How to Pick a Lover

The Guilt of Janet Ames

The Guilt of Janet Ames (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Responsibility: the high price of self-ownership.
—Eli J. Schleifer

The decision to take a lover, like the decision to get married, is a decision which a woman makes for herself. Except for the aberrant circumstances of rape, she is the one who says yes or no. She decides what she’ll do with her body. The price of that privilege is that she alone is responsible for the decision.

When women are in a servile position, with no resources and little self-confidence they are justified in attributing their misfortunes to what some man has done to them. They were seduced or bullied or beguiled or, in other ways, misled. They were ruined or knocked up or conned or despoiled. Such women adopt the role of victim, playing opposite men who they cast in the role of villain.

While some men certainly are villains and some women certainly unfortunate victims, in many circumstances, women’s misfortunes aren’t so much the result of what men have done to them as they are the result of what women have done to themselves. Children and the very naive are, of course, exempt. Statutory rape is viewed as rape because the teenager is often not yet self-aware enough to give informed consent. For grown-ups, however, the flaws in relationships and the harm that sometimes results must be shared by both men and women.

Once a woman is of age, she must accept responsibility for the consequences of her decisions. The relationship with a lover is an unconventional one. It doesn’t encompass the institutional protections associated with marriage. It doesn’t come with guarantees. The woman must rely on her own judgment about the kind of man she gets involved with, and she must anticipate some negative consequences. She is a willing participant in an affair. If he pressures her in some way and is successful, it’s because she let him pressure her. If he has seduced her, unless she was drunk or drugged or raped, then she must have let herself be seduced.

The relationship with a lover is not only an unconventional one but is something viewed as immoral by many people. It’s defined as out of bounds by virtually all of the major religions. Some groups, such as the Unitarians, might regard it with only mild approbation; but none would advocate it as the best alternative. If you are a fundamentally religious person, such a relationship can inspire a considerable amount of guilt.

Some types of guilt are small and nagging and go away in a short while, but others are more consequential, and some stay with you for a very long time or even a lifetime. If thinking about the various moral consequences of an affair makes you feel any guilt whatsoever, then resolve how you are going to feel in the morning before the fact, not afterward. Try the idea out in your mind; talk with someone you trust who knows you well. Read some books or more blogs about relationships and affairs.

Above all, don’t let someone talk you into a relationship before you are ready. Only you really know how you yourself feel, and you can only know that if you take the time to think things through carefully and clearly examine and understand your own feelings. When in doubt, wait. Sex is never an emergency. If you change your mind later, there will still be willing men out there.

If, however, you decide to have an affair, then remember that it was, indeed, your decision. You cannot transfer the blame to your lover or your husband or children or even your mother. You must take responsibility for your own sexuality. Once you can do that, you can truly begin to enjoy it.

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Comments on: "Rule One: Accept Responsibility for the Affair" (2)

  1. You are exactly right. I have a nagging itch when women refuse to own their relationship choices.

  2. Val thanks for your comment. This was a difficult post to write because until recently (current generation) most women haven’t had real control over their sexuality or the means to make it on their own should they so chose. As a man, writing this blog, I feared that my premise that women need to accept responsibility for their relationship choices, if they are to achieve true equality, might come across as being somewhat heavy handed.

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