Every once in a while, a media savvy self-help writer makes the rounds with a book promising the key to heterosexual bliss. This is always annoying, but occasionally, a technique is so wrong-headed that it deserves a special dishonor. Without further ado, I bestow this week's Douchebag Decree onto the book Forty Beads: The Simple, Sexy Secret for Transforming Your Marriage and The Forty Bead Method it promotes.
First things first: The beads do not go inside anyone. Instead, Evans promises, they will "save your [heterosexual, monogamous] marriage" by bridging the supposedly innate "libido gap" between women and men. Here's how: Your husband drops a bead into a bowl when he wants sex, and then you have to have sex with him.
Yeah. I'll give you a minute to recover from that one.
Specially coded for multiple ways to read the same regressive tripe!
"But, wait," you might be saying, "this book is over 200 pages long. There must be more to it than that, right?"
There is not. The Forty Beads book begins with a chapter titled "Men Love Sex," made up entirely of variations of that statement, and follows up with "Men and Sex and Trouble," about how if you don't give in to every sexual demand, your husband will cheat on you. Too subtle? Evans moves on to "Sex: His Magic Elixir of Life." (I wish I were making that up, because it would be hilarious, but I'm not.)
I could use almost any paragraph as an example of how wrong this all is, but for funsies, here's this one:
Here's a hint, ladies: The house can be a total wreck and the baby shirtless in a sagging wet diaper, but if he's getting laid regularly, he's cool with it. All of it. Because there's one thing that's more important to your husband than everything else combined, multiplied by ten and raised to the fourth power: SEX.
Translation? "You, the woman reading my book, should stop all your housecleaning and childcare. I know that you've been taking care of those duties single-handedly, because, duh, you're female! The thing is, though, kids and clean space are worthless if they don't make your husband happy, and they don't! Men don't care about anything but heterosexual intercourse on demand. If they get it, they love life; if they don't, they hate it. They're more like light switches than people."
In Forty Beads, men are hypersexual, uncomplicated, amoral slobs, and women are prudish manipulators. When she's not writing about how much penises guarantee that Men Love Sex, Evans is announcing that wives "hold out" because they want favors from their husbands (nonsexual, natch). Forty Beads tells women they shouldn't make excuses, eg. fake yeast infections, in order to avoid sex; I agree. Her solution, though, is to always say yes to your husband, because if you don't, "he hates you." (Yes, it actually says that.)
To whom is this more insulting, women or men? And while we're at it, has anyone told her that not all husbands have penises and not all wives don't? How would she squeeze that fact into one of her little beads... er, boxes?
Believe it or not, Evans addresses feminism (though not by name) between generalizations and bunk science, in a two-page chapter titled "What Would Gloria Say?" She thinks Ms. Steinem would approve of these shenanigans, because:
Most of us have moved past the whole "I am woman, hear me roar" thing. It was a useful mantra and worked well—when we needed it. The sexual revolution was a time for women to separate from the men and put themselves out in front—it was "me" time and it was necessary in order to reach certain goals. What I'm suggesting by way of The Forty Beads Method is that as women, maybe we're ready to move past the "me" and are now just as interested in creating a happy "we"—as in, a thriving partnership with a man.
Oh my. What "certain goals" have we achieved that make feminism obsolete? Given the Helen Reddy reference, I'm assuming she doesn't mean the right to vote. The implication is that feminists are selfish and keeping women from evolving past a "'me' time." Her response to gender-related concerns is to sell "nudge cards" in addition to beads. The cards are for wives, to "suggest" that the husband use a bead. Got that? Men can demand sex; women can suggest that men demand sex.
In case you couldn't find beads for less than $1 apiece, I guess?
As egregious as the sexism is, though, Evans' concept is flawed on a deeper level. Even if the so-called Forty Bead Method were genderless, the idea that anyone should submit to hir partner's sexual whims on demand is not okay. A relationship is not a tacit agreement to sexual service, period. Positing submission as the "secret" to happiness encourages readers to disregard their own feelings and desires.
And then there's the idea that sex is a cure-all. When you're loving, living with, and/or co-parenting with someone, intercourse is not a magic wand. (...I know. Sorry.) I'm dubious of the belief that obligation will improve sex lives, but even if it does, couples do have nonsexual problems. Not everything unpuritanical is progressive.
The absolute worst part of Forty Beads (totally up for debate; there's a lot to choose from) may be the encouragement to not connect with your partner on a mental or emotional level. It's assumed to be impossible since women and men are totes different. Alleged "Beaders" are filmed gushing about how they now have sex "without having to communicate." This is awful. Be it in the bedroom or the grocery store, partners communicating their thoughts and feelings is a damn good idea, and probably a better way of solving problems than relying on inanimate objects to speak for you.
On the plus side, such that it is, Evans acknowledges that not everyone is straight. In the introduction to Forty Beads, she sets a paragraph in a separate font (so we know it's different ) to explain that even though Forty Beads is about "the male and female libidos," gay couples are welcome to try it. Uh, that's great, Carolyn; I guess you're less homophobic than some raging sexists, and you mention that not every woman or man is the same as the rest... on one page.
I have a better non-exclusionary idea, though: How about we all (female, genderqueer, male, trans*, cis, queer, asexual, straight, and more) laugh off Carolyn Evans' bogus "secrets" and enjoy our Bead-free sexual and nonsexual lives?