Tag Archives: relationships

Mitchell’s Feminist Relationship Advice for Heterosexual Men (& everyone else too)

For better or worse I’ve ended up having way too many conversations about romance/sex/etc advice recently, so I thought I might as well collect my thoughts in one place (and just in time for Valentine’s Day too, sometimes coincidences are fun). It’s a good time for it anyway; the mainstream culture is always so terrible about these sort of things, and I think it’s especially important to push back against that in this age of the Sexual-Predator-in-Chief.

This is a serious post despite the snark.

I’m afraid this may feel disjointed in places, as it’s mainly a collection of things I’ve found myself saying or wishing I had said in response to things people have said to or around me, but so be it. I’m fairly certain the core ideas should still come through just fine. That said, I’m not entirely sure who the target audience is here: I’ve tried to keep this mostly at 101-level for accessibility but I’m not sure I entirely succeeded, and also I’ve tried to address various different stages here so it’s unlikely it all is likely to be applicable to everybody.

(And as this excellent piece I encountered the other day points out, patriarchal relationship norms aren’t good for men either. I think it’s always a worthy effort to undermine them.)

[I likely won’t have much to add, but I’m here agreeing with these points.]

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in mitchell


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Signal Boost: Dude Social Fallacies

Read this. Read this now.

I recognise so many of these; they’re bloody everywhere. How’s this – if you catch someone (likely a cishet man, but I’m sure it’s not completely exclusive to them) you know engaging in these behaviours or this kind of thinking, encourage them to read this article and stop interacting with people they view as potential sex partners until they’ve thoroughly digested it.

(via Captain Awkward)

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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in mitchell


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Humanism, Arranged Marriages, and Reality TV

Sorry for the lack of content recently; I’ve been suffering from a nasty case of writer’s block and am struggling with a few half-finished pieces. Hopefully this will jog me back into things.

This appears to be somewhat old news, but I just saw this today (an older, more detailed post about it can be found here) about humanist chaplain Greg Epstein working in an advisory capacity on a reality television programme called Married at First Sight. This makes me deeply uncomfortable; I think it’s a terrible idea for lots of reasons, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say anything.

I’m disappointed in Epstein that he decided to get involved with something like this. The first thing I thought upon learning about it was that not all publicity is good publicity: if the idea here was that participating in something like this would increase visibility for atheists/humanists, then all I can say is that participating in something that looks clearly unethical and exploitative to me doesn’t seem like a good way to advocate for humanism. Humanism is an ethical position and participating in unethical behaviour while promoting humanism will only make us look like hypocrites.

Why do I say this is clearly unethical? First things first (from one of the linked posts by Hemant Mehta):

There are just a few moments you really want to see. Like when the contestants find out about the premise of the show…

In other words, there is no notion of informed consent here at all. None. Despite the fact Mehta describes the show in one of the linked posts as “couples agree to get married, sight-unseen”, if they didn’t know the premise of the show before agreeing to appear on it, they could not have given informed consent to this (and if they did express consent, the pressure of having had to agree to that impulsively after a surprise reveal means we cannot consider this consent in any kind of meaningful sense).

Mehta highlights quite a few other issues with it, and then encourages the viewer to just not think too hard about them. Um, no, let’s not do that. His list is also not exhaustive, and I’d like to mention a few more.

Firstly, I have to wonder at the motivations of the contestants on a show like this. Why would any person in their right mind agree to an arranged marriage with a person they’ve never met (especially when there is no cultural pressure to do so)? I can only think it must have something to do with the way modern Western culture elevates marriage and makes people consider it an essential step toward adulthood. I’ve often encountered the idea (usually implicit rather than explicit, though I’ve seen it made explicitly as well) that people aren’t truly adults until they are married, etc etc. (Another variant just focuses on being partnered as a similar thing.) When there are pressures such as this, it’s understandable why someone might be tempted by something like this, but shouldn’t we be able to acknowledge this is unhealthy and not encourage it? If we really want to deal with this problem, the solution is not “come up with ways for unmarried people to more easily acquire partners/marriages” but rather “change the culture so people aren’t shamed for not being partnered/married”.

Secondly: marriage is a legal contract with far-reaching effects, and marrying people in a situation like this (with a much higher chance it won’t work out and they’ll seek divorce) seems rife for legal problems. I should hope, at least, that the people running the show have some good lawyers available to write prenuptial agreements that ensure there aren’t issues with property becoming jointly owned, etc etc. I’ve no idea whether or not they have done anything like that, truthfully; they may well have done, because otherwise they could end up with a lot of really unpleasant situations and they have to have foreseen the likelihood these marriages wouldn’t last.

Thirdly: while I know nothing about the contestants, it would not surprise me if the sort of people who were interested in a marriage under these circumstances ended up being abusive and/or controlling partners, by dint of choosing to be married under circumstances in which the person they are marrying cannot say no. This is creepy.

It occurs to me that most of the ethical issues with the show are strictly related to the marriage gimmick, rather than anything else; if it were just setting up blind dates based on whatever pseudoscientific criteria they’re using, I don’t think I’d really object. But I suspect it’s also the marriage aspect specifically that they’re counting on for shock value to get viewers interested, and that without it there wouldn’t be any show at all.

In any case, I think this is a terrible and deeply problematic idea, and I’m disappointed that Greg Epstein (and, by extension, humanism) is involved with it. Epstein’s avowed reasons for participating don’t seem wholly bad, and if we assume the show was going to exist irrespective of his participation I do think he’s probably one of the best choices they could have made for the role they’ve placed him in. I’ll grant that much. That said, I still think he should have thought better of it.

And unless the advice he’s going to give is “don’t fucking get married and go home”, I have doubts about how consistent with humanism it is.


[Edit by Loten: the more I read about this the more sceptical I become. There’s just so much wrong with the basic premise of this show that I’m starting to think it’s faked and is designed purely as some sort of warped entertainment. That’s not a huge improvement, of course, it’s still pushing the tired old “marriage is the only possible means of vindicating your existence” message, but still. Of course this idea is probably just wishful thinking, but I just can’t see how this is legal, aside from all the other issues.]


Posted by on July 9, 2014 in mitchell


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Public Service Announcement

Let’s discuss a hypothetical scenario. Party A and Party B are college students in a long-term, long-distance relationship (they attend different universities at a significant distance from each other; the distance is sufficient that visiting is inconvenient at best). Let’s also establish that when this relationship began, they knew it would be long-distance for the indeterminate future.

Let’s also establish that both parties are happy at their respective universities and wish to complete their educations where they currently are.

Which is the correct action for party B to take?

1) Accept the situation and learn to deal with being lonely sometimes

2) Accept the situation and leave the relationship

3) Accept the situation and start a conversation about renegotiating exclusivity

4) Constantly pressure party A to transfer universities and sacrifice their education, despite the fact they’ve made perfectly clear they’ve no desire to

Let me suggest that if you choose option 4 in this scenario, you’re a terrible person and shouldn’t have relationships with human beings.

Respect people’s choices, especially those of people you claim to love.

This has been a public service announcement.

In case it was not already blatantly obvious, this post was written in response to some real-life events involving persons known to me. In point of fact I wrote the above more than a week ago and was waiting to post it until I had more information, and the situation has changed since then; they have apparently come to some kind of reconciliation and are back together.

My original intent in writing this was to express support and sympathy for party A while validating her decision. And while I do think my point stands, far be it from me to audit her choices and tell her she made the wrong one now.

So this is what I’ll say: If he’s what you want and he makes you happy, so be it. That does not, however, mean I must refrain from calling out his bad behaviour; I mean it when I say this is not OK, and he had better have learnt his lesson from this and treat you better in future. You deserve to be treated with respect; everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

If you ever need somebody to talk to, you can call on me anytime; I’ll always be here.


Posted by on May 11, 2014 in mitchell


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