Minnesota's co-op op-ed page
Years of dating, internet dating, subsequently quitting internet dating, and being the female accepted into groups of males has given me the unique vantage point of having witnessed quite a bit of ridiculous, self and other sabotaging, and just plain stupid or crazy behavior.
Individuals of both genders collectively work to create sets of expectations that limit the capacity to communicate or build effective relationships.
Playing hard to get. Ladies, it’s perfectly okay to be hard to get or not, if that’s your thing, but either way don’t play. In a rape culture, it is important that we preserve a distinct difference between “no” and “yes.”
Don’t be party to training men to disregard what your words say for what your actions are saying or vice versa.
Becoming the crazy ex. Almost every every man who’s been single beyond his early twenties has a story about THE crazy ex-girlfriend or wife.
Ladies, don’t destroy a man’s property or light it on fire. Don’t intentionally physically, mentally, or emotionally humiliate men. Don’t use sex or kids as blackmail. Don’t fake pregnancies, birth control use, or miscarriages. Don’t stalk men or go through their phones, emails, or facebook. Don’t make him ask permission to do everything that wasn’t initially decided by you.
When men finally escape your controlling and demeaning clutches, they continue to treat women like they have a zombie virus, always waiting for the next one to turn. Men internalize issues that you project onto them. Thus, they become 25 year-old men on Viagra because they actually believe that they have a problem. They become self-conscious, paranoid, and suspicious even when there’s no reason for it.
Sanctioning ill-treatment by making excuses. One of the most difficult parts of forming a relationship is trying to decide where the line between “It’s okay, you’re human” and “It’s not okay because I’m human” lies. For me, I think this line comes down to frequency of mistreatment and how my partner responds after the hurtful event and after he knows how I feel.
If women continuously make excuses for men who repeatedly mistreat them, then those men learn patterns of behavior in which they learn that they don’t have to value women as fully human. They learn to expect better treatment than they are willing impart on their partners.
Not letting “no” mean “no.” Guys, some women will mess with you in this regard. However, assuming that “no” always means “no” is the least harmful assumption for all involved. Men who ignore a first or second “no” even in the flirting stage are the reason that women learn to become stand-offish, rude, or downright hostile right off the bat even when a conversation might be innocent.
Being unaware of or unable to express your thoughts or feelings. I don’t know how many men I’ve heard who detest their partner’s use of phrases like, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.”
That’s unethical communication, but letting out anger without the self-awareness and ability to articulate why you are reacting is worse.
I know our society places little value in men learning to articulate emotions through words, but if you don’t know what’s wrong, there’s no way your partner can, and, thus, there’s no way she can work toward repairing it.
Sanctioning ill-treatment by making excuses. Guys are just as guilty of misjudging the line between “It’s okay, you’re human” and “It’s not okay because I’m human” as females are, and, consequently, they train women that ill-treatment is acceptable behavior.
As many men seem to perceive that all women fall somewhere on the continuum from a tiny bit crazy to bat-shit crazy, they seem to give women an awful lot of leeway when it comes to bad behavior.
Many men seem to perceive ill-treatment as a necessarily evil of attachment. Guys, women know this, and some will take full advantage of it. Don’t sell yourselves short.
When we make decisions about how we relate in the context and vulnerability of a romantic relationship, remember that not only do we have tremendous power in that other person’s current life, but we also wield great power in shaping their expectations about future relationships, about their feelings of value, and about how it’s okay for them to treat others.
Let’s spend more time screwing each other rather than screwing each other. The brain chemicals are much more fun that way.
Note: I wrote this in a gender binary for simplicity, but the broader concepts aren’t limited to heterosexual relationships.