Butterfly Cauldron

Friday, September 22, 2006

Gender roles at the Southern Baptist Corral

Relationships are on my mind again. I've been trying to figure out where my distrust of men comes from. Every woman raised in this society likely has some level of distrust of men, given what our society values and how it devalues women. But my distrust goes much deeper and only manifests in one area -- romantic relationships.

In all other areas of my life, I don't have any fear or wariness around men. As co-workers, friends, worst enemies, whatever, men are...well, no threat to me. But in a romantic relationship? It's there, this looming, chilling fear. It's a panic, a sense of being trapped, the very thought of being involved with a man. (And no, my romantic relationships with women, while they have their own difficulties, are not characterized by this fear.) I don't like it. I don't want to pull away from a man I'm interested in, I don't want to go from "He's cute and interesting. Wonder if he'd like to go out?" to "Oh, nevermind. He'll just want to boss me around or fuck on the first date anyway. Why bother?" in .6 seconds. I hate that I do that, I hate that my instincts kick in and tell me to run, far, now.

So, in my quest to figure out why I feel this way, I've been thinking. Again. (And I realize, to some, this may seem like so much navel-gazing, but I believe if you don't understand what motivates your behaviour, you have little chance of effectively changing it. And I really, really want to change this.) And I realized, no matter how many real life examples of good, decent, loving men I see, I'm still hearing those 'lessons' I was indoctronated with as a child.

Men were, not exactly the enemy, but they had more power and would always use it, I was told. I lay this firmly at the feet of the Southern Baptist Church. How many Sunday School lessons did I sit through where I was told it was my responsiblity as a woman to make sure I didn't do anything to tempt a boy? How many times was I told I had to be careful with my dress? With my makeup? With not going out alone at night? How many times was my worth, as a woman, measured by how far away I could keep a man, until I got married? The story of the Virtuous Woman? Her worth above rubies? Who can live up to that standard? And where was the corresponding role for the boys? There wasn't one.

So what I got told was, well you see, boys are...they want sex. They do, they really really do and they'll try whatever they have to to get it from you. It's not there fault, you know. That's just the way they're made. And it's your job to keep them from getting that sex from you, okay? You have to be very strong, because boys are sooo tricky. Why, they'll tell you they love you! But they don't. No, they just say that because they want to fuck you. (Only, you know, not in those words. Fuck is the WORST word in the world, ya know.) So...men don't love women, they just want to fuck women and they can't help it and they can't change because that's how God made them.

They're also more powerful than you are. Oh, yes. They are. You see, not only did God make them sex-crazed and uncontrolled, he also gave them the position of power in the relationship/marriage. Before you get married, you have to use your power to keep him from getting fucked. But, once you're married, you have to give up all your power and let him take over. That's just the way God wants it, see? It says so right here in the Bible.

The church built this power-struggle in my head that haunts me to this day. Now, no one wants to be a slave, but that's what I was told--although not in those exact words, the meaning was the same -- I'd end up being if I got married. You know, like the church is a slave to Christ. Only, no man is really like Christ. They're human and they have flaws and they'll be problems, but you're the wife so you have to submit and give in. And of course, I was going to get married. Not only was it just what people do, but it was also the way God had ordained the world. Not so much because I would want to get married or enjoy it, but because woman was made for man, it was her role in life and well, if she didn't get married, what was she going to do?

So now, fourteen years after I left the church, I have to deal with this shit. It's all subconscious. I never mean to think the things I do, but they pop up and then they won't go away. This is regardless of the fact that I know, have living evidence that all men are not this way. None of the men I've dated have been this way. My father isn't, my brother isn't, my dear friend S isn't. They're good men. They'd never, ever dream of trying to force their will upon me or their wives or their daughters or their female friends. I know this, I see this, I believe this. And yet...I'm haunted by that little voice in my head that says "Don't trust him."

I can't even bring myself to accept a date, for gods sake! I want to, and yet...I freeze. What does he want from me? What is he trying to get? Does he want sex? Does he want to tell me I have to stop writing? Or painting? Will he try to make me give away my cats? Is he going to insist upon having children? If he finds out I'm bi, is he going to think I'm an abhoration? Will he tell my parents? What if he's not like that, but he doesn't like me? What if I love him and he's an asshole and I can't make myself give him up? What what what what?

I want, so very much, to just be able to accept men as they are. I want to believe they can want me and love me and cherish me for who I am without wanting to control or change me. It's exhausting being on guard all the time. It's exhausting and pattenly unfair to all the good men in this world to have this monster in my psyche. So how do I get rid of it? How do I allow myself to be who I am with men I'm attracted to? How do I stop this fear from freezing me solid?
posted by Zan at 6:03 PM

7 Comments:

I'm pretty sure the only way to get rid of it is to keep doing exactly what you've done in this post -- think about it, understand it, debase it. Figure out where those gut-reactions are coming from and then demonstrate to yourself that they are incorrect.

Good luck, lovely post. :)

8:06 PM  

Zan: What you're dealing with is very common to women. I just asked my wife (we'll be married 45 years in June), and she always distrusted men. She says I'm the only man she ever trusted. That doesn't say anything much about me as opposed to her having many experiences over the years with me to develop that kind of trust. She knows I would never hurt her! But that knowledge wasn't always there; it took some years for her to trust even me. There is very good reason to have a basic distrust of men (and women, by the way), because most people are self-absorbed and selfish, and you want to make damn sure whoever you commit yourself to is worthy of your trust; it takes a long time to justify having that trust in any one person. Therefore, you must "test the waters," and give any one person time so that you can reasonably assure yourself that he (or she) is worthy of your trust. You are by no means alone in your feelings; they are completely normal and rational. How you deal with your feelings is up to you, of course. But it would be foolish for you to blindly trust anyone without there being some track record justifying your putting your trust in anyone. Having said all that, it's good to remember that the other person, the man or the woman, is, to one degree or another, feeling the same way. Regarding the fact that men primarily want sex and women place relationships in a more important place, the answer is a definite "yes." Best wishes, Jerry.

12:22 PM  

Zan: What you're dealing with is very common to women. I just asked my wife (we'll be married 45 years in June), and she always distrusted men. She says I'm the only man she ever trusted. That doesn't say anything much about me as opposed to her having many experiences over the years with me to develop that kind of trust. She knows I would never hurt her! But that knowledge wasn't always there; it took some years for her to trust even me. There is very good reason to have a basic distrust of men (and women, by the way), because most people are self-absorbed and selfish, and you want to make damn sure whoever you commit yourself to is worthy of your trust; it takes a long time to justify having that trust in any one person. Therefore, you must "test the waters," and give any one person time so that you can reasonably assure yourself that he (or she) is worthy of your trust. You are by no means alone in your feelings; they are completely normal and rational. How you deal with your feelings is up to you, of course. But it would be foolish for you to blindly trust anyone without there being some track record justifying your putting your trust in anyone. Having said all that, it's good to remember that the other person, the man or the woman, is, to one degree or another, feeling the same way. Regarding the fact that men primarily want sex and women place relationships in a more important place, the answer is a definite "yes." Best wishes, Jerry.

12:23 PM  

The thing is, I don't have a problem with me being interested in sex. So am I! I have a problem with them lying about wanting a relationship when all they want is sex. I hate that! Makes me want to stab them in the eyes with something rusty and pointed.

5:18 PM  

I refuse to believe that men want sex and women want a relationship, even if you make it "most" (wo)men. Like the saying that men think marriage is the price they have to pay for sex and women think the opposite. It's as destructive as any other blanket belief.

7:01 PM  

dude - you are wicked brave.

I don't know if you hear that often (enough), but you are wicked brave.

Rock on.

8:52 AM  

Why, thank you :) Actually, I rarely hear that, so it's nice to hear, ya know? Although, I think sheer stubborness contributes to a lot of it. It would be so easy to say "oh well that's just how life is" but I don't want to do that.

9:00 AM  

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