Do straight women enjoy sex? Or is it simply the price they pay for being in a relationship with a man?
According to writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry, it is the latter. He claims, in an interview in November’s Attitude magazine, that women only have sex with men “because sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship”.
As reprinted in today’s Guardian, he went on to say:
…he believed most straight men felt that “they disgust women” as they “find it difficult to believe that women are as interested in sex as they are”.
“If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas. Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking: ‘God, I’ve got to get my fucking rocks off’, or they’d go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to shag behind a bush. It doesn’t happen. Why? Because the only women you can have sex with like that wish to be paid for it.”
Fry, 53, continues: “I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want,” he said. “Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?”
His remarks – which were ironically in the ‘Role Models’ issue of Attitude – have garnered a huge amount of criticism, not least from outspoken feminists such as Rosie Boycott.
A man much-loved for his openness about his own life, particularly his sexuality and his mental health, Fry has demonstrated that even noted intellectuals can be prone to generalising about female sexuality. His comments show a startling lack of knowledge about what heterosexual women enjoy about sex with men, that not all women have the same sex lives, and ignores the fact that there are many women who enjoy having sex with women.
His belief that if women enjoyed sex they would be out cruising and cottaging is curious as it also ignores the social and cultural reasons why these practices evolved – one of which was the criminalisation of homosexuality. Then there are the many other reasons why straight women don’t generally cruise alone for sex (though there is dogging, which generally involves couples and single straight men), such as safety.
“Cottaging etc developed cos of centuries of taboos re gay & extramarital sex. He ignores socio-cultural history. And men traditionally had much more freedom than women, esp middle/upperclass women, to go out looking for sex.”
Also bizarre is his comment that the only women who would have sex “like that” must be prostitutes, who like sex as much as men only because they are being paid for it.
Though there are some who argue that Fry’s comments are referring to the ‘differences between the sexes’, women’s sexuality has evolved in the past century. Here in Ireland, as the grip of the Roman Catholic Church loosened on society women were more free to explore their own sexuality. The legalisation of the Pill, availability of condoms, the growth of the LGBT movement and feminist movement all had roles in creating freedom of sexual expression for Irish women.
This is not to say that sexual freedom has been ‘won’, but that women in Ireland today can enjoy sexual freedoms hard fought for.
To have someone of such a high profile as Stephen Fry treat female sexuality like it is a ‘price to be paid’ for being in a relationship is quite baffling, and not a little infuriating.
Perhaps he needs to educate himself in how enjoyable (and different) women’s sex lives can be – this recent Anti Room group post might be a good place to start.
What do you think of his comments? Let us know below.