Is It Morality? Psychology? Or Economics?

by Little Miss Attila on October 3, 2009

I have at least three major issues with McCain’s analysis of sexual politics here, at the same time I do believe there are two or three nuggets of wisdom hidden therein, like flakes of gold in a panful of sand.

See if you can figure out which is which, and then we can discuss it. Rather, you can all set me straight on how terribly wrong I am.

Reader participation!

UPDATE: Okay. Here we go.

First of all, Stacy’s displaying his usual contradiction between the nice side of his nature and the casual brutality that leads him to blog about how Meghan McCain must be a slut, and Maureen Dowd’s vagina must be nasty and yeasty. Which is his prerogative, but I’m not sure that it enhances his arguments to hit below the belt (almost literally, sometimes) with as little provocation as it seems to take. And it isn’t sexism, exactly, because he engages in the equivalent behavior with some men, as well. His meanness seems to constitute a sort of rhetorical tic.

Secondly, he does indeed get the goals of the people involved a bit confused. It sounds perfectly likely that the woman Stacy was talking to at a party simply wanted a non-abusive relationship with an emotionally available guy. She may not want marriage at all, but Stacy’s strategies don’t just tell her how to get that—whether that is what she seeks or not—they also imply that the only way for a woman to get a non-abusive relationship is to get married. Which is rank nonsense.

The fact is, if someone is seeking out abusive relationships, the last thing one should tell them is to get married in a hurry, as it’s more difficult to extricate oneself from an abusive marriage versus an abusive relationship.

There is also the problem of tackling marriage as a rookie in the world of relationships: Stacy is suggesting that a lot of us ought to compete at the Olympic level without any training. I don’t buy it.

And then there is the “economic” side of things. A few people made the utterly reasonable inference that I was referring to money in that, and the couple’s future as an “economic” unit. No, no: that is a complicated issue, though, particularly for people who would like to have children (and aspirations such as Catholic school or home-schooling further impact that endeavor). But I was referring to Stacy’s garbled analogy about the cow and the milk. In the original saying, the woman is the cow: “why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?” Stacy switches this around so that the man is the cow, and tells the woman he is advising to “lock the cow in the barn.” (Because we all know that men are happiest when they feel trapped, or “locked up.”)

This refers to the “economic” side of things, and the traditional approach to marriage wherein men engaged in it as a way to ensure, theoretically, a steady supply of sex. Though once we’ve cast the man as the one who wants sex more, and the woman as one who’s relatively aloof from it (that is, in the original truism, rather than McCain’s inversion of it), I’m not sure how marriage solves the problem of how to keep the cow producing milk once it’s been bought, and it’s safely in the barn. (Though of course woman are also happiest when they feel trapped, controlled, and “locked up.”)

If I thought, of course, that remaining virginal until marriage would save the heartbreak that everyone seems to go through in their teens and twenties, I might be able to advocate it on practical, rather than nominal spiritual grounds. But heartbreak is a function of the emotions, and one’s emotions can become deeply entangled without any exchange of bodily fluids at all. Alas, alas.

The fact of the matter is, nearly everyone gets their heart broken quite badly once or twice. And it takes a little time to recover from that.

People who find themselves gravitating toward those who are unavailable in some sense, or abusive, or inappropriate, should look into the reasons for that and fix it, no matter what it takes: a better shrink, an enhanced prayer life, adjustment in medications, superior nutrition, dialing up the exercise routine. Life is too short to engage in endless rounds of melancholy.

But attractive people are no less vulnerable to heartbreak than anyone else, and keeping their flies zipped and their legs crossed is unlikely to save their psyches from that experience.

As for self-image, well . . . it’s difficult for a sex goddess such as myself to speak to that to a huge degree—but McCain is correct in his formulation that thoughts can have a huge impact on reality. They change the relationship “market” a little. Positive thinking always does that, as long as one still takes account of the facts on the ground.

Finally . . . sheesh. Never run after a bus, or a man: there will always be another one along soon enough.

UPDATE II: More from Bride of Rove.

UPDATE III: Cassie, as usual, hits it out of the park. Dang, woman!

{ 2 trackbacks }

How to get a Man by Robert Stacy McCain at Bride of Rove
October 4, 2009 at 7:19 am
I’m sorry, Regina Letterman [Darleen Click]
October 6, 2009 at 5:35 am

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Stacy McCain October 3, 2009 at 4:50 pm

You’ll perhaps be surprised to learn that I was actually thinking about something beside sex when I started writing that.

It is true, in general, that if you are willing to accept second-class treatment, if you are content to be shunted aside, neglected or mistreated, you cannot expect people to treat you as if you were a person of consequence.

Ergo, if you find that you are often treated in a disrespectful manner, the fault is at least partly your own. You cannot control the behavior of others, and some people are simply cruel and dishonest. However, broadly speaking, each of us chooses the terms of our engagement with others and has some influence over those terms.

So if you find yourself consistently ill-treated, don’t blame others until you consider the degree to which you enable and empower those who mistreat you.

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Foxfier October 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

From listening to the utterly clueless guys my husband games with online? It’s very good strategy.

Me, I got lucky and kind of walked into a perfect match…on the third guy I dated. First two…well, lets just say that they did treat me like crud, because I let them. One I could’ve left…. Lonely is hard to fight, though; the other used me just as far as I’d allow and dropped me the second something better came around the corner. (In that case, it was a jailbait teen looking for someone to buy her beer in exchange for..um.. favors. Very utilitarian sort of treatment.)

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Robert Stacy McCain October 3, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Thanks, Foxfier. I think the key is to have enough confidence in your own self-worth that you figure a guy’s lucky even to have a chance to talk to you. Of course, being gracious, you indulge them — laugh at their jokes, maybe even flirt and flatter — but you know that when he finally works up the nerve to make his move, your challenge is to let him down easy.

Knowledge is power, see? You know, going into the encounter, that when he asks, the answer is going to be “no.” But there’s no need to let him know that up front, and deprive him of the enjoyable experience of trying to charm you out of your britches. You can flirt most outrageously without any real danger, if you begin with the idea that it is only flirting.

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Darrell October 3, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Since you asked, LMA, the first thing that stood out was why does RSM assume it is her fault in the first place? Secondly, why does she have to be married? Or even be in a relationship? Does misery really love company? RSM’s life and hopes, dreams, desires should be everyone’s? How about favorite coffee brands? We wouldn’t want to stray too far from the ideal! That said, just remember that the women that never got that call the next day from Roman Polanski were winners in life’s lottery. A bad match is certainly worse than none at all. If that guy broke it off, odds are that he already was seeing someone. She is lucky that he made a clean break instead of keeping the juggling balls in the air.

Maybe the real problem is that everyone thinks its about the milk today. And no one has bothered to clear the trees, strip the soil, till the soil, plant the seeds, water, feed and harvest the grain, separate the chaff from the wheat, mill the grain, incorporate the ingredients into the flour and make the breakfast cereal that is waiting for that milk in the bowl. If he walked away, he wasn’t the one. And if you find the one that can put the cereal in your bowl first, maybe you are on the right track. But taste his eggs benedict first.

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Darrell October 3, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Of course it’s “it’s” when the monkeys transcribe it right! No gin ration tonight.

It also occurs to tell that woman to avoid guys that can’t use the proper technical terms for body parts, like “hoo hoo,” and must resort to stuff they pick up from the gay guys on reality design and modeling shows like “Vajayjay.”

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Little Miss Attila October 3, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Ding ding ding!

Major, major philosophical problems, here.

For starters:

I know my priest isn’t going to sign off on this, but . . . I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of commiting to a man without knowing the first thing about what he’s like in the sack. I mean, I understand that that’s the ideal, but signing on to long-term sexual incompatibility with one’s eyes shut sounds like a terrible way to start a new life. It’s like buying the animal without knowing whether it’s a cow, a horse, a panda, a lizard, a snake, or a fish.

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Little Miss Attila October 3, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Can’t we just use the intelectjul terms, like “down there”?

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Cassandra October 4, 2009 at 6:09 am

I’m not convinced you have to have sex before marriage to have a happy marriage but I AM convinced you need to get to know the other person very well. Most things can be fixed with effort — even a less than satisfactory sex life. But BOTH partners need to be willing to put in the required effort.

IOW, what Darrell said:

Maybe the real problem is that everyone thinks its about the milk today. And no one has bothered to clear the trees, strip the soil, till the soil, plant the seeds, water, feed and harvest the grain, separate the chaff from the wheat, mill the grain, incorporate the ingredients into the flour and make the breakfast cereal that is waiting for that milk in the bowl.

People often just drift into relationships. Something that important requires conscious thought, though.

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BrideOfRove October 4, 2009 at 7:48 am

The woman who is after money (re: Economic) will never find the right guy. Money comes and money goes and money is soon to become worthless under this President in any case. ;-)

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richard mcenroe October 4, 2009 at 9:36 am

“’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of commiting to a man without knowing the first thing about what he’s like in the sack.”

1. If he’s doing it wrong, bite him on the nose and tell him. — Heinlein

2. One night, the old married woman suddenly sits up and smacks her husband angrily on the ass. “That’s for being such a lousy lover!” she snaps.

A minute later, he sits up and smacks her angrily on the ass. “That’s for knowing the difference!”

Darrell — “Since you asked, LMA, the first thing that stood out was why does RSM assume it is her fault in the first place?” I don’t think that’s what McCain’s doing, exactly. I think he’s asking her to accept responsibility for and take control over those aspects of the relationship she can control.

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richard mcenroe October 4, 2009 at 9:39 am

“I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of commiting to a man without knowing the first thing about what he’s like in the sack.”

1. If he’s doing it wrong, bite him on the nose and tell him. — Heinlein

2. One night, the old married woman suddenly sits up and smacks her husband angrily on the ass. “That’s for being such a lousy lover!” she snaps.

A minute later, he sits up and smacks her angrily on the ass. “That’s for knowing the difference!”

Darrell — “Since you asked, LMA, the first thing that stood out was why does RSM assume it is her fault in the first place?” I don’t think that’s what McCain’s doing, exactly. I think he’s asking her to accept responsibility for and take control over those aspects of the relationship she can control.

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richard mcenroe October 4, 2009 at 9:41 am

Sorry, I double posted. Pick the one with the fewest typos.

Also, I have to say that I DO have a problem with RSM calling a slut Meghan McCain.

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Darleen Click October 4, 2009 at 10:11 am

RSM’s subtitle answer really is applicable to everyone. It isn’t always the answer because some people are really just miserable and enjoy promiscuously shovelling misery everywhere.

But I believe the basic “do I don’t I” have sex is only a dilemma because the parties involved don’t (1)understand the basic sexual nature of The Other (2)are running on assumptions based on their own sexual nature (3)not talking honestly about expectations with The Other.

Disclaimer: I’m now going to engage in Generalities, as in I know there will be exceptions but I’m participating in a blog thread not writing a book.

Men and Women view the sex act differently [generally! generally! please keep that word around] Men are fully capable of compartmentalizing the sex act and love. Women see the sex act as an extension or expression of affection, emotional attraction and, finally, love. Too many times new couples will stumble into a relationship with entirely different expectations because they do not consider where the other is coming from.

Man: she’s cute, she’s fun and I’m having regular sex. This works for now. Wonder what’s in the fridge?

Woman: he’s cute, he’s fun and we’re good in bed. I see a future here. Wonder what our kids will look?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with some fun slap-and-tickle with a good friend with no intentions of a long-term relationship as long as both people are honestly on the same page. Now I bolded that on purpose because TOO MANY women I know hear a guy say “I’m not ready for marriage, I’m just having fun” and tell themselves he REALLY said “I’m not ready for marriage YET but it is going to be YOU.”

And guys also have a denial problem because they really have no intention of marrying the girl they are regularly knocking boots with, even if she is living with him, but he refuses to say when she is thumbing through Bride magazine and is chatting him up about real estate agents and school districts.

PEOPLE … it is far better to be honest and suffer some brief, momentary disappointment then to wander months or even years in an ultimately unsatisfying (for one or both) relationship.

/steps down from soapbox

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Cassandra October 4, 2009 at 10:16 am

Here here, Darleen!

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Gregory October 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Not I. The first woman I have sex with is my wife. Well, she will be. When we first have sex. If I can even get a woman in the first place.

I thought RSM made perfect sense, to be honest.

I mean, yes, sex is important and people should feel good and all that but… you know, I’m not looking for a Susie O’Neill of sex. The girl next door is good enough. People aren’t born great cooks, but they can be trained to be good cooks, so why should we expect that people be born great in bed?

Sorry, but I can’t wrap my head around your idea of sex before marriage as a trial run.

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Little Miss Attila October 4, 2009 at 6:10 pm

“[W]hy should we expect that people be born great in bed?”

My point exactly.

And before enrolling someone in a chef’s academy, it might help to know how interested they are in cooking in the first place.

In related news, ever notice how the person who wants sex less in a relationship always gets exactly the right amount of sex? Funny how that works . . .

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Foxfier October 4, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I’ve got to disagree, there– I know many women who wanted less sex, but did more because they love their husbands and know it made them happy.

If you can’t trust someone to care enough to spend some extra time doing something you enjoy more than they do, or if you’re not willing to do more of something because the other person will enjoy it, you’ve got issues with the relationship that go beyond having a happy sex life.

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Darrell October 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm

richaerd mcenroe–”I think he’s asking her to accept responsibility for and take control over those aspects of the relationship she can control.”

Let’s review. RSM met a “very intelligent, funny, attractive woman who is 31 years old and not married. She had just ended a “relationship” with a guy” and he was “sort of amazed.”

I’m pretty sure she take responsibility for being very intelligent, funny, attractive, female, 31 years old and not married. In fact, now that I’m representing her we’ll stipulate that. All else is just conjecture. Who does that, btw? Meets someone, finds out some basic information, and creates a novella around it? Besides writers on deadline. that is. Maybe she is very happy with things just the way they are. Not everyone would be happier with your life. If you really put your mind to it, you could probably come up with a thousand guys that could screw up her life pretty good. Isn’t it better that she is NOT with any of them? What if she is destined to run into Jolene Blalock in the next two weeks and the fireworks of this event becomes the stuff of legend, and a major indy motion picture, in the years ahead? Never mess with the time line. If she asked for advice or even said “What am I doing wrong?” I could see a point to all of this. Absent that, I do not. There are many paths to true happiness:Many to utter ruin. Worse yet, both maps(sold separately) are identical.

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Darrell October 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm

richard. Just another typo. Don’t read anything into it. Really. Sorry! See? Another act of taking personal responsibility. When I’m not blaming my crew of monkeys, that is.

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bettiwettiwoo October 5, 2009 at 12:23 am

The word ‘slut’ says a great deal more about the man using it than it does about the woman to whom he refers.

I suppose that for a lot of men it would be attractive and comforting to think that a woman only says ‘no’ to having sex with him because she wants to get married (and won’t – in that peculiarly revolting phrase – ‘give it up’ without at least an engagement ring), rather than the sad, sad truth, viz., that she’s simply not that into you.

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Gregory October 5, 2009 at 1:48 am

What I don’t understand is why people are talking about sex as if it was just some little thing. Try your woman (or man) out before marrying her (or him)! Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back! Call now! Operators are standing by! Take ‘er out for a risk free trial!

Please. Are you telling me that there exists one (that’s all I’m asking for, just one) person out there who, given willingness to learn and enthusiasm, cannot possibly improve on his or her lovemaking skills to at least passable? Really? Not even when love and commitment and dogged determination are added into the mix? Not to mention experience? How do you even begin to measure that? Or hold clinical trials and other experiments to test it out?

“long-term sexual incompatibility” fiddlesticks. There exists only three such possible permutations; (a) the man’s hung like a stallion and the woman’s built like a 5-year old. I’m told otherwise, it stretches to accommodate; (b) the woman’s got a cave and the man’s Asian-size. I’m told that otherwise, there are some exercises that can help; (c) “Honey, it’s not you, it’s just that I’m gay” (either side or both). And you can bet I don’t believe in (c).

But maybe I’m just a bitter clinger.

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Little Miss Attila October 5, 2009 at 6:15 am

Willingness to learn and enthusiasm go a long way. It’s nice to know that they are there; that’s all. I’m not knocking your game plan, G–but I’m hoping that a little spicy talk, a little kissing if your moral code allows that, plus some candid cards-on-the-table discussion of your respective needs will all tell you what you need to know.

That takes care of some of it. I’m afraid that I believe it’s relatively easy to please a man, and that pleasing a woman can be very, very challenging.

As for the physical aspect:

Um . . . well-hung men can be a problem. Hell, nearly any man can be a problem if he prefers doggie-style, in which position there is little the woman can do to control the depth of penetration–communication is very important in taking a woman from behind, if you don’t want to hurt her.

Let me clarify: the uterus is roughly at the end of the vaginal canal. That’s the thing that likes to cramp up. When it decides to do that, it can either set off stomach cramps (that’s the organ next door) or send shudders of pain across the lower back. Charmingly, the ovaries are also located toward the end of the vaginal canal, and these are the equivalent organs to the male testicles.

So a guy who’s hung and thoughtless can cause excruciating pain, even with a frontal approach.

When in doubt, have the woman have her orgasm first: that way you’re unlikely to need a lot of artificial lube, and she’ll have all those natural pain-killers in her system and may not notice if there are a few deep thrusts–Mother Nature’s codeine provides some insurance, there.

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Darrell October 5, 2009 at 6:32 am

Gregory, you have a valid point, but at this juncture in time in the United States, you are not going to get either sex to change practices that have been in place for generations now. The sexual compatibility issue has to be a given. Maybe it’s bad –absolutely unsatisfying–experiences with one or two partners along the way, maybe it’s something else. Even the ability to conjure that up. I don’t know. But I know it’s almost impossible to go back once something has become the norm.

Heck, even dating here has become distorted. Dating is a period of getting to know a person with a view toward marriage. Only that. When you’ve reached a point where you have enough information that you can decide that you would NOT want to be married to that person you both go your separate way. Ending dating (a particular person) isn’t a failure and should never be viewed that way. Only one person is supposed to make it through all the way to its conclusion (marriage)–the right one! But (for years here) some people are scamming the system. They have no intention of getting married. They are looking for a long-term unpaid fuck-buddy.
Those should place an ad on Craigslist and see what they get there. Others are totally dishonest about everything. They think the point of the exercise is to “win” the heart of the person they are dating regardless. They try to be and pretend to like everything their partner likes. That gives no information at all. Being at your best behavior is one thing (and it’s expected). Lying about trivial details, like what foods they like, is another. And is a recipe for certain disaster when they decide to stop playing their games (hopefully BEFORE marriage). Many people are just looking for placeholders (or meal tickets or lats of other things) until someone better comes along–someone better that actually goes out with them on a date. Many people never reveal their true feelings as to children, long-term goals, career aspirations, etc.–any of the substantive concerns–until after marriage. If then. And of course, that person who said that sex was such an important part of their life all through dating becomes the person that lets you get lucky on your birthday and New Year’s Eve–if you’re lucky, after the marriage.

So I bet you are saying now “Then why all the concern about sexual compatibility and pleasure beforehand if it can all turn out to be an act?” Well, you can’t fake some things. And at least you have your memories. And most importantly, at least you know for sure that they don’t have that smell that sort of reminds you of vinegar and something else, that almost turns your stomach, that always seems to be there even after swimming all day in the ocean, followed by a long, hot shower, followed by–oh, forget I said anything. That never happens!

On second thought, maybe arranged marriages can make a comeback afterall. Beats marrying someone after the love has already gone– either because they both think they have given the other person their best years. Or simple payback.
That’s known as a hate-marriage here. Soon to be popular with the youngin’s.

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Cassandra October 5, 2009 at 7:22 am

Great comment, Darrell.

I do have to say (having been married for eons) that while sleeping together can definitely help you discover whether there’s some insurmountable/unacceptable issue between you, I’m not at all sure it is a great guide to anyone’s long term needs.

In my younger years, I really had no idea what I wanted in bed. I knew I wanted sex, but my tastes weren’t really fully formed yet. So I wouldn’t have been able to predict, for instance, that beginning in my 30s, sex would become MUCH more enjoyable (even given that I’d always liked it) and MUCH more important to me.

I wouldn’t have been able to predict some of the things I enjoy doing now. In fact, I might have said, “No way!”. I don’t think I was ever close minded in that regard, but the years have a way of expanding one’s horizons :p

That’s why I really think being willing to work at the relationship – all aspects of it – is a better predictor of long term happiness. Modern marriages can easily last 60 years or more. That’s a Looooooong time, during which many things – both physical and emotional – change. We just don’t have the ability to predict the future when we’re young. We lack the experience.

When there is love and the willingness to adapt, however, things just keep getting better.

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Little Miss Attila October 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Funny how that works ;)

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Gregory October 5, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Luckily, I do not live in the United States of America, insofar as this topic is concerned, as much as I admire the American way and spirit of freedom.

Darrell, fwiw, I’m from a conservative part of the woods, even for South East Asia. Indians here still practice arranged marriages – more of a mix nowadays, but you will still hear the term ‘love marriage’ to distinguish it from the standard arranged marriage. For that matter, Chinese still make it a big production – you need the go-between, and even 30-somethings will have to consult their parents, and negotiations on dowry and bride-price and whatnot. Amongst the Christians and some traditional Chinese, at any rate.

I mean, I’m a horny old goat, and no doubt I would like to stick it into any willing orifice. But like Zo says, what distinguishes a human male from a man is the ability to be master of your body, instead of the other way around.

Attila, you know, pleasing a woman is an impossible task and men would be ever so much more at peace when they realise women are never really happy unless they’re pissed off :) Case in point, my mother. Got 7 A’s in my exams once, called her up and reported. Her response “What? Only 7?” Mind you, there were only 7 subjects… Case in point, my sister. No matter how much I clean the place up, it never meets her standard of hygiene. Even worse when she’s got PMS.

But then again, maybe I shouldn’t underestimate my own sex. After all, the difficult we do at once, and the impossible just takes a bit more time. That’s why we climb Mt Everest. And I’d imagine the experimentation in bed is at least a happy fun time for everyone. I’m more than happy to try many, many times, in the final analysis.

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Darrell October 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Btw, Cassandra, I hope you know how much we appreciate being able to read what you are thinking, to learn from your experiences, and to get a glimpse into the importance of finding the right person to share one’s life with. The same goes from our hostess, AG and the rest of her homegirls. I know what you all do is a labor of love with little gain in return. But it gives us so much to think about and hope for the future of this country. Before the internet, we had to take what could be found in the mainstream media. And their focus–often highlighting outliers to produce ratings–often led one to believe that there was no hope left and no reason to bother. I hope the younger readers can see what a valuable resource, what a valuable learning tool that now have, and take full advantage of it. Men and women seldom talk as openly and as honestly in our daily lives for all sorts of reasons. The distance and anonymity of the web breaks down those barriers and reasons.

In dating, we have to transform the theories of openness and honesty into practice and resolve to truly commit to our partners in marriage if we reach that point. The notion of two becoming one is just not a Hallmark sentiment, it’s reality in ways that only experience can convey. And it truly begins when we realize that whatever we do FOR our partners we do for ourselves, and whatever we do TO…well, you get the drift.

The bottom line is thanks to all of you! We don’t say it enough!

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Cassandra October 5, 2009 at 8:37 pm

*blush* :)

Actually I think bloggers get far more from our readers than we ever give to them. So often you all bring out facets I never saw on my own. I write mostly to figure out what I think, though I realize it sometimes sounds as though I’m more sure than I am in reality.

I enjoy the give and take and the responses, even when people don’t agree with me. They challenge me to consider other positions; not to be too headstrong!

Men and women seldom talk as openly and as honestly in our daily lives for all sorts of reasons. The distance and anonymity of the web breaks down those barriers and reasons.

That’s so true. There’s a distance the web provides – a buffer than makes it a bit safer to reveal our thoughts and feelings, even on sensitive subjects. Sometimes that’s not so good, but mostly I think it’s a great benefit.

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