A bunch of stuff that might not be that great to teach
Happy Saturday of the holiday weekend! In honor of the doubly laid back nature of the day, I thought I’d have some fisking, old school style, one of those sex and dating advice for women columns. This one comes from the sometimes-cool blog Frisky, but I’m afraid that I have a lot of problems with “37 Things Women Can Teach Their Daughters About Men“. They start off okay—#1 is true, and #2 is true enough (though without a side note that if your man doesn’t go down, he should be ashamed), and #3 is great, and then it starts to go off the rails.
Men are powerless in the face of female sexuality.
What does this even mean? That having an orgasm in front of a man renders him helpless like a kitten, so that’s a good time to grab his cash and run? Is the female orgasm kryptonite against male superpowers?
No, of course not. They’re playing the same old sexist game that casts men as unable to control themselves when given certain stimulus, which means that men can’t be blamed for raping or cheating, but the blame falls on women for flaunting our “sexuality”, which is invariably defined as being synonymous with our sexual attractiveness. It’s bullshit. Men aren’t powerless. Men can and should control themselves, and can and should be held to an ethical standard like the one we hold women to.
Then they toss out good advice, like:
Don’t try to change a man.
If he’s annoying when you’re dating, then he’ll be annoying when you’re married.
True! Men aren’t projects. Neither are women. So why then do we get these contradictory pieces of advice?
If he’s not willing to work on the relationship, then he’s not invested in it.
Date potential, instead of vainly searching for Mr. Perfect.
Which is it? Do you find someone that you are happy with as-is, or do you find someone with “potential” and then set yourself to, sigh, working on it until it’s closer to what you had in mind? No wonder dating is so confusing, when you get this kind of contradictory advice. It may be true that a man who doesn’t want to work on a relationship isn’t into it, but if you’re spending all this time “working” on your relationship, instead of enjoying yourself, then I can’t blame him. That said, for a lot of men, all that emotional work is defined as a woman’s work, and they may want the relationship, but want you to do all the “working” (i.e. making sacrifices and compromises to keep the relationship). Better advice: find someone that doesn’t put you in a position where you or he are constantly working on the relationship. Imagine just being in the relationship. Believe that it should be fun. Don’t settle for less.
Keeping your man sexually satisfied will do wonders for your relationship.
I suspected they were going in this direction with #2, which mentions the importance of performing oral sex (for women) without bothering to mention the importance of expecting that a man who wants to have sex with you, particularly if he wants oral sex, should be willing to go down. There’s a thread throughout this piece of constructing sex as a service women perform for men, instead of an exchange or even, gasp! a fun activity that a couple does together because it’s a pleasure all around. I’m a fan of the idea that one shouldn’t shut your significant other off from sex, or unilaterally decide that someone else’s sex life is over, of course. But the language of service and performance does depress me. Is it so easy to forget women can like sex? Which brings me to this:
There are seven excuses for getting out of anal sex.
Obviously, “I don’t like it” isn’t good enough, because sex is an unpleasant thing women suffer for men in the first place, right? So the problem with anal is what? That it’s just over the line? Is it that there a lot of men who see anal sex as one of those you use to test if her dignity will get in the way of her need to get your approval? If you see it that way, then yeah, I guess you need “excuses” so you accomplish both the goal of hanging onto a man who tests you while not having to actually take the tests. Sad.
If you approach sex as an all-parties-win thing, then anal sex looks a lot different. It’s not necessarily something men push for to see if women will give in, and women give up in shame to keep men. You know, there’s nerve endings out there. And toys like butt plugs. For a lot of people, it’s just another layer of sexual pleasure, so much so that even straight men who have all these homophobic pressures on them will often put that aside to get into touching their own butts. There’s even pegging!
But of all the things that irritated me on this list, this one stuck in my craw the most:
The first time he hits you is the last time he hits you, because you leave.
And what if you don’t? What if you don’t have the courage or resources? What if he acts like 95% of abusers and made sure to wear down your self-esteem with insults and constant questioning of your competence and even your ability to perceive reality long before he raises a hand to you? What if you don’t leave the first time?
Does that make it your fault? If you don’t leave the first time, then does all the blame shift from him to you? When I read stuff like this—as well-intended as it is—I flinch, because it feeds the victim-blaming narrative. He hits you because you let him. Not because he’s a sadist, not because he’s an asshole, not because he’s a criminal that needs to go to jail. No, the responsibility for domestic violence is once again shifted to the victim, not the perpetrator. And a victim who doesn’t get out the first time who hears messages like this will often absorb them, blame herself, and it makes it all that much harder for her to accumulate the self-esteem to get out.
So please don’t teach your daughters that they’re the bad guys if a man hits them, and they don’t react in the exact right way. Focus the blame 100% on the man who hits.