Since I first discovered my desire for women, I have always taken this attraction for granted and held it to be an inseparable part of my straight, male identity. It has been just over twenty years since I began to lay awake in bed, imagining the female form and feeling a need for its presence. Although I knew that my need for women would eventually lessen, I expected it to last for the rest of my life. I saw it in my grandfather in his old age, after all, and expected it would be the same for me. I thought of it as an essential element of my masculinity a part of my being that I’d both exult in and suffer for throughout my life.
However, essential or not, I thought of desire as external; separate from thoughts, emotions opinions and sense of self. I considered it involuntary, like the beating of my heart or the drawing in of breath.
Lately, I’ve begun to realize that the desire I’ve always counted on is a far more complex thing than a mere physiological process. It seems men aren’t the purely physical creatures I assumed, and that longing and need encompass far more than the switching on of a sexual response.
I often see explanations in popular culture for why men find themselves increasingly uninterested in American women. Some of these are quite compelling, such as the lack of femininity, the ever more aggressive and assertive nature of young American women, and the sense of entitlement that they display as though it were an expensive piece of jewelry. The raw, predatory sexuality encouraged on television shows for women has a distinctly unattractive quality; aside from certain anatomical features and minor differences in dress, these women display all of the characteristics of offensively forward and brash men. The hard look in the eyes, the strut and the lack of regard for others are now the mark of the superior woman. For many men, to desire these characteristics would require a change in sexuality something homosexuals persuasively insist is impossible.
I see this as just another example of the shifting definitions of masculinity and femininity as society emerges from the Industrial Age. Recently, I reread Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, and found myself amused by his devotional descriptions of the heroine, Lucy Manette, who epitomizes beauty, femininity and goodness. She is one of the least realistic characters in fiction, yet obviously was an ideal that Victorian Englishmen could relate to. This little doll with blonde curls, devoted to her husband and full of only loving and nurturing sentiments, was pure, unrestrained male fantasy. That impossible ideal lasted through the better part of the 20th century, but has clearly given way to something far different. Some blame feminism for the destruction of the concept of the exalted woman, but in fact it still exists! The exalted status remains, but the statue on the pedestal is no longer shaped and defined by the imagination and ideals of men.
The new woman on a pedestal reflects the conceits and fancies of adolescent female minds. She is their idea of beauty, power and freedom. Children occasionally appear as emotional props, and are conveniently cared for by nannies or others when the time comes for a night out on the town. Men slavishly follow and desire her, and she changes them as freely as though they were an article of clothing. On television shows such as CSI, she shows direspect to the dead, displaying her utter contempt for even the concept of dignity or decency. She takes her sexual and aesthetic advice from homosexual men, who have little use for the qualities that straight men admire and love in women.
This redefinition of the ideal woman has left a beast that possesses all the physical attributes that men desire in a woman, yet behaves, speaks and moves in a manner that most men find repulsive. Rather than a companion, she is an adversary. She offers not comfort, but contempt. This mutation from icon of male desire into receptacle of indulgence was the culmination of years of human self-deification: deification of our own desires, and deification of their objects.