What If She Says “No”? – Male Entitlement and Modern Engagements

If a man proposes, and the woman says “no”, is the relationship over?

This was the basic question posed in an episode of talkshow/web series “Back Chat London”, (stylized as “BK Chat LDN” on their YouTube channel.) The question was discussed by a panel of 4 men and 5 women, and naturally branched a little farther out into the broader topic of engagement and the principles of marriage. You can find the full 30 minute video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKLC-QQdFfc&t=260s

If you aren’t up for listening to a heated half-hour discussion, (read: argument) then let me sum it up the way I heard it:

…………………………………………………..

Basically all the men: “you should be so lucky I propose to you. Obviously if I’m ready, so are you, because the man always knows best.”

Basically all the women: “um ok but what if I’m not ready? What if I want to wait a         couple years, or I feel I don’t know you well enough?”

Basically all the men: “WOW SO INCONSIDERATE. How could you embarrass me like     that? I might never recover. You are so selfish, we’re through.”

The women: “That actually sounds pretty egotistical. I think yo-“

The men: “STOP INTERRUPTING, NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU.”

…………………………………………………..

Of course, the discussion was a little more complex than that, and you might have heard something entirely different, but that was the vibe I was getting throughout. This post isn’t a play-by-play commentary on the video, though. It’s my own take on the question that was asked in the video, with some reference to the attitudes the panelists expressed.

Let’s get strait to the question:

If a man proposes, and she says “no”,

is the relationship over?

According to the men in the video, YES. According to the women, NO. Unsurprisingly, I personally side with the ladies. Let me explain why.

Breaking news: not every woman is chomping at the bit to get married at the first chance. That’s right, life isn’t a rom-com where all women want is a man to save them, and every woman is desperate and lonely and wants nothing else in life than to be loved. To be fair, not every man is anti-marriage and wants to be some kind of permanent bachelor, terrified of the ol’ ball-n-chain cramping his style. But those guys aren’t part of this scenario, because this is about men who propose and are turned down.

A woman might say no for a whole host of reasons. Maybe she never wants to be married, maybe it’s not the right time, and maybe he isn’t the right man. Maybe he COULD be the right one but she isn’t sure yet, and want to take it slow. Imagine that you are the woman being proposed to. If you have been dating for a couple years, and have known each other for even longer, you should probably know if he’s “the one” or not. But what if he proposes after dating for two months? Maybe HE’S sure and you’re not. Everyone is different, and has different goals and desires in life, so how can you be sure that your partner is ready at the same time you are?

Well, of course you could TALK ABOUT IT. Before going out and getting a ring and planning a cheese-ball romantic proposal and inviting all your friends and family, consider having a down-to-earth discussion about the future with your girlfriend. This is the clear choice for everyone, I feel, because not only will you be SURE when/if it’s a good time to propose, but you might uncover some unpleasant truths by having a few serious conversations. Would you rather have an uncomfortable sit-down about children, finances, sex, and domestic roles today, or find out over the next two years that your wife wants very different things than you? A short dating period could ultimately lead to a short marriage if you don’t put in the effort early on. You might find out down the road that your wife wants 8 kids when you wanted 1, or she wants separate bank accounts when you want to share, or she wants an open relationship when you want monogamy. Now you kind of wish you’d held off on that proposal.

The point is, you can’t continue on with a shallow relationship and expect to know that she’s the one and now’s the time. In the video, a man mentioned first that he would ‘know if she was ready,’ and another say that “it takes a man to show you that you’re ready,” and that at the time of the proposal, “you might not be ready, but if you love me, then I will MAKE you ready.” This was rather upsetting to the ladies, and to me as a viewer.

“It takes a man to show you that’s you’re ready.”

Boy, I don’t think I could come up with a more condescending or misogynistic line if I tried. Let me state for the record, that I am not a notoriously hard-core feminist, or anti-man. Just anti-idiot, and that was a seriously idiotic line. The channel “Live from Layfield” commented about this guy, “you must think you’re God, because only God calls the unqualified and makes them qualified when they get there.” GIRL PREACH. REALLY.

It might sound at this point that we’re drifting from the original question, but this attitude is relevant because it exemplifies that male attitude of entitlement. Both in this video and in daily life, many men cannot take “no” for an answer. This attitude is the same one that says any woman who won’t date you is a bitch, and if she dates you but won’t have sex then she’s a prude, and if she talks to another man she’s a slut, and so on and so on. I understand that it takes a certain amount of courage just to ask a girl out, so I can only imagine the emotional investment in proposing marriage. But too many men seem to believe that their side of the story is the only one worth telling, and there feelings are the only ones that matter. It doesn’t matter if the girl doesn’t like you, how could she not even give you a CHANCE? It doesn’t matter if she’s not ready for marriage, how could she say “no” when you went out such a limb?

Well here’s the deal, you have no right to a date, or a night, or a marriage, with the girl of your choice simply because you chose her. And a woman has no obligation to a date, or a night, or a marriage with a man simply because she wants it. Would this every fly in the opposite direction? Can a woman demand that a man marries her because she wants it, even if he isn’t ready? Of course not, people would say she was pushy and needy and obsessive. Family and friends would encourage the man to break up with her, and rightly so, because that woman doesn’t care about your emotions like she does her own, and isn’t the kind of person you want to spend your life with. So why do so many women feel the need to accept a proposal they don’t want?

This all plays into the original question of, “if she says ‘no’ is the relationship over” because the men in the video all said “yes” and the women said “no.” Let’s explore that.

The proposal isn’t really a question

The men seem to feel utterly betrayed if a woman turned down their proposal, and believed that there was no room for explanations, forgiveness, or hope of salvaging the relationship. The proposal was the be-all and end-all, and if they didn’t get the answer they wanted right away, then they would be victimized and never recover. The women felt that it was totally possible to say “no” because the time wasn’t right, but you could remain in a relationship and revisit the possibility of marriage at a later date. The men couldn’t comprehend that a woman wouldn’t be ready at the same time they were, and personally, I cannot comprehend what they are struggling with.

Let me be clear here that not everyone is like this. A few years ago I went to a girlfriend’s wedding. Her now-husband had proposed more than once over the course of their dating relationship, and she had turned him down more than once, because she was young and wanted to accomplish some personal goals first. She wanted to finish college, to start her career, to move out of her family’s home and try living solo, among other things. And she did all of that, was satisfied, and then they were married. The end.

I don’t know any woman who would disagree with her actions, and say that she the man should have left her after she first turned down his proposal. To a woman, that kind of commitment is admirable, and will ultimately make their marriage even stronger. On the other hand, MANY men would say that the guy in this story was weak, or foolish, or whatever else, and should have left her at the very beginning. Because hey, she said wasn’t ready then, so she won’t be ready ever, and even if she was, who would want to be with her after that pain and rejection? Well, a loving husband, apparently.

If there were mixed attitudes on the panel in the video, I might believe that this question was an issue of personal belief, but it seemed very clear-cut that it is an issue of sex, and the attitudes that go along with each side. I’m not trying to mock the men in the video, but they really believed that they would KNOW if their girlfriend was ready, and even if she wasn’t, when he was ready, he would MAKE her feel the same. If that’s the case, then the proposal isn’t about the two of them coming together and agreeing to a life together. It’s just about the man’s feelings be validated, and the woman blindly following along and doing what he wants, no matter what. The men aren’t even really asking a question. They’re not PROPOSING a life together, they’re just asserting their desires.

I don’t know really where this attitude of entitlement comes from, since it seems to be present in men across all social, economic, cultural, and religious boundaries. It isn’t glorified in media, or at least not in any media I have consumed in the last 20+ years. It isn’t glorified by women, clearly, so they didn’t learn it from their mothers. Is it their fathers? Is it their friends? Is it natural? How could a boy and girl in the same family, with the same DNA and upbringing, grow to have two polar opposite views like the ones in this video?

I’m baffled.

 

 

Photo by Stacy Kokes Photography, via bridalguide.com

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Michelle Carter and Encouraging Suicide

Today, I read a string of text messages between Conrad Roy, a teenager who committed suicide 3 years ago, and his then girlfriend Michelle Carter, who relentlessly encouraged him to do so. I haven’t bothered with saying “allegedly” or “supposedly” because the evidence seems quite clear, and Carter has already been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The story is picking up speed now, 3 years after the event, because Michelle Carter finally went to trial this week.

In quick summary, Roy expressed his desire to end his life several times in the months leading up to his death, and asked Carter more than once to join him in a double suicide, which she refused. That’s about where the good decisions end for Carter, however. There were a couple messages showing that Carter loosely suggested Roy seek treatment for his depression, and that was used in her defense, but even those messages were half-hearted and worded to provoke Roy more than anything else. In the days leading up to Roy’s death, Carter texted him specific instructions to kill himself, including details like how and where to do it, what lie to tell his family so he could leave the house, and repeatedly told him things like just do it already, and you can’t keep putting it off. When Roy did go through with the plan the two concocted, Carter initially played the victim, grieved with Roy’s family, and even put together a fundraiser in his honor.

Carter went to trial with a plea of not-guilty, and claimed to be under emotional distress from the anti-depression medication she was on at the time. She was also tried as a minor as the crime took place when she was 17 years old. Thankfully, Carter was found guilty of this heinous crime. The offense of involuntary manslaughter carries a sentencing of up to 20 years in prison, though her sentencing will not take place until August of this year, so we do not yet know what she faces.

Here are the three things I find most disturbing about this case:

  1. The obvious: Roy trusted Carter and loved her, and she pushed him directly into his own grave. It would be bad enough if she sat back and did nothing after he confided in her that he was contemplating suicide, but she took this as an opportunity to lead a troubled young man into his own murder.
  2. Carter had the audacity to play the victim after Roy’s death. She grieved with his family as if she was just as shocked as them. She set up a fundraiser in his honor, with the money going toward mental health and suicide awareness organizations. Had she done the right thing and contacted such an organization months before, Conrad Roy could still be alive today. How twisted must a person be, to make a boy kill himself, and then raise money for suicide prevention?
  3. Carter was tried as a minor, since she was 17 when the events transpired. Meanwhile, many juvenile offenders have been tried as adults in the past, with some being as young as 13, (you may recall the 2 girls in the 2015 “Slenderman” case in Wisconsin.) Carter just barely squeezed by as a minor in his case, so she certainly could have and should have been tried as an adult. Would anything really have changed over the next few months before she turned 18? Would she have magically matured into a sensible adult? No, because 3 years later she still clings to the lie of her innocence, so clearly age was not the issue.

The state of Massachusetts, where Carter’s trial is taking place, does not have a legal precedent for encouraging suicide like several other states do, so the crime at hand is involuntary manslaughter. I believe that encouraging suicide should be made a federal crime and equal sentencing suggested throughout the sates. With that in mind, I want to step away from this case for a moment and address the crime of encouraging suicide as a whole.

If you orchestrate a bank robbery, but don’t take part, you are an accomplice, and probably a criminal mastermind. If you give someone specific instructions on how/when/where to kidnap a child, but don’t physically take part, you are still guilty. This goes for basically every possible crime; you are an accomplice if you take part in the crime to any capacity, or even just fail to report that it is about to take place. Why, then, is encouraging suicide not universally understood to be a crime?

Well, one argument might be that you cannot be an accomplice if there is no crime taking place, which is technically true as suicide is no longer considered murder, but an issue of mental health. This is why suicide attempt survivors are taken to hospitals and receive treatment, rather than being placed in jail, as they have been in the past. I agree with this entirely; a person who is in such psychological distress that they try to end their life should receive help, not punishment. They are the victim, not the perpetrator. The same cannot be said, though, for the person who encourages them to kill themselves.

Encouraging suicide must be established as a crime of it’s own so that there is precedent for cases like this, because it will continue to happen in the future, and verdicts like Carter’s are simply not sufficient for the crime. She was tried for manslaughter, which by definition is the killing of another person without premeditation or malice. Both of those things seem to be present in Carter’s case, and most all occasions of encouraging suicide. Manslaughter in relation to another person’s suicide implies something closer to negligence; like maybe you thought someone was going to kill themselves and you ignored the warning signs. If Roy had told Carter about his desire to end his life, and she simply said “don’t talk to me about that,” or said nothing at all, that would be manslaughter by negligence, since she did nothing. But to actively encourage him? To help make the plan? To tell him the day, time, location, and how to get out of the house to go kill himself? Clearly premeditated. And how could helping someone plan their own death not be malicious?

Overall, a troubling case and a troubling crime, that happens much more than people think. All around the world, people go on about bullying and how it can lead to suicide, but the solution is to put on sock puppet shows and hand out pamphlets to middle schoolers. How about holding people responsible, and making it common knowledge that telling someone to kill themselves is a crime? When you hold anti-bullying assemblies, don’t just say it’s mean and will get you sent to detention; say it’s a crime and will get you sent to prison.

Here’s to hoping Roy receives justice for what was done to him, and so do the victims of other monsters who have encouraged suicide.

 

 

Photo from NBC Boston/Facebook

North Korean Cruelty and Personal Responsibility (Otto Warmbier Reaction)

Being such a heavy topic, this might seem like an odd choice to discuss as my first blog entry here, but it’s one of the biggest news stories right now, and I’ve already spent half the day reading all of my friends’ thoughts about it on social media.

Today it was reported that 22-year-old UVA student Otto Warmbier passed away from injuries sustained during his time in prison in North Korea. In a quick summary, Warmbier was arrested in January 2016 during a visit to Pyongyang for the theft of a propaganda banner from the hotel in which he was staying with a tour group. At trial, Warmbier was found guilty due to fingerprint evidence, CCTV footage, witness testimony, and a confession. The confession was highly suspect, and sounded like it was written by a DPRK official and forced upon Warmbier, as it contained an outlandish backstory, and defamed the US in grammatically unnatural wording. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, but after only a month sustained some kind of brain injury and was in a coma for over a year. In June 2017 it was negotiated for him to return to the US, but it was not known to American officials or Warmbier’s family until just before his release that he was in such poor health. Despite his doctors’ best efforts, Warmbier died only one week later, on June 19th.

And that brings us to today.

Let me first say that I have nothing but sympathy for Otto Warmbier’s family and friends, and sorrow for the death of Otto himself, as he was killed young and unjustly. I say “killed” although the root of the trauma that took his life is technically unknown. It is possible, sure, that he contracted an infection, or had a natural stroke, or any other uncontrollable reason. It’s possible, but not probable. I fully believe that Mr. Warmbier’s injury and death were caused by the torture and brutalization he almost certainly received from DPRK officials while in the labor camp. If the North Korean government purposefully starves and controls it’s own people, one can only imagine the savagery that goes on in prisons and labor camps there, especially for foreigners.

With all of that in mind, however, I have to say that Mr. Warmbier’s death was entirely avoidable. And I’m not referring to the obvious that the DPRK officials could have simply NOT beaten him, or imprisoned him at all. Actually, Warmbier himself could have prevented this whole situation at two different points. First, he could have NOT gone to North Korea at all. Second, once there, he could have followed all the rules closely, and safely left with the rest of his tour group.

“That’s victim blaming!!” Well, not really, it’s criminal blaming. Although stealing something as small as a poster is a very minor offense in the US, it is not so in the DPRK. It is not really up for debate if Warmbier did in fact steal the banner. As previously mentioned, there was CCTV footage, witness testimony, and fingerprint evidence to go along with his *likely coerced* confession. Personally, of course, I cannot verify the fingerprint evidence, and having watched the CCTV footage that was released, it is almost impossible to tell if it is Warmbier or not. In an American courtroom, the tape would probably be inadmissible since it is too difficult to make a positive i.d.

So assuming that the footage and fingerprints are legitimate, and Warmbier did in fact steal the banner, then in all honesty, he brought this fate upon himself. Regardless of America’s collective feelings about the injustice of the situation, Warmbier and everyone else on the tour knew going into it how serious the laws were, and were definitely briefed at length before the journey began about what to do and not to do. It would have come as no surprise that THEFT was a no-go in North Korea, since it is a no-go literally everywhere else in the world.

According to the department of state website, at least 16 other Americans have been detained in the last 10 years in North Korea for crimes against the state, for all kinds of things, like taking unauthorized photographs, shopping in unauthorized stores, speaking to the local people without authorization, exchanging currency with an unauthorized vender… you get the idea. Doing literally ANYTHING without specific government authorization will get you arrested and probably killed. There is absolutely zero wiggle-room as a foreign visitor. You are meant to walk in a strait line, keep your hands at your sides, and just admire the sites as you traverse the authorized path with the authorized tour guide. There is simply no way that a person going on a tour of the DPRK wouldn’t know this. Perhaps it came as a surprise to the very first offender. But after that, everyone would have been warned repeatedly about the dangers of stepping out of line.

Although I don’t personally believe that a person should be sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a poster, it was the result of an actual government trial, and on their soil, the North Korean government is able to do so.

“That’s insane! It has to be a crime against humanity, or a war crime, or something like that. It must go against some kind of treaty or UN law.” Well sure, it goes against all international law and basic human logic, but so does everything in North Korea. They are a rogue state with no regard for human rights or international code of conduct. They are not concerned about the UN, or the US, or treaties or precedent or diplomatic negotiations. North Korea exists completely outside of normal human life, and apart from dubious trade with China, basically has no diplomatic interaction with the rest of the world. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that they would issue such a harsh punishment for such a minimal offense, and have no fear of repercussions.

“Something still has to be done. America can’t just sit back and do nothing when another country kills one of its citizens.” Well, yes actually they can. Partially on the technicality that Mr. Warmbier didn’t die in North Korea, but on American soil, and partially because they have no jurisdiction or rights in the DPRK. We do not get to make and enforce the rules in other nations, even farcical dictatorships like that one. If an American citizen travels to any nation and commits a crime, they have no special rights as a foreigner, and will be punished for their crime like anyone else. That’s why Peter Fay was caned in Singapore in 1994 for vandalism, something that would never happen in the US. A Swiss nation who served 4 YEARS in prison in the UAE for drug charges, after poppy seeds from a bread roll were found on his person. To any foreigner with half a brain, that sounds insane, but it’s the law in the UAE and that Swiss traveler had to pay the price.

Even if the American government put that logic aside and decided to retaliate against North Korea, what would they do? That’s not retorical, leave a comment below, literally what do you think they should do? I asked this to a facebook friend earlier today who suggested that the US could not simply stand by and let this happen. They needed to DO SOMETHING. Anything! Just react, punish them! That seemed to be the general consensus as I read through a dozen or so reactions from friends on social media. Nobody knew what they wanted to be done, but they wanted it done immediately.

Well, the way I see it there are three things the American government could do.

  1. They could take a diplomatic approach. Bring it to the UN or some humanitarian organization. They could issue a formal statement of some kind, they could cry and complain on paper in any which way they wanted. But it wouldn’t make a difference. As already mentioned, North Korea has no regard for diplomacy and would brush off any effort like that, or, more likely, turn it into anti-American propaganda. It would just turn into a North Korean news broadcast about how disrespectful the US is, and how Americans think they’re above the law and can just come over here and commit crimes against the state without penalty. So, let’s say that diplomacy doesn’t work when you’re dealing with lunatics. That’s kind of like trying to give a donkey a stern talking-to after they’ve just kicked somebody. You know what they’re going to do in like, 5 minutes? Kick somebody else, and maybe you too out of spite. Furthermore,
  2. The US could take a more forceful approach. But any act of physical force would almost certainly result in absolute war. North Korea has always been one inch away from fighting the first person they see. Like they guy who provokes everyone he sees and says “swing first,” just waiting for somebody to actually do it so he can blow up on them. Now, I have total confidence that the American military could wipe out the capital city in a couple hours, and the whole country in probably a day and a half, but that’s not cool. In any case, swinging first is a bad idea.
  3. They could take the middle ground of issuing a written/verbal warning ABOUT taking force. That is, the president makes a statement that one more wrong move and the US will have to take action. From there, I’m not sure how North Korea would react. Probably with one of the two other reactions above, where they either brush it off as meaningless, or take it as the first punch and lash out anyway.

So, as far as I can see, there is no GOOD way for the US government to respond, there’s not even a “lesser of two evils” choice, they’re seriously all horrible. I  heard the suggestion today of responding by basically doing the same thing as North Korea did, and arresting one of their people on trumped-up charges to make a point. Of course, the only North Koreans who leave the country are high-ranking government officials, so it would really be a different situation than a college student, and we would have to search high and low for a crime to charge the guy with, or make something up all together. No offense to the person who came up with that idea, but it’s literally that worst thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t think of a pettier or more childish response, and there’s a 0% chance that it would have a positive impact. The DPRK government would either just go to war out of anger, or just disown the official being held, and pretend they didn’t know him. Don’t believe me? Remember earlier this year when Kim Jong Un’s own half-brother was murdered abroad and North Korea initially denied he was even theirs? Then it was discovered that of course he was North Korean, and that North Korea probably was behind the whole thing, and they denied that too? Yeah, I think it would go something like that.

I cannot think of a possible reaction that the American government could take that would end in either embarrassment or mass murder. I can, however, think fo a pretty easy way to stop this from every happening again.

FULL TRAVEL BAN.

There is already a severe travel warning issued by the state department about Americans entering North Korea. Um, they say you SHOULDN’T DO IT EVER. And that has basically been the stance of the US for as long as the Korean peninsula has been north-and-south. That would suggest to me that anyone who still choses to travel to North Korea is an absolute fool. There it is, no beating around the bush, if you have like 1% awareness of what North Korea does to its own people and to others, you know not to go there for any reason. And yet, people do it every year. Not only do people go there, but they go SUPER OUT OF THEIR WAY to get there. It’s not our neighbor, it’s not like a spur-of-the-moment trip. You have to find the official tour and register, apply for a visa, fly to South Korea, get on a bus, go through super intense border protection, etc. It’s a very deliberate choice, and a very foolish choice. Imagine knowing how dangerous sharks are, and then spending a year and thousands of dollars to go swim with the sharks somewhere anyway, then ignoring the guide’s instructions about staying in the cage, and like sticking your arm out and getting bitten. Would that come as a surprise to anyone? No, because everybody knows what sharks are and knows you should stick your arm out in front of them, because that’s insane, and they’re going to bite you. Would you say that that diver had it coming, then? I would.

TLDR; It’s sad that Otto Warmbier died, but not surprising, and I think the best reaction for the US to take is to issue a formal travel ban on it’s citizens from entering North Korea.

 

 

 

Photo from: https://www.wallpapersafari.com/north-korea-wallpaper/