Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pieces Of Meat

In my A Matter of Manners post, I explained my #1 Relationship Rule, that Males in Relationships Should Not Talk About Other Women. Several of you left me very thoughtful comments, and I wanted to take a moment to respond.

First, thank you to all of you for commenting on this issue. As women, we are all different, and it is no surprise to me that we have different perspectives and feelings with regard to this issue. The trick, I suppose, is finding partners that vibe with us on the subject. If one women truly has no problem with her partner ogling other women (although this is very difficult for me to believe), and they are in a happy fulfilling relationship, then more power to her. But if another woman does, then either her partner needs to change his ogling ways, or she needs to get a new partner.

Part of me would like to be like Amber, and be fine, for example, with having my boyfriend say J. Alba is "hot." I respect that Amber is cool with that, and I'm glad that she and her boyfriend have an approach that they are both OK with.

But, I'm different. I'm NOT OK with someone I'm dating making me feel like they are ogling or objectifying other women, and that's how I feel when my boyfriend tells me in a certain way and with a certain tone that so-and-so is "hot." Clearly, it makes a big difference how these things are said. I can not stress enough the importance of tone.

Second, I have given the issue of insecurity a lot of thought, and I do not believe that my feelings on this subject stem from a personal insecurity on my part. I happen to think I'm attractive and sexy. But, like most women, I do have some days that are better than others. Unlike the idealized and air brushed pictures of women with which I am inundated each day through magazines, TV, and the movies, I'm not perfect. (Of course neither are they in real life). I'm not perfect, so why would it bring me pleasure to be compared to an artificial image of near perfection?

Even if my feelings on this matter are based in part on some type of insecurity, so what? Should that give my boyfriend carte blanche to stomp on my feelings and make me feel like crap? Wouldn't that be even MORE of a reason for my partner to be sensitive to these issues, so that he didn't inadvertently tap into any such insecurities and make me feel badly? Shouldn't your partner want to make you feel GOOD? What's the point of being in a relationship if it's not one based on mutual love, affection, and making each other feel valued and special? Finally, if I tell my boyfriend that him talking about other women makes me feel less valued by him, shouldn't that be enough for him to stop that type of behavior?

Rather than being about insecurity, the issue for me comes down to R. E. S. P. E. C. T. Sing it Aretha. When my boyfriend objectifies or ogles other women, or makes me feel like that's what he's doing, I don't feel that he is respecting the other women, and I certainly don't feel that he is respecting me. And that's not cool with me. It's part of my feminist consciousness. I don't want to be dating an unaware sexist pig.

Just like he wants someone down with Brown, I want someone down with Feminism. Those parts of our identites are fundamental, and they need to be nurtured and respected.

It's also a matter of respect because I have conveyed my feelings on this subject to every male that I have ever dated. If you tell your partner that you find a certain type of behavior offensive and they continue to do that type of behavior (when this is not some type of behavior associated with their core, unchangeable self), that is NOT respecting your feelings or desires. It's also just plain annoying.

For example, my boyfriend is a meat eater and I'm a vegetarian (mainly). There was a time when I would - usually unconsciously - say such things as "yuck," while watching him prepare raw meat, and when I would make queasy faces watching him consume sausage, turkey, chicken, and bacon. However, he brought it to my attention and he told me that it really bothered him when I made those types of comments. It made him feel like I was criticizing him for eating something he enjoys and that I was being judgmental. Because of his feelings, I changed my ways. It was important to him, and a minor sacrifice on my part.

Maybe my boyfriend has insecurity about his meat eating ways? Perhaps. More likely, he doesn't want a girlfriend who refuses to respect him and the elements about him that he has no intention of changing (and the elements that he shouldn't have to change about himself). He's a meat eater and he likes it that way, and he wants me to accept him for who he is. Likewise, I'm a feminist and I like it that way. I have no intention of changing that about myself, and I want him to accept me for who I am as well.

Now you could say, hold on a second Buttercup. Wouldn't "accepting" your boyfriend mean accepting him for all that he is, including being a boy that talks about other women sometimes? And wouldn't your boyfriend "accepting" you mean accepting you making nauseated faces at him from across the dinner table while he's eating bloody hunks of meat?

Those are valid arguments, but to them I say that it comes down to COMPROMISE. I don't want to change my core self, and I don't want my boyfriend to change his core self. However, on the things that matter less to me, but a lot to him (like his love of meat), I'm willing to compromise and change my behavior to be more sensitive to his needs. Similarly, on the things that matter a lot to me (like not treating women like meat), I expect and hope that he is willing to compromise and change his behavior to be sensitive to my needs.

If I respect him enough not to talk about his meat, then he should respect me enough not to talk about women like they are meat.


Ally Bean said...

Amen, sister.

Amber said...

If one women truly has no problem with her partner ogling other women (although this is very difficult for me to believe), and they are in a happy fulfilling relationship, then more power to her.

I would like to point out that the use of the word "ogling" here is problematic. Ogling implies some kind of drooling, staring, creepy weirdo. I'd have a problem with my boyfriend "ogling" women, as I'd have a problem with anyone ogling people. It's just creepy.

What I actually mentioned in my comments was noticing, appreciating, and/or looking at attractive women. As I also pointed out in my comments, there is a vast difference between stating that you think someone is hot and saying that they're "the ideal of female beauty." The latter carries an implied judgement on the listender, whereas the former other is simply an observation.

Will write more later - only had time to skim this post at the moment.

Tracy said...

I enjoyed the final sentence where you brought it all home through meat references! :)

Buttercup, I have to say that I agree with you and Aretha. Mutual respect is the name of the game. And you're right, partners are supposed to make each other feel good, not bad. No one is perfect, and I don't think it would be healthy to bolt from a relationship the first time you feel disrespected. However, if you talk to your partner about certain behaviors that make you feel disrespected, and there is no effort made to change them, then Houston...we have a problem!

wordnerd said...

I agree with what you (and Tracy) have said about mutual respect being the end line here. MD and I seem to have found a balance that works...but what works for us doesn't necessarily work for others.

For example....while there is no oggling allowed...I will point out hot guys and girls and he'll do the same...but it's more of a noticing in the same way that we'd notice nice architecture or a nice painting. It's an appreciation of the physical beauty.....I am not saying however that this happened overnight and that he (because really it's always him) doesn't slip up and hurt me every blue moon. If he does, it's addressed and we resolve how/where he crossed the line into disrespect. (I fuck up in other ways though...trust me!)

What I do find interesting though is that I have come to a point that what bothers me the MOST (aside from the occasional fuck up)is when MD points out the intelligence and wit of a another woman. Even if he doesn't go ON and ON in a disrespectful way (which he's done too...another fuckup)....it still kills me. ...every. time.

I guess I feel that we can't control whether our partner falls in and out of lust with us...and physically, I know that we'll likely go through some ups and downs in our lives...but I would hope that he loves my core and that while it's important to nurture the physical side of things...it's more important to nurture the emotional/mental side of things...and when I can sense that he's taken notice (even if it's in passing) of someone else's innerbeauty...I know that this is something I cannot compete with.

Those are jealousy/insecurity issues that I cannot seem to resolve. I wonder why that is!

Sorry so long...you struck a chord and work is VERY slow!

Buttercup said...

Note that ogling does not imply weirdness or drooling. According to Webster's II, Ogle means "to stare (at), esp. amorously or impertinently." Impertinent means "improperly bold or disrespectful."

Whether you call it "ogling" or "expressing appreciation," TO ME commenting to your girlfriend about another women's ASS-ets is impertinent and inappropriate. Thus, if a boy that I'm dating does this despite my express wishes to the contrary, he is willfully disrespecting me. I don't have time for that.

Buttercup said...

But Amber, it is duly noted that you did not say that ogling was OK with you. It sounds like we just have different perspectives.

le lyons said...

Fabulous posts (both this one and the original one).

One point I would like to make about Amber's comments: I have been in relationships with men who didn't bother me if they commented on other women...and with men who did bother me. I am not sure why that is (and overall it bothers the hell out of me - I am actually planning a similar post soon). So, maybe she just got lucky...maybe it has nothing to do with her or her security. Just a thought.

I am not sure what the solution to all of this is. It certainly is a respect issue and I have no interest being in a relationship with someone who doesn't respect me and women in general. But given the culture that we live in...is it ever possible to strike a happy balance? (I am so pessimistic.)

Biting Beaver said...

I followed you home from LeLyons place :)

I agree with everything you've said in this post. It really does boil down to a respect issue. More importantly it's a boundary issue. You have set a boundary with what you're comfortable with. There is nothing at all wrong with that.

Unfortunately, many time, women are called 'controlling', 'domineering' and 'bitchy' when they set boundaries while men are called, 'the head of the house' and 'manly'.

In short, I feel much the same way that you do. I do not ever comment on a man's looks or a females looks. For me, I do no feel the need to comment on the looks of anyone I'm around. I expect the same from my partner as well. It's a boundary that I've set and it deserves to be given weight.

Amber said...

So, maybe she just got lucky...maybe it has nothing to do with her or her security.

Well, I definitely did get lucky, there's no question about that. My boyfriend is amazing.

I also know, though, how my confidence and self-assurance has fluctuated over the years, and how I've dealt with it and worked shit out and come to terms with stuff... knowing my personal history (and I do!) I can say for sure that I am much more secure in who I am than I was several years ago.

Bitch | Lab said...

@ Amber

Like Amber, I have to agree about self-confidence, too. But before I go there, I wanted to say this. IT's the impertinence part of ogling that's important. Drooling is a way of hyperbolically describing the impertinence. No one drools -- except in the movies.

I used to mock this guy I had to work with. We'd drive a van through a campus. Sometimes, he'd slow down, hang his head out the window and stare, hoping she'd smile. I'd call him an ass, grab a white bar towel and pretend to wipe drool off his face.

It was a metaphor for saying, quite being an impertinent jerk.

Jake was ogling. A feminist man *rolls eyes* in grad school used to (he thought) surreptitiously look at women and we'd occasionally catch him. He wasn't very good at keeping it to himself. Fed up with the hypocrisy, I finally gave him a neck brace one day -- for the whiplash.

This is being impertinent. Jake did it to exercise power over the women he ogled. My grad school friend did it because he was a dork who apparently didn't know how to *pertinently* keep his appreciation of women to a context that was more appropriate.

But back to what Amber said, I too have no problem with my partner appreciating other women's looks, though I'd completely agree that it is rare that, in het relationships, it works both ways.

I think confidence has something to do with it, but that also comes from learning more about the complexity of men's emotional lives as well. However, I think it's fair to say that this society makes it very difficult for us to feel confident about ourselves.

Amber said...

I think confidence has something to do with it, but that also comes from learning more about the complexity of men's emotional lives as well.

And I would add to that to say, anyone's emotional life. To pin this as something only men do is unfair and just another gender stereotype reinforcement. Not that that's what you were doing, BL; but I just wanted to be crystal clear in saying it.

We live in a society where it's difficult for women to feel confident about ourselves. At the same time, both men and women are made to feel guilty for doing completely natural things like noticing other attractive people. The message can seem harsh and can come off as, "natural sexual feelings" == "something to be guilty about." (This theme goes way beyond looking at attractive members of the opposite/same sex, of course.)

Due to these and other problems in our whacked-about-sex society, it is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule for both partners in a relationship to be okay with their partner thinking other people are hot, and to fully comprehend and appreciate the difference between thought and action. I know it took me a while.

This shouldn't be interpreted as an "I'm better than you, look at how confident I am" type thing. That is NOT how I mean it, so... just being preemptive.

Buttercup said...

The problem with saying, "I'm not 'x'..." is that it of course sounds like the person is defensive or in denial, and that they in fact, most assuredly are "x."

Despite that, I feel the need to repeat that I genuinely and truly do not believe that my exasperation with boyfriends ogling/ talking about women/ checking out other women/ or in any other way expressing potential sexual attraction for other women is about any alleged "personal insecurity" on my part.

By that I mean, I think I'm an attractive girl, and my boyfriend checking out other women does not make me feel less unattractive.

It does however PISS ME OFF because I have repeatedly expressed that I find it disrespectful to me and the other women being observed.

This issue, for me, is absolutely about MUTUAL RESPECT, and GENDER.

I find it notable that the immediate counter arguement to the ideas that I set forth is to suggest that my ideas stem from my own personal insecurity. Why, if a guy is making a woman feel disrespected, is that not accepted as truth? Why instead do we instead question her and suggest that SHE is at fault in some way and that SHE must be insecure?

I am not the one who made my partner feel uncomfortable or unvalued. If I had, I would be doing my damndest to make him feel better, and to not repeat whatever had made him feel unvalued in the first place.

I see this as me standing up for myself and setting boundaries on what I feel I as a woman need in my life to feel valued and respected in my relationship. This has nothing to do with insecurity or weakness. It has to do with my strength and my respect for myself.

Most importantly, it has to do with my conviction that I DESERVE (just like we ALL deserve) to be respected, and I deserve to be in a relationship where my partner loves me enough to want to make me feel loved and appreciated.

Amber said...

You are absolutely correct that partners in a relationship need to respect each other's boundaries and convictions. At the risk of sounding cliche - that's one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship.

I do appreciate that different people have different boundaries and comfort levels with any number of things. That is fine! That's what I spend a whole lotta time preaching on my blog... Not all people are the same, and what works for some may not work for others, and that's okay!

However, I don't think there's any harm in examining the possible reasons behind one's actions or beliefs. [Insert preferred deity] knows I spend an inordinate amount of time doing it myself... I've been called introspective to a fault. Hmm, where was I going with this... I've digressed... Oh yes! I'm just saying, more power to you if you are secure in yourself, your convictions, and your boundaries, regardless if they are different from mine. I guess what chapped my ass was that the post "A matter of manners" contained a few "romantic rules" that were decreed as the law of the land for everyone, everywhere. Perhaps that is not how you meant it, but that's how it came off to me when I read it.