You know how sometimes you are reading the paper or something and there’s a love, sex, and relationships advice column, and you read it because the other option is reading something about war or Julia Gillard’s hair or whatever? And so then you read the advice and you’re all like, that is terrible advice. Yeah that. That happens to me all the time!
So I decided that I will begin a new series of posts where I reproduce such columns and then proffer my own vastly superior advice to the hapless advice-requester! Said advice shall be grounded in the following mish-mash of observations and principles:
1. Autonomy. Don’t tell other people what to do or let other people tell you what to do. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Adults get to choose their hobbies, their friends, what to wear, what events to attend, when they do stuff, etc. If you want someone to do something, sure, let them know about your wishes. Then leave the decision up to the other person and respect it. Related: Couples don’t have to do everything together. If you want to go and your partner doesn’t, just fucking go already. It will give you something to talk about later.
I think not telling other people what to do applies even when it comes to basic matters of ethics, consideration and respect. Worthwhile adults will act well of their own volition. If you routinely need to compel someone to be a halfway decent person then cut the damn ties and be done with them. If you really, really want to stay with a shitty person for some reason, give them a chance by letting them know that you will leave them if they don’t start being decent. And if they don’t, then leave them.
2. Niceness. Being autonomous human beings doesn’t exempt us from caring about others’ feelings and preferences. If it’s not going kill you and it really matters to them, and they’re not constantly making unreasonable demands, then maybe just do it. Also, just generally, don’t be a cunt.
3. Honesty. Part of respecting others’ autonomy is letting them know what you want and do and think and are planning, when it’s of relevance, so that they can make their own decisions about how they will relate to you based on their own values and preferences.
4. Desires are largely involuntary and are therefore not really moral or immoral in and of themselves. Actions based on desires are more amenable to control and hence have moral significance.
5. Emotions are human and legitimate, but that doesn’t make them a moral trump card. In a situation where one person has stronger feelings than the other, the former isn’t necessarily morally superior. Nor do one’s strong emotions on some matter necessarily mean that another person is morally obligated to respond in a particular way. For example, my mother’s partner once bought her an impromptu present while on a business trip. It was a landscape painting. My mother didn’t like it and she got sad and angry because her partner got her a present she didn’t like when Partner should have asked first or known mum’s art preferences better, and then she expressed this sadness and anger to her partner. NO MUM THAT IS COMPLETELY MAD, GET A GRIP OR JUST WRITE IT UP IN YOUR JOURNAL OR SOMETHING.
6. Sex-positivity, i.e., the recognition that sex and sexual preferences aren’t intrinsically good or bad. It’s okay, morally, to want or to have lots or a little or no sex at all, of various types. Mismatched sexual desires are going to require some problem-solving and negotiation and they may even end a relationship, but in and of themselves they aren’t actually anyone’s fault.
7. Monogamy should be a matter of conscious choice. It may or may not suit you or match your preferences, and either way you can be a good person and have good relationships.
8. Nobody’s perfect and even good people fuck up from time to time. Let’s all try to forgive each other, yeah?
9. Stuff is complicated and context is usually important.
That’s mostly all I can think of right now. Oh, also, ultrahedonist’s alternate advice will never, but never, fall back on goddamned gender stereotypes.
Hurrah! I can’t wait to get started (tomorrow).