Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

RHOC: The key to winning over someone’s kids

July 16, 2012

There’s an art to stepping into a family — and by that, I mean that dating someone’s parent is dicey. It’s awkward enough when you’re first meeting someone’s family — their parents, their siblings, their relatives — but meeting someone’s kids is a whole different ballgame. And one preconceived notion that I despise, as the child of divorced parents, is that all kids will automatically dislike their parents’ significant others.

I do think it’s easier for people who meet the kids when they’re young — the older that the kids are, the more attached they probably are to the idea of their parents as a solid couple. You don’t want to be seen as the wrench in the relationship, but, on the other hand, young adults can probably perceive problems in their parents’ relationship and wouldn’t necessary jump to blaming the newbie.

Anyway, this is all spawned from watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and seeing Vicki try to urge a relationship between Brooks, her boyfriend, and her children Brianna and Michael. The way that Brianna describes Brooks — pompous, intrusive, condescending, evasive — are all the exact qualities you don’t want to portray. If ever there was a harsh critic, it’s someone’s kids — you don’t get brownie points for impressing them with your worldliness.

Because really, kids are just looking for their parents to date people who are friendly, funny, and genuine. I think this is who everyone wants to see their friends and family date, but adults often don’t realize that kids 1.) don’t seek an authority figure and will immediately reject someone who tries to adopt that role, and 2.) aren’t impressed by arrogance. It’s not a job interview where you need to brag about yourself to win the employer over — it’s more about sitting back, listening, observing, and feeling out when the time is right to add your two cents.

That kind of sounded harsh but… it’s true. In my experience, I’ll respond far better to someone who is just friendly and not abrasive — people who want to belittle me, tell me what to do, or make obvious attempts to assert their dominance in the food chain? Yeah… not interested. This is what Brianna was saying — families already have these set traditions and routines, so the best way to get on the kids’ good sides? Act like any guest — don’t try to take control; don’t try to rewrite the traditions.

There’s definitely some finesse to finding those spots — when to speak up, when to ask questions, when to take a backseat. But Brooks being more concerned with flaunting his wealth and ownership of Vicki than really getting to know Brianna and trying to organically find a place in their family? That’s not going to rub any of her kids the right way. Be sincere and genuinely nice; understand that it’s not your job to replace anyone; and don’t act sketchy. Brooks? He won’t tell anyone his job. You only get one first impression, and trying to avoid talking about how you make money is an instant red flag… even outside the OC.

So should kids be blamed for not being welcoming enough to newbies? Is it the children who are being stubborn because they don’t want their moms/dads replaced? I don’t think so. I think this is the misconception, but that reality shows these newbies have trouble establishing a space in an already existing family unit. And I get that it’s a tough thing to navigate. But I can assure you that treating kids with disrespect, attitude, and self-centeredness isn’t the proper path. Maybe they’re just trying to make a splash, but try wading into the waters instead of attempting the cannonball… and then bellyflopping.


Ideal wedding gift: People keeping their two cents?

July 14, 2011

Facebook engagements, wedding invitations, bridesmaid duties — I’ve reached the age where marriage is common and constant. GOOD associate editor Nona Willis Aronowitz’s article “I Wish I Wasn’t Married,” however, looks at marriage from a different perspective — one where she discusses getting married to get her boyfriend insurance and all of the social antics that followed.

One of the things that really struck me was the judgment that Willis Aronowitz received from family, friends, and co-workers when she publicized her marriage on Facebook:

Suddenly, I had become a blank slate for others’ fantasies and judgments, an unwitting recipient of advice, wedding proposal stories and even a source of visible jealousy. Now that my relationship was public and state-sactioned, people felt they could freely weigh in on it.  My world was divided by two reactions: “Amazing, you’re married!” and, “Are you serious?” My New York friends and family were just perplexed, remembering my years-long, non-tragic bouts of singlehood. Other friends were surprised I made the move after my outrage only weeks before at California’s upholding of Prop 8.

Those comments were countered by delighted, almost relieved reactions. My coworkers from the suburbs had been hard-pressed to find anything to talk to me about, but now they were fawning all over me. Buried in their generic “congratulations!” were little epiphanies—they’d finally found a way to relate to me.

Relationships generally bring a lot of unsought advice from third parties (as does being single), but marriage seems to attract even more commentary. Sure some of the response to the author’s marriage can be attributed to a shotgun wedding, but friends showing disappointment that you sold out? Co-workers admitting that you weren’t socially approachable as “girlfriend” but now are as “wife”? People getting jealous? These aren’t specific to shotgun weddings, these permeate all types of nuptial talk.

The selling-out accusation really caught my eye, as marriage is a divisive topic among feminists. As a feminist, your viewpoints will likely either cause criticism from non-feminist-minded family and friends who don’t understand why you don’t want to get married, why you don’t want to take your husband’s last name, why your wedding isn’t going to have [insert traditional but patriarchal element here], etc. — or you’ll hear criticism from feminist-minded family and friends who want to criticize you for getting married, taking your husband’s last name, incorporating [traditional but patriarchal element here] in your wedding, etc.

Part of the problem here is people’s natural tendency to be gossipy and critical. Another part though, as Willis Aronowitz suggests at the end of her article, is the narrow definition that exists for marriage. I believe that you can change the institution from within, change the social expectations and implications of marriage by example, and the same with choosing not to get married. So though I understand the motivation for calling people out, it also just reinforces the traditional, rigid view of marriage and prevents it from evolving (in a social context — laws defining marriage as only between a man and a woman obviously are the major legal roadblock to redefining “traditional” marriage).

And this judgmental attitude spans beyond feminists to pretty much everyone — I do not envy people who are engaged or married and constantly fielding unsolicited advice about how their wedding should be, what they’re doing wrong, why they shouldn’t get married, why their potential spouse is a dud, etc. Generally, we should be glad when our family and friends have found happiness and want to share it with us in whatever way is most comfortable for them, but instead we often bludgeon them over the head with our opinion of what would really make them happy and what they should be doing.

The lesson? Before interjecting your two cents, try to respect the people and the relationship you want to criticize, and consider that them doing things differently than you would doesn’t mean they’re doing them wrong. And if there is a ceremony, you can hope the officiant will ask if anyone objects and then you can go to town.

P.S. I hear it only gets worse when it comes to parenting.

Attention cheating men: Nature didn’t cause your infidelity

June 28, 2011

I feel so bad for men and their instinctual inability not to cheat on their significant others:

When a girl is literally unzipping your pants, men can’t say no. We’re not built that way.

This is a quote from a recent article in Marie Claire about bachelor parties and what really happens at them. The man quoted above used this line as an excuse for why it was OK for him to cheat on his wife at a bachelor party — because when a woman propositions to hook up, a man’s unstoppable instinct is to oblige. In fact, Dilbert creator Scott Adams recently went so far as to group “tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive” as examples of bad behavior that really are “natural instincts of men [that] are shameful and criminal” according to society.

This is a tired and untrue claim made by men who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions — that their sexual desires and urges are so powerful that if a woman is naked in front of them, they are helpless to overcome their instinct to get laid. What this really speaks to isn’t a natural instinct, but a lack of willpower, self-control, and forethought. If a woman comes on to you and you are in a relationship where hooking up with other people is considered cheating, then you have the agency to decline, push her away, walk away, etc. If you literally can’t fight these temptations and they overwhelm your life, you likely need to seek professional help for a sex addiction.

Hugo Schwyzer at the Good Men Project says that this type of bachelor party behavior isn’t natural male instinct, but a social response from peers to prove one’s masculinity and maintain male camaraderie by hooking up with women:

What’s curiously absent in the Marie Claire article (and in the research on male homosociality and heterosexual behavior) is lust. Most of us were raised to believe that young men are in a state of near-constant arousal, with sex first and foremost on their minds. The reality […] is that orgasm is secondary in importance to homosocial validation.

I’ve seen this kind of male peer pressure countless times — the most recent, documented example is from The Real World when Leroy harasses Dustin to kiss Cooke. Dustin seemed to relent only because of Leroy’s goading, and I’m sure proving his heterosexuality to male roommates after his gay-porn-star past was revealed also factored into that decision. But what he lost in making his on-and-off roommate girlfriend Heather mad, he gained in respect and validation from Leroy.

The mantra that men can’t fight their sexual temptations (see also this video which begs women to dress modestly because men can’t fight their lustful and sinful temptations) ignores that people come equipped with reason and logic. And I know that many men don’t employ the sex-crazed mantra, and many men wouldn’t encourage their buddies at bachelor parties to cheat on their significant others, but this excuse is thrown around so much in regard to sexual behavior generally that it’s unsettling. And it becomes most unsettling when used as Adams does, to excuse rape as a natural male instinct because men can’t control their sexual urges.

Or as Dan Rottenberg wants to excuse rape, as the quintessential “drama” that men — the “human animal” — naturally crave:

Conquering an unwilling sex partner is about as much drama as a man can find without shooting a gun— and, of course, guns haven’t disappeared either.

This is an example of rape apologism that I haven’t heard before — that forcing a woman against her will to have sex with you is a real thrill that men naturally seek — but follows the same rhetoric of excusing behavior because it’s deemed natural for men to do. Considering that we’re a species that prides itself on its intelligence, it’s merely a matter of convenience to revert to the “it’s just uncontrollable instinct” defense to escape accountability for “bad” behavior.

So instead of, “We’re not built to stay faithful to our significant others,” maybe cheating men should try being more honest with themselves. Some possible truths include, “I’m not really committed to my current partner,” “I’m caving to peer pressure,” or “I’m a douchebag who simply hopes to cheat on his partner, lie about it, and get away with it just because I can.”

Sexual histories: Is it lying if you don’t talk about them?

June 16, 2011

Unless you haven’t dated or ever been physical with anyone before, you undoubtedly enter new relationships with a history. Past flings, past relationships, past experiences — everyone’s history is different, from the number of people in your relation Rolodex to the extent of your relationships with those past people. But if you don’t share this history with your partner(s), are you lying to them?

That was the claim made on the reunion special of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Here’s the rundown: Alexis and Jim have been married for seven years, and Alexis and Peggy have been friends for four years. About 15 or so years ago, Jim and Peggy “hung out” (Peggy’s euphemism) but then decided they’d be better off as friends. When Peggy asked Jim if Alexis knew about their past, he said Alexis didn’t know and “would never know.” A few months ago, Alexis found out about Jim and Peggy’s fling.

The other housewives said they thought Jim had lied to Alexis, and Tamra was insistent that this constituted Jim keeping secrets from her. But Alexis said they agreed at the beginning of their relationship not to discuss their histories. They were starting a new chapter together, and they weren’t interested in the previous ones.

Rarely do I agree with anything Alexis says, but in this case, she’s right. It’s important for partners to create those boundaries when it comes to discussing their past relations, so that both parties are clear about what they do and don’t want to know. There is value to knowing — and it’s essential to ask about — whether that person is free of sexually transmitted infections in every case; the value of knowing how many partners someone has had and the explicit details of what they’ve done is on a case-by-case basis, depending on the person receiving the info.

So Jim and Alexis decide and agree that they don’t want to know about each other’s past. When Jim doesn’t tell Alexis about his fling with Peggy, that isn’t lying or keeping secrets — it’s simply keeping to the agreement because Alexis doesn’t want to know about Jim’s past. I also agree with Alexis that if Peggy thought it was important to tell, Peggy should’ve mentioned it to Alexis — Jim has no obligation to disclose that information because of the no-info-sharing agreement, but Peggy isn’t under any such contractual constraints.

Sharing info can be a slippery slope. My boyfriend and I have discussed, in relation to Real World‘s Dustin not telling Heather about his porn star past, how the line is blurry when it comes to what you have an obligation to tell your partner. Questions like, “Have you been tested for STIs?” or “How many sexual partners have you had?” or “How many long-term relationships have you had?” are easy to think of and might even come up in casual conversation. “Have you ever done gay porn?” probably isn’t.

But here, the line was drawn firmly in the sand — they don’t want to know anything, so Jim isn’t a liar. This would be much more complicated if there was no agreement in place — should Jim warn Alexis about his fling with Peggy? Is it up to Alexis to ask Jim if he’s slept with every new woman they meet? Is he a liar for not disclosing at all, even if she never asks? “Liar” isn’t accurate unless he denies a fling with Peggy, but withholding information you think your partner should or would want to know is deceptive — not to mention it puts that person in the sucky everyone-knows-about-this-but-you position.

(On a sidenote, hearing Peggy’s side of the story and how determined Jim sounded not to let Alexis find out makes me curious whether they actually did have such an agreement and/or whether he had lied about it to Alexis in the past.)

‘Real World’ tidbits: Idealizing a partner, forgiving family

May 26, 2011

This week on Real World, there were two interesting themes (surprisingly neither has to do with Dustin doing porn): idealizing someone you have romantic feelings for and mending fraught relationships. The former is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a skewed image of the person, and the latter is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a real image of the person, with it being difficult in either case to look objectively at the person in the present.

Ideal vs. real

It boggles my mind that anyone could actually idealize Adam, considering he has zero redeeming qualities, but Nany had idealized Adam and their relationship until he returned for a final visit with Nany. He came back, got belligerently drunk, and tried to get into the Hard Rock Hotel (which he is banned from). Nany didn’t stay the night with him and proceeded to ignore him for the next two days, obviously annoyed that his visit was not going as she’d imagined.

I was actually quite surprised that she so quickly turned against him, since he was constantly belligerently drunk when he was still living in Vegas. His behavior was classic Adam — everything you’d think Nany would expect. But I’m sure that Nany had a skewed and idealized memory of Adam. He wasn’t around to remind her that he is manipulative, out of control, and violent, so she could remember him exactly as she decided — and I’m sure that idealized memory disintegrated as she watched him drink vodka straight from the bottle.

We often and unknowingly stay in unhealthy relationships because we rely on these idealized images of people, suppressing the bad stuff and remembering the good stuff. It’s why people stay in and return to bad relationships, because they either forget or ignore the bad stuff in hopes it’ll play out differently. Nany was willing to ignore a lot of the bad, but eventually she reached a point where she couldn’t ignore how skewed her memory of Adam was and came back into reality.

So I say kudos to Nany, who didn’t try to keep “reforming” another bad boy, something she admitted in episode one that she likes to do. I disagree with her assessment that Adam is fine sober, but I do hope that she meant it when she said she was going to stop going after guys like Adam. Part of that will mean identifying manipulative, violent behavior and not brushing it off or excusing it.

Forgiving someone vs. forgetting someone

This week Mike’s mom and her boyfriend came to visit, and he hadn’t seen her in two years and didn’t know what to expect from the visit. He has detailed in past episodes that she wasn’t around during his childhood, frequently got arrested, and had substance abuse problems throughout his life. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Mike confessed that he didn’t know if he wanted to rekindle a relationship with her because she might just be taken away from him once again.

Mike’s dilemma was extremely difficult, and it was juxtaposed with Nany’s quest to find her birth father. Whereas Mike had known his mother all his life (though at one point did refer to her as his “birth mother,” implying his relationship with her is very minimal in scope), Nany never knew her father at all. She hired a private investigator to find him, who eventually revealed that her father had died in 2002.

Nany was desperate to form a connection with a father she never knew, and Mike was unsure if he wanted to form a connection with a mother he always knew (though not in a way that he wanted). Nany’s learning that she could never build relationship with her father led her to warn Mike not to take his mother for granted, and this seemed to resonate with him. It would be easier in the short-term to forget about her, but likely much more difficult in the long-term if she passes away and building a relationship with her is impossible.

Real World-er’s relationship argument tactics are misguided

April 28, 2011

I find the characters of this season’s Real World fascinating. Different upbringings, different religions, different personalities — and this week we learned that Dustin once was paid to live in a house with a bunch of straight men, which was streamed online through a webcam, and sometimes had sexual relations with other guys while living in said house. I don’t judge Dustin for doing this — I do, however, judge him for how he handled telling his current romantic interest, Heather, and the aftermath that ensued.

When it comes to arguing with a significant other, everybody has specific inclinations/style/habits/quirks. For instance, I tend to repeat and drill into my sig other’s head why whatever he did was so hurtful/annoying/douchey, which I’ve been told can be excessive. I tend to stew about things, even after the fight is over, and then feel the need to reopen the fight so I can include, for the record, whatever other point I forgot to mention. I focus a lot on the language and wording people use and sometimes read into it too much.

Dustin has his own set of inclinations. You see, Heather and him have sex, so it was pretty important that he disclose his sexual history with her. When she discovers that he had been lying/withholding some parts of that sexual history, she has a right to be upset; but Dustin deflects this anger and then tries to make Heather the bad guy in the following ways:

1. Before they begin to fight, he immediately implies that whatever she has heard is not the truth; he immediately tries to discredit her argument and invalidate her reasons for being mad by insinuating that they are baseless or not “the real story.”

2. He belittles her being upset, asking, “You’re really that mad?” as if he is really surprised that learning your sexual partner has an entire sexual history he hasn’t shared with you isn’t reason to be concerned. He’s doing this in hopes that it’ll convince her that it really isn’t a big deal; considering all her roommates support her being mad, this tactic didn’t work very well.

3. She actually tries to comfort him after he discovers everyone in the house knows his secret, and he tells her to get away from him; he says that her being there is making him mad and pushes her away, which seemingly only makes her more persistent not to leave.

4. The most outlandish thing is when they are out to dinner and he turns the tables and says that he can’t believe she is the type of person who would judge him for this. Heather seems partly mad because she has said before she’d be uncomfortable being with a guy who has been with another guy, but she is partly mad because he lied about his sexual history. She is rightfully concerned that she should be tested, and he shrugs it off and tries to focus the attention on her being an intolerant person rather than him being a liar.

Dustin’s tactics are ones I’ve seen before, but I really couldn’t believe that he was so blatantly saying to Heather, “Oh, you’re mad at me, well I’m mad at YOU!” regarding something as serious as him lying/withholding information about his sexual history. In relationships, this tactic most surely will not solve any problems. Just trying to make your sig other feel crazy will probably postpone having to deal with the problem, but inevitably they will talk to other people, be reaffirmed in their anger, and the problems will surface once more.

And I don’t know if they discussed their sexual histories with each other or not — but everyone should do this. Dustin claimed the porn industry was the cleanest business out there when it comes to sexual health (I’d search for statistics but I’m work and the search results might be NSFW), but regardless, he — as well as any other sexually active person — should get tested regularly for STIs. And he shouldn’t direct Heather away from getting tested, either.

Instead of being manipulative, Dustin should have done the following:

1. Been upfront when Heather asked if he was hiding anything about his past. He knew what she was talking about, and instead of running away, he should’ve suggested they talk about it somewhere private (as private as you can be while filming a reality TV show).

2. Let Heather talk and get out her feelings and frustrations. You might not agree that it’s a big deal, or you might be thinking downplaying it will get you out of trouble, but it’s still a big deal to the other person. Heather has said that she has very limited sexual history, so while Dustin’s life experiences lead him to believe it’s no big deal, he should still appreciate that to her, it is a big deal, and her feelings should be respected and taken into consideration.

3. After listening and respecting Heather’s concerns, Dustin should’ve then told his side of the story. And he should’ve said everything that he knew needed to be on the table. He was still withholding even when Heather was asking about the sexual things he did with other men, trying to skate by without divulging further information. Sorry Dustin but they have Internet access — anything you say can and will be Googled. Heather only found out he had performed oral sex on another guy because she asked a specific question, and that’s what sparked her concern about STIs. When your sig other finds out you’ve been lying and you want forgiveness, continuing to lie or omit the truth is not going to help your case — that’s when you need to just be completely honest.

4. When Heather asked if she should get tested, instead of getting defensive, Dustin should’ve told her his history of being tested for STIs to calm her fears, and suggested that it would be a good idea for her to get tested if it would make her feel better and more relieved.

5. Dustin should have apologized for not disclosing this aspect of his sexual history sooner, instead of trying to frame the fight as a manifestation of Heather’s prejudice and judgmental personality. Your sexual partner has a right to know your sexual history, and when you’re continuously trying to avoid discussing it, that’s unacceptable.

Things would’ve gone much more smoothly if Dustin, when confronted, would’ve been open and honest instead of defensive and deflective. I think Heather wouldn’t have felt compelled to tell everyone in the house about his past if Dustin hadn’t tried to quash the fight by making Heather feel like she was overreacting. She sought the opinions of the roommates specifically because Dustin refused to validate her being upset — Dustin was mad she spread the word, but considering it was already all over the Internet, I’m not that sympathetic.

‘Real World’ brings up myth that women like to be mistreated

April 14, 2011

A myth that floats around is that women date assholes because they enjoy being mistreated. Some argue that’s the message that songs like “Love the Way You Lie” send, with Rihanna singing lyrics like, “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / but that’s all right because I like the way it hurts.” This myth reared its ugly head last night on Real World, when self-proclaimed lover of bad boys Nany continued pursuing volatile douchebag Adam, and many of their roommates watched in confusion.

First, some background for you non-Real-World watchers: Nany came to Real World: Las Vegas with a boyfriend of six years. She met Adam and was instantly attracted to him, telling the other girls in the house that she was addicted to reforming bad boys and that Adam fit the bill. Adam had been hiding that he had a girlfriend back home, telling the girlfriend not to call him because it would be “annoying.” Eventually he started talking to her via webcam in front of his roommates, making public that he had a girlfriend back home. He also had been hooking up with girls while in Las Vegas.

Nany and Adam both admitted early on that they were attracted to each other, and as viewers we unfortunately saw Adam laying the same lines on Nany that he did to girls at the bars and clubs that he was trying to take home with him. Eventually, Nany and Adam made out, and Nany admitted to her boyfriend that she had cheated on him. They broke up, and Nany tried to keep things with Adam casual. At one point, Adam got belligerently drunk, and he punched a wall — and was only inches from hitting Nany in the face. They were pulled apart, and Nany admitted that she had been hit by a guy before, so she wasn’t afraid of being around a drunken, violent Adam. Adam eventually was kicked off the show, and Nany and Adam went on one last date together before vowing it wouldn’t be the end of their “relationship.”

Obviously, this is a problematic story, and their roommates have different takes on it. Naomi seems supportive, Heather is disapproving, but Dustin — while discussing it with Leroy — introduces the myth that the only explanation of why Nany would want to be with Adam is that “she likes to be treated bad.”

Nany’s infatuation with Adam doesn’t stem from her enjoying the mistreatment — I think it stems from thinking that she doesn’t deserve to be treated any better. She admitted to being physically abused by a guy before, and she admitted that she has only been in one relationship — her six-year relationship with Jordy. She’s 21, so she has been dating this guy since she was 15. If she bases “normal” on her relationship with him and if Jordy is a douche and possibly abusive (this is speculation, as she never admits it was Jordy who hit her), then Adam’s behavior will seem normal in the context of a relationship.

It’s frustrating to watch. I cringed when she said, “I don’t know if Adam’s relationship material, I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out,” wanting to scream at the TV, “He’s in a relationship right now, and he’s cheating on her with a cornucopia of other women! Including you!” As an outsider, it’s easy to see that it’s a bad idea — but when you’re an insider, you convince yourself that it’ll get better, that naysayers just don’t understand because they don’t see every aspect of the person or the relationship, and you re-imagine things as much rosier than they actually are.

Though I wanted to throw something at the TV, I also could empathize with her creating such a distorted reality — I’m sure a lot of people can. I hope her roommates don’t write her off as liking to be mistreated because it’s not that simple. None of them can convince her out of trying to be with Adam, and they shouldn’t see their failure to break them up as a reason to give up on her. She probably isn’t going to listen to them, with both Adam in her ear and Nany convincing herself they just don’t understand.

I hope she meets other guys in Las Vegas who treat her well so that she can see guys are capable of being nice and respectful, and I hope she takes time for herself and learns to be OK on her own, without needing a man to feel safe or complete. But if that doesn’t happen, and it takes some terrible event to make Nany realize that Adam is a dangerous, unstable, mean, non-relationship-ready person, then her roommates need to be there to support her — not to tell her they told her so, or to bludgeon her over the head with reminders that all the tell-tale signs were there. They shouldn’t shun her because she didn’t take their advice, but should be supportive and encouraging that she took the steps to end an unhealthy relationship.

Breaking news: Young, unmarried women are easier than ever

March 3, 2011

I always love being reminded that, if women had their way, we’d marry the first guy we met to ensure we didn’t become lonely spinsters. Not men, though — as this article from Slate points out, guys are getting their way, and their way is sex — lots of it, and without having to even charm ladies or promise them any kind of commitment. Let’s take a look at this article’s assertions about heterosexual relationships, dating, and sex, and point out where the article is terribly misinformed, shall we?

1. If women ruled relationships, marriages would be on the rise

It’s a good thing the author advises the reader to “call it sexist, call it whatever you want,” because his entire article is founded on the idea that men want sex, women want marriage, and any data derived about sex and relationships must be interpreted through this stereotypical and played out lens. Here’s the foundation:

But what many young men wish for—access to sex without too many complications or commitments—carries the day. If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.

This is sexist against both men and women — assuming that men just want sex and women just want marriage. Under this very scientific premise, a drop in marriage rates obviously must mean that men are winning the battle against women, who are always on the attack and trying to cage them and force them into settling down and not having all that random sex.

Perhaps the author failed to realize other causes for the decline in marriage, such as high divorce rates (cautionary tales for young people), people going to college and focusing on a career rather than getting married right out of high school (it’s true, women are choosing to delay marriage), women being financially independent (choosing not to be financially dependent on a man), cohabitation, and a decline in religion. So while this author chooses to say that a decline in marriage rates is an obvious sign that men are, to quote Charlie Sheen, “winning,” it’s more likely that rates are declining because society is changing.

2. Outdated studies from the ’70s and ’80s speak for today’s youth

It’s baffling that this guy uses studies from the 1980s and applies those findings to the present — 30 years later. Thirty years ago, my mom was my age — the other day, she used the term “necking,” and when I told her that young people today would call that “making out,” she told me that “making out” was something much different and closer to sex. So maybe using outdated data to back up your thesis is not a great idea?

Here’s one example:

In one frequently cited study, attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University’s campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it.

This study was published in 1989, using data gathered in 1978 and 1982. All this demonstrates is that 30 years ago, men were more likely to sleep with complete strangers than women — why is sleeping with strangers the measuring stick for sexual appetite?

3. Women are battling pornography for sexual power

According to the author, women — though having a weak appetite for sex — should theoretically have power in the sexual relationship because the guy is always ready to go, but he has to wait for the woman to agree. But this power is threatened by porn:

And yet despite the fact that women are holding the sexual purse strings, they aren’t asking for much in return these days—the market “price” of sex is currently very low. There are several likely reasons for this. One is the spread of pornography: Since high-speed digital porn gives men additional sexual options—more supply for his elevated demand—it takes some measure of price control away from women.

Since when is pornography and masturbating an additional sexual option? Men could masturbate before the digital age, so pornography — though offering a helpful stimulus — is simply a masturbation aide. If a guy wants to have actual sex, with an actual vagina, he’s likely not going to be as satisfied by doing it alone. I doubt women fear masturbation as a form of retaliation for not putting out enough — in case you didn’t know, women can masturbate, too.

4. The amount of sex you have should be directly correlated to how successful you are in life

The author keeps trying to put forth the idea that sex is a game, and men have the upper hand because, despite being generally less successful than women, they are still having lots of sex:

The terms of contemporary sexual relationships favor men and what they want in relationships, not just despite the fact that what they have to offer has diminished, but in part because of it.

I guess that with fewer men in the workforce, in college, and with their salaries on the decline, the standards are generally going to drop, and women are going to be forced to choose from a dating pool that isn’t as successful as it used to be — this means women are going to have to lower their standards when on the prowl.

Or, could it just mean that women aren’t necessarily always prowling for a guy who is rich? Maybe because women are more successful and independent, they know they won’t be financially dependent on a man so don’t highly prioritize income? Isn’t it funny how a man could date a woman who isn’t super successful and wouldn’t be labeled as “settling,” but a woman dates someone less successful than she is and suddenly she’s given something up?

5. If you give out the milk for free, he’ll never buy the cow!

The author would also like to remind you that women, you’ll never find love and marriage if you keep putting out so easily:

Yes, sex is clearly cheap for men. Women’s “erotic capital,” as Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics has dubbed it, can still be traded for attention, a job, perhaps a boyfriend, and certainly all the sex she wants, but it can’t assure her love and lifelong commitment. Not in this market. It’s no surprise that the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who are married has shrunk by an average of 1 percent each year this past decade.

This is just … what? Am I reading this wrong, or is he also implying that women are trading sex to get jobs, too? And that giving out the milk for free isn’t going to find her love and a husband? And that men only marry women to have sex? I thought they could just watch porn and masturbate for that?


The overarching theme is that sex is a commodity that women “sell” to gain long-term commitment from men, but the pickings are so slim these days that women are willing to “sell” their bodies without even asking for things like flowers and jewelry and marriage in return, which is a “win” for men but a “loss” for women — yeah, that’s sexist and misguided on a bunch of levels. It also takes agency away from women by implying that they wouldn’t choose any non-Disney-princess-fairy-tale life, so they must be miserable, desperate, etc.

How about this: Young people are more open to casual sex than 30 years ago, when that “frequently cited” study was conducted. Young people aren’t marrying as early because they go to college and settle into careers first. Young people cohabitate. Women aren’t always on the prowl for a rich husband, because they can make their own money.

Or maybe I’m the one who is misinformed, and porn really is to blame for all of this.

Teen Mom: Don’t expect your ex to wait around for you

January 27, 2011

An interesting tidbit from Teen Mom 2 this week was Leah’s friend’s reaction to Leah and Corey getting back together. Even though Corey broke up with Leah because she cheated on him, the friend claimed it was sketchy that he had gotten with other girls since the breakup. “If he did care, he wouldn’t have been with other girls,” her friend told her. Uh … what??

First of all, here’s some background: Leah dated Robby for two years, they broke up, she hooked up with Corey as a rebound, and a month later, Leah was pregnant with Corey’s babies (twins). After the twins were born, she hung out with Robby again and cheated on Corey. Corey broke up with her. Leah wants Corey back now, but Corey doesn’t trust her.

Now, to address the friend’s comment: That comment would make perfect sense if Corey really did just break up with her to date other people. Or if he had just wanted a break for some other reason, and he was taking advantage of not officially having a girlfriend and hooking up with other girls. But Leah cheated on him, and Corey rightfully ended things.

Maybe it’s the movies that make us think that if someone truly loves us, they’ll put up with as much bullshit as we throw their way, stay alone and miserable, and just wait for us to return. Though even in The Notebook, Noah eventually starts hooking up with someone else when it’s apparent that Allie isn’t going to return his letters. Either way, the argument her friend introduces is ridiculous — you can’t treat someone like garbage and expect them to sit and take it forever. That’s not exactly what I would call “romantic.”

‘Jersey Shore’ couple shows forgiveness isn’t easy

January 14, 2011

While Jersey Shore might seem like nothing more than a show dedicated to working out, tanning, doing laundry, and partying, I actually am quite fascinated by Sammi and Ronnie, the couple of the Jersey Shore house whose relationship dynamics never cease to amaze me. On last night’s episode, the couple showcased a common relationship problem — forgiveness.

For those of you who don’t watch Jersey Shore, let me provide a recap: the show started as a reality show based in Seaside Heights, N.J., where people often spend their summers along the Jersey shore. Eight people lived in the house (well, one left almost immediately, but anyway), and Sammi and Ronnie started a relationship.

Next season, the show moved to Miami. Sammi and Ronnie were in a limbo kind of state regarding their relationship, and Ronnie would go to the clubs with the guys and make out with a bunch of girls, then come home and snuggle up with Sammi and tell her how much he loved her. They got back together, he said he wasn’t with any other girls in Miami, J-Woww and Snooki left her an anonymous note saying he did, drama ensued.

Now for season three, everyone is back in Seaside and Sammi and Ronnie are secluding themselves from the group. Actually, Sammi is secluding herself because she is pissed at the other women in the house for hiding knowledge of  Ronnie cheating, and she is guilting Ronnie into being secluded with her by bringing up what happened in Miami. And now we arrive at the topic of forgiveness.

Sammi wants to be with Ronnie and “forgive” him, but she also wants to use his cheating/lying to her as leverage when she wants something. In the house, she feels alone — she doesn’t want to lose her only ally, Ronnie, so when he decides he wants to hang out with the group, she immediately goes for this ammo — the problem is that it’s unfair to use the past as ammo if you’ve already agreed to forgive and try to move past it.

“It’s got to get to a point where it’s either get over it or move on,” Ronnie told Sammi. And he has a point — of course Sammi can feel sad or betrayed or angry, but if she is going to give him a second chance, she can’t keep beating him over the head with all the mistakes he has made. It’s tough to forgive and rebuild trust, which is why if you’re constantly going to use those incidents as weapons, you need to re-evaluate whether you want the relationship to continue — a reconciliation shouldn’t be a battlefield.

This is a common problem in relationships, and a lot of it is about evening the score. People on the surface want to accept apologies and offer forgiveness, but deep-down what really makes people feel better is a revenge of sorts — “you made me feel terrible, and I won’t feel better until you feel equally as terrible.” Sammi probably thinks that accepting Ronnie’s apology is letting him off the hook too easily, so she wants him to repent to her by doing whatever she says and proving his loyalty to her by ignoring everyone else in the house.

Of course, this attitude just leads to an unhealthy cycle of resentment and anger — now Ronnie feels treated unfairly by Sammi, who rather than making an attempt at moving past her feelings of anger and betrayal is keeping them in storage for use against him whenever he crosses her again. So then Sammi continues to feel betrayed because Ronnie isn’t showing undying devotion, and nothing progresses because the relationship is stalled in mutual feelings of anger, dishonesty, and bitterness.

Rebuilding trust is hard — I don’t blame Sammi for feeling unsatisfied with a simple apology and not thinking Ronnie understands her pain — but nothing can be rebuilt if you’re still stuck in the debris of the past. There comes a point when you have to choose between sitting in the rubble or clearing it and rebuilding — because you can’t build anything strong or stable on a rocky foundation.