A Double-Edged Sword: The Toxic Effects of Chivalry on Men and Women

He’s supposed to buy my drinks and pay for our dates. He’s supposed to open doors and lavish me with flowers and jewellery. He’s supposed to carry my shit.

The mechanics of romance has become more egalitarian than ever, with 58% of surveyed women in London expecting to go Dutch on a first date. Yet gendered norms still play a dominant role when it comes to dating etiquette – to the detriment of all parties.

EFFECT #1: MUTUAL OBJECTIFICATION

When used as a means of acquiring rather than expressing affection, chivalrous practices monetize romance and establish expectations for reciprocation – or, as some men so charmingly describe, for a “return on investment”.

And so, the most immediate effect heteronormative dating standards has is of objectification.

On Females: Money + Power = Women

Perhaps the most notorious objectification is that of women as eye candies, as notches on belts, as trophy girlfriends and wives. The position of “prize to be won” is reaffirming in that it seemingly validates sexual desirability and social status.

On Males: A Free Ride

In turn, men are objectified as mere resources – useful for a good time, for a free meal, for financial security, for network connections and career advancement. The position of “provider and protector” is reaffirming in that it seemingly validates sexual desirability and social status.

When we tell boys that a woman’s affections must be won with gestures and gifts, we teach them that above all, material goods trump character or mutual rapport.

The feminist undertone in Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Ted’. Source: Netflix/Ted

The feminist undertone in Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Ted’. Source: Netflix/Ted

EFFECT #2: SYSTEMIC INFANTILIZATION

On Females: “Honey, you can just marry rich.”

Imagine you were constantly provided for and had things done on your behalf. Imagine you were explicitly told that you didn’t have to get a job as far as money was concerned, and so never tried to uncover your calling. Imagine if the stakes were never high and there was never a need to rise to an occasion, never a need to learn or grow.

When girls are told marrying an affluent partner is a viable career option, chivalry ceases to be remotely romantic. It instead acts as a device enabling the developmental stunting of a specific group reflected in earlier systems of oppression – associating femininity with socio-economic passivity.

Hélène Cixous, professor and feminist writer. Source: Ségolène Royal

Hélène Cixous, professor and feminist writer. Source: Ségolène Royal

On Males: Beasts of Burden

If part of the population is socialized to be taken care of, there obviously has to be someone to provide that care. Cue the traditional male-breadwinner regime, in which the most important role a man plays is to provide.

Gus Fring, the traditionalist. Source: Netflix/Breaking Bad

Gus Fring, the traditionalist. Source: Netflix/Breaking Bad

That’s a lot of pressure for one pair of shoulders – and it’s been shown to have profound implications for men. Those perceiving themselves as inadequate providers were found to report higher rates of depression and marital conflict.

And while male unemployment was a determining factor for divorce (with initiation made by both husbands and wives irrespective of marital happiness), female employment status was immaterial; epitomizing the “asymmetric” nature of the gender revolution, in which women’s roles and behaviour are changing faster than those of men’s.

EFFECT #3: PLACATION OF THE MASSES

On Females: Mollifying the Marginalized

Now imagine everyday you were placed on a pedestal, accustomed to special treatment wherever you went. Imagine you were the exception to most rules including waiting lines, price tags, administrative tickets and security measures.

girlsnight

The apparent benefits of being female. Source: BuzzFeed/Guys Describe A Girl’s Night Out

Through relative ease of day-to-day living, females are thus given incentive to remain within the status quo. It’s comfortable and downright nice, with comfort and niceness varying vastly across a racial and class spectrum; a Huxelian system of control in which oppression goes hand-in-hand with the provision of immediate gratification.

On Males: Making Men Pay

Differential treatment based on gender can lead to more grave repercussions.

The same patriarchal perception which paints women as delicate creatures to be taken care of paradoxically depicts them as ideal nurturers – to the systemic disadvantage of fathers. Even in recent decades, primary custody has been awarded overwhelmingly in favour of mothers: despite numbers which show perpetrators of neglect and physical (though not sexual) child abuse are more likely to be female than male.

When it comes to gender double standards, everyone pays a price.

CONCLUSION

The point isn’t to denounce the roles of housewives or househusbands. There’s honour and a deeply respectable devotion in making a home warm and hospitable for loved ones. Nor is it to dismiss genuine romantic gestures and the desire to spoil someone you care about.

But when roles are predominantly played by specific groups, it indicates cultural grooming and even structural design. And what’s alarming is that such artificial constructs are still depicted and accepted as part of a natural order.

Perhaps the delegation of duties based on gender made sense when we were fending off predators. But the sabretooths are long gone, human civilization has evolved, and education is more likely than physical strength to bring home the bacon.

Besides, what better and more romantic way is there to figure out the terrifying business of life, than together?

“Nobody Cares”: Victims of Female-On-Male Rape and the Patriarchal Perception of Sex

A perturbing phenomenon to occur in an allegedly progressive society: that the FBI definition of rape — changed in 2013 so as to include non-traditional cases — can ironically be misconstrued as excluding female-on-male rape.

Rape is defined as:
“Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

To interpret this definition as pertinent to male-on-female and male-on-male rape yet not to female-on-male or female-on-female rape is to make very specific assumptions about penetration — and indicates the grim reality of the prevailing myths towards rape and sex in general.

Myth #1: A hard-on means he wants it.

Credit: Joey Yee/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/Source: Joey Yee/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Yes, the victim was erect during his molestation. But as with female victims, rape and physical arousal aren’t mutually exclusive.

Male sexual response is entirely possible in intense negative emotional states such as “embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, fear, anger, or even terror”, and can elicit confusion and self-blame in survivors of rape with both male and female attackers.

Erections and orgasms aren’t equivalent to consent, but rather physiological reactions to stimulation.

Myth #2: He’s bigger and stronger: he can’t get raped.

Credit: Netflix/Archer

Source: Netflix/Archer

As a sexually dichomotous species, our males tend to be physically larger and stronger than females. But physical coercion isn’t the only means of forcing unwanted intimacy: there’s incapacitation with alcohol and drugs, and emotional or verbal coercion.

There have been reports of egregious and rather imaginative methods of sexual extortion, with threats of falsely reporting the victim himself as the rapist or threats that physical retaliation would harm the assailant’s unborn child.

Myth # 3: He still got laid.

Credit: Netflix/American PieSource: Netflix/American Pie

Through masculine gender socialization, males are told from a young age to equate sexual interaction with conquest and manhood. But to assume that men always want sex regardless of partner and circumstance is to assume automatic consent.

If men by default say “yes,” then they can’t say “no” — right?

Myth #4: It’s not as bad as “normal” rape.

Credit: Reddit

 

 

Source: Reddit

The most horrifying aspect of female-on-male rape, aside from the act itself and the trauma that follows, has been the lack of victim care or even acknowledgement. A “cultural blindspot” with severe implications for survivors, such as higher rates of under-reporting and struggling to identify their experience as rape.

Socially, victims’ stories reveal a common denominator: that cases of female-on-male rape are frequently perceived as light and even laughable experiences. Institutionally, rape crisis centres and hotlines accustomed to assisting female victims have been reported to reject males seeking help, going as far as to hang up the phone. Legally, there exists a similar double standard, with law enforcement members expressing disbelief and scorn, and with a discrepancy in sentencing. Take, for instance, the case of a Chicago female rapist who forced sex on a man at gunpoint. While the woman wielding the weapon was charged with aggravated sexual assault and armed robbery at a $75,000 bail, her accomplice — the woman with whom the victim was forced to have sex — faced no charges.

Such lacklustre responses highlight the perception that rape with female perpetrators simply isn’t as traumatizing or heinous as rape with male perpetrators. But similar consequences are observed in both male and female survivors, including psychological and emotional disturbances such as anxiety or depression, substance abuse, sleep disturbances and sexual dysfunction (asexuality or its polar opposite, hypersexuality).

Sexual violence — the mind-jarring experience of losing power over one’s own body — isn’t specific to any gender.

Myth #5: Penetration = dominance.

Credit: rollingout.com/comments
Source: Comments/rollingout.com

The notion that men cannot get raped by women can be attributed to the traditional perception of women as passive recipients of sex and of penetration as an innately dominant act: something that’s done to someone rather than as a physiological component of intercourse. That women “get raped” and do not rape stems from their sexual objectification; the idea that they “get fucked” and do not fuck in turn.

Despite such misogynistic views, sex is a two-way street: an exchange of consent and pleasure. From the moment consent is withheld or withdrawn, by either party, the act becomes rape — a physical and psychological violation.

To deny boys and men the reality of their rape is to deny their vulnerability as human beings — and is a truly tragic consequence of our ever-improving yet deeply rooted patriarchal society.

 

 

“Afterparty”

I wake up to everything shaking, my head pressed against the frame of the bed, the frame repeatedly hitting the wall.

Wha – earthquake?

I open my eyes as wide as possible, trying to blink away the sleep and make sense of everything through the darkness, and know I’m not alone.

There’s someone on top of me, shifting back and forth, their skin hot against mine.

You’ve woken me up with some morning oral action in the past – never sex, which is a little weird. And except it’s not morning. But hey, I’m not complaining. I reach up to hold you, and start moving back.

Just as I start getting into it, realization hits me and it’s like blood is literally being drained from my fingertips. Chris went home for the holidays.

You are not Chris.

‘What the fuck?!’ I try to get up but you keep going, slamming your weight down on me. I push you, hard, and finally you get off.

‘What?’ You’re panting. Your tone is nonchalant and slightly annoyed, as if I’ve interrupted you. Your voice is somewhat familiar, but I still don’t know who the fuck you are.

I swing my legs over my bed and rush to the door. I turn and hit the lights, and it takes me a moment to recognize your face.

You’re the chick from last night’s party. The chick who kept trying to cling onto my arm even when I said to stop, that I have a girlfriend. The chick Rob refers to as ‘the hottest piece of ass’ he’s ever seen. The chick who’s fucked Jim – and Mike and Jason and Tommy and God knows how many more from the frat.

‘Get out.’

You actually scowl at me. ‘What’s your problem?’

Incredible, audacious, un-fucking-believable is what you are. This is unreal. ‘Are you fucking kidding me? I told you I have a girlfriend. I told you I’m not interested. And you just come in and start fucking me as I’m sleeping?!’

You actually roll your eyes at me. ‘God, it’s just some harmless sex. Stop being such a pussy.’

I’m shaking and I can’t control it. I’ve never hated anyone, never visualized bashing anyone’s face in and sending blood and teeth down their throat – until now.

‘GET THE FUCK OUT!’

You jump off my bed and have the decency to look scared – maybe you’re not a complete sociopath, after all. You grab some clothes off the floor and run out the door. I slam it shut behind you, and try to think.

What will Chris say? Would she break up with me? I look down at my dick and see no condom.

Holy fuck. Oh, Jesus Christ.

I try to calm down but it’s impossible. All the stats from Bio are running through my head. Genital herpes: 1 in every 6. Hepatitis B: 1 in every 20. Chlamydia: 1 in every 15 for sexually active adolescent females. HIV: 6 in every 1000.

I try to tell myself it’s illogical, that it’s moot to panic before getting tested, but I’m already imagining my life with HIV. How much do the drugs cost? Will my insurance cover it?

Somehow, I get myself across the hallway to the washroom. My hands are still shaking as I climb over the bathtub ledge and turn the hot water knob as far as it’ll go. I’m aware venereal diseases can’t be boiled away – but I still feel like trying.

I stand there wincing as I let the water scald my crotch, and know I won’t go back to sleep. I wonder if I can just go to emergency and get tested now – what would I even tell them? – or if I should wait until morning.

My chest heaves. I place one hand against the mosaic wall, the other over my mouth.

I think I’m going to throw up.

The Underlying Feminist Symbolism in ‘Ex Machina’

A most glorious Tuesday, with a highly anticipated film, half-price tickets, an assortment of munchies, and wonderful company – all while stoned out of my mind.

I pass through the doors into the darkness of the theatre, not knowing quite what to expect yet looking forward to it all the same, by virtue of the science-fiction premise and promising graphics.

The audience is introduced to three characters. Caleb Smith, the lucky lottery winner, well-versed in science and logic. Nathan, the brilliant yet eccentric founder of the world’s most powerful search engine. And Ava, the innocent yet omniscient A.I. – a stunning, doe-eyed manifestation of the Internet.

Yet they are not alone within the confines of the subterranean research facility. In the first morning, a tall and slender female of Asian ethnic background enters Caleb’s room. She places a tray of breakfast on the table, and turns and leaves with neither word nor eye contact. Mellow, cannabis-enhanced contentment is interrupted and I am left as disoriented as our protagonist, newly awake in bed: what was that about?

In the following scene, the only information we are given of the woman is that her name is Kyoko, and that she makes “some alarm clock”; a description coupled with a look heavy with sexual suggestion. Kyoko is next seen over dinner, during which we learn that she does not speak English. Her function is to bring food and to clean – all the while with bowed head and silence.

The perfect, mute housekeeper and, as we discover in a later scene, sex toy. A domestic slave with no prospects beyond the personal gratification of another and with no shared language or means of self-expression.

This is either going to perpetuate gender-specific objectification, I thought, mouth filled with chips and eyes glued to the screen, especially of visible minorities. Or somehow turn it around and make social commentary on sexism.

I believe it was the latter, and that it was delivered with exquisite finesse; an allegory of female emancipation to rival Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.

From the outset of the film, we become acquainted with the seeming protagonist. Caleb the eager visitor, Caleb the orphan, Caleb the advanced coder with a self-professed penchant for high-level abstraction. Moral Caleb, who grows visibly uncomfortable with the demeaning treatment of others; sensitive Caleb, who grows to question his own humanity in the presence of anthropomorphic machines.

It is through Caleb that we experience the familiar yet extraordinary – and at times unsettling – setting. It is through his perspective that the plot’s tension is built; through his eyes that the audience feels suspicion and a sense of displacement. Whom should we trust, the erratic genius struggling within the grips of alcoholism, or the non-human?

Caleb’s choice leads to a satisfying twist, unveiling an epic battle of wits between the two men. Yet the twist in plot is further contorted as the lady love dresses in preparation for a new life – and leaves our hero behind.

Caleb is the false protagonist. He is the deus ex machina, whose unexpected appearance provides the means to resolve a seemingly impossible situation; he is Ava’s means of acquiring the ultimate form of recognition as a sapient being with a mind, with hopes and fears and desires of their own – freedom to live life on their terms.

It was her story all along.