Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Dating Jerks

I am a woman who has dated jerks.  I've also dated guys so nice you might mistake them for a puppy dog, but this entry?  This is about the jerks*.

And in a way, it's a thank you to them.

Because I think everyone should, at some point in their life, date a guy or gal who is a huge jerk.

This is counter-intuitive.  Relationships are supposed to be good, to make you happy, to lift you up.  Yeah, that's what they're supposed to be, but anyone who has had multiple relationships often knows that that isn't always true-- and I think dating the jerks is a great learning tool.  True, you can end up in a great marriage with your first serious partner (as my mother did, when she married my dad), but I still think there is a huge benefit to dating a lot, and a lot of different types of people, in your youth.

But there is especially a benefit to dating jerks.

Jerks teach you what you aren't willing to take, and what you aren't willing to compromise on.  They teach you what issues you really care about, and sharpen your ability to argue and to stand up for yourself.  they teach you patience and tolerance, and make you realize how awesome your eventual awesome partner really is.  I would not, at this stage of life, want to date a jerk.  JD is a great guy, truly kind and wonderful, caring and giving, and most definitely not a jerk-- but I think our relationship is actually better because I've dated jerks in the past.

See, JD occasionally does things that make me roll my eyes-- and he isn't afraid to point out when I do things that are also eye roll worthy.  But we talk about those things, and really?  None of them are huge.  We haven't had any huge ideological clashes, and when we do disagree, we're both mature enough to talk it out and come to some sort of compromise.  I am a person who likes to make others happy, so bringing things up can be... well, difficult for me.  As can facing criticism.  But after the personal insults, cutting descriptions, and unreasonable behavior of jerks in the past?  Well, the thought of a small discussion is just not. that. scary. anymore-- really!  Because I dated jerks, I learned that there is nothing someone can do with words that should, or can, stop me from expressing myself.

I also learned through the jerks what sort of things I like... and don't like. See, all the jerks had some of the traits I liked!  Otherwise-- why would I have dated them?  But the also had a lot of traits that I didn't like.  Because I was an obsessive journaler up until, oh, after JD and I started dating, I managed to record a lot of self-analyzing thoughts on the good and bad points of relationships, and I've been able to learn from them and apply them to each successive relationship.  This is the sort of learning that should, ideally, work for most people-- even the non obsessive, non overly analytical-- because we do learn from our past and our mistakes.  I'm hesitant to call past relationships mistakes, because they have shaped who I am today-- but in some cases, staying in them as long as I did WAS a mistake.  But you know, that long lasting annoyance with flaws and characteristics really taught me a lot about my tolerance levels.

I think one of the best parts about dating jerks is that when you do find someone who fits with you just right, you think to yourself wow... so THIS is what this is supposed to be like! and you get to experience a relationship of mutual care, love, and understanding without taking it for granted.  Taking things for granted is, I think, one of the problems a lot of people have-- yes, your partner SHOULD be awesome to you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be glad that your partner IS awesome, and it doesn't mean you shouldn't appreciate them and show them that.  Memories of a jerk mean that you don't take that partner for granted.

In short:  They'll teach you what you'll like, what you'll tolerate, how to argue, and you'll appreciate a great partner when you find one.

So thanks, jerks that I've dated.  You've helped make me a better partner, and helped get me into a better relationship.  It probably wasn't your intent, but it sure is a nice side effect.

*This entry also, as JD mused, applies to bitches, if it is ladies that you're dating.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Women, Sexual Desire, and Medication

So!  Hypoactive sexual desire disorder and Flibanserin!  If you read other feministy blogs, you're probably already heard about it-- but if not, the FDA is currently considering the use of Flibanserin as a way to treat premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder.  This is a really interesting thing to discuss, and there are different angles to tackle it from-- the fact that science is paying attention to female sexuality and desire, to the fact that it's a further form of medicalizing sexuality, to a discussion of what normal or desirable or hypoactive even mean when we're talking about sex.

Miriam over at Feministing posted a really good question-- "Who decides what is hypoactive (aka not active enough or under active) sexual desire anyway?"  It's a good question because the way we frame issues and discuss them is important-- so here, what is hypoactive sexual desire?  How low does it have to be?  How much of an effect does it have to have-- on the individual woman, or her partner, or the relationship?  What is it being measured by-- her own perceptions, or a comparison to her partner's desire?

I think one of the most important questions to address is how it gets measured-- because I think it's really interesting that we're discussing the hypoactive sexual desire of women... as opposed to, say, hyperactive sexual desire of men.  It's also interesting because a lot of the social messages that people my age got when we were young were that men were interested in sex-- but that to be a good girl, and later a good woman, you shouldn't be interested in those things.  That's changed already, but instead of getting rid of problematic messages, their direction has just changed.

Still-- in most relationships, there will be some level of mismatch between the desires of the people involved.  most of the people I've discussed this sort of thing with are straight cisgender women, and most of them do mention mismatches, however small, in the ways they want sex.  Some women I know have been in relationships where they want more sex than their partners, but most do fit into the stereotype of wanting less sex.  In most healthy relationships, people compromise-- maybe having less sex than partner A wants, but more than partner B wants-- but when the differences are extreme, a true compromise is less likely to leave either partner satisfied.  I have, though, seen women agonizing over what's wrong with them when they don't want to have a lot of sex-- instead of thinking something is wrong with their partner, or acknowledging that really, nothing might be wrong with either of them.  I think that any level of sexual desire is fine, and not something "wrong", but I do think it's interesting how many women tend to blame themselves for any problem in bed.

It's like a modern of application of treating male sexuality as the norm, and female sexuality as abnormal, or an application of how in science, the male body is treated as the default human, and women are-- exceptions.  Hell, there are plenty of commentaries out there on how female biology was not studied, and as such, women were told to look for the same disease indicators as men, even when the illnesses manifested differently.  And still, women are told "Good girls don't, good girls don't", and that men will want sex, and they have to not put out or he won't respect him, but then once they grow up, they have to magically switch their thoughts around and become sexually giving and good in bed, and really embody that virgin/whore dichotomy.

So, what is hypoactive sexual desire?  The most obvious answer is any level of sexual desire that is lower than an individual's partner.  That is clearly not nuanced enough.  To be a disorder, things typically have to interfere with an individual's life, or cause great distress.  I can easily see a much lower sex drive causing distress-- but the question then is, is it causing distress because the individual misses her previous sexual desire, or really wants to have the experience of sex-- or is it causing distress because she has to turn down her partner, and has been socialized to think that one of her main areas of value in a relationship is the sexual pleasure she can give to her partner?  Doing things to please your partner is not wrong, of course-- it's something both people in a relationship should be doing anyway-- but putting an inordinate amount of your self-worth into your sex life is a problem, and one that should maybe be addressed with talk therapy if its part of the motivation in seeking treatment for hypoactive sexual desire.

However, even if there are a lot of troubling things in the way society views female sexuality, the fact remains that there are women who want a higher sex drive and a greater ability to desire and be aroused.  Sure, it does matter why they want a higher sex drive-- but regardless of the reason, isn't treating something they view as a problem a positive?  The medication doesn't seem like it's guaranteeing more orgasms-- but more desire.  Most partnerships are based on a combination of elements, but sexual desire is usually an important part of them-- especially in younger couples.  While I understand the resentment of at least one asexual woman, the point here is that there are people who are not asexual, but who are not feeling sexual desire.  A lack of sexual desire can be truly troubling-- I've read stories before about women who want to want their partners, and how a growing gap of desire causes problems in relationships.  If this drug does

Thoughts?  Concerns?