Luv Doc: Prohibition
God help the affable, chubby, slow kids with thick glasses
Dear Luv Doc,
My best friend has been living with his girlfriend for a couple of years now, and he has basically become a prisoner in his own home. Any time my friends and I ask him to go out and have some beers or play golf or go to a football game, he has to check with her to make sure it's okay, and most of the time it is not. When we ask him why, his excuse is always, "She won't let me." I told him I think that is a BS excuse because if a woman tried to use that excuse, everyone would assume she is in an abusive relationship. What do you think?
As any excommunicated priest will tell you, prohibition works a lot better in theory than it does in practice, but when you're gunning for the celestial plane, it doesn't pay to get bogged down in realism. Aim high and you just might hit the soft middle. That said, there are certain prohibitions most everyone can agree with. Murder, for instance. I am personally against murder, though I am not entirely convinced there would be any percentage change in the number of murders if laws against murder were repealed. Nonetheless, I do think that it's best to let everyone know that murder is verboten. Total anarchy might start off well enough, but all it takes is one asshole to ruin the entire party. You just had to eat that goddamned apple, didn't you, Eve?
Over the millennia, humans have pretty much proven themselves to be abominable self-regulators. In fact, were it not for the crippling social stigma attached, I would probably be masturbating in my cubicle right now – much to the disgust and disapproval of my co-workers. Can I help it if I'm a screamer? That makes me sound like a bit of a pessimist I know, but history shows that without some sort of social contract, people go all Lord of the Flies in rather short order – and God help the affable, chubby, slow kids with thick glasses.
Amazingly, despite the obvious dangers of anarchy, we live in a culture that values freedom above all else, and any abridgment or denial of that freedom is seen as an assault on our basic humanity. The irony of that, as you have astutely pointed out, is that freedom is historically a male privilege. In fact, the whole foundation of the traditional heterosexual relationship is based on an outdated notion of patriarchal ownership. And now when these Jenny-come-latelys turn it around it feels kind of shitty, doesn't it? That ownership axe swings both ways and it's a bloodbath.
Ideally in the last 50 or so years we have learned that a relationship is not an ownership. Rather, it is an intricate dance where two people (more perhaps?) try simultaneously to meet each other's needs and their own, as well. Ideally this is an easy, effortless process, but in practice, it takes a lot of conscious effort. Not only is it difficult to know exactly what we want for ourselves, it's even more difficult to know exactly what someone else wants – unless they tell you. At least this guy's girlfriend is doing just that – whatever her fucked up reasons or bat-shit neuroses – and at least he is trying to listen.
It could be your friend needs to assert himself, but it might also be that you're confusing your needs with his. You are right about the abusive relationship thing, but being right alone doesn't solve the problem. It just makes you feel better about it.