Society

A French Look At Male Consent And Male Libido In The #MeToo Era

The accepted notion that men 'are always ready' for sex is false, and can lead to relationship troubles, and much worse.

'Inexhaustible masculine libido... constitutes a myth, maintained by the men themselves'
"Inexhaustible masculine libido... constitutes a myth, maintained by the men themselves"
Maïa Mazaurette

PARIS — It's a cliché that's constantly repeated: men are always ready for sex, no matter how or with whom. This aroused state as impulsive as breathing: a physical, hormonal need, maintained by pornographic stimulations, boosted by heat, exacerbated by sports. In short, there's always something....

Certainly, sometimes stress, fatigue or medical problems interfere with sex drive — but in any case, we share this idea that there's the desire, no matter how minimal, never goes away; if anything, it's only counteracted or postponed.

This concept of men being "always ready," comes with some very harmful consequences: if men want it all the time, then their partners can never give it to them enough, and bear the guilt. If men are always sexually frustrated, then they only become "normal" from time to time, they are allowed to use force (we have all heard of rape or prostitution being justified due to the lack of female availability — what's implied is that it's the fault of all women if some are raped, since if they had respected the nature of men then we wouldn't be here).

However, according to a study published this year in France (Charles.co/IFOP), 47% of men have already experienced low libido, including 18% in the past year. Also 57% have already erections that were not firm enough, 29% have not been successful at having an erection at all. Nearly one in 10 men have some form of erectile dysfunction.

You can't treat me like I'm an object.

Inexhaustible masculine libido thus constitutes a myth, maintained by the men themselves: bragging when it comes to sexual prowess, the size of their penis or their desire form a part of the masculine code. Jokes are repeated even when they harm those who make them. When one is aroused all the time, that's a condition called priapism. And if one doesn't "think about it," then it's probably time to see a good movie or to get involved in politics.

Here we face a problem: we know that low libido is actually common, but we still continue to perpetuate this idea that a man wants sex and consents all the time. This standard of the "real man" drives behaviors that are bad for their health: 21% of men have already supplemented their "shortcomings' by medication, 16% by alcohol, and 9% by drugs, according to the same IFOP study. Less extreme: 43% have watched pornography to arouse themselves.

These mechanisms of compensating usually come at a cost of listening to ourselves, something we must practice to better know ourselves or to become better lovers. If we can just ask a simple question: "Do I really want it, with whom, why, in which circumstances?" then we can understand which conditions are responsible for a decreased sex drive… all while recovering dignity ("I'm not an easy man, and no, you can't treat me like I'm an object.")

Benefits also extend to couples: in refusing sexual activity from time to time (with communication), one creates a distance that fosters desire: rather than offering too much, one can better manage the absence of sex drive.

"Culturally, the manliness of a guy has always been measured by sex drive" — Photo: JP Valery

Especially in this outlook, women aren't always the more delicate, on a scale that starts from derogatory remarks to men ("what dogs," "always craving," "like vultures' etc,..) to aggression. In France, one man in 20 have been victim of a rape or attempted rape, half under the age of 11 (survey CSF, 2006). Their perpetrators are sometimes women who have pressured them mentally or physically while taking advantage of them, for example when the men are intoxicated.

Despite the inherent difficulty in filing a complaint (whatever the scenario), remember that the French law approved August 1, 2018 in the initiative of Secretary of State on Gender Equality, Marlene Schiappa, allowed performing forced oral sex on men and forcing penetration by men to be qualified as rape. Erection isn't a sign of consent, nor is ejaculation (in the same way that neither vaginal lubrication nor female orgasm are proof of consent).

But even without considering that, even the decrease in sex drive of one partner is the source of a lack of understanding from the other partner. Women, generally, are not educated on men's consent: they don't ask because, by default, they consider that men always consent ⁠— all the male bragging doesn't fall on deaf ears. This means that women may miss "evident" signs of disinterest or avoidance, or ignore repeated verbal rejection. They then put their partners into a situation that's so familiar: when one says no one time, one usually has to say no five, six, 40 times. It them becomes simpler, faster to just stop resisting, and to wake up the next morning with anxiety.

When this one part of the body doesn't function, then nothing else exists.

In this case, the lack of understanding on the part of women on the taboo social issue often results in internalization ("if he doesn't get aroused, it must be because I'm undesirable") or sometimes externalized with aggression ("you don't love me anymore, I'm sure that you're seeing other women, you have to make an effort…") In any case, the perceived issues overlook the real cause of the problem: a simple lack of libido rather than some kind of crisis.

Aside from problems concerning women's ego, we must also look at men's fragile ego. Culturally, the manliness of a guy has always been measured by sex drive: a man who doesn't have sexual urge is not man. This reduction of masculinity to only sexual prowess creates an additional pressure on the shoulders (or penis) of men: when this one part of the body doesn't function, then nothing else exists, doesn't matter if he's a handsome guy, in good health, smiling, he still has "a big problem." If you're looking for the instant recipe to block sex drive, you'll find it.

Because the men concerned don't talk often either to their partners or to their friends, and don't even realize sometimes that they don't want to have sex, it's time to talk about this in our culture. Very simply, we have to remember that no, men don't always want to have sex. No, they are not always available for any type of fantasy any time. And no, the lack of sex drive does not put into question a man as a human being.

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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