Thursday, August 1, 2013

Girl Meets GirlWritesWhat

Apologies in advance for the awful formatting. I don't know what the problem is, but I'm too worn out to deal with it. So: deal with it.

I recently had my world rocked by the uh-mazing blogger and men’s rights activist GirlWritesWhat. It all started with this video, which you absolutely must watch. If you don’t watch it, you’re a terrible person, and I want you to go away and stop reading my blog. Seriously, go away. Now!

Ok, now that only non-terrible or terrible-for-other-reasons people are left, let’s continue. Over the past few weeks, I’ve reassembled the pieces of my blown mind into something approaching a new world order in which women are…well, not the “bad guys,” but certainly not “victims,” either. And in this brave new world inside my post-feminism brain are all kinds of new and exciting identifications, connections, intuitions, ideas, and concepts, many of which are extremely complex and best left to professionals like GWW. But one little nugget of an idea intruded on my conscious mind this morning so suddenly and precisely that I feel compelled to dedicate some time to laying it out for you, my five+ readers.

It begins with a story, and the story, like most, begins with a girl and a boy. Girl meets Boy. Girl moves in with Boy. Girl and Boy start fighting. Boy seeks counsel from his ex. Girl asks Boy with whom he had lunch. Boy lies to avoid a fight. Girl finds out the truth. Girl dumps Boy and moves out because “No one lies to Girl.”

Nothing shocking in this story, on the face of it, but let’s consider another story: Boy meets Girl. Boy moves in with Girl. Boy finds out Girl lied about seeing her ex (platonically). Boy kicks Girl out of the house.

Be honest: did one story make you cringe? I just told the same story with the gender roles reversed, but suddenly instead of a strong, independent woman confident in her self-worth and willing to take no shit and standing up for herself admirably in the face of a dishonest boyfriend, we see a domineering, unreasonable male overreacting and unfairly punishing a woman who was merely exercising her rights to free association and privacy. Sure, she shouldn’t have lied, but she was scared, and clearly rightfully so since he then broke up with her, just like the girl in the first story did…oh wait.

Let me take a break from gender roles for a moment (don’t worry, I’ll get back to it) and discuss the “zero-tolerance for lies from lovers” principle itself. This is something I’ve been taught since early childhood, something I’ve seen preached by men and women from all walks of life (though it’s only preached to women), something I’ve heard countless women declare as their own personal standard, and that I’ve seen employed by women several times in my life with absolutist resolve. In the case of the Girl in the “Girl meets Boy” story above, this was a woman who is very intelligent, from a well educated and affluent family, who is financially and socially independent, and who displays very few of the typical bad “female characteristics” such as cattiness, vanity, squeamishness, hypersensitivity, bitchiness, or hysteria. Yet even she- in fact, I’d say especially she –believes so strongly in this rule that she ended a relationship that was half a step shy of a marriage all over a single lie.

I can see the Objectivist heads in the audience nodding as we speak. Just wait.

Why do people lie?

Excluding extreme cases like borderline personality disorder, where people lie for the fun and power derived from making other people believe your lies, people lie to avoid negative outcomes. A murderer lies to avoid the noose. A thief lies to avoid jail. A kid lies to avoid time out. And your boyfriend, with whom you’ve been fighting chronically and (by your own admission) not rationally, lies to avoid yet another unproductive screaming match. Unlike the murderer, the thief, or the child, the boyfriend isn’t covering up an immoral act. He’s actually trying to help your relationship by seeking advice from a person who knows him well in that context. He wants to help, but he doesn’t want to be unfairly subjected to your emotional outburst. So he lies.

It might seem as though I’m filling in a lot of background* here to paint the Boy as the hero and the Girl as the villain, but it’s quite simple to prove that the Boy’s belief- that your response will not be calm and rational –is entirely accurate: if he were guilty of something by seeing his ex, you would break up with him for that reason; you wouldn’t need the “zero-tolerance of lies” policy as an excuse.

Lying and Privacy

If you’re an Objectivist, forget about the “honest lie.” If you’re not an Objectivist, forget I just said that. What I want you to think about is privacy. Privacy is another way to say “information I hide from others.” What kinds of things do we keep “private”? Health issues: pregnancy, cancer, depression, chronic pain. Financial issues: how much money you earned last year or your current salary. Sex: with whom you have it, how often you have it, what kinds you like. Career machinations: whether you’re going for the promotion, whether you’re considering other offers, whether you’re “on the market.” Politics: for whom you voted, which party you support, how you feel about abortion and gay marriage. Religion: that you’re Muslim, that you’re Jewish, that you’re atheist. And sex, and sex, and sex.

What do we rarely, if ever, keep private? Hobbies like horseback riding, gardening, or sailing, but not writing erotic fiction. Vacations to places like Europe, Alaska, or Disneyland, but not to Burningman. Mainstream art we consume or like, but not pornography. Traditional relationships with kids and marriage, but not bisexual open marriages. Anything non-controversial or that would not create negative outcomes for us were they known.

It’s obvious from these lists that “privacy” is really about insulating oneself from potential negative consequences resulting from the irrational judgments of others. GWW’s bisexuality, single motherhood, men’s rights activism, and authorship of erotic fiction have nothing to do with her ability to work as a waitress. But because her boss might allow these irrelevant factors to influence his treatment of her as employee, she’s well within her rights to keep this information private. This is neither controversial nor hard to grasp, but guess what?

This is exactly what motivated your boyfriend to lie to you.

If you contribute to a relationship dynamic in which arguments are sparked and escalated by irrationality and emotional whim-worshipping, you cannot rightfully resent the avoidance behavior that results. To spell it out real plain: you made him lie. You created or supported the system in which his best option is to hide information from you. It’s your fault.**

Privacy in Romantic Relationships

If, as so many profess to do, you believe that the “right to privacy” does not exist between romantic partners, answer these questions:
-At what point in the development of the relationship does privacy end? On the first date? On the sex date? Once monogamy is declared? At the Justice of the Peace? Draw the line. 
-Is there a bright line or is it a gradual reduction of privacy (and eventually none at all)?
-If it’s gradual, how much privacy is permitted at each stage of the relationship? How does your partner know how much privacy he’s entitled to and when?
-Do you really mean zero privacy? Really consider the dirty details, including everything that goes on in the bathroom. Consider answering questions about your bathroom habits in full, honest detail. Really? 
-Do you apply the same standards to yourself?
-Do you distinguish between privacy and lies? Does privacy end where a direct question begins?
-What about “positive” lies like surprises or “you’re not fat” comments?
-Is there a positive obligation to inform in addition to the negative obligation not to lie?
-When and how do you clearly and explicitly communicate these rules to your partner?
-Do lesser versions of these rules apply to friends? Stronger versions? No rules at all? Why or why not?
-Should the penalty for non-compliance be zero-tolerance?

I’m guessing the number of people applying a zero-privacy or even a zero-lies rule to friends is arbitrarily close to, well, zero. Why is that? Is it because friends “can’t hurt you” like a romantic partner can? Why so much fear of being hurt by a romantic partner but so little when it comes to friends?

Is it because of the sex? It’s the sex, isn’t it?

This whole fucking mess is yet another fucked-up result of the insane quest for riskless sex, spearheaded by feminists, supported by everyone who’s not a Southern Baptist, and causing problems everywhere. How do I know this? Because the survey says that the zero-tolerance policy is an exclusively female ideal [survey follows in a couple of paragraphs].

While men are no less abhorrent of dishonesty than women, they universally employ a “case-by-case,” contextual attitude toward lies and the proper response to lies. A big lie- cheating, stealing, hiding an STI –gets a big punishment: breakup. A medium lie- lying about where you were or whom you were with –gets a medium punishment: time apart, weakening of the relationship, counseling. A little lie- spending more on shoes than you promised (sorry, Sig. Other!) –gets a little punishment: a conversation about trust, a dock against next month’s budget, etc. Even the harshest men would apply essentially Hammurabi’s Code: an eye for an eye. Women, in contrast, make everything a capital offense. I believe, and for my support I will be lazy and merely point you in the direction of GWW’s oeuvre, that this is yet another example of men accepting full sexual agency- both the choice and the responsibility of sex –while women want only the fun part- the choice.

There is no truly “safe” sex, just as there’s no truly “safe” rollercoaster or car ride or pregnancy or LIFE. The hurt won’t kill you. Heck, it might not even come if you don’t invite it so enthusiastically by doing everything in your power to sabotage your relationship even before it starts. People (women) always claim it’s about “trust.” Having to share every detail of your life with your romantic partner and having no secrets from her is “trust.” Right, and the NSA is monitoring your phone calls because they trust you so much. Women don’t ask for this information out of trust. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The point of all that info-gathering is to increase the likelihood of proving you untrustworthy by catching you in a lie. That’s not trust; that’s surveillance.

I see I didn’t stray too far from gender roles, after all. Good.

Survey Results, Media, and Closing Arguments

Now, it’s hard to take a look at your life and assess how men versus women view lies in a romantic relationship anecdotally, mostly because men are quite closed-lipped about their love lives, contrary to popular myth. However it’s a simple thing to point to hundreds and hundreds of examples in media of women applying a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to men lying to them, including “lies” that were simply omitted information, while it’s an impossible thing to do the same for men applying a similar standard to women. If you’re female, your name isn’t Tess, and you’re not in a Victor Hugo novel, you can almost certainly lie and “omit” all you want, consequence-free. But if you’re male and, well, anywhere? Then this could be you:

Ally McBeal makes a Robert Downey, Jr. sundae after “catching” him with his ex in a yogurt shop. Setting aside the fact that of course we all want to cover that man in sprinkles and eat him out of a sugar cone, how is this appropriate behavior, even in a comedy? Was he forbidden from speaking to this woman? No. Did he lie to Ally about anything? No. Did he compromise a prior obligation to her or harm or even inconvenience her in any way by eating yogurt with his ex? No. Did Ally face any of the ramifications a man who acted similarly would face (you know, like prison) or really any ramifications at all? Fuck no.

Mr. Big (gag) doesn’t tell Carrie (double-gag) that he’s divorced. She finds out when – dun dun DUN! – he tells her, willingly and openly upon her asking. Oh Mr. Big, don’t you know it’s a Big Fat Lie not to provide a woman with a handwritten manifesto, detailing all your past history that she might find even remotely compromising when taken out of context, on the first date? Hell, even that’s pushing the bonds of decency a little too far. How about during the first fifteen seconds of making her acquaintance? I mean, you’re basically a rapist now; you realize that, don’t you?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you every romantic comedy that involved a “bet” of some kind: How to Lose a Guy in Ten [Misandric] Days, Ten Things I Hate about You [and about Men Generally], She’s All That (and Men Can’t Have It!), Wedding [aka “Patriarchal Bondage Ceremony”] Crashers, etc. I give you every romantic comedy that involves a “hilarious” misunderstanding (always to the disadvantage of the male, of course): 40 Days and 40 Nights [aka “It’s Funny When Men Are Raped by Women”], About a Boy [sorry, I meant “Future Rapist”], The Wedding Singer [doh, there’s that patriarchal bondage again!], etc. I give you…well, fuck, I guess I give you the entire fucking genre of “romantic comedy.” No wonder men despise rom coms so much. They’re nothing but emotional torture-porn that cast beautiful women in the role of Jigsaw and men as the perpetual stream of victims.

You know what, men? Gay marriage is mostly legal now, and procreation is really rather superfluous. I think a lot of people would understand if you opted out of this sick game and just married that dude from your MMORPG who really clicks with you. I wish you two the best.

Mazel tov,

S. Misanthrope

*Note that the pattern of fighting and the history of you (or both of you) overreacting *is* necessary. If someone is simply lying out of habit, by all means, run the other way. But be careful when it’s a question of privacy versus lies (next section).

**For the O’ist heads that are exploding: look, it’s not force at the point of a gun, and he could have chosen not to lie. But given the situation described, the emotional beating he’d be subjected to when he’d done nothing wrong and in fact had been trying to help the relationships, well, the fully lie-free path is simply to end the relationship. But when you have two immature parties trying to learn and grow together, it’s unreasonable to take this “all-or-nothing” approach. If you want to work it out, the relationship needs a break from the fighting, and a lie at best will provide that and at worst will merely delay a fight you were going to have anyway.