Ten Things I Hate About “Ten things I absolutely hate about heteronormative dating”

Via Ezra, a really depressing post from Samhita over at Feministing about how the heteronormative dating structure (a.k.a. “old-fashioned dating”) gives women a completely raw deal.

I really don’t know what to do about this post.  There is certainly one couplet that I even agree with, the entirely self-abregnating #’s 8 and 9:

8. If you have sex too early you ruined it.

9. If you don’t have sex early on you are a prude.

However, there are also ones which show a remarkably pliant acceptance of things that I, in my liberal-ensconced, protected upbringing, have really never seen, such as

1. You are expected to dress nice and act a certain way “waiting” to get asked out.

2. You have to play by the rules which generally give men most of the power. (wait till he calls you, don’t be too forward, be mysterious-you don’t want to scare him off, etc)

and, most disappointingly,

5. It fetishizes unequal power relations between women. He’ll get the tab, he’ll get the door as long as he gets the vagina, and that is considered “romance.”

Then, there are ones that I, lacking any advanced degrees in literary deconstruction, don’t even understand:

4. If you don’t show enough emotion, you are making the other party insecure forcing them to wield social privilege to silence your daring attempt at independence from self obliteration via coupling.

I kind of feel like Lisa Simpson did when she saw the slide advertising a “Yahoo Serious Film Festival.”  I understand all the words in #4, but put together in that order, it makes no sense to me at all.

But, getting back to the other, slightly more comprehensible “facts”, I have great sympathy for women, who are told by some aspects of modern culture that they are completely sexually liberated, and should be able to do anything they want to, whenever they want, with whomever they want, while, at the same time, being told, often by the same authority figures advising free-wheeling openness, that they are the gatekeepers of the holy vagina, and that silly boys cannot be expected to maintain self-control, hence women are expected to take care of it for them.  That sucks.

At the same point in time, being a big believer in evolutionary psychology, at least in some of its weaker forms, I believe that men are simply wired to look to “spread their seed” as early, and as often, as they can.  Which does not excuse men from acting responsibly, because we are gifted with conscious brains and have learned how to do all sorts of things which are entirely unevolutionary, including washing our hands before we eat, working mind-numbing desk jobs, and flying fighter jets, so it’s not asking too much to ask men to think with the heads on top of their necks sometimes, too.

However, in most circumstances, an average man is simply going to want to “go faster”, physically, then an average woman will, which means, on average, that it will be up to the woman to decide the speed at which things will progress, and until we get around to some genetic rejiggering of our biology or some massive re-education camps for small boys to make them terrified of female genitalia, it’s going to be the way of the world.

I don’t know what to say about #5.  If that has been Samhita’s experience with men, then she is simply meeting assholes, and needs to get out more, or find a different set of friends, or circle to run in.  It is the worst feminist stereotyping of the most massive oversimplification of the concept of chivalry, and is the sort of thing that leads “feminist” to be a dirty word among a shockingly large percentage of the American populace.  I hold the door open for dates, friends, random dudes at the grocery store and little old ladies on the street.  I do this with no expectation of reciprocation, direct or indirect, and to pretend otherwise is just stupid.  I do it because it’s the nice thing to do, and spreading niceness is one of my goals in life, along with ‘eat more nachos’ and world domination.

Then, you get to the sum-up after the list, which just kills me.

There is no guide to dating outside of patriarchy, there is no narrative for if you want to do it on your own or if you don’t want to get married, but you don’t want to be single either.

Holy shit!  What the hell is this supposed to even mean???  Of course there is no guide to dating outside the patriarchy, because “dating outside the patriarchy” is a topic far too large to handle in any book.  Anyone who doesn’t live in a small town probably knows several, if not several dozen, couples who are living in nontraditional fashions.  Just off the top of my head, in my cell phone address book I have the phone numbers of someone in an open relationship, a gay man, two lesbians, someone who is occasionally polyamorous, someone who was dating someone for over a decade, who had no particular intention of getting married even though they planned on being together forever, a single mother, a divorced mother, and probably, if I knew what went on behind closed doors, half my friends besides that are doing something that is “nontraditional.”

No guide, or set of rules, could ever hope to apply to such a wild panoply of possibilities.  In fact, I suspect, any guide that Samhita thinks applies to “heteronormative dating” does not, in fact, apply perfectly to any heteronormative relationship that has ever existed.  With 6 billion people in the world, and a nearly infinite number of ways to structure a romantic relationship, there are simply too many possiblilities for any set of rules or guidelines to ever apply perfectly.

At their best, the so-called “rules” of heteronormative dating, or dating in general, are simply a scaffolding, a foundation, on which to build the sculpture of a functioning relationship.  They allow everyone to have some similar way of approaching a situation, so that every single microdecision does not have to be discussed and analyzed.  However, certain aspects of them will not work in some situations, for some people, in some relationships.

At worst, they are a throwback to an older, less equality-oriented time, and should be seen as such and discarded, when appropriate.

But the right answer, to me, is absolutely not to try and write a new “Guide For Nonheteronormative Dating In The 21st Century”.  The answer is simply to acknowledge that the rules are flawed, and should be played by when convenient, bent when appropriate, and discarded when necessary.

This gets at a larger point, which I’ll have to address in some later post.  Something that Dan Quinn writes about frequently in his Ishmael books is the fundamental breakdown of almost any good revolution is that, having overthrown the already-extant power structure, it doesn’t know what the hell to do after that.  For example, the countercultural revolution of the 60’s had some great points to make about the weaknesses of modern Western culture, but they didn’t know how to offer anything beyond criticism, and so, inevitably, the revolution flickered out.

Similarly, it’s a huge problem that Samhita thinks that there needs to be a new guide for alternative dating structures.  Fundamentally, the problem is not that the old guide isn’t inclusive enough, it’s the idea that there has to be a guide at all.  And this is something liberals get hung up on all the time.  I’ll get back to this more later, I hope…


One Response to Ten Things I Hate About “Ten things I absolutely hate about heteronormative dating”

  1. Jenny says:

    I don’t even know where to start with this one, except to say that I agree with you. But my general feeling is this: Why not give up “dating” altogether? In my limited, but successful experience, I just spend the most time with my friends. And it turned out my best friend offers benefits, as they say. It was comfortable and uncomplicated. No games. Just be good to each other, and good things will happen. Too simple?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: