American all-star Mae West is renown for having said to a male all-sex co-star in a 1933 movie called “She Done Him Wrong’: “Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” I’m unsure when I first heard, let alone understood the not-so-subtle sexual innuendo of that famous quip but it is interesting that male ‘sexuality’ is, I contend, less ‘overtly obvious’ than a female’s. Women strut the sexual stage in push-up bras, reveal copious cleavage, squeeze into crutch-length, tight skirts and prance around on skyscraper heels; their sexuality supposedly on full-display. Dare a man ‘mention’ that, either with a lustful leer or sexual suggestion, he more than likely will be dismissed as a ‘dirty ol’ perv’ irrespective of his age. Indeed, West Indian cricketer, Chris Gayle, now the Most Unwanted Man in BBL cricket in Australia after inviting a female TV reporter for a drink during an interview on air last summer as well as more recently ‘advertise’ that he was ‘glad’ to see another female reporter in the UK when he told her during an interview for a newspaper that he was ‘so big’ she would need two hands to lift it stuns me with the double-standards we still adhere to about the mere mention of sex; be it verbal or purely by our visage!
In Australia, Gayle copped a hefty fine for his invitation as many people, both females and males, decried it as ‘sexist’, yet, what is the quintessential difference from being blatantly boastful about how ‘big’ you might be (who really knows or cares but that’s not my point; pardon the pun!) as a male to how many females dress to attract some men they might desire? Mae West’s comment is direct and deliberate in acknowledging a man’s sexual appeal; but how many dare ‘mention’ it, let alone admit to its importance? Online dating services are apparently replete with women wanting to know ‘how big’ men measure and men likewise proudly use their measure to attract a willing prospect. But in public, most men dress demurely, their apparel designed to divert attention from what’s below the waist to what’s above the neck; as if their minds are of more significance than their anatomic appendage. Women, on the other hand, do the exact opposite too often; dressing like ‘sex bombs’ then denying any interest to catch an ‘unusual’ suspect for sex! It’s about being able to wear what they want whenever they want; freedom to be who they are and damn all of you!
A sex survey undertaken by Indiana University’s Centre for Sexual Health involving 5,865 teens and adults from ages 14 to 94 in 2010 found that ‘…nobody really talks about sex…’ a recurring theme I’ve read about all too often in surveys about sex; both here and elsewhere. Yet, at the same time, merely to ‘mention’ sex is to open a Pandora’s box of shame, disgust and lechery when it’s male-only monologue that’s being voiced. It’s a different Pandora’s box when women behave as lechers and for very different reasons. It seems societies are still unable to allow us to express our sexuality; the workplace is a no-go area where we must all repress any overt sexual suggestions, again, be it verbal or by our visage as well as public streets. Nightclubs and bars at night might just be more amenable to sexual antics but why can’t we be ‘sexual’ whenever we please? Are we all so obsessed and/or vulnerable to sexual innuendos in the office or on the streets? By driving our sexuality underground, we only enhance sexual repression even more so that would-be rapists et al cannot control their impulses at the sight of a woman, no matter how she might be dressed. Let alone in the workplace where women have to camouflage their appearance as some kind of asexual beings that diminish who they really are. Frankly, I have never worn revealing clothes to gain sexual attention; I do like to feel good in what I wear but it’s about looking ‘sexual’ not inherently ‘sexy’. My sexuality is as important to me as my mind; both parts of who I am and how I choose to be and we need to acknowledge that reality of our humanness instead of shrouding sex in shame and fear. That only breeds repression and resentment. I don’t necessarily agree that Gayle should ‘ advertise’ his measure but he has every right to do that as much as women have the right to ‘wear’ what they want. If it’s no harm to others then it shouldn’t be either celebrated or condemned, but rather, just accepted as part of who people are. Many people do not feel their sexuality is that significant in their lives; so be it, but they should not interfere or infiltrate into others’ lives for whom it might be significant. As much as we express our creativity in the workplace, we should be allowed the freedom (within reasonable parameters) to create ourselves by being sexual, too. Being sexual doesn’t have to mean cleavage, thighs and high heels; sexy is for me more about style and elegance than crass and cheap exposure. Gayle is no more or less in the latter echelon.
The issue really is about how we express our sexuality and we are all different; and at different times and in different contexts and for different reason, we dress and behave differently to express ourselves. It seems however we still cannot acknowledge we ARE sexual beings unless it’s behind closed doors in suburbia with a spouse. To come back to the survey: ‘nobody really talks about sex’ yet when they try and do, it’s tantamount to being sexist if you’re a male and/or vulgar as a female. I end with this example: in my early 40s, I was talking to my mother about a 20something bow-legged champion footballer, saying to her: “because he’s bow-legged, his cock probably hangs sideways.’ I thought it amusing but she replied I was being vulgar. A few days later at a community newspaper I worked on with 20something males, I wanted to see what they thought of my comment. One of them, who supported the footballer’s team as I did too, remarked that my mother was right: it was a vulgar comment. I rest my case.
The last words go to Mae West: “It’s not the men in your life that matters, but the life in your men.” Hm!