Mutual Exploitation. Enough.

Early in my relationship with Brad, a variety of women intruded upon our connection, coming onto Brad in my very presence. Part of this was due to Brad’s willingness to talk to women about their opinions and feelings, which is how the spark of romance begins. Basically, he was giving the wrong impression.

I had done the same thing when I had gotten back into the relationship market after emotionally recovering from a 17-year marriage that ended in divorce. I didn’t realize that being playful with men in the same way I was playful with women would come off differently. Men experienced me as flirtatious; women experienced me as friendly.

I was angry that I was being misinterpreted when I was just being myself—my quick wit is my most natural and enjoyable way to connect with people—and it took me about six months to accept the reality that I was giving men the wrong impression. Finally, I realized that I wouldn’t lead men on when I offered only my intellectual side to them, so that’s what I decided to do. When they then complained that that they wanted more of an emotional connection, I stood my ground so as not to send mixed messages.

Before Brad learned the same thing, however, I was shocked that women would so boldly seek something from Brad (emotional support, flirtations, physical proximity, etc.) that they had no right to seek from a man who was committed to another woman.

Is this boldness in women a result of the sexual revolution? Are women more aggressive, less honorable, than they used to be? I imagine a time prior to the sexual freedom afforded by birth control when women actually protected each other, kept each others’ backs and supported the relationships of their peers. Am I living in a fantasy world?

In a newspaper article (from the early 1900’s, I believe), titled, “Are Women Lacking in Chivalry?” the writer observes: “…girls these days are amazingly self-sufficient—but what about taking care of the man who is the object of her clever wiles?… Certain girls and women take an almost fiendish delight in tempting men to the limits of endurance. They play upon a man’s weakness in order to secure flattering attention and gay entertainment, to win a man’s homage and stage a demonstration of their power…. Up to a certain point the desire of the man to give and the desire of the women to enjoy his gifts, are harmless. But when a man’s heart becomes involved, and the woman who is the object of his attention has no intention of reciprocating, when she simply is exploiting him, knowing that she is protected, not so much by her convictions as by the unresponsiveness of her temperament the whole affair becomes detestable.” (If anyone can find this article, I’d love to be able to credit it properly. My pic of it prevents me from seeing the name of the paper or the date. Maybe the “Kansas City Star” in the 1920s?)

I was at a conference recently where a female business student proudly described her manipulation strategy to get a man she worked with to agree to some course of action, only for the man to realize in a couple months what he had actually agreed to. Again, I was shocked and appalled by the calculated manipulations of this young woman of her unsuspecting colleague.

Women, are we losing our integrity as a result of the freedoms we have or the positions we hold alongside men in the public arena? I don’t mean forget those women who do soberly consider their ethics and integrity, which I still believe most do. I’m speaking to those of our sex who will do anything to get what they want, and there are plenty.

And men, you have had your share of folks who have not dealt honorably with women. There have been plenty of you who have played on the innocence of some who only want to please you, commanded subordination of women in the name of God, used your strength to intimidate and harm. Of course, most of you wouldn’t dream of acting like this, but those of your sex who have and do leave permanent scars, leaving many of these female victims angry and reactive for life.

So I call out all of us who exploit the innocence of and ignorance of others. It’s really not that hard to offer our unique contributions to the world and maintain our ethics at the same time. Am I an idealistic fool to think that we can…and must?

And those of us, on both sides of the sexual aisle, who take our integrity seriously and who want our short lives to count for the development of our glorious species, we must acknowledge that there are bad apples among us who pollute the whole pale, and that we have a responsibility for calling out our own sex on breaches of character.

So I call out all of us–myself first, and then all of my brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers–imploring us all to examine our lives as fellow human beings, so that we can emerge on the other side of this heated sexual divide that has been plaguing us for far too long.

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