It is hard to deny that some women date jerks. It is easy to find scores of women who date “bad boys”, many of whom later lament their poor relationships with these men. Likewise, it is easy to find scores of men who complain about women refusing to date them. Many of these “nice guys” have the qualities women say they prefer in men, yet these men find it difficult to get dates, let alone build a romantic relationship.
This all ends in a basic question: why do women date assholes?
One feminist decided to tackle this question. Melissa A. Fabello wrote a piece about it, stating:
It happens invariably – and innocently enough – the question that makes all feminists cringe because we know that what will follow is a Nice-Guy-Syndrome-Friend-Zone-Arrgh-Wtf rant.
But why do some women go for a**holes?
I see you. I see you cringing.
But when I off-handedly tweeted the other day that I was working on this article, something unexpected happened.
I was barraged by an onset of tweets. Men thanked me for taking the question on, because they’ve been waiting to get a real answer.
Well, they will be disappointed because Fabello does not really take the question on. Instead, she falls back on feminist rhetoric and doctrine. As she wrote:
The Four Boxes of Gendered Sexuality is a theory that we, as feminists, are already familiar with, even if we don’t know it by name. In essence, it’s an expansion of the Virgin/Whore Complex, which posits that women can either be good at womanhood (by being an awesome wife and mother and having a sexuality that is saved for the “right” men) or horrible at it (by being an outspoken, brazen slutty slut-slut).
This accounts for two of Crane and Crane-Seber’s four boxes: The Good Girl—who is subordinate, dependent, and passive—and The Bad Girl—who is independent, educated, and sexually liberated. Embedded in this dichotomy is the idea that it is more socially acceptable to be the former.
But men, too, are forced into boxes. The Tough Guy—aggressive, sexual, restricting, and stoic—is our social ideal. The Sweet Guy—intellectual, emotional, artsy, and cultured—on the other hand, is considered a sort of failed masculinity.
It is interesting that the contrasts for women are rather benign while the contrasts for men are caricatures. Where in western society do we tell men to be “restricting”? And who says that only the “Sweet Guy” is artsy and cultured? The Dos Equis commercials are built around the man’s man–the cultured, intellectual, sexual, stoic, and assertive male ideal. The Renaissance man is still someone who is admired and generally thought of as the man men want to be. If the masculine ideal were as Fabello described, the Dos Equis man would break the beer bottles over women’s heads and drag them back to his cave.
It seems that Fabello is working from the strawman version of masculinity and manhood that feminists love to pummel.
I would agree with Fabello that society teaches us that a very specific masculine ideal is what people want, and that every male should strive to achieve it. I also agree that we teach this to people starting when they are children. However, I reject her concept of what that ideal is, if for no other reason than that it does not reflect reality.
Of course, all of that ignores the original question of why some women only go for assholes. Fabello finally got around to answering that:
The truth is we shouldn’t be asking why some women date bad guys. We should go to the root of the problem first.
So why do some women go for a**holes?
Here’s why—we’re told to.
That seems unlikely, and robs women of their agency. Or more accurately robs them of their responsibility for making poor choices and ignoring the type of men feminists claim women prefer. Granted, giving women agency would undermine the flawed logic of Fabello’s argument, so she has no other choice.
But how unsurprising that the root of the problem is men.
The feminist logic applied here does not parse. Firstly, this notion that “the problem, really, starts with the fact that what’s considered “masculine” in our culture is dominance, aggression, prowess, competition, abuse, restriction, argumentativeness, control, and violence” is a strawman. While our culture certainly associates those characteristics with masculinity, the masculine norm pushed by our culture is assertiveness, competence, capability, competition, command, and stoicism. Those qualities can, like all human behavior, be twisted into something negative, but they are not negative in and of themselves.
Secondly, even if the strawman were true, that would not explain why women choose the type of men they apparently have no real interest in when the men they are interested in ask them on dates. One could argue that those men do not fit the norm, yet if women prefer the abnormal male, why would they continuously reject them?
Fabello went on to describe something about opposites that I could not figure out, and then offered list of things men could do to fix this problem of women being forced by society to date assholes:
1. Distinguish between someone who is hegemonically hyper-masculine and someone who is abusive.
It’s kind of like squares and rectangles—someone who is abusive is adhering to the hegemonic mold, but someone who is “masculine” by social definition is not necessarily dangerous.
If you think that you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, then please redirect here.
But remember, just because they’re not abusive doesn’t mean they’re good for you.
This is nothing by doctrine. What is the “hegemonically hyper-masculine” and who gets to define it? That is clearly a code word to appeal to the feminists the article was actually written for, but it actually needs some explanation.
Regardless of that, Fabello’s following argument makes no sense. First, by her logic only men can be abusive. Second, she previously stated, “The problem, really, starts with the fact that what’s considered “masculine” in our culture is dominance, aggression, prowess, competition, abuse, restriction, argumentativeness, control, and violence.” That statement implies that being “hegemonically hyper-masculine” makes one abusive because that is the key aspect of that male ideal. So there is no difference between “someone who is hegemonically hyper-masculine and someone who is abusive”.
2. Be careful with the gendered language that you use around children.
They are sponges. They soak up everything that you say. Tell the young boys in your life that it’s okay to cry, and that it’s not okay to act violently.
Even though the outside world is teaching them to adhere to gender roles, you can help them think critically about these messages and develop their own individualized sense of masculinity and humanity.
This would make a better warning if it were applied to both sexes instead of just boys. It would also make a better warning if it that care with language also included avoiding shaming language like, “The problem, really, starts with the fact that what’s considered “masculine” in our culture is dominance, aggression, prowess, competition, abuse, restriction, argumentativeness, control, and violence. Also known as being an asshole.” I think telling boys that they or the men they admire are inherently bad and must be fixed will hurt them just as much as telling them not to cry.
But I do enjoy the suggestion that it never crosses anyone’s mind to tell the boys in their lives that it is not okay to act violently.
3. Be cognizant of your relationship choices and actively ask yourself if your partner is what’s best for you.
This goes for everyone, always, all the time. But within the context of this article— don’t accept that a male partner who is withholding emotion, telling you what to do, or unable to manage anger is just “boys being boys.”
Because it’s not. It’s “men being the men that they think they’re supposed to be.” Ask for more. From your partners and from yourself. Men are capable are so much more, even if society says they’re not.
I can’t tell you why you’re attracted to the kinds of people that you are. But what I can tell you is that our sense of gender roles and expectations is deeply ingrained.
And it’s worth taking a closer look at. Your happiness and relationships you’re in are worth you taking a closer look.
You cannot say this goes for everyone, always, all the time, after spending a couple thousand words saying that only men and masculinity are the problem. It rings hollow.
As I read Fabello’s article and another one with a similar “males are the problem and need fixing” theme, I kept trying to figure out what caricature of men these feminists are working from because no man I know, even the abusive ones, suffer from that dearth of character. I thought on it and for a moment thought that it may be the action hero, but I realized he is actually emotional at times and does not fit their mold.
Then it struck me. These feminists see men as this:
That is the only explanation that makes any sense. Men must be mindless, soulless, thoughtless minions of the Dark Lord. I suppose the plus is that feminists think the damage can be undone.