DISEMPOWERING DATING ADVICE, SOME THOUGHTS

I want to preface this post... by acknowledging that I grew up leaning these things from so many different places; my family, pop culture, books, movies,  the media and plenty of people I have come into contact with throughout the duration of my life. These are concepts much larger than a storyline in a movie or an immature view on relationships. They are well established narratives, embedded in the fabric of our society, rooted deep in the history that took place long before any of us were brought into this world. That is perhaps what makes shifting our own perspectives around them so uncomfortable and challenging. And I am not immune to that journey, I have evolved so much in my thoughts about being a woman and how larger ideologies than myself have shaped my experiences. But after a series of many epiphanies, I realized that the status quo in heterosexual relationships just didn't do justice for me anymore and so I started to question them. Obviously I am only one person with my own views and experiences, so I want to preface this by reminding anyone reading that the point of sharing my thoughts is to start a conversation. I am by no means the expert on really anything. But I do have the capacity to be vulnerable in sharing what I learn about myself and the world around me. I hope you do to. Enjoy. 

"Playing hard to get..." I will admit, this is still a tough pill for me to swallow. This was always considered the oldest rule in the book as advice for women in heterosexual relationships. The concept is simple, don't show your full fledged interest until there's a commitment, and even then, use the lack of emotion as a way to maintain a partner's interest in you. Some might argue the idea is super archaic, some might argue it's still well and alive. The problem I find is that essentially it's encouraging us to limit our ability to express ourselves in relationships and seek out something we don't believe we have or are worthy of having by being ourselves. This doesn't mean that I think people should share every feeling in the beginning of a relationship, true intimacy doesn't seem to build  overnight. But it means that what we present or don't present about ourselves with someone new should be determined by our own personal boundaries, not as a manipulation tool. 

"Be with someone who loves you more than them..." I can't tell you how many people have said this to me throughout my entire life. And to be quite honest, it's made sense given the power difference we often find in committed heterosexual relationships. If men generally have more power, than women are responsible for finding ways of garnering it back. A lot of these ideas stem from women being encouraged to get what they want in a more passive way, rather than just asking for what they want directly. So it creates an environment where we leverage our emotional connections with partners, in an attempt to create more power for ourselves. I think it also means we as women end up being more encouraged to be in relationships where we overlook or minimize our own desire for connection, in exchange for security. And it doesn't seem to serve the other partner very well either; would you want to be that other person? 

"A guy will only go as far as you let him..." I take a deep breath with this one, because for a significant part of my life I believed this 100%. I remember from a very young age having this idea that women were responsible for protecting their innocence by controlling their sexuality. I remembered knowing there were many ways women could cause problems for themselves by either trusting the wrong man, wearing provocative clothing, losing their virginity too soon, or having more than one sexual partner. The list could go on forever and ever. What was always missing though, was the partner's responsibility. What about the men in these relationships? This is the problem I have with this statement, because it's based on this false expectation that women control everything, despite the fact that we are only 50 percent of any situation with another person. It also assumes that men don't have self control, and it's acceptable for them to take advantage of any situation they can. This is not only ludicrous to me, but also an embarrassing stereotype for men. I hope my future children understand fully that they have an equal say in what types of relationships they enter into and each and every sexual exchange. I also want to point out that the majority of non-consensual sexual acts are perpetrated by men, meaning that clearly this is not just an unhelpful way of thinking, but it's also untrue. I think a better version of this statement is, I will only go as far as I am comfortable with. And that is how I have chosen to navigate my most recent relationships. 

"Boys will be boys..." Such a classic line. So do we just assume boys are naturally terrible? That they would force someone into a situation that's uncomfortable, intrusive, embarrassing and potentially harmful because that's just the way it is? That they might cheat or hurt their partner because they can't help themselves? I don't know about you, but I think both boys and men are better than this. I believe all people are capable of being better than this. 

What most of these concepts allude to it the idea that women aren't capable or worthy of taking more active approaches to dating and relationships. What I think is even worse, however, is that they seem to send a message that rather than being forthright about our feelings and intentions, we should address them with manipulation. Asking for what we want, without making it seem that way. For example, playing hard to get is essentially pretending to not be interested, because we are. Or choosing to be with someone who loves us more so we have a stronger influence over them. It's quite a disempowering view of relationships when you think about it, based on games rather than self-respect. Obviously there are many relationships that aren't based on these outdated ideologies, but in addition to choosing more empowering roles within a relationship, I think it's also important to understand the context of why these things are harmful to us and everyone. Change does not come easy, it's uncomfortable and takes a long time to become the norm. There is likely someone reading this right now who thinks there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these ideas and that is fine too. My guess is that we all fall somewhere unique on the spectrum and in my humble opinion, that's the perfect place to be. 




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-MGN

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