How Feminism Has Changed Relationships
I was in highschool during the turn of the millennium, it was a time when a classic-put down for my age group had suddenly become lost. Slut was a word that sounded powerful, that one might cut up from a magazine to proudly paste onto her decoupaged notebook, a word she might see emblazoned in rhinestones on a baby-tee, and stand in awe of. This was also a time of many hook-ups for my peers, we didn’t date, we “talked” which usually meant a few phone calls and some heavy petting. In college, it went from talking upfront to fucking upfront and it seemed everyone I knew had swapped fluids with one and other at some point. People still shacked up of course, but it was usually after a hook-up rather than picking- her-up for dinner and a movie.
Long dead are rules and etiquette and courting. The hook-up culture of one night whirlwinds, easy-to-get antibiotics and readily available contraception is in full swinging swing. And aside from the Christian Right, the lot of us are backing it with an enthusiastic ass-slap. Thanks to feminism, the aforementioned contraceptives, divorce forgoing taboo and later and later marriages all of this can happen. Pro-sex feminism has given us an era where the term “slut” is an endearing word among friends.
But with the old rules abolished, and no new ones in place are we progressing? Or as Charlotte Allen suggests in her article, The New Dating Game, have we simply removed the rules and de-evolutionized, entering back into the Paleolithic age of dating. Where, as she writes “the men drag the women by their hair back to the cave, and the women love every minute of it.”
The old model of dating is eliminated, yet we are still adhering to a stagnant system of relationships and marriage. The emotional and psychological positions therein are pre-feminist. This might have worked for Grandparents or our parents but our generation isn’t going to settle. Our generation wants someone to grow with rather than just grow old with. We don’t want companionship, we want intimacy. The customs and systems are broken, and this shattering of patriarchal systems has allowed us to become more in touch with our biological nature. But I think something more is needed as we get in touch with those needs.
For some, as we throw outdated relationship mores through the window, what then hops in is non-monogamy To me, this is not a new model, but rather another product of the sexual revolution. Non-monogamy makes the human truth of being attracted to people no longer forbidden. But for me, the biggest intrigue about non-monogamy is that it can eliminate cheating.
Non-monogamous people I’ve known often say that humans aren’t naturally monogamous, it is a social construct. This, as it turns out is true. From evolutionary psychology, we know that men are naturally non-monogamous. Their biological urge is to spread as much seed as they can, for a better chance at passing along genes. But it was also long believed that women were inherently monogamous, however, this is not exactly right. We now know that women are actually hypergamous by nature. Which means they are only with one partner at a time, but are always looking for a trade-up. A partner who will bring home a bigger boar, who has a bigger cave.
So, going back to that idea of non-monogamy being the new relationship style– and strictly speaking from a stand-point of biology– non-monogamy might be fine for male partners, but doesn’t suite women. Considering high divorce and decreasing marriage rates, hypergamy might actually be the current relationship mode– and another biological throwback and product of feminism. Swinging from one chemical rush of falling love to the next is one way to deal with a broken relationship structure. But thinking about it from a stand-point of our ever-increasing life-spans (and those scientists working to prove that we are going to start living to 500, any decade now) hypergamy does make a lot of sense.
But let’s be frank, this is just biology, it is great to be in touch with our biology but it can also be overcome. After-all, there are many women who enjoy polyamory, many men who don’t and a lot of women who don’t trade up. But what I want to bring your attention to is not the question of overcoming these things, but the sad truth that we currently don’t have a common model of relationship, monogamous or non, that actually works. What we have is damaged, created under patriarchy for broken people. Doing away with the customs and sexual rules doesn’t give a new, working foundation of how to relate emotionally and psychologically. No wonder we’ve decided, quite literally “fuck it.”
There no such thing as falling in love and never having to work on the relationship. The idea accepted by many psychologists is that in relationships we are trying to heal old wounds and we marry an emotional replica of a parent so we can do this. Relationships then take a delicate hand of intentionality, curiosity, communication and self awareness toward yourself and your partner. It shouldn’t be about accepting or downplaying whatever emotional tug-of-war you are in (as it seems former generations have done) but working to dig deep inside and find what your personal pattern is, what you are re-playing and the unconscious role your partner fits into.
As we we get closer to our biological nature and shake off the shackles of ancient rituals and customs, the need for self realization and intentional relationships becomes stronger. This is an empowerment needed for all genders. These cultures and customs worked for broken people with short lifespans but we need more, I want more for all of us.