Through some mutual friends we know a young boy who I’ll call “Mark”. Mark’s maternal grandparents are independently wealthy, and by the age of 7 he already knows he won’t have to work to support himself when he is an adult. His parents are very liberal and don’t believe in discipline or telling him no. As a result Mark isn’t a kid many people want to have around. He even has relatives who genuinely enjoy kids who won’t babysit him. The kid is so spoiled and materialistic that when he is given a gift the first thing he looks for is a designer label.
Mark’s parents and grandparents think they are being kind to him. From where I stand they are being cruel.
The reality is cruelty often comes with good intentions. In my last post Greasing the marriage rope I included a table with two sets of expected outcomes. The first column of outcomes were the rosy view we typically sell to women and girls. Taken in their entirety, the first column’s outcomes send a message that women and girls won’t ever experience negative consequences for irresponsible behavior. No matter what choices they make, someone else is expected to pay or otherwise protect them. In this sense the first column of outcomes closely resembles the message Mark receives from his parents and grandparents.
However, as several commenters pointed out the outcomes in the second column are often the outcomes a woman will actually experience. I haven’t been blogging for a year yet and I have been able to debunk quite an astonishing number of myths commonly sold to women. The reality is making bad choices is never cost free, and no one can really insulate a person from the harm their own bad choices cause.
The kindest thing we can do for women of any age is tell them the truth. Part of this involves being honest about their own desires and their responsibility for the outcomes they receive. The fairy tale we tell young women is their sexual motives are naturally pure. If they have uncommitted sex with an alpha and wind up unceremoniously dumped, it is almost always described with platitudes like she loved too much and she was only following her heart. No matter the platitude, the implication is the negative outcome just happened to her and she couldn’t reasonably be expected to have made better choices. The Taylor Swift song 15 is an excellent example of this (H/T Paige). While the song ostensibly is a warning to young girls, the underlying message is essentially a pre-rationalization for a young girl’s hamster:
Cause when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you you’re gonna believe them
when you’re fifteen and your first kiss
makes your head spin round but
in your life you-ll do greater than dating the boy on the football team
but I didn’t know it at fifteen
When all you wanted was to be wanted
wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now
Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
Ah yes. All she wanted was to be wanted. For some inexplicable reason she wants to be wanted by a boy on the football team and not a member of the chess club. I’m sure someday someone will crack that mystery. But until then all we know is her desires are in no way sexual or selfish like those of the boys she interacts with. She is only offering sex with the hope of being loved in return. She even had him tell her he loved her.
I can think of no crueler message to send to young women.