The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, February 13, 2005


We've dealt with gender relationships, but we need to get more specific on this second-chakra stuff. You, as a writer and as a human being, need to have some very specific ideas about human sexuality. This is such an incredibly charged subject that it has been, and will always be, fodder for uncounted tales of glory and woe. Male-female sexuality, promiscuity, love, abortion, pregnancy, homosexuality, incest, interracial sex, masturbation---the list goes on and on and on of subjects that have been the topics of endless bestselling novels and non-fiction books, as well as workshops and billions of hours of therapy.But what is sex to you? When is it good? Bad? Inappropriate? What is fair to get a love object into bed? What is "sick" and what is "normal"? Why are male sex offenders so more severely punished than female? What would be wrong with incest between adults with their tubes tied? YOU SHOULD HAVE ATTITUDES ABOUT THESE. You should have a world-view that helps you to make sense of all of this, and allow your characters to flounder about as they attempt to learn.
What I call the "Beauty-Power Axis" is simply the observation that men and women make exchanges in relationships. The most common one is a woman's beauty for a man's power. This is a no-brainer: just look around you. We are seeing more straight one-for-one exchanges: both have equal beauty and power. But I see very very little of the opposite: a woman's power for a man's beauty. And I bet that there's nowhere in the world that that is more common than the first equation. This is, of course, unfair, but we're not talking about fairness. Women wail: "why is it that dumpy guys can get the hot girls?" And guys complain: "all women want is guys with money!" . And a recent complaint getting a lot of play is: "why is it that older men can be with younger women, but not the other way around?" Needless to say, I have opinions on this stuff, and most of you can bet what they are, loving sociobiology as I do. However, what is important is that you have AN opinion, and be prepared to defend it, in discourse, and in fiction.
It also helps you to make sense of your own personal history. And to use that history as an endless source of story material. Looking back over your life, what was the worst sexual mistake you ever made? The best decision? Why?
When my daughter was about six, I realized that one day she would ask when it was appropriate for her to make a sexual decision--when it was appropriate to become sexually active. The question didn't come up until she was thirteen, but that gave me seven years to think, and I came up with the following answer:You are ready to begin having sex at the point that you earn enough honest money to put a roof over your own head and food on your table. When you can support yourself. that means, of course, that some are ready at fifteen, and others ain't at thirty. Sorry about that. But so much life experience and focus is implied by the simple act of being able to support yourself that I REALLY like that as a basic standard, and can think of much, much misery that would have been avoided if people used that standard.
But I'd like to look at human sexuality for a few days. Here's another one: based on the beauty-power axis idea, a couple of complaints make plenty sense to me:Women complain their husbands lose sexual interest as they get fat. Men complain that their wives withdraw if their careers are nosediving. Wow. No mysteries here, but this is painful, painful stuff. I know at least six different women who specifically gained weight to punish their husbands--to deny their beauty to "unworthy" men. Do men do the same thing? Sabotage their careers to punish their wives? I'm not sure, but I'd love to hear what you folks think of all this...digging deeper in the gender gap.
Roll up your sleeves and grab a shovel!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And a recent complaint getting a lot of play is: "why is it that older men can be with younger women, but not the other way around?"

who says they can't?
see ____
I'm a 67 year old woman
currently living
most happily and actively
with a 44 year old man

and the other men in my intimate life
since I left my marriage
15 years ago
have been younger
by a decade

it's more a matter of energy level
and vim
and joie de vivre
than it is about number of years
one has lived . . .