My romantic attraction to men often makes me feel trapped. Because I grew up with an abusive, unpredictable mother and because my personality leans toward independence in and of itself, I like feeling in control, like I have the autonomy to shape my surroundings without anyone else interfering. Feeling attracted to men makes me feel trapped because my friends and I have encountered so many mediocre men. I also feel trapped because we live in an amatonormative society that prioritizes romantic love above all else.
Over the past week and a half, I have spent a lot of time and energy reflecting on my romantic attraction to men and my dislike of it. While listening to BlackPink’s song “Lovesick Girls” on repeat nonstop, I started to wonder: wait, what if the issue here is not my romantic attraction to men itself, rather, what if it’s the way we socialize men as well as the way the state and related media glorifies romantic love (e.g., people in marriages get tangible financial and other benefits while people who are not married do not)? To help myself feel more agency surrounding my romantic attraction to men, I thought of two conditions that must be satisfied if I were to ever date a man.
Condition one: I will only date a radical left man of color who has worked through his emotional issues and continues to do so. I love this condition because so many times I have seen friends and ex-friends settle for mediocre men because they pass, what I will call in this post, the “better than other shitty men bar.” When one ex-friend talked about her relationship with her boyfriend, she literally said that she enjoys their relationship because it is healthy, unlike her parents’ relationship in which her father verbally abused her mother. Another friend recently praised a man she’s seeing because he didn’t pressure her to engage in an unwanted sexual act, unlike men who’ve been pushier with her before. I overhear so many people praise men for rudimentary things, like basic listening skills, having a job
not like having a job should really be glorified because capitalism harms so many people and lots of people who do have jobs are toxic, and at least somewhat trying to care about his partner’s pleasure in bed.
On one hand, I totally get why people use the “better than other shitty men bar,” because indeed there are so many men who do not do basic things like active listening. At the same time, I firmly believe that men – and people in general – who engage in abusive, neglectful, or even mediocre behaviors should not be the baseline for what we want in our relationships. Perhaps other people feel fine about that bar. I, however, want more. My closest friends are radical left women of color who contribute to the world in their own unique ways, practice excellent communication, and engage in consistent introspection about their behaviors. I am a radical left queer man of color who conducts social justice research, has gone to and continues to go to therapy, and who listens deeply and self-reflects all the time. I am allowed to want similar qualities from a potential romantic partner even if those qualities feel rare in men. For example, I don’t need a boyfriend who does just the bare minimum of listening to me. I’m more than capable of listening to myself.
Condition two: if I do date a man, I will do so within the framework of relationship anarchy. I have felt so much relief reading about relationship anarchy, because the framework puts all relationships on an equal level instead of prioritizing romance. Like, why should I value one type of relationship more just because the state incentivizes it and society glorifies it, when I already have thriving, fulfilling, emotionally intimate friendships? I love this condition because I feel confident that even if I do date a man in the future, I will continue to invest just as much if not more time and energy into my closest friendships, instead of trapping myself solely into a heteronormative coupling like I have witnessed so many people do. For example, so many people prioritize moving based on their romantic partner’s career. I would feel motivated to move to a city where one of my closest friends is located, as opposed to prioritizing or solely prioritizing a future romantic partner.
I still dislike my yearning for a male romantic partner. At the same time, I feel confident that I will only engage in romance on my own terms, not the terms predetermined by heteronormativity and patriarchy. When writing this post, I thought a lot about how Audre Lorde wrote that “nothing I accept about myself can be used as a tool against me.” Though I still struggle with romantic yearning, I feel that through my writing and internal processing, I come closer to accepting it, which reduces its power over me. Whether or not a male romantic partner ever shows up, I already love my life and myself and my closest friends. And I can continue to take action through my research and writing to help create a world without toxic masculinity and white supremacy and heteronormativity, a world with better men, a world where healthy relationships of all kinds are valued and cherished.
How do you try to resist societal standards that do not align with your life? What parameters do you use, either consciously or subconsciously, to help determine who you want to keep in your life? Ugh @ this being the second blog post about my attraction to men in a row, I didn’t want it to be this way yet here I am. Thankfully I have a few ideas for blog posts that are not men-related (e.g., I am obsessed with “Lovesick Girls” and will probably write a whole post about why I love this song lolol). Anyway, if you are reading this I hope you are doing well and until next post!