To repeat, my three cardinal rules of dealing with men are as follow:
1. Men are who they are, and not who you want them to be.
2. Men are attracted to whom they are attracted and not to whom you think they should be attracted.
3. You can find out what men think, but you won't always like it.
This is not to say there is not a certain amount of pain wrapped up in this. An older woman I know--once a great beauty, if this adds to the story--bought a computer from her son's pal. She found p*rn on it, and she was devastated. She could hardly believe that that nice young man thought of women that way, and when next she saw him, she gave him a look. He blushed to the ears.
In this case a woman had merely stumbled on a guilty secret. The young man had no idea that his pal's mother had taken it personally--something the defenders of p*rn don't really get. They think the women who admit they don't like it are joyless prudes, but in fact we don't like it because we don't like what it says about women, which is to say, ourselves. Every dirty photograph is a judgement, a measure, standard: this is what a man thinks a woman is supposed to look like. And this is why breast implants and Brazilian waxes are now mainstream, and why some women now submit to genital cosmetic surgery. Such women want to be "normal", and this is what "men" (and women long for men) have said is normal and desirable.
But then there are men who make no secret of the fact that they have certain, quantifiable standards. Older men tend not to reveal them in front of women; either they have become kinder or they have learned some sense. But there are still, as there were when I was a teenager, young men who will shout numbers out car windows as women walk by.
Such a trivial incident, and such an ugly suburban parking lot, outside such a 1980s excuse for a suburban dance club--and yet I can still remember the three of us girls looking up, startled, as a car pulsating with music cruised past and young male voices shouted "6! 7! 7.5!"
In case the ranking is different where you are, these numbers were out of "10." "10" was the name of a film starring Bo Derek; when it appeared in cinemas,I was too young to see it, but I understood that "10" was what Bo Derek was, and her braided hair inspired a craze for braids among white girls, including little white girls like me.
I know the numbers change from country to country because a man casually bragged to me of the magical golden proportions expected of women in his country, and I went blind for a second. Actually blind. I've met one of his country's most elite scientists, a young Single woman, intense, incredibly intelligent, devout, attractive--and possibly not fitting into the magical golden proportions although how would I know? It would never have occurred to me in a million years to see her that way. Although I suppose if she walked down the street back home, that's all certain men would see: Oops, no golden proportions. Not for me.
My momentary blindness was caused by rage, and please don't ask me what the golden proportions are because I don't want to ruin your day. It's bad enough to have to tell you that some men--and not just sociopaths on the internet--still think like that. And I was not just mad for this scientist, and all of you, but for myself, because of course I do not fit those magical golden proportions either. And although it was completely illogical to feel hurt by that, I did. In A Handmaid's Tale (Opowiesc podrecznej), the Unwomen are all sent out to clean up radioactive areas; I think Atwood was channeling women's deep, deep fear of being considered Unwomen by men, any men.
But I should stress that some men still think like that. Not all men think like that. Very sensibly, I did what all happily married women should do when they are grappling with male psychology and consulted my husband.
"Is there some sort of magical proportion standard for women's bodies in Britain?" I asked.
Poor B.A. Now that I think about it, this is a heck of a question to ask a fellow when he first wakes up in the morning.
"No," said B.A. "Well, there was a lot of interest in Pippa Middleton's bottom, of course."
"I don't think anyone talked in terms of numbers, though, did they?" I said, greatly cheered.
"Maybe British men are bad at maths," said B.A.
Good. Or rather, good that they haven't agreed on a way to reduce women to numbers. Being reduced to mere bodies is bad enough, being reduced to numbers is truly dehumanizing.