A young man can’t take the first step toward long-term love, getting a date, because he can’t separate sexual attraction from objectification.
Editor’s note: This essay does not appear to be about marriage, but only at first glance. Curt Moyer’s introspection here is essentially about his desire for lasting long-term love, of the initial, often confusing spark. It is an example of the Marriage section’s openness toward the stages of long-term romance, not merely the toil or celebration of the time we find ourselves married (or divorced). We encourage more submissions of this variety.
I was raised by a single-mother. She raised me to not objectify women. I remember countless times watching television or films she’d note that a blonde character with large breasts was an “unrealistic portrayal of women”. She was attempting to illustrate how women can be beautiful and not conform to societal notions of what is beautiful.
But one thing my mother also taught me was the importance of not making a decision just because you need a partner in life. For a long time she dated men who had questionable morals, generally “bad boy” types. She was struggling as a single parent, and she wanted a supportive family structure to raise me. These elements lead to a lot of bad decisions and helped reinforce my current values and convictions.
I made plenty of questionable, impulsive decisions myself. From my teenage years into college, I drank alcohol, did inhalants, drank Robitussin, took hallucinogens, and smoked weed. I hated myself and believed I wasn’t worthy of a relationship. I didn’t even lose my virginity until college. For the longest time I wondered: What is wrong with me?
I quit doing all drugs—except alcohol—when I was twenty because I had developed panic disorder and crippling depression. I have worked on these problems, first with therapy and medicine, and then on my own. I am much better than I used to be, but I am still far from well-adjusted.
The problem of What is wrong with me? still lingers. I realize the truth: there isn’t anything horribly wrong with me at all. Even if there were, there is also something wrong with the world. And while this might seem like a cop-out, it isn’t—not completely.
The way we negotiate relationships, particularly sexual ones, is troubling to me. I am rather average-looking, a far cry from Casanova, but I haven’t had sex in five years and haven’t been in a relationship in six. Am I asexual? Doubtful. My peers see this as weird or strange, and I would argue it certainly isn’t “normal” behavior. I have my justifications.
For example, I cannot hit on a girl without feeling sleazy. Conscious of feminism, I know females get hit on quite a bit; it has to be quite annoying to walk around with the constant, unwanted anticipation of being hit on. More importantly, I feel I cannot hit on a girl because I must objectify her, if even in a minute degree. And I certainly don’t want to send the wrong signal. Being a guy, particularly one so impassioned, I constantly get misread as only wanting sex. And this is simply not true. I’ve made a conscious choice, a moral decision, to not use people for their sex organs, and to value a woman as a person before I even think about sex. Yet somehow, people are moving in and out of relationships all around me while I stay put.
This is what I am referring to when I say there is something wrong with the world. There seems to be no point of moral conflict for a ‘normal’ person; people hook up and go about their business like nothing happened, all the time. But I am an “all or nothing” guy, with a desire to have sex mean something. I’ve had one-night stands and I find them completely taxing for multiple reasons: I’m not into the act itself because I have no emotional connection with the female (and the sex suffers for both parties); I don’t like having an ethical crisis after we go our separate ways; and I am very conscious of the risk of contracting an STI.
See, for me, it doesn’t matter if there is a mutuality between the two parties. We are people not robots. We have emotional responses even if we try to divorce ourselves from them.
The way courting and pursuing sexual relationships is set up is disheartening. I’ve heard it described as constantly “trying people out” until you stumble upon the right one. This seems too morally reprehensible. People should not be treated as doormats to sexual goals, but as people (this is basic Kantian “means to an end” ethics).
And so am I supposed to be single the rest of my life because of a moral conundrum? The attitude I currently have is preventing my getting a date or having a sexual relationship with a woman. Am I to change my attitude? Then how do I reconcile my morality? Through mutuality? Do I just turn it off? Is there something I’m missing? What, finally, is wrong with me?
Photo by yinghai