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!
10 responses to “Two Conditions”
I can say that it gets far easier to resist societal norms as you get older. I am shabby and fleece-clad and I don’t wear dresses and I don’t give a crap about that now and don’t feel pressured to, hooray! I’m also happy to have some interests and hobbies that are considered weird (birdwatching, running around my city collecting photos of rare post boxes …) as again, I’m becoming invisible as a middle-aged woman and no one seems to care about me conforming any more.
I keep more people in my life than I might have done previously, however I am freezing out a Facebook friend who has made very unhelpful comments about the same-sex couple on Strictly Come Dancing and anyone who does that gets challenged then goes …
Yay so glad to hear that it gets easier to resist societal norms as you get older! Love your esoteric hobbies and your blogging presence. (: Your comment also made me think about the proliferation of social media and how I feel like for my generation we didn’t really grow up without social media – so how social media can also introduce pressure to live your life a certain way (though perhaps it can also serve as an avenue for resistance by promoting lifestyles that are often not featured). Also, appreciate you calling out/in people who say oppressive things and then freezing them out if they are unwilling to engage in constructive dialogue and/or forgo their oppressive attitudes. Hope you are doing well Liz!
Ok … I better leave a comment now otherwise I’ll forget.
My comment in your last post covers a bit of this entry too.
I’m curious what suggestions you could provide to help listen better (as you put it “listens deeply”) and self reflect (without beating myself up).
You kinda look like a spy or an assassin That pink sharpie is probably a weapon of some sort.
Are men harder to teach? Why are we so toxic?
Have a great week Thomas! You always leave me with lots to think about.
Hmmmm these are great questions Matt and I feel like I could take forever to respond so I’ll try to keep it concise. I definitely think going to therapy would help with self reflection, though also engaging journaling or other methods of sitting with one’s feelings and thoughts (e.g., mindfulness) may help. Also I think books like Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff may serve as helpful starting guides to self reflect in ways that are kind to oneself. In terms of listening, I literally read The Lost Art of Listening by Michael Nichols several years ago and found that to be an effective starting place, though I can’t vouch for the book’s social justice principles or if it is oppressive given that I read it before I got really into fighting systems of oppression. I also think websites like this one provide a good start: https://psychcentral.com/lib/become-a-better-listener-active-listening/ As for why men are oftentimes annoying, I’d def recommend reading The Will to Change by bell hooks which I think serves as a great starting place for understanding patriarchy in that regard. Hope you’re well Matt!
Thank you Thomas, I appreciate the advice and recommendations here. Thanks for taking the time out to document them. You’re a gem!
I love that you think this way. Stay out there on the end of the bell curve, please, we need people like you.
You know what makes me feel gross? When I find those male supremacist, please-love-me, deferential impulses toward men, in myself. I’m like, “Augh, Alex, grow up for gods sake!” They are there, however.
Also, a writing question: isn’t it a test that you pass, and a bar that you clear? I’ve always thought of a hurdler when I hear that phrase.
Awwww lol idk if I’m on the end of any bell curve aside from having cool-colored hair, I appreciate that tho! And hmmm yeah I appreciate you naming those impulses, because I feel like naming the internalized oppression within ourselves is oftentimes the first step to dismantling them. And yes that’s great point re: the bar you clear thing, I think my general frustration with men makes me imprecise with my language. Thank sofr taking the time to read and comment. (:
I read this post and your last post, Thomas. Have to really admire you for your honesty about what you look for in someone and how typical society thinks. It’s refreshing.
I think it’s normal to have conditions on relationships, and dealbreakers too. Reading your first condition, I take that you want someone who is control of their emotions, not afraid of talking about them and taking steps to better themselves. This kind of behaviour is a great trait to have – someone who is more likely to be level-headed and probably work prefer to work things out with you as opposed to fighting and yelling it out.
I found it interesting that some of your ex-friends settle for men who are ‘better than other men’ so to speak. Sometimes you can’t be too picky who you choose because there is no perfect person out there. Then again, you really do want someone who aligns with your values. It’s important to remember that when you find one good trait you find in someone, doesn’t mean there isn’t a trait underneath that you don’t agree with.
For most of us, what we look for in a partner stems from our childhood and relationships with our parents – which you alluded to in the beginning and there are studies out there to back this up. Then again, that sort of means we go about getting into a relationship into a judgemental manner – but we also know what’s best for ourselves, so it’s like a catch-22 situation.
I think letting go of certain people in life is hard. I haven’t been afraid of going cold turkey letting go of some people who aren’t a good influence on me or if I find myself constantly disagreeing with them – but I do dwell on it heaps before making this decision.
I hope this all made sense. Thanks for another insightful post, Thomas. Hope you are staying safe over there.
Aw Mabel thanks so much for this thoughtful comment and self-reflection! Yes, a theme I’m hearing in this comment is also just the importance of self-awareness about what we want in relationships. Like someone might want X or Y from a friend or romantic partner and I may want A or B. And we can interrogate where those desires come from like societal forces (e.g., amatonormativity, setting the bar low because of toxic masculinity) as well as how there may be just different preferences based on personality (e.g., I might prefer someone who reads books whereas someone else might prefer someone who’s super athletic). I’m glad you’ve been able to let go of some relationships that may not have been great for you even if you take some time to make that decision.
Self-awareness of ourselves and our surroundings is so important. It’s always best to be open with one another, discuss our wants and needs – and ultimately make sure both of you are in the same path in life. Thanks for sharing this piece, Thomas.