Arm candy and the sexual "market"
In the comments on my blog post about sex past marriage, a discussion erupted about whether or not women "own" sex and "sell" it to men for things like money and security. In the sense that there is a huge market for female prostitution and female porn stars, I'd say yes. But that, to my mind, is indicative more of the inequality of the sexes than evidence that men have higher sex drives than women. In other words, it's not that women control a commodity, but that men, being more powerful, are entitled to buy and sell women's sexuality. I know, it's not a nice way to put it, but I can't really think of any other way to phrase that .
Anyway, the real point of this blog post is the difference in attitudes between the book and the TV show "Sex and the City", since that subject came up. Commenter Ilkka pointed out that the attitudes and themes in the book differ greatly from the ones on the show, and I concur, though I doubt that I see the difference in quite the same light as he does. For those who read the book after watching the program, it's quite a shock. The show is caustic and funny, but overall it had a very positive take on human nature. I'd classify most episode in the category of screwball comedy, and the characters of Carrie and Mr. Big were definitely modeled after the great couples of screwball. But the book is extremely cynical and Bushnell's take on people and their relationship to sex is closer to Neil LaBute than it is to the "Thin Man" series or anything like that.
Bushnell definitely portrays the world of dating and sex as a marketplace where men trade on their money and women trade on their looks. Initially, this seems to support the contention that Bushnell agrees with the idea that women "own" sex and men want it, so they have to buy it. For all I know, she does agree with that, but that's not what you get off a close reading of her book. In fact, in her book, the male demand for female beauty is for an even shallower reason than the sex. The men in the book mostly just want the high status of having a gorgeous piece of arm candy.
A couple of the stories she tells to demonstrate this actually made it into the show during the first season. In one story, a man is powerfully attracted to a woman who is rather plain and unglamorous, but his ego won't let him take her out in public. So he takes her out to out-of-the-way restaraunts and won't introduce her to his friends. In another story, a man takes so much pride in himself for seducing fashion models that he tapes himself having sex with them to show his friends. (Forgive me if I got the stories from the book a little wrong--my memory is getting mixed up with the show.) Bushnell's point is that men and women are shallow cretins who use each other as status symbols--women want wealthy men to brag about and men want beautiful women to brag about.
The show had the same stories but had a different take on them. These two characters were played not as typical men, but as neurotic, self-obsessed freakshows. By the end of the episode with the guy who hides his girlfriend, the show makes a big deal out of showing characters who don't engage in such egotistical behavior. The moral? Some men are shallow assholes, but not all men are. It's actually a more realistic take than the book, a good demonstration that while cynics may think that they are the only realists, they aren't necessarily.