Probably should have waited to upload this here in the first place, but either way, it’s time to finally get this middle portion of the series posted.

After the more general examination of each gender’s general perception of the other, as perpetuated by stereotypes and the media, this part will examine how, in my experience, this translates into more personal/romantic relationships.

 

Now granted, I don’t think anyone wants to be pigeonholed and would prefer their partner take them as they are most comfortable being. Still, as a list values, stereotypes, or “ideal standards,” have a way of justifying themselves with what they imply to be the alternative. The man you’re dating doesn’t appreciate the “macho” image of a testosterone-fueled bread winner? So, what, is he not willing to be strong? Not willing to be the bread winner?Not willing to keep up with the others who are all of the above? The woman you’re dating likes sports or geek culture, or isn’t thin and well made up, or has career ambitions she doesn’t want to forfeit? So is she not a good caregiver, not someone you can have a romantic relationship with, or just not the type of person you’re supposed to be attracted to?

 

It can definitely put an awkward strain on things. Honestly though, there’s not much here I feel the need to comment on here. They are prominent and shallow concerns, but, let’s face it, their influence is ultimately shallow as well. Once a couple gets to the more important questions, I can’t imagine anyone worth being with, whether they buy in or not, seeing such concerns as anything but trivial. Just the question of how much you want to be around this person should start to render them moot. Besides, you can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t want in a relationship. 100 happy couples equals 100 different kinds of love, after all, and that may actually be the biggest reason why I don’t think stereotypes carry a lot of weight here. The only advice I’d offer is not to buy into the various articles from both men and women arguing more in favor of said stereotypes, most of which make a few fair points about going too far in rejecting them before descending into the writer’s fantasy about the perfect man/woman. That said, there is one aspect in particular I have seen become difficult in relationships due to gender politics: (Tommy Wiseau voice) The sex life.

 

“Ew, Second Opinion! We don’t want to hear about your sex life!”

 

Well good, ‘cause I’m not offering. And for your information, you’re missing out on some beautifully steamy tales that would have you aching with jealousy. Well, unless you happen to have your own story to tell. In that case, I’m the one who doesn’t want to hear it. What’s your problem, trying to push that on me?

 

Actually, this particular segment was already covered extensively by TheGreatEscapist in her article “Getting Laid: The Most Worthless of Causes,” partly in response to the shooting spree of Elliot Rodger. She pointed out that although the common sense of respecting (key word) the wishes of both men and women on whether they want to have sex before marriage has been long since established, popular culture supports the opposite. At first, it was just rebelliousness, such as in Animal House, but now it’s the norm, so much that virginity is outright shamed, and movies like Superbad, in which the “likable” protagonists set out with date rape as a goal, are totally fine. She argued that it’s becoming an unhealthy obsession in society and that virginity, even late in life, is not in and of itself an unhealthy thing. I could already picture stereotypes coming into play in regard to readers’ perception of her, but everyone in the comments section was actually very supportive. Some said that they had learned from experience how right she was, some added that they were sick of their interests being associated with virginity or vice versa, and some said that the article was genuinely encouraging to read. I could already picture stereotypes coming into play.

 

So then, what do I think about her argument? Frankly, I think she’s 100 percent right, and it’s a shame to think that some people wouldn’t want to hear it. In fact, I think these attitudes are even more ingrained than she described. I can’t speak for other countries, but currently, America and sex are akin to the yellow minion guys from Despicable Me and the word “butt.” It indeed started as fun, juvenile rebelliousness – doesn’t it always – but now that we’re older, and the same rules don’t apply, the rebellion is doing a victory lap. We’re splurging, drinking because we’re allowed to be drunk, renting cheap X rated movies because mom can’t come in and turn them off now. At this point, the only way I see it stopping is for pop culture to finally get bored with it. We’ll grow up a little, realize that it’s all starting to look the same, and the people we won’t remember were us a few years ago will seem like the vapid kids too dense to realize that American Pie hasn’t been funny since it started going straight to DVD. I’m just sorry that things will probably get worse before they get better, and the ones trying to rein us in probably won’t be heard until they’re crying “I told you so!” Has Rodger really been some kind of wakeup call, or will it take a few more disgusting cases like his before we start acknowledging that something’s wrong?

 

Not that I’m much more confident in my own grip on my values. At the moment, I happen to be a tentative believer in abstinence, without meeting any of the usual descriptors for people who have a reason to be. I don’t consider myself religious, nobody who knows me would call me conservative, and I’m not trying to match the example of someone important to me. I just heard the argument for it and found it convincing: Underneath the media glitz is a serious concept filled with complications, an act of strong and potentially difficult feelings that becomes easier, more sincere, and better when it’s with the right person. (Aren’t I such a nice guy?) But as a resolution, it’s not that simple.

 

As a part of relationships, sex is currently held on a pedestal. Most men and women I know go under the assumption that, if you’re dating, it has to enter into the picture at some point, or else one of you must have a problem with the other. Granted, forced gender roles include “slut-shaming” for women, but the way it usually seems to translate is that women are expected to act modest, without actually putting it off for too long. Otherwise, they win labels like “cold” for turning their backs on that one sacred aspect of a partnership. If you need an example of this in the media, let me point out Alex Borstein’s take on her Family Guy character, Lois Griffin, specifically the show’s attempts to make her more sexual:

 

“We tried to challenge those sitcom rules that a woman is supposed to be a total wet blanket and not like sex and is no fun.”

 

Yes, the #1 quality to avoid becoming a wet blanket is “likes sex,” just above “is fun.” So a sexual Dolores Umbridge would be less of a wet blanket than an abstinent Tina Carlyle or Marion Ravenwood.

 

Still, when you’re in a relationship, it’s not with the media, and a non-mutual attitude on sex can be a difficult thing to reconcile. I’ve had relationships end on account of it. Most women I’ve dated long enough to reach the subject found my approach to sex more confusing than anything else. Not that I don’t see how it comes across: What kind of repressed geek of a momma’s boy not only wanted it less than them but didn’t want to go that far at all in the stage we were at? Is it even worth the trouble to wait like that? What would I rather be doing? Did it mean I didn’t like them? There’s just no perfect answer, and sometimes I still consider dialing back my stance a bit.

 

So what can I say about the outlook on this one? First and foremost, never doubt that it’s too important to let someone’s idea of how it universally “should” be control you. As I mentioned before, no two couples work the exact same way, and what’s right for you can be more than just worth standing by: It can be an indicator of who is right for you. If sex is something you truly believe you are ready for, anyone who would try to shame you for it (not necessarily the same as questioning it) has probably said everything about themselves that you needed to know. And while I don’t exactly sound like the winner in the above-described scenarios, at least believe me when I say that I don’t look back wishing I’d changed my mind for any girl who considered it a deal breaker. They aren’t even the relationships I remember most fondly, against the women who were willing to work with me there and stuck around to find a few points of their own worth citing, should they ever critique their past relationships in a blog. Trust your judgment, not just the word of vague figures you don’t know, especially if your judgment says you’re not ready to make a judgment. And don’t let pop culture put you down for your decision, when pop culture counts on a level of maturity that may have its place  but not with something as significant and risky as sex.

With that, we’re left with one entry to go. Now that we’ve covered our relationships with each other, the final entry will focus instead on how gender roles and standards affect people’s sense of self. How does it affect us to cope with society’s standards? Stay tuned.

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