Posted by Some Dude on February 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm
Got a relationship question you want to ask, or a situation you want thoughts and advice on? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and watch this space for my answer!
This, however, is just a couple of disclaimers. I’ve occasionally gotten criticism, most recently from ivyfed, that misinterprets my beliefs and motives. It occurs to me I should have codified these a long time ago, and it was perhaps foolish of me to think they were so obvious they didn’t need to be said. Here they are:
GLBTQ Relationships. Whenever I write “men” or “women” (or “guys,” “girls,” etc.), I mean straight men and straight women – which is usually clear from context. So, I write “men” and “women” as opposed to “straight men” and “straight women” because it would be cumbersome to clarify every time.
I have no hostility to or judgment against people who don’t identify as straight. I wish I knew how to advise those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, queer, or otherwise, but I just don’t have enough experience observing what works and what doesn’t. Since I believe that straight men and straight women are different from each other (a subject I’ll go into in greater depth below), I don’t think that my advice is generic enough that it can be readily adapted to GLBTQ relationships by changing pronouns. Incidentally, I welcome anyone who feels they do have sufficient understanding of LGBTQ relationships to write a guest post about them!
Feminism and Equality. Men and women tend to be different. This basic belief underlies my whole understanding of relationships. To me, it’s self-evident that there are differences between men and women: most men are attracted only to women, and most women are attracted only to men; they usually experience attraction for different reasons; they often have different aesthetic tastes and preferences; they tend to have different personalities, and so on.
To avoid this being stretched too far though, I do not mean to imply that men and women are unequal or have different potentials. Nor do I mean to imply that all women are the same and all men are the same. Their differences are neither binary nor exclusive; individuals fall on a continuum between extremes. Some straight men are more feminine (for lack of better terminology) than some straight women, and vice versa.
So if the differences are so variable and individual, why do they matter? The differences matter in relative terms, not absolute terms: for any given pair of one man and one woman where at least one is attracted to the other, the man is hugely likely to be more masculine than the woman, and the woman is hugely likely to be more feminine than the man. It’s a practical consideration, and not intended as a judgment on my part. I don’t represent that these differences between men and women are either somehow biological or social in origin; for my purposes, where the differences come from doesn’t matter, only that the differences exist.
Some women – including my own girlfriend – have criticized me for reinforcing traditional gender roles in my advice. They have a point. I’m socially pretty liberal, but when someone asks for my help, my advice is predicated on the world as it is, not the world as I wish it were. A world of true equality would require that we actually change who we’re attracted to and why, which are involuntary choices with complex causes. I won’t impose a specific ideological vision, however much I might agree with it or how obviously advantageous it would be to society as a whole, if pursuing it doesn’t help resolve the immediate situation of the person asking me for advice.
Good Advice. Sometimes I get questions from fairly sleazy-sounding people seeking unethical shortcuts. Sometimes other readers criticize me for not castigating the people who ask such questions. But I think advice isn’t good advice unless it is framed in a way that makes the intended recipient want to follow it. Filling this column with righteous rage might make me or other readers feel good, but doesn’t actually do anything or help anyone. So I soften my response and frame it in a way that I think will be persuasive and make sense within the worldview of the person who asked.
Special thanks to Jasmine Miller and Some Dude’s girlfriend. Email Some Dude at email@example.com.