These days, having grown up after women’s rights became a thing, most people have a sexism alarm. Many will call each other out on sexist behaviour, if only in jest. Of course, sometimes there were problems with the alarm’s installation or it got broken somewhere along the way (I check mine every daylight savings, just to be safe). This leads to theories about life and the world that don’t quite match up to reality, and when you add beer and party mayhem, it all comes out.
The “rape is good for the human race” theory
Once, a guy I had seen “around” but never actually spoken to came up to me at a party and said he thought rape ought to be supported by evolution. I mean, I think he said hello first, but it was abrupt nonetheless.
His reasoning was this: he believed if men weren’t “prevented” from having sex by the pesky matter of requiring women’s consent, men would have a lot more sex, and therefore make more babies, some of whom would also grow up to be hideous rapists who would in turn make more babies and so pass on more genes. (Obviously this wasn’t what Darwin had in mind. At least the guy didn’t think women’s reproductive organs shut down if they were “legitimately raped”.)
I probably don’t need to explain why this conversation was awkward, but just in case: it’s generally not polite to approach a member of a group, particularly a disadvantaged group, and say that oppression and violent treatment of that group would be a good idea, you know, scientifically speaking.
At the time I didn’t feel threatened – I just pointed out that rape has a tendency to actually ruin people’s lives, and having a bunch of stressed out pregnant women running around (while the fathers are, presumably, off having more sex, because 1. That makes more babies and 2. Who wants to raise a child with someone who completely disregarded that you are, in fact, a person?) would most likely not be conducive to healthy, well-cared-for offspring. But in hindsight, it was a pretty threatening thing to say. He was kind of saying, “Hey! Wouldn’t it make more sense if I could just rape you?” Awkward. Also, border-line illegal.
The “sex is sex (if you’re a man)” theory
Another guy started bragging to a group of people, me included, about sleeping with a woman who he thought was unattractive. Bragging. As in “I had sex with one of those female things! An ugly one! Points for me!” Okay, those may not have been his exact words. But he did call her ugly and desperate.
“Isn’t it desperate to have sex with someone you aren’t attracted to?” I asked. He replied, and I am quoting him directly, “Not really. At least I had sex” (odd, since so did she). Not yet satisfied with the awkwardness level, I asked, “But why couldn’t you find someone you actually liked to have sex with?” Then I felt kind of bad because he sort of just shrugged, muttered something about how “sex is sex” (which is harder to argue with, since sex IS, undoubtedly, sex. That’s a watertight thesis right there), and then moved away.
It’s not just the double-standard thing that gets me; it’s also that it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, it sucks that, socially speaking, it’s more acceptable for men to have sex than for women. But the really strange part of his reasoning was that he was trying to derive status from having sex with someone who he thought wasn’t good enough for him. It’s illogical. The stereotype equivalent for a woman would be if she said “I got some guy to agree to date me exclusively. He doesn’t have any money or social standing and I don’t respect him at all, but hey, a relationship is a relationship. He’s another stitch in my apron.” Ridiculous.
The “all men are jerks” theory
Sometimes, when a bunch of women are in the same room, they start talking about what is wrong with the male population. I talked to one woman who truly believed that there is not one man who wouldn’t cheat on his partner if given the opportunity. That is, she believed the best you could get in the male loyalty department was a guy who wouldn’t actually go looking for an affair.
These conversations have always made me deeply uncomfortable, whether the topic is “all men cheat” or “all men are liars”. Besides defying statistical probability, these kind of statements ignore something important: women do these things, too.
Thinking that women are morally superior to men is sexist. It is also untrue. For instance, while plenty of studies have found men to be more likely than women to cheat on their partner, the rates have become more similar as women have become more independent, with jobs outside the home and money of their own. My point is not that women are deceitful, but that men and women are not so different. It follows that, just as there are women who wouldn’t cheat on their partner even if they were locked in a room for a week with a shirtless model billionaire who spoke seven languages and helped underprivileged children on weekends, there are also men who think that cheating is so wrong that they just wouldn’t do it.