I wonder how my one-year-old son Wesley will think about the love and romance when he comes of age.
Six months ago, I probably would have had a bleaker outlook. I married my wife Kristen before the Tinder dating app had launched, but in speaking with friends, it seems that online dating apps have turned modern romance into a transactional marketplace where the idea of courting gets reduced to a series of texts, the occasional unwanted “dick pic” and success measured by one-night-stands and hookups. (That said, I know plenty of people who have formed long-term, healthy relationships with apps like Tinder too).
Dating apps are just one thing — the widespread availability of porn on the internet, coupled with music and media’s own confusing messaging on love and the persistence of alpha-male/bro-culture has me, at times, pessimistic that my son and his contemporaries will be able to form a positive and healthy understanding of love and romance.
There is, however, one bright spot that makes me hopeful — the #MeToo Movement. Yes there are people that say #MeToo has made seduction illegal and created dangerous pitfalls in the way men and women interact, but I don’t buy that.
To me, the #MeToo movement has the potential to return a modicum of boundaries and self-awareness to modern romance that’s currently lacking. The #MeToo movement is about many things — most importantly supporting women who speak out against harassment and sexual assault — but it’s also about reiterating a list of unacceptable behaviors that I don’t want my son to think are ok.
Our ideas of love and even sex should not include forcing yourself on someone else, grabbing them by the genitals, making inappropriate comments or using a position of power as an opening for sex. Romance is by no means dead, but it increasingly seems like men are told that just about any behavior justifies sexual conquest, and if that means getting wasted, aggressive and detached, that’s ok too.
I don’t want my son to grow up thinking it’s ok to ask strangers to send him nude photos or that pushing someone up against a wall and sticking his tongue down their throat is acceptable behavior. The #MeToo movement has delineated these predatory actions as bad, and while some people are tiring of the steady stream of allegations, I think it’s going to take constant reinforcement of values and norms to really change people’s behavior.
Besides, I’d like to see a little more romance in the world and encourage people to use their intellect, and appearance and charm to win someone else over. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a romantic interest, flirting with a stranger or, in the right setting, telling someone they look beautiful. I want to tell my son that having a crush, enjoying a romantic fling or better yet, falling in love, are all great experiences and will help him develop as a balanced male adult. I plan to talk with him early and often about love and romance and even sex, and I want to instill in him the righteous path toward romance. I plan to tell him about how me and his mom met in college, reunited years later and fell in love and got married.
And I’m going to tell him how he can’t behave and that’s it’s never been ok to cross someone’s boundaries and force yourself on another person. It’s not only wrong, illegal and predatory, it’s not enjoyable for both parties. The #MeToo movement has many different implications and consequences, but it has never been about eliminating how a man pursues a woman. By eliminating bad behavior, actual romance has a fighting chance in today’s society and that has the potential to be a very beautiful thing.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Here’s to you and yours.