Monday, April 15, 2013

Is Being Submissive a Sign of Strength?

Whew. Talk about controversial celebrity stories. Erica Ritz reports:

My comment:

" I think the knicker-twisting is because people confuse personal relationships with societal norms. Paul advised subjects in the Roman Empire, which recognized few civil rights even for rich men and none for anybody else, to fit into that system. (For what it’s worth, Peter advised Jewish wives, exposed to the non-Jewish idea of “obeying” their husbands, to obey their husbands “as Sarah obeyed Abraham.” Read the story. She called him by his proper title in public, but she made decisions in their home.) Nobody else should tell women that we “should” be submissive.

So…maybe some women need to assert ourselves in public, while single, show the world what we think of bullies and rape-terrorists and people who think we’re “less than” in the business world, in order to have the confidence to ENJOY being submissive at home, if we’re wired that way."

...seems to want further clarification here.

So that you know where I'm coming from: I've not been a penniless writer all my life. In my twenties I dropped out of university because I was too ill to be a full-time student or employee. I survived by doing odd jobs. This turned into a successful business. At age thirty I was able to offer jobs to a gentleman whose physical illness had caused him to become bankrupt, which had caused him to become divorced. After he'd proven himself to be the best asset the business ever had, even including my adoptive sister, I married him.

Both of us had something in the way of reputations for being quiet, diplomatic, determined, and likely to get things done our way, on jobs. Which was one of the top ten reasonable reasons why our marriage might have been considered a long shot. Only it worked, because although both of us liked to have things our way, neither of us had any particular attachment to asserting control over other people.

Both of us thought the cure for interpersonal conflict is generally interpersonal space. Both of us thought that, when you're sharing space with someone because you like that person, it is fun to let that person make the decisions about how much of his/her wonderfulness s/he is going to contribute to your enjoyment of life. So you never quarrel about, e.g., whether to spend a weekend at the beach or at the mountains. You work out with yourself whether you want to spend the weekend in a particular place or with a particular person, and go from there.

We didn't disagree with each other very much. However, my husband had periodic hypertensive angry moods when he became angry about things with which he didn't even disagree. One minute he was his everyday calm, kind, reasonable self who thought it was ridiculous for someone whose phone number contained three double digits to be angry at people who called that number by accident; the next minute he was likely to yell and pound the desk when someone did. We tried the "Anger Busting" system, because it works for men whose periodic angry moods are associated with "normal" cardiovascular conditions that aren't caused by multiple myeloma. It's good for ordinary hypertension; it does not, we learned, necessarily do anything about multiple myeloma.

Anyway, Anger Busters are required, if they show anger to their wives, to back down and punish themselves for showing anger by giving in and making an additional peace offering to their wives. Even if the anger was not about a disagreement between the wife and the husband. Even if, in the wife's judgment, the anger was justifiable. Anger Busters are trying to block a hormone cycle associated with male hormones; this technique is useful for men only.

In some situations a husband's working the Anger Busters program might be wonderful for the wife. In our situation I started to feel that things were getting out of balance. We weren't usually keen on the kind of erotic "games" that are discussed at length in the Washington City Paper, but I went down on my knees and begged my husband to designate some part of our house as the Truth Pedestal from which, if there was something he wanted enough that he was likely to become angry if it didn't happen, he could decree that it would happen. I trusted him enough that if he'd ever gone to the Truth Pedestal to proclaim that, I don't know, we were going to the beach instead of the mountains, I would have gone along with whatever he'd said. But he never actually used this idea.

There are a lot of hypertensive men, who don't have and will never have multiple myeloma, who can become healthier, more attractive, more fun to be around, and even better at their jobs, by working the Anger Busters program. Which calls for them to act "submissive" to their wives, in practical ways. (What people do in bed is not the Anger Busters program's concern.) And these men's wives would have to be absolute brass-plated jerks if they didn't want to reciprocate by deferring to their husbands and acting "submissive," in practical ways, when their husbands weren't angry. The Anger Busters program absolutely bans blaming the wife or demanding anything from her, but when the husband works the program, it's going to have that effect on any reasonable wife.

Any relationship between two unique individuals is going to be unique. We weren't you. Gabrielle Reece and her husband aren't you and your mate. However, I feel called to make a few casual observations on behalf of all the sanely submissive people who aren't obsessed with whips and chains, but who do enjoy sitting back and letting the other person--or animal, why d'you think I like cats?--take the lead during the time they spend with that person:

1. As one of the Blaze commenters said, if there aren't significant areas of life in which you trust your mate's judgment, expect to learn from and be guided by your mate, would be willing to call your mate "Master" if s/he didn't laugh at that quaint word--why on earth would you marry that person?

2. We do need to separate the ideas of submission as deference to someone you love, and/or as respect to someone whose areas of expertise are complementary to yours, and/or as any number of things you may enjoy doing in bed, from the ideas of masculinity and femininity. The Bible is just a bit confusing about this because the Bible writers were addressing people who had to live in a non-democratic, non-egalitarian society, and they were advising the victims of that society to try to transform their relationships nonviolently instead of wasting their efforts on a counterproductive revolt. (That's a generalization I'm willing to back up with detailed Bible studies if anybody wants to read them.)

When a young couple have small children, biology dictates that the husband has to be the provider and protector, because he can't be the mother, and the mother and children need him to be the father. But when that couple are older, biology very often dictates that the wife has to be the provider and protector, because the husband is likely to become disabled first. This is bad enough for the husband without society telling him that he's been "emasculated." In many cases he has not. Nor has he lost his special expertise, experience, or talents, on which the wife may still rely.

3. I'm not being a gender traitor on this...I think it's unfortunate that a lot of women think they have to be doormats on the job and in social relationships, then come home and take out their frustrations on their children or, in different ways, on their husbands. In the short run it's easier to cast family as the oppressor, because they need Mommy so much they'll put up with her mood swings as long as she doesn't send anyone to the hospital. Go on wearing the shoes that make your whole body ache in order to impress "friends," smiling at all the co-workers' little displays of contempt for you and your work in order to "climb the ladder" (in your dreams that corporation is going to last long enough for you to climb the ladder!), then be "too tired" to listen or snuggle or even cook. I think that's a very sick family scenario, and unfortunately it seems to be quite common.

I'd advise women to try reversing that whole sick dynamic. Put your anger out where it belongs. If the company treats you like dirt and owes you money, why are you still working there? Be the boss at work. If your "friends" expect you to do exactly what they do only preferably not quite as well, why are you spending time with them? Control your own social life. Then you, too, may discover the luxury of being able to choose to defer to the people you really love, because you enjoy being around them and don't want to limit their ability to delight you by trying to control them.