This piece originally appeared on the Good Men Project. Republished with permission.
In his post “Is Male Lust Turning Us Inside Out?” Tom Matlack explores the possibilities of what would happen if men were truly open about the nature of their lust. But is male lust really such a monster-in-the-closet? Let’s face it; even though not all women understand or accept it, we expect men to go to strip clubs, watch porn, and enjoy commercials featuring busty, scantily clad women. The hard truth—as unfair as it is to men—is that we expect men to be lustful.
We may not fully understand men’s fascination with shaved strippers and porn stars, but we have at least acknowledged and, in some ways, accepted that men feel lust. It’s no longer a question; it’s now a conversation about the nature of their lust. And, for the most part, there isn’t a hard negative feeling associated with male lust—it’s almost a feeling of “it is what it is, so let’s learn how to live with it peaceably.”
Female lust, on the other hand, has not made it to the discussion table just yet. What society does not want to acknowledge is that all women are lustful to the same varying degrees as men are. The difference is that, while we may or may not like the results of male lust, men are expected to feel, display, and act upon their lust to a certain extent. Women are simply the recipients of male lust; our lust is shrouded in shame, guilt, and self-denial.
Women avoid association with the word “lustful” because we do not want to be considered “sluts,” “whores,” “tramps,” “loose girls,” etc. We face the hard sexual dichotomy of the Madonna and the whore, with very little room to explore or deviate from either role. Even if a woman simply admits to having sexual desires, especially outside the realm of a relationship, society’s perception of her changes. Her moral fiber becomes an object of question, and the once positive feelings associated with her become sullied. Joe tells you at the office water cooler that Therese said she’d really like to hook up with the new guy. Do you really see her the same way after that? Chances are something about the way you look at her changes, regardless of your gender. What if Joe says it’s the new guy who wants to hook up with Therese? Do you maybe roll your eyes but not necessarily feel surprised? Do you maybe feel a little sorry for Therese?
That’s certainly an over-simplification of a complex issue, but no matter how far we think we’ve come in terms of gender equality, women are still faced with unfair judgments about our cleanliness and morality based on how we express our lust. The reality is that women are forced to hide our sexual desires to avoid facing negative push-back from society. We live a double-life in which we watch porn, masturbate, have sexual fantasies, and act upon our sexual arousal in one life and deny doing any of it in the other. For those women who choose not to hide their lust, they’re called either a “slut” or they’re called “brave,” sometimes both in the same breath.
The result? We’re still stuck with this erroneous paradigm in which men are horny monsters against which women must defend themselves. Forget the possibility that men do not walk around just barely containing their erections and that women actually do masturbate. Forget that some men lust after their wives and that some women don’t fake headaches to get out of sex. Lust isn’t a male issue, nor is it a female issue. It’s a human issue in which we all struggle with our balance between the lust we feel and the lust we express.
Mika Doyle is a communications professional based in the Midwest. Read more of her work on her website www.mikadoyle.com. Her name is Japanese, so it’s pronounced “Meeka.” Follow her on Twitter @MikaDoyle.
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