Dating Tips for the Feminist Man

This post is in honour of male feminists and their dating rituals.

You’re a straight monogamous cismale who identifies as a leftie. Maybe you’re a Marxist or a socialist; maybe you’re an anarchist. You respect women. You would never act like a player. You fall in love with strong, smart, feminist women. You believe that our movements are stronger if they include everyone.

This is not the 1950s; if you’re committed to social justice but you are still marching along using ‘the rules’ http://therulesbook.com/ to govern dating, it’s time to consider the connection between your politics and your personal life. Social justice work is fractal and begins in the smallest spaces; we can’t just fix our economic relationships without fixing our personal and cultural ones.

So identifying as a male feminist is a tricky line to walk. It’s important that men use the term. But keep in mind that you’ll get kudos just for taking on the term as your own; it may even help you gain trust extra-quickly with women you’re dating.

Want to be worthy of that trust? Practice your skill at meaningful consent. Here’s how, in a tidy list.

You’re a straight monogamous cisgendered feminist man,and you want to hook up with or date women? OK.

Here’s the deal:

1. learn to recognize your own emotions. Consent requires honesty, and you can’t speak honestly about your intentions unless you know what they are.

2. Just as we teach high schoolers that ‘if you’re not ready for the possible outcomes of babies and diseases, you’re not ready for sex,’ the same is true of emotions. Sex brings up emotion. That is just the reality of choosing to engage in sexual relationships. If you’re not ready to work with the emotion to make sure everyone is ok afterwards, then you’re not ready for the sex.

If you’re the kind of person who avoids your own or other people’s emotions, then you’re not going to be able to have good consent conversations until you get more comfortable with your own and other people’s emotions. Sign up for a consent skills workshop, or several. Read books on consent, on attachment styles, and on radical conflict resolution skills. Find out your attachment style and work to develop the practices of someone with a secure style. Recognize that you agreed to or initiated a romantic relationship, however short or long-lived, and so you are responsible to the other person in that relationship as well as to yourself. Nobody put a gun to your head and made you make out with this person, so own your choices and their effects. People need different things after a hookup; know your own needs and be responsive to the needs of the other person.

Don’t say or act like you are serious about someone, make out with them, and then avoid them. Can I say this clearly enough? If you make out with somebody, you are responsible for checking in to make sure they are ok, not just during, but also after. Discuss casual sex as casual sex. Casual sex is sex focussed on physical sensation rather than connection, and works best with two people who are both happy to be casual physical playmates and who are equally uninvested in secure emotional connection with each other. Navigate this honestly and carefully so you do not take advantage of people.

If your initial connection seemed serious but things don’t work out the way you hoped, do the work to get back to good terms with this person. You may have to have some emotions-talk to get to a good place, clear up miscommunication or accidental harm you caused; if so, you’re responsible not only for grudgingly going along, but for actively initiating and holding space for that conversation. Do not make it their job to ask for a conversation to get you both back to a good place together. It is your job as much as theirs. Do not run away if things get uncomfortable or you start to feel emotions that confuse you. If you need space to calm down, pick a specific near-future time in which you will come back fully present and taking a proactive role in getting back to a good place. If you are in a conflict with this person due to tangled emotions, pick a process and, if you need it, a friend to help. Remember the goal is for you both to feel ok about things, not for one of you to win and one of you to lose. If you’re uncomfortable with process, work on that instead of making it their problem.

3. In that same vein: actively invite conversations before, during, and after a hookup to check if you are on the same page and have similar ideas about what it all means. Oxytocin’s a powerful drug; when you’re hooking up and having those heady feelings, you’re both vulnerable to misreading, or seeing what you want to see. It’s up to both of you to initiate reality check conversations: “what are you expecting after this? what do you think this means? are you ok with this if it’s casual? Are you ok with this if it’s serious? Do we understand each other properly?” Those conversations are not a one-time thing, just as you can’t get one-time consent to touch somebody. Consent is continuous and has to be established through ongoing checkins. If you want to be a good male ally, get comfortable with changing emotions – yours and the other person’s, and good at talking about them as they change. Life is messy; we have to be able to move with changes as they happen. This comfort is necessary in order to be honest with the other person, and to create shared expectations so no one ends up feeling used or played.

4. Do not tell the other person what you think they want to hear – you do not know what they want to hear. Do not say the thing that is easy for you to say, or oversimplify in order to keep them happy (and making out with you) in the moment. This kind of fuzzy communication can end up being dishonest communication. You are responsible to be self-aware and communicative so the other can make informed consent decisions.

Do not tell someone you’re serious about them or planning to follow up with them romantically if you’re actually not sure. For example: do not promise to date them again or say you will spend romantically-oriented time together again if you’re not sure whether you will. Casual sex  – sex without connection, sex focussed on sensation rather than emotion – needs to be discussed as casual so both people involved can feel respected and cared for.

If your feelings change, recognize and name the change and be present to your own emotions and the emotions of the other. Honour your own needs and act in an accessible, responsive, attuned way to the needs of the other person. If you were interested in a possible partnership or in an ongoing relationship, and then aren’t or are less sure, and you feel bad about that, do not avoid saying so to make your life easier. Just name the emotion proactively as it shifts and be available and present to the changes in the other as you express your needs. Try things like this: “I felt this way when I said and did that, but things have changed, and this is how I feel now. This is why and when they changed. I feel bad that I let you down or inadvertently misled you. Are you ok, and what do you need?” As you express yourself, act in a kind, responsive way to the needs of the other person, even as you listen to your own needs. Between emotionally mature people, these are not in conflict but are interwoven. Sometimes this takes presence and slowness without flipping out and running away, as people absorb one another’s realities. Being responsive to your own needs at the same time as you respond to the real needs of the other in an attuned, emotionally present way is the mature life-skill you’re aiming for. And this may involve being careful with people’s trauma histories, and that is fine. Do not buy into this culture’s sexist assumption that emotional needs are wrong – they are normal, and right, and good.

leibowitz-politeness

5. Don’t mix up acting ‘nice’ with being a genuinely good person. Kindness and treating people well are valuable, but politeness can be violent if it masks normalized oppression. Naming oppression, even when done gently, is not always perceived as being ‘nice’ because it pushes back at status quo ways of relating, seeing, and thinking.

When naming oppression happens as a response to naturalized harm, the anger you’re hearing is a response to actual harm that you may have enacted while thinking you were being ‘nice.’ So before you decide that you don’t have to listen because someone is breaking politeness protocols, consider whose interests those protocols protect. Don’t mix up your internal defensiveness, which can arise at having your real privilege pointed out, with the external message you are receiving. Is there trust being offered to you behind anger or critique – trust that you’re the kind of person who is open to growth and change? Notice that trust, and earn it.

6. Lest you be thinking “but sex should be fun! All this how-are-you-feeling-talk would be suuuuch a mood-killer!”: just like conversations about condoms, consent, in addition to being basic human decency, is also sexy. Cuz guess what? Trust is hot.

Lest you be thinking “but women don’t want men who talk about feelings” or “talking about how I feel is emasculating”:  not all men have to be masculine, or feel the need. But for those who do, there are ways to know yourself and offer the truth in a responsive way that are not ‘just the same’ as what ‘women’ do necessarily. Masculine energy can be deeply protective and powerful when it is accountable in these ways, where emotions are present to heal, protect, and create shelter. Knowing how to recognize and honour your own needs at the same time as those of a lover, or former lover, has got its own energy. It lets you love from a deeply grounded place. People can feel that. And fuck is it sexy.

Knowing the person you’re hooking up with has the skills and capacity (not just the intention) to stick around afterwards to make sure you’re both ok, that both your dignities and your capacity to get along will survive the hookup – or the relationship – after it ends makes for much, much better sex. And maintaining trust post-hookup builds stronger movements, because the physical and emotional intimacy shared creates a permanent bond, instead of a permanent rift.

7. Actively taking on the identity of a feminist man means you are equally responsible to do your own research and actively notice these things. Help your friends of all genders see them. Realize this is your responsibility. If you miss something, you don’t do the work yourself, and someone has to approach you with a way in which they feel you’ve been sexist or clueless,don’t make them convince you. Stretch yourself. They’ve done enough work in figuring it out,extracting the internalized programming that tells them your sexist behaviour is totally normal and that they’re just crazy, and then offering you the gift of their honesty. That shit is not easy when you’ve just been harmed by behavior normalized through dominant scripts. If someone has bothered to share this with you after they manage to figure it out? The likelihood is that they hope you’ll hear them – even if they sound defensive, scared, sad, angry, or otherwise upset when they bring this to you. Instead of challenging them to logic battles or insisting that they provide evidence, kindly recognize just how hard it is to understand and name harm one has experienced. Assume there’s some truth to what they’re saying, and take on the role of helping them articulate it better if it’s wordless or fuzzy at first. Honour the gift by listening and asking questions, and taking it upon yourself to educate yourself.

8. Notice if your tendency when called out is to bolt. Notice if your tendency when you bolt is to turn to a reaffirming other female friend and ask them to reassure you that you’re really not sexist. If your friend feels loyal to you, they’ll want to support you and they may see things your way, but they aren’t the one who experienced the problematic behaviour, so they’re not the one you should be listening to. A female friend who is not the person you dated may not know how you behaved in that dating context, and so may not be the best one to tell you whether you’ve actually acted like an unconscious douche. The nature of structural forms of oppression like sexism is also such that we all internalize the normalcy of oppressive behavior; discomfort with conflict or a desire to be the ‘good’ member of that group, or simply to be on your side because they are your friend, can also come into play. Be wary of your desire to just seek proof of your goodness, rather than actually being a good person by being open to learning about ways you can be a better ally. If you notice you want to retreat to women who praise you, take time to check that response to find out what you can learn from the women who trust you enough to tell you where you have blind spots.

9. Give up on trying to be perfect. It just gets in the way. Get used to process. You fuck up, you learn, you grow. If you want right relationships with other human beings in our shared spaces and communities, show that you walk the walk by being big about admitting mistakes quickly and rolling with them. Make amends, make it better in your actions as well as your words. That honours the trust people have given you.

10. Share the load. Consider it your responsibility to be continually self-reflexive about your actions and their effects. Don’t wait to be taught, because that puts multiple burdens on the other: to understand and name the harm that’s affecting them, and to take the risk to talk to you about it, and to find language to articulate it in a way you’ll hear. Those things all take a lot of energy and are not easy. So if someone you’re dating gets angry at you and has a hard time articulating why, check your defensiveness and listen. If you want to be a feminist, you are going to have to challenge yourself to invite having things you do, that you don’t notice, pointed out, without withdrawing or attacking or putting the burden of proof on women. Don’t try to defend yourself and say you’re ‘not sexist.’ One of the features of oppression is that it creates silence. Articulating what has happened to you is particularly difficult when you’ve born the brunt of oppression, particularly if you were raised to believe it is normal. So it is hard enough for someone experiencing the impact of your actions to figure out how to name them; if you want to be a feminist that is your job, not just hers.

11. Do you believe in solidarity and mutual aid? Do you also believe we are all just individuals? Notice the contradiction in those beliefs. Question the assumed values you may have inherited from capitalist forebears, and put them to the test of your belief in mutuality. If you are a socialist who still believes that we are all individuals who enter voluntarily into relations and can exit them without accountability, notice the contradiction. Human beings are not interchangeable, fungible entities who freely enter into contractual relations; we are interdependent and need each other to live. It is a very privileged position to be able to retreat to your individualism when you have harmed someone, rather than being in relation with them, and staying present for the change as that relation shifts out of a romantic one to something new and long-term you both are comfortable with. Your theory and your lived daily practice will line up if you notice this contradiction.

12. Which leads to the next point: if you cause harm, even by accident, and someone calls you on it, and you believe we are all mutually interdependent, ‘i need space’ is not an acceptable response. You can take space to get your head clear so you can listen and know yourself better – but that kind of space is measured in hours, or at most days. If you want ‘space’ measured in months, you’re not taking space, you’re avoiding responsibility.

Get used to being uncomfortable and learning to have loving, clear, and interconnected boundaries that honour your internal voices as well as the needs of the other humans you share this planet and this community with – that is where learning happens. So when the zombies or the bankers come for us, we won’t have to waste energy fighting each other.

13. Saying ‘sorry’ only means something if your behaviour changes. On its own it does not remedy the situation. ‘sorry’ has to come with responsiveness.

14. Similarly, don’t threaten to leave if emotions are running high. Those kinds of threats just exacerbate the situation. If you can calm your own knee-jerk tendency to avoid, and offer a grounded listening presence instead that honours your own emotions and those of the other person, you’ll find that foundation reduces the intensity of the emotions coming at you quite a lot. remember that you care about each other, and/or that you’re both humans sharing this planet, and that we need each other to survive. connect your daily life and daily relationship practices with your beliefs in social justice, mutual aid, anticapitalism, marxism, etc. When the zombie apocalypse comes (or we bring it about?) we will need skills for getting along with each other and being able to work together even after we hook up. Start practicing now.

15. If you find you are paralyzed with feelings of guilt and  resentment (sample script: “I feel guilty, but I shouldn’t feel this guilty because i didn’t do anything, well maybe i did something small, but it’s not worth feeling this guilty, and I feel guilty because she’s upset even though I didn’t do anything, so it’s her fault I feel guilty, so since she made me feel guilty unfairly, I don’t have to deal with this!), notice the internal script, and check it. Your feelings of guilt may be completely useless and completely out of proportion to the situation.

If they prevent you from being responsive and accountable, they cause more harm than good. Learn to recognize the difference between internal feelings of guilt or shame, and the external messages you are receiving or reality you are observing. Practice this skill in general in your life to be a more responsive radical; the same skill at working through inherited guilt scripts to become responsive, that makes you a better lover and friend to your exes, also makes you more responsive to the violence of colonization, and other structural violence in which most of us are complicit.

16. If you find yourself disregarding something she is saying because she is upset as she is saying it, notice that this is sexism. You may have been raised to believe emotion is not rational and is therefore not legitimate. That is for you to unlearn, not for you to impose on others. Emotion and intuition, when finely honed, serve clear thinking. Don’t retreat into your head or use logic to disconnect from empathy when you find emotions coming your way; clear thinking is informed by ethics and compassion. Build up your capacity to feel and to respond to feelings in a rational, intuitive, self-aware way. You’ll be more human for it, and a better feminist, too.

17. Sometimes,. as adrienne maree brown has written, “being wrong is a gift.” Be “grateful for your mistakes and for the interdependence that lets you maintain relationships through them.” Feel proud of your strength to be able to say “I messed that up. I’m very sorry. I’d like to not make that mistake again. How do I make things better?” and then to be able to follow through in your actions.

18. The benefits? other than ‘integrity’ and creating a better world and movement, the personal benefits of walking the walk include deeper friendships with those strong feminist women you find yourself attracted to, after the hooking up ends.

Benefits may also include creating more spaces where kind, gentle, intuitive people – who may be the same people as those strong feminist women you like so much – can be themselves and open up to you.

Practicing consent, which includes the ability to work with emotions during and after a hookup or a relationship ends, creates more shelters, more places from which our movements can heal, ground, and resist from a place of strength. It calls into question received forms of masculinity that shut down parts of men from the time they are young. It is good solidarity. And it just may open your heart.

Follow Nora on Twitter and Facebook

Did you like this post? Please share it on FB and Twitter!   🙂

Read or share this post in Spanish

Do you love speculative fiction and social justice? I am working on a speculative fiction project that deals with the transformations our planet is undergoing, and struggles with reclaiming wholeness. Cipher: A Wholeness Project is currently seeking a publisher interested in radical speculative fiction and social justice. Learn more about Cipher here.

Some have written asking how come this post opens saying it is for ‘straight monogamous cismen.’ Yeah. As many of you guessed, I wrote this in about eight minutes one day back when nobody ever ever read my blog. It wasn’t even trying to be a public blog. The idea had actually not occurred to me that I could even be a public blogger. This post was, as you may have guessed, written in my head to a specific guy who had treated me in specifically childish and reckless and un-empathetic and irresponsible ways while calling himself very publically and very loudly a feminist. It was just a way to make me feel better and I thought maybe three friends and my cat would read it. (ok, I don’t have a cat. But then cats don’t read so it doesn’t matter. Then again neither could my actual bunny George, who I guess would be the real-world equivalent of the cat in ‘three friends and my cat?’). In any case, thinking no one would ever read it, I slammed this out to get my head clear, then took about two seconds to pick the most ridiculous picture under search terms ‘feminist man,’  posted it and went off to do other things. Unbenownst to me the internets really likes five word titles, anything to do with dating, and pictures of whatsisface, the dude in the picture.

The friend who moderated the Media Coop got in touch a few hours later to say ‘hey did you know your post is going viral?’ and I had the WHAT? of discovering you write something just for yourself to think things through and discover a lot of other human beings are thinking through exactly the same things you are. 🙂

Have considered changing that (straight monogamous cisman) line now – now that I know there are actual readers coming to this blog around the world who aren’t just the one dude who mistreated me, or the three imagined reading-friends or the controversial because nonexistent cat. For the sake of keeping the original experience, like amber, I have left it as it was. Thanks to all who have written in to say these values and practices are great for all the feminist dudes, poly dudes or relationship anarchists or really any sort of feminist men who want to grow as human beings and be good to the women and nonbinary folks they date and love. 🙂 Thanks for reading everyone! I’m floored. And incredibly honoured to know you.

So honestly, this blog – the title, the image – it all began as a joke. As a joke to myself, thinking no one else would be reading along. Turned out the universe has a sense of humour.

I love hearing from readers! Reach the author at nora.samaran@gmail.com

 

tipjar

Tip Jar! help keep the writing going – donate with Paypal by clicking here

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Dating Tips for the Feminist Man

    1. You don’t ever actually get laid at all, do you? This whole article made me cringe.I can’t stand self hating white wimps like you.
      Why do all you male feminists look so similar? Why do you all have glasses and scraggly beards like Shaggy from Scooby Doo? I mean I know the left is full of collectivist garbage but jeez, try not to be such a stereotype.
      You want some dating advice? Be honest,don’t let her pay for anything on the first date, make lots of eye contact,smile and act naturally let her talk about herself, express your interest to her directly, move on if she doesn’t respond the way you’d like.Done., Bingo bango.
      This terrible advice is like Pick Up Artists techniques, only from the Star trek mirror mirror universe where everyone is evil andhas goatees…just like the author does. No one should have to go through so much self analysis and navel gazing just to go on a date it’s supposed to be fun.
      Have a nice day you communist weirdo.

      Like

  1. Your posts are excellent–please keep them coming! You’re putting into words much of what I’ve experienced in personal and professional relationships. I hope and pray many men (and women) find their way to these ideas and decide to embrace them for the betterment of themselves and the world.

    If you need an editor for your book, I’m a professional editor and would love to help spread the message.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Darcie, Just came across this, a little belatedly, and wanted to say thank you! I wasn’t thinking of that at the time, but now that the Nurturance Culture piece has gone viral, friends have been encouraging me to reach out to publishers, and I’m looking into doing it. I actually worked as an editor for many years before my current job, and have friends/colleagues who could edit a manuscript, but I’m curious if you have publishers you’d recommend who would be ideal for this kind of project. Open to all suggestions. 🙂 Given the global reach of the blog, for a publisher for this one, I’d like to go big.

      Like

  2. Nora, I really enjoyed your excellent post about nurturance culture. I’m an almost 60 year old hetero male. I identify as feminist and I’ve done a lot of therapeutic work with men in groups. This dating tips piece, however, is causing me some distress. When I was dating in my earlier 50’s, I discovered that many women in their 40’s and 50’s could be extremely uncomfortable and downright shaming whenever I tried to be open with my feelings. (Brene Brown discusses this in her Ted talk on vulnerability.) In short, it takes two to tango. Whether it’s the patriarchal culture or another cause, women also need to do some evolving in order to be ready, willing and able to be authentic and as transparent as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi, thanks. I appreciate you getting in touch.
      funny thing: the ‘dating tips’ piece – that began this blog – really does not say anything about women. I’ve known women who also are very uncomfortable with feelings, absolutely. That would be a whole other piece because the power dynamics play out differently; it just wasn’t about them, that’s all.

      There is this funny response that happens where some men who read it say ‘but that’s true of women, too’ – and really, really I didn’t say a thing about women in the piece. Sometimes I think we just have to focus on one thing and not everything. I write about men because that’s who I date. That’s who I experience intimacy with. That’s what I know… I don’t date women, so I don’t write about women and dating. It’s really that simple on my end. Somebody else can do a good job of it – just not me.

      It’s a funny assumption people make, that I’m somehow saying anything about women in a post about men. (If I have, actually, said anything about women in the post, let me know if you see that there? I have never been able to find it).

      The truth is the original post was written in about ten minutes while I was processing an experience I’d had with a specific guy. I expected five of my friends to read it (that was the audience for my blog back then). I hit send and went and did other things and didn’t even realize it had gone viral until the web admin, a friend, got in touch to say hey have you seen the numbers on that piece.

      After having that experience, now I write imagining it could have an audience (though didn’t guess at 100 000 visitors in 48 hours!). I guess I’ve gotten more gentle, and more careful, now that I know people are actually reading. I share these posts with male friends who i trust to be really honest with me, beforehand, and get feedback – I have grown more and more into valuing compassion as I have understood more and more. It’s a long path and I’m happy to share it with you and other readers. We all learn together.

      thanks so much for your thoughts and be well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really really really liked this. both the original blog post and your reply to bill. Both of them were on the money, and very reflexive. I’m a married cismale with a 2yr old son, so I won’t be using any of these tips to go out and date, but I feel like at their heart all of these tips lay the groundwork for healthy, compassionate and consensual relationships in any phase or constellation. full stop. Thank you for articulating yourself so well, it was a pleasure to read, and I plan on sharing.
        best,
        Nathan

        Liked by 1 person

    1. My ideals generally align with those expressed in this blog post. I’m also keen to understand views which oppose mine. As such, I’d love it if you would share specific criticisms.

      Like

  3. I’ve seen men who think that this will help them have food relations with women. Women want very few things from a man and that is leadership, confidence, and an ability to provide security.

    The feminist male fails in all three categories because the feminist male is not a leader. Women do not want to be in a relationship to play the man. A woman wants to be loved, scared, and experience the entire spectrum of emotion that come with the bullshit of masculinity.

    What relationships with feminine men does to women is that it puts women into the role of being the man, a role that many women despise with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.

    All and all, feminism just doesn’t do anything beneficial for men. It’s not too late for them to try but as it stands now. Feminism just hurts men far more than it helps

    Like

  4. He’s trolling, but there is truth.

    I consider my self a reformed feminist male. I am the son of a single mother and have always identified with feminist struggles. In studied: I’ve read McKinnon and others. Being respectful, honest, open, upfront, suportive, in awe of women had always been a central tenet of my ethos in this world.

    I even married a women who studied gender.

    Fast forward a few years and all of the “equality” stuff is gone. Gone. Every stereotypical male role in a relationship has been dumped in me. Budgeting, finances, yard work, income, home repair, sex, etc. and what’s weirder- we split the other half, typically female centric roles.

    So its all so one sided.

    id like to hear from Any feminist men who got into feminist relationships and know 10+ years in how things are working.

    It look ‘s good on paper, but for whatever reason it doesn’t hold up.

    Like

    1. It would be helpful to know what your definition of male feminist is. I don’t think it means doing things that make you unhappy for the sake of your wife, which is what you are doing. That is a recipe for resentment and marital unhappiness. If the balance of power rests with your spouse it probably means you need to get better at being honest about what’s bothering you and negotiating win-win solutions.
      Those roles weren’t dumped on you, you accepted them.

      Like

  5. Pingback: daparker9

Leave a Reply to sabinenathan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s