For your consideration, from the last week: the Washington Post’s “A shocking number of college men surveyed admit coercing a partner into sex,” and the Wall Street Journal’s “Women are more interested in sex than you think, studies show.” Why were these headlines—and the articles that followed—addressed to men?
Men violate women, the first article tells us. Women are pretty interested in sex, the second one says. Women tend to be acquainted with both of those facts very well already, and so—I am guessing at the reasoning—both the headlines and the pieces were aimed across the aisle. The WSJ’s dek says “Read her signals,” and the writer advises: “If you can tell your partner is interested in sex but you aren’t in the mood, acknowledge their desire.” The Post writes that, according to a new study, “sexual assault by college men is an even more widespread problem than the scandals imply.” The implied audience for these words is men, men, men.
I can’t tell whether the fact that both of these stories are about women and sex—and consent, specifically, either as it applies to sex within a relationship or rape committed by undergraduate men—makes the male-centered focus worse, or just more predictable, or both. Maybe neither! Maybe all articles about women and sex should be (and these are, for the following reason) addressed to men until they get up to speed on the revelations that (1) women like sex but (2) not when that sex is coerced out of their bodies. Or maybe men won’t get up to speed on those revelations until everything stops being addressed, by default, to them. Hard to say. Either way, the best part about both the WSJ and Washington Post articles is that they were both written by women.
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