How to have an amazing relationship (it isn't what you think)
There is still so much more to explore at the intersection of culture, genetics and romantic strategy, that I’ll just have to keep these articles coming. I love the subject of love and I’ve got the necessary uterus to talk honestly about such things without instant crucifiction.
In this article I look at:
The main sex wars narrative of our time
It’s time to face the fact that we live in some of the strangest times in human history in terms of mating. And we have a story about it:
We live in a patriarchy.
Men dominate women, in more or less systemic manner, through more or less subtle methods. There exist a silent oppressed class and a pretty much careless oppressor class. The privileged, often blind to their privilege, are benefitting disproportionately, and the underprivileged are leading lives of quiet subjugation. Women are paid less, own less, hit a glass ceiling, are exploited more, and are subject to constant micro- and macro- aggression from men steeped in rape culture.
The world is a dangerous and unfair place for women and the deck is stacked against them.
This is the accepted, central narrative of gender relations in modern western culture.
At least for the woke set, the educated, the cosmopolitan.
But what does this type of thinking do to the relations between the sexes?
Can we have healthy relationships within this inherent hierarchy?
The feeling of cosmic justice
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
In times of injustice, it is a moral failing to not act, to not be outraged by the acts of the oppressor.
This is the spirit that animated millions of women around the - mostly western - world to take to the streets and protest inequality in the huge wave of Women's Marches that took society by storm in 2018.
In times like these, there is nothing more justified than rising up against a system that ignores disparities to suit its own agenda. There is nothing more legitimate than the struggle in the face of blind subjugation.
Many women, probably most educated women in the western world have heard this call and felt this outrage and are now faced with navigating the treacherous world that they find themselves in. Danger awaits around every corner and Sleeping with the enemy is not just one of Julia Roberts' B-side flicks, but a terrifying daily reality for many women.
How we got back to grass hut thinking
If we live in a society where there are clearly distinguishable oppressor and oppressed classes, we've effectively drawn a line in the sand.
This is a line as old as time, and as deeply embedded in human nature as the instinct to breathe.
It's the line between US and THEM.
It's the line between the in-group worthy of protection and empathy and the out-group who by their essence have malicious intent and feel ever so slightly less than human.
This is tribalism. And it's ugly.
To become part of the tribe, you have to pledge allegiance to a few important ideas:
Identities are culturally constructed - genes and hormones are unimportant or worse, patriarchal constructs, derived from the biased work of mostly male scientists.
Rape culture - we live in a culture where men feel entitled to women's bodies.
The pay gap and the glass ceiling - women are paid less for equal work and can't advance professionally because of entrenched bias.
And the strangely sexist fact that to be a successful woman you have to leave foolish feminine things behind, carve out a place in the oppressive patriarchy and beat men at their own game.
These are the underpinnings of the tribe and once you have accepted the mantras, you are welcome to dye your hair blue and shop for comfortable footwear. Welcome to the sisterhood!
I’m not buying these points completely, but, they may as well be true.
But it's definitely not the whole picture.
The other side of suffering: men
In 2016, there were 4,287 male suicides in the UK, that is about 76% of all suicides. Globally, around 80% of all suicide victims are men.
Men are more likely than women to die prematurely, and one in five men dies before the age of 65. Worldwide the age death gap is 7 years, on average.
Men are 97% of combat fatalities.
Men make up 94% of work suicides.
Men lose primary custody 68-88% of the time in divorces and fathers receive primary custody only 8-14%. Equal residential custody is granted in only 2-6% of the cases.
78% of homicide victims worldwide are men.
Men are over twice as likely to be victimized by strangers than women.
Men are 165% more likely to be convicted of a crime than women.
Men get 63% longer sentences than women - for the same offence.
Around 80% of the homeless are men globally and around 90% of U.K. homeless deaths are men.
Prostate cancer receives less than half the funding that breast cancer receives and has overtaken breast cancer in deaths in 2015 in the UK.
Between 2% - 10% of fathers are victims of paternity fraud.
One-third of all divorced fathers in the UK have lost custody of children.
94,000 fewer boys and men go to university every year than girls and women.
Women make 88% of all U.S. retail purchases. What's more privileged, earning money or spending money?
A lot of modern-day feminist rhetoric has been fuelled by the concept of a history of oppression. The idea that men had privilege and power over women, that they exercised it to their benefit and to the detriment of the oppressed. They voted, they rose to power, they excluded.
Men, as a group, had it good.
To illustrate the quality of life that many a man enjoyed in the not so distant past, let me leave you with a story:
Between the years 1890 and 1917, around 230.000 railroad workers were killed on the job. The "brakeman" had the most dangerous job of all.
At the time, trains were operated manually, and they needed to be stopped manually. The brakeman’s job was to stop four or five cars by hand.
The way they did that was by walking on top of the cars, turning a wheel, and putting the brakes on for each of the cars. Because momentum is one hell of a law of physics, brakemen were often thrown from the top of railroad cars to be crushed and maimed. (“Freight Trains,” Modern Marvels, The History Channel, 2006)
And this is not the only infrastructural marvel that was built - very much literally - on the backs of men. A simple glance at anything around you, from indoor plumbing to electrical lighting wears the stamp of the toil of men.
When there is a power outage in the middle of a snowstorm or a burst sewage pipe in the sweltering heat of summer - it will very probably be a man that will fix it. The almost imperceptibly smooth running of everything that protects, empowers and entertains us is being coordinated by an invisible army of men. You can see that as the price of privilege, but it's a heavy price indeed, as men make up 93% of work fatalities.
For all of this, I say: Thank you, men.
Unmasking the female shadow: Toxic femininity
A big part of tribalism is black and white thinking.
The in-group's actions are always justified. Even when the rules are broken, it is an understandable reaction to the sheer monstrosity of the out-group. Even when the out-group does good, it is cancelled out by the maliciousness of their intent.
This seemingly air-tight feminist narrative has a big hole. By creating an all-encompassing boogie man with The Patriarchy, it left no space for women to do wrong, no space for women to assume human form.
That's why there is no equivalent to "toxic masculinity". Even when toxic femininity is mentioned, it’s just a bad case of internalised misogyny, of women that are too entranced with the patriarchy.
That's why a hashtag like #belivewomen has had almost no criticism from the mainstream feminist side. The enemy and his rape culture are so corrupt that principles like due process and the burden of proof have to be put aside to protect the blameless-by-default: #YesAllWomen.
Well, there is a female shadow.
Not many will want to talk about it.
The women who live it either have no awareness of it, they feel that retaliation against the entrenched powers justifies their actions or they simply have no incentive to admit to it.
The men who notice the female shadow will not talk about it because they don't want to ruin their chances with women or risk being socially or even professionally annihilated for sexism.
This is toxic femininity and it has many forms.
Toxic femininity is the willingness to use the tools of sexuality without accepting responsibility for their use.
The "my eyes are up here" of a woman who's been shopping for work clothes in the lingerie section. She’s pushing her sexuality on men, recoiling at their unsurprising reactions and then shaming them for it, because their gaze is an instance of rape culture. When, in reality, what it is is about eight times as much testosterone and a sex drive that defies the imagination of many a woman.
Toxic femininity is vicious competition with other women.
Before you whip out the socially-constructed-patriarchy card - this is universal, culturally consistent behaviour. This wasn’t implanted by Disney brain-washing or pink Easy-Bake ovens. Since the dawn of time, women have been competing with each other for the attention and resources of high-status men, using gossip and reputation-destruction to undermine other women. Slut shaming may well have been invented by men, but women perfected its usage.
Toxic femininity is emotional manipulation.
It's being a constant martyr and getting away with it. It's using your weakness to gain strength by playing the victim when it's convenient. It is losing all your #girlpower when there’s a mouse in the kitchen or snow needs to be shovelled. It's the culturally universal phenomenon of "My wife is angry at me and I have no idea what I did wrong".
Toxic femininity is sexual and romantic entitlement.
It's only wanting to date reasonably fit men over 6ft with a full head of hair, a great job and above average looks - regardless of your own value as a mate. It’s calling men pigs because they won’t commit to you when the reality is that most men just have lower standards for sex partners than they have for girlfriends. Toxic femininity is denying the fact that you’re flooded with oxytocin every time you have a casual hook-up with a guy, feel like you’ve been hit with a truckload of depression when he doesn’t text back and are shocked that men don’t feel the same.
Toxic femininity is a many headed beast, and it deserves your attention. The first step towards slaying the Hydra is acknowledging it exists.
Finally, the clickbait finale: How to have an amazing relationship
If you want to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship, and I know you do, ladies - it's time to drop the tribalism.
Before we are men and women - we are human.
Life is, empirically at least, marked by a whole lot of suffering.
Men suffer just like women, in countless, and often much more silent ways.
It's time to reach out with empathy.
It’s time to reach out both to the men in our lives and to our shadow. It's time to connect to men's pain and to connect to our responsibility for parts of that pain and to our hidden toxicity.
Women will never be complete beings while they can-do-no-wrong. We need to integrate our dark side, accept our failings and give the truth of our existence a big, juicy hug.
I know that resentment feels delicious, I know the frothy excitement of having a clear enemy, I know how passionate and fulfilling the deep connection of the oppressed can be. Righteous indignation is better than sex and chocolate, but it’s a bottomless pit.
If we manage to face and accept the shadows of our nature, that will make it easier for men to do the same. The behaviours and patterns we call toxic masculinity are on the flip side of toxic femininity. Men won’t want to keep fighting us with their own toxicity, they won’t want to present a homogenous, tribal front if we take the first step and accept our darkness.
Your relationships will gain a maturity and depth that you can barely imagine if you can stand to look unflinchingly in the mirror.
There is heroism in accepting responsibility and that won’t just make you stronger in his eyes, it will make you stronger in your own.