A few days ago, I had a conversation with my mother about unmarried couples living together. She immediately poo poo’d the idea and gave me the typical, “Oh, no. A woman shouldn’t move in with a man. Then he will never marry her. Why buy the cow…?” I put up a quick protest, but the thought of arguing any further made me tired. The milk and cow argument is old and no matter what kind of facts one may have to refute it, those who subscribe to traditional ideas of relationships and gender roles generally shut down before there is a chance to present a logical counterpoint.
I mean, we’ve all heard it, right? A mother, grandmother, aunt, or good friend tells another woman what she should and should not “give up” sexually in a relationship lest the man take complete advantage and cease to think of her as long-term relationship material. “Dress down, pants up” is what my grandmother always said and it seems to be the general rule to which women are expected to adhere. Prim, proper, pious, pent up, and pitiful is the way to go if a woman wants to marry herself off – at least, that is what the popular school of thought says.
I have never liked the cow saying. What woman wants to be thought of as a big, fat, boxy, and sometimes smelly, cow? Who wants to be a lowly heifer slowly moving along with the sole purpose of providing nothing but fresh milk to the masses? On a more serious note, I have a problem with the way the saying implies a man is buying something when he marries a woman and he is ultimately paying for the right to access her vagina with his marriage vows. I mean, is this really how we want relationships to be? I can’t even conceptualize relegating myself to a vagina for sale to the highest bidder willing to pay with a lifetime commitment to monogamy with me. I would like to think a life with me would be worth a whole lot more than some sex.
I also have a problem with the saying because it implies sex is really some gift women give to men for marrying them as opposed to it being a mutually agreed upon and enjoyable experience. Granted, there are men who want sex and nothing more and are willing to be dishonest to get it. I certainly do not refute that. However, there are women who want the same. Women who are not sitting at home on a Friday night hoping, wishing, and praying for a nice man to come along and marry them so they can finally use their vaginas for something other than a place for their panties to live during the day.
I’m not advocating a whole bunch of random sexual encounters based strictly on physical attraction and availability, though I’m not exactly knocking those either. I just have trouble understanding and finding it acceptable the way women’s bodies and their decisions about those bodies are held to a higher standard than men so they never have to really be held accountable for what they do because, after all, they really are just men but a woman should know better.
Most sexual exchanges require two people. There are some exceptions to that rule, but for the most part, two consenting folks get together and decide to share their bodies with one another. Unfortunately, what should be a simple verbal and physical contract has more fine print than the contract for any vehicle I have purchased. For the man, he is just agreeing to spend some time feeling great, nothing more, and nothing less. A woman, on the other hand, is making countless life decisions when she decides to sleep with a man. In her mind, she sees plans, actions, consequences, and ways to gain redemption should the whole thing go south. She has to consider her reputation, how much the man likes her, how many dates they’ve been on, if any, how often he calls as a measurement of how interested he is, or isn’t, whether he will deem her a ho, lose all respect for her, and never call again as a result of having sex with him, if she will end up in the “smashable only” pile with the other half-discarded/on-call vag’s that came before her, etc… It all seems like too much. He’s wondering if he has some unexpired condoms and she is contemplating her entire life’s reputation and relevance. This can’t be right.
From early on in life, girls are told they shouldn’t “give up the goods” because men won’t respect them if they do. At the same time, boys are told they should get as much sex as they can from as many women they can get it from because other men will respect them as much as the amount of sex they can get. Is anyone else seeing the problem here? From a young age, women are expected to place their value with not having sex and men are taught to garner their self-worth from how many women with whom they have sex. How exactly is all this supposed to work?
Even the way society describes sex as “scoring” for men and “giving it up” for women are indicators it is usually a lose-lose for women before anything happens. I wonder if there will ever be a time when teaching boys and young men they can’t ever get back what they give out sexually and they should respect their bodies will be the norm the way it is told to young girls and women. I doubt it will ever be the norm, but I can dream.
I realize this may shock some, but women love sex. Unfortunately, our societal norms of values and morals lend to the school of thought we don’t enjoy it, don’t really need it, and really only do it to keep our men happy. However, this isn’t true. It isn’t really that women don’t like sex. It’s that we aren’t really allowed to concede we do without fear of being misjudged, erased from the “good girl” column, and rewritten in the “side piece/used up” column instead. Will there ever be a time when women won’t have to hide their sexuality? A time when they can cop to being sexual beings without fear of ruining the rest of their lives as a result? Is our milk all we really have to offer?
I guess in this day and age, the only option for women is to connect with men who have a realistic understanding of women and recognize the unfair double standards under which we live so he can see past the stereotype of the buttoned up prude and learn to respect the real woman underneath the buttoned up surface. This is definitely no easy feat, but it is well worth it if it means a woman can take off the cow costume and simply wear herself.