I feel the need to respond to something that’s popped up in my newsfeed several times. Before I launch into my response, I want to clarify some things: This is not an attack on Danielle, who seems to make people happy with her writing. This is not an attack on Christianity.
This is an attack on the insidious way patriarchy—a human-made system & an ideology that is unbelievably insidious, invading even our most intimate actions—actually weakens Christianity by limiting the respect & love we can show each other.
Now, as a woman nearing her fourth wedding anniversary, I’m happy that other married couples want to protect themselves from adultery. I’m happy that I have full faith in my spouse to not commit adultery. I’m happy we’ve spent our seven years together building a resilient, honest, trusting system of communication. I think Danielle has some wonderful things to say—like, communicate with your spouse about your emotional (and, I would insist, sexual) needs. Like make each other feel special and appreciated. Look, I love to look cute and go on dates with my spouse. But I do it because of how dressing makes me feel—not because Joe will look at me more, or because he’ll be more proud, or, well, any other damn reason. I do it because I feel good, which makes me happy & confident, which makes us have a happy, fun, confident time together.
Unfortunately, I think there are some places where Danielle slips away from building healthy, happy, confident relationships into building relationships that protect against misconduct. This inherently implies that you cannot trust your spouse, and this is really unfortunate.
Now, I know she begins by clarifying that she doesn’t want to speak for men. Two things about this starter clarification are troubling. First, it’s heteronormative and supportive of gender norms when we could instead focus on things like communication, which applies to all genders and doesn’t depend on normalized perceptions reinforced by patriarchy. Second, such comments—and the comments that follow—imply men are their stereotypes. They are lusty and only capable of thinking with their dicks; they will, if given the opportunity, cheat. They cannot help themselves from looking at other humans as sexual objects, even when in a committed relationship.
This is damaging to men, lowers their expectations of themselves, and perpetuates a rape culture that hurts all of us. (Here, I’d like to point out that feminism is often seen, by those who haven’t been properly informed of its definition, as an anti-men propaganda regime. Look again: this way of categorizing men is anti-men. It limits them in incredible ways.) I want to highlight a few key passages from Danielle’s post that highlight these concerns.
First, Danielle writes:
There should be no man (not even your boss) that you respect more than your husband. Talk about your husband often (never anything negative) and never be alone with another man for any reason in a private environment (car, lunch, office, etc.) Dress modestly and appropriately. (Consider how you would want other women to dress around your husband.)
She later adds:
Have a rule that neither of you are ever to be alone with someone of the opposite sex.
To follow this, I would have to leave my job. My husband would have to leave his job. We would both be forced into workplaces that, again support gender stereotypes—I’d be an elementary school teacher, & he’d be an engineer, I suppose.
Instead, why don’t we focus on trusting our partners? Communicate about your day; build a healthy sex life; work through couple’s counseling. Build a healthy, dynamic relationship.
Joe has meetings with only women on a regular basis. I have meetings (and drinks with some of my best friends who happen to have penises) with only men. And we talk about it. And I have never been concerned about my husband’s conduct, and vise versa.
Still unsure? Why not trying getting to know those of the opposite sex with whom your partner works? That way, you also have a relationship with them and feel included. You can trust both your partner and their coworker to make the right choices. Strength in numbers! I can put faces (and fun anecdotes) to all of Joe’s co-workers, and he’s well incorporated into my Department’s culture & friend group. It means I trust the people he works with, & it means double friend group. Win!
Long parenthetical… (And again: I dress for myself. Instead of teaching women to dress in a way that avoids the attention of men, let’s break men from the tragic trope of being ogling boob slaves. Let’s teach men to respect women & stop objectifying them. Let’s build a healthy culture that prevents men from being rapists before they rape & prevents women from living as always-already/potential victims of sexual assault.)
Second, she writes:
Men are born with more testosterone and need sex more than a woman, so do not use it as a tool of manipulation.
I… I’m just not really sure here. I know a lot of women who have stronger sex drives than their male partners (or other males more generally). I don’t think I have an exceptually randy friend group. These ladies got libido, yo. So, instead of worrying about how much sex or fearing any “wild oats,” let’s go back to that communication thing. Talk about your needs, find a compromise if you’re not into it, and talk to an objective third party if it’s an issue.
And women, let yourself have a sexuality. It’s good for you. Dress the way that makes you feel sexiest, and do the thang for you. For serious. You should be loving it as much as your partner is. Your sexuality is not inferior.
And men, you are not your testosterone. Embrace the sexuality you have. Own it, and talk about it honestly. I mean, not like, at a work cocktail party… but with your partner (& your trusted friends, if that’s your thing—you don’t have to be the biggest metaphorical dick in the locker room).
Third (and lastly, because this post is forever long), she writes:
Take care of yourself. I’m not saying you have to look like a super model, but put some effort into your physical appearance. Men are visual.
I’m visual. I know what looks good to me and what doesn’t. I know what’s sexually desirable to me & what isn’t. We are all visual.Unfortunately, this is, again, a way of saying that men cannot help themselves; they are lust machines. It’s not fair; it’s not accurate. It’s a misshapen culture built on misconduct that has been naturalized. Break the cycle. Demand better for all genders. Dress for the way you feel best. Address misconduct thrown at you; your partner trusts you to fend of advances. (If they don’t, you have an unhealthy relationship, and I beg you to reevaluate.)