And it should be treated as such in popular media. Often it is not. Point in case: Iron Man.
I hope to see the day when promiscuity in men is treated the same as women, when sexism is as universally offensive as racism. Instead of the hallmark of dashing heroes, womanizing should be treated as a vice, like smoking, or beating a dog. In Iron Man, Stark is supposed to be irresistible to women, and he takes advantage of this trait at every chance. We've seen this before to a lesser extent in James Bond movies, and it was offensive there, too, but what really makes the lechery in Iron Man so revolting is the way it's portrayed. Stark treats every woman he meets as a sex object - and they like it! I'm sorry, no. If a man asks a woman for sex who is just trying to maintain a professional relationship, she's going to slap him, not screw him. There is the possible exception of groupies and their idols, but that's not what we saw in Iron Man. The reporter from Brown wasn't a fan, but she screwed Stark because... um... he's just that irresistible? Or maybe he paid her, but if so there's no hint in the movie. It's not just unrealistic, it's misogynistic. Stark screws them and throws them away. He doesn't even stick around to say "thanks," or "good bye," but has Pepper "take out the trash."
That brings me to Pepper Potts - the perfect little personal assistant. Feminine, dainty, obedient, submissive, and accommodating of Stark's exploitative lifestyle. She wears high heals and skirts - pretty, not practical, as she can barely run when it's her turn to be the damsel in distress. Oh, and when Stark comes on to her at the art benefit, it's not sexual harassment, it's just sexy. Even though she knows he's probably got more STDs than a crack whore in Tijuana, and that he'll just toss her out once he's had his fuck.
Allow me to put the bigotry of Iron Man in perspective. Suppose that instead of being a lecher, Stark had a reputation and flair for manipulating black executives into shining his shoes and calling him "Master." If the studio even had the gall to release the movie, it would have gotten protests and boycotts. Where were the protests? Where was the condemnation? What saddens me most about this movie is not that it was released in this form, but that no one even notices how misogynistic it is, or if they do, they don't care. Iron Man got rave reviews in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and Variety. Of the three, only Rolling Stone even bothers to mention the fact that Stark is a lecher. I only found one mention of Iron Man and misogyny in mainstream media, and the purpose of the article is to point out the lack of women-driven films in 2008 and 2009.
Sexism is so pervasive in the country that we don't even notice it most of the time. I barely thought about it before taking a course in gender and media. Now that it's been pointed out to me, I can see it everywhere, which is one of the reasons I dislike so much of popular media. (Of course, sexism abounds in classical literature, as a reflection of attitudes of the time, but it wasn't discussed in any of my classes.) They say that the first step to recovery is to acknowledge the problem. Sexism in the USA is real. If we can't even see womanizing as a vice, then we have a very big problem indeed.