SCRAP: “Sex Tickets”

What are “sex tickets?” They’re part of a larger myth about women’s sexuality, and it goes something like this: when each woman is born, she has a limited number of purely theoretical tickets. In later life, the woman hands these out to each of her sex partners, who never return them. When she runs out of sex tickets, the woman is spent. She is used-up. Any partners she has who do not receive one of her sex tickets are viewed as foolish for consorting with a woman such as her; they aren’t getting any sort of prize, because she’s already all out.

The “sex ticket” concept came up in my Romanticism class this week. In William Blake’s “Visions of the Daughters of Albion,” the virginal Oothoon is raped by the evil Bromion—who impregnates her and whom she is forced to marry—before she can consummate her relationship with Theotormon. In retribution, Theotormon chains the victim to her rapist. Oothoon then tries to calm her true love and convince him to return, saying, “Arise my Theotormon I am pure. / Because the night is gone that clos’d me in its deadly black.”

In this way, Oothoon sounds much like Geoffrey Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, who argues that women’s sexuality should be a source of pleasure, and not a way to control them. The Wife of Bath’s Tale includes this statement:

‘What good does it do if you inquire after me or spy upon me? You want to lock me in your chest, I believe! You should say, “Wife, go where you wish, take your pleasure, I will believe no tales; I know you for a true wife, Lady Alice.” We love no man who takes note or care where we go; we wish to have our freedom. May he be blessed of all men, that wise astrologer, Sir Ptolemy, who says this proverb in his book Almagest, “Of all men, he who never cares who has the world in hand has the greatest wisdom.” You are to understand by this proverb that you have enough: why do you need to care how well-off other people are? For in truth, old fogey, you shall have plenty of pleasing thing in the evening. He who will forbid a man to light a candle at his lantern is too great a miser; by God, he should have light, nevertheless. So you have enough; you need not complain.

Her argument here is that for a woman to have multiple partners—even when she is married—does not reduce the amount of pleasure any of them receive from her. While I don’t condone infidelity, I find the Wife’s argument sound. While it is not a path for everyone, by any means, there is no reason a couple cannot open their relationship up to having multiple partners and still successfully maintain it.

More than that, however, the Wife destroys the myth of sex tickets by pointing out that a woman loses nothing by having multiple partners, whether concurrently or throughout her life. By telling girls and women that their worth is defined by how many or how few partners they have, we participate in the enforcement of a double-standard, which gives both men and women credit for holding onto as many sex tickets as possible, despite the fact that they obtain—or retain—them by completely opposite means. Sex tickets are a myth, and it’s time we all started acknowledging it.

Have you ever heard of the sex ticket myth? Let me know in the comments!