Liane Jones: Caution, boys: predatory women at work

Why is it more uncomfortable to watch a woman in sexual pursuit?
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The Independent Online

Big Brother made torrid viewing last week. If you can't stomach contact sports, stick to the World Cup, because there's acres of needy flesh on display in the Big Brother house, much of it directed at young Pete. And it's taken all his skill to wriggle free thus far.

Pete has already proved his nimbleness by escaping the advances of Lisa - a simple matter of moving out of her bed. The 35-year-old Lea is made of sterner stuff. She rains kisses on him. She enfolds him in an octopus-like embrace. For weeks, she's claimed to have maternal feelings for him, but now she's admitted what the nation, hiding behind its cushions, knew from the start: it's sexual. Even Pete can no longer ignore it now she's started trapping him against walls with her enhanced breasts and asking why he won't kiss her.

Viewers and chatroom users haven't taken kindly to Lea's pursuit. The consensus seems to be that she's too old for him; he doesn't fancy her, so she should leave him alone. I agree - it's disturbing to watch one person forcing kisses and strokes on another. But she provokes another reaction as well. Many people feel embarrassed for Lea, as well as critical of her. They yell at her to stop pestering Pete for her own sake as well as his.

Why is it more socially uncomfortable to watch a woman in headlong sexual pursuit than a man? After all, there has been a real change in sexual manners. Women not only have sex on their own terms; they openly talk about it. They always did talk about it in private of course - many an eavesdropper has found his hair standing on end and other bits shrinking in alarm at the candour of women together. But now it's a matter of display.

Sit on a bus when schools are coming out, and you're likely to hear girls boasting as loudly as, if not louder than, the boys.

"I made him shag me all night!" shouted a girl in uniform on my bus last week. "I wouldn't let him stop!" In time-honoured fashion her friends looked glumly out of the window. It was almost certainly a lie, but the point is, she wanted to tell it.

The thrill of the chase has always been powerful for girls - I remember games of primary school kiss-chase. The difference was we all used the game as protective cover. Girls got to kiss boys while pretending they'd rather escape. We knew the boys would be scared if we were straightforward about it.

All that has changed now - and not just on the surface. Decades of safe contraception have revolutionised sexual relationships for women. For my grandmother, sex was something you exchanged for marriage and the financial security and independence you hoped came with it. "Who's going to buy a cow when they can get their milk for free?" they advised. My mother's generation acknowledged that their daughters had sex outside marriage, but they didn't like to talk about it. And they still saw it as a transaction with men as buyers - women who had sex too readily were "cheap".

Now the marketplace has changed. Women and girls are enthusiastic buyers. In fact, there seems to be a bit of a boom on and in these deregulated days, females need to move fast to grab what they want.

And here's where the problem lies. Because while girls and women may now initiate and brag about sex, they still tend to want a relationship to develop along with it. That's why rejection can be so lacerating for them. And so hard for the victims of their unwanted affections to inflict.

Therefore I hope everyone cheered when Pete, writhing against Lea's chest in vain, muttered, "I respect you too much" and broke free.