Shame on Me?


The personal is political. This is sorta feminism and activism 101. But I hate the feeling when I’m reminded of this in my own life. Too often, I am in situations when I visit family in which I feel misunderstood or dismissed because of my “radical” views. (Sidenote: when did wanting equality become radical?). Even more so, I hate the uncomfortable and suffocating feeling in the moment I realize a romantic partner holds anti-feminist beliefs, either consciously or not. It’s hard not to feel like a moron when I ask myself how I didn’t see it before. I quickly cut that line of thinking off though to avoid self-blaming but at the same time I am partly responsible for the partners I choose to be involved with.

As someone who was a serial monogamist for 7 years, I have now been single for almost a year. I have enjoyed my single-dom but would in no means consider my behavior “promiscuous”. Whether this is denial or my sex-positive feminist mindset, who knows. And who really cares?! My serial monogamy says more about my psychological state at the time than my now sexually confident behavior.

In the world of casual sex, I have discovered firsthand, even though I knew it always existed in a large-scale manner, the double standard of sexuality for men and women. It is especially clear between heterosexual partners. Does someone I’m casually seeing “need” to know if I’m seeing other people (assuming safe sex practices are being utilized)? Why does a guy think he deserves to know but then withholds the same information from the female partner? 

This sort of belief system is clearly rooted in benevolent sexism  in the idea that women should be pure and virginal. It also shows the reality of the virgin/slut, Madonna/whore, pedestal/gutter dichotomies.

Men want women to be “promiscuous” or “freaky” ONLY with them. god forbid women want to get it when, with who, and how they want it. Sex really can be just about sex.

Masters student in Houston; hoping for a career in the nonprofit sector doing feminist activism and organizing.

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  • nazza

    Just sex is one thing. Those situations for me seem like a question of basic fairness. If you’ll please pardon, I wrote about one such relationship earlier in the week. The long and short of it is, in this particular situation, I was forthcoming with her regarding my situation at home and she wasn’t necessarily so forthcoming with me.

    It shouldn’t matter who we were both sleeping with, but since we were already in relationships ourselves, it was highly likely at least occasionally we were being intimate with our current significant other. An affair is nothing I’d recommend, but what one ends up doing is occasionally sleeping with one’s partner to assuage guilt and to cover one’s tracks. And doing that made me feel about as sleazy as I’ve ever felt in my whole life.

    We only talked about what we each had to do in passing, but we both knew it was going on. This wasn’t just sex, though. We were having sex, true, but I wanted a relationship. That was not what she wanted and she never clearly articulated it. What she wanted was for me to make her feel good and say nice things that boost her self-esteem without ever criticizing her. Hence the reason it was a fantasy. That was safe for her. She never had to entertain the possibility of leaving what she had. And, truthfully, neither did I. But I wanted to risk it. I wanted to toss the dice and see what was produced. But that was more than she could handle, so she said goodbye.

    Is there a double standard here, in this situation? What if the woman I was seeing had requested that I not sleep with my partner? I’m just very curious, because that very same thing has been requested of me before.

  • nazza

    I apologize if this came across harshly.

    I’d modify one particular sentence here. The one where I say that my being in her life made her feel good because I’d say nice things to boost her self-esteem and without ever criticizing her. This is factually true, but I could have said it better.

    She didn’t want to think about the pain and the adjustment of leaving her husband. Instead, she wanted flattery and compliments. Which I provided, gladly. The situation was unfair for both of us, so I guess what I was trying to get across is this. There are situations in romance between men and women where either gender or both is entirely capable of being unfair or cruel. When we see things within the context of societal taboos like adultery, then we begin to see the breakdown of sexist tropes like the virgin/whore paradigm.

    • Morgan

      The expectations and circumstances within an affair are different. People who love each other but can’t be together, as in your case and the case of long distance relationships, have the tricky line to straddle of being emotionally involved with each other but maybe being sexually involved with other people. I guess my point was that sex doesn’t always have to involve emotions or be monogamous. I also think if one partner is allowed to do whatever/whoever than the other person can too. In my experience with heterosexual romantic relationships, it is men’s expectation that women should not be adventurous while men can be, even if both people claim to love each other. In other words, a guy can have a sidechick for sexual fulfillment but if a woman does, it’s often treated like the end of the world.