Megan Nicol Reed: The old double standard

17:00, May 24 2014
The Fall
TOUGH NUT: Gillian Anderson in The Fall.

They are not ladies of the night. They do not stalk the streets in thigh-high boots and fishnets.

They are out there in the cold light of day, shuffling along the edges. Slippers and leggings. They dress for comfort
and easy access.

They are always there, outside my work, plying their trade where my husband picks me up.

I smile but it is rarely reciprocated. I don't blame them. I wouldn't smile either.

My husband is not a man who likes to be kept waiting. So the other night when I stepped out of the lift and saw his car across the road, I hastened my step.

I was wearing heels and a short, tight dress for a night out. I opened the passenger door and slipped in. Sorry,
darling, I said. Hope you haven't been here long.


But as I tugged my dress down over bare thighs, as I fumbled for the safety belt, I registered that something was wrong.

This was not my husband's car. This was not my husband. He was older. Wearing the suit of a conservative banker.

He was holding a wad of cash and he looked me over.

Surprised, but appraising, too. Oh, I said, backing out the door. I'm so sorry. Wrong car. I'm not soliciting. Honestly, I'm not.

I was terribly embarrassed and when my husband arrived I told him of my mistake and we laughed and I prayed
the man was watching and saw the truth.

In bed later, though, I thought about it. About that man's reaction. About my reaction. About how he assumed I was - and I assumed he thought I was - offering my body up for sale.

And then I thought about how if the situation was reversed and a strange man got into my car, my first reaction would be fear.

Rather than thinking I was being offered another's body, I would imagine mine was about to be taken against my will.

And deep in my being I felt a flash of anger that, in spite of everything, in spite of more than two centuries of feminism, this was still the way it was.

That hateful double standards continue to bear rotten fruit.

Women are taught to desire being ravaged. That there is no greater turn on than to be the object of another's want and that the mere fact of another's want should trigger your capitulation.

And yet, while too many women seem incapable of setting their sights any higher than a man who likes to stub out
his cigarette on tender belly flesh after a bad day, I am consistently astounded by the very arrogance of men who, no matter their own limitations, feel any woman would be lucky to have them.

An interview with British actor Nick Frost about his new film Cuban Fury recently ran in this paper. At 41, he is quite funny and very chubby.

According to him, the film is, in part, about how everyone can get a girlfriend, "that it is not just men with abs and ice-white teeth who get the girl".

Fair enough, too, I thought, and then I Googled his on-screen girlfriend. She's slender and gorgeous. I know a few funny, chubby women.

None would dare believe she could ever pull the hot guy.

Two excellent British TV crime series have recently held me in their grip. Both The Fall and The Tunnel boast strong
senior female police detective leads.

How do we know they're ballsy? Because they proposition strange men they fancy for sex, and when they've had their fill they leave.

The implication being this is abnormal for women and thus they are more like men.

At a party earlier this year, I watched a young woman drink a lot and flirt outrageously. On the other side of the room I watched a young man drink a lot and flirt outrageously.

One caused great concern amongst partygoers. The other a sort of amused admiration.

There's no prize for guessing which was which.

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