Monday, May 13, 2013

Dating, Hetero Gender Roles, Gay Men, Philosophy, And Other Stuff

Here's some dating advice for women who want to date men, from an expert, who claims to have interviewed tons of actual straight guys.

You want a guy to call you back after a date?  The number one reason guys don't call back attractive, accomplished, interesting women is simple:  those women were too challenging, too direct, and not soft and feminine enough.  But don't despair.  If you have tendencies in this direction, just be sure to "use softening words" instead of making statements -- preface your remarks with "I think" or "maybe" -- don't use your Blackberry, and be sure to change out of your work clothes into something girlish and flirty before the date.

There are a number of things to say about this, but here are a few.

First, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with wanting a partner of either sex who will be supportive and kind and warm, and I don't really blame a straight guy for wanting women to be those things in a certain kind of soft way.  All people need a lot of nurturing, and it seems to me understandable for one person to have preferences for how another person manifests that nurturing. 

So I don't think straight men wanting a date with these qualities is somehow evidence of a flawed personality.  It reminds me of the irascible H. L. Menken and how he loved to sit and tell his troubles to an intelligent and sympathetic woman, and be comforted, and I think, "Well, yes, I can see how that would be very appealing and nice." 

However.  Replicate this desire across many many straight men in their preferences, and plonk the whole thing down in an already sexist, competitive society that rewards assertiveness and combat in the workplace and you have some major societal problems.

One major societal problem one is pretty obvious:  women can either have dates or career success but not both.  Aside from the obvious -- how sucky is that? -- there's also the deep problem of financial inequality and dependence.  If a women takes a lower-paying nurturing job and a man takes a high-paying combative job, and then they split up or divorce of whatever, the woman is screwed.

I've hadn't had much personal romantic engagement with this whole problem, partly because I can't really avoid the direct interpersonal style.  I'm a look-you-in-the-eyes kind of person.  As a friend once said, "Uh, you're just not demure."  The men in my life have liked that; I suppose men who wouldn't just kept their distance in the first place.

But it's definitely a thing.  Certainly in the media it's a huge thing.  Modern media almost always depict a dynamic in conformity with the pattern:  in a movie or whatever, you're pretty much never going to see the straight-shooter, no weasel-words accomplished woman as the heterosexual love interest.

How did this become such a thing, and why does it remain?   You'd think everyone would want their wives and daughters to bring in home the bacon, which would seem to cut in the opposite direction. 

I really don't know.  But whatever else you want to say, it sometimes makes me wonder if there's a connection between these phenomena and some aspect of the particular fondness some straight women have for gay men.  Obviously these things are complex, but perhaps one strand goes something like this:  many gay relationships show a model of male sexuality in which men are attracted to, and not threatened by, assertive and masculine styles. 

So for a straight woman it's like, you can see a guy in action actually being attracted to the qualities typically associated with anti-attractiveness, qualities that for some women are pretty essential to their make up.  It's appealing, even if it's at a distance. 

Of course, the accidental philosopher, being a philosopher, can't help but also notice that the things you're supposed to do to be attractive to straight men are exactly the opposite of the things you're supposed to do to be a good academic philosopher. 

For a philosopher, stating one's views in a non-assertive way, stating facts as opinions, and using weasel-words like "maybe" or "I think"  -- it's a direct route to career suicide, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars.

Say what you will about the other humanities, at least they're generally safe spaces for uncertainty, weasel words, and indirect communication.  At least, I think they are.  Maybe. 

No comments: