Stephen Fry vs. Sexuality

02Nov10

Here’s an article I wrote for the lovely people at NerinOnline.com (soon to be krank.ie — you can see why I’m a good fit). As we all undoubtedly know by now, Stephen Fry has “left” Twitter amid claims that he was misquoted in Attitude magazine, yadda yadda. Basically he thinks (or Attitude thinks he thinks) that women hate sex. What an original and unique opinion! Read my view on the whole debacle below, and head over to NerinOnline.com to comment on this and other fascinating rants!

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Breaking news! Well-known gay male knows nothing about female sexuality shocka.

That was my reaction when I first heard the news that Stephen Fry had denounced women as uninterested in sex — that, and a hefty eye-roll. According to an interview in Attitude magazine, Fry thinks that women only have sex with men for a relationship or for money, and otherwise we just think boys are gross and have germs or something. I’m paraphrasing, of course:

“I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want,” he said. “Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?” said Fry.

The interview also has this choice excerpt: “If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas. Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking: ‘God, I’ve got to get my fucking rocks off’, or they’d go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to shag behind a bush. It doesn’t happen. Why? Because the only women you can have sex with like that wish to be paid for it.”

Managing to offend women AND sex workers in the same short paragraph. Lovely. Fry, of course, has denied that he ever said such a thing, crying misquotation and staging one of his now-tired diva strops and flouncing off Twitter to have a good cry, no doubt. Will he ever come back? Does anyone care? These are the questions of the moment.

Whether he said it or not, there’s no denying that this “women don’t really like sex” idea certainly isn’t new. The concept that straight men feel they ‘disgust women’ (as Fry put it) because they find it ‘difficult to believe that women are as interested in sex as they are’ — well, that’s true for a lot of straight men. And if there’s one thing I agree with Fry on in this whole debacle it’s that I feel sorry for the poor straight men.  It is sadly a fact of life that for several reasons, men are generally seen as the more highly sexed of the genders. And they do, for the most part, find it difficult to find a woman who enjoys sex as much as they do — or a woman willing to admit it, at least.

You see, even for women who do have high sex drives, those who are interested in sex and in men… society tells us that’s not ok. In fact, some of the men in question — the very ones who think women hate sex — ALSO think that a woman who likes sex isn’t worth being with anyway. She has no self-respect, she’s a slut, she’s desperate, she’s dirty, she has no self-control. They believe that their own urges and desires are filthy and perverse, so any woman who agrees to indulge them must also be filthy and perverse. And with messages like that going around, is it any wonder some women find it easier (and safer) to stick to the no-sex-til-til-the-third-date rule, with a side order of you’ll-get-it-once-a-week-if-you’re-lucky-and-be-happy-about-it?

Some of us have been blessed with enough natural confidence (or in some cases, stubborn wilfulness) to put two fingers up to the patriarchy and have sex just like a man — on our terms, when we want to, with whom we want to, in whatever position takes our fancy, and don’t spare the foreplay thanks. Why aren’t these women out prowling Hampstead Heath? Well for one thing, it’s full of gay men. Bad place to try to score. But secondly — we don’t need to.

We don’t need to go out and troll the canals for man meat because we can wander into any pub, club, roller disco, bookshop or convent and find a man who’s probably willing to drop trou at a moment’s notice. We have phone books full of ex-boyfriends, ex-fuckbuddies, ex-randomers that we can call upon in our hour of horniness. The sexually aware and active female is a person in short supply and high demand. And highly demanding, too… but we have our pick of the casual sex bunch. If you’re confident enough to shun the slut-shamers and stigma, there are plenty of sexy funtimes to be had in the comfort of your own home, never mind down a back alley. Best bit? You can boot him out of bed afterwards and put your comfy pyjamas on.

On a more serious note, the “price” that women pay for casual sex is much higher than our male peers. While men are studs, women are sluts; men are legends, women are easy — but there’s even more at stake than name-calling. No matter how many artificial hormones we pump into our bodies on a monthly basis, no matter how many layers of latex our partners are swathed in, there’s always a minute chance that we’ll end up pregnant as a result of our shenanigans. Biology’s a bitch. And with that responsibility hanging over our heads, we tend to be a little more cautious about whom we mate with. “Bloke in the bushes” isn’t something we’d want to be telling our friends and family over tea and cakes at the baby shower.

Until such times as the sexes are truly equal in the sexuality stakes, men will always be the downtrodden desperate ones looking for a bit. Until a woman can go out, have sex, enjoy it, and not be called everything under the sun for doing it; men will find it hard to find a woman to do it with. Until safe, reliable contraception (without a host of libido-killing side effects) is freely and easily available, women will always be burdened with ‘what ifs’.

Until casual sex is as carefree and fun for women as it is for men, until there’s an equal playing field — the playing fields will only be full of gay men lurking in the bushes, as Fry observes. And it will continue to look like “women think sex is disgusting” until we acknowledge that sexuality, of any sort, is far from disgusting. It’s beautiful.

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