on autonomous women and the men who "love" them, then lose their minds when they can't pin them behind glass like butterflies
Demanding partner #1 relinquish their autonomy in order to coddle partner #2's insecurities is not “setting boundaries" and we need to talk about the dichotomy of attraction
First, I want to make it clear that this post isn’t an attack on men in any way but rather a calling out of a certain kind of enabling we do societally for the dangerously insecure.
Women are just as capable of jealousy, therapyspeak and ultimatums that may or may not alleviate their own insecurities. And I was very recently in a situation where a man I was very close to as a friend had to cut me off because his girlfriend made him choose between us. (This was not the first time that has happened.)
But this is not a post about jealous and controlling partners so much as it’s about a certain kind of cis man who is attracted to a certain kind of woman FOR THE VERY REASONS he will later punish said woman for.
When trying to find a name of for this (and feel free to point me in the direction of a the term if there is one) I decided to make my own.
The dichotomy of attraction is when someone FALLS IN LOVE with the same fire they will later try to extinguish because they only want it for themselves. Who will tell their partners what is and is not appropriate for them to light up, manipulating said women (and men!) with words like “boundaries” and “compromise” that insinuate it is their partner’s responsibility to shrink themselves in order to make their insecure partner feel more secure.
Because everyone wants something shiny until they realize other people see it, too. Better to keep that shit in check, right? Lock up your daughters style. Because wild horses are hot until you realize you can’t fuckin tame ‘em.
I have watched so many women and girls (and men and boys) relinquish control over their own sovereignty as means to pacify an insecure partner in the name of “love.” Myself included.
And while I am in a very different place than I used to be and have had really healing experiences with men who are NOT insecure, the lasting ramifications of past relationships heighten my sensitivity to stories like the ones that came out these last few days re: Sarah Brady and Keke Palmer and their relationships with men who became critical of the very things that attracted them to these women in the first place.
This is not uncommon, judging from the conversations I have had with women both on and offline, all of whom have shared stories of dating/marrying/partnering with “seemingly-nice non-threatening feminist men” who are turned on, both sexually and intellectually, by the same traits that will later feel threatening, demeaning or cause them insecurity within the relationship. These traits include intellect, independence, sexuality, physical beauty or attractiveness, success, financial security, public-facing life, strength, ambition, or a combination of the above.
Which brings me to Keke and Sarah, both women who would be particularly threatening to ANY insecure man unless there was a part of him that assumed — perhaps without even being fully cognizant of it — that their partnership would mean her eventual willingness to sacrifice some, if not all, of the above for the
greater good of the relationship pacification of his insecurity.
This is not to say that when people feel unsafe in a relationship they shouldn’t be able to communicate that lack of safety. But trying to control a person’s behavior — specifically when its behavior you were attracted to in the first place, does not a safe, healthy or loving relationship make.
A boundary is not a list of demands.
A boundary is not an ultimatum.
A boundary does not strip a partner of their autonomy nor is it a fence someone demands another person build around themselves so their partner can flourish at their expense. The fact that this is even up for debate is not surprising so much as it’s depressing as fuck that so many people are unable to see what is problematic about control as a love language.
I find this behavior particularly triggering because I have in the past made myself smaller in order to appease men in my life who claimed to love me for me but clearly did not, could not and were never going to. And also because I know what it feels like to be in relationships with people who claimed to love me for me and actually did. Which was revelatory!
I have watched a lot of people defend the behavior of men these past few days (Jonah Hill, specifically) and while I understand why screengrabbing and sharing personal texts is ethically questionable, sometimes the only way to have public conversations about the things so many of us experience in private is through a person’s willingness to share.
For example, I have an entire file of dating app screengrabbed “red flags” in my phone as I know many women who date on the Internet also do. Just in case.
ED: Here is one from last year via a “proud liberal,” “dog dad,” and “creative professional” who also thought it was cute to use Amber Heard as a verb.
The same people who will criticize a woman for sharing texts are the same people who will ask for “receipts” if she doesn’t. And at this point I feel like we ALL SHOULD KNOW better than to send a text to ANYONE without acknowledging the possibility that that text will get out. (And as someone who has learned this the hard way, if you have beef with your partner, TALK TO THEM WITH WORDS FACE TO FACE SHIT ESCALATES SO FAST VIA TEXT MESSAGE JFC.)
Do I think Jonah Hill is a terrible person? Of course not. I don’t think many people are, to be honest. I think we can talk about manipulative/abusive behavior without completely cancelling people and find our lack of nuance to be just as unsettling as the enabling of toxic “lock up your lovers” relationship standards. I do think there is a lot of misguided insecurity that hardens to become full blown abuse and that it’s possible to be both empathetic to a person’s insecurity while also acknowledging that YES, ACTUALLY, THIS IS ABUSE. AND IT’S FUCKING WRONG AND IT SUCKS AND YEAH, WE’RE BIG MAD. WE SHOULD BE BIG MAD!
I also think that some people assume that because they are in therapy, they are to be absolved of all misdoings. But worshipping on the altar of therapy is no less dangerous than any kind of fanaticism. Anyone who worships something hard enough will learn to weaponize that very thing. (And, yes, I watched and loved Stutz. Although I now see it through a very different, much darker lens.)
Some of the most toxic people I have ever known have been in therapy their entire lives. It is not hard to disguise one’s need to control a partner with words learned from the very place that person has gone to heal the same control issues.
And with that, I end with this: we all deserve the kind of love that empowers us, and doesn’t deprive. We also owe it to each other to know better than to confuse love with ego, boundaries with control, and lovers with property we must fence.
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