Savage Love

That Professor



vennonimon @107 You may hate me for this, but I must admit to preferring Jane Eyre to Pride and Prejudice, even if only by a small margin. I have unfortunately not read any other works by Ms. Austen or the Brontës, so I have only that limited information upon which to base my preferences.


If I were to read only one other book by Ms. Austen, which would you recommend?


@109 personally I would go straight to Persuasion. I think Austen got better as she went -- less arch observation but more depth. But I don't care for Jane Eyre so my tastes may not align.

All yinz, I read and appreciated the discussion today, nothing I needed to add in, thanks.


Dadddy @97: "I believe there's ... a presumptuousness that comes with deciding for two other people whether pursuing a relationship is worth the risk."
But this is an advice column. Advice is literally being asked for; it's not presumptuous, in this context, to give it.

Well @98: Very good point. For this reason it's a bad idea to date people of this age, in general. An even worse idea when doing so can have career affecting consequences.

Griz @101, the link posted is a clip from the Rodney Dangerfield film Back To School in which a history professor loses his shit. Relevant to the thread. Your polite caveat is misplaced. If you don't want to click on links, don't, but posting them is not "trolling."

Iseult @103: Good point that PHD is not conducting his love life in a world free from homophobia, and that indeed parents of these legal adults could be among the ones who could choose to damage his career.


@107: oh, don't attach too much meaning to my specific choice of superlatives, Mr. Ven. I use "gorgeous" pretty routinely from food to flowers to people. I just used "handsome" because it seemed to be the most traditionally masculine superlative and I was talking about men. But you could substitute "gorgeous" and it would still have the same meaning I intended to convey.

However, when speaking of my women friends, I didn't mean more casual acquaintances, but rather close friends.

As for your straight chasers or " f** h**s" (I confess to not being able to suss out what that last one means), I don't have much experience, and can't comment. I think you're right that some people aspire to be the one who is so special and compelling and unique that someone breaks their usual preference for that person. i think that is one reason that straight women often seem to prefer a cheating husband to be their clandestine lover over a man in an open marriage, which is something that several men here have mentioned is their experience: it may make the women feel as if they are so irresistible that the man is willing to risk everything to be with them.


Nocute @112: fag hags. Women who prefer the company of gay men to, well, other demographics I suppose. Venn seems to be implying that their hope is to date these gay men, but in my experience (as someone who spent much of her early 20s sharing an apartment and social life with a gay male bestie) the fag hag knows full well a gay man isn't interested in her, and that's part of the appeal. Though I have known women who suffer an unfortunate preference for gay men. Venn also forgot men who fetishise lesbians, of which there appear to be far more.


BiDanFan @113 " who fetishize lesbians..." Indeed -- it's a strange phenomenon, isn't it? Not sure I quite get it. But then, men are a mystery to me most of the time.


@106 vennominon
"had you seriously said..."

Just to refresh your memory about that ancient thread, that was /not/ what I said in it.


While a relationship between a psychiatrist and an adult, non-committed patient isn't technically illegal, such a psychiatrist could probably lose their medical license. I have heard of patients finding other therapists or psychiatrists so they could be free to date their former one -- that seems easy enough and best practice in a situation where two such people are attracted to one another (and the provider should use their professional judgement to determine whether the patient is stable enough for such a relationship). As for prison guards, a sexual relationship between them and an inmate would automatically be considered rape exactly because of the stark power differential, at least in NY


@102. Donny. A few years back they were all the rage in hipster London.

One of the skills in life I would really like to acquire is making pastry--the savory kind, like being able to knock up a perfect pissaladiere or a leek and gruyere tart, since I have lost my appetite for sweet food. I'm usually a very houseproud person, but this kind of cooking eludes just ordinary application. It's swoons all round if any new prospect can cook a lot better than me.

@109. Calliope. I would read Emma. But I wouldn't read just one more book by Austen--I'd read all of them! It's a bit like asking, 'if you could recommend just one branch of the invertebrates on which to focus my attention', which would you go for? Any scientist with a care for the overview is likely to reject the question.


Harriet_by_the_bulrushes @118 There are plenty of zoologists who devote their careers not just to one branch of invertebrates (cnidology and malacology come to mind), but to one species or one type of cell in one species. But your point is well taken. I'm not suggesting I read only one more Austen book; I was just trying to solicit advice for what to read next since it may be a while until I get around to the one after that, even if my goal is to eventually read them all.


Calliope: A few years back, under the encouragement of Venn and NoCute, I ripped through all six of them. I'd never read them before for some reason--I thought they seemed girly or something. They were much much better than I expected. If you've already done P&P (which I admit was my favorite) then you might try Persuasion or Emma next.


nocutename @95, I hope you don’t mind my adding to the discussion. I understand RE’s point of view and I do share it to a certain extent.

Your post is a great and sympathetic response to that universal desire to be loved for one’s innate qualities, contrasted with a realistic view of how desiring someone actually plays out. You carefully sketch out the balance between instinctive desire (for looks and charisma and, sure, competence) and an appreciation of a person’s bedrock qualities. I don’t feel it gets to the heart of the problem, though, that RE expressed, at least as I see it. Because it’s not just competence that is attractive, it’s the fruits of that competence, ie success. Success is sexy. And someone liking me because I’m successful feels to me like someone liking me because they can kick back and enjoy, say, the money or the status I can provide, and that’s got nothing to do with me. Sure, it came about through my efforts and abilities, but it’s not me. And that feels like being used. Someone is liking me not because of who I am, but because of what I can provide.

As ciods said, how do you separate the two—well, like this: contrast the attractiveness of a young man with all the right qualities but no indications yet of success—beat-up car, shared accommodations, limited wardrobe—with a guy ten years older with the same great qualities, and a solid paycheck with all the trappings. Pretty sure most women would be more attracted to the latter, but correct me if I’m wrong.

But it gets worse than that. It’s not just success that is sexy—next it’s the trappings of success that get fetishized. So a nice suit, say, or a nice car, any overt display of “competence”, which really means success, which really means the opportunity to freeload. Some greasy bar owner from Pittsburgh with an easygoing style has a nice haircut, a nice wardrobe and an Audi R8 convertible bought on credit—his bar may be in the red and he may not actually possess any of the values that make for a solid dude, he has no competence beyond the ability to sweet-talk a car salesman, and a disarming gift of the gab, but he’s still more attractive than some plain-dressed guy who would go to the mat for the people he cares about.

All this leads me to question the claim of being attracted to competence. I think I’ve written before about the disgust I felt at how dramatically differently the world treated me the first time I wore a uniform. Second looks from women who wouldn’t normally register my presence; deference from other uniformed dudes, etc. I was still the same guy I was the day before: competent, determined, reliable, couple of specialized talents. Same physique, same face. All that had changed was I was wearing some cheap polyester outfit produced by the lowest bidder in Bangladesh or wherever. But it was the clothes that made the difference. So some guy with no competence could buy that same set of clothes and produce the same effect.

So I guess what I’m saying is that sure, competence is sexy, but people are very inconsistent in recognizing it. And the way it plays out, it’s more often the trappings of success that are attractive, and not so much competence itself, which really takes the wind out of that argument’s sails. I don’t pretend to have my nose out of joint about this (anymore) because I have an indefensible and instant attraction to a certain body shape that serves no purpose and reveals nothing about a person’s finer qualities. But at least I own that. I think what bothers me is that women, many women, don’t own the shallowness of their own attractions. “I like a guy in a snappy suit because... competence!” No, you just like a guy in a snappy suit. And that’s fine. But that’s the extent of it. Ditto a nice physique, a charming and affable style, a gorgeous place in the country. All understandably attractive qualities in a person, but let’s not pretend it has anything to do with some higher quality. Gym rats can be vapid and self-involved; charming guys can be self-absorbed and unreliable; and buddy bought his cottage with the proceeds of his crooked sales practices.


Just to be clear, I’m not disputing the claim that competence can be sexy, for all genders. I’m just suggesting that claim is over-used to justify baser desires that people seem reluctant to own.


Please don’t talk as if you know what all women like, Late, because your story may fit some it doesn’t fit everybody.
Of course competence is a plus, you want burnt food to eat? My grand daughter goes to school, I sure want to know her class teachers, her flute teacher, her swimming teacher are competent. Nothing wrong with competence. And yes it’s sexy because the person excels at something and that’s life affirming, which is sexy.
Freeloaders are another matter.


Success in business I’ve never found sexy. A man who works with his hands, a potter a woodworker a visual artist a writer a musician.. these I find sexy yet most times there’s not much money in such activities. Creativity is what I find sexy.
I don’t know people who wear suits. A tradie in his splashed with whatever clothes and boots, nice strong well used young body, I find him sexy.
Some man sitting around all day smoking bongs and playing video games, no, not sexy to me. He’s a competent bong smoker and video game player.


Ms Fan - The omission of straight men into lesbians was deliberate for a variety of reasons; they rarely get to befriend them, they tend to be more interested in multiples at once than in one lesbian at a time, and it much more rarely reaches the level of a prolonged campaign.

While it hardly ever reaches the level of going full Natalie Stathis (for those of us who have read Mr Rodi), most of the FHs I've encountered wanted a partner who at the very least rounded up to gay. They might or might not have been subtly pursuing their gay friends. They've always struck me as quite similar to straight chasers in general outlook and tendencies to follow the same or similar patterns, whereas straight men into lesbians are vastly different.


I’m struggling with this one because I’m not sure where my knee-jerk reaction comes from, but I definitely relate to what RE had to say, and nocute didn’t quite get to the heart of it. Of course I’m not speaking about all women Lava, that’s why I use qualifiers like “some” or “most”. But I’m not going to deny things I’ve experienced just to be polite.

I think I dislike people who strive for status, and am drawn to people who appreciate inherent value, and quality for its own sake, whether or not it impresses the Joneses. They’re life-affirming, as you say Lava, and success is often a by-product of that inherent value...but (rather unfairly, to my mind) not necessarily always. However, any hint of feeling like I’m being caught up in someone’s social climbing is a massive turn-off for me.

That might be an unfair evaluation. I’m sure it’s similar, as nocute points out, to how women feel about being found attractive solely because of their body shape. It’s an important part of male attraction for sure, certainly mine, I’ll cop to that again. But for a lot of guys there’s more at play—but then, for a lot of other guys that’s the extent of it. I hear. So I guess we all have our base drives, and I’m happier when they’re cheerfully admitted and discussed, rather than wrapped up in half-truths.

Not to say anyone here is talking in half truths. Just explaining why I’m leery of someone who seems to like me more for my accomplishments than for who I am. To go back to the sexy guitar player of previous discussions: once you get him off the stage you might find out he’s rather boring, self-absorbed and unreliable. (Or assaults his partners...looking at you, Mr. All-you-need-is-love Lennon.) So competence at some skill is a better indicator of social standing and success than it is an indicator of character, and I’m wary of anyone who claims the opposite in an attempt to distract from what truly motivates them.


Ms Muse - On the limited information provided, I suspect you'd prefer Persuasion to Emma. It's also shorter, which might make a material difference to you. Mansfield Park is well saved for when one is in the mood for subtleties or for a number of highly dislikable characters, including one of the great Wicked Aunts of fiction.


LateBloomer @126 I don't think "sexy" necessarily correlates to "an indicator of character." I can find someone sexy without knowing the first thing about their character. I could see a photograph of a total stranger and think they look sexy. Of course, if I find out they're an asshole, that will likely diminish my perception of their sexiness, but it doesn't eliminate the initial attraction. Of course, sometimes someone's good character traits are what makes them sexy. But I think that is a different phenomenon.


Thanks for the book recommendations, everyone. I'll certainly keep this in mind when I finish what I'm currently reading.


Muse @128–“I can find someone sexy without knowing the first thing about their character.” Well, I’m glad you say so, and don’t try to pass it off as, “I find people sexy for this-and-such more noble reason than sheer superficiality.”

But that’s not really what RE was saying, was it? I’ve derailed the conversation. He was bothered about being valued for something that has nothing to do with his intrinsic worth.

Maybe I’ve simply reached the not-so-astonishing conclusion that I don’t like feeling used. Thanks for being part of my personal journalling project everyone! Carry on.


Late, I'm finding your comments interesting. Since I was the one who made the original "competence is sexy" statement, I'm trying to process what you are saying. I believe you are describing a real thing--the conflation of competence and status, or money, or whatever. At the same time, it feels so odd to me that that's where your brain went (and maybe RE's brain as well? not as sure). I'm a bit sad about it, honestly--that your experience means you have to second-guess someone's attraction. Ugh. Especially since (to me) it sounds like your interactions with people doing that conflation makes you guarded about exactly those things that you might, in a better situation, be proud of--(some subset of) your accomplishments.

Poo to those people!

The first time I realized I was in love (with my first boyfriend) was when I heard him play piano. I was sixteen, I think. He was good at it. Since then I've been impressed by men who could speak multiple languages, men who could cook, men who could shoot pool, men who could write a clever quatrain on a bar napkin, men who could fix a diesel engine, men who could write effective code, men who can weld, and so on. Some of those things have financial consequences, and some don't. To me, the point is more that someone cared enough (and was interested/able/whatever enough) to learn how to do something. It's an indication of curiosity and capability. In my experience, the more things a man is competent at, the more we'll have to talk about, the more likely he'll be to be interested/care about things I care about, and the more interesting he'll be overall.

Don't get me wrong: money is great. Although I'm not a big fan of fancy purses or cars myself, I absolutely enjoy many of the things money gets you (e.g., travel). But to me the correlation between money and competence is pretty low. Lots of interesting skills aren't well-paid, for one thing; for another, it's possible to be well-paid for one particular thing and be focused pretty narrowly on that thing, and be fairly incompetent overall. I once went on a date with a man who I think must have made (by my standards at the time) a huge amount of money, but he couldn't carry on a conversation about anything else. Doesn't work for me.

That said, I absolutely believe you that the language use is slippery here--that an assertion about competence (or something similar) from some women is really an assertion about financial stability or things along those lines. But again, poo on that.

(Perhaps the statement is less ambiguous in the converse: I find incompetence extremely unattractive. If you never cared enough about anything to get good at it, I'm almost certainly going to find you boring. Is that less problematic?)

However, to come back again to what RE said, or your statement about it @129..."intrinsic worth." I don't get it. I'm not sure I think there is such a thing. Nor do I ever understand statements about unconditional love. If someone loved me matter what I did, how I acted, what I said, etc....I'd think they had truly bad judgment and I wouldn't find their love to be worth much. I want to be loved conditionally. I want to be loved because the real-world manifestation of my self is awesome enough that interesting people love me.


Maybe my “experience” is just an uncharitable bias, ciods. Maybe at some point I reached a conclusion based on a couple of events and now it shapes what I see as others’ motivations. You paint a nicer picture.


Getting back to the original letter, PHD says he's "fortysomething" which means he could be 41 or 49 and attempting to be coy. He seems almost obsessed in his description of WHY he's only interested in these young guys. They're less jaded, less transactional than they'll be in their 30s, yadda fucking yadda.

In a few years - or just a couple - he'll be in his 50s, and still unable to grow up emotionally while he trashes ALL men closer to his own age with automatic disdain. Yes, we all like what we like, but we eventually accept that we live in the real world and adjust our parameters.


ciods @130 "However, to come back again to what RE said, or your statement about it @129..."intrinsic worth." I don't get it. I'm not sure I think there is such a thing."

There probably isn't, that's why I said upthread that my feelings are probably irrational.
Maybe the only unconditional love possible is the love that parents feel for their children, and something like that can't exist between adults. I'm not even sure that it should.


@130: ciods, I came here to reply to LateBloomer, and see that you have said literally every single thing I wanted to (except my first boyfriend wasn't piano player, I've never seen anyone write a clever quatrain on a bar napkin, or fix a diesel engine. My life is seemingly very boring).

But seriously, thank you for writing it all--and probably better; certainly more concisely, than I would have.

I'll add in response to LB (and if he's capturing RE's position, to him, too), that while I don't dispute for a moment the truth of your experiences and the thinking they've provoked and the conclusion they led you to adopt, I think that you are only accurately describing a percentage of the population (great or small, I don't know), and I don't believe I nor most of my like-minded friends would fit that description.

I think you conflate the realization that people (I contend, men, women, and non-binary alike) don't like the competence as much--even sometimes, so much--as the success leading to the status it provides with a feeling of being used and grifted. I don't see those things as necessarily going hand in hand.

As for me, because I can speak only for me, I am attracted to competence and success--I'm not going to lie: success affords the ability to do things I enjoy: going to the theater, going on vacation, eating a nice meal in a nice, not necessarily pretentious--restaurant, buying a new car every 7-9 years, as the older one is beginning to become more of a hassle. But I don't care a whit for status: I don't care what kind of car a man drives, so long as it's clean. I have dated, married, loved, dated, and loved again men who drove 10-16-year-old cars, but they were maintained and clean, and I honestly never gave those cars a second thought. I certainly didn't think of them as benefits or liabilities or as somehow stand-ins for the men themselves. I have also gone out--briefly--with arrogant jerks who put all their own value into the outward trappings of success they thought was important to define their place in the world, some of whom drove very fancy or expensive cars--a couple of penis sublimations, as well, which given their impact on the environment, I find a liability rather than a benefit. I lost a lot of respect for the unmarried, childless man who had recently bought himself a tricked-out SUV for his daily 1.3 mile commute (he participates in no outdoor activities that would necessitate an SUV. He prides himself on being the guy who has large items of furniture delivered, rather than putting them in the back of his truck and driving them home himself. He didn't need to SUV to be able to haul stuff home to do renovations; he would never dream of doing that kind of work himself). I assume my attitude about his choice of car, and his need to show it off to me, is clear enough.

The point of that car example is that while I might very much like the kinds of things that money can buy, I have no use for status-markers. There's a huge distinction between success and status-seeking.

Equally, there's a world of difference between being appreciative and grateful for what my partner can provide us materially, with feeling entitled to it, or only caring about my partner in terms of what status he can bring me or only caring about my social status and how he enables it.

I have to laugh at your uniform example, though I absolutely believe it is true. Because my response to seeing you the day before in ordinary clothes (provided they were clean, fit properly, and the wardrobe didn't include a tee-shirt with some idiotic thing written on it about how much the wearer likes beer, or the like, and a baseball hat with your favorite team insignia on it, worn with fan-fervor), as opposed to your uniform would be the entire opposite of that you described. Because I make my blanket and un-examined judgements, too, and I would assume that anyone who wore a uniform was a status-seeking arrogant ass. Unless it was a police uniform, in which case, I would assume he was a bigoted sadist who wanted the opportunity to take out his aggressions on defenseless people. Or the uniform of a private in the armed services, in which case, I'd see him as the unfortunate and uninformed victim of capitalism, which instills in those most vulnerable, a warped idea of patriotism, which leads those lowest on the status totem pole to go off and fight the wars that we are in solely to benefit the economic interests of those with wealth and status, who would never dream of sacrificing themselves or their children.

Did I mention that I have some biases and pre-dispositions, mostly unexamined?

You made me revisit my assumptions regarding the man in the uniform when you pointed out that the guy wearing the snazzy uniform might prefer to wear something else, but that this is a job requirement; you pointed out that the uniform is not a description of the person wearing it. Just as you had the same competence in the same set of skills the day before you put on the uniform, as the day after you did, I would say that some people would actually admire more the guy in plain clothes who could perform the same tasks as proficiently as the guy getting the official recognition for them. There's a sense that that person has learned the skills, has mastered them, because of an innate desire to master them, for their own sake, because doing something you love really well is its own reward.

So we both project a lot!

I agree that in general people are shallow and superficial, obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses, or being just one rung higher than the Joneses on that ladder of status and hierarchy. But plenty of people aren't. It seems to me that you have extrapolated from a small number of experiences an attitude in which you see all women as shallow gold-diggers who hypocritically pretend that it's merely the competence, rather than the success which enables the status that they really care about. I believe I recall that you were an English major in university, and it makes me rather sad to see what I can only consider is an atrophy in critical thinking skills, and a loss of memory of the insights into another human's mind, with its motivations and desires, and heart, with its irrational attractions and foolish affections that reading literature provides.

Your attitude may be grounded in experience, but it seems to have marinated in cynicism that has turned into bitterness. I would suggest that you view these women who show you early that they are only interested in success and status and feel entitled to someone else's success to ensure their own status in the same way as Dan suggests people with diagnoses of HSV view people who react negatively to hearing that status. Dan's talked of using that information as a sorting hat, and I think you can be grateful when a shallow woman shows evidence of her shallowness, if you can identify that early on, because it means you don't have to waste any more of your precious time on her. I would also suggest that you hang around universities. While competence is often highlighted in those environments, success rarely comes with financial success, and status is limited to a very tiny pool of people indeed. Almost no one in the world either knows the status of an academic, what it really is based on, nor what it is worth.


Straight talk, nocute. I think you know I value your views, so I’ll be taking what you say under advisement. Thank you for the heads up.


Thaks, LateBloomer; I was afraid of hurting you, but ultimately, I hold you in too high regard to not feel like I had to do it.
You know I wish you nothing but happiness.


I love this nocutename person!


nocutename @134 What about a person in a custodian's uniform, or a museum docent uniform? There are many admirable or honest jobs that would require a uniform without any inherent status-seeking.


Ture, CalliopeMuse. In fact, I thought of a custodian's uniform or a medical assistant's scrubs after I had posted. But since the original example was about a conferral of status, I think it would have been better for me to have limited myself to that example, rather than getting on my anti-police, anti-war soapbox!


@137: Thanks, curious2. You're a peach.