My mom not only bought me The Rules when I was a teenager, but she also bought me a regurgitated, written by a man version in the form of Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man when I was was going through a breakup a couple of years ago. These are my thoughts on the gender norms surrounding dating and their potential psychological harm…
Controlling men’s behavior by withholding the sex you want to have is not exercising power…the only power that’s being exercised here is society’s control over women’s sexuality…you’re perpetuating sexist social norms that dictate what is “ladylike” vs. what is “slutty”…you’re giving into the system that keeps men and women in separate spheres, when we should really be working together to challenge and dismantle the patriarchy that holds us both down…
I’ve spend much of my life seeking men’s approval – if a guy didn’t want to date me, I’d blame myself for being too available, clingy, slutty…we are taught to behave in certain ways in order for a man to want us – this notion caused me much psychological damage over the years. I was taught to believe that if a man truly wants you, he’d do anything to “get” you…when a man would fail to do so, I would not only write him off as not worthy, but I would also internalize this as a failing on my part…a failure to conform to “what men want”…conforming to sexist gender norms regarding dating has been nothing but detrimental for my well-being…I’ve withheld sex, not withheld sex, not called, called too often…none of these tactics “worked”…none of these tactics resulted in a long-lasting relationship that left me feeling secure or that added something to my life. Every failed relationship I’ve had, I’ve been taught to examine what I “did wrong.” I’ve never been encouraged to look back on a relationship and see where I went right or where HE went wrong…Every failed relationship was supposed to be a life lesson…I’m now choosing to see these experiences as life lessons, alright…lessons that taught me that I need to overcome my internalized misogyny.
I’ve outwardly eschewed gender norms while allowing them to dictate my love life…for that, I am now apologizing to myself…:’-[
NYCyclist – I’m sorry I’ve internalized “The Rules” and allowed them to make me feel badly about myself. I’m sorry I’m just now, at age 28, acknowledging that I’ve let gender norms dictate the majority of my love life. I’m sorry that it’s taken me this long to unyoke myself from oppressive gender norms as they apply to romantic relationships.
It dawned on me about a year ago that when women are given dating advice, it all amounts to changing our behavior…there are more dating rules for women regarding what NOT to do than what TO do! Men are always advised to be persistent and be themselves – we’re advised to do the exact opposite. We’re taught to believe that men are turned off by you pursuing them, by you being sexually forthcoming, by you being available…dating advice for women is anything BUT empowering! We’re taught to change our behavior in accordance with what men supposedly want and it doesn’t stop with the early phases of dating – we’re taught not to criticize, not to call, not to not make dinner, not to “let ourselves go”…
We’re taught we can’t win…
Well to that I say EFF THAT, here is my new rule:
It's been working out quite well for me lately! No more self-doubt when a relationship goes sour, no more self-loathing when I have a bad date, no more self-pitying when I have a dry spell...thought it certainly helps that I have a new little friend:
To conclude, by casting off the archaic dating rules that have been forced down my throat my whole life and purging my psyche of internalized misogyny, my love life is no longer the emotional rollercoaster, calling-up-my-friends-sobbing-after-every-breakup mess that it used to be.
Also, I wouldn't have been able to do all this self-improvement so quickly without empowering myself with feminist literature, so THANKS INTERNET!