February 1, 2009 § 2 Comments
I’ve been reading other blogs responding the New York Times article about female desire, and found myself wanting to say more about it. First of all, I don’t think that when social scientists use the word ‘narcissistic’ they mean it as derogatory. One can argue about whether it’s an apt description, but the value of the trait, as articulated by the scientists quoted in the article, seems to me to be neutral.
I think both sexes are highly narcissistic, aroused by the desire and admiration of others. People differ in how much importance they place on being ‘quality’ examples of their gender, and how much on being unique beings. Most of us feel our sexuality is tied to the former to some degree—we want to be ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’; to be admired/desired for that as well as whatever is special about us as individuals. The point of the Times article is to survey what contemporary researchers see as being innately ‘feminine’, and I am very glad these women are doing the research, coming up with ideas, not assuming anything is settled or off limits to consider—that means more to me than whether I agree with any particular point.
My own experience of it is the confusion I felt, as a girl, about being fascinated and aroused by pictures of naked women, though my orientation was definitely hetero. Of course I thought I was the only girl that weird. Later, I experimented a bit with women sexually and found that the reality didn’t correlate with my fascination—actual women and images/thoughts of women were different things, to a degree and in a manner that wasn’t at all like my experiences with men. I think this fascination is more than learning to see through male eyes, though that’s part of it, and not quite narcissism, though there’s that too—there’s a third factor I don’t understand.
Another issue coming up in the blogs is annoyance at the representation of female desire as ‘mysterious’. Of course all sexuality is mysterious; we as a species are very far from unraveling the strands of nature/nurture, much less being relaxed about perhaps never being able to unravel them because they are in flux. Evolution isn’t over and is, generation by generation, being shaped by the choices culture leads us toward. From the right perspective, culture and biology are one, but I don’t know if a human being can ever do more than imagine that perspective.
As a rule, I think men would benefit from thinking of women as less mysterious—by going on the assumption that they can understand if they pay attention; and women would benefit from thinking of men as more mysterious.
This isn’t true for everybody, obviously. When I was young I found men so mysterious I couldn’t see what was in front of my face. That was a result of my particular background and I’ve gotten over it, as much as I want to get over it. I don’t think sex would work if one gender were inherently more complex than the other.