Two things happened around International Women’s Day this year that reignited my desire to have open discourse about issues related to women, relationships, and the views our society holds about women and relationships. Being multiracial, a women in a male dominated field, someone who doesn’t identify as Christian, and a host of other qualities that make me “the other” in almost all situations, I like to think I am sensitive to many different groups of people who may also be “the other.” As I am primarily consumed by school right now, issue involving women – how they are viewed by society; the continued obstacles women in male dominated fields have to overcome; the hypersexualization and degradation of young women – have been in on my mind the most.
The first thing that happened around International Women’s Day involved a comment made by a male aquaintance. While hanging out just this male aquaintance and I, he said he didn’t want to disrespect me or Pretty Boy or be doing anything wrong or inappropriate regarding he and I hanging out. Well, my first thought was that he was being quite genuine and respectful. I appreciate that. Pretty Boy and I have an open and honest relationship and both of us know there is nothing wrong with either of us having friends of opposite genders or hanging out with them (I wouldn’t be with him if he did have a problem with those things), so there really wasn’t anything this guy needed to be worried about and I told him as much.
After the fact, though, I really started thinking about the interaction. While I believe he had nothing but the best intentions, I think the underlying sentiment behind his comments, a sentiment that is rampant in small and conservative communities, warrants discussion: that there is something inherently wrong or dangerous about two people of opposite genders hanging out together. I believe the perceived danger comes from the fact that we are sexual beings, and that the sexual aspect of our nature has been labeled bad and if left uncheck, might overpower our will to “stay pure.” I have issues with this sentiment because it seems to result in an unrealistic concept of “purity” and the suppression and denial of our sexual nature which leads to unhealthy manifestations of sexual desires and negative associations with sex.
The second thing was a particularly thought-provoking video shared by a friend of mine, which featured Dan Savage talking about monogamy. In the video, Dan Savage, an author and sex-advice columnist I’ve been a fan of for some time, talked about why monogamy came to be placed at the heart of romantic relationships and that we should consider if we agree with the reasons so much importance is placed on monogamy and if the weight given to monogamy is realistically attainable. I was completely blown away by his words: I’d never thought about monogamy in that way and I have experienced doubts (abet not relationship ending doubts, but still doubts) about my own romantic commitments (i.e. “Maybe it’s not really love”) because I couldn’t sustain that head-over-heals, honeymoon-phase love feeling.
After watching the video, I wanted to talk to everybody about it. I talked with the Mojo Monster. I talked with Pretty Boy. I talked with friends. Yes! These were the type of conversations I’ve wanted to have about relationship and gender issues that our society needs to openly discuss. Let me be clear, I do strongly believe in monogamy, but I also believe in all of the other things that make a strong domestic union: companionship and teamwork, care, support, non-sexual love. All of which deserve to be heavily weighted. I want to be part of a union that can identify, talk about, and openly resolve any issues that might arise (like being sexually unsatisfied) before they might lead to infidelity.
I strongly believe that many of the volatile and polarizing issues present in our society would benefit from open discussion like this. Issue like abortion, gay marriage, naturalization, birth control, workplace discrimination, discrimination and prejudice in general. I wish there was more dialogue from both sides (which includes listening, which I think everyone can be bad at!), and introspective assessment of what concrete beliefs are behind our positions on the issues.
After these two experiences and the passing of International Women’s Day, I hope I did justice to self reflection and open discourse, which led me to believe that we are sexual beings by nature. Acknowledgment and acceptance of that to both ourselves and to each other will be important in the relationships Pretty Boy and I have with others and in the success of our monogamous romantic relationship and future domestic partnership. After questioning my stance on monogamy and gender relations, I feel more confident in the importance I place on monogamy, the role and weight I hope it will have in my future domestic partnership, and in my relationship with Pretty Boy. I will try to continue to welcome open, respectful, and reciprocal dialogue about relationships, monogamy, and other issues, because these are the conversations we need to be having in order to create a functioning society.