Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fey, Frenchmen and female sexuality

By Franki Butler
The other day at dinner, I found myself the only woman at a table full of men. This isn’t a particularly unusual experience for me, and I didn’t really notice until I made a comment that sent the whole lot into awkward silence.

One of the guys had voiced his opinion on the attractiveness of several well-known women, saying in a conversation about Tina Fey and Sarah Palin that he would “hit it and quit it” with both ladies. My doubts about anyone’s ability to “quit” the lovely Ms. Fey aside, I didn’t find the comment particularly unusual. Sexualizing two women in a way rarely dared with male comics and politicians of course, but par for the course in terms of the person with whom I was speaking and the environment I was in.

A few minutes later, the conversation turned to Diane Lane. “Hit it and quit it” boy expressed an attraction to Lane, while I expressed my attraction to her undercover lover in the film Unfaithful – I believe my exact comment was, “Hell, when I’m thirty-eight can I be that gorgeous and sleeping with a hot young Frenchman?”
The conversation ceased. Oh right, I’m a girl. I’m not allowed to say those things.
I am not defined wholly by my sexuality; it is not the largest factor in my personality by any means. That said, I am less than thrilled when the merest hint of my female sexuality ends a conversation, especially in a space where male desire is welcome and accepted.

Perhaps the gentlemen at the table were just nonplussed by my disruption of the heterosexual male viewpoint so predominant that evening. Perhaps these men weren’t used to thinking of women as desiring sex unless that desire could serve them. Perhaps they had not viewed me in particular as having a sex drive and were uncomfortable at my proving its existence. In any case, why should my comment derail a conversation previously full of similar comments by men?

Maybe I am looking at this from the wrong angle. It may simply be that I expressed desire for a man. To my knowledge, most if not all of my dining companions were heterosexual males. Perhaps they viewed acknowledging my desire as stating that a similar desire existed within themselves.
Or maybe they just don’t know what to do with female sexuality when it is controlled by an actual female, and not at their disposal.


At October 24, 2008 at 3:14 PM , Blogger AngryBunni said...

I love within the next paragraph, I could hear the crickets chirping.


At October 25, 2008 at 3:13 PM , Anonymous Towelette ^_~ said...

Wait. Don't these people go to Princeton??? I guess Ivy is no match for chauvanism. It's also possible that their innate aversion to someone *else's* penis just kicked in and they were uncomfortable with the sexual objectification of a guy, not just b/c women shouldn't have "needs."

If it's any consolation, I wouldn't mind trading places with Diane for a couple of minutes/hours/days during that movie, either.

At October 28, 2008 at 4:23 AM , Anonymous Stephanie said...

I don't think it's all that rare to sexualize male comics and politicians. Well maybe politicians, but that's because their job is in and of itself frumpy (hello C-Span). But you have to admit, there was Obama Girl.
But male comics can get sexualized too; comedy is a turn on. I would hit it and quit it with Jon Stewart and/or Stephen Colbert eight days a week. Demetri Martin, Kal Penn and John Cho; I could keep going. (And Tina Fey [and Sarah Silverman and Janeane Garofalo IMHO] does actually happen to be attractive.)
While I'm not disagreeing with you that female sexuality controlled by a female is not yet a completely accepted idea, I don't think this is the best example. Obviously, I don't know your friends, but the explanation that you gave second-to-last seems the most convincing - that this is more a thing about homosexuality taboo than a female sexuality taboo (not that that makes it okay; just saying).
Or maybe I'm an optimist.

I think also it's true that people latch onto what's rare. So female comedians and Danica Patrick (who I personally don't think is pretty [just average, not ugly], but is made out to be the hotness basically because she's surrounded by not-too-good-looking men) are a couple examples of sexualized women in male-dominated professions. But it does work the other way, with males in female-dominated (or stereotypically female) professions. Male nurses, male child-care-takers are a few examples that come to mind (just because they're not famous doesn't mean it doesn't count.) So maybe it's not just a sexualization of females per se, but more the fact that it's sexy to be forward, to be unique, no matter your gender.

I think you gave a lot of valid explanations for their reaction, and not all of them are to be discounted or grounds to be offended.


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