I have a lot of male-dominated interests, and a lot of male friends. And yet, at the end of the day, I am a straight(ish) woman with no brothers, a dad who lived 30 min away while I was growing up, no stepdad until I was in my mid-20’s, and no fucking clue how the straight male brain works.
It’s not for lack of trying. The boy crazy started early. Before the guy friends, who started once I grew (little) boobs and they started being able to see me. But no matter how much I write about bitcoin or how many graphic novels I read or how many times I argue anarchy vs. minarchy I still am continually surprised by them.
I’ve been told that guys don’t really talk about sex amongst themselves, except in the broadest terms. I’m not sure I believe that. I’m always trying to get all my friends to dish to me. I didn’t name my blog Sex and the State just for the clicks. So this morning one of my best dude friends gchats me “do you know the wtsstadamit subreddit?” I’m a casual reddit user, so I’m not surprised I don’t. Then he types:
And I go. And I’m a little horrified.
The first memory it brings up is in college, a friend photographed me and my future husband backlit with sunshine. It was a beautiful photograph, well composed. Except my skirt, unbeknownst to me, was made translucent by the sun. Being an extra skinny bitch back then, you could tell exactly where my cootch began.
The second is far further back, to YMCA camp. We went swimming every day, so every year I got a new bathing suit. I’m not sure how I noticed that boys were staring at me underwater through their goggles. But someone definitely had to explain to me why. That bitch puberty’s decision to show up had unfortunately coincided with my ill-fated choice of a white bathing suit. I’ve always been a tiny person, so maybe the manufacturer didn’t anticipate the thin white fabric having to cover actual lady parts? It never occurred to me that white fabric goes see-through when wet, and that this might be of interest to anyone.
That general cluelessness impacts my interaction with straight men to this day.
So yeah, the whole “oops you can see my goodies” thing. I get it. I think. Maybe? I mean, surprises are nice. They weren’t for me either time, because, you know, I knew to be ashamed once I realized I’d been showing basically my naked body to everyone at the YMCA camp pool and my cootch to people walking by me in the sunshine at Samford.
So is that the appeal? The good, modest woman who made a mistake? The sneak peek you’re not supposed to be getting?
But the women in the photos on reddit don’t look ashamed, or unaware, to be ashamed later. At least the ones who have faces in frame look like they’re fucking owning their sun-made translucent dresses. So maybe it’s just a novel way to show, but not fully show, lady parts.
To be honest I’m still taken aback that a woman’s body, devoid of context, is of such interest to straight men. None of the boys staring at me underwater ever tried to talk to me. That was the greatest ambition of mine, to know boys, to hear their thoughts and get acquainted with their hopes and dreams. I remember it was high school before I really, really wanted to see any boy naked.
I remember a year or so ago following all these Tumblrs with gorgeous photos and gifs of beautiful men and women in various stages of undress and coitus. And I’d scroll through regularly for a while, maybe weeks, maybe months. But it was a phase. Without context it got boring to me and I haven’t done it for a really long time.
What is the appeal? How is this not boring as shit? Maybe men make up a backstory. “Angela loves the feel of sunshine on her skin through a thin layer of linen. She grew up in Alaska so…”
Who knows. It’s taken me thirty years to figure out that I haven’t changed much since middle school. I like writers who are much smarter than me and know exactly what to say. I love men with rich inner lives — I can’t resist the urge to plumb depths of emotion and analysis. My husband was a Philosophy major. That boy in high school was a poet with a penchant for peppering his speech with phrases from hip hop and a canny awareness of what one needs to say to an insecure literary magazine editor to make her want to drop her panties. If someone could approximate that with a Tumblr that would be awesome. For now the most erotic medium for me is Twitter.
Now I’m imagining a straight dude reading Will Moyer thinking, “This is boring as shit. When does someone get naked?”