Irradiated by LabRat
So yesterday Stingray sent me this article by Kay Hymowitz saying it pissed him off and he couldn’t quite figure out what to say about it other than “Article about angry males makes male angry! Woo irony!”, and I wound up with this link from another source this morning.
I’m not going to bother to go through either one line by line. The Hymowitz piece is something I can barely even bring myself to call “sexist”, because between it and everything else I found by the same author, her raging contempt for men and women alike appears to be roughly equal, if shitty. The Ask Men piece is yet another in the genre of short magazine pieces that are written like stereo instructions for women.
It would rile me up and you’d pretty much know everything I was going to say anyway, so instead of trying to do it that way- I tried, but it kept getting away from me- some observations instead.
- I’ve seen an awful lot of men react to the feminist “don’t objectify women/objectifying women is a problem” complaint as though they were being asked to stop being heterosexual. Objectifying != being sexually attracted to; it literally means treating someone like an object rather than a person. If you can’t see people of the opposite sex as people rather than objects of sexual desire, that’s a problem, but the odds are that’s not the case for the generic-you reader. Here’s a hint: if you’re talking about people of (category that doesn’t include you) as though they were all interchangeable and worked by the same “rules”, you’re objectifying them. It’s just we talk about sexual objectification as much as we do because it’s a persistent problem in our culture where we sometimes have conversations about things like that; it beats the hell out of talking about objectification in the context of buying and selling people. A narcissist constantly treats people in their life as objects for gratification or resource, it’s one of the defining traits of narcissism. You can be wildly turned on by someone you see wholly as a person and really enjoy as a person; arguably that is the definition of romantic love. (Or, for that matter, by someone you really HATE for who they are, which is an option, albeit a sad one.)
- If you find yourself persistently dating people you dislike, it could be that you simply have very crappy luck- it happens!- but it’s more likely to be one of three others.
1. You’re dating people whose value systems and desires are totally incompatible with yours. If you want a serious, long-term, sexually exclusive relationship with someone who will treat you like a friend outside of bed that will maybe lead to marriage, stay the hell away from bars and clubs. If you want a sex buddy, trying to find one at church or work is probably not going to work.
2. Your value systems are the same, it’s just that your values are shitty, or at least incompatible with hooking up with people you like and respect. If you treat other people badly or see them primarily as resources to be manipulated, you’re mostly going to end up with people who see you exactly the same way. If you’re a straight man looking for casual sex who thinks that women who have casual sex are sluts and whores, you’re… probably not going to meet a lot of women you like. There’s a flaw in the system there, not the gender as a whole. If you’re a woman who views men who play video games and have interests other than marriage and work as overgrown children you must civilize into respectability, you’re probably not going to find a lot of men you like either.
3. Your social skills are underdeveloped, either because you’re very young and your experience pool is small, or because you’ve been viewing other people as objects and thus you’ve missed most of the subtleties in your search to find ways to make them behave interchangeably and consistently. Figuring out people and how they work takes an anthropologist’s attitude, not an engineer’s. There is nothing inherently wrong with being inexperienced or socially inept, though there is in feeling entitled to other people in various ways or getting pissed and concluding that most of the rest of the population is “broken” somehow.
- There’s a very persistent meme in our culture, which movies and many stories have a terribly unfortunate tendency to reinforce, that love and boy/girlfriends are rewards, not relationships. You get it because you were good enough, or nice enough, or proved your worth- you get it because you deserve it, you earned it.
In the real world it doesn’t work like that. Relationships are relationships, formed and negotiated between two individuals, and metrics like how nice or pretty or successful you are may factor in, in terms of making you appealing to be with or sleep with, but are way far away from being determinants. Sometimes relationships are formed on shitty terms, sometimes on terms easily understandable to outsiders to the relationship, sometimes on terms very difficult to understand, but they are not ever terms that can be laid out like stereo instructions. No one actually “deserves” a relationship, in the sense that no one deserves another person in an entitlement or earned sense; they only do in the generally well-wished sense that they will find happiness and relationships they want.
We usually find this much easier to understand with non-intimate relationships like friendships; most people comprehend that after the age of 12 or so, being the same age and both liking Nintendo is no longer sufficient basis for friendship. It’s a complex dynamic that depends partly on your behavior but also on just enjoying each other on an elemental level that’s difficult to describe or define. Adding sexual and romantic attraction on top of that (which are not always even the same thing) makes everything much more complex and fluid. Yet, more people seem to understand that you cannot argue someone into being friends with you than understand that you can’t argue someone into wanting to start, or remain in, a romantic or sexual relationship- but friendships carry *far* less cultural baggage.
- Lastly, if you cannot tolerate being in a relationship with someone who is not exactly like you and can’t be predicted as always wanting or doing the same things you would, you don’t need to date, you need to masturbate. If you cannot tolerate being in a relationship with an individual person who has unpredictable wants and needs unique to them that they may have trouble articulating at times, you don’t need to date, you need a RealDoll or a sex worker. If you find it enraging that other people have wants and needs and perspectives that yours don’t automatically trump, you need a therapist.