What do you think is acceptable when men talk about women?
October 15, 2017 4:16 PM   Subscribe

First I'm a man but as of late I have started to wonder what is it that people find acceptable and what they don't when it pertains a group of men talking about women. I'm very new to sex and everything related to it, but I have always been uncomfortable when other men start talking about women. I really don't know if it's because what they say is uncomfortable or because I'm just not used to it and have a lot of shame about sex.

There are a lot of things that my friends do with regards to women which I don't really understand. First it's this thing that most men do which is following girls who post sexy pictures of themselves on Instagram. It seems creepy to me, and I don't understand what is the point of this, those women are never going to give them a shot, they already have girlfriends and honestly even if they sought a relationship they aren't doing it because they want to know one of these girls it's all about having sex with them and nothing else like.

Then there's the way some men are always talking about women. Some men are always talking about how they'll "jam their cocks" into this girl or that girl. It's alright to be attracted to someone and to want to express sexual interest in a person but I feel as if the men who say this are only in it for the sex. Recently some of these men, were talking about how they couldn't be with just one woman because they'd get bored. Then come the ideas about how the only women I should ever respect is my mother, the rest are fair game according to them.

Is any of that acceptable? I feel that for me personally it isn't and I think the men who hold these ideas don't give a damn about any woman. The only thing they want seems to be sex, they don't really seem interested in viewing women as people, not even their so called female friends who they're always looking to take advantage of regardless of the situation

Is this an uncommon position for a man to take? Am I overreacting? It seems to me that this is something I see in various groups of men.
posted by Braxis to Human Relations (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some men are always talking about how they'll "jam their cocks" into this girl or that girl.

You are correct, this is cruel talk, and also deviant. Not in a good way. There are unhealthy friend groups where this talk is allowed, and it's hard to make people change their minds when it comes to it. But it is not the norm.

Then come the ideas about how the only women I should ever respect is my mother, the rest are fair game according to them.

This is also not the norm to me, and I have mixed with many groups of people. It sounds like something from a movie. You are correct for not finding it appropriate.
posted by karmachameleon at 4:24 PM on October 15, 2017 [13 favorites]

Is any of that acceptable?

Nope! You'll hear people say things like "That's just how men are" or "It's guy talk, no one really means it", but it isn't, and often men who "don't really mean it" show through their actions that they in fact do, they just know it's not polite to openly say so.

There is 100% nothing wrong with the way you view things.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:27 PM on October 15, 2017 [26 favorites]

It's a good thing that you are asking this question. Thanks. I think it's a good, really basic rule of thumb not to say (or think okay to be said) anything about women that you wouldn't say if women were present.
posted by sophieblue at 4:29 PM on October 15, 2017 [52 favorites]

I think, in your shoes, I would direct my energies towards finding new friend circles, ones with intelligent grown-ass men instead of these cloddish little boys. No, you're not overreacting. These dudes are losers. I mean, it's unfortunate and maybe unfair that things might have happened that made them that way, but, I take it you're all out of public school and so on and nobody can be excused for this because they're twelve and testing out new phrases. Losers.

The only place my SO deals with this is very occasionally at work. You can, as he does:

-- stay quiet while pointedly raising an eyebrow
-- "WTF? Dude, we're at work. Don't tell me that shit here."
-- "I don't talk/think about women in those terms, sorry."
-- [get up, walk away]

etc, depending on how outrageous the statement. Pretend a woman you care for is in the room and within earshot, and act accordingly -- the only people who will be embarrassing themselves are the "locker room" bozos with the dick talk, not you.
posted by kmennie at 4:29 PM on October 15, 2017 [11 favorites]

Many men talk this way when they're in a group of all men. It's not OK and is similar to how bigots say racist or homophobic things when they think they're in a group that thinks the same way. The good news is that there are men out there who don't say disrespectful and misogynistic things about women whether they're around women or not. Find those men. They'll be better friends because they're better people.
posted by quince at 4:38 PM on October 15, 2017 [31 favorites]

a great rule of thumb is not to talk about people in a way that you'd be embarrassed to be overheard by someone you do respect. Pick a person whose opinion matters to you - maybe your mom? Your favorite college professor? Anyone you admire. What would they think of this sort of talk?

You're absolutely right that what you're hearing reflects extremely poorly on the speaker, and also fairly badly on anyone who nods along with it. I'd also like to caution you not to believe everything you hear people saying about their sexual exploits, where they'd "jam their cock", etc. Most of the time this sort of thing is misplaced braggadocio, and has nothing to do with what people are actually getting up to. But it is gross and to be avoided.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:39 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

None of that shit is okay. Get better friends.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:43 PM on October 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I want to say "yeah! that stuff is wrong!" but given your previous question, I worry that you are searching for reasons to justify and maintain your own extremely unhealthy feelings about sex. Following attractive women on Instagram is not inherently creepy (and when a person in a relationship does it, their SO might have a problem but it's certainly not your problem). And, whether they're swimsuit models or just ordinary people, plenty of women post sexy pictures because they want attention. Regarding the vulgar talk-- well, you picked a particularly dumb-sounding phrase, but dirty/vulgar talk is pretty normal and plenty of women do it too.

Seriously, dude, last week you were asking about hiring a prostitute to fix your issues with sex and this week you want to get rid of all of your friends because they don't respect women. Even if you find a more respectful group of friends this is going to keep happening. You should really try therapy.
posted by acidic at 4:46 PM on October 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

No, it's not normal or appropriate. I've never been in a group of guys who talked like this (and I was in a fraternity in college, so...), and if I were, I'd like to think I'd leave the conversation.

The Instagram thing is more common, but still bizarre and creepy as hell, IMO.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:42 PM on October 15, 2017

As someone who also had a conservative Christian upbringing - though less sheltered than yours - I can assure you that the next few years will be bewildering and sometimes lonely as you recalibrate your values and relationships. (Enjoy?)

When I asked this question, it got me thinking about the attitudes toward women that are shared by both conservative Christian culture and the degrading discourse you're describing. In both cases, women are put on a pedestal and men are put in the gutter. Fundamentally, both the "locker-room talk" assholes and the preachers saying, "But girls, when he tells you he loves you, he only wants one thing," are putting men and women in the same boxes. Both are saying, "Men are sexual and promiscuous; women are pure and monogamous."

And so are many relationship advice books, comedians, and even serious academics. The disrespectful language you're hearing is limited to some subcultures, but the disrespectful idea underlying it is common.

One of the things that makes this idea disrespectful is that it doesn't recognize both women and men as individuals with a wide range of sexual desires and proclivities. Some of the men participating in the degrading banter would probably be most content with routine, monogamous sex, but they feel they have to live up to the Real Man image. Some of the women they're talking about are probably interested in promiscuous, adventurous sex, but they feel they have to live up to the Real Woman image. It's good that you're uncomfortable with the language they're using, but think about why you're uncomfortable: Is it because you're still putting all women on a pure, virginal, only-interested-in-relationships pedestal? Are you recognizing all women as individuals?

Remember, too, that there's no form of discourse that magically prevents abuse. The silence and shaming practised in the Church doesn't prevent abuse, obviously, but (as some recent stories on the blue have demonstrated) neither does intelligent explication of feminist theory.

This is more in answer to your last question, but it's tied in: One producer of guilt around sex in men from conservative Christian backgrounds is the belief that women never truly want or enjoy sex. As a result, all sex feels like it involves a man coercing a woman. Of course that belief will make you feel guilty! (As it should!) Luckily, that belief is not true.

You're making a major change in how you interact with the world. It'll probably take a few years to get it all figured out. Good luck!
posted by clawsoon at 6:28 PM on October 15, 2017 [19 favorites]

Another take on what I'm trying to say: Don't be a Nice Guy™:
I don’t know when people first started talking about Nice Guys as a social phenomenon, but they were rampant in my Christian subculture 15 years before I ever heard the term. While Nice Guy-ism is clearly not exclusively Christian (and Christian versions of Nice Guy-ism are doubtless influenced by secular ideas, like Friend Zoning, which became mainstream via Friends), I don’t think Nice Guy-ism could exist without a background culture that values female sexual purity and punishes women who deviate from it too much. In the US and the UK, that background culture comes from Christianity, and it’s hard to imagine Nice Guy-ism without it. Nice Guys are angry at women for having sex with men who aren’t them. I was an evangelical purity culture Nice Guy, so I was angry at women for having sex outside of marriage (instead of waiting to marry me).

The other part of being a Nice Guy is that you must really hate all the men in the world who are not Nice Guys (and believe women are stupid for being attracted to them, despite professing to love those same women you just called stupid).


I don’t know what proportion of infamous Internet Nice Guys identify as Christian, but it’s interesting how the ideas behind this concealed hatred for women map perfectly onto evangelical culture. Chivalry, politeness at all costs, old-fashioned gender roles, and the demand for sexual purity. This is evangelicalism’s vision of how a True Christian behaves.
posted by clawsoon at 6:33 PM on October 15, 2017

Another link from the same author that you might find useful:
If I did wind up speaking to a woman, by some miracle, I made it clear that I was not like those nasty other men, who only wanted her for sex. I didn’t want her for sex at all. And then I was mystified when she left with the nasty other man, who did want her for sex. What I didn’t know, because my educators vigorously denied it, is that attraction between men and women is sexual at its core. Which doesn’t mean that you have to have sex all the time, but it does mean you have to acknowledge the reality of physical attraction.
posted by clawsoon at 6:40 PM on October 15, 2017

I think there are two separate things going on here.

First off, no, I don't love the idea of men saying they want to "jam their cocks" into someone. This is my personal opinion but it sounds dehumanizing. Like, if the circumstances were right, I might be DTF. I might be up for a mutually satisfying sexual experience. But if you just want to jam your cock into something, I don't know, get a flesh light or a real doll or something because that doesn't sound like fun to me.

But. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting a relationship that's just sexual. It sounds like we may disagree on that and that's okay but I'm confident that I am not the only person who has that opinion. If two (or more!) people want to engage in a relationship that's only sexual, that's their deal and that's not wrong, in my opinion. It's okay to only be in it for sex as long as partners are honest with each other, things are consensual, there aren't weird power dynamics at play, etc, in my humble opinion.
posted by kat518 at 7:18 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

There is no such thing as "women," only women you know.

So even the formulation of men, talking about women, is sexist to the rotten core.
posted by fritillary at 9:04 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Remembering women are people, not objects or property, is a good place to start.
Ex: "My friend stole my girl from me!" ...Oh really, was she kidnapped against her will? Then no. She wasn't "stolen" like a wallet. She left of her own volition. Because she is a person.
posted by egeanin at 10:06 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sex is delightful and nothing to be ashamed of, including having fun talking about it. Objectifying and dehumanizing women is awful and shameful, including the behavior you are describing. It is possible for you to work on making your views on sex healthier, but don't do it by mimicking or normalizing the behavior you are describing, because that isn't healthy or normal.
posted by davejay at 10:32 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sex is cool, but I don’t feel the need to problematize your 100% sane and normal reaction to vulgar, bigoted cruelty toward women.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:52 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is any of that acceptable?

No [*], but

it is also not acceptable to treat this as a question that is answerable by tabulating poll results. you give the impression ("am I overreacting?") that bedrock ethics are negotiable to you: that if enough people told you it was an overreaction, you'd try to stop minding.

probably this is not your intention. but this is fundamental stuff that you have to, have to have your own reasons for minding, that you worked out in your own mind and soul and that cannot be shaken by peer pressure, including askmetafilter peer pressure. If you want to be told that you're normal, I don't know that you are. but If you want to know whether you're right, I think that you are.

but if you need to be reassured that you're right to keep on being right, that is concerning. you need to be able to know that you're in the minority on some issues and not care. it has to be more important to you to be a good person than a regular guy.

[*] except that looking at public instagrams that are just women posting pictures of themselves for their own amusement is not inherently disrespectful or harmful of or to anyone. insulting or harassing or stalking those women would be, but men don't have to hate women just because they think some women are nice looking. they so often do, but they don't have to. so I would not include that in the unacceptable list, unless other unpleasantness was associated with it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:22 PM on October 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you already know this behavior is inappropriate, probably because you know it isn't how you'd want strangers treating you or talking about you. (Congratulations, you're an empathetic human being!) That's usually how you should judge matters, no matter who is being discussed. Some of us are more sensitive than others, sure, but, in general, if you wouldn't want something being said or done to you, chances are you shouldn't be saying/doing it to others or supporting people who act that way.

So, you know this, deep down. You just have to decide how to act on your feelings.

My opinion is that you need new friends if these aren't open to discussing their behavior (and I doubt they are). There's an aggression ("jam their cocks") and cruelty ("the only women I should ever respect is my mother, the rest are fair game") here that is deeply concerning. It's concerning for the women in your friends' lives, and it's concerning for you, too.

Think of it this way: If your friends are willing to dehumanize and belittle half of the human species, what are the chances they'll be there for you when you need them most? These are the sorts who will laugh and tell you to "man up" when you're grieving, who will expect you to just "get over it." If they're there at all.

I suggest you check out the book I Don't Want to Talk About It by psychologist Terrence Real. It's about male depression, so it may seem unrelated, but I promise it's not. Over the years, Real found male depression usually manifested differently in men than in women because of how boys are taught to process—or rather not process—emotions. Men who are not nurtured and taught to value empathy often turn to rage and aggressive behavior, substance abuse, sex addiction, and much else besides, to push aside unwanted and confusing emotions. The women and children in their lives often suffer because of it.

I bring this book up not because I think your friends are depressed, but because I think it will help you understand how some men unite around casual cruelty and the dehumanization of women—and how that is very much a red flag. Doing this lets them avoid getting to know anyone: their friends, their lovers, themselves. Meanwhile, they're miserable and angry, or will become so, eventually. They are easily radicalized, accordingly, and will likely blame someone else, or a whole group of others, for these negative feelings.

Women deserve more compassionate men. Men deserve it, too.
posted by iamfantastikate at 11:53 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Always turn the statement around. Would your men friends talk about men they respected in the same way? Would you talk about women the same way they do?

It seems like it's about mature relationships to you - the fact that their words make you uncomfortable are a good indicator that you're able to have healthy relationships.

When you find that healthy relationship, your significant other will absolutely not want to hang out with those men.
posted by bendy at 2:15 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I want to doubly clarify what I wrote last night: No, the way they are talking is not okay. Consent is fundamental. The problem with conservative Christianity is that it does not recognize that consent is possible. If a woman can never truly enjoy sex, then she can never truly consent to it. That is a bad, evil idea, and it's one of the most important things to get out of your head.

It's consent that's the key to both of your questions. The answer to your earlier question: Consent is possible. You can have sex with a woman and you can both love it. The answer to this question: Consent is a requirement. "Jam my cock into her" is not a description of mutual, consensual sex. That's what makes it bad.

Yet another link to Johnny Scaramanga, this time on what happens when you end up in the abyss between "respect women because they're pure and virginal" and learning that consent is both possible and required: Motley Crue and Christian Fundamentalists would get on great.
posted by clawsoon at 4:01 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I will add that it’s not inherently bad to look at an Instagram of a hot woman posting selfies, but it’s probably very difficult to do without having already been steeped in toxic misogynist bullshit, and I think the ease with which a man consumes images of women is often an accurate barometer of how difficult it will be to spend time with them. Like if they don’t just occasionally look up women they find attractive but spend significant non-beating off time following and commenting on hot pictures with their public profile, I find that suspiciously far along the “I don’t know when objectification is OK and when it is not” spectrum. Unless you belong to some subculture where sex and respectful sexual attraction are foregrounded as the basis of most interactions.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2017

I also think this list is a helpful place to start.
posted by egeanin at 12:27 PM on October 16, 2017

It is completely acceptable to be "only in it for the sex." It's disrespectful and inappropriate to mislead sexual partners to think that monogamy or a relationship is a possibility if it is not a possibility.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:18 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I hate men like your "friends." I used to work in a cafe where the men were exactly like that — followed "hot" girls on Instagram/Facebook/whatever, talked about the "hot" girls who came into the cafe, made gestures about the shapes of these girls' "hot" bodies — I mean, it was just disgusting to be around.

This is not guy talk. None of my guy friends talk this way. Of course, I can't know this for sure, since I'm a woman and they probably wouldn't say it to my face if they did talk this way, but given that I never talk or think about men the way these men think about women, I'd like to think that the respect is mutual.
posted by Spiderwoman at 7:57 AM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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