Sexism is bad for everyone.
Why? Because everyone has a sex, and the stereotypes accepted and perpetuated apply to men and women, with negative repercussions for all.
The rampant and offensive results of sexism for women are amply documented and discussed elsewhere (feministing, feministe, F-word, et al.); at the moment, I have been thinking about the subtler and less seemingly ‘negative’ aspects of the stereotypes at the root of sexism, and how it affects (hetero, though it probably holds true in the LGBT communities, too) romantic and sexual interactions.
Although the ongoing sexual revolution has promoted the sexual freedom of women, in accessing and expressing their desires, gaining access to contraception, and the increasing (though ever-fraught, as with the current debate over hook-up culture) acceptance of these liberties, stereotypes about sexual desires and roles remain present and damaging, even among those enlightened pro-sex, pro-choice, pro-contraception types who should know better.
For example, this terribly offensive video is meant to encourage women to use contraception – not because they and their sexual partner might not be ready for children or due to the risk of STDs, but because, apparently, the men by whom they might be impregnated are coarse, misogynistic, immature, insensitive, and generally obnoxious cads.
To portray men this way is insulting. It also suggests that women making the decision to have sex with men are gullible and completely ignorant of their character.
It falls into the logical nullity of the most basic form of sexist thinking – men are walking penises with no thought other than sexual gratification (and swift escape), and women are commitment-craving baby machines.
Diluted, this manner of thinking can make its way into even the most sensible and respectful of relationships. Women, embracing their sexuality within a social milieu that suddenly celebrates it (Cosmo, Sex and the City, etc – the validity of these as vehicles for sexual normalcy is obviously problematic), are astonished to find that men don’t, actually, want to have sex all the time.
Moreover, women are offended when they attempt to initiate a romp to be met with a polite but firm negative. Suddenly they doubt whether this person finds them attractive, and wonder if they are going to leave them, or have already sought gratification elsewhere. Especially since the media that celebrate their sexuality also insist that their value in relationship is largely a factor of their appearance and sexual attractiveness.
Why do they think this? Because the sexually insatiable male is an accepted stereotype: the male is meant to be constantly sexually interested and available.
If men want sex as often as possible with women, and this man does not presently want to have sex, therefore he no longer finds this woman attractive, possibly does not even see her as a woman (for the stereotype also includes an implied ‘any port in a storm’), and therefore does not value her, or is impotent (id est, is not a man).
If anyone takes a moment to think about it, they will recognize that this false syllogism is beneath their sudden insecurity, and that men are as susceptible to fatigue, stress, inebriation, headache, or simple lack of arousal as women, and this is a reflection not of impotence or disinterest, but of life of an individual in the world.
It is virtually impossible to imagine a partnership wherein both parties have perfectly synchronized libidos. The thoughtful and polite thing to do if rebuffed is to back off without reproach. But when so much in our culture insists upon sex as the be all and end all of conversation between the sexes, it is difficult to maintain a logical outlook.
Sexism is just one of the many isms that get in the way of fair and compassionate human interaction, by creating false expectations (of oneself and others) and encouraging subsequent judgments.
To quote Ferris Bueller: -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.
This would, of course, also apply to feminism, but then, every feminist wants a world where Bueller’s paean to individuality is a given, where everyone is regarded as an individual and not labeled as belonging to a particular group with an associated cloud of character traits.