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Can Men Learn to Let Women Initiate Sex? A Surprising Answer From 1962

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doris day 120411A few weeks ago, there was a lot of talk on the internet about whether or not women could pursue sex. Ann Friedman explores the difficulty single women face in terms of initiating sex in her article for The Cut, “When Women Pursue Sex, Even Men Don’t Get It“:

“Women want sex, and in particular, they want sex with people who really want them. But socially, many straight men still find it a turnoff when women are sexual aggressors. Which means that, for women, aggressively pursuing the thing they want actually leads to them not getting it. I suspect this is the source of much sexual dissatisfaction of the modern single lady, who’s so horny she’s running across the street to Walgreens to buy more batteries twice a week, but is unable to pick up men despite social conventions that men are “easy” to bed and women have to be coaxed into casual sex.”

But Friedman concludes her essay on a hopeful note: once we can all agree that pleasure is a major motivation to pursue sex, women will start to feel more empowered with initiating, and men more comfortable with the idea of women taking on the role of sexual instigator: it’s just a matter of re-learning (or, overwriting) traditional gender roles.

Easier said than done, argues Hugo Schwyzer, in his piece for The Atlantic: “Turns Out, Women Have Really Strong Sex Drives. Can Men Handle It?“, especially given that men have proved to be….slow…in adapting to revised gender roles, or threats to traditional masculinity.

“…women’s desires are fully equal to men’s—and equally confined by men’s maddening unwillingness to abandon the useless sexual scripts they themselves have written.”

Well, fuck.

Women want sex, are happy to initiate. Men want sex, are afraid of ridicule, emasculation, and change. Sexually, it seems as though we are at an impasse.

In light of all this discussion, it was to some surprise (and relief) to see that even in the middle of the last century, this was a topic of conversation. Brainpickings found a silly book from 1962 called “The Seducer’s Cookbook,” which offers advice on how to cook with the aim of seduction. Amidst the recipes and funny cartoon illustrations, the book has an interesting take on the (apparently evergreen!) issue of just who seduces whom:

The whole thing becomes a kind of round robin, and if it is hard to tell the seducer from the seduced (everyone wants to be both), it is important for all of us to be on our toes, to develop our seductive proficiencies so we can play our roles properly should the need arise.

Well, it’s been 51 years, and the need has definitely arisen. It’s time for all of us — men and women — to “develop our seductive proficiencies so we can play our roles properly.” And as for what exactly our “roles” are, well, that’s flexible. Sometimes we’ll be the sexual instigator and sometimes we’ll be pursued.

The times, they are a’slowly, painfully, awkwardly, changing, and it’s important for us all to be on our toes.

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