We’ve all heard it before. Lauren Poole argues that it’s time to bottle this one up.
As a 20 year old, I was happily riding in the car, halfway listening to my mother chatter about boys, when she suddenly saw an opportunity to teach me a life lesson in sexual morality, the key to my romantic happiness, and spat out this quote, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
The look on her face was as if she had just won a presidential debate by the power of her inarguable point.
Of course, I was completely stunned by her appalling belief in this archaic ideology to the point where I couldn’t even reply. My mother was essentially saying that a man would never want to marry me if I had sex with him or cohabited with him before marriage.
She was calling me a cow! How could I be related to her?
Did she even understand the definition of gender stereotyping, much less modern dating? Did she know her daughter at all?
I knew in my gut this was wrong. For weeks, I wrestled with how to articulate why. Fully confident in her ability to persuade me, it wasn’t long before she pounced on the opportunity to repeat this quote to me yet again, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” she stated smugly, even more sure of herself than the first time. Now, however, I had a prepared response.
“Mom,” I started, with a sassy determination to state my case. “First of all, I would never want to marry a man whose only goal in marrying me was to get ‘free milk!’ Second of all, I want to marry a man who wants to marry me because he wants to marry me. Because he wants to be with me for the rest of his life. Because he loves me. Not because he couldn’t get sex from me any other way. I would never marry a man like that, who could even think that way.”
I congratulated myself for my momentary victory inside my brain. But what really depressed me was the fact that my own mother viewed men as something for me to protect myself against. That, somehow, there was this game where men were trying to trick me into sex and I should win the game by tricking them into marrying me first. Never mind the fact that I might like sex, too, and that men might like marriage.
My own mother actually feared that the tragic fate of becoming an old maid would become my destiny if I didn’t play my cards just right. The worst part is that she sincerely believed this concept and truly wanted the best for me.
Thanks, Mom, for thinking a man wouldn’t want to marry me for me. Plain and simple, am I not enough? Do I actually need to withhold such an intimate expression and force his hand into marriage? Do I need to dangle my vagina like the proverbial carrot on a string? Well, I can answer that. No. I most certainly do not.
What really sucks for men is that many women actually believe their mothers and grow up as young girls being taught that they must “guard their hearts.” It translates more like a warning than a lesson. We are left with a society of women who are defensive and closed, which is hard enough to overcome for an Aquarian like myself.
Women learn to be afraid of men, and that the worst possible destiny is to remain unmarried. Men must constantly prove themselves to earn our love and trust, and the greatest proof of all is by “putting a ring on it.”
This hurtful ideology imposes an incredible stress on men and women alike. Women equate their own self-worth by their marital status, often pressuring themselves into committing too soon rather than taking the time to discover their most fulfilled self and allowing themselves freedom to uncover precisely what that entails.
And really, it isn’t entirely personal at all. My mother is a byproduct of gender conditioning across the globe. Women have been inferior to men in every culture, in every era. My disappointment is that she can’t think beyond it and deconstruct the paradigm that insults men and women in such an unnatural way.
I am pleased to know a generation of women who are smart, strong, brilliant, educated and successful members of society. I am equally pleased to know a culture of men who are intellectual, compassionate, articulate, and sensitive.
We are all humans.
Men and women are so much more alike than society would ever want us to know. The concept that a man won’t marry a woman unless she withholds something valuable from him, primarily sex, completely degrades the character of men and paints this picture of masculinity as a heartless creature having no other organ than a penis. It wrongly suggests that an aroused man is incapable of intimacy, emotion, or tenderness, which many people know to be untrue from experience. It falsely renders male sexuality as threatening rather than something to be celebrated.
This problem in our society goes both ways. Unfortunately, there are many men who also listen too carefully to their mothers (and fathers) and believe all this cow and milk bullshit. They grow up as boys, being taught that they shouldn’t respect a woman who doesn’t make them “work for it.”
Thus, the vicious cycle continues.
Women who have no hang-ups about their own pleasure and who unapologetically enjoy male sexuality are often punished for it by being rejected, or even worse, labeled. In this scenario, men are ironically dismissing women based on a superficial notion. They could be missing out on a fantastic love and selling themselves short all because the woman didn’t feel sexually repressed and did not perceive him as a threat, rather, as a human with a heartbeat.
On the other hand, how can women expect men to respect them and treat them as equals when women belittle themselves most of all?
Women undermine their sisters, daughters, and friends by equating their own self-worth by the measure of a man’s commitment. Singlehood is not okay. Their mothers panic over it, leaving their daughters with an incredible pressure to get married ASAP and thus leaving men all the more weary of commitment, because it’s not authentic.
Now as a 28 year old, I feel guilty about the stretching disconnect between myself and my mother, who wants to connect so desperately. Yet, while on the phone two days ago, she once again found a way to interrupt me and warn me against moving in with my boyfriend. Mind you, my boyfriend and I have never even discussed this topic and have yet to consider the possibility. So why did my mother feel inclined to bring it up?
As irritated as I was in the moment, it really just makes me sad. As far as society has progressed since the Feminist movement, and as much as we preach Postfeminism, the epic challenge is actualizing these beliefs by recognizing the near unrecognizable verbalizations, such as gaslighting, that leave an enormous impression on our psyche.
Small comments that we easily dismiss in casual conversation can reveal enormous insight into our societal preconditioning, in men and women alike.
Awareness is our most powerful medicine.
Let’s allow our behavior and our words to lovingly educate our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers across the world. Deconstructing these paradigms and opening dialogues that allow our brains to evolve will certainly pave our most optimistic path in healing a society sore from the absorption of this “cow and milk” mentality.
So from here and onward, it’s free milk for everyone.
Photo: MarcoPapale /Flickr