Yesterday's car conversation reminded me of the literalness of men-in-general and of the multi-layered thought processes of women-in-general. For example, for an American man a man's car is a man's car, an expensive object upon which he has to lavish money. For an American woman a man's car is a symbol that a man has it together enough to take care of his and his future family's basic transportation needs.
Women-in-general are great decoders, antennae bobbing towards any possible hidden meaning. Girls who are not good at reading micro-signals are, therefore, rather out of the loop in schoolyard conversations. Innocent-seeming questions like, "So do you think you look pretty in that?" are, in fact, challenges to battle. The trick (I see in hindsight) is to answer back immediately, e.g. "Yes, I think I look smokin'!", instead of goggling in silence wondering if the question is a trap.
Boys and men don't usually say one thing when they mean another. This is why you should never say to a man, "Sure, I'm okay with this," when you're not. He won't get from your tone, watery smile and red eyeballs that you're not okay with this unless he has dated a lot or grown up with sisters. Incidentally, this is why you should listen carefully to what men say and take their words literally. When a man says, "I have a drinking problem", it means he is an alcoholic. That's all it means, and he means it. Don't think "Oh ha ha. He's exaggerating." Believe me on this one.
(Of course men lie a lot, but they mean you to believe the literal meaning of their lies. Which makes them more dastardly liars than we are, because when we say things like "Of course I love you" most woman within two yards could tell we mean the opposite.)
But what interests me today is not so much the figurative nature of female speech but the figurative nature of the female sexual imagination. Women are simply not as visually-oriented as men are when it comes to sexual attraction. Our imaginations are more important than our eyeballs, and as evidence I will scoot right down to the lowest common denominator, which is porn.
Women do not surf for internet porn (later correction: as much as men do). Women do not buy pornographic magazines. Women do not go to strip joints, except maybe once or twice in their lifetimes for a laugh. The tired, lonely businesswoman does not mosey up to a barmaid and say, "Tell me, pal, where can I see some boys in this town?" And the barmaid does not slip her a card that says "Boyzboyzboyz! 135, Rue St-Catharine" on it.
No, what the tired, lonely businesswoman is much more likely to do is sit in her hotel room and take from her briefcase a fat paperback book with a woman in 18th century partial dress on the cover.
This woman's hair is whipping in the invisible breeze that somehow does not even ruffle the sails of the pirate ship behind her. Just behind her, with his nose just above her hair, is a man in 18th century partial dress. He might be a pirate, or he might be an officer in the Royal Navy, or he might be an officer in the Royal Navy who is a pirate in his spare time. He is probably not a mere Able Seaman, anyway.*
No woman on earth would confuse this book with Treasure Island. This book is an example of the bestselling fiction genre on earth: the erotic novel. Women buy millions upon millions of copies of this trash.
To get a sexual thrill, our businesswoman cannot just look at a picture. She has to decode a whole lot of text in her imagination. And the text has to convey important symbols to her subconscious. It is not enough to have a hero who is nothing but a man. He must be an officer (not an able seaman) because a man who gives orders is higher caste than a man who takes orders (A pirate chief beats his boatswain for the same reason.) An officer must be a British officer, not a Portuguese officer, because really, Portugal was rather a waning power in the 18th century, so--unless you yourself are Portuguese--who cares?
And so on. Women are not very good at compartmentalizing at the best of times. We usually cannot separate erotic enjoyment from feeling proud of the object of our erotic attentions. A famous funny-looking guy like the French premier is a zillion times more attractive to women than an unemployed male model who can barely read. (Newsflash to men with SSA: women don't think like you, so don't kid yourselves.) Undergrads of my generation thrilled when the uber-flirty 80-something former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau smiled at pretty little them in the street.
Men do not really get this. They look at the women who throw themselves at Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and sneer that he is so ugly, the women are only after his money. Er, no.
And when Wayne caves in to the women but his wife doesn't divorce him, the men sneer again that his wife is only after his money. Again, no.
The women are throwing themselves at Wayne Rooney because he is one of the best football players in England. He is famous for it. He is better than almost all men at something millions of men think is the most exciting job on earth.
I am sorry that Colleen Rooney has to put up with women throwing themselves at her husband, but imagine how she felt when Wayne gubbed Arsenal on Sunday. (Probably something akin to how I felt when my husband managed to gub David Hume in a BBC special on Hume so cleverly that the gubbing wasn't left on the cutting room floor. Ah ha ha ha!)
Women want to be proud of the men we date and especially of the men that we marry. That's all there is to it, really. If a rural woman wonders why a man doesn't have a car, it's not because she's materialistic. It's that she doesn't want to end up with a man she can't respect because he keeps getting rides from friends.
Today my husband is giving a lecture on the Italian Renaissance. He is giving it at a rather high profile, high status place of learning. He wondered if I would like to go along with him and hear it. I was already thinking out my outfit.
*Scottish Note: The romantic heroes of The People's Friend magazine are almost all good-hearted working-class types. They are all incredibly capable. Most either run their own businesses or have decided to run their own businesses by the end of the story. However,
style="font-style:italic;">The People's Friend is read mostly by Presbyterianish ladies over 60 whose fathers were Communists and their bored visiting grandchildren. There is no sex in The People's Friend. I would love to write for The People's Friend but you cannot have a sense of humour do to it. I would be incapable of writing a story in which the nice carpenter did not turn out to be a wicked rake and the handsome banker up from London a saint.
Update: I've had another anonymous "shame on you" comment, which I won't put up because I won't put "shame on you, Seraphic" comments on my blog, even from recovering porn addicts. However, I think the thoughts of Catholic women who have somehow found themselves with an overwhelming attachment to porn worth reading. (I wonder if this is a fruit of the internet age because I never, EVER, EVER heard of a woman compulsively viewing porn before the subject came up.)
At any rate, my reader says she recovered from porn not by "just stopping" and "talking to a priest" but through years of therapy. And although I don't like "shame on you, Seraphic" emails, I think she deserves credit for turning her life around.
And now that we know some people--women--get hooked on internet porn, we have absolutely no excuse to click on it even once out of curiously, do we? Because when we do that we are supporting a disgusting industry from which we can draw a straight line to the sexual abuse of adults, children and even babies.
Refraining from viewing porn is not just about our own personal chastity. It's about social justice. It's about other people.