When I posted this photo on Flickr, along with a bunch of other pictures Eliyanna took at my event at Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill back in June, it got a few comments from folks who follow my photostream, the first of which was “ok. first thought to cross my mind: dirty old men. :D”
This bummed me out and made me a little bit angry.
While it’s true that I wrote a book about women and it’s true that I’ve been involved in the sex industry, which many would say is a breeding-ground for man-haters, I am not actually a man-hater, and I try not to assume that any man interested in my work is creepy (though sometimes they are, or at least they just don’t know how to approach sexy subjects in a context where their penises aren’t going to be touched).
Why are men automatically assumed to be creepy just for showing interest in sex, while women have the option of being treated as slutty (in the negative sense) or empowered? It seems that, in the general mindset, there’s nothing empowering about men being interested in sex, nothing healthy or good. Instead, male interest in sex must be rife with ill-intentions, and probably some sort testosterone-fueled violence.
I know this is reading into these comments in a really heavy way, but I watch the expressions of women when men walk into a room at my events, and its interesting. Certainly, not all (or even many) men behave well and respectfully in sexually tinged spaces; many times I’m puzzled by what exactly some men expect to happen at a talk about sex worker art, et cetera. But on the other hand, a lot of the women don’t give the guys a chance to prove that they aren’t slimy.
Getting back to the picture above – the guys at this event were exceptionally nice, respectful, smart and interested in my work. Most of the men who’ve come to my book events have been, and many have said that they’re really fascinated to hear perspectives from “the other side” of the Internet equation(s), and have conversations on a meta level that aren’t often possible from inside the beast. They had good questions – and the guy who was clearly a would-be john who asked questions (and I won’t point him out in this photo) about where to connect with women had a lot of concern about finding women who were actually keeping all their money and wanted to be doing the job they were doing (he is not the exception to the rule, either). A guy who is interested in sex – whether actively pursuing it, fantasizing, or researching it – is not automatically creepy, and I really wish people would stop treating desire and curiosity as a gross or offensive thing.