“Less Romantic Than It Sounds” for $200, Alex

I’ve talked before about how our ideas of romance tend to be rather effed up, presenting women as objects to be won and generally giving lousy relationship advice. This last week has provided me with an example that hits both of those, while describing as ‘romantic’ abusive actions.

Tell her, why she’s perfect for you. Pick her up. & tickle her until she can barely breath, she’ll scream and fight you, but secretly she’ll love it. Protect her. Hold her hand when you talk to her. Look at her like she’s the only girl you ever want to be with. When she least expects, it, pull her in close & kiss her hard. Tell her she looks beautiful. Get her mad, then kiss her. Let her fall asleep in your arms. Call her. Give her piggy-back rides. Kiss her forehead. Be slow. Don’t push anything. Make her feel loved. Kiss her in the rain. And when you fall in love with her, tell her.

Some of the advice in there is decent (“Don’t push anything”), some falls back on harmful cultural narratives but isn’t necessarily bad advice (“Tell her she looks beautiful”), and a couple really should not be anywhere near something that claims to be relationship advice. Can you spot them?

Pick her up and tickle her until she can barely breath, she’ll scream and fight you, but secretly she’ll love it.
There’s a time and place for stuff like this, but as blanket advice it’s terrible. Ignoring a ‘no’ of any sort should not be a default action, but rather something that gets negotiated between two people who know each other well. The best description I can think of is ‘mild rape culture’–while it’s not actually about rape, it still encourages men to ignore boundaries, to believe they know what a woman wants better than she does, that ‘no’ doesn’t actually mean ‘no’. Having your boundaries ignored isn’t endearing, it’s frightening.

Get her mad, then kiss her.
The first term to come to mind for me when I read this was ‘gaslighting’. This isn’t quite that, but I’d say it’s in the same ballpark. First of all, people who care about others don’t deliberately make them mad. And the kiss follow-up puts me in mind of men who say “You’re cute when you’re angry”. It’s dismissive of her anger, treating it not as something that deserves validation and resolution but as something to be ignored, endured, or even found endearing, with a possible side order of “See, I love you so much even your anger can’t change that”. It’s manipulative, and a real relationship doesn’t rely on manipulation.

The icing on this particular crud-cake is that it was posted on a page entitled, “Boyfriends who actually treat their girlfriends like princesses”. Guys, if this is what you consider treating a person like royalty, I’m afraid to ask how you behave around everyone else.


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