A few days ago, I read Why Does Dating Men Make Me Feel Like Shit? by Emma Lindsay. It stuck with me. It got me thinking, and kept me thinking.
It felt like a conversation where you and a friend are fumbling toward an answer, but you never quite get there. Your friend veers off in a direction that loses you at some point. Either she’s wrong, or she’s found her answer, but you’re still looking for your answer. Because sometimes no one answer fits all. Or maybe you just need to hear it phrased a little differently. It’s all good.
I definitely share the experience of liking myself better when I’m not dating men.
And it’s not that I’ve dated nasty guys. In fact, I wouldn’t classify any of my exes that way. I always thought it was the act of dating itself that made me feel lousy – since I’ve never dated women, I can only compare dating men to not dating at all. I’m an introvert, and dating always feels like a terrible job interview I once had. I knew I could more than do the job, but the employer had irrelevant expectations I couldn’t meet. I had all the experience and education they were looking for, but they also wanted someone who’d taken a gap year to travel Europe. Oh, well, that’s me out.
So I kept mulling the article over, and bouncing it against my personal experience as described above. Here’s what I came up with.
Shamed boys project shame
We normalize toxic masculinity in this culture, with the intention of teaching girls to lower their expectations of boys. We tell girls and women: “boys will be boys”, “are you sure you weren’t asking for it?” and “of course they’re going to stray if you’re not keeping them happy at home.” Our intent is to teach girls and women that they have no business expecting male humans to engage their brains or character once their dicks get involved.
But of course, boys absorb these messages, too. And what they hear is, “You are a mindless beast, and your sexuality will be toxic and destructive even if you don’t intend it to be.” Some boys will learn early that these messages are bullshit. But most won’t, because these are very dominant messages in our culture. Most parents and teachers don’t realize these are dangerous messages that need to be counteracted. And so, many boys will internalize these messages, and since boys are taught to turn negative feelings outward, many of them will project those feelings onto women in the way Emma describes. Particularly the shame.
In the end, it all combines to make “dating men” a milieu in which one’s chances of being made to feel dirty or unworthy are higher than they should be.
This is, of course, very damaging to boys as well as girls – to men as well as women. But so many people believe toxic masculinity is a natural fact of life that they don’t even question it. They just try to teach their kids how to work around it. That’s where you get all this pearl clutching about girls wearing tank tops to school, It’s why wives have traditionally seen fit to fire attractive women who work for their husbands, even when the woman has done nothing to encourage the man, and courts have upheld that right:
The same seven judges came up with the same ruling, clarifying that you can be fired “…because the boss’s spouse views the relationship between the boss and the employee as a threat to her marriage.”
Because we mustn’t expect men to adhere to a moral code. No, if men went around doing that sort of thing, someone might get the idea the D doesn’t control the world.