during our hormonal years, and they wind up deeply ingrained. When a woman asks us to take the lid off a little and use or threaten just enough violence to make things fun, sometimes that can be very scary. Once we start making exceptions to the rules, how do we know where it will end? She probably has no idea what she’s asking–she doesn’t know the crazy rules. Hell, most men don’t consciously know they’re carrying a set of these rules around in their head. But I think that’s where some of what you describe as chivalry is coming from.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: