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Nov 10 2005

Old Bats Feel Too Ugly To Get It On

As I am still down for the count and unable to bring you my usual calibre of patriarchy-denigrating fun, perhaps you will avail yourselves of this link from Darky Macintyre, who has found another all-important news item on a study done on women’s sexual desire. Apparently women of menopausal age who experience diminished hotsy-totsiness do so, not because of menopause itself, but because when they look in the mirror they see ugly worthless pieces of shit. "Nearly 21 percent of the women could not think of even one attractive feature and reported an overall sense of dissatisfaction with their bodies."

Thanks, patriarchy!

67 comments

  1. Anne

    The iron cage of beauty is too much for some people.

  2. David

    Several years ago I met a woman who was, and looked, significantly older than me–well over 50, and thin as a rail. Her eyes were the essence of sexuality and the perfect compliment to her long blond hair.

    About a month ago a friend was in a local hospital recovering from a traffic accident. I asked if there were any cute nurses and he said that there was one, but that she was “too old.” Too old? I nearly gave him a dope slap when he said she was 35.

  3. anonymous

    It’s a funny thing, but I actually feel much sexier and more beautiful since I became invisible (in other words, since I became too “old” and “fat” to be lusted after by the hoi polloi).

    I like my body much better now that no one feels a need to leer at it or make comments, both of which used to horribly embarrass me. Didn’t matter what I wore, either.

  4. yankee transplant

    Oh god, what a brilliant study (choke, choke)
    But more importantly, I’m sorry you feel like shit, Twisty. We’re out here rootin’ for ya’!

  5. martha

    While I have male friends, I have to say that very few experiences can be as powerfully anaphrodisiac for a middle-aged woman as overhearing the conversations of unknown males of almost any age, in which they (at a cafe table six inches from my cafe table, par example) evaluate the attractiveness of women they know. I’m pretty sure I’ll never fuck a man again. And it’s not that I feel ugly. I feel that they are assholes.

  6. sylvanite

    It never ceases to amaze me how neurotic some women are about their bodies. I’ve often noticed women obsessing about “flaws” that I’ve never even been concerned about personally (i.e. “My arms look fat in this dress.” How many people really notice this woman’s perfectly normal-looking upper arms, anyway, much less find them unattractive? I’m guessing none, but I digress). I guess I still manage to be amazed at, and appalled by, how thoroughly women internalize the messages they get that they are nothing but a piece of meat, and they’d better not have any physical “flaws” because then no man will ever want them, and they will be worthless.

  7. sylvanite

    And Martha comes in with examples of the meat-market evaluation. Yeesh. Do these men look into the women’s mouths to evaluate their age and health? Mooooo! Or maybe baaaaa! I gues this does answer the question of how some women manage to get totally neurotic about their looks.

  8. martha

    Teeth, whiteness of, seems to be a big obsession with everybody lately. But the conversations that really did me in were the ones (and I heard three uncannily similar versions before I stopped going to the b&d deli for breakfast on saturdays), where a fiftyish man was explaining at great length and with poorly concealed satisfaction to a [ick]supportive woman friend [/ick] that the woman he was actually dating was (a) “too needy,” (b) “wanted too much from the relationship,” (c) “would like it to be more, but he didn’t think he wanted it to be more.”

  9. Anthony Staines

    Hi,
    Two things – first keep well, and look after yourself first and foremost. I have some idea how you feel having had cancer five years ago.
    Second, keep up the writing. You’re informative, thought-provoking, clever, witty, literate, and entertaining. America needs you! The rest of us need you too.
    Thanks.

  10. Hattie

    Well, let’s go ahead and allow men decide how worthwhile we are. Sheez.

  11. CafeSiren

    What gets me is the unthinking way in which these studies pathologized waning sexual desire (for whatever reason).

    And if the shocking finding is that women don’t like their bodies, then I just have to sit, mouth agape, astounded that someone actually funded this study.

  12. CafeSiren

    And I have to make a small correction to Twisty’s original post:

    “Apparently women of menopausal age who experience diminished hotsy-totsiness do so, not because of menopause itself, but because when they look in the mirror they see ugly worthless pieces of shit.”

    Actually, what the study says (according to the article) is that 80% of ALL women from 35-55 look in the mirror and see ugly worthless pieces of shit.

    Much better, huh?

  13. Summer

    Hotsy-totsiness. Right up there with lady-likeness, cutie-pieness, and honey-bunchiness.

    I suppose it’s a good thing I never really felt all that hotsy-totsy, otherwise, the impending ugly-worthless-piece-of-shittiness of my not-too-terribly-far-off 33rd year might be too much to take.

    Damn. I hate the patriarchy more and more each day.

  14. TeenageCatgirl

    It’s probably because their paunchy, balding, red-faced husband actually has the audacity to expect his wife to look like Jenna Jameson or whoever else young enough to be his daughter he just bashed himself off over on the Adult Channel. The women used in that study were mostly straight, which I’m thinking had a lot to do with it.

  15. darkymac

    TEENAGECATGIRL, The women used in that study were mostly straight, which I’m thinking had a lot to do with it.

    You read it the same as I do.
    I welcome the thinking that made the survey takers even ask about whether the much-medicalised woman’s sexual response could be more to do with the Patriarchy telling woman she looks ugly when she gets older than with any flow of hormones – real or imagined.

    The whole HRT-to-make-your-vagina-moist-and-supple-again has always begged the question of what it is that woman is asking for when she reports loss of the list of things that HRT is supposed to fix.
    I’m betting that as more of the inefficacy of HRT for other than crippling menopausal symptoms shows up (the latest being a very clear increase of urinary incontinence with taking HRT), there will be alternative anti-aging snake-oil getting flogged or more women going down the mental illness or cunt-o-plasty tubes.
    The Patriarchy won’t let women off the sin of not being, as you all say, HOTTTT

  16. TeenageCatgirl

    Indeed. ‘Cunt-o-plasty’, that’s excellent!

  17. TeenageCatgirl

    Interestingly enough, I watched something on TV a while ago, which featured a female naturist getting a cunt-o-plasty, because her labia weren’t precisely even so she was obviously deformed. It struck me as ironic, a ‘naturist’ having surgery. (She also had fake tits, and they weren’t even either).

  18. acm

    set aside pathologization of low desire.
    set aside questions of whether all women have internalized loathing for their “flaws.”

    but, um, estrogen, anyone? I mean, anybody who has ever gone off (or stayed away from) the pill can tell you that (self-generated) desire is cyclic, so nobody should be surprised (or dismayed) if that changes when estrogen departs. there’s plenty of other stuff (mental foreplay!) left to do the job…

  19. holly

    “Several years ago I met a woman who was, and looked, significantly older than me–well over 50, and thin as a rail. Her eyes were the essence of sexuality and the perfect compliment to her long blond hair.

    About a month ago a friend was in a local hospital recovering from a traffic accident. I asked if there were any cute nurses and he said that there was one, but that she was “too old.” Too old? I nearly gave him a dope slap when he said she was 35.”

    You are the patriarchy, David.

  20. Hattie

    The estrogen thing, yes. I refused the “hormone invitation” myself and am I ever glad I did. I couldn’t believe the symptoms my friends were putting up with for the sake of maintaining supple gonads. But their husbands and boyfriends (and sometimes girlfriends) demanded moistness.
    Astroglide is pretty good.

  21. Mandos

    “You are the patriarchy, David.”

    This is interesting. I was actually waiting for someone to say that.

    Which brings us to an important point: most of this discussion seems to imply that it is inherently patriarchal and oppressive to discuss/evaluate sexual attractiveness based on looks. Does this imply a wish for a sexual order that is wholly non-visual?

  22. Hattie

    I would like a sexual order that is erotic. But fat chance of that in this country.

  23. Betsy

    David – For starters, the discussion was about women’s sexual desire in relation to their own self-image, not men’s evaluation of whether women are attractive. Your post seemed to confuse these issues, as you weighed in on a discussion about women’s sexual desire and self-image with a response about your and your friend’s reactions to a couple of women’s looks.

    Once again, deep breath: Women’s sexual desire (does not equal) men’s attraction to them.

  24. Mandos

    “I would like a sexual order that is erotic. But fat chance of that in this country.”

    “erotic” meaning…? I know the general meaning of the term “erotic” but do you have a specific definition?

  25. Hattie

    Ahh, if you have to ask…
    You make my point.
    Read Colette.

  26. AndiF

    First, Twisty I’m sorry you feel like shit and hope you feel like a taco very soon.

    Second, can someone explain to me why having a 55-year-old body that isn’t the pretty thing that in fact it never was would in any way keep me from enjoying fucking?

    Last time I checked — which was a short enough time ago that the brain cells haven’t died yet and I can still recall the details — all it took was some mutual lust and for his parts and my parts to still be functional.

  27. Rhus

    “most of this discussion seems to imply that it is inherently patriarchal and oppressive to discuss/evaluate sexual attractiveness based on looks”

    It might seem to imply that to you; I hadn’t thought of it. To me, sexual attractiveness has unashamedly a lot to do with looks. The point is, I don’t accept the current patriarchal definition of good looks; it is extremely narrow and imbecile. This is the mental frame in which I was following the conversation.

    But now that you raise the question: is my attitude patriarchal because I really enjoy looking at handsome people and I lust after a few of them? I don’t think so.

  28. Erin

    After reading this article, those of us who seek out patriarchal commentary probably want to just shout, “Well, duh!” at the top of our lungs. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that the rest of the world oftentimes needs scientific proof to make the obvious believable. Because the study was conducted by a women’s studies professor, I’m guessing the results were meant as a means to bust an urban myth rather than state the obvious. This study could have been done for any age group and have gotten the same results. I’m twenty-nine, and I know that I’m not immune to feeling less buh-chika-wah-wah after looking in the mirror sometimes.

  29. Sam

    While reading the new comments to this thread the Dar Williams song “As Cool As I Am” came on the radio and I thought how completely appropriate it was.

  30. Mandos

    Umm, what’s Colette? Namedrop, namedrop? Not all of us are English Lit majors, y’know.

  31. Mandos

    “The point is, I don’t accept the current patriarchal definition of good looks; it is extremely narrow and imbecile. This is the mental frame in which I was following the conversation.”

    How do you define what is an “appropriate” definition of good looks? I mean, the frame in which *I* was following the conversation was in terms of the general objections to objectification often expressed by feminists. Is there a definition of physical “good looks” that *doesn’t* create a classifications of sex objects vs. unworthies?

    “But now that you raise the question: is my attitude patriarchal because I really enjoy looking at handsome people and I lust after a few of them? I don’t think so.”

    However, in the rest of the discussion, I have seen people object, for instance, to the fact that there are men who talk about their lusts (and evaluations of women based on such lusts) to other men.

  32. Rhus

    If I wanted to define or impose an “appropriate” definition of good looks, I would be making the same mistake I blame the patriarchy for. Beauty is, or could be, much more varied and according to different individual tastes. Maybe I’m not helped by the fact that I like people and almost always find some nice, remarkable or interesting trait about them – that, by the way, seldom has to do with what Hollywood or ridiculous studies tell me I should like. There is a wonderful variety in people that is good to look at in itself. Yes, beauty is an artificial construct, and surely we could find some consensus in certain traits within our culture, even all over the world, but it seems to me this consensus ought to be much more open than “size X or you are a monster” or “age X and you are not worth looking at”, on the one hand; and on the other hand, we should be able to pick and choose from general accepted ideas according to our own tastes. But patriarchy everywhere tries to have a very narrow definition that sounds absolute and irrevocable in order to make people (women, mostly) suffer.

    “I have seen people object, for instance, to the fact that there are men who talk about their lusts (and evaluations of women based on such lusts) to other men.”

    I can’t speak for them, but I’d bet they were objecting to a demeaning objectification. There are very different ways to comment on people’s looks – you can be objective, passionate, cold, rude or patriarchal. Surely I don’t have to remark here that many men talk about women in a horrid, judgmental and entitled way.

    (Written in a hurry, but I have to go – sorry for the rambling.)

  33. Mandos

    But this just pushes the question back further. How do you know when it is YOUR own tastes…and not the patriarchy’s tastes (if concepts can have tastes)? Also, are you saying that we should avoid coming to social/cultural agreements on evaluations of taste? Can we really be that individual?

    How do you talk about other people’s looks without objectifying them (by which I believe we mean in this context, holding them up to scrutiny in ways they can’t control)?

  34. kathy a

    personally, i think the diminished whatzits has to do with personal factors such as Having an Overgrown 18 year-old Man-Child in the House, when he is clearly ready to move on, except for the money problem and wanting to eat and wanting to entertain friends At My House. i can’t speak for other women.

    and nose zits. i hate them. i’m almost to a distinguished age, waiting for the rest of my white curly hair to grow in, and i still get zits. go figure.

    meanwhile, twisty — hope things are better for you.

  35. martha

    mandos, mandos , mandos,
    (somebody’s got to say it, while twisty rests up) Yes, well, it’s quite simple, really.

    I overheard a man whom I considered moderately unattractive, visually speaking, discussing a person (with whom he was apparently in an intimate relationship) in a dismissive way that suggested he considered himself entitled to “do better” and also entitled to say so publicly. I considered this behavior unattractive, discourteous, indeed creepy. By the third time this happened (3 different middle-aged men, same overcrowded deli) it started to seem like a trend.

    The idea of being publicly evaluated and found wanting by such a presumptuous lout is to me deeply anaphrodisiac. And since each of these 3 men superficially appeared to be a Nice Guy having a catch-up breakfast with a woman friend, I will carefully consider all intimate prospects in the light of this possibility. So I don’t think I’ll be fucking anybody any time soon. Okay? Not sayin it’s right, not sayin it’s wrong, just sayin how it affects me.

    (It does occur to me that maybe this is a new courtship technique and that these weren’t friends at all, but prospective lovers, so the message would be date me and I might dump her–I don’t like her that much. If so, all I can say is blecch!)

  36. martha

    mandos, mandos , mandos,
    (somebody’s got to say it, while twisty rests up) Yes, well, it’s quite simple, really.

    I overheard a man whom I considered moderately unattractive, visually speaking, discussing a person (with whom he was apparently in an intimate relationship) in a dismissive way that suggested he considered himself entitled to “do better” and also entitled to say so publicly. I considered this behavior unattractive, discourteous, indeed creepy. By the third time this happened (3 different middle-aged men, same overcrowded deli) it started to seem like a trend.

    The idea of being publicly evaluated and found wanting by such a presumptuous lout is to me deeply anaphrodisiac. And since each of these 3 men superficially appeared to be a Nice Guy having a catch-up breakfast with a woman friend, I will carefully consider all intimate prospects in the light of this possibility. So I don’t think I’ll be fucking anybody any time soon. Okay? Not sayin it’s right, not sayin it’s wrong, just sayin how it affects me.

    (It does occur to me that maybe this is a new courtship technique and that these weren’t friends at all, but prospective lovers, so the message would be date me and I might dump her–I don’t like her that much. If so, all I can say is blecch!)

  37. martha

    mandos, mandos, mandos,

    (third time’s a charm)

  38. Mandos

    That’s nine invocations of my name. That means you win a prize!

  39. martha

    Do you feel strangely inclined to send me a jillion dollars?

  40. Ron Sullivan

    Oh hell, Martha, you beat me to the Mandos, Mandos, Mandos dose. Nevertheless, consider it repeated again again.

    What the fuck is with this “order” and “appropriate” and “definition” and “evaluate” horseshit? Pay attention, boy.

    There is no scale.
    There is no order.
    There are no standards.
    There is no contest to satisfy your whims.
    There is no template.
    There is no need to compare anyone with anyone for “attractiveness,” especially out loud, especially among yer buddies and acquaintances and the other people in the deli.
    There is no “order.”
    There is no way you can tell if your “judgment” is right or wrong.
    There is no set of numbers.
    There is no need to agree on who is “attractive,” unless you’re working on an all-mutual poly relationship.
    There is no parade.
    There is no blue ribbon for the fucker of the best livestock.
    There are no breeding standards.
    There is no Best of Show title for either you or your hoped-for fuckee.

    You can discuss till your nuts fall off about “attractiveness” if you’re discussing your own experience, but when you start “evaluating” anyone you’re being sucked into the Marching Morons of the Patriarchy, Cookiecutter Brigade, Panting-for-Approval-from-Imaginary-Daddy Division.

    And if you’re not close enough to sniff each other’s pheromones, I’ll bet a beer that you’re not talking about attraction to a person, you’re talking about Dressing for Suckcess.

  41. Mandos

    I will send you a jillion dollars as soon as we can agree on what a jillion is.

    But I’m glad that you realize, like Twisty, that my Name is a great Name indeed, and deserves many, many, many repetitions.

    “What the fuck is with this “order” and “appropriate” and “definition” and “evaluate” horseshit? Pay attention, boy.

    There is no scale.
    There is no order.
    There are no standards.
    There is no contest to satisfy your whims.
    There is no template.”

    Before you can say these things, you have to come up with a society which is so free that it never arrives at cultural standards, and that’s AFTER assuming that biology is negligeable (which may well be the case). I have not so far observed such a society, so these statements should be rephrased,

    “I wish there were no scale.
    I wish there were no order.
    I wish there were no standards.
    I wish there were no contest to satisfy your whims.
    I wish there were no template.”

    And so on. But I rather pessimistically note that societies do come to an agreement one way or another on standards for almost every characteristic, not just immediately sexual ones, and that there is almost always an outgroup and an ingroup, and that the only improvements I have ever witnessed is either in reassigning “groupness” or reducing the advantages of the outgroup. Can you think of a counterexample?

    None of this, anyway, was my point. My point was that some objectionable behaviours seem to emerge from objectification itself, but objectification appears to be, in one way or another, inescapable.

  42. Ron Sullivan

    Before you can say these things, you have to come up with a society which is so free that it never arrives at cultural standards

    Clearly not, as I have already said them. “Cultural standards” do not equal “attraction” — and that’s what I’m saying when I diss conventional “attractiveness.” Discern between “someone who attracts me” and “someone who looks like this year’s approved model.” Does somebody turn you on or is it marketing? Compare and contrast: Betty Grable and, oh, who’s supposed to be hot lately? Someone who’s been paying attention to that, please fill in the blank for me; I’m out of touch.

    (It would be overstating maybe a tad to say that in this house we have sex instead of watching TV, but neither J nor I manages to do much of that TV stuff, and, well, I hear some people have TVs in their bedrooms, which baffles me. One of the good things about being old farts is that we don’t have to Keep Up anymore. But, see, that’s what I’m talking about. Not image.)

    and that’s AFTER assuming that biology is negligeable (which may well be the case).

    That’s precisely what I’m not saying — I’m saying that biology is what’s important, and convention has very very little to do with biology, despite what pop renditions of dubious studies proclaim.

    I’m talking about actual sex, and actual — OK, figurative — magnetism between actual people, that often-surprising pheromone stuff, not fashion items and consumerism. The stuff that people want and do with each other and don’t make movies of.

    reassigning “groupness”

    — is pretty much what you’re tallking about here, not having the hots for someone, except as a function similar to drooling over a Hummer rather than a vintage Mustang. (Of course, any sane person would drool over 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, but I run the risk of getting all literary here.)

    objectionable behaviours seem to emerge from objectification itself

    Now you’re getting it.

    but objectification appears to be, in one way or another, inescapable.

    So’s disease, but that doesn’t warrant approval. Or even resignation.

  43. darkymac

    Mandos once, But I rather pessimistically note that societies do come to an agreement one way or another on standards for almost every characteristic, not just immediately sexual ones

    do come to an agreement one way or another

    In The Patriarchy it is an agreement between the objectifiers n’est-ce pas?
    And therefore, in the spirit of Twisty, Ron is ‘cough’ firmly rejecting that decision, not wishing it were not the case.

    poignée de main cordiale et forte

  44. Mandos

    Clearly not, as I have already said them. “Cultural standards” do not equal “attraction” — and that’s what I’m saying when I diss conventional “attractiveness.” Discern between “someone who attracts me” and “someone who looks like this year’s approved model.” Does somebody turn you on or is it marketing? Compare and contrast: Betty Grable and, oh, who’s supposed to be hot lately?

    I don’t really know who’s supposed to be hot lately *shrug*. I detect a false opposition here, which reappears more explicitly here:

    That’s precisely what I’m not saying — I’m saying that biology is what’s important, and convention has very very little to do with biology, despite what pop renditions of dubious studies proclaim.

    Far be it from me to deny biology. But the thing is, it’s highly likely that biology is primarily involved in structuring the acquisition of standards, rather than containing the specific standards themselves. And the acquisiton may be highly structured. This is the case with language, for instance, the canonical and most obvious case.

    But it’s a false dichotomy to say that there is a “cultural attractiveness” which you want to strip down to a “biological attractiveness” not because there is no biology (far from it) but because the existence of “cultural attractiveness” is actually a biological character, EVEN IF IT IS CULTURAL AND ACQUIRED.

    Which means, in essence, that not only is convention not easily separable from biology, but you haven’t even managed to wave away the problem of cultural standards! You have cultural standards because humans have a capacity for culture.

    Now you’re getting it.

    I’m not getting anything. It’s something I never denied. My problem has always been how to avoid the negative effects of it.

    So’s disease, but that doesn’t warrant approval. Or even resignation.

    Disease is not logically and immediately implied by the existence of human beings—it is contingent on a much larger chain of causality. The analogy here doesn’t work. If objectification follows immediately from human perception, then you don’t even have the opportunity to approve or resign yourself to it.

    It just is.

  45. Mandos

    In The Patriarchy it is an agreement between the objectifiers n’est-ce pas?
    And therefore, in the spirit of Twisty, Ron is ‘cough’ firmly rejecting that decision, not wishing it were not the case.

    C’est vrai, mais the question is whether the objectifiers were objectifiers prior to making the agreement, or they are objectifiers BECAUSE they made this agreement, and, more importantly, whether you can avoid making this agreement or whether it simply follows from the existence of society.

    poignée de main cordiale et forte

    Un style interessant.

    But the thing is, it’s highly likely that biology is primarily involved in structuring the acquisition of standards, rather than containing the specific standards themselves.I’d like to make this claim stronger, from “highly likely” to “true”, really. It’s a conclusion one can arrive at with just a little introspection.

  46. darkymac

    Mandos
    the question is whether the objectifiers were objectifiers prior to making the agreement, or they are objectifiers BECAUSE they made this agreement, and, more importantly, whether you can avoid making this agreement or whether it simply follows from the existence of society.

    Accept my apologies for not being as precise with my previous post as I should have been.

    I can see that you’d like that to be the question, mais pour le sujet getting treated here, your contribution consists of saying that objectification is biologically ordained, you think that there will be objectification no matter in what sort of society, and that – and here I’d better quote you properly before I paraphrase – and that there is almost always an outgroup and an ingroup, and that the only improvements I have ever witnessed is either in reassigning “groupness” or reducing the advantages of the outgroup. it’s no use trying to change which group gets objectified because some group will always be the objectified and hence be the losers.

    This is no enlightenment in a blog that is precisely saying that the objectified don’t want it that way any more. Twisty took down the best way of putting this – the “Fuck the Patriarchy” banner. I am sad about this but Twisty knows best.

    I doubt that you want it the Patriarchy’s way either and welcome your great efforts at finding a way through the desert of patriarchal influence. One day brother there could be a new way.

    Here is a most cordial handshake.

  47. suezboo

    Speaking as an actual breathing, post-menopausal crone, I should say my libido has faded almost completely because a) I’m old, ferchrissake, I’m too damn tired to do all that hopping about. b)Ever heard of post-menopause depression? Libido-killer, trust me. c)Arthritis kinda puts a crimp in your Kama Sutra possibilities.d) My hormones are fading on me now there’s no possibility of procreating (that’s biology for ya).These are probably common to a lot of us old farts, but personally, I’m also so tired of men in general. The thought of living with one again curdles my nurdles.I’ve had my knocks from the Patriarchy and I’ve decided to leave them to it. I can’t beat them (lord knows I’ve tried)so I wont join them.

    Secondly, only 22% dissatisfied with their bodies? I thought the percentage of any random sample of women over 14 would be much, much higher.Considering the standards of attractivenes we’re all set.

  48. mythago

    These women need to be given copies of “The Hobag Manifesto”.

  49. Hattie

    Colette: Early 20th Century French novelist.
    To quote Julia Kristeva, ‘writing itself appears as a substitute for erotic pleasure and the text as a fetish.’ That’s Colette. If you aren’t getting any, read some Colette. If you are getting some, read Colette and improve what you’re getting!
    To her, everything is erotic: food, gardens, shops, everything. Give her a try.

  50. Rene

    It’s interesting to me that Hattie is touting Colette as an antidote to patriarchy-induced erotic anxieties. I love Colette both as a great prose stylist and as a certifiable fucking loon, but her feminism, if you can call it that, was extremely complicated. Colette, perhaps even more than other great female artists of her time, was exquisitely susceptible to cultural (i.e., patriarchal) standards of beauty. An eager disciple of the nascent cosmetic surgery movement, she underwent several horrific and risky surgical procedures (we’re talking fucking wax injections, people!). She also received blood transfusions from (no lie) actual female virgins — this was supposed to bring back her youthful vigor and allure. According to Judith Thurman’s excellent biography, Secrets of the Flesh (which I highly recommend, btw), Colette’s central relationship was with her mother — an alternately nurturing and destructive relationship that might be at least partially responsible for the profoundly sad and fucked-up relationship that Colette ended up having with her own daughter, who turned out to be a butch lesbian, to Colette’s great disappointment (although Colette herself had female lovers, she liked women to look pretty in the conventionally understood feminine sense). I’m not saying that Colette was some kind of protoCoulter or anything, and there is certainly much to admire in her work and example, but she isn’t exactly a poster girl for erotic enlightenment either.

    Rene

  51. Mandos

    I just have to say that I like that term “protocoulter”. It reminds me of 80s anime.

  52. The Fat Lady Sings

    After having been married these last 20 years, I think I can safely say there’s only one reason (gay notwithstanding) a woman, menopausal or otherwise wouldn’t want to have sex with a man. Who in their right mind wants to fuck a five year old?

  53. David

    The point is that one’s age is not as important as the more sexist patriarchy would have us believe.

    Misogynists are not welcome on my blog. At the early age of 19 I was hit by the realization that intelligence and respect are required for a mature relationship.

    David

  54. Hattie

    Interesting stuff about Colette, Rene. I hadn’t looked at biographical stuff about her. She was a victim of the patriarchy, too,like all the women these days who are mutilating themselves for the sake of “beauty.” But why the reference to her “butch lesbian” daughter?
    Isn’t that a rather hostile label to pin on a fellow woman, so to speak? Are you implying that she was a bad mother and that that’s why her daughter turned out to be a “butch lesbian?”

  55. butch

    “Butch” isn’t an insult, Hattie. Unless you think it is. It’s a term of self-identification.

  56. Hattie

    Labels like “butch” are preludes to women being beat up and worse. If a person chooses to describe herself that way, of course it’s her business, but for anyone else to label her that is just wrong.

  57. Mandos

    I’m given to understand that there’s an entire and very large subculture of lesbian women who call themselves “butch”.

  58. Sue

    I feel a need to defend David. While his initial comment might be construed as the Voice of the Patriarchy, I didn’t read it that way. The study seemed to show that women have internalized the patriarchy’s attitude towards “old bats.” And David merely pointed out that his own dudely feelings are not in alignment with that attitude. I do not think that David was saying, “See, I think older women are hot, so it’s okay for you to be older! I, as a man, give you that permission!” I just think he was offering his personal point of view.

    I’ve done something similar in discussions, when unenlightened dudes have alleged that because they are poor, they are thereby unattractive to women. Perhaps it would be better in such instances to launch into a take-down of the whole patriarchal system that sets up these ridiculous expectations, but sometimes I’ve just said, “Well, I’m a woman, and I don’t care if a man has money or not.”

    Of course, this is an advanced patriarchy-blaming blog, so I’m probably being way too mush-headed here. Twisty, I hope you are feeling better today.

  59. Rene

    Hattie writes: “But why the reference to her ‘butch lesbian’ daughter? Isn’t that a rather hostile label to pin on a fellow woman, so to speak? Are you implying that she was a bad mother and that that’s why her daughter turned out to be a ‘butch lesbian?’”

    I wasn’t aware that “butch lesbian” was necessarily a pejorative. I’ve heard lesbians identify themselves this way, and I had no idea that it would be construed as hostile. I certainly meant no hostility toward Colette’s daughter, who, if you ask me, comes off as a very pitiable character in the Thurman bio. I pitied her because her mother was cruel and strangely indifferent toward her, not because Colette Jr. turned out to be a **big ol’ bulldagger** (**WARNING: Irony Alert — see “Old Bats”). My point was that Colette seemed to judge her daughter harshly because she didn’t conform to Colette’s ideal of feminine pulchritude, which should not be confused with my own.

    Rene

  60. Hattie

    Well, hmm OK, it’s just I don’t think I personally could refer to a fellow woman that way, although she might refer to herself that way without prejudice.

  61. emjay

    “Butch” is not an insult, at least not in any lesbian community in which I have been a part in the last 12 years. It is a descriptor of gender, no more or less offensive than the terms “male” and “female” (with different meaning, of course). I appreciate the care taken not to offend, but butch is not a problematic word. It would be much more problematic to come up with the verbal gymnastics required to avoid what is not offensive in the first place. A lesbian who has a problem with the term is probably either a) suffering from internalized homophobia or b) part of the subgroup of radical feminists who insist that women simply be women, unmodified.

  62. antelope

    As a teenage gal, I was usually attracted to guys that didn’t fit patriarchal standards of handsomeness, and therefore had a world of charming geeks more or less to myself.

    As a woman, I seem to have come down with a really powerful attraction to men that are handsome. This is a huge bummer b/c other women are chasing them too, and b/c that whole stereotype about getting to pass on certain social skills if you’ve got the looks is often very true.

    I often think that men who can only go for HOTTT CHIX must not like women very much, and what really matters to them is making the homo-social statement that they rate a hottie. BUT, I think that I’m hardly alone in being a woman who has a similar problem. I don’t need them to have money, success, etc., but I do need them to be good-looking.

    Fortunately, I also need them to be articulate, and most of them aren’t, so I get fairly long breaks between my sessions of trying to decide whether the crap some good-looking guy is dishing out is actually worth it.

    Any suggestions on how I could revive my fondness for geeks would be much appreciated.

  63. David

    I stand corrected. The intent was to speak in defense of women. We are all victims of advertising.

  64. Donna

    Antelope, I have the same problem. My current b/f is gorgeous. He’s nice and well-behaved as well. Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand or share my burning drive to forge my intellect (a process that is greatly enhanced by visits to excellent blogs like this one!). He’s perfectly content to go to the gym, watch TV, and drink a few beers with his buddies. And I’m perfectly content with this so long as he maintains his appearance and the sex is good.

    The only problem I anticipate happening is his eventual realization that I’m a lot smarter than he is. Thus far, it doesn’t appear to have occured to him. Probably due to his having the dual advantage of being male AND attractive, I don’t get the sense that he’s ever had to exert much effort in the area of getting to know other people, women in particular. I think he’s used to people automatically being interested in him. And again, this is fine with me as I don’t require it from my mates, or anyone else. I fascinate myself. And despite my delight in his physicality, I’m somewhat detached and aloof toward him in general, which seems to intrigue and bewilder him. But eh, who cares?

    Is this my ideal relationship, the one I pinned my hopes on as a dreamy eyed little girl? No, but I too did the geek route for years and it wasn’t any better.

    Every relationship I’ve ever been has required me to coddle some dude’s ego by constantly reassuring him that he was HAWTT, had a huge cock, and was awesome in bed. Most never felt obliged to reciprocate by reassuring me of my desirability. Or barring that, by at least prying their eyes off the perky titted waitress for a SECOND to tell me I looked nice. It was usually “What? I’m WITH you, aren’t I?” Because I was supposed to be satisfied that he had deigned to bestow his Wondrous Presence upon my life.

    So fuck it. If I gotta put up with that, it’s gonna be for a hot piece of ass. I’m the one who’s entitled now.

  65. Twisty

    Every relationship I’ve ever been has required me to coddle some dude’s ego by constantly reassuring him that he was HAWTT, had a huge cock, and was awesome in bed. Most never felt obliged to reciprocate by reassuring me of my desirability. Or barring that, by at least prying their eyes off the perky titted waitress for a SECOND to tell me I looked nice. It was usually “What? I’m WITH you, aren’t I?” Because I was supposed to be satisfied that he had deigned to bestow his Wondrous Presence upon my life.

    So fuck it. If I gotta put up with that, it’s gonna be for a hot piece of ass. I’m the one who’s entitled now.

    Well, now, this is just sad.

  66. silvana

    this is just sad.

    She’s totally right, though. Damn, so fucking right. Well-put.

    Except for the hot piece of ass bit. But seriously.

  67. Donna

    Well, now, this is just sad

    True. But I’m still having great sex with a hot guy right now. Could be worse, ya know?

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