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Are men and women socialised to find each other sexually attractive even if they don't respect each other? Or what?

(54 Posts)
BasilBabyEater Thu 25-Apr-13 11:46:31

I've been reading a thread on which the subject of domestically incompetent men came up and I didn't want to de-rail that thread but it sparked a thought I'd quite like to discuss. I'm thinking about the men who claim they can't take responsibility for childcare or managing the planning and cleaning of their homes ("you tell me what to do and I'll do it" in other words, "I don't own this work, you do and you're responsible for thinking about it and planning it and then directing me").

As I've got older I realise I simply don't fancy any man who I don't respect anymore. I don't respect men who are so pathetic that they opt out of taking adult responsibility for their own children and homes so I don't fancy them, even if they're really gorgeous. Is that just an oddity, something to do with getting older and not finding sex quite so urgent so therefore being more discriminating about who I'd want to do it with, or is it because I now expect more from my relationships than I did when I was young? Is it just because I source my respect for a man from different things than I did then? (I think when I was in my twenties, I would have simply accepted a very untidy man who didn't sort his own housework out as messy and it would not have had any effect on my estimation of him, whereas now, I'd see it as inconsiderate, entitled and selfish and so it would affect my respect for him and therefore my sexual desire for him.)

On this other thread, someone mentioned a group of women with PhD's joking about how hopeless their husbands were and my first thought was "how can they want to fuck them?" Is it because these women don't need to respect their husbands to find them sexually attractive, or is it because we're trained as women not to base our respect for men on them being able to carry out the basic functions of an adult?

Then I got to thinking about the other way round but that's a whole other kettle of fish and this post is already too long...

JustCallMeHerodina Thu 25-Apr-13 12:00:57


I think there's two different things going on. One is, can you joke about someone being hopeless and still fancy them? I think yes. I still smile thinking about my grandparents who were constantly making little jokes at each other - you could see looking that it was how the expressed affection. I'm sure that is socialized but it doesn't bother me. I do it with DH now. I don't actually mean what I'm joking about.

The other thing ... yes, I do think there's a more serious issue which basically boils down to cognitive dissonance, doesn't it? I used to be with a bloke who regularly had me absolutely seething and in tears because he just Did.Not.Give.A.Shit about anything not directly to his own benefit. It didn't occur to me not to find him attractive, because I was still thinking (as I think you do) that something had gone wrong somewhere, each time, and that one day we would get through this and I'd adapt and he'd adapt and we'd be like reasonable people.

I think one you stop doing that and realize 'hmm, if it walks like a selfish wanker and acts like a selfish wanker ...' you probably don't find them sexy any more.

BasilBabyEater Thu 25-Apr-13 12:40:54

Yes that's a good point, each individual incident is just an individual incident and so doesn't affect the overall view of the person, until there are so many incidents that you start drawing the dots together.

And of course, if somebody is nice in every other way and basically makes you happy, the fact that s/he refuses to learn how to load the dishwasher/ change a light-bulb, is no big deal in the scheme of things.

I think it's when they're not nice in every other way and they're not making you happy and yet people still don't join the dots, that is interesting. Also maybe it's just me, but I do find someone who won't learn to parent their own child, pretty bloody shocking - for me, that's so much about what sort of person and parent you are, seeing your child being short-changed by their father/ mother, is much more of an emotional "hit" than the fact that they can't be arsed to pick their own socks up - the latter might just be a socialisation thing that can be worked on, but the former - not caring enough about your child to learn how to meet its needs - that for me feels gut-wrenchingly painful because it's hurting the child as well as the other parent and says even more about someone's character and values.

JustCallMeHerodina Thu 25-Apr-13 12:51:34

Oh, yes, I agree completely.

And especially, as you say, when someone won't parent their own child.

I know someone who thinks it is hilariously funny her husband was 'forced' to change a nappy by the nurses who'd been caring for his very premature babies in the intensive care unit. He did it once, because they insisted he needed to know how on account of, you know, having very premature baby twins and a wife who'd just had a traumatic labour. Then he never did it again at home because it's 'woman's work'. hmm

I suspect that the effect of hearing that sort of story ('wasn't your father funny, ho ho') is kind of implying to children that the person who does these basic bits of caring is actually a bit of a mug, rather than that it's a basic bit of caring.

AutumnMadness Thu 25-Apr-13 14:43:12

Basil, I fully agree with you. I do recognise that it's not the same from everyone's perspective, but for me this kind of infantile incompetence on the part of men is not just deeply unsexy because it is childish and I do not fancy sex with immature boys. It also signals a lack of respect and a lack of care because it just dumps all the work onto the woman. And it's hard for me to have sex with somebody who is supposed to be my life partner but does not really care about me on a fundamental level. It may be ok for a one-nigh shag with a stranger, but the standards I have for long-term partners are very different.

SinisterSal Thu 25-Apr-13 15:51:10

Aren't we supposed to fancy big macho he men (who wouldn't dream of lowering them elves with a bucket and mop? )

SinisterSal Thu 25-Apr-13 15:55:45

Themselves, it should be.
But my point was that we are socialised to find women's work tedious trite banal time wasting ( not saying it isn't!) and also socialised to give extra respect to a man who won't be pushed around, won't lower himself with trivial matters, al that

badguider Thu 25-Apr-13 16:03:59

I do know what you're saying about having to respect somebody to fancy them.... but on the other-hand is 'lust' really socialised?

I would say that who we choose as a partner is definitely socialised into us but is raw lust not more base than that?

I can feel lust for ridiculous men who I would never ever actually even sleep with nevermind date and certainly not marry... but they are sexy... and I'm not sure that's a socialised reaction, I think the fact that I don't actually try to shag them is the socialisation of knowing I should pick somebody who isn't a bastard more stable.
Is it not a failure of socialisation and demonstration of positive relationships that results in women sleeping with men who treat them terribly?

Some women choose men who are 'manly' which in our society can mean crap at 'women's work'.. I'd agree this is socialisation but I think this is different from fancying/lusting after men of a certain type.

Sorry this post is a rambling mess... it's an interesting topic and I'm not entirely sure what I think yet grin

JustCallMeHerodina Thu 25-Apr-13 16:07:59

Oh, I think lust is hugely socialized. It's interesting, though - that's my hunch based on me, not saying it's easy to tell either way.

Societies do seem to change in terms of what they find attractive, don't they? If you look at men who were considered sexy 200 or 400 years ago, lots of them are, erm, not exactly what we'd consider the same way (same with women).

I think bits of lust aren't socialized - and maybe this is why we do end up attracted to people who aren't conventionally handsome, or the reverse - we meet someone we know is stereotypically attractive and our 'type' but there's just something missing.

But I also think a lot of it is to do with those quick-fire associations that tell you 'phwoar, this is very sexy'.

AutumnMadness Thu 25-Apr-13 16:14:18

I do believe that lust is socialised, but that there are different kinds of lust. I could fancy that big macho man who could not lower himself to mop the floor. But only for very casual sex as the matter of mopping the floor would just not come up in that context (there are gradation, mind you, I would not fancy an overtly sexist man even for a one-night stand). But lust in a long-term relationship is very different. And the standards here are much, much higher.

SinisterSal Thu 25-Apr-13 16:15:41

But the op is talking long term relationships here so not quite pure raw lust either! Desire sure , but also something more cerebral

SinisterSal Thu 25-Apr-13 16:16:26

X posts autumn you said it better

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 25-Apr-13 16:17:27

I agree badguider. I don't think respect is linked to sexual attraction, certainly not that base kind where you'd be looking at a no strings shag/not acting on it at all.

But the act of choosing a long term partner is different and so much more socially and culturally constrained, if that's the right word. Once you "see" sexism, imo, it becomes impossible to consider a relationship with someone who is sexist because the understanding is there which means that they see you as something less than them. Whereas before you're aware of it in this way it's easy to explain away as a misunderstanding or communication difference etc - there are whole books dedicated to explaining away sexism in relationships as being "different ways of showing love" or some kind of hard wired difference between the sexes.

badguider Thu 25-Apr-13 16:21:40

This is interesting because I think I assumed that women who are in very unequal relationships where the men are overly 'macho' and have attitudes about 'women's work' have followed their lust and not engaged their critical thinking.
I now think that assumption was wrong. I made it because it was the only way I could ever imagine me ending up in such a situation. But now I think that doesn't quite work.


AutumnMadness Thu 25-Apr-13 16:22:51

Btw, I am not trying to present myself as some kind of perfect woman who can never find herself in a long-term relationship with a man who is useless at housework. I have posted here in the past about my struggles to get my DH to take the responsibility for domestic matters. I can definitely say that the lust I feel for my husband is directly positively proportionate to the quantity and quality of housework he does.

AutumnMadness Thu 25-Apr-13 16:25:26

badguider, I am sure the reasons are varied. Often women themselves are firmly socialised to believe that mopping the floor is an exclusively female prerogative. Keeping the fire in the hearth and all that bollocks.

yani Thu 25-Apr-13 16:30:00

Sorry, I probably won't be very coherent as I'm not very good at articulating.

I used to find dp sexually attractive, but after many years together and dc I know him better
and have found myself living with a lazy arse

I harbour a low-level grudge against him and our relationship is not great.

We still have sex regularly. Why? Well, because I like sex, and because I don't want to be unfaithful.

So in answer to your question, I think it is possible to be sexually attracted to someone whom you do not respect.

curryeater Thu 25-Apr-13 16:32:14

What a brilliant question.

some thoughts:

some people have low self-esteem and despise people who respect them, and respect people who despise them.

One vein of traditional womanhood holds traditionally female things as very low value and therefore respect is due to people who would have nothing to do with it (you see this sort of thing in LaQueen giggling that her huge rich husband won't wash up but is manly and rich and dynamic enough to simply buy a washing machine and hire a cleaner - she admires that he thinks the work itself is beneath him, she pretends to seethe but she is simpering, like when she has to remind you all the time that he is a Rugby Prop, whatever that is, but I think it means very big).

You can fancy someone without wanting them as a partner. you don't want them cluttering up your house though.

Men who subconsciously and domestically disrespect women as a class often do not personally despise the individual woman they fancy / set up home with / marry so only over time does the weary truth emerge (he can be listening to your views with shining eyes over drinks, but still expect you to service him domestically, and it takes time to realise this because women are not socialised to have the same expectations and it does not occur to them that someone who likes them in context A might be that way in context B)

some men actively fancy more the women they despise (because woman = low = the sex that I want to fuck). Some women are turned on by being fancied, even in that way.

yani Thu 25-Apr-13 16:39:56

Just realised I've contradicted myself!
I think what I am trying to say is that sexual attraction (to me) used to include the feelings of love and respect.
Now, it comes down to satisfying a need on a physical level.

AutumnMadness Thu 25-Apr-13 16:43:22

yani, I know what you mean.

MiniTheMinx Thu 25-Apr-13 17:38:45

Interesting question. DP and I discussed this a while back. We both felt that sexual preference was probably socialised. To some extent it is probably fairly fluid throughout a lifetime but would be more so if it were not for the social cues around us.

I have been reading this morning the introduction to the Origin by Pat Brewer. I wont quote it all grin but something struck me by what she said. "cooperation to successfully raise infants could have led to the domestication of humans with women choosing cooperative males as partners rather than aggressive and disruptive males" Obv thousands of years ago raising children to live into adulthood depended not on waging war but in protecting the females and the children and being fully engaged in the survival of the group.

If what she says is to be believed why did we become socialised at some point along the way to accept aggressive, war-mongering, violent and authoritarian men? I guess if we hadn't been convinced of their attraction we might not be here today ! how did Mr Macho sell it to us confused

DP is great, very domesticated but I don't fancy him more because he knows how to iron shirts. If anything less sad but he is reliable, calm, kind, supportive, isn't disruptive and is the right father for my children and I respect him.

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Thu 25-Apr-13 20:08:21

Really interesting question. I wonder this a lot on all the 'he doesn't pull his weight and I'm at the end of my tether' threads.

Fundamentally, I don't think we are socialised to find men that we don't respect sexually attractive.

Useless men only tend to come to the fore long after emotional connections are made, and even well after formal commitments are made. In other words ... a couple meet, have a connection, are loved-up, get together, things progress, they get married/move in/have a baby (in whichever order), and it's only then that male uselessness starts to become apparent.

The man is enconsed into the family home and it's then that he starts to opt out of the shitwork. The baby arrives, and it's only then that the women defaults to taking the lion's share.

By which time, the bond between man and woman has been formed and the man's uselessness doesn't have a direct impact on how sexually attractive the woman finds him, because that side of things was already decided back when he was a more appealing figure, back before the shitwork and parenting was in any way a part of their relationship.

And then, as his uselessness starts to become more apparent, starts to impact on daily life, and as the woman starts to feel more like a domestic appliance there to service her man, the sexual attraction starts to erode.

Fundamentally, I don't think we do find people we don't respect/like sexually attractive. But the shift is often so gradual, that you can't pinpoint to any one thing.

How many relationships are there where the sexual side of things in LTRs has dwindled and dwindled to pretty much non-existent? Which partner is it who tends to be the one to opt out of this side if things?

Men don't fancy housework/wifework/shitwork/whatever you want to call it; women don't fancy the men, because after all, what is sexually alluring about someone who sees you as a skivvy? But this takes a long time to evolve.

Not sure if I've made any sense.

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Thu 25-Apr-13 20:12:39

Obviously my scenario doesn't apply to all male:female relationships; only the ones were men don't pull their weight and women aren't happy about it (even if they haven't fully acknowledge that to themselves).

Plenty of men do pull their weight. Even successful, high-earning men with SAHM partners.

badguider Thu 25-Apr-13 20:44:48

what about the other way round, why would a man be sexually attracted to a woman who takes a role 'below' him and is servile?

do men not also need to respect their partners to find them sexy?

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Thu 25-Apr-13 20:47:27

Good question - I don't see how a man could be; personally I could never be sexually attracted to someone who was servile to me.

But I don't think I can answer on behalf of men.

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