The Exchange Value of Sexual Encounters: Gina Robinson

I recently read something that raised my feminist ire:  it was a blog entry where a young guy explained why he would only marry a woman who had had fewer  sexual partners than he had, had. Aside from the difficulties of the presumption that marriage is just a function of growing up, like the body losing its ability to regenerate, far more concerning is the presumption that to be marriage material, a woman must not have  ‘too many’ sexual partners. The way that this guy (as a sidenote—continually typing ‘this guy’ palls, I shall  level with you: it was Vinny Guadagnino, given a public sphere profile by the Jersey Shore) justified what he acknowledged was a ‘double standard’ was by saying that the exchange value of sexual encounters was different for the sexes: females traded gold, and males traded silver, therefore males had to have more sex to get the same ‘value’. What I like about Vinny’s words is that he admits the double standard, and acknowledges that both sexes are capable of feeling desire and acting upon it. What raises my ire is that rather than deconstructing it, he seeks to justify it by the gold-silver analogy.

Aside from the fact that I’m going to object on ideological grounds to anything that proposes inequality between the sexes, I have problems with his logic. If you’re working off a gold standard—that is, taking the female sexual experience as the fixed base rate of the sexual encounter, and the measure of difference is the ease with which a sex achieves sexual gratification, then if, according to Vinny, males achieve gratification with greater ease than women, why do they get to have more sex? Surely women should be having more sex, because to get the same value (i.e. amount of gratification) they’ve got to have more encounters? To give my critique more pseudo-scientific crediblity, I have made a table of Vinny’s reasoning, listing his ‘points’ of justification, and the ‘facts’ that prove them:

The gold standard

                        The silver measure

1.    ‘a vagina is higher maintenance than a penis’

 Various requirements for a woman to ‘get off’ a  variety of :

  • mechanisms
  • tongue rotations
  • speed
  • penetration levels
  • ‘candle scents, etc.’
 Formula for men to experience ‘5 seconds of bliss’:

  • ‘a few simple strokes’

2.    Testosterone

  • Lower levels of testosterone increases self control
  • Higher levels of testosterone increase eagerness to fornicate

3.    Likelihood of being persuaded to ‘trade’ in a single day

  • ‘rare, but possible’
  • ‘not likely, but possible’

4.    Social repercussions— use of terms warranted by sexual trade

  • ‘a slut’
  • ‘the man’

These are the ‘facts’ Vinny cites in justification of the ‘expectation’ that women will have less sex than men. They seem to point to nothing more than Vinny’s experience that he discerns less of the efforts that the females he sleeps with make towards pleasing him assuming such things are part of the act of trade resulting in gratification itself, than the ‘extra’ effort he is willing to put into ‘trigger[ing the] mental, emotional, and physical levels’ of his sexual partners ‘highly’ enough for them to have sex with him. Vinny’s explanation of the exchange value of the sexual trade leaves uncontested Vinny’s narrow conception of what ‘counts’ as gratification: penetrative heterosexual sexual intercourse, with oral sex a mere pre-condition to male gratification, rather than a potential source of gratification in and of itself.

Vinny’s explanation does not damn women who sell sex because ‘they are selling their gold every day… the money is more important than the commodity at hand’ but goes on to make a connection between astute judgement in the exchange value of their ‘precious product’ as signifying an ability to exercise judgement in a broader context. Although I respect Vinny for reflecting on these issues as a result of socialisation, I can’t help thinking he doesn’t fully interrogate the norms he was writing about because they benefit him, or at least they confirm his social conditioning and assert and maintain his position at its apex. Even if he does diverge from his thesis somewhat in saying that he trades in gold.

I suppose the endpoint of my ire becomes a paraphrase of young Vinny’s conclusion. He concludes that he  ‘will not frown upon women who have one night stands or do “skanky” things as long their transaction was well judged.’ I say  I will not frown upon males who have opinions contrary to my own or aren’t feminists as long as their double standards are well judged and the result of an engagement with opinions other than their own. Because at least they’re willing to enter into the discourse, right? They’re not assuming that their double standards require no justification…

If you would like to read Vinny’s post yourself you can find it here.

Gina Robinson is becoming a regular contributor to feminaust. She has spent the last few days critically engaging with Eurovision on a regular basis but ordinarily, when she isn’t deconstructing poorly thought through social commentary, she can generally be found completing mundane tasks associated with her current law studies or spending quality time with her cat Benny. 

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