A Facebook friend—a woman—recently posted a beefcake photo of a dozen shirtless male “firefighters” showing off their perfectly chiseled abs.
I guess I’m supposed to think, “Ha, ha—girls will be girls.” But let me ask: If I posted a picture of a dozen female “firefighters” showing off their silicone-enhanced torsos, would you think, “Ha, ha—boys will be boys”?
I ask because I’m a sauce-for-the-goose, sauce-for-the-gander kind of guy. I have a problem with double standards.
I know there’s a history of men behaving badly that makes women’s stomachs churn over lewd photography of women. But if the problem is that men have for too long been able to indulge in something that women could not, there are basically two ways to make things right: Let women do it as well, or forbid men and women from doing it.
Reversing the double standard won’t solve anything. That seems obvious to me—but, apparently, not to everyone. I recently found myself in a conversation in which someone said, “Men give romance to get sex and women give sex to get romance” and followed that up with blather about how men being romantic objectifies and exploits women.
In other words, if a man romances a woman, he’s a pig. Even though his wife wants to be romanced, she gets nothing out of the deal.
Meanwhile, it could also very well imply that women who give sex to get romance are…well, I’m sure you know a few epithets for “women who give sex to get something from men.” And that, in itself, is a double standard.
Now let me ask you ladies, if your man never came on to you—never brought home flowers, never nibbled your neck, never suggested watching a Julia Roberts movie—would you think, “He sure must love me”?
And when he does put the moves on, do you think, “Pig”?
And do you think these things when you’re reading romance novels?
Fortunately, there are more ways than one to interpret a bromide this lame.
My interpretation is that even if it’s true, it’s not really a bad thing. He gives something she wants; she gives something he wants. It’s a dance, not a competition. They’re partners, not enemies. He’s not a pig. She’s not a whore.
I call for the ditching of all double standards regarding sex and gender relationships. Men get horny, sure. But so do women. Men like sex, no doubt. But so do women. Men sometimes initiate sex. But so do women. And while women may like to be romanced, so do men. Really. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we like to be thought of as desirable, and love it when you show us you think that.
A fresher, more accurate take on the subject comes from comedian Louis C.K., whose TV show “Louis” features a single man navigating the dating scene. Sure, he’s horny. But he never just goes for it, uncaring about how his potential partners might feel. He’s always looking for cues that suggest his advances are welcome. And if they’re not, he backs off.
A lot of us are like that. We think you’re hot, but we don’t want to come off as dicks. So we proceed slowly, trying to read the signs and hoping you get what you want—and what you need.
It’s that kind of attitude—not rippling beefcake abs or comments confirming the stereotypically porcine proclivities of men—that makes a hero romantic.
In books and in real life.