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November 22, 2005


The Gonzman

I remember when my daughter came home a few years ago after a school dance. She had left after spending two hours dressing - to "knock the socks off" a boy she wanted to notice her.

She came back fuming because apparently three other boys had noticed her, and she didn't want them to notice her, one being a class "geek" that she found too nerdy, and found his attention "gross."

So I asked her, "T, did you dress to be noticed?"

She replied, "Yeah, but.."

To which I said, "No buts. You got it. So, what again are you complaining about? Would that be that these boys didn't read your mind?"


Fair enough, Gonz. This is partly what I intended here:

"We can validate the fact that it feels good sometimes to be the object of another's desire, even as we ask our girls to begin to take responsibility for how their clothing decisions make everyone else around them feel."

I might not have chosen your language, but there's nothing wrong with emphasizing the need for a clear message.

The Happy Feminist

I think that's an important distinction I would convey to my children (if I had any). You can't have a double standard for nerds versus non-nerds. Offensive conduct is offensive conduct whether it comes from a nerd or a handsome guy. And you can't be offended by conduct just because it comes from a nerd (although you can politely decline the polite attentions of a nerd since you are under no obligation to date someone just because he asks you).


Thank you for the post, Hugo, as well as the links to your previous posts. I am fairly recently acquainted with your blog and haven't delved into your apparently prolific archives. Believe me I am working to remedy that.


Interestingly enough, I was pondering the subject of girls and women and the reality of sexual desire that, as you point out, our society would prefer to call by any other name.

And, unsurprisingly, you did a better job with the topic than I ever could have. Thank you.

(Hey, I like your long posts! I like to see an idea completely developed.)


Keep 'em long, Hugo!


This post actually puts me in mind of something that's been turning over in my head for the past week.

I'm sure some other readers have seen the news snippet about Heidi Fleiss' plan to open a male prostitution commune (or something to that effect) to service women. Setting aside the whole prostitution/morality issue, several times I have seen men respond with "No woman will ever use that kind of service." It really bothers me because of the implicit denial of women's sexual desire. I hate this assumption that men will take it any way they can get it but women are constantly gatekeeping and will only "give it up" in return for intimacy and a date on Valentine's Day.

Tracy M

Bravo! I am going to save these two posts for when my boys are older- what good, sane advice and perspective. Thanks


several times I have seen men respond with "No woman will ever use that kind of service." It really bothers me because of the implicit denial of women's sexual desire.

I don't know. Given that men interested in sex without intimacy need, if straight, to find women as partners, you only need a moderately higher number of women than men holding out for intimacy and a date on Valentine's Day for casual sex friendly women not to have much difficulty getting laid. And to be less willing to pay for it.

On the other hand, men who say no women will use the service may be forgetting all the women they don't find all that attractive, as well as ignoring the possibility that some women might pay for skill.

Myself, I'm more bothered by the way people forget that even those women who do want that date on Valentine's Day along with the sex still care about the sex. Just because more intimate sex is the kind you want doesn't mean you're indifferent to sex and just trading it for love.


Oops, that last comment should have been me, not Joel.


Rats! No matter how many times I type in my name in the comment fields, it still wants to make me Joel. It will probably still sign me as Joel, but this is really Lynn Gazis-Sax.


A girl who confesses to looking and lusting still risks being labeled as a slut by her peers.

Yes. It's OK to be "boy crazy", as long as a girl's interest in boys stops at sex. I wonder if this isn't a fear of girls having any sexual power.


I sent this post on to my teenage daughter. She is someone who is pretty comfortable being a subject of desire. She has no problem saying "That guy is hot!" and sometimes I find it fun to agree! But I have been worried - kind of vaguely - not so much about what people will think of her but honestly, whether she has picked up the traditionally male attitude that people are sexual objects. AND...that she isn't old enough / mature enough to handle the consequences of her desire should it be played out to the fullest. While I think of myself as a pretty open mom, I know she's not comfortable talking to me about her own sexual feelings or concerns, so I've been more apt to give her books and pamphlets. I'm inspired by Hugo's posts because it encourages me to think a little deeper about my vague feelings, articulate them and make some decisions about how I want them to be implemented. This one has made me ask myself why I think the things my daughter wears are inappropriate or not. It hasn't been a huge issue because she consciously dresses somewhat conservatively because she doesn't want to be thought of as a "slut" by her friends. Sigh.


OK, this is entirely a nitpick, but I don't think "subjects of desire" is right for what you are getting at, Hugo. Having your own desires doesn't make you a subject of desire. (Maybe I'm getting my english confused.)

As for the core message of this post, I have nothing bad to say about it. I do think that we need to find a way to protect women's ability to freely express their own desire and not have it be turned into a weapon against them.

I knew a girl years ago who I ended up as something of a mentor to. I once explained to her that one day she was going to have to reconcile her highly sexual nature (definitely a high-libido girl) with the fear of her own sexuality that had been so ingrained in her. I like to think she's made progress there. (I moved away so we aren't in nearly the same kind of touch anymore.)


LC, I assure you that in the world of gender studies, that is exactly what "subjects of desire" means. It means to assume an active role as an agent, not a passive role as an object.


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