Recently, in a meeting, a feminist I greatly admire spoke out against the commoditisation of women. I presume she referred to the depiction of women as sexual objects. Now- theoretically, that would include hoardings and ads that show beautiful women, including the ones subtly or less subtly revealing what are known as curves. It would include pornography and prostitution. They are definitely the extreme ends of the spectrum.
Another admirable person I know asked the feminist:
“Now- what is wrong? What if a woman wants- and is comfortable with- selling her sexuality, in any way she wants? Isnt it her choice? How can that be bad, if she gains in the process, and is not exploited?” May be not the exact words, but words to that effect.
The feminist retorted- “Only a man can say it. Only you can say it.” Severe applause followed. A clever confrontational answer.
This did get me thinking. Apparently a lot of women agreed with the feminist. But why?
The basic premise of some feminists is that men and women are basically identical. But if it were so why would the women oppose commoditization? Men do not do so (of men). They feel no need to.
If a man were to show his genitals at a woman, she would be offended and disturbed. It is a hurtful crime. If a woman suddenly flashes her tits, I would be astonished. But no offense taken. No hurt feelings.
That is why I went to the Guru. Dr. H. R Guru (MPBS). MPBS stood for ‘Minimum Possible Bullshit’. H. R is ‘Highly Realistic’. But that can be “highly irritating’. Guru stroked his beard and said:
“Men and women are equal sentient beings. But they are not identical.”
“But what makes them different?”
“Evolution, of course. The maker. The shaker and prime mover. Er..May not be the ultimate one, but a minion of HIS mysterious plans.”
I felt irritated. “Don’t be bloody mysterious.”
Guru re-stroked his beard. His beard needed a lot of stroking apparently. “The thing is, it is all politics. Sexual politics. The woman’s reproductive potential is limited. She can have only a few offspring in her lifetime. And pregnancy is very costly. So she had to be choosy. Very choosy about whose genes she will take in, and she had to make sure the father sticks around to put in his share of investment. For a man it is nothing. He can have thousands of children, if given the chance. Genghis Khan probably had. Ejaculations are all it takes. Millions of sperms. “
I snorted. “What an offensive way of putting it. Blast you. You mean men may be more likely to be promiscuous and women coy and discerning in their choice sexual partners? But we have contraception.”
“Contraception-“Guru said a bit markedly-“Is a recent thing. For millions of years, it was not there. None of the arguments from evolution are prescriptive, you know. Don’t take your values from evolution. That is a stupid way of thinking. “is” is not the same as “ought”. That much, I thought, was clear”
I stared rebelliously. “But this evolutionary psychology is just a set of stories. Anyone can make them up.”
“True. But see this premise- women are coy. Males are eager. Males compete heavily for sex. If it is cultural, why do you think it is the same in all human societies? Why do you think the variation in Y chromosomal DNA show that if you take the past 100000 years, fewer males were able to reproduce, while virtually every fertile woman was able to do so? Why do you see the same thing in almost every other animal? Look at the tusks of the walrus, the fights of the males, the feathers of a peacock and the power to choose of a peahen?”
I kept quiet.
“The thing is, women intensely resent dilution of their power to choose. She is disturbed by unwanted, intrusive sexual attention. She wants to have complete control of the show. I agree- she has to get it. No questions.” Guru said.
I shouted- “But why is commoditization bad? Don’t women gain by sex? It is a valuable commodity, since every man wants it, and women are very choosy. But why should they continue to be choosy and coy in these enlightened times? Semi- nude, less choosy women are considered cheap and disgusting- isn’t it a male patriarchal thing? To be opposed at all costs? Shouldn’t real feminists argue for indiscriminate sexual freedom and using of their sexual assets for personal gain? Why should anyone argue against it?”
I was angry by then. All my liberal instincts rebelled against the appalling Guru. A##hole!
Dr. H. R. Guru again stroked his beard. I wanted to set fire to it. He spoke:
“Permissiveness hurts females more than males. Females know it instinctively. That is why many oppose it. The real feminists will oppose extreme sexual permissiveness.”
“But for heaven’s sake- why?”
“Perfect sexual permissiveness is a man’s Utopia. He can have sex with as many women as he wants. No commitments. No social pressure to get married. If he marries, no societal pressure to remain married. Divorce is easy.”
“But women also have these advantages.”
“Yes- but suppose- just suppose- that more women want a committed relationship and want children. The whole dynamic changes, then.”
“One way to make marriage more attractive for a male is to prevent him from having sex before it. To insist that sex will be given only if a man commits. Then he has to continue receiving it, only inside a committed relationship.”
“But an individual woman can always choose to do it that way.”
Guru laughed. A low, rather offensive laugh. “It works only as a class strategy.”
“See- It is useless for a single woman to adopt this strategy. The man will just go off, since he can get it elsewhere. And he might seek it outside marriage, and can divorce her of he wants to. Divorce is easier for the man. A man is at his earning peak by middle age. Studies have found that more men remarry than women, and more often to younger women.”
“That means, one solution is to aim for completely identical mental structures. Then women and men can do as they please, celebrate the end of all committed relationships and forget having children.” I declared triumphantly.
“That is one reason some feminists argue for that. But are they?”
“Are they what?”
“Are men and women absolutely identical in their mental attitudes?”
I kept quiet, plunged in thought.