– Introducing the “Male Feminist” (Liberty Blitzkrieg, July 22, 2015):
It isn’t every day that you’re introduced to a new subculture. Just last week, I was exposed to an article written by someone named Michael Sonmore, who cheerily explains how grateful he is that his wife convinced him that her sleeping around with whomever she pleases is a great way for him to experience and appreciate feminism.
Honestly, I’m still not convinced that this guy actually exists, or that the story is real. I simply can’t fathom how a father of two young children could be so completely gullible and stupid to conclude that a man must degrade himself in order to respect women. Moreover, what woman would actually want to be with a man so spineless, childish and idiotic in the first place? Obviously not her, which is why she cunningly convinced him to raise their children, while she’s in the back seat of their suburban with the plumber.
While I could go on and on, I’d rather just let you read it yourself. Apparently New York Magazine is so desperate for clicks, they thought this was worthy of publishing. From NY Mag:
As I write this, my children are asleep in their room, Loretta Lynn is on the stereo, and my wife is out on a date with a man named Paulo. It’s her second date this week; her fourth this month so far. If it goes like the others, she’ll come home in the middle of the night, crawl into bed beside me, and tell me all about how she and Paulo had sex. I won’t explode with anger or seethe with resentment. I’ll tell her it’s a hot story and I’m glad she had fun. It’s hot because she’s excited, and I’m glad because I’m a feminist.
Before my wife started sleeping with other men, I certainly considered myself a feminist, but I really only understood it in the abstract. When I quit working to stay at home with the kids, I began to understand it on a whole new level. I am an economically dependent househusband coping with the withering drudgery of child-rearing. Now that I understand the reality of that situation, I don’t blame women for demanding more for themselves than the life of the housewife.
When people ask how it started, I say this: We married young. She’d had sex before me, but only with a handful of people a handful of times. She never had a boyfriend, never had a lover. I was the first man she ever had the chance to get to know intimately. By her mid-30s, having already had our children and entering her sexual prime, she felt keenly her lack of sexual experience. Happily for me, she was willing to talk about it, willing to ask if I’d be open to exploring other options. We opened a bottle of wine and started talking, and talking, and talking.
She didn’t present it as an issue of feminism to me, but after much soul-searching about why the idea of my wife having sex with other men bothered me I came to a few conclusions: Monogamy meant I controlled her sexual expression, and, not to get all women’s-studies major about it, patriarchal oppression essentially boils down to a man’s fear that a woman with sexual agency is a woman he can’t control. We aren’t afraid of their intellect or their spirit or their ability to bear children. We are afraid that when it comes time for sex, they won’t choose us. This petty fear has led us as a culture to place judgments on the entire spectrum of female sexual expression: If a woman likes sex, she’s a whore and a slut; if she only likes sex with her husband or boyfriend, she’s boring and lame; if she doesn’t like sex at all, she’s frigid and unfeeling. Every option is a trap.
When my wife told me she wanted to open our marriage and take other lovers, she wasn’t rejecting me, she was embracing herself. When I understood that, I finally became a feminist.
Of course she’s rejecting you, you stupid dipshit.
How does it work? We take turns going out. Because we have small children (ages 6 and 3), one of us stays home. (We don’t like to use babysitters because it gives us a curfew; we’d rather go out unfettered than worry about turning into a pumpkin at midnight.) Going out alone to hooking up with others was an easy transition. It does work both ways and, yes, I too enjoy sexual carte blanche. I just don’t use mine as much as my wife uses hers. What’s important is equality of opportunity, not outcome.
What surprises most people is when I tell them it’s not the sex-with-other-men that bothers me. The sex is the easy part, the fun part. It’s what the sex connects to, stands for, reveals that can be difficult. I don’t want her to fall in love with anyone else, and every time she goes on a date, I confront the possibility that she might. It happened at the beginning: The first person she dated after we opened up fell hard in love with her, and my wife, overwhelmed by his ardor, tried to love him back. Watching it happen, I was confused, angry, and terrified that she wanted to leave me. She assured me she didn’t, and whatever feelings she had for him didn’t lessen what she felt for me. Believing her then was the ultimate trust exercise. We survived because eventually I did believe her, and also because I learned to trust myself.
Don’t worry Michael, she’ll leave you eventually. She already has in a lot of ways. As soon as you wear out your usefulness changing diapers and driving the kids to soccer practice, her and Paulo #15 will walk right down the aisle, and it’s unlikely he’ll agree to the same sort or arrangement you did. It’s also likely she’ll respect and love him more for it.
Now for the concluding paragraph…
This has been the great challenge of my open marriage: to draw strength from vulnerability. Doing so requires supreme self-confidence. You must first really, truly love yourself; it is the foundation upon which all the other love is built. From everywhere comes the message that what I’m doing is for weaklings, losers, failures, pussies; that if I had money and status, I could keep my wife “in line”; that her self-discovery comes at the expense of my self-esteem. My open marriage has made heavy demands on my ability to silence the voice of doubt in my head, that gnawing feeling of worthlessness. But I find I can meet those demands, and that I am able to build my self-confidence out of nothing more than the basic dignity we all possess. I’m grateful to my wife for pushing us to take this leap, and whatever happens to us in the future I would do it all again. And when she comes home tonight and crawls into bed beside me with a hot story about her date with Paulo, she’ll do it all again, too.
Let me be clear. I have no issue with people living their lives however they please, which includes any sort of sexual relationships they desire. What I have an issue with is couching this as somehow equalling feminism. Feminism is to respect women, to love them, to honor them and treat them the same way you would anyone else. It doesn’t mean coming up with a politically correct sounding term for cuckold.
When I originally saw this article last week, I merely thought it strange and totally dismissed it. The only reason I decided to write about it, was because this morning I came across another neuron destroying piece written by another so-called “male feminist.” This made me wonder, is this a meme I need to be aware of? Why is this nonsense being pushed so hard right now? It’s rare to read something that makes Keeping up with the Kardashians seem like a intellectual tour de force, but this does the job.
Here are some excerpts from Slate’s, I’m a Feminist. I’m a Dude. And I Hate that I Love to Grill:
I hate how much I love to grill. It’s not that I’m inclined to vegetarianism or that I otherwise object to the practice itself. But I’m uncomfortable with the pleasure I take in something so conventionally masculine. Looming over the coals, tongs in hand, I feel estranged from myself, recast in the role of suburban dad. At such moments, I get the sense that I’ve fallen into a societal trap, one that reaffirms gender roles I’ve spent years trying to undo. The whole business feels retrograde, a relic of some earlier, less inclusive era.
Fear not young Jacob, there is still hope for you. Follow Michael Sonmore’s example and you can recast yourself as a suburban cuckold, and in the process, gain insurmountable clout in male feminist circles.
Paging through photographs of my years in grad school recently, I came across one in which two colleagues and I stand in a semicircle around a kettle grill. Though my eyes are downcast in the image, I’m not sad. Instead, I’m studying the burgers in front of me, and I’m happy. Our friend Katrina—the only woman in frame—leans in from the left, somehow outside of the scene, despite her presence in it.
This picture captures so much of what delights me about grilling and so much of what embarrasses me about that delight. On the one hand, there’s the peculiar alchemy of sun and smoke that makes summer days sprawl. On the other hand, it bears the stain of unintentional masculine cliché. Gathered around the coals with beers slung low, we’re all but enacting a myth of the American man, telling a story in postures and poses. No longer mere Ph.D. students, we have become bros.
This article has to be a joke, right?
Men, this commercial suggests, come together as men when they do a manly thing. Their grills become symbolic meeting points. They enable what scholars call homosocial contact, a kind of same-sex intimacy that deflects the supposed dangers of sexual contact between men but allows them to confirm their masculinity by excluding women. Grilling, in other words, allows these characters to cozy up to one another while still maintaining their understanding of themselves as truly manly men.
The association of grilling and masculinity partakes of a similar logic. Unlike most other traditionally “feminine” forms of domestic cooking, grilling typically happens outside, and hence in the public sphere. The putatively masculine quality of grilling may derive in part from the old public-private gender split. In that sense, it shares a common cause with the belief that women belong in the home.
Of course, having all this context doesn’t stop me from grilling, or from enjoying myself when I do. The other night, a few friends and I gathered out back to cook some sausages. We stood around the grill together, watching the meat cook. I was happy in their company and only a little embarrassed that I wouldn’t let anyone else take the tongs.
In order to maintain some degree of faith in humanity, I remain unconvinced that these articles are genuine. I still harbor some hope that they are the work of some troll mastermind, in which case a distribution of trophies is in order for the sheer genius of it all. However, if these are real, and I shudder to think, be prepared for more. Someone has unleashed the “male feminist” meme, and the dumbing down of the American public seemingly has a long way to go.
Then again, I guess you learn something every day in this brave new world. In the past week alone, I’ve learned that grilling and monogamy are sexist. Who knew.