This past weekend I saw the following list on a blog I follow. I’m not entirely sure why I still follow this guy. Morbid curiosity? He was a Xanga blogger I subscribed to back when I was a Christian. I still get occasional email updates from him when he posts, and am always curious what conservative hijinks he’s getting up to. On Thursday he wrote:
“… if you have a little sister or younger female friend, please ask her a few questions or make these comments when she says she’s with someone.”
- Does he tell people he’s in a relationship with you?
- Are you exclusive with him, or not?
- Has he ever hit you?
- Does he ever try to emotionally blackmail you?
- Does he ever demand sexual favors from you?
- Does he take you places?
The list bothered me on several levels. On the one hand, there’s the chauvinistic notion that women are the “weaker sex” and therefore need coddling and protecting, aren’t capable of taking care of themselves, or of making good decisions without male guidance or oversight. Of course, I highly doubt
Second, there also the concept of males as the predatory sex; that if left unchecked, men will mistreat, abuse and/or take advantage of women. Alyssa Royse wrote last month in an article titled The Danger in Demonizing Male Sexuality over on the website The Good Men Project:
“… girls are told that boys are predatory and somehow out of control. The corollary there is that boys are told they are predators, and out of control. Therefore, not a desirable thing, but a thing to defend against. From the get-go, we are teaching our kids to fear male sexuality, and to repress female sexuality… It means that he who possesses sexuality is assumed a predator.”
Of course, I don’t think the blogger in question meant to imply any of the above; that women are all damsels in distress, or that men are pigs. He simply lives in his conservative Christian bubble where “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). It’s a neat and tidy way of looking at the world, where everything has its place and purpose and there’s little to question or challenge.
But it did get me to thinking about relationships and our reticence to get involved in other people’s lives – specifically, to ask questions that might be perceived as prying.
Gay male relationships are an odd bag. In American society in general, men are perceived as being inherently more competent. Some of it is pride in being reluctant to often admit that we don’t know what we’re doing, but we tend to look at men as being capable, independent and strong. That perception is a little bent where gay men are concerned with the cultural trope that we’re more effeminate and therefore associated more with stereotypes of women than we are men. But even then though, there’s still a hands-off attitude when it comes to our relationships. It’s assumed that we know what we’re doing and don’t need guidance or for anyone to look out for us.
I look back at some of my past relationships and wish that someone had had the courage and wherewithal to ask me some of the above questions in that list. Because I’ve dated guys who didn’t tell anyone that we were in a relationship, either because they were reluctant to define the relationship or because they weren’t completely out of the closet. I’ve dated guys who in hindsight were incredibly emotionally abusive, and I didn’t have the self esteem to acknowledge that this is what was happening, or leave and be alone rather than stay and put up with the abuse.
I’ve dated guys who didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. It may have been that they simply prefered to stay in, or that they just didn’t like to spend money. Of course, in the list above the question “Does he take you places?” implies that the man should be treating his lady to a 1950s romantic night out on the town (and offering her his coat for when it gets cold on their after-dinner sidewalk stroll).
(“Of course, you may not have a problem about what to do on a date… but Nick? Well, he has a real dating problem.” Because Nick doesn’t want to date Kay. Nick wants to date Jeff.)
Of course, this problem of not asking questions when something doesn’t seem right about someone else’s relationship isn’t related to gays. We often stand by and let people make terrible life choices that we know will end in tears. We’ll know that two people are going to be a terrible match for each other, but not say anything for fear of stepping on feelings or jeopardizing a friendship.
Yet these friends are always eager to commiserate after the relationship has gone down in flames, after your heart has been smashed to bits, and you find yourself wondering where these friends were before everything went to hell. However, there’s always the question of whether you’d have listened to anyone try to say that dating that guy is a bad idea…
It bothers me that we’d take such a backwards attitude to others’ relationships. We’d speak up if we thought someone was developing a drug problem or eating disorder, if they clearly needed to go to the doctor, or were clearly getting into a life of organized crime. Yet we think nothing of standing quietly by as two people walk headlong into romantic disasters.
What if we took as much of an interest in each other’s emotional health as we do in each other’s physical health and safety? [Edit:] Perhaps not so much making direct, probing inquiries as it is simply asking, “So how’s it going with ______?” and simply letting that friend know that someone is there to talk and non-judgmentally listen should things go south.