Sunday 19 February 2012

Piranha Women who trap well-off men are pure myth


The dangers of daily life for modern men are manifold, it seems. Alongside transfats in foods and oestrogen in drinking water, they must also beware 'Piranha Women'. Or so says divorce lawyer Diane Benussi. In her daily life overseeing the unraveling of families' personal lives, she claims to have observed a new breed of avaricious woman. This lady, according to Ms Benussi, is manipulative and devious to the core -- a romantic mercenary in a mini-skirt. Increasingly, Ms Benussi observed to a tabloid newspaper, beautiful young women, disinclined to make an honest living, are targeting vulnerable wealthy men in a bid to win a share of their assets. Their weapon of choice is their fertility. They lure unsuspecting gentlemen into unprotected sex and then fall pregnant, using the resulting progeny as a siphon on the unsuspecting man's bank account. Poor love. As anyone knows, well-off men in middle age represent one of society's most vulnerable minorities. Not only that, but they are, apparently, completely incapable of taking care of something as simple as contraception. I don't know about you, but personally, in my three decades on earth, I've never met a Piranha Woman. This pantomime trope of a scheming madam who uses sex purely as strategy exists for me only in fairytale. There are women, sure, who find an affluent man who can prove his worth as a provider and an alpha male attractive. But I don't know a single female who has used her womb as a honey trap in order to save herself the bother of buying lottery tickets. I have, on the other hand, met plenty of men who are convinced that they must protect themselves against female strategy and acquisitiveness. One, whom I dated briefly in college, told me outright one evening that he knew as a successful, ambitious guy (at this point he was still a student) he had to beware the advances of ladies with alluring eyes and sinister agendas. His mother, he informed me gravely, had warned him that he was exactly the kind of man that women would try and become pregnant by. Thus, he must be extra careful with contraception. Needless to say, that comment was turn off enough to have me on the next bus home to my own bed. Contrary to what he and his mother thought, I was rather less convinced than they were of the value of his precious sperm. It's possible, of course, that there are a few Piranha Women out there. But I'd guess that they are an extremely rare species. There's a cultural precedent for this belief, of course. (Not to mention a great history of paranoia on the part of many men about the dark arts of female sexuality). That precedent is called a WAG. In an era when we have become more than familiar with women winning fame, wealth, and cultural influence on the strength of their association with rich men, it's not a far stretch to create the myth of the Piranha. We know well that the WAG seeks out partnerships with wealthy footballers, within which a transactional trade-off of beauty for lifestyle and luxury is transparently part of the deal. The notional Piranha simply takes this a step further, by, we are told, using her sex appeal to cut out the romance and go straight for the cash, by way of a baby. This, says Ms Benussi, has become an accepted way for a woman to make a living. One could argue that, as a divorce lawyer, she's likely to know. But I don't believe it. There's a huge leap between falling in love with a fit, rich, attractive young footballer and seducing a wealthy singleton with middle-aged spread to get straight to his bank balance. Sure, there are plenty of women who consider affluence to be an attractive attribute in a man. It bespeaks success, competence and a certain capacity for influence and agency in the world -- all sexy qualities, let's be honest. But outside of a pure sex-for-money transaction -- from which, for most women unlucky enough to have to resort to it, pregnancy as a result is usually the least desirable outcome -- I have never met a woman myself who would put it above sexual desire and a genuine emotional bond. The invention of the storybook villain Piranha Woman seems suspiciously like dredging up bitter old cliches in order to further divide the genders around issues of separation and divorce. Relationships are rarely so simple. And perpetuating these kind of tropes and stereotypes serves no one except the divorce lawyers.