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We’re not that submissive, Stephen Fry

Oh, Stephen Fry. Just because everybody loves you, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to think before you speak. In fact, I’d suggest that being so revered by so many people means he should be especially careful. In particular, when he’s suggesting that women don’t actually enjoy sex; they just put up with it “because sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship.”

Just as a disclaimer of sorts: I’m not criticising Stephen Fry, the person. I’m sure he had no idea he was being offensive; it doesn’t feel like that was his intention at all.  And, now that he’s threatening to quit Twitter over the whole mess, it’s pretty clear that he had no idea his comments would be taken so seriously, or that they even had the potential to be so problematic. I honestly believe he thought he was just being funny, and, if anything, making a little light-hearted jab at straight men. But regardless of his intentions, his comments have some pretty damaging implications.

First of all, it’s obviously always a little problematic to state what ‘women’ (as in, all women) want. I’d suggest it gets a little more problematic for a man to presume to know what women want, and perhaps even more so for a homosexual man. Maybe he’s never seen an episode of Sex and the City, or read an issue of Cosmo. Or, you know, actually talked to a woman about what she wants from sex. Saying that women don’t like sex is just so ridiculous that it’s almost not even worth discussing.

Yes, it’s true that women have less testosterone surging through our bodies, so as a biological fact, we do tend not to be as fixated on sex as men are. There are different statistics about how often men and women think about sex. One study suggests that 54% of men think about sex every day, or several times a day, while only 19% of women do- though I’d suggest the figures for both genders are in reality much higher.

But whether or not women enjoy sex kind of isn’t the real issue here. The more damaging idea is the suggestion that we just go along with sex and put up with it so that men will love us.

This either suggests that we’re so submissive we’ll allow men to use our bodies however they like, so long as they buy us flowers and take us out to dinner once in a while. Or, it suggests that we’re so manipulative that we’ll sacrifice our bodies in order to get to our ‘real’ goal, which is, presumably, a ring on our finger.

In any case, it suggests that the female body is being willingly offered up on a platter purely for male enjoyment. And that’s not okay.

There are hundreds of potentially damaging outcomes of this sort of attitude if men were to adopt it. If men are to believe that women are just putting up with sex anyway, then why should he bother to even try to make it enjoyable for her? And if he starts to believe that sex-for-love is the accepted trade-off, then sex becomes his ‘right’, rather than something both people choose to do. This is the real issue here: the idea that it’s somehow our ‘duty’ to give up our bodies, whether we want to or not.

Now if only Stephen Fry had thought this all through before he opened his mouth…

2 thoughts on “We’re not that submissive, Stephen Fry

  1. Interesting article, Rebecca.
    I think the whole thing re Stephen Fry has been blown waaay out of proportion. Since when have comedians been known for their tactful evaluations of gender sterotypes &/or misconceptions?
    Yes, on the face of it, what he said was totally inappropriate but… I think it’s good he said it; in jest or otherwise. At least now there is a platform for disussion.

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