When you're female, people make a lot of assumptions about you. They assume your raison d'etre is a long-term, committed, heterosexual relationship ending in marriage and children. They don't stop to think that you might not want children. Or you might not be heterosexual. Or you might not 'do' relationships. Or that you might not even 'do' monogamy, full stop. However broad-minded we claim to be as a society, little has changed in terms of the belief that what women really want, despite all their cute little protestations that they want to have careers or travel or have sex with lots of different people, is a ring on their finger and a zygote in their womb.
I'm fortunate enough to move among a cross-section of people more accepting of the fact that we're not all secretly seeking a rom-com ending, but I still wonder how much people truly believe me when I tell them that monogamy bores the bejesus out of me, ditto long-term relationships, and were I not so highly sexed I might be quite content with just a lot of good friendships, but as it is, I like having multiple casual interactions with people I find attractive. I'm not sure people really know how to deal with a woman saying that. I think they make a fair few assumptions right off the bat. Such as:
- You do want a fairy tale ending, but you're just worried that admitting it will make you a bad feminist.
- You do want a fairy tale ending, but since you've been taught that men are sex-mad commitment-phobes, you're just pretending to be a sex-mad commitment-phobe too to set them at ease (oh, and trap them, of course!)
- You've got serious emotional problems which mean you're actually desperate for love but are just slutting around as part of a self-destruct programme.
- You're a big, greedy, predatory whore who's a danger to every one else's husbands/boyfriends/partners.
- You'll break down one day and admit that you do just want a man to look after you and babies to make you complete.
- Some shit about biological clocks.
If I had a pound for every time I'd heard phrases along the lines of "Men use love to get sex, and women use sex to get love", or, "Men are just programmed to spread their seed, but women are programmed to want babies and to settle down," or, "Women are the more naturally romantic/monogamous/insert-other -patronising-adjective-here gender", well, I reckon I'd have enough for a package holiday to the Canary Islands, at the very least.
So it'd be nice, for the purposes of re-educating a public fed on a diet of TV and movies that dictates however strong and sassy you are, you'll ultimately want to settle down (Yo! Sex and the City, Yo! Girls, Yo! very sadly, The Hunger Games), if there were more discourse on the alternatives that some people seek. It'd also be nice if there was some more discourse on the fact that sometimes men want to settle down, and sometimes it's men who are the more romantic, emotionally attached or naturally monogamous partner in a couple. If it were just women who imposed those things on their partners due to their crazy, female, hormone-driven desires, then why would any male-male couples ever marry or have children? Yet they do. People like to pair up with one special person. People like to nest and introduce little beings into that nest. Why put it all on women, when there's so much evidence to the contrary?
I know it's probably a bit much to ask that everyone's special snowflake status is accommodated in the form of a drop-down menu, but I'd really love it if I could put something on my Facebook profile that reflects how I actually operate instead of having to choose between "Single" and "In an Open Relationship". Neither is accurate. At any given time, I'm likely to be having flirtations, interactions and probably some physical fun with one or more people, so I'm not exactly single, but I'm also not "in a relationship" by any stretch of the imagination. "Relationship" signals hearts and flowers, anniversaries, Valentine's celebrations, but also shared homes, holidays, finances, shared lives. I don't do either that red-strewn world of commercial romance, nor the merging of my assets and space with any other human being. I've tried both, and neither ended well, believe me. I don't feel whatever it is that makes people go gooey-eyed over each other, and I've tried to pretend, but that's not honest and it's not fair. I love my friends and family with a ferocious passion and would lie on a railway track for them if needed. I care deeply about people and about issues close to my heart, and will get extremely agitated when either are threatened. I will always cry, without fail, at the bit in Dirty Dancing where Baby says "You let me down too" to her dad. I am not without sentiment. But I am without whatever it is that makes people feel able, or compelled, to share their life romantically with one other person.
And it's nice to be able to let people know that, but there's no easy or simple way to do it. You can't put "Polyamorous, no LTRs, casual only, but I'm not an emotional iceberg, and I really do mean this and I'm not just doing it because I'm a damaged nymphomaniac or secretly trying to trick you into marriage and babies" on your Facebook profile. You can, of course, have an adult conversation with people you're interested in and let them know, and I generally really try to do that, but it's not always easy to find a point in your interaction where you can say these things without the other person saying "Hey, hold on, we're only going for a drink, don't get ahead of yourself!" or "Why didn't you tell me sooner?!" And then, of course, there's the whole other side of polyamory--when people assume that because you're sexually open-minded, that you'll be more than happy to have an affair with them just because they're not happy with their monogamous relationship. Um, no. That's not how it works. I don't take this brave step of living outside how society expects me to, just so that you can enjoy the benefits of my courage while taking none of the chances yourself. And since when did polyamorous = entirely devoid of ethics? It's not polyamory without the consent of all parties involved - it's just cheating. Perhaps Facebook needs a "Get permission from your other half, and THEN get back to me" option as well...
I jest, of course, insofar as I know it's a more important step that people of non-binary gender orientations can choose options that they're comfortable with when identifying themselves online, than me demanding a bespoke option for my frisky leanings. And, of course, there can be such a thing as too much information: some folks are brave enough to announce that they're kinky (and sometimes their kink orientation too) in their Twitter biography, whereas I just tend to tell the world I'm a writer, feminist and I like roller derby. I figure that if you want to know the good stuff, you'll find me in person; and if we make it to the pub together, I'm sure you'll end up knowing all of it.