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  • Writer's pictureMichael Sales

Used to Be Hunted as Prey

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

“It wasn’t that long ago that we used to hunt them as prey.”

An urbane and well-educated 70-year-old white man I know said this to me recently when we were discussing the challenge many men face in their attempts to understand women. Freud famously and notoriously commented on this topic asking, “What does a woman want?!”

While my acquaintance thought he was being facetious, his statement shocked me. It spoke to the continuing disparity between the power of men and women, a differential that is expressed physically in many circumstances.

The overturning of Roe in the United States got me speculating about the core of what it is that men want from women?

For a lot of guys, some form of sexual subservience is the obvious answer.

Many men hate the idea and the actuality of women expressing themselves sexually as they see fit. Frequently, “manly” men think of themselves as “love machines” ready, willing, and able to have sex with any woman they find attractive in terms of what “sexy” means to that guy. In their view, women are supposed to be in the thrall of sexed-up men.

The idea that women have their own sexual nature, their own way of wanting and needing sex independent of what a man might want doesn’t appeal to many/most guys, certainly not the ones who are passing these outrageous anti-female laws all over the world and in the US, particularly recently.

Men are afraid of female sexuality, and there are facts that make such insecurity somewhat understandable. For example, while the research isn’t rigorous, there seems to be little doubt that well over 50% of women can have multiple orgasms in a single sexual encounter and that this capacity for sustained and intense pleasure remains intact for much of a woman’s life. On the other hand, only 10% of men in their 20s ever experience multiple orgasms[1] and the percentage of guys capable of revving up the southland more than once every couple of days declines significantly as people with penises age.

Any man who’s been fortunate enough to be with a woman who is experiences multiple orgasms frequently knows that it can be mighty challenging to keep up! Once warmed up through foreplay that they find to be adequate, many women can keep at it for a very long time. Furthermore, getting turned on Monday can lead a woman to want more sex on Tuesday and Wednesday when a lot of guys feel like starting pitchers, who need a couple of days off between trips to the mound.

One was not enough for Ms. Ava Gardner's character in "Night of the Iguanas".

It is noteworthy that only approximately 15% of women report having multiple orgasms, even though many more could (and maybe do in the privacy of masturbating without a man’s insecurities around to deal with).

Bottom line: millions of women are unsatisfied sexually. They’re not getting the kind of sex they want as often as they want and how they want it.

How are men responding to this?

Increasingly, the people (mostly men) who make the laws in the United States are reacting to the sexual needs and potency of women by denying that such needs exist. Even more important, male legislators are punishing women who like sex by making it more dangerous for them to engage in intercourse.

In contrast, there are no real prohibitions or penalties for men having sex.

Yes, there are plenty of “people of faith” of both sexes who believe that sex has a wide range of mystical connotations and practice abstinence before marriage and sex for procreative purposes within marriage. Sounds mighty tough to me.

But I think it’s fair to say most men get the message that they are supposed to be constantly hot to trot from every conceivable source from the onset of puberty till they lay us in our graves. Men are constantly presented with images and allurements of women that cannot possibly be satisfied.

Raquel Welch as an example of the All Powerful and Unattainable Seductress

Raquel Welch as an example of the All-Powerful and Unattainable Seductress

While the objectification of both sexes is probably on the rise, women are still much likelier to be seen as “things” to be desired and conquered than men.

Recapping: it’s not enough that men have their own natural sexual appetites. These desires are constantly being stimulated. Men are essentially told to go forth and fuck as much and with as many partners as possible.

Many men do just that. And most of us do so without having to face anything like the kind of risks confronting women.

Yes, men transmit and get infected with sexually transmitted diseases. And, yes, relationships can be very complicated for guys. But men do not get pregnant. Men are not oppressed by laws requiring them to take pregnancies to term regardless of how the pregnancy began.

Of course, some of the most vociferous official opponents of abortion and liberated female sexuality are consummate hypocrites, but they aren’t our primary concern here. It’s the garden variety guy’s casual or semi-casual sex that is most alarming. When the criticism of the sexual activity of men is compared to the extreme stigmatization that women must deal with that is most unfair. (“Boys will be boys.”) Throughout the course of most of their lives, men are encouraged to have a variety of sex partners; women not only have to deal with the possibility and consequences of getting pregnant; they are also called “whores” and “sluts” if they do the thing multiple men want them to do. Sometimes the same men who take advantage of a woman’s sexuality lead the charge to condemn the women they just had sex with.

It may or may not surprise most women to learn that the kind of bragging Donald Trump did with Billy Bush about his sexual exploits and proclivities is extraordinarily commonplace. Melania Trump called this conversation “locker room talk,” but – as almost every man above the age of 50 knows for sure (and probably most of them over the age of 13 would also acknowledge) – this kind of discussion between men is in-the-car talk, having-coffee talk, hanging-out-in-bars talk, could-happen-any-and-all-the-time talk among men.

I’m not a Puritan. I’m not saying that the way men behave sexually is necessarily bad or evil, although when they are chauvinistic, abusive, or immature their actions can be obnoxious and, sometimes, criminal.

What I am saying is that the sexual playing field between men and women needs some serious leveling. It is time for men – especially uptight Republican men running legislative bodies and their moralizing religious allies – to acknowledge that the sexual desires and conduct of women are as legitimate as those of men.

The social position and condition of women is a key concern in the Anthropocene.

Male suppression of the sexual expression and freedom of women demonstrates a great fear of women as independent actors. Men have gotten so used to being the dominant gender they cannot believe that their supremacy is being challenged politically, economically, personally, and physically. The fact that women are at least equal to men in sexual potency, if not more so, threatens the identity and self-image of many men, particularly those who are used to being in the driver's seat.

The sexual self-doubt of men is a key component of the authoritarianism that is surging in many locales around the world. Uptight men want strong, sexually charged-up women to be (a) under their control or (b) shut down.

Stop prohibiting women from having sex if they want to! Stop layering their choosing to have pleasure if they wish with laws that constitute a legislative chastity belt! Get off their backs! Let her stand up and breathe the same air of authority as you do!

[1] And the nature of those multiple orgasms by men is substantially different than it is for women, e.g. the same ejaculation might not be complete and there is another smaller ejaculation after the first one.

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