So what does the massive emotional process in society called the Sexual Revolution (a by-product of the Feminist Movement) look like in romantic relationship? Conflict. As a family therapist, I see couples when they’re in conflict that they can’t seem to resolve. Some of this conflict is a result of the massive cultural transition in which we find ourselves—a transition that has been building since the French Revolution 250 years ago.
Let me give an example. When I began dating Brad, we could hardly be in public together without women coming on to Brad…in my very presence. Perhaps that doesn’t surprise you, but I was completely unprepared for it. Whatever happened to protecting our sisters? I wondered. I can’t imagine hitting on another girl’s guy! I didn’t remember this happening when I was a young adult 30 years ago.
Extrovert that he is, Brad engages in conversation with anyone and everyone, and he seemed oblivious to the advances of these women. I, on the other hand, could hardly believe what I was seeing, until it happened over and over again. I was shocked every time, and it took a while for me to figure out what I needed to do about it.
Honoring the Other
In my own experience in the dating world years before I met Brad, I had learned that men experienced my playfulness as flirtation, while women experienced the same playfulness as friendliness. When several people I trust brought to my attention that my playfulness was giving men the impression that I was interested in them when I wasn’t, I resisted with vigor…for six months. I couldn’t accept that I had to dull my essential nature to cater to the misinterpretations of men—until several men in whom I had no interest told me that I was giving mixed signals.
So as not to confuse anyone or lead them on, I decided that it was better to allow new male friends to only see my intellectual side, not my emotional side. I felt stifled and bored with myself, but it was better than being the recipient of unwanted attention from men I wasn’t interested in. I was angry to have to curb my real self, but it seemed more important to respect the way men were experiencing me.
After several women came onto Brad, I shared my experience with him, explaining that women were misinterpreting him. He responded just as I had—he was angry that he would have to blunt his way of being to cater to women’s false impressions. In the end, Brad began to see the pattern that I was seeing, and eventually he accepted that it was more respectful to curtail his charm when interacting with women, so as not to give them the wrong impression. It took him about the same length of time to reach the same conclusion I had reached about myself.
The Games People Play
Thanks to the Sexual Revolution, these are typical dating stories, not anomalies. I found it interesting, however, when Brad found a newspaper article from the early 1900s titled, “Are Women Lacking in Chivalry?” “[G]irls these days,” Edith Johnson said, “are amazingly self-sufficient…. They play upon a man’s weakness in order to secure flattering attention and gay entertainment, to win a man’s homage and stage a demonstration of their power.”
Knowing that female sexuality is tremendously powerful, I consciously chose to not play games in the dating world. I didn’t want men to toy with me, so I purposed not to do so to them. However, I was completely unprepared for women toying with my boyfriend in my very presence. The sexual freedom that women now enjoy is certainly having significant impact on dating relationships. Working this conflict through was enormously stressful for Brad and me.
If we want men to be chivalrous to women, should we not want women to be chivalrous to men, as well? And for crying out loud, can we not also expect that women be chivalrous to women? I had no idea that we’d ever need to call for such a thing! With greater freedom comes greater responsibility, no? Yikes.
More on the practical implications of the society emotional process that has given us greater sexual freedom tomorrow.