The person you dance with is your partner

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.

14 thoughts on “The person you dance with is your partner”

  1. I agree. I don't do it often, but I have been known to post a beefcake picture or two. I also don't mind if a male fb friend posts pictures, as long as it's not all day every day.

    But if your guy is mostly pretty good about doing "romantic" things on a semi-regular basis (and I hear that some guys are, although I'm not sure I believe it), then I don't think I'd consider them a "pig". I'd call them something more rare. Like a white rhino.

  2. I have to agree with Amanda. It's all about balance. It's okay to post and make some saucy comments about a picture, which obviously was intended to get exactly that kind of attention, as long as that is not all one is about. It needs to be balanced with being a good person, and treating others with kindness and respect. That goes for both genders and for our relationships.

    Don't forget the double standard works both ways. Often a man that has sexual conquests is a real macho man, and a woman who does the same is considered a slut. Then there is the idea that if an older woman has a relationship with a younger man she is a cougar, and if an older man marries a younger woman, she's a trophy wife. But what is the man? Lucky?

    I say get rid of all the gender traps and labels and just admit we are all people, who have the capacity to live, love, and yes, sometimes ogle. 😉

  3. It was rhetorical, Mary Jo.

    OTOH, your comment does illustrate something I want to say in response to Amanda's comment: Sometimes men think they're being romantic and don't even know they're not.

    Case in point: I've said I'll be glad in real life to watch any Sandra Bullock movie, but Mary Jo said, "But you like Sandra Bullock." So, on further review, that wasn't as romantic a gesture as I thought, even though it meant I had to watch "Miss Congeniality."

    Apparently there's a fine line between "being romantic" and "suffering." So noted.

  4. Okay, Amanda, I will. Especially because he also watches "Secrets from a Stylist" with me. And even comments on the decor choices!

  5. You forgot my favorite double standard. Women dress up to be looked at and noticed, but then get mad when men check them out.

    I have not been around in this world as long as you, Dave, but I have figured out the answer to this problem. No matter what a man does, in most women's eyes, it is wrong. Amanda's statement about white rhinos only solidifies this in my mind. Instead of living up to my expectations of how I should treat a woman, I'll just lower myself to their standards. Makes life a lot easier.

  6. My comment was because I'm one of those women who can't seem to pick a decent guy. (Note that I'm not looking for perfect – just decent.) So when I hear about a guy who's actually trying to do things that would make his woman happy, I know it's not a common thing, and he should be appreciated. Sorry it came across another way.

  7. I sometimes wonder if the women posting the beefcake pictures aren't just doing it because they think it appeals to other women. Anyway, I urge authors to use caution when postin these pictures. These beefcakes often have lawyers who are all too happy to sue you for copyright infringement.

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