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Eugene Weekly : Savage Love : 10.19.06

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Savage Love

by Dan Savage

I'm a 19-year-old girl, attractive, outgoing, and ambitious. My boyfriend is 21 and shares the same qualities. We've been dating since January. At times he gets really moody and won't tell me why, but I've noticed a pattern:

1. Me hanging out with my guy friends (guy friends that I've known since we were about 13, no attraction).

2. Me hanging out with a guy I once had a one-night stand with, whom we both know.

3. Me talking to a guy at a club.

Perhaps the second incident is understandable, but the last one troubles me. We were out with friends, dancing in a group. A guy tried to dance with just me and I said "no" and moved away from him. Then some guy grabbed my ass and I turned around and told him I was going to backhand him if he touched me again, and told him the guy standing next to me was my boyfriend.

My boyfriend glared at me and walked away. I found him outside and asked him what was going on, and he ignored me. I ended up walking down the street in the rain, the most emo I could possibly be, crying. When I saw him later, my boyfriend said that telling the other guy "I'm here with my boyfriend" meant that if I wasn't there with my boyfriend I would have done something with him. I ended up bawling, and then he held me and told me it was "okay."

How should I approach this issue? He doesn't really want to talk about it. Should I ask him if he's a jealous person and see how it goes from there?

Goodguy Really Emotionally Exhausts Nicegirl

 

Fire. Rumsfeld. Now.

No, wait. I've been spending too much time reading Andrew Sullivan's blog. I meant: Break. Up. With. Him. Now. This is classic controlling behavior, GREEN, and if you let him get away with it—by which I mean, if you don't dump his ass over this bullshit—it's only going to get worse.

Here's the download: A man that emotionally abuses a woman over casual contact with other men early in a relationship is likely to physically abuse her later in the relationship. Even if he never physically abuses you—a big, fat, fucking "if"—can't you see what you're setting yourself up for if you stay with this guy? Men make up roughly 50 percent of the population, so just about every time you leave the house you're going to run into men. Guys are going to speak to you in clubs and in classes, on buses and airplanes, and unless you work in a convent, GREEN, you're gonna have male coworkers. So your boyfriend, if you stay with him, will be able to get all sulky and silent on your ass whenever the fuck he feels like it. Are you prepared to live with that? Forever?

I hope not. Because you may be outgoing and ambitious now, GREEN, but after a few years with this toxic shithead you're going to be a timid, self-censoring wreck, second-guessing your every move lest it set your boyfriend off. You'll find yourself flinching every time a man—a friend, a waiter, a retail clerk—speaks to you in his presence. Since you'll never know which innocent conversation is going to set him off, every interaction you have with another man is going to feel like a risk that's not worth running. Do you want to live like that?

Yes, yes, he has good qualities—he's outgoing and attractive. So fucking what? Most abusers have something to recommend them, GREEN, otherwise no one would ever date one long enough to be abused. Hell, when they're sweet, abusers can be downright endearing. ("Oh, he makes me cry but then he holds me and tells me it's 'okay.' He's so wonderful and sensitive!") But you need to open your eyes and see the sweet routine for what it is: an integral part of an emerging cycle of abuse. He acts like an asshole, you cry, and then he pours on the syrup. Why? So you don't leave him, GREEN, so you'll still be there for him to abuse tomorrow.

Perhaps I'm painting too dark a picture. Your boyfriend is young, perhaps he can get a handle on this and drop the clichéd jealous/emotionally-abusive-boyfriend routine. But that's not gonna happen until he realizes that he's going to pay a steep price for treating women like shit. Namely, it will cause smart, attractive, secure women—women like you—to dump him.

So no more emo, GREEN, no more tears. Dump the fucker and tell him why you're dumping him. ("You are an insecure bag of slop and I'm simply not willing to be punished for your insecurities.") Then tell yourself, over and over again, that you didn't really love this guy, dearly or otherwise. You were in love with the person he could be but isn't. Or, to be charitable, you were in love with the person he isn't yet, the person he never will be if he doesn't suffer the consequences of his behavior, i.e., if it doesn't cost him someone like you. So…

Dump. Him. Now.

And fire Rumsfeld, too.

 

A close friend that I've known for years recently came out to some mutual friends, but has yet to say anything to me. I'm hurt that he doesn't feel comfortable coming out to me. So what gives? Why hasn't he told me?

Best Bud

 

Don't feel bad, BB. Homos frequently come out to new friends before old, siblings before parents. The more a homo fears the loss of a person's love and support, the harder it can be to tell them. Which is why most homos go in for a few low-risk coming outs before they drop the bomb on mom, dad, and best buds.

 

I was somewhat surprised that in your response to NAGS (the man dating a zoophile) you failed to comment on the questionable ethics of zoophilia and bestiality. To me, the foremost rule of sexual ethics is consent, something animals are incapable of granting. I remember that you have a set of sexual practices that you do not condone under any circumstances, but I can't remember if German-shepherd fucking is among them. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Don't Fuck Animals

 

Bestiality/zoophilia is on my short "No" list, right up there with pedophilia, necrophilia, and coprophilia, much to the consternation of dogfuckers, kidfuckers, deadfuckers, and shitfuckers everywhere. (I really have a beef with anyone out there fucking dead, shit-covered puppies.) Since my opposition to dogfucking has long been a matter of public record, DFA, I didn't feel compelled to restate my opposition in my response to NAGS. But, hey, once more for the record: Fucking dogs is bad, mmm-kay? Don't do it.

However, it needs to be said that if zoophilia is wrong because animals can't consent to sexual acts, then hamburgers, lamb chops, and Jell-O brand gelatin, along with leather shoes, belts, pants, slings, and hoods, are all equally wrong. It's possible that meat and leather are, you know, wronger. If we could talk to the animals, I'm pretty sure they would tell us they would rather be screwed than stewed. But until we can talk to the animals, I fully support eating them and wearing them, not fucking them.

 

Lots of folks took exception to my advice for Just That Into Him, the woman I advised to consider cleaning up after her messy boyfriend if things got serious. You can read a smattering of the letters, pro and con, below:

Just as you can say things such as "pansy-assed," Dan, and it's funny, your boyfriend can shop and cook for you and it's charming. But cooking and cleaning for a boyfriend when you're a woman is not so picturesque. It's just old and tired. I understand where your reply to Just That Into Him is coming from. I am bisexual and I like to shop and cook for my girlfriend—in fact, there are a lot of things I would do for a woman that I wouldn't do for a man (e.g., lingerie and pumps). It's not that I don't like men as much, it's just that being a stereotypical woman in a heterosexual relationship is expected of me so it's not a turn on, it's just business as usual. Cleaning up after men might be practical, but it won't enhance the average het couple's sexual relationship.

I suspect your reply to JTIH was just a coy, humorous way of making her realize that if she gets serious about mess boy she will be picking up after him, just like his mommy.

Messy In Canada

 

I wanted to make a brief comment on your response to JTIH. While I am all for people taking up whatever relationship roles make their twosomes, threesomes, and foursomes work regardless of gender, completely discounting the discrepancies between which work is deemed masculine and which is shoveled onto women seems a little unfair. There's a reason feminists feel their leg hairs pricking up when people suggest a woman follow around after her beau and pick up everything he drops carelessly behind him: They've been doing it for centuries and it's a hard role/expectation to escape from. Straight men just expecting their girlfriends to do their laundry if they buy them things creates persistent inequity. And how many times a week do things around the house really need to be moved and killed?

That being said, on an individual level we can only go with the dynamics that work for us. But a quick sentence peppered here or there sympathizing with girls who keep finding the same expectant straight guys could do wonders for fag-feminist diplomatic relations, instead of just dismissing the idea of gendered work altogether.

A Not So Angry Feminist

 

First off, as a card-carrying feminist and all-purpose angry lady, let me say that I'm COMPLETELY okay with what you had to say to Just That Into Him. There's nothing wrong with a healthy division of labor as long as there's some attempt to be equitable, and as long as the efforts of both sides are truly appreciated.

That said, if you and your significant other live together, with other roommates, and your habit is to let your SO pick up the slack for you on a regular basis, YOUR ROOMMATES WILL NOTICE. If you ice the suck cake by constantly complaining about how filthy everything is—while, again, never lifting a finger yourself—YOUR ROOMMATES WILL NOTICE. They might eat your suck cake uncomplaining (as might your SO), but you haven't fooled them. It sucks.

Cranky

 

I'm a 23-year-old female living with my boyfriend of about four-and-a-half years, and I am incurably messy. Just am, always have been. My boyfriend, however, is a total neat freak. He had a problem with my living style at first, but we've worked it out nicely: I make sure to keep his areas free of my clutter, and every few weeks or so I'll get out of his hair while he goes on a cleaning binge and picks up all of my crap. In return, I do everything I can to make his life easier—cook, run errands, etc.—and I try not to nag him about habits of his that I might not like (playing video games, for example). It works out pretty well. No reason why people should get up in arms just because the sexes happen to be switched around. It's a personality thing, not a gender thing.

Blessed With A Cleaning Boy

 

Your advice to Just That Into Him didn't strike me as wrong because of its misogynistic overtones. It struck me as wrong because it totally ignores the resentment that builds up when one person picks up after another person. Did you not have parents or something? Did you never see the look of frustration in your mother's eyes when your dad left some socks out on the dining-room floor? After a certain point, the woman gets fed up of feeling her cleaning goes unappreciated and starts to nag. The guy responds to this with resentment and you've got a really, truly massive problem on your hands. While intensive cleaning (i.e., scrubbing the bathroom, cleaning the stove, etc.) may be the work of only one partner, picking up after yourself is something that should be expected of every adult.

Sensitive Engaged Man Envisions Nagging

 

I am a strong heterosexual woman. And I feel that no woman should ever clean up after a man. Period. Full stop. The end. That's all folks!

We are all individuals, responsible for ourselves and our messes. It's sweet that your boyfriend plays the little lady around the house, Mr. Savage, but trotting him out as an example to all women everywhere isn't going to win you any arguments or friends. I don't care what sort of sexist role-playing scenarios a couple of homos get up to behind their closed doors. When and if I ever marry or move in with a man, I will make it clear from the start: I take care myself, he takes care of himself.

Never Doing His Laundry

 

I am not going to accuse you of being misogynist, but I have to point out that once the honeymoon is over, what seem like tiny issues can practically destroy a marriage. It may not be the clothes on the floor for every and all couples, but I know from experience that if neither partner wants to pick them up, then the one who ends up doing it can end up bitter and resentful. JTIH needs to assess her true feelings about mess and household duties and be up front about what condition things must be in generally for her to be happy, and not just who is going to do what. Laundry is a lot less of a pain if the dirty clothes are found in the hamper, for example, and not strewn throughout the house. Furthermore, for all she knows, this guy "picked up" his place before she arrived and he's generally much messier. This discussion need not happen right away, but it should happen when things begin to get serious, for example if they are moving in together. There should be ground rules early on, before an unbalanced housework load becomes an ingrained habit.

And incidentally, for what it's worth, statistics show that women still do more than their share of unpaid work in heterosexual couples, even when both are employed. The ratio becomes more equal with higher educational status. So this may not be fundamentally a gender issue, but the culture certainly presents us with an apparent uphill battle for women.

Catherine C

 

You knew you had it coming, right, Dan?

While your boyfriend picking up after you works for you and him, it's unlikely JTIH is gung-ho to act as mommy to a middle-aged man. After all, you don't like cleaning, do you? Presumably she doesn't either. If JTIH doesn't want to clean up after the dude, nor come out and say he's a slob, how about giving him a gift certificate for a couple of sessions with a maid? He'll get the point that he's living in a pig pen, and that JTIH's obviously not going to fix it for him.

A Not Very Angry Woman

 

I'm a slob, my boyfriend is a slob. We're both in grad school, both work, very busy. So our apartment was a disaster. It was embarrassing to have anyone over. So I went on Craigslist and found us a maid. How can we afford it? Glad you asked: Our maid pays us. He's this nice, middle-aged, submissive man, not much to look at, but he comes to our house once a week and scrubs the bathrooms, does the dishes and laundry, and anything else that needs doing. And he pays us $100 each week for the privilege. Every once in a while I give him a spanking. Hate housework? Get a slave!

Slob Problem Solved

 

I'm a feminist woman and have been living with my boyfriend for two years. When he first moved in I couldn't believe how messy he was, and in spite of myself I cleaned up after him. I picked up his clothes, emptied ashtrays, scrubbed the bathroom. But after a few months of him watching me do this I think he got the hang of it. I still do all of the down-and-dirty cleaning but he now knows that laundry belongs in the hamper, and dishes in the dishwasher. He cooks me dinner, I scrub the pans. It's an equal relationship, as you say, we're just both doing what we're good at.

Katrina

mail@savagelove.net

 





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