Savage Love

Brief of Hearts


@Alison: So my point of view is not that difference should be stamped out but that we are already extremely similar.

I agree with your larger point that people tend to get overly hung up on group differences while ignoring individual variation. Reading your post, however, I think the degree of perceived similarity is subjective. Having grown up as a free range kid, my elementary school years were spent roaming the neighborhood with packs of boys playing football, war, throwing snowballs at cars, climbing shit we weren't supposed to, smarting off to teen-agers and then fleeing them as fast as we could, and doing stupid stunts on BMX bikes. I couldn't tell you what the girls were up to - we didn't start hanging out with them until 5th grade in order to play grabass and "2 minutes in the shed". I can tell you this - today's kids still prefer same sex friends as much as they ever have.

If there are a few little things here or there that map out roughly on sexual, racial or other trait lines, so what?

It doesn't matter, unless it does. For example, feminists are fixated on group differences in earnings, and I think we can all agree that everything else being equal, no one should take a pay cut simply for being female. But what if statistical differences in men and women's salaries partly reflect statistical differences in what men and women value in a career? What if men are statistically more willing then women to sacrifice "quality of life" for higher pay? Either the gender pay gap is a little thing doesn't matter, or it's a big thing that does matter, in which case, addressing it fairly requires that we explore what's behind this difference, keeping an open mind to the likelihood that it's not all about discrimination and bias.

Another example - there's plenty of research showing that rough and tumble play is important to the social development of boys, yet this type of play has become increasingly discouraged by an increasingly feminine educational system (just ask my son about all of the shit he's not allowed to do during recess). Here's a case in which minimizing gender differences can cause harm.
@EricaP: I don’t want to label the few people who are significantly at odds with their gendered role as “exceptions”

Sorry if anyone took offense. I meant this as shorthand for those who don't follow the trend, and in my mind, I was paying @Alison a complement.

I’d much rather shift our society to reduce the negative consequences for everyone of picking from the other gender’s options.

That's what I thought I was saying.
seandr @354, it sounded like you were dividing the world into:
(a) people who manage fine within our society's gendered roles and
(b) people who don't, aka "exceptions."

I'm dividing the world into three parts:
(a) a minority who fit really well within the gendered roles;
(b) a majority who can tolerate the gendered roles, but would appreciate the freedom to ignore them in some areas, and
(c) another minority of people who can't tolerate their gender and want to switch roles. (After transitioning, they might be in the minority who fit really well, or they might be in the majority who would prefer some freedom to ignore the gender roles.)

If that's what you were saying all along, I apologize for misunderstanding.

As for your comment @353, one can argue that kids should be allowed more rough-and-tumble time during recess (I agree) without saying that it's just for the boys.
@356, whoops, my category (c) should also include people who can't tolerate their gender but wouldn't be happy with a permanent transition either; the agender, the genderfluid, etc. Presumably they too would be happier in a society with low or no consequences for stepping outside your perceived gender role.
JibeHo - The fact that Alison and Philo et al are so aggressively condescending all the while they are pigeon-holing other posters as sexist or gender essentialist (hate that term) is infuriating. Especially when it seems their whole point is that we shouldn’t put people in boxes…
Can you quote where I've been "aggressively condescending" etc? Or is this code for "I don't agree with you but can't verbalize why."
@EricaP: I think that our culture should support individuals who deviate from mainstream gender roles, whether they do so piecemeal or in toto, occasionally or all the time. "Exceptions" and "trends" was meant in reference to individuals and specific behaviors.
Ms Lava - When opposite-sexer women who make universalizing gender-based statements gain social or political power, they are almost certain to start setting standards for all men based on what sort of opposite-sexer men they prefer. (The same holds true in reverse, of course.) Apart from that consideration, my only concern about what or whom you find attractive is not that you prefer one type of man over another, but that many of the OS posters here have written at great length and in great detail of their attractions without recognizing what an OS Club this place is.
Dr Sean/Ms Erica - The reduction of recess isn't minimizing gender differences, it's prioritizing the gender that has come to be preferred as a consequence of Teach to the Test.
@Alison: I sometimes use "freak" as a term of endearment, but I wouldn't say "weird". You are exceptionally analytic, and you seem exceptionally well versed in the behavioral sciences (I assume you have a related career). Other traits that set you apart from the mainstream off the top of my head - being poly, being a lesbian with a male primary, being open to persuasion to dating men shorter than you, not wanting kids, being Canadian (I keed, I keed!).

would she have been as outraged by a daughter who pretended her fingers were a gun?

Perhaps, but I don't think that would make her any less hostile towards her son's maleness or any less misguided about male psychology. Our families spend a lot of time together, so we've had numerous discussions/debates about parenting philosophy during which she's made her thinking quite clear. She eventually hit a crisis point with her son, which was humbling for her, and she consulted with my wife about it, who happens to advise people professionally on such matters.

Her kids are no more gender-enlightened than ours, despite the fact that I'm more inclined to model the attitudes I'd like to see in them rather than dictate them. The main result of her parenting style is that her kids are dogmatic/opinionated about certain things, whereas mine are relatively open-minded. It's fun to see them debate each other.

I should also add that she and I get along quite well. I play the wise-cracking realist to her serious-minded idealist, and somehow it works.
@EricaP: one can argue that kids should be allowed more rough-and-tumble time during recess (I agree) without saying that it's just for the boys.

Is it really so unthinkable that our society might do something for the specific benefit of boys?
Ms Fan - I think the hard part is surrendering the "positive" effects of stereotypes, and that we might get quite a different opinion about Gentle and Nurturing from the League of Women Nannies than we would from the League of Women Firefighters. Not that I blame disadvantaged people for not rushing to surrender what little advantage they have, or that I attribute this mainly to women. While I do not personally subscribe to the generalization that gay men have better taste than people of other orientations in inanimate matters such as clothing or interior decoration (indeed, it has struck me more than once that it would be a fitting punishment for any gay male participant in the Bridezilla industry if he were to emulate Clive Durham and just miraculously become a Kinsey Zero), one could just as well substitute the Leagues of Gay Designers/Firefighters and their views of the parallel stereotype.

This sort of ties in in a way to Ms Jibe and how things would be if women had as much control for a century or two as men have had. Imbalances would be redressed and things would improve for a time, but the hard part would be stopping at anywhere near a desirable balance. It may well prove impossible to reach Point B from Point A without building up enough momentum that must continue on to Point C.
seandr @365 I thought we had just agreed that it would be better if girls who do want rough-and-tumble play didn't feel excluded, and if boys who prefer to read in the library didn't feel required to participate in rough-and-tumble? Doesn't setting up a special Rough-and-Tumble-for-Boys hour make it all the harder for anyone who doesn't fit that model?

Why not just encourage schoolyard monitors to have more tolerance for rough-and-tumble play (by any gender) that doesn't lead to complaints, along with a more transparent and non-judgmental way for children to complain about being subjected to rough-and-tumble without their consent?
@Venn - Critical damping is quite possible. Google image search "critical damping". Never reaching a happy middle ground seems much worse than going a little overboard. I agree that equal swing back is not a good thing as well.
Venn, What?
I must say your posts are getting much more understandable, to me. Just not sure here wtf you are saying..
Everyone is different. All sorts of people all sorts of attractions.

I wouldn't need to create anything to suit my tastes. Only need one. I'm not greedy. Others, they can work out their own stories.
Philo, I'm sorry for lumping you in with Alison. I take it back. Please accept my apology.
@vennominon,366 . . think someone wrote a song about that:

"I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again...
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss"

Although rare, there are examples where restraint has been shown. Thinking Harold Washington when he was mayor of Chicago or Nelson Mandela & Desmond Tutu. Not that things were perfect or anything, but compared to what they might have been.....
@JibeHo - I appreciate the apology. My link was pretty aggressive and gory but I didn't think it condescending. I'm sorry I didn't put a better warning, I hit post by accident.
@EricaP: Why not just encourage schoolyard monitors to have more tolerance for rough-and-tumble play (by any gender)

Uh, this is exactly what I'm advocating. I can't imagine why you'd change the rules for boys only, even if the kids who engage in that type of play are overwhelmingly male.
OS Club, Venn? This a club now.
And anyone is free to write their story here. Who they attracted to. Whatever sex. All posters allowed.. Unless they are abusive.
Is there someone at the door to this club, stopping SS people from stamping their preferences?
@ven, you crack me up.
Philo- what's going on? Everyone is apologizing to you nowadays...
JibeHo, glad to see you back. I was worried I’d scared you off.

seandr, is it specifically for the benefit of boys or is it a canary-in-the-coal-mine effect where the kids who are showing us that it’s a real problem are mostly boys? Girls having served as canaries for other issues?

Hunter78, glad you caught that.
1) it’s cumulative, so you ask 200 questions and add up all the points. There isn’t a plot for each question.
2) I happen to think I’m far from the origin but maybe I’m not. I’m happy but mostly because I take lots of happy pills. I’m not as functional as I’d like. I might just have a few splinter skills or maybe I’m far from the origin with a few major splinter deficits.
3) The issue may be more that people close to the origin have problems. If you have fewer resources — there’s nothing you like, your verbal skills are inadequate, you’re clumsy, unempathetic and passive — you just have fewer ways to interact with the world effectively. People who are very close to one axis might be I-have-a-hammer-so-everything-is-a-nail which may usually serve them well in a carefully constrained life but if life ever throws them for a loop and they’re out of their preferred box they may get into serious trouble. People far from the origin may still have problems for reasons not reflected by their total points. (Like, maybe they’re an aggressively condescending shithead.)

The important conclusion is not that being sexually trendy makes you happy but that it matters less that your traits appear to be conventionally gendered than that you be prepared to face a variety of life’s challenges.
Scared her off Alison? What, no apology for your rude put downs of JibeHo opinions? Amazing.
@380 cont; For all the g/p/s nazis; JibeHo's opinions.
Ms Lava - In my experience, universalists tend to go for One Style Suits All. As for the OS Club atmosphere, it seems almost inevitable that mixed spaces eventually disincentivize MM (there's almost always a pro-FF faction). At least here F>M is valued more than it is in many other mixed spaces. What stops people from making equally detailed posts is a good question. It could be in part just the numbers, or not wanting to bring the conversation to a dead halt, or suspecting one's voice will immediately be drowned out, or an instinctive thought that most people just aren't interested. I can't speak for everyone, but the most explicit MM posts we see here are much less frequent and far less detailed than MF or FM, and certainly never lead to lengthy, graphic conversations. It's just How Things Are, and most of the time it doesn't rankle much. Occasionally one encounters an apparent majoritarian assumption that it's as egalitarian in practice as it perhaps ought to be in theory. That depresses me.

Perhaps you and I ought to be concerned when we agree about anything - fortunately, so far that list is rather short and doesn't contain much beyond Muriel's Wedding.
Dr Sean - I begrudge nobody any entertainment that can be derived from my ramblings.

However, if this were QAF (US), I'd decline being offered the role of Emmett. Come to think of it, I wouldn't be suitable for any of the parts. Bleah.
CMD - Who knows people are complicated. I'd guess JibeHo cares about accuracy and you maybe wanted to make sure you didn't hurt my feelings (although I had just hoped I hadn't hurt yours). I find dealing with feelings difficult. I hope I'm learning online courtesy ok. People can take posts personally.

Hunter - Aw do you care what I want now? How nice. Except... Fuck the Fliers! I think Phi is the prettiest shortening of my name. The letter Phi looks like an eye. Kinda. For some reason I like it. Philo means loving so I'm surprised that sounds masculine to you.
@Alison: It's overwhelmingly boys who are being scolded by playground monitors throughout the world for engaging in this kind of play, and it's the boys who's development seems to suffer for lack of it.

If girls want to wrestle and tackle each other, too, more power to them. Rough-housing and wrestling was kind of a specialty of mine as a dad, and my daughter loved it just as much as my son, up until 4th grade or so. She has a certain body confidence that I'm happy to take credit for, whether I deserve it or not.

The fact is, though, that she, like almost all girls, exclusively chose other forms of play with her female peers. I wouldn't be surprised if prohibiting those forms of play would have consequences for female social development. It's a moot point, however, because there are no such prohibitions on taking terms on the monkey bars, making and breaking social alliances, or playing house.

Now that I think about it, one form of physical play that seems to engage both boys and girls is football, or as the American swine call it, "soccer". It's one of the reasons I love that game.
seandr @385,

Which boys? The ones who get beaten up? The ones who hide in the library? The ones who enjoy skipping games with the girls? Or the ones who are actively seeking it out and pushing limits?

The same goes for girls: the ones who are affected by decreasing tolerance for roughousing are the ones who are actively seeking it out and pushing limits, and presumably the clamping down isn’t good for those girls either.

The fact that there’s a gendered pattern that brings a problem to one’s attention doesn’t mean that the solution needs to be gender-specific. The fact that your daughter isn’t affected by low tolerance for a form of play she doesn’t seek out doesn’t mean no girls are.

Public transit: in many municipalities if you feel unsafe after dark you can ask a bus driver to let you off between stops so you have less far to walk. This was requested by feminists and implemented because it made sense. Good implementation: anyone who feels unsafe can ask, from the fit young man getting off in an area known for gay-bashing, to old people concerned about mugging, to women fearful of sexual assault and harassment. Bad implementation: only women can ask.

The women were the ones who organized and brought it to the attention of transit authorities because walking alone after dark is an accepted thing for women to be concerned about and many women are concerned about it. But they’re just the ones who happened to have the mass, voice and organization to do something about it. A good implementation helps many more people.

A good implementation of tolerance for roughhousing at recess would include easy ways for kids to opt-in and opt-out and might generalize to more active recesses for more kids, not just for the chafing limit-pushers, to everyone’s benefit.
Thanks for your well wishes in you recap. That black boy who wanted to pet the dog shouldn't have been told it was too feminine. I'm astounded. Nobody in France thinks of dog petting along gender lines. If it's the same in the US, which I suppose it is, this experience of yours could be a prime example on how gangs of young kids naturally evolve a peer pressure where gender laws are totally repressive and akin to rules in Saudi Arabia - where women can't drive, which is eerily similar to the playground rule ' no cars for girls'.
My experience of rough play is that boys discourage girls from participating. They are the ones who engineer the gender exclusion. And if grown-ups don't impose gender inclusion, it doesn't happen by itself. Kids are no angels. They have the same prejudice their parents have, and they have no social shame to prevent them from forcibly enforcing the rules they think just. Of course, girl gangs also enforce the gender separation. I quite remember being told by little female vipers that occasionally playing with boys made me unfit to play with real girls.
I'd say the OS posters seem to keep talking for quite a long time and fill the posts below 100. You're the lone SS who keeps us company, and I must say that many of your posts are a bit to literate for my humble brain, so I can't add much to them. I still find reading you one of the main features of Savage Love. But, yeah, we're a lot of talkative OS. I hope we're not ruining SL for you.
I am sorry that the message board became so conflicted over the discussion of male-female.

I tend to view men and women as showing an aggregate set of characteristics that overlap. As I've grown older, I have learned that gender stereotyping is less and less accurate and, more importantly to a pragmatist like me, less useful. I am a chick, and I was very much like Nocutename - a tomboy through and through. Love cars and trucks, mechanically minded, shot my first gun at seven. I do love jewelry too.

With daughters - they took right to the floofy dress thing. On the other hand, my oldest excels at mathematics and is physically aggressive. She won't punch you, but she will punch you back.

Stereotyping is just useless, because you don't deal with the average man or woman, you deal with individuals as you go. The stereotype may give you guidance as to what to expect when initially meeting someone - although I think I am far more likely to riff off of clothing signals - but should be discarded utterly when dealing with someone you know well - like your wife or husband.
Venn; are you implying I am a universalist?
Me, with four sons- each of whom presents his masculine energy in a different way?

it is, though, still masculine energy.
Sissoucat@388; little girl vipers. Such an apt description.
My granddaughter has just started school and one can see all these nasty little traits starting to show in her behaviour. The pouting face, the storming off. The, I'm not your friend bullshit.
She cracks me up, with all the different little girls that seem to come home with her. In her.
@seandr: Which boys? The ones who get beaten up?

Maybe. As painful as it can be to watch and experience, it's certainly possible that kids take something useful away from moderate doses of negative social feedback. As a youngster, I had a few violent encounters where I was out-sized or outnumbered, and those dramatic experiences are a fundamental, cherished part of my life story.

One of the defining moments of my brother-in-law's life was when he (at the advice of his dad) one day turned around and punched a kid in the face who'd been bullying him all year. Problem solved.

On the more general subject of the feminization of child-rearing that's take place in the last 20 years, you and EricaP must listen to Batman, a great story on This American Life about the crippling effects of coddling and sympathy, and the blessings of a skinned knee (or riding your bike face-first into a lamp post, as the case may be).

I'm not sure why you and EricaP are lecturing me on the virtues of gender-neutral solutions to gender-loaded problems. You'd do better to direct this to someone who disagrees with you. As far as I know, no one who cares about the playground issue, myself included, has ever asked for a gender specific rule change.

What some have pointed out is that the kids who are adversely impacted by these rules are almost all male, and some have wondered if these rules are the product of female ignorance and bias, or perhaps a feminist conviction that significant gender differences can't and don't exist, from which it naturally follows that what works for little girls should also do for little boys. Which brings me back to my original point - ignoring gender differences can have unintended negative consequences.

It doesn't sound like I've convinced you or EricaP.
@393 - oops, should be addressed to @Alison and @EricaP, not myself.
seandr, unfortunately I think the USA is one of the worst offenders in terms of scolding boys for rough-and-tumble in the playground. We used to live in the USA and I was constantly surprised at how curtailed the childrens' activities were in the playground, which did apply mainly to what the boys were wanting to do. It seemed to me that they were being penned in on rubber matting! New Zealand is by no means paraside but my son and daughter get a hell of a lot more freedom to climb trees, wrestle and jump off stuff during recess and generally explore the premises.
After two months in the USA my son threw a frisbee in the school playground which hit a woman in the head and resulted in her and her husband trying unsuccessfully to extort money out of us for non-existent medical expenses so maybe that has a relationship to curtailing rough-and-tumble in your country!
Things got really out of hand at my daughters' elementary school when playing tag became verboten at recess. Apparently it violated someone's idea of bodily integrity or something. The older kids were told that reaching out and tagging someone was akin to sexual assault or some such thing.

I would have tried to fight against that much idiocy, but my younger daughter was moving on to middle school in a matter of months when that edict came down, and it was a case of "choose your battles" for me. But I agree that the American primary school system is set up to make behavior that for the overwhelming most part is done by boys be seen as "problematic." At the risk of pissing those people on here who want everything kept in gender-neutral language, it often seems that in elementary school being a boy is somehow equivalent to being a "problem." Even though I am a woman and the mother of girls, it bothers me. A lot.
Nocute; don't think our schools are that tight, yet.
Give the boys a big oval, to go do their thing in. And yes,some of the girls go join them.
@nocutename: in elementary school being a boy is somehow equivalent to being a "problem."

Even worse for black males.
An anecdote regarding the suppression of "male" behavior in schools: I spent some time as a Science Guy at a charter school in my late thirties. I make no claim to describe all of U.S. education with this, but I sensed a distinct hostility toward stereotypically "male" behavior and energy. The girls, by and large, were comfortable and seemed to be thriving. The boys, by and large, seemed like they were in lock-down and just getting through the minutes of the day. The smartest girls dominated all scholastic activities. The smartest boys were perpetually on the verge of suspension or expulsion. It was interesting to me that within this environment, fairly nasty stereotypically "female" expressions of violence, the verbal/social kind, were tolerated. "Male" violence, even friendly rough-housing, was not.

And +1 to everyone pointing out the distinction between population/sample means and individual characteristics, which are not informed at all by them.
Hell Yeah. Just wanted to be@400.
@398: FWIW, almost all the boys in @399 were non-white.
@398, 399: Yes, it's true. And black girls get suspended at higher rates that white girls or boys do, even in kindergarten.
Because the sunshine puts a smile on us all, makes the love in us call, makes us want to feel it all.
seandr @393: “no one who cares about the playground issue, myself included, has ever asked for a gender specific rule change”

You seemed to be saying @365 that you’d prefer the rough-and-tumble games be specifically for boys (“for the specific benefit of boys”). It's that post to which I was responding @367, as I said at the time. I haven't posted since then. I'm glad to hear that I must have misunderstood your point @365.
@403; female Philo person... Lovely sentiments.
Wow, the advice for #2 really took a turn. I totally thought he was gearing up to tie this into the previous letter about the benefits of opening up a relationship, because it sounds like she's open to it.

Why tell her to break up with him when she's open to the idea of him fulfilling his needs elsewhere? Seems like that's a very valid option.
Interesting contrast between the first two letters--the first, obviously, brief to a fault, but though Dan didn't point it out, the second was equally extreme in style. It posed a basic problem in terms of a series of tangential issues, not exactly rambling, but more like writing from inside a deep fog with nothing solid to cling to. I know I've certainly felt that way before--and written that way before, too.