This is a Repost from last year
Hi there. To introduce myself briefly, I’m Emily’s “open-minded chauvinist” ex-boyfriend. What’s an “open-minded chauvinist” you might ask? Well, basically, I think in stereotypically male patterns, so I think that men are smarter since they usually think like me. But I’m willing to say “I’m wrong,” hence the “open-minded” modifier. Emily even got me to say that I was wrong once.
So I had been thinking about this subject of double standards some months ago as I was in the process of a break up. I admit up front that this post is totally heterosexual-oriented. I’ll also admit up front that I have no idea whether the causes of my concern are societal, biological, cultural, or just idiosyncratic to me and probably most of my friends. Also, please note the overabundance of the term “stereotype” and its variations. I believe stereotypes exist for a reason (most men are X), but they obviously aren’t absolutes (all men are X).
Anyway, as my girlfriend and I were evaluating the relationship, I realized that I had made some changes in my life to accommodate her expectations. I don’t think the changes were bad, detrimental, or unhealthy in any way. Most of them had to do with how I spent my leisure hours—at the time, mostly by playing World of WarCraft.
I didn’t mind that I had made changes. I think most relationships require a fair degree of compromise and flexibility, and certainly the one I was in was healthy and productive. However, something disturbed me. I began to realize that while I was comfortable with my girlfriend asking me to make specific changes with regard to things that bothered her, I was not comfortable asking her to make commensurate changes.
As an example, I felt that it would be okay for her to ask me to give up my weekly guys night. Sacrificing time with their buddies is exactly what happens when guys grow up and become more serious about their relationship with their significant others, right?
So why did I feel like I would be a controlling and emotionally abusive boyfriend if I asked her to give up a weekly girls night?
As I thought about it more and more, it occurred to me that this was just one of a number of areas in which I thought it would be unacceptable for me, as a guy, to ask a girl to change. Moreover, I felt that all the things that guys stereotypically need to do when they grow up and move into steady jobs, relationships, etc. are to simply get rid of the stereotypical guy things! Sunday night football? Gone. Her book club? Not gone. Bowling? Gone. Her knitting group? Not gone. Going to the movies with the guys? Gone. Going shopping with her girlfriends? Not gone.
Now it goes without saying that ideally you would do things together. Go swing dancing. Learn martial arts. Take a massage class for couples. Something. But let’s face it. Rare is the relationship in which the couple agrees on every activity, and most human beings need some form of “me” time.
So what if the guy really likes football, and his significant other just isn’t interested in joining him to watch it? Must he really give it up? Can she ask him to give it up? (I feel subconsciously that yes, she can ask him to). If he’s not interested in her book club, and she really wants to continue it, must she really give it up? Can he ask her to? (I feel subconsciously that no, he cannot ask her to). It gets even more complicated when you realize that there will be things that don’t have a commensurate activity/desire/whatever in the other partner’s life.
In looking over drafts of this post, Erica pointed out that we are also culturally conditioned as men to be more “loners” and individual-oriented. Women, conversely, are conditioned to be more group-oriented. If this idea of conditioning is true, and it seems to both Erica and me to be so, of course in a society like ours men are expected to leave the group environment, while women are not. This rings true to me as a possible contributing factor.
I also recall a point Emily made when we discussed this issue a while ago. It was that there is a stereotype that all men want is sex. And while this stereotype is a myth, in both my opinion and Emily’s, I fully understand where it comes from. In this view of what men want, the man is already getting what he wants if the relationship includes sex. So he can’t ask for more. Yet since she isn’t getting what she wants (since she wants more than sex), she can ask for more. This stereotype about what men want also rings true to me, as at least a contributing factor.
In short, I think there’s a double standard that states that men have to stop being boys when they enter a steady relationship, yet that women don’t have to stop being girls. It’s very subtle, possibly even subconscious. I know that I didn’t really notice it until this last relationship. Yet in looking back I feel that it was present in all my previous ones to one degree or another—both from me and from my (now) ex-girlfriends. All I know is that if I asked my girlfriend to give up similar things that I felt morally obligated to give up, I would feel like I was beginning to match the warning signs of an abusive boyfriend. And that just seems wrong.
Feminism at its heart is about equality between the sexes, and as someone who considers himself a feminist (but open-mindedly chauvinist about it, ha!) this strikes me as something that needs to be fixed. We recoil in horror from women being pigeon-holed because of gender expectations. Shouldn’t we do the same when it happens to men? Gender stereotypes and expectations can cut both ways.
I am also open to the possibility that this double standard is just in my mind. But having said that, I have asked a few other men this question, and so far they seem to agree with me in a non-statistically valid fashion.
Anyway, this is just one example of ways I think double standards hurt men. This article points out others.
Comments 95 and 105 in this Feminist Mormon Housewives thread especially show how we men are in a bind with regard to the issue of communication and consent in sexuality. Also, I feel that there is plenty of discussion these days about women, homosexuals, African-Americans, etc. but none really about “men” as their own category. “Men’s Studies” programs are not nearly as ubiquitous as their counterpart, though there is an American Men’s Studies Association.
Nor is there a National Association for the Advancement of Caucasian People. There’s a pretty classic essay called “The Men We Carry In Our Minds,” that notes how disparities even among white men can very much color how we view issues of double standards. So while some of these other double standards don’t affect me personally as much (as an active Latter-day Saint issues of sexual consent aren’t going to arise until I’m married), the main one I have focused on with regard to relationships does.
What’s my point? I’m not sure exactly. It just seems to me that the advent of feminism, however one defines that; along with civil rights for various groups; the sexual revolution; and some stereotypes (which again, as I argue, exist for a reason), have put men in a bind sometimes. I’m absolutely sure women are put in binds as well, as Emily and Erica can attest better, and in more specific detail, than I.
All I know is that asking a significant other to give up something seems to be a double-standard wherein men get the short end of the stick. As one who believes in equality for the sexes, I believe this should not be the case. In short: it’s not all roses and hugs and puppies on the male side of the divide either.