Matchmaking is Pimping

Matchmaking is pimping.

That shouldn’t be shocking to know, but it probably is.

That even feminists did this for my benefit — I’m male and adult — isn’t shocking either, although it should be. It’s not shocking because feminists live in a largely nonfeminist world that demands that feminists and profeminists conform to masculism. They have nowhere to turn that is feminist and that integrates life’s fullness without masculism. These are probably best described as liberal feminists rather than as radical; liberal feminists are more likely than radical feminists to welcome compromising with masculism, even though both are stuck with compromising because men have overwhelming power (and both deserve support for feminist ideals). Feminist communities with varying degrees of purity and kinds of aspiration are likely surviving here and there; but they’re too small and, for modern purposes, too demanding to sustain themselves for long without dependence on masculists who in turn demand the conformity. So, all, or virtually all, feminists compromise. And, feminists normalize compromise, since normalizing tends to make life easier.

And, some feminists I’ve met presume I want some version of domination over women. Maybe they figure I’m nice and so I’m better than some alternative, but, regardless, they assume I want female sexual services because most men do.

They don’t ask. They didn’t.

Case File

For a Celebrity’s Praise

A social worker wrote feminist research. Her topic contributed to feminist thought and she was recognized for her contribution to feminist discourse. A paragraph reveals her antigay attitude of the time, which means she also objects to lesbianism (unless maybe in her mind lesbians don’t exist), objects to women having intimate relationships with each other that don’t depend on men. But I think I agreed with the rest of the book.

We meet in a committee. Over time, three women there apparently think I’m supposed to ask them for dates. The social worker was apparently opining that I’m great and therefore this would be natural. I had already mentioned that I don’t have sex with anyone (it came up somehow, I think about attitudes among men generally and I gave my qualification to offer the comment I made) and that it isn’t necessary but that men say it is.

I don’t go to a restaurant dinner with a party that includes one of the three plus a famous feminist. I don’t remember being invited but if I was I doubtless blew it off. I stayed in the office without a second thought. There are other tasks to do. I’ll find other tasks to do; I usually do. A few days later, the social worker phones me at the office and asks why I didn’t go, since the famous feminist would have paid for me. I don’t even touch the idea of the famous feminist paying for it, since paying for my dinner when I should and can pay my own way is sexist and I doubt she wouldn’t notice the amount of the bill. Whether she makes a lot of money is debatable. Men make more money than women do and should pay their own way without burdening women with their living costs. I don’t make much but that’s no justification and I don’t use it as such. I go to supermarkets. For the same dollars as a restaurant charges, you get two to three times the nutrition. It’s clear the social worker wants to know why I didn’t go to a group social event that would induce me to seek a date with her targeted woman. I ask the social worker if she’s been to a restaurant. She has. So have I. You know what it is. Why would you or I go again? At about that point, she hangs up without saying goodbye.

I guess the famous feminist was supposed to be an imprimatur that it’s okay for feminists to date.

The next time the committee convenes, some people are now unhappy at my arrival and, after that, most of them never come back for anything the committee does. It’s evident that they’re certain that I should have dated the woman they meant for me and I hadn’t fulfilled their notion. They don’t ask.

The woman herself never says anything on point. At a committee meeting, she passes to me a neatly cut-out newspaper article about pregnancy or babies or something like that; I read it but don’t see the relevance to the committee’s work; I pass the article to the next person without commenting; she looks mad but doesn’t say anything. She once said of lesbianism that she “wouldn’t know what to do”, but that’s most likely to be said by antilesbians. After she says it, I think of lending her a feminist newspaper article by a lesbian who is in a relationship with another when they don’t have much sexual intimacy, but I decide against lending it to her because I don’t think she meant her comment literally. Yet, I don’t have the impression that she thinks I should date her. Maybe she isn’t against it, but men have more power than women do and so her not being against it isn’t what matters. But she might think that I’m supposed to. In other words, life happens to her and is not much due to her decision-making, and she is not supposed to have much choice.

She was thinking of becoming a lawyer. That year happened to have a flood of law school applications because of a popular TV show, and so she becomes a social worker and marries a man. I assume she’s happy. We talk once years later by accident and it’s cheerful enough but she ends the call before getting to anything that might be sensitive. I see her on a subway years later but she probably doesn’t see me and eventually I write to her to say the social side shouldn’t have happened, she shouldn’t have been pushed into it, her choice should have mattered, and I think who was responsible for the bad decision-making. I don’t hear back.

I write to the famous feminist that she shouldn’t have been typecast to empower me. She doesn’t write back.

A Misunderstanding and a Missed Cue

The social worker who apparently was promoting me as a woman’s partner probably created an atmosphere that led two other women to have similar expectations about what I wanted. One, a lesbian with whom I had previously worked on something short, says something I’ve since forgotten, I react, and she takes that as proof that I dislike her. She is wrong about that. At least she dates another woman and stays for breakfast. But she never comes back to the committee. It’s like I’m poison.

The other, when we ride the subway together at the end of one night, demonstratively opened her pocket calendar booklet, and I guess she can write appointments in it. I don’t take the cue. Eventually, we pass each other on the street and she likely sees me but she doesn’t acknowledge me. Maybe I didn’t fulfill the role she had in mind for me. I’m not sure when, but she switched careers from teaching to psychotherapy.

The committee is not a million people. Three in one committee is so far superproportionate to the committee’s size, when the number in all other committees and noncommittees there even when combined is two, that there’s evidently a cause in common.

I write, years later, to the social worker who I believe is behind all three. I try to explain why what she did is harmful to women. No answer comes back.

She’s dead now.

The Boss

A feminist leader tries twice. I walk into one of her meetings with one woman and they’re discussing my social qualities. After a leadership meeting on lesbian issues, I’m told by a participant that I was “a major topic of discussion.” I’m not a lesbian. All three of them are. One supervises the other two. I don’t take cues to socialize with the other two. I’m cordial to all three. I’m glad for the work they do. I’m glad for their being lesbians. I ride the subway home with one a few times; we get off at separate stations; eventually she tells me she wants to have a baby; I don’t say anything and I walk away. I’ve encountered a version of this before, addressed to me, and I don’t know why it comes up. She never appears again when I’m there. I soon hear she’s married and that her husband demands she drop her premarital family name and she doesn’t want to. I don’t hear any more about her.

Did the lesbian in charge think I should have converted the two lesbians, converted at least one? Why?

Decades later, journalism reports on scandals of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, maybe one or two cases leading to long prison sentences and many cases leading to a renewed movement to end the harassment. I email the leader to say that maybe she now understands why I objected to the potential relationships. Years earlier, I had mailed her an article on male asexuality argued as feminist. I wrote the article and it was published in a feminist literary journal.

No answer to the email. No answer to the article.

Political Intrigue

I’m in a political campaign. I volunteer, but not because I think candidates like her are necessarily feminist. I just hope that, whatever their personal beliefs, they’ll vote in a feminist way on important issues, and without my asking. I want to volunteer, therefore I don’t want to lobby them and then, if successful, have their vote be a favor to me. If they win, I won’t be around to lobby them. They’ll have a load of résumés from people more qualified than me and I’ll go on to another campaign. (It turns out that’s not how candidates think, so some are mad at me and I’ve given up on helping campaigns, but that’s a separate matter.)

The candidate thinks I’m pretty good, especially as a volunteer. But I haven’t donated financially to the campaign. She probably thinks either that I’m good at what I do and therefore that someone is paying me well, so I can afford to donate, or that I’m not paid by someone else, and therefore I’m not much good at what I do and shouldn’t be wasting her campaign’s time as a volunteer. She likely changes her mind about which it is; but, at the moment, she likely is pretty sure that I have money and just haven’t given any.

(Those are non sequiturs. I have good skills but don’t make much money. I make enough to support myself and I’m rather ascetic, with little luxury. My time is worth far more than I can afford to donate, so I don’t give money. I don’t mind helping with fundraising; I eventually got published an article on it, Fundraising for 44¢; but am rarely asked to help with that.)

I walk into a meeting that includes the candidate and her lawyer, both women. They’re discussing someone’s sexuality, and there’s not the slightest mystery about whose they’re discussing: mine. The lawyer says she doesn’t think I’m “gay.” And then they quickly terminate that line of discussion.

A couple of campaign staffers, both of them women, are in a store. (I assume, from how various people relate and that they’re regularly present, that they’re staffers.) I’m in the store, too. We’re waiting, for some reason. One is extolling my social virtues to the other and asks me what movie I saw last. I hesitate because this sounds social and shouldn’t matter, but then I tell them, “Moscow on the Hudson”. I doubt they recognize it; it’s already a bunch of years old and wasn’t a classic; and I saw it on a Betamax, so it’s even older. The one who’s hearing about this is 20 years old. I know this because she was previously chewed out by an older male professor who was yelling at her for being 19 — not for doing or not doing something when she’s only 19 but merely for being 19 — and she corrected him to “20” and he didn’t skip a beat to be angry at her for being 20. (I hadn’t said anything since she was in college and maybe he was one of her professors. I found out later that he teaches somewhere else.) I’m over 50.

My reason for not dating her is not the age difference, but that alone should have caught the candidate’s or staff’s attention. I don’t look 20. I don’t talk like I’m 20. Or 25 or whatever age is considered socially acceptable for dating a 20-year-old who can meet plenty of people her own age if she’s so inclined.

Before the staffer boosted my social reputation, this 20-year-old avoided me. That was reasonable and I thought so at the time. Twenty-somethings get preyed upon by older men. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo became one of those predators, although he does that later and, as an example, he’s only retrospective. I’m already aware that the problem burdens women and I don’t intend to be part of the problem for any women. We have a campaign and a candidate we both support and we can both find ways to work on that and we can be cordial without being more social. And that we do.

But now one staffer has been praising how nice I am, basically. Election night comes. I get to the office and the one commending my qualities sends me to a certain poll site and tells me the other woman will be there, waiting for me. We have to be there by the poll site’s closing time so we can stay past closing and copy the vote totals. For our campaign, it’s likely an important poll site. I get there and she enthusiastically waves at me. Soon it’s time to copy vote totals, but copying numbers is not exactly difficult, not for me and not for a college student. Why do we both have to be there? Why wasn’t I sent somewhere else so the two of us could have covered two poll sites? There must have been an important one that we didn’t have enough people to cover. They all close at the same time, so if we’re both at the same place at closing time we can’t cover another one. We get the numbers and walk outside, talking a little about my interest in hiking through the woods or mountains, and we’re going toward a restaurant. She goes in somewhere and I don’t. I don’t even say bye.

We’re in the office another time. I’m cordial. She’s friendly and says she “jetting out of here.” I haven’t heard the verb used in that kind of context before. I guess it’s hip and I guess that’s how (some) college 20-somethings talk. I’m stereotyping her as being not like me, although I don’t say that.

Another day, in the office, at maybe 20 feet away, she tells me she’s “trying to figure out my interests.” I say, “I’m a cheapskate.” She holds her hands up in front of her face and has a look as if I had just sneezed in her face without covering my mouth a foot away. We never talk again. We don’t even greet each other anymore.

I get the picture. The campaign management, probably including the candidate, expected me to ask her for a date and they had arranged that, of course, she’d agree. She’d get me to spend money on her. Lots. She’d give me a nice time. Then, when I come back to the campaign, they’d remind me that the campaign facilitated my having a nice time and ask me to donate financially to the campaign.

That’s prostitution, to me.

Wants Me to be Happy

A different candidate may have wanted me to date one of her staffers. I remember her comment about being uncomfortable around, I forgot which, gays or lesbians. I support her candidacy because I don’t much care about her personal feelings as long as she’ll vote the right way when it matters, and later I think that’s been vindicated.

During the campaign, the staff woman in question, who does fundraising, and I have a few nice conversations, all of them light. She seemed disappointed that when I went out once to get something to eat I came back with a bagel, maybe because it wasn’t big or fancy, but mostly we’re okay. I suspect the staff wants us to date, which tells me it’s not her choice, it’s out of her hands. I’m not asking anyone out anyway, and I’m not asking out anyone the staff she works with thinks she shouldn’t be making a choice about.

I run into her. She’s working elsewhere, fundraising for a nonprofit, one with a lesbian focus. She gives me her business card and I offer to send her an article I wrote and got published on fundraising, but I don’t think she wants it and I don’t get in touch.

Later, I think years later, I run into the candidate. She reminds me about the former staff woman. The candidate’s already in office; the campaign is over and after we talk I think the candidate was herself pushing the woman to be my date during the campaign. She never said that but it explains her update out of the blue about the woman. Her motive was probably that relationships make people happy and I just don’t realize how to be happy. She in her marriage is likely happy herself and I should be happy, too. I don’t see things that way but she resists having conversations with unpredictable directions contrary to her social work training and expectations, so she doesn’t find out.

She invites me to look at her website. I write her a letter with a critique of the website (maybe she wanted only praise but then I’d think I was omitting something she’d need to know and the website has problems, albeit I think not critical ones) but I open the letter with a page on why trying to create the personal relationship was a bad idea.

I don’t hear back from her or on her behalf. Her newsletters keep coming and I write to her office to be taken off the mailing list (I’m on it twice) because, I tell them, it’s too painful but I wish her well. They stop mailing me the newsletters.

I write to the former staff woman who’s moved on. I wish she hadn’t been put through this. She doesn’t answer.

Absent Communication

Am I exaggerating? Isn’t it just a relationship, like, literally, billions of others? Wouldn’t communicating solve my problem? Person-to-person?

I’ve heard that men and women now communicate about sex and relationships. It’s refreshing. Except we don’t much.

Romanticism is for the exceptional relationship. That relationship also takes a lot of work. Therefore, it’s for the nearly perfect partner. With that, the partner’s qualities are, by definition, wonderful and predictable. Therefore, there’s no need to talk about them with each other. Talking a little is enough as a proxy for what’s unsaid. Having to say more means something’s wrong. Meanwhile, when the relationship or the potential falls apart, the partner promptly loses credibility. Therefore, communication fails and need not be tried. It’ll be a waste.

The lack of communication is no problem when there’s no personal relationship being started. It’s when one person starts one, or tries to, that the lack is a problem. At times, someone wants more than I’m willing to even try to provide. I’m likely to disappoint. Once I think the hurt will be inevitable, I figure less is better than more and earlier is better than later. That works, but I think neither of us learns much.

What a Man Wants

Being a man, I’m given permission to jump to the conclusion that women being proximate are therefore interested in dating me and I’d have enjoyed the time with them. That’s mainly man-to-man permission that women have internalized as right and as a measure of desire (don’t ask, just tell), but I don’t want vacuous consent.

They go for years presuming I want this benefit. They don’t ask me, and I’m a man. Women have less power than men do. If masculists don’t recognize this, feminists do. That’s a core message of feminism and why feminism critiques society. Therefore, most masculists don’t ask women. In the instances above, I don’t think anyone asked any of the women for their permission. If I have sexual intercourse on the premise that I’m a great guy and they can’t say no to me, even if someone else with power over her set that premise up, that’s rape. I don’t have to pin her arms behind her back; it’s still rape.

Harming Feminism

The harm is more than to the woman. It is to the work being done by the larger organization or movement in which we’re all participating. If we don’t care about that, why are we there? If it’s mainly self-interest, sexual harassment and assault are still off the table. And, in nonprofits and political campaigns, especially when we’re volunteering, it may not be due mainly to self-interest, even if other people there think there’s no legitimate reason for helping out except self-interest. If the focus is on the work of the organization or something larger, there isn’t time for socializing except to benefit the work. An hour spent socializing is an hour not spent working. Directing the staff to socialize is directing the staff away from working. It’s common; it’s still wasteful or wrong.

Those are harmful to the work.

Hearing Only What They Want to Pretend to Hear

Telling matchmakers that matchmaking is wrong often backfires. Even if we avoid calling it pimping as being too inflammatory and offputting, they tend to be sure matchmaking is what we need and want.

Telling other people might educate; or it might merely be preaching to the choir. Telling the matchmakers themselves seems to be futile, at best.

Matchmakers probably interpret a man’s objection as not literally meant but representing a bugle call for a nicer girlfriend, even if, in the matchmaker’s mind, the man just doesn’t know it consciously. The matchmaker knows a lady the man should meet. I may have no way to convince a matchmaker that I don’t want any girlfriend. One feminist told me, “[y]ou have to be gay or straight.” No, you don’t; but she wasn’t going to learn that. She tried to project a personal relationship where there wasn’t one and tried to encourage me into one, unasked.

I’ve had serious conversations with a few people trained in psychology whose clinical approach is that they know what you mean because their professional training gives them insights and your disagreement with that is simply ignorant denial that’s a cry for help (a favorite self-serving phrase in the industry). You can look at the framed degrees on their walls and you’re supposed to accept that as proof of your abject inferiority and virtual incapacity to know yourself except to agree with the degree-holder.

But the profession may not matter. Most adults think everyone has to be coupled, because that’s how you have children without burdening other people into caregiving and of course we want more people, don’t we? Eight billion of us isn’t enough, is it? Projections just a few decades into the future are already for far more people. You’re not sure you want to practice fruitful multiplication? Are you inhumane? Rabbits do it; do you have mechanical difficulty? The political debate is between more births even as mandatory and choice; it is not for fewer births, because that prospect scares many people, as if human extinction through a subreplacement birth rate is around the corner. Matchmaking is just a means to an end, maybe someone else’s goal.

Of course, matchmaking doesn’t have to entail sexual intercourse. But matchmaking is promoted to remedy singleness and therefore a failure of responsible reproduction. So it’s pimping in the service of baby production. Symbolic sex, sex for fun, is a temporary alternative that can produce a baby or a flock of babies anyway. So, pimping for fun is good enough. Men can forcefully impregnate without the burden of becoming pregnant, so pimping for a man’s fun is good enough for the purpose of populating the planet some more.

Choice is better for all of us, even though that’s contrary to the norms. Why is it contrary? Could it be that men fundamentally distrust women to comply? Yes; we see that in political debates about whether to allow termination of pregnancy due to rape.

That feminists largely absorb masculist values as legitimate other than for the feminism on which they concentrate their limited power is what leads some feminists, along with masculists, to promote coupling and sexual intercourse without choice, and to take objections as misunderstandings of self.

That makes even talking in support of one’s objections counterproductive. And it’s counterproductive not only for the one talking but for women who then may be forced into coupling. It’s counterproductive if the matchmaker believes that the objection is really a call for the matchmaker’s services that otherwise wouldn’t have been delivered.

Yes, it’s natural; the whole reproductive process is natural; sexual intercourse is natural; but so is rape and so is choice. If what is natural is only what is not chosen, and rape is a choice by a rapist, choice is legitimate and practiced throughout society on many matters. We’re all better off for it.

So, for the male subject to someone else’s pimping service, so-called matchmaking, strategic silence about it combined with strategic raising of the issue, choosing venues where misinterpretation is less likely, may be the most helpful course.

Masculists Still on the Hook

This sort of thing happens in masculist and other nonfeminist settings. Whether it’s worse when it happens in feminist settings is debatable. It betrays feminist expectations, but in masculist settings it betrays gentlemanly expectations appropriate to what are called family values, so the disappointment may be qualitatively the same.

Nailing It

We’re outnumbered and cornered. Dealing with this is adding another muddy puddle to what women already deal with. It does not add a new way to cope. So, it stretches resources even thinner than they are now.

Women get sexually harassed. Probably still only a minority of them complain where they can be heard. The men who do it largely only have to bend with the reputational pressure. They won’t be punished. There won’t be much deterrence of any other men. The women who complain likely will be punished, because they have to leave or their careers are sidelined. This is my impression. I understand that U.S. courts have narrowed what they will accept as legally remediable for hostile environment workplace cases, which are most of the workplace cases, a stated quid pro quo being unusual. I understand that many employers now require that cases about what happens at work, such as sexual harassment, be secretly arbitrated, with the outcomes more likely to favor employers.

Men are winning. Again.

But giving up mostly just delays when women can win. It affords privacy; but maybe it’s unwanted privacy, more like a gag across the mouth.

Legal solutions need to be strengthened.

And education needs to include matchmaking. It is pimping. We should smear its reputation.

We should let women have the choice they already have. Men should be forced to stop interfering with women’s choice. Once men are boxed in, there’s much less likelihood that some women will act as men’s agents to deny other women’s right of choice.