"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Sexual Allure–Millennia Of Come Hither Likely To Last For Many More

An economist who worked for a prestigious international development firm, one which prided itself on social responsibility and uniform adherence to gender appropriateness, was surprised to read a memo from its CEO to all staff.  “Heretofore”, he wrote, “all employees will dress in a manner respectful of each other and expressive of the best and most serious intents of the company”.  He needn’t have said more. No reference to exaggerated décolleté, sleeveless blouses, tight, revealing skirts, or ‘business sheaths’ was necessary.  A line had been crossed at Baker International, and everyone knew it.

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“I am a woman’ was the credo of an organization which promoted women’s rights in Africa, championed the struggle against male oppression in Latin America, and stood behind veiled women in Iran and Saudi Arabia.  No less was it on the front lines of American women’s struggle for sexual equality and their fight against misogyny and patriarchy.  Yet what do do, pondered the CEO with what had become a workplace of sexual admission, no different from the backstreets of Amsterdam or the cages of Bombay.  Women in the K Street offices of one of the most prestigious eleemosynary institutions in Washington were beginning to look like tarts.

Not everyone on the board of directors agreed; and in fact there was a near mutiny from the most progressive feminist quarters whose members insisted that no attempt to corral, hogtie, whip-and-bind female employees to suit male Victorian tastes would be tolerated.  Women could and should be able to wear whatever suited them, however ‘provocative’ such dress might seem to unwoke male employees.  If men responded sexually to female attire which displayed the beauty of God’s creation, then so be it.  That was men’s problem, not that of women who were simply celebrating their female identity.

Of course most men saw the situation quite differently.  Sitting across from a beautiful young woman dressed in a scant, revealing dress; scented and accessorized; and sexually provocative in everything but word and demeanor was distracting at best, painful at worst.  How was a normal American man supposed to sit across from a deliciously attired, lightly perfumed, and coquettishly posed young woman without thinking about sex? It was prejudicial of senior management to allow such dress in the workplace, men complained.   Policies that promoted women’s equality should never ignore the polices of nature.  Men are simply and forever attracted to women’s appearance, the more revealing and seductive the better.  It has always been so.

From the sculptures of Ancient Greece and Rome to Khajuraho; from Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Ingres, and Picasso; to People, E!, and Entertainment Today; from Elle and Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar, the female form is displayed, honored, sold, and marketed today as it has been for millennia.  To men a woman is by nature alluring, seductive, and attractive.  A prize, a trophy, and a victory. 

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A war was fought over Helen of Troy, and few could resist Cleopatra, seductive queen of Egypt and seducer of Roman emperors. 
From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
Her people out upon her; and Antony,
Enthroned i' the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,
And made a gap in nature.
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Every family in the West End of New Brighton sent their children to Mrs. Lennor’s Dancing School, a finishing touch on a a social education which would have to withstand the influences of college, New York, and San Francisco.  Mrs. Lennor was a strict disciplinarian, not that much different from the Sisters Mary Joseph and Mary Francis who provided the Catholic sons and daughters of the community with a solid, moral, and irreproachably modest religious training.

Boys on one end of the waxed, finely polished hardwood floors; girls on the other; and at the sound of Mrs. Lennor’s clacker the boys charged over to the girls’ side, the fastest getting the most desirable, , the slowest getting the fattest.  Despite claims to Victorian civility and upper class reserve, Mrs. Lennor encouraged the most basic sexual, predatory notions.  No one complained, objected, or cried foul.  Mrs. Lennor’s basement dancing school was the way things were, the way the world worked, the way boys and girls were made.

Today of course, Mrs. Lennor would never exist nor ever be considered.  If there were ever such a thing as a dancing school, then boys and girls would each in turn race across the floor.  Boys and girls would equally numbered so that there could be no chance of one fat girl left alone, crying and disconsolate.  The state – or its private surrogates – would have intervened, engineered the occasion to be gender neutral, equal, and fair.

Even so, what is one to make of the provocative, sexy, alluring, come-hither images of young women on the covers of both female- and male-oriented magazines?  The sexy, off-the-shoulder, winking images of Hollywood, Istanbul, and Bollywood stars?  The advice columns so predictably traditional?  The stories of luscious, dominant, persuasive males and their willing, complaisant, happy and agreeable female partners?  Within the acceptable modern concept of the strong, independent female, the age-old story of romance, seduction, and wiles persists.  The Turkish dizi is not an exaggeration.  It is a playout of the everyday drama of sexual interest.

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Even the most talented, serious, and experienced actresses have chosen to be photographed in provocative poses.

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Which is why modern feminism has lost its way.  While rightly focusing on women’s civil and legal rights and economic opportunity, it has distorted the millennia-old equation of sexual dynamics.  While there may be a few outliers on the gender spectrum, most men and women fall under the bell curve, inevitably drawn to each other for better or for worse, attracted by the same sexual allure favored by the Greeks.  Even the most casual look at statues, frescoes, paintings, and drawings  of ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians, and Indians reveals the same sexual allure of women – jewelry, make up, elegant and inviting clothes – that exists today and has always existed.  The female form, nude, sublime, elegant, has been sculpted by artists for 5000 years.   The days of work-booted, flannel-shirted, unshaved women as statements of female empowerment in the 70s went the way of mullets and tie-dies.  Women went back to frills and décolleté  after this unnatural experimentation.

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Of course sexual dynamics have changed.  Men are more on their guard, women more alert to sexual improprieties, and society as a whole has moved away from the idea of male sexual empire.  But that having been said, little has changed since Athens and Rome.  The images of women today are no different than those on the frescoes of Pompeii or Alexandria; artists now as then appreciate the female body as unique, especially beautiful, and symbolic of grace and natural elegance.  Women still – and perhaps more than ever – dress to attract a mate.  Despite claims to the contrary – that  women’s dress is simply an expression of female uniqueness – women and men both know what the finery is all about.

And more power to beautiful women who add to a world increasingly monochrome and narrowly focused.  Thanks to women in finery, jewels, eyeliner, and sleek fashion.  Glory be to women at their unashamedly attractive, alluring, and seductive.

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Culture bespeaks volumes.  Men on an elevator in Rome  turn their eyes to a beautiful women entering the car.  Men on an American one lift their eyes to the ceiling, to the accreditation notice, to the lighted floor buttons.  It is not that Italian men are unreconstructed or unreformed; but that they have not lost an appreciation for sexual difference and sexual attraction.  American men have been instructed to tune out their instincts, their natural tendencies, and their sexual desires; and by such complaisance have devalued women, sex and sexual difference.

Of course male and female behavior is distributed over a continuum.  After decades of feminism modern women now acknowledge their more collaborative, communicative style; their particular ability to care and nurture; their acuity and perception and understanding subtlety and behavioral cues; their emotional sensitivity to violence and aggression? Is there any doubt, given the reams of publications on fashion, traditional female sexuality, that women have an alluring, sexy side that men don’t have; or that no matter how much mothers try, they simply cannot get their daughters to play with Army tanks and big trucks?

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While many women and men act very much alike; and while there are some exaggerated examples of sexuality on either end of the Bell Curve, men and women have never been and will never be the same and will always attracted each other thanks to that difference.

D.H.Lawrence, perhaps better than any writer, understood the primacy of heterosexual difference and the unique sexual union of man and woman.  There is no misogyny, patriarchy, or male dominance in Lawrence’s books.  Despite some antagonistic claims, Lawrence is the feminist writer, as interested in female character, desire, demands, and identity as any author.  He was concerned with mutual satisfaction, the ultimate consummation.  While he was aware that all couples must resolve issues of dominance and submission, he was never male-oriented.  Both men and women struggle to find their own, proper place on the scale of sexual dynamics.

If one were to believe the cant and presumption of critics and commentators, heterosexual dynamics is either passé or already dead and buried, replaced by a gender-neutral and neutralized code of conduct.  Of course, this discourse remains in academia and in the progressive enclaves of Boston and the East Coast.  Women still say ‘come hither’ and men follow them; and while the rules of the game have been altered somewhat, they do not affect the nature of the game or its outcome.

‘Come hither’ and ‘come with me’ are here to stay.

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