Monthly Archives: February 2014

Savage Love Re-Answer: My Wife Got Fat!

This question was originally answered by Dan Savage on November 22, 2007. It’s not particularly special as questions go, Dan Savage always answers questions like this the same: tell your partner to lose weight because you think they are ugly. What a load of crap. Content note for fat-shaming, cancer and surgery. Also, there may be some cussing.

Question: I love my wife. We’ve been married 10 years. Young punk-rock love turned into adult debt-ridden love. She’s been there for me, helps me achieve my goals, all that. But she’s let herself go, while I’ve gotten myself into better shape.

I pride myself on being a good husband. I’ve been 100 percent faithful, I clean, I tell her I love her. I don’t want to hurt her. I love her. I just don’t lust for her anymore. My wife’s skin is a mess, she has dietary issues that cause gnarly gas, she eats bad food that causes her to gain weight. I always thought I was against the society-imposed, magazine-model, porn-star look girls are supposed to have. So it’s hard for me to admit that I’m not cool enough to think my wife is hot the way she is.

I’ve started stoning to dull the fact that I’m hating on myself for not being hot for my wife. She’s picking up on all of this, which is affecting her mood, self-esteem, and energy levels. And since she tends to eat more when things aren’t going well for us, this is creating a hugely negative feedback loop on the weight-and-lust fronts.

When almost any girl you see is hotter to you than your wife… what the fuck do you do? When the desire to be with someone who actually turns you on is overwhelming… what the fuck do you do? When people you find attractive, women and men, hit on you all the time… what the fuck do you do?

Hawt And Royally Depressed

HARD, you knew what Dan was going to say when you wrote him, didn’t you? You knew that he would validate your disinterest in your wife, didn’t you?
You’re both assholes.

You claim to love your wife, and you claim to be a good husband. And yet, you say terrible things about your wife and expect her to change for you so you can get laid. That’s not a good husband, and that’s not love.

I mean, do you really expect her not to fart? Or to somehow be able to change the smell of her gas to make her more attractive to you? That’s incredible, and completely unrealistic.

What’s also unrealistic? Expecting your partner’s body to never change in the course of your relationship. Every one of us goes through physical changes in our life, many having nothing to do with our level of fitness or what we eat. Most of them are about getting old, which is better than the alternative.

Or, maybe we change because of illness.  If your wife suddenly became ill with breast cancer, and she lost her hair from chemo and had mastectomy, would she be unattractive to you then, and would you feel comfortable making demands on her about her appearance? If the answer is yes, you are a shallow dipshit.

I don’t want to imply that being physically attracted to our partners doesn’t matter, I know that it does for most folks. But, we don’t fall in love with a body. We fall in love with a person.

Dan Savage gives the same advice to questions like this over and over: tell your partner you aren’t attracted to her/him anymore because s/he is fat now, and unless they lose weight, the sexytimes are over for good, and maybe the relationship too. He focuses on the weight gain as the problem, rather than the inability of the partner to continue to find her/his partner attractive, which is likely as the result of diminished connection. He tries to cushion his fat hate by saying things like, “Of course fat people deserve love and sex, but that doesn’t mean we’re all required to be attracted to them!” Which, ostensibly, is true. We’re not required to be attracted to anyone, but when we’re talking long term relationships, advice like “Don’t ever let your body be different from the day you fell in love” is ridiculous.

That’s just shitty advice, and Dan Savage is also a shallow dipshit.

The problem is not your wife’s, HARD, it’s yours. Lots, and I mean lots, of relationships lose the sexual spark as time passes. And that’s true even if everyone stays at the same weight, shape and size as the day they met.It happens for a lot of reasons, some of them natural and some of them situational. Some of them can be worked out, and some of them can’t. Most of the time though, it has more to do with the connection the people feel toward each other rather than physical changes. Do you feel connected to your wife? Does she feel connected to you?

You are looking for excuses, and it just so happens your wife has gained weight and farts sometimes. Give yourself a break, but more importantly, give your wife a break. It’s good that you love her. Love her enough to evaluate what you’re bringing to the table in your relationship. Love her enough to understand that she is more than her body, but that her body is beautiful just as it is. Maybe you aren’t putting yourself out there in a way that’s attractive to her, pal. Maybe you need to put the toilet seat down, pick up your own dirty socks and stop wearing tightie whities. Show her some respect, and let her know you love her.

Work on feeling connected. Earlier this week, at work, we did the an exercise to establish connection with each other. It takes about 30 minutes, and is fairly intense.  Start out by sitting across from each other, and with eyes closed, focus on breathing. Eventually, you’ll work into having steady eye contact and  visualizing your partner’s life-beginning to end. Visualize her struggles, her triumphs, her birth, her childhood, her adolescence, falling in love with you, being with you, growing older, changing, dying. All of it. Ask her to do the same with your life. Then talk about how it felt, and be honest. The whole exercise can be found here, and if you can, ask someone to guide you by reading it as you go through it together.

Cardinal Rule: Don’t be a shallow dipshit, and work on being connected to your partner. If you aren’t feeling attracted to your wife, maybe it’s you that needs to do some work. Love is a verb, after all.

 

Gaslighting, Rape Culture and Consent

Content note for sexual assault.
Question: I think I might have been raped 10 years ago. I had a good first date w/the guy and on the second when we were kissing, he got handsy. Before the third, I told him the limits of how far I wanted to go (and before I practiced what I was going to say so many times) and he agreed. Half an hour later, he starts doing the things I said I wasn’t ready to do. I kinda froze and became compliant. I partly wanted to just get it over with since it was obvious he wanted it so much. Also, I thought that since I’d gained a lot of weight since the last time I had a boyfriend, I wasn’t going to do any better. I wasn’t scared or threatened, I just felt like I couldn’t say no.
 
That’s what makes me so unsure, because many years ago when I was 10, my cousin tried to rape me and I fought back and got away. Of course, he was obviously violent in his attempt. But with this other guy I wasn’t frightened so I don’t get why I didn’t just tell him to stop. I’ve thought about this before though I used the terms that he pressured me into sex. But the more I’ve read about consent, the more I wonder if there are stronger words to describe it. The thing is, I don’t really know what he would’ve done if I said no. He might have stopped completely. So I blame myself. I don’t know what to think. On one hand, there were times I could’ve said no and asked him to take me home, but on the other, I felt like I just couldn’t say no. I don’t think I have PTSD from it, per se (I did after the rape attempt when I was 10) but my depression did get dramatically worse right after. But then he dumped me soon after and I was begging him to take my back so maybe I’m doing the scorned woman thing. All I know is that I haven’t dated since then and the idea of me having sex really grosses me out. It’s like I’m tainted everywhere he touched me. I guess I’m just asking would this qualify as rape or what? Sorry for rambling.
Was Not or Was?
Hey, pal. That sounds awful, and you bring up one of the Cardinal Rules of Upholding the Rape Culture: convince victims to not believe themselves.
I want to bring your attention to a few of the things you said:
…he starts doing the things I said I wasn’t ready to do. I kinda froze and became compliant. I partly wanted to just get it over with since it was obvious he wanted it so much.
and
I just felt like I couldn’t say no
and
I blame myself.
and
I could’ve said no.
In the first two, it’s very, very clear that your consent was violated. Rapists don’t always use force or violence or threats. Sometimes they just don’t listen to the words of the person they are hurting. Sometimes they nod and smile, but do what they want anyway. Sometimes they are so insidiously coercive, it takes years to sort out what happened.
You were raped. I am sorry. I am sorry that he didn’t listen to you, and I am sorry that the way it happened filled you with self-doubt, evident in the last two quotes from your letter.
A very important tool of rape culture is gaslighting, which is why you are doubting your own experience of the events.
In the 1944 film Gaslight, Charles Boyer played a man who used abusive tactics to manipulate his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, and make her think she was going insane.
It sounds like this man gaslighted you, by letting you believe that he would respect your boundaries (and that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg). But rape culture also gaslights us by teaching us the mythology that rape must always happen in a certain way to be real. There has to be violence. The victim has to say “no” at least once. The victim must be afraid. No one is drunk. No one knows each other. The victim said “no” loud and clear, right at the beginning. The victim fought back, but was held down. The perpetrator used force. There were witnesses. And on and on.
So, when we are raped, and it doesn’t fit the rape culture narrative of what rape is, we don’t believe it. We get confused, we call it something else.
And many of us, like you, still experience aftereffects that can be classically linked to sexual assault. Depression. Feeling dirty or tainted. Anger. Confusion. These are all reasonable feelings. What that guy did to you was wrong, and being upset about it makes sense to me.
Cardinal Rules: Sexual activity without active, voluntary consent is sexual assault. Yes, and only yes, means yes. Consent is a question, and an answer, with all parties involved able to freely give either “Yes” and “no” as both equal and valid. Consent can be revoked or given at any time. “Giving in” is not consent. Consent is an enthusiastic “YES!”
I am sorry that you are feeling so badly about yourself. I am not a doctor, or a therapist, but I would strongly encourage you to find a counselor to talk to. Rape Crisis Centers often provide both group and individual counseling free of charge, and can even offer some services over the phone if transportation is an issue. You can find out which organization is local to you by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE. Good luck, I really do wish you the best. I believe you.