Friday, February 29, 2008

More from The Times

A piece on female competition and jealousy.

I don't claim to understand it, as I am not a woman, but I think it is a bit of a problem. However, the author cites a work investigating it and proposing a solution:
Professor Shere Hite – the woman who helped to fuel the 1970s sexual revolution by suggesting that women reach orgasm more reliably through masturbation than sex – sigh knowingly. Her latest book, The Hite Report on Women Loving Women, is a treatise on female friendship and why it breaks down. Hite says that there is an underlying tension in relationships between girls that makes us compete with each other rather than get along. She thinks that if we could only overcome it, we would be all set for a new kind of 21st-century female power, one that relies not on trying to be sexier than one another, but on helping each other out.

On the face of it, she’s spot-on. We do give other girls an unnecessarily hard time.

Most people need a home, a family and emotional stability. “It’s a lot of fun to be with a best friend,” she says, “but as adults, we are not permitted to be with other women, unless we are gay. It doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to start a business together, to buy a house together, to bring up kids together.”

It’s easier to live with boys, surely. We probably behave better around men. Fellas are, after all, physiologically better disposed to absorb our daily ups and downs. Or is it that we know we can only push it so far with them, before they lose patience? (“Yes,” says Hite sagely. “The male still has a power advantage. The woman defers to him in a way she does not to another woman.”) Whatever the reason, somehow it seems less likely that the whole set-up will dissolve in a puddle of jealousy, ganging up and stealing key wardrobe items. For Hite, this is the problem: fundamentally, we don’t trust each other enough to put our friends’ interests first. If we could only learn to consider one another as kin, not competitors. If only we would interpret a mate’s new leopardprint catsuit, or a casually undermining comment in front of the boss, not as threats, but for what they really are: a bid to impress each other.

I always have issue with the whole sex thing does not matter. In my first attempt at college, 12 years ago, one of my dorm-mates, a evangelical Christian, said:
"Sex doesn't matter for marriage. You just have to be willing to commit to each other."

I immediately asked him, "We get along fine. I would live in the same house as you. Would you marry me?" The look on his face was utter shock.

At its best, the intimacy created through sex increases the intimacy in the relationship. This is what we are all looking for in a partner, and luckily I have found with my wife. The idea that wo friends, even two best friends, can have the same level of intimacy as two lovers is just not the case.

This idea that women, or even men, who are friends can live build a life together based on affection, but no sex is just silly. Human beings just aren't that way. In general, we cannot socially reconstruct relationships in that way. I don't know whether the inter-female competition element can be reconstructed because I have no experience with those types of relationships, but I am pretty confident that it would be more possible than reconstructing the entire nature of friendship into platonic life partnerships.

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