“Ask any guy if sex is important in a relationship and the one who says no is lying. I just haven’t met that guy yet. When you meet him, let’s get him into the Smithsonian – he’s that special and rare.” – Steve Harvey, Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment (Harper Collins, 2009)
Actually, there’s probably something wrong with that man—and sex is important to women, too.
Much has been said about the sexism of Harvey’s book and derivative film (which isn’t merely sexist, apparently, but homophobic). As his talk show continues to gain success, having recently kicked off a new season, I felt compelled to weigh in.
Before I do, I should say that Harvey seems like a likable guy. He’s witty, contagiously upbeat and seems to genuinely care about the issues he addresses in his book and now syndicated talk show. He runs a mentoring camp in Detroit that strives to “share, teach and demonstrate the principles of manhood to young men, enabling them to achieve their dreams and become men who are strong, responsible and productive,” according to the organization’s website. He encourages men and women to respect themselves and each other and uses his talents, time, energy and celebrity to make a difference regarding issues he deems vital.
If only his philosophies regarding men, women and romantic relationships weren’t so problematic…
I have no desire to bash the comedian turned “love guru” personally; I believe he has wonderful intentions. But if I hear him suggest that women wait 90 days before “giving” sex to a man again, I might have to lure him to Girl Boner Central for a chat. Here he is on the Ellen Degeneres Show, discussing the rule:
Problems with the 90 Day Rule:
1. It presents sex as something women give to men. Sweaters. Game tickets. Cologne. These are gifts we might give another—an object or experience that namely benefits him or her. Sex shouldn’t be given, but shared and enjoyed when both parties are feel it’s the right time, whether that’s early on or down the road.
2. It encourages game-playing. If we start a relationship out with a bizarre form of sex-related checks and balances, or avoid sex before the 3-month mark purely to follow a rule, we set ourselves up for game-playing indefinitely. Throughout the relationship, sex could well become the man’s reward for particular behavior, and abstaining a sort of punishment. Game-playing leaves little room for authenticity and connectedness ad we’re likely to get hung up on keeping score and figuring out who deserves what when.
3. It treats sex as a currency or service. Viewing sex as a “benefit” a partner earns (much like working your way to health insurance at a new job, according to Harvey) sets a damaging standard, conveying that sex is a man’s reward for acting as we wish. What if we’re not Ms. Perfect? Should he withhold sex? Sexual intimacy enhances relationships. Withholding it because one party isn’t “perfect” could keep such bumps from smoothening out. (Harvey also calls women’s hugs, kisses and dressing up “payment.”)
4. It assumes that men desire sex more and sooner than women. Why do I suddenly feel pressured to wear an apron and cook a pot roast? Women and men are equally sexual creatures, equally deserving of sexual gratification and exploration. Yes, genders as a whole vary in particulars—but many of these variances have more to do with cultural factors than science. We also vary individually in terms of sexuality, regardless of our gender. Women who embrace this have healthier sex lives, body image, self-esteem and libido.
**Harvey does say that once we’ve passed the 90 day “probation” period with our partners, we can give it (sex) out “like sandwiches at a picnic.” I imagine some women might find empowerment in that. Maybe.
5. It encourages the myth that women who “give it up” early are slutty. Harvey doesn’t state this outright, but he’s only steps away. In his book he writes: “…if you’re giving [sex] to a guy who’s only been on the job for a week or two, you’re making a grave mistake.” He then depicts women who demand that men wait to receive sex as sharp, responsible and lady-like. These notions are outdated, damaging and false. Associating sex with sluttiness to any degree can tinker with sexual confidence and invite negativity to the bedroom.
6. It depicts many men as sex-hungry losers. While “real men” will wait for sex, according to Harvey, he asserts that all guys want and will pursue sex as soon as women are willing to give it. He also deems men unlikely to take a woman seriously if she “gives it up” early on. Research and personal experience have proven to me otherwise. Can it be true? Sure. The reverse can also happen. (I explored this a bit in my Sex and the Single Girl post.) I know countless awesome men who respect women regardless of their sexual ideals, and many who desire committed relationships as much or equally as many gals. Men can’t love as deeply or well as women, Harvey states, which is false, in my opinion.
(Women, on the other hand, says Harvey, will love a man “no matter what,” even if her “friends say he’s no good” and he “continually slams the door” on the relationship—ugh.)
Harvey certainly has a right to his opinion. I just wish his insights weren’t presented as “the truth” about how men think or so encouraging of a sexist mindset. Their popularity reminds me of dangerous diets touted by celebrities with little credibility or sound knowledge regarding wellness. Just as risky diets can wreak havoc on our health, buying into many of Harvey’s beliefs could damage followers’ emotional lives, sense of self-worth and relationships.
Should men and women respect themselves and one another? Absolutely. But abiding by a rule that turns sex into a prize men earn from women isn’t a healthy or empowering pathway. Staying true to ourselves, cultivating self embracement (which includes accepting our bodies and sexuality) and communicating honestly with anyone we decide to have a serious relationship and/or sex with cultivates respect all around, making way for harmonious living.
What do you think of Steve Harvey’s 90 Day Rule? Are you a fan or foe of his philosophies? When do you feel couples should begin having sex? As always, I love hearing your thoughts! ♥