SEXUAL TRANSACTIONALISM – Success objects, separating the men from the boys and transactionalism in sexual relationships

Miguel Bloomfontosis discusses this in a post from last year, where he identifies a double standard when it comes to transactionalism in sexual relationships. And judging from the responses he got, he hit a nerve with this.

In his post Miguel links to a post where a woman describes a dating experience that ends in a decision to stop dating “boys” and to concentrate from now on on “men” – boys with all the paraphernalia of economic success. It’s such a bald display of success object thinking, of instrumentalization of men.

This standard of economic success being the measure of manhood, manhood being something that is achieved, is right out of the traditional gender system handbook. Every man who grew up before 1980 is going to recognize it and every dog whistle associated with it immediately. And a structural feature of it is the trope that “getting the girl’ is another achievement, and it’s the greatest feat of manhood of all (I am convinced that a big part of the contempt in homophobic dismissal of gay men is that we opt out of this fool’s struggle. We don’t even attempt much less succeed at getting the girl. This is why I bristle so much at the facile attempt to portray homophobia as an expression of misogyny. Putting men on a sexual treadmill is misogynist?)

Feminists have railed against this this traditionalist portrayal of sexual relations with the woman as a reward for success correctly as objectifying of women and as toxic for everyone.* Yet when it comes up in this form of man as success object, what kind of pushback do we see from feminists? Jill Filipovic and her coterie of admirers celebrated it – just look at the comment thread. Look at the comment thread carefully – there was a lot of pushback, so those celebrating this really have no excuse for being confused on this point. (Then it trails off into a swamp of privilege narrative about who gets to poke fun at whom…..)

An iconic example of the pay-to-play structure of dating is Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace from 1958. This isn’t about payment for services rendered or anything so crude and whorish as that, no, this is about the rule that he can date her as long as he is capable and/or willing to pay for everything. And this is only about the rule, not his relationship with this actual woman. She’s actually willing to go on a date when he’s broke but even so the language of transactionalism is he knows to frame the conversation:

Chantilly Lace

Hello baby, yeah, this is the Big Bopper speakin
hahahahahaha
Oh you sweet thing
Do I what
Will I what
Oh baby you know what I like

Chorus

Chantilly lace and a pretty face
And a pony tail hanging down
A wiggle in the walk and giggle in the talk
Makes the world go round
There ain’t nothing in the world like a big eyed girl
That makes me act so funny, make me spend my money
Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose
Like a girl, oh baby that’s what I like

What’s that baby
But, but, but
oh honey
But, oh baby you know what I like

Chorus

What’s that honey
Pick you up at 8 and don’t be late
But baby I ain’t got no money honey
hahahahaha
Oh alright baby you know what I like

Here’s another song from the same era:

“Because I’m a blonde, I don’t have to think.
I talk like a baby, and I never pay for drinks.
Don’t have to worry ’bout getting a man
If I keep this blonde and I keep these tan,
‘Cause I’m a blonde, yeah, yeah, yeah.
‘Cause I’m a blonde, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I see people workin, it just makes me giggle
‘Cause I don’t have to work; I just have to jiggle.
I’m a blonde, B-L-O-N-D.
I’m a blonde; don’t you wish you were me?”

And it goes on like that for several more verses making fun of the way she gets a free ride. Cute song, I saw it in a drag show and the queen had to be over 50 and looked like Fred Flintstone.

There seems to be broad agreement in the culture that a lot of sexual interaction is transactional, enough that it is a particular sneering point for male feminists to try to shame men who point it out. This cultural agreement is broad enough that “whore” or “prostitute” is one of the most damning insults you can hurl at a woman, the stereotype it exploits is apparently that widely held. I wonder to what extent this shapes the discussion around sex work, how much it conditions the drive to demonize men in response to it.

I think there is a thin and not always visible line between the sane and reasonable interest in selecting a co-parent, sexual partner, who is economically viable on the one hand and looking to hook some kind of free ride or at least some free booze and food based on time spent in the presence of your awesomeness and sexual attractiveness on the other. It seems to me dating is the border area where this line lies.

This is the beginning of a series of posts on sexual transactionalism in which I hope to explore various angles of it – prostitution in general, contract prostitution in the form of unequal marriage, even the PUA movement, if it turns out there’s a connection, even inverse.

 

*EDIT: dungone contributed this comment in reference to feminist condemnations of sexual transactionalism, which he points out have been rather, um, narrowly focused:

dungone on said:

I’ve also noticed that when feminists decry “transactionalism,” it’s not actually about getting rid of “transactionalism,” but about reinforcing a hypergamous state to an even greater degree. It boils down to lowering the price women have to pay, raising the price that men have to pay, and sealing the deal by making it taboo for non-feminists to bring up and criticize in any meaningful way. The ultimate result of transactionalism, hypergamy, and prejudice is effectively a female cabal that sets out for itself to control both male and female gender roles for the sole benefit of high status women.

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  • http://thedamnedoldeman.com TDOM

    Absolutely love Chantilly Lace, but never paid much attention to the lyrics. For me it is all about the booming sound of the Big Bopper’s voice and the rhythm. Where you really hit the nail on the head in this in with the mention of prostitution and comparison to sexual transactionism. Sexual transactionism demands that the man pay for everything, but only as long as it isn’t directly about sex. As long as it is covert and he is merely providing the woman with goodies and the only thing asked in return is the pleasure of her company, it is the norm and should not be questioned. It becomes exploitive of the woman when the transaction is overt and sex is paid for directly.

    Of course I have never really held this point of view. I’ve always thought that it was exploitive of the man regardless. Even in high school when I first started dating I thought this was horribly unfair and never dated a girl very long if she didn’t at least chip in once in a while. Either I ended it because I couldn’t afford her, or she ended it because I couldn’t afford her.

  • Snake Oil Baron

    I remember a girl talking about her highschool years and how she was suspended for fighting because another girl called her a whore (probably because a guy said he liked the first girl or some such crap). Another guy in the vicinity laughed with her about how. “That’s such a girl fight.” I mention this because everyone seems to understand intuitively that calling a woman/girl a whore is seen as the worst insult most people can imagine.

    Years ago I found it strange how so many females could claim to be, if not feminist then pro “women’s issues” and pay lip service to concern about the exploitation of sexworkers while accepting the term “whore” as such a horrible slur–even using it themselves. But it makes sense since they don’t want the “brand” of womanhood damaged by being sold discount, whether literally by prostitutes or figuratively by promiscuous women, strippers, girls who dress “slutty” etc. Anyone doing so represents a perceived threat to the “worth” of other women.

    A recent study making the rounds in the news purportedly showed that women are less likely to be open to friendships with women they perceive as permiscuous. It isn’t just that they see such women as competitor but as competitors who are undercutting the price to near or below cost, so to speak.

    This is why prostitution is always going to be seen as worthy of criminalizing, until something major changes. You can make all the arguments about legal prostitution being safer or an issue of personal liberty but as long as most women see it as devaluing themselves merely by its existing it will be opposed.

  • http://danipettas.com Dani Pettas

    There are photography art pieces by Laurie Simmons, who is Lena Dunham’s mom, that are kind of about sexual transaction.

    The photos at http://www.lauriesimmons.net/photographs/underneath show women lifting their skirts to reveal houses and gold furniture.

    An earlier photo is a house on top of sexy legs. http://www.lauriesimmons.net/photographs/walking-and-lying-objects/#/images/3/

  • Adiabat

    I’m going to do some “feminist logic” now, make of it what you will:

    The use of ‘whore’ and ‘prostitute’ as insults isn’t in any way used to decry the transactional nature of the woman’s interactions with men (such as marrying rich men, or blagging free drinks), but rather what is seen as the indiscrimination of the woman in the men she will accept the transaction from (in particular whether the men are genuinely attractive in some way). This is why prostitutes themselves are hated; because they’ll ‘trade’ with any guy.

    The fact that the major factor in whether a woman is called a ‘whore’ is the ‘low value’ of the men the woman is dealing with means any time that a woman is called a ‘whore’ it is actually an example of misandry. It is the men who are the real victims of hate in the situation.

    Likewise, society’s treatment of prostitutes and attitude to prostitution is misandry. High class escorts generally get less abuse than your common streetwalker, purely due to society‘s opinion of the men they are dealing with. Therefore misandry.

  • EquilibriumShift

    OT:

    I saw it in a drag show and the queen had to be over 50 and looked like Fred Flintstone.

    Oh, no you dih-dun

    Anyhow, I remember the feeling of revelation when I was young and first had the thought, “wait, all women are whores”. Of course, I have grown up since then, and realize it is a little more complicated than that, but the transactional nature of medium term relationships is something that has always irked me. In fact, it almost pushed me to MGTOW before I knew what that was. Think about who wants what, and who gets what out of an even slightly tradcon relationship.

    Both men and women want companionship. Women want protection, a home, stability, etc. This is wrapped up in hypergamy. What more do men want? I think someone to run the home is the best answer. This is wrapped up in the nurturing/mothering signals men look for in the dating process. Men trade their strength, protection and stability to the woman in exchange for her organization, home-running, and nurturing.

    In the modern, idealized relationship, we now simply have an exchange of like for like, companionship for companionship. This would be nice.

    Unfortunately, in reality, we retain the hypergamy, but house/home/child work is now much, much closer to 50/50, whereas the financial aspect of stability is still 60/40 biased towards men (this is where the 70 cents wage gap number actually matters). So now, it is essentially a woman selling companionship in exchange for companionship + stability, money and class. Not sure how men could look at that and not see the arithmetic.

    As in, take me out on a date, pay for everything, and you might get to sleep with me. Say it with me, fellas (and ladies)… FUCK THAT SHIT. If sex was some terrible chore for women, that might be acceptable, but we all know better.

  • Political Cynic

    “But it makes sense since they don’t want the “brand” of womanhood damaged by being sold discount, whether literally by prostitutes or figuratively by promiscuous women, strippers, girls who dress “slutty” etc. Anyone doing so represents a perceived threat to the “worth” of other women. ”

    Interesting-the “Walmart” argument-you don’t want the “brand” devalued and sold for less-because you might hae to lower your prices?

    Here’s another question: Is part of the objection to prostitution by on some level based on the fact that “honesty can hurt”? If, in fact, a huge proportion of relationships are transactional, and I think in many ways they are-be it it trading support for care of the home, as one poster mention, or trading the company and the possibility of sex for gifts, as another mentions-then prostitution would, at the end of the day, be fundamentally more HONEST about the nature of some relationships. No need for the gifts and the dance-just give me the cash… I can’t help but wonder if on some level it isn’t only a question of “price” or “value” but perhaps also a problem with people actually stating, up front and outright, that it is transactional? I’ll do this for you if you do that for me with no games?

    And if so, then in combination does this mean feminism is in fact: (A) simply seeking to increase the “value” of women, thereby treating them as nothing more than a commodity in a marketplace; and (B) fundamentally dishonest on the subject of sexual transactionalism?

    Just a random thought….

  • http://www.femdelusion.wordpress.com femdelusion

    I love the point about the “I’m not interested in dating boys. I want a man” idea. And what’s the difference? Resources, pure and simple. The other blatant dog-whistle I’ve seen is the term ‘eligible’. Terms and conditions apply!

    I suppose we ought to stress the usual NAWALT. This is true enough, and indeed I’ve been fortunate enough to have loved and lost some truly wonderful women who weren’t like that. But the women you’d hope to be the most not-like-that are feminists, since they’re the ones supposedly opposed to unfair, constraining gender-stereotypes. And yet, as that thread you linked to so amply demonstrates, these particular Princess Feminists are every bit as conventional as non-feminists in terms of their expectations of men. Amanda Marcotte (why am I surprised?) manages to express naked hypergamy (resources => ^attractiveness^) breathlessly in two sentences:

    First words out of my mouth when I walked into my now-boyfriend’s apartment: “Oh wow, you’re a grown-up!” He had furniture and everything.

    Remember this is someone who is supposed to be trying to break free of gendered attitudes and stereotypes. And yet she is so utterly lacking in self-awareness that she can’t see how that would come across and make her look like a craven hypocrite.

  • Ginkgo

    “I suppose we ought to stress the usual NAWALT. ”

    Totally. Lesbians.

    Everyone – excellent coments! reading my mind.

    1. The “Walmart argument” Love it. Perfect formulation.

    2. The pretzel logic around who is beiong exploited – that’s a whole post in itlesf. I suspect that a lot of the narrative around rape culture is to mask the prostitution culture we have.

    3. “Anyhow, I remember the feeling of revelation when I was young and first had the thought, “wait, all women are whores”. ”

    I remember an after dinner conversation where my mother observed that little girls are taught to be prostitutes. Shocked me then. I got over it.

    4. “It is the men who are the real victims of hate in the situation.”
    Yes, because it assumes that sex with men is so degrading.

  • http://www.marvelousmanboobs.com David H. Fucktrelle, Male Feminist Extraordinaire ™

    ….success objects…

    OMG, you misogynist’s have been reading that awful Warren Farrell fellow…

    ahem, if you want to know what real womyn ™ like, you might want to watch this and throw away your awful pornography…

    oh, and femdelusion, thanks for telling me what an empowered feminist womyn like Mandy likes, I’m gonna buy some new furniture today. I shaved my chiny, chin chins extra good this morning…

  • HidingFromtheDinosaurs

    So, what I’m getting out of this song is that a) someone actually called themselves ‘Big Bopper’ (weirdest name ever still goes to ‘Welldone the Pussy-hand,’ but at least he was fictional); b) this person wants to be with a girl who makes them feel like a girl (which is apparently somewhat akin to being a goose, so they might also be a furry); and c) this person is quite fond of a fabric that yields some decidedly NSFW search results and is probably a pain in the ass to sew with.

    I can’t say that I ever had any big revelatory moment like some of the people here seem to have, but I’ve also never felt the slightest interest in that traditional model of relationships. It’s a rule of mine never to pay for people who expect it of me. I also stopped using ‘whore’ as an insult once I found out what it meant, because it didn’t strike me as being terribly problematic.

  • dungone

    I’ve also noticed that when feminists decry “transactionalism,” it’s not actually about getting rid of “transactionalism,” but about reinforcing a hypergamous state to an even greater degree. It boils down to lowering the price women have to pay, raising the price that men have to pay, and sealing the deal by making it taboo for non-feminists to bring up and criticize in any meaningful way. The ultimate result of transactionalism, hypergamy, and prejudice is effectively a female cabal that sets out for itself to control both male and female gender roles for the sole benefit of high status women.

  • dungone

    As far as Filipovic’s criticism of men’s dating choices, which is in itself a strawman (get to that later), it’s important to realize that it really only applies to high-status, highly-sought-after men. Hypergamists couldn’t care any less for the unwashed masses acquiring a taste for self-avowed high class broads such as herself – there’s an entirely different set of standards for those men. The argument as it’s been laid out is basically an attempt to screw other women out of a good husband; women who she finds undeserving of the big prize. These women ostensibly offer a better deal at a lower price to these men than Filipovic would want to offer herself. She can’t have that.

    So then there’s the issue of Filipovic’s portrayal of men’s mating choices being a strawman. The context here is that men already pay a high enough price in terms of their personal wealth, health, and psyches. They just can’t afford to pay more. Dating down is actually as equitable as those men can make it, given the amount of sweat equity they must put into what is ultimately an incredibly risky venture.

  • Ginkgo

    dungone, would you care to pull these thoughts together into something I could post?

  • Jupp

    Remember this ad and the many angry responses it got? A conventionally unattractive man kissing a conventionally attractive woman must be some form of abuse or fraud.