My community continues to be engulfed in a prostitution scandal and the Internet is raging with comments from people around the country. As a married woman living in Kennebunk, I feel obligated to speak out against the latest veiled attack on women's sexuality: "all men pay for sex." This kind of comment has been posted over and over again in response to the many stories about the contested release of the so-called client list. Yet again we see an attempt to minimize the actions of some men while demoralizing women and insulting the larger community of men.
Let's see the commonplace nature of these comments for what they are: an attack on women's sexuality. There are several myths lurking behind these comments, all of which degrade both women and men.
Myth 1: Married men pay for sex by financially supporting their wives. Good marriages or partnerships are multidimensional and mutually beneficial. These days many married women work, some even financially support their husbands. In those instances where men are the primary earners it is because women have taken on other equally important roles, such as home and childcare. What is not a myth is that women earn 20 percent less to the man's dollar and women are more likely to put career on hold to care for their husbands and children, often per the wishes of their husbands. A worthwhile topic for public discussion might be the continued gendered nature of many heterosexual relationships and the financial dependency this creates for women.
Myth 2: Single men pay for sex by picking up the tab dating. Men and women date for many reasons, including companionship, not just sex. Many heterosexual couples share dating and travel expenses and in instances where gender imbalance persists we must again look to larger issues of gender inequality.
Myth 3: Women don't want to have sex with men. I think this is the biggest and most damaging myth of all. When we say that all man pay for sex we are implying that they have to because women don't actually want to do it with them. This is far from true but is the very kind of thinking that sends some married men to prostitutes in the first place. There are two larger issues here. 1) The virgin-whore dichotomy that still shapes how many view themselves and others. In good marriages men see their wives as their sexual partners, and vice versa. The false segregation of women's minds and bodies does not foster strong, healthy relationships. 2) Women's sexuality is different than men's, no doubt. Women are significantly more vulnerable, physically, during sexual intercourse. "Real" men who have a female partner take the time to get to know how her sexuality operates just as she gets to know his. When people work for great sex lives within their relationships instead of outside of them there will be less prostitution and less women faking orgasms.
Myth 4: All men want objectified sex. Just because some men, including some married men, engage prostitutes in what can only be considered objectified acts (as indicated by a list of "acts" with prices), it doesn't mean that many men aren't interested in better sex. As anyone in a good relationship knows, sex can be both intimate and hot. These are not mutually exclusive categories. People need to break free from stale script and be playful with one another -- this kind of behavior helps ensure both women and men are getting what they want sexually. Typically women do want to have sex with their partners, but only if it is good sex.