This is probably going to be the first part of an ongoing series, because there are so many ways that women are used, spoken about, and advertised as toys that one post is not going to suffice. Today I want write about a very specific instance in which women are treated as toys by men.
Intimate relationships are a complicated thing to navigate. We have an entire fictional genre devoted to it, relationship self-help books have a huge market, movie producers make millions using the same basic storyline in dozens of different films, and we spend our entire lives trying to figure intimate relationships out, and how to get in the Perfect Relationship™.
Being human, we want the people we care about to be happy. Being involved in an intimate relationship is one of the many meaningful things someone can do, and when someone we care about is not in a relationship, we often find ourselves trying to set them up with someone they might like. And this is fine, provided it is done in a respectful manner, and with the consent of all parties, at every step of the way.
These two concepts are the very basis of all human relationships. Without both, no relationship, casual or intimate, can be meaningful or healthy.
Often, men will talk about the woman one has had an intimate relationship with, but for some reason is no longer with. Sometimes, a friend will express interest. This is fine. Here is the problem:
When the man gives permission, and they set about manipulating the woman or the circumstances in order to set up The Friend with The Man’s (former) Woman, who Owns Her For All Time, Since He Has Possessed Her Once.
This kind of thing completely ignores the woman, except in the context of Something to be Had. In 2010, it is assumed we’ve come ‘so far’ but in reality, we haven’t made it as far as others would like us to believe. We haven’t come as far as we’re told when a woman’s desires, consent, or personal agency as an individual human being is ignored.
Framing it as a friend’s consideration for the man’s feelings, again, ignores the woman. It’s hard to get men, who have never been treated as objects or property in any meaningful way, to understand this. They object, “But why would consideration for a friend ever be wrong?”
It is wrong because we’re talking about a woman. We’re not talking about the man here, the ex, the friend, the brother.
I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be difficult for an ex to see their former partner with someone close to them. I’ve been there, and done that. However, that’s between the two former partners. Depending, DEPENDING, on the degree of intimacy between the two former partners, it might be inconsiderate for one party to date a close friend, or sibling of their ex. It absolutely does not mean that anyone has to ask anyone permission for anything. Again, depending on the circumstances, it might be considerate for someone to give their ex a heads-up, but certainly not obligated to, though it is somewhat of a social rule.
One thing that I want to emphasize here is that it also completely ignores the feelings of the woman involved, in two ways. The most significant is her feeling about discovering she’s been spoken about in such a way. I’ve recently experienced this, and let me say, it was horrible. It was demeaning, embarrassing; I felt literally like a toy to be tossed around between buddies. I felt disrespected. I WAS disrespected. And that pissed me off. After living as a woman for 21 years, I expected as much from strangers (though I’ll say it doesn’t make it any less troublesome or disrespectful), but I expected more from people I cared about. I expected more from my former partner. I expected more from a friend of mine. They should, as people that are as close to me as these two men are, respect me more than their words implied. I don’t deserve to be treated like that. No woman deserves to be treated like that.
The second way in which a woman’s feelings are ignored in this situation is much less complicated: What if the woman has no interest in ‘the friend’? Asking permission of a former partner for a woman, ignores who she may or may not be interested in. Persisting, doing it anyway, sends a message that, hey, they don’t care what the woman wants. Friend wants her, Ex says “you can have her” and that’s that. The decision is made, no female input necessary. Or allowed. It sounds eerily familiar. Like, oh, I don’t know, arranged marriages? With “women’s liberation” being part of the justification for the continued war in Afghanistan, the hypocrisy of this practice astounds me. We’ll condemn forced/arranged marriages all the day long, but we socially ignore women’s autonomy every day. Just because it isn’t enshrined in law doesn’t mean everything is all better.
Here’s where women’s feelings, concerns, and anger are again ignored: we’re told we’re overreacting. To those who throw the ‘O’ word at women, I would say, stop, think carefully, put these same actions in a different context, and see if you don’t see any problem with it still.