Masters of Sex
All Together Now

Episode Report Card
Jacob Clifton: A+ | 43 USERS: A
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The High Striker

They both want (and know they won't get) Virginia to be the perfect subject: A living embodiment of measurable physical response, with zero mess. They both think (and know they're wrong) that Bill already is.

But the transactional aspect of all this goes another way, too, throughout the episode: A very helpful thought experiment about gender, having to do with what we mean when we talk about giving. Consider a man doing something for you, giving you something: He likes this because it makes him feel strong, protective, magnanimous, but above all powerful. A man gives because it's a way of expressing that he has something -- be that strength, funds, resources -- that you do not. If you want a man to love you, ask him for something and thank him with true gratitude. You will own that man for life.

But here is the trick: Consider a woman doing something for you, giving you something: She likes this because it makes her feel -- guess what? -- strong, protective, magnanimous, powerful. A woman gives because it's a way of expressing that she has something -- be that strength, funds, resources -- that you do not. If you want a woman to love you, ask her for something.

We play the gender game when we think of these impulses as being two different things, and we do it unwittingly, because it's based on the idea that Man Things -- opening jars, cosigning loans -- are always better than Woman Things -- baking a cake, say, or letting you fuck her. One of them is the father who withholds to keep you on your toes, and the other is a mother who, like the Giving Tree, is a non-renewable resource that gives until it's gone. One of them is a man going out of his way, and the other one is a woman giving you something you already feel entitled to.

(Consider wage disparity: Men's labor is worth more than women's labor, because women were made to give but men are doing us a favor just by showing up. Teachers and nurses deserve less pay than CEOs and NFL quarterbacks because it's what they'd be doing anyway. But also, Nice Guy/Friend Zone stuff, too, falls into this category: Women who withhold sex are bitches because they're hoarding all the sex you deserve for existing.)

Of course, in 2013 you can ask a woman to open a jar for you and she will love it, and you can ask a boy to cook for you, and he will love it. But that's not going all the way with it, still, because we are still in gendered territory when we ask for and when we give these things. Part of the thrill is breaking the unwritten laws surrounding those things, being more than the category: Even thinking outside the box, you're still letting the box define you.

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Masters of Sex

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