Monday, 1 June 2015

How to Spot “Love Myths”

Welcome to the final part of my series on egalitarian sexual relationships, in which I finally get around to discussing the “relationship” part of sexual relationships. Feel free to check out the first and second parts of this series, for a discussion of how to apply leftist and feminist principles to sexual acts themselves.

Our culture is full of what I term “love myths”, claims about romantic relationships that I view as incorrect or unhealthy. This post will be addressing five common love myths.

While I am a bitter, single person, what I say is not intended as an argument against romantic relationships, in fact I favour loving egalitarian relationships over promiscuity and other loveless sexual activities (which apparently makes me a horrible prude). However, if criticisms of ideas and behaviours offend you, feel free to not read this post (or anything I write).

Myth 1: You Should Not Think Too Much About Love

Mainstream culture often tells us that we should not (or cannot) apply rational thinking (or any kind of thinking) to love, because “love is irrational”. The idea is an appealing one, because many people think that being “rational” and “scientific”, means being cold-hearted and uncaring.

I think of myself as a rationalist. I aim to use rational arguments and evidence to gain an accurate understanding of real world. I then use this knowledge to come up with ways to improve the world. Other people (e.g. capitalists) use reason to figure out the best way to exploit others for the sake of gaining money and power. I do not view these people as “too rational”, rather they are too selfish. The culture has some funny ideas about rationality. These misconceptions are addressed in this brilliant speech by Julia Galef, so I recommend watching it if you have any concerns regarding rationality or its application in our daily lives.

The issue of applying rationality to love may be discussed further in another post. For now I will point out that though people preach against applying rational thinking to love, they nonetheless do so. Debates regarding “shipping” are an example of this. These debates involve evaluating fictional couples to determine whether they should be endorsed instead of alternative romantic pairings. Such debates are common in fan communities and while they sometimes inspire anger, they usually involve the use of rational arguments. If love were immune to rational thinking, people would not be debating it to the degree that they do.

In a post responding to pro-BDSM arguments, I claimed that the things we are told not to think about (such as love) are the things we, as radicals, should think about the most. This is because the notion that it is wrong to think critically about a particular concept or institution protects it from criticism and conceals any broader social trends behind it. If an idea or institution can only survive by closing itself off from rational criticism, then it is unlikely to be worthy of respect. This is true of our culture’s notion of “love”, which brings me to the next myth.

Myth 2: "True Love" Means Being Obsessed With Someone

There are many books, films and television shows in which a character declares that they “cannot live without him/her” and this is seen as the epitome of “true love”. Characters usually make these statements after knowing their romantic partner for a few days at most and learning nothing about them except how pretty and superficially charming they are. This myth is related to the first one, for it implies that if someone is thinking clearly and making sound (non-suicidal) decisions, then they cannot really be “in love.” This myth has obvious dangers. It encourages people to neglect all aspects of their lives that do not revolve around their “true love”, including their jobs, education, friends, families, hobbies and communities.

However, my main concern regarding this myth is that is encourages power inequalities within relationships. The more dependent one person is on another, the more power the latter has over the former. This clearly occurs in workplaces, where employees consent to exploitative conditions, because they depend upon their bosses for their incomes.

I would argue that obsessive “love” (or rather infatuation) creates emotional dependence, which has a similar, weakening effect. All other things being equal, those who believe that they will experience depression, craziness, “emptiness” or suicidal tendencies without their “true love” will have more difficultly leaving the relationship than those who simply enjoy spending time with their partner. This makes those who mistake obsessive infatuation for love vulnerable to abuse, though perhaps not quite as vulnerable as those who depend on their partners for things they literally need to survive, like food and housing. Nonetheless, the obsessive love “ideal” is clearly contrary to the formation of genuinely loving, egalitarian relationships.

Myth 3: Love Is All about Trust (or “Good Women Trust Men”)

In the previously mentioned post on BDSM, I stated that women are expected to love and trust men blindly and this trust is believed to be essential for relationships. The message that trust is inherently praiseworthy (whether there is good reason to exercise it or not) and that people (particularly women) are obligated to trust others is so common that some might wonder how I could possibly disagree with it. Allow me to explain.

I have previously argued that instead of shoving “trust” down women’s throats, we should encourage men to earn women’s trust. This requires men to be honest, fulfil their commitments whenever possible and avoiding activities which suggest that one is obsessed with sex or dissatisfied with their current partner (e.g. sexually harassing random women). People (including men) who behave this way will naturally receive trust from their partners and thus do not need to demand it. Our culture encourages women to trust their male partners even when they know little about them or have reasons to believe that they are not worthy of trust (e.g. when a man has a history of behaving aggressively towards women). I am not anti-trust, but I do criticise those who demand blind (non-evidence supported) trust.

The demand is similar to the religious notion that faith (believing in the existence and moral goodness of a god or similar being, no matter what) is vitreous. In fact there is a Bible passage (Ephesians 5:22-24) that compares a wife’s relationship to her husband with the relationship which is said to exist between religious believers and their god. The passage claims that both should involve submission (no surprises there). I do not think it is a coincidence that blind trust is preached alongside subservience, in both religious and romantic contexts.  After all, if you believe that a particular being is always right and always has your best interests in mind, even when there is reason to think otherwise, you are more likely to mindlessly obey their orders, or in other words, submit to them.

I do not believe that this kind of unthinking trust is an expression of good character, nor is it ever merited. While there are people whom I regard as generally intelligent and morally good, I do not automatically believe everything they say and obey their every instruction. Belief and trust should be earned, not demanded, and such trust should not lead one to believe that others are infallible

Myth 4: Women Have "Unrealistic Expectations"

Unlike the other myths discussed so far, this one is blatantly conservative and does not sound particularly romantic. It is often employed by supposedly rebellious people (usually men) who chide romantic comedies, along with the infamous Twilight series, for raising women’s expectations of men to “unrealistically high” standards. While this myth may seem to counter the idea that women should view men as perfect gods (which was discussed in the previous section) the end result is the same. Women who buy into it subordinate themselves to abusive or otherwise unpleasant men.

According to those who make this argument, the problem with Edward Cullen and similar characters is not that their appearance, wealth, physical strength and superficial charm are emphasised over any admirable personality traits they (may) have. Nor are their aggressive, dominating behaviours considered a problem. Those who make the “unrealistic standards” argument actually think that such characters are “unrealistic”, because they are not as sex-crazed, emotionless or uncaring as a “real man” is encouraged to be in our culture (see this brief video by Anita Sarkeesian for an explanation of the difference between feminist and anti-feminist critiques of Edward’s character).

It is indeed unrealistic for a non-royal woman to believe that her future partner will be a prince (or the modern day version of that, a capitalist) or that he will be physically flawless, speak in perfect, poetic prose and have zero annoying traits. However, what women need are not lower standards, but better standards. Our culture needs to stop focussing on surface level traits and discuss what really matters in a relationship. Those who wish to be in romantic relationships (with men or women) should be encouraged to seek out partners who will treat them like equals, avoid the use of physical aggression and develop emotional attachments, which are based on inner human characteristics (i.e. their thoughts, feelings, personality traits, etc.) Whatever anti-feminists may say, these are reasonable standards to measure men against.

Myth 5: Love Is All About Sacrifice

This myth is also somewhat conservative. It may seem like a healthy, realistic alternative to the belief that love is always wonderful and will magically solve every problem a woman has, but in reality it is just another way of getting women to shut up and submit. In fact, it further inflates the importance of romantic love in the lives of women, by implying that love is so inherently valuable that any suffering associated with it is worthwhile.

No relationship is perfect and minor sacrifices, such as having to sit through a boring (yet non-traumatising) film or television show may be justified, but often the sacrifices expected from women are more substantial. Women who accept this myth often give up their jobs, have more children than they want to, leave homes they prefer to stay in (or, alternatively, remain at home when they would rather be travelling) and abandon any ambitions they had prior to entering into the marriage or relationship. Thus the outcome of this myth is similar to that of the (rather liberal) obsessive love ideal discussed above. 

I think the amount of sacrifice required for love can be minimised if men and women decide, before they enter into a serious relationship, what they want from that relationship and choose their partners accordingly. For example, those with a strong desire to travel should avoid dating those who prefer to stay in one place. Furthermore, some of the sacrifices which are supposedly an inherent part of love are in fact a result of capitalists wanting more control over their workers. Fewer workers would be sacrificing their jobs for the sack of love if capitalists did not demand actions which are known to harm romantic relationships, such as working longer hours or moving to another town. Though it is clear that men are not expected to make nearly as many love-related sacrifices as women are, it seems that the group which is least willing to make sacrifices for the sake of love is the capitalist class.

Like several of the other myths I have discussed, this myth may encourage women to tolerate abuse. The idea that love consists of, or is caused by, experiences of pain and sacrifice is promoted in many fictional works (I may one day write about the presence of this idea in the Hunger Games series) and by conservative Christianity (through the Jesus narrative, which focuses on a bloody human sacrifice) and by liberal practices, including BDSM. Call me crazy, but I think loving someone means wanting to limit the amount of sacrifices they must make in order to be with you. If you truly loved someone, you would not deliberately put them in danger of pain or injury, nor would you try to take things from them. 


I hope this post and the previous two have helped readers understand what it means to have egalitarian sex lives and relationships. Now that I have pointed out these love myths, you will probably see them everywhere you go. I encourage readers to critique them whenever they occur in media, books or conversations. Who knows, we might just be able to raise people’s conscious and perhaps even make them think.
I wanted to post this third part of the series last month, but it ended up being a lot longer than I had expected. I had to cut many parts from it, which may be used in further posts. I hope you enjoyed this post anyway. Let me know what I should write next.


  1. I definitely enjoyed this post! I’ve long been interested in the ways in which we construct love, relationships and intimacy and how those shape our behavior and expectations. We are inundated with these ideas from the time we are small not only through religion but through fairy tales. Do you think the presence of more films, books, fairy tales and cartoon with egalitarian romances would help?

    I would love (haha) to add one more list to this myth-that true love is unconditional. This has bugged me for a long time because I think love absolutely should and does come with conditions. ..and if those conditions are not met, then we should not be in a relationship. I think women are particularly encouraged to think that you should love your partner no matter what he does . I.e, I love and stay with my man no matter what even if he disrespects me, cheats on me, abuses me and so on.

    Side note: Came over here after seeing some of your posts on feminist current..I think I’ve considered myself to be a liberal feminist who was critical of liberal feminism, conservative feminism and scared of radical feminism b/c most of what I learned about rad feminism is that it is about hating men and thinking all sex is rape, which now I know is completely untrue. (Does this make me a recovering liberal feminist?!)

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      You are totally right about fairy tales promoting anti-egalitarian views on love. They also contain all kinds of other horrible reactionary messages (e.g. women must be pretty, subordinate and rely on men, the "good" guys have the right to use as much violence as they want against the "bad" guys, because the former are good no matter what, goodness equals being blindly obedient, etc.) As traditional and sacred as they supposed, they definitely are not appropriate for children. While I discussed religion a lot in my post, I did not mean to imply that religion is the only source of anti-egalitarian messages about love, though you cannot really seperate religion from fairy tales, because they preach similar messages. In fact I would not be surprised if many fairy tales were inspired by traditional religion to some extent (e.g. Little Red Riding Hood is all about "not straying form the path".)

      I think it would be a good idea to depict egalitarian romances in mainstream books and media. However, I also feel that our current culture is far too obsessed with sex and romance. Friendships are undervalued, particularly friendships between females and between females and males (in fact our culture often claims that such friendships are impossible and that all interactions between males and females are sexual.) I think we need less romance overall (why does every single film, book series, etc. need to have a romance in it, grrr), so I would like to see egalitarian romances replacing conventional romances (not just existing alongside them as an alternative option.)

      Yes, "love is unconditional" is definitely an annoying love myth. I have not including it in the list because it is very similar to the third myth (the idea that love is about trusting your partner no matter how they behave.) If love is personality based (and I believe it is) then it cannot be unconditional. It is dependent upon the person having the personality traits that you admire about them. Sometimes personality traits change and if they change for the worse, it makes sense that this would cause people to fall out of love with their partner. In such situations, ending the relationship is totally justified.

      If you want to know what kind of feminist you are, I have created some quizzes (in my November posts) that you can check out. They should tell you all you need to know. Many radical feminists are recovering liberals and when you start openly criticising liberal feminism, you realise pretty quickly that you can't really be a liberal who is critical of liberalism (liberals don't allow that.)

      While most radical feminists do not hate men, they are critical of men (as a group) and masculinity. Liberals don't realise that it is possible to criticise a group without hating it. I would caution against bragging about how one does not hate men or sex. It strikes me as capitulating. The moment you make any kind of consession with liberal feminism, they grab onto it and use it claim that you really are one of them, so avoid consessions and capitulating language whenever you can.

      Out of curiosity (and a desire to improve my methods of self-promotion, LOL), were there any particular comments of mine that attracted you to my blog?

  2. Yep, fairy tales are rife with problems. I would love to start seeing some more radical ideas presented in kids movies and picture books (and in stuff aimed at adults too). And I have been annoyed by the fact that almost every single movie has to have a romance even if it adds nothing to (and sometimes takes away from) the actual movie. is there some rules that all movies need a romance?!

    Yes, as I was reading your post, I definitely felt it was in line with the 3rd myth.

    Ooh, a quiz to see what kind of feminist you are?! Cool, I am definitely going to do that.

    “Liberals don't realise that it is possible to criticise a group without hating it”..Lmao, I think conservatives also suffer from this problem..I’ve always thought conservatism was pretty frustrating, but I’m realizing liberalism has quite a bit more in common with it than most people want to admit.

    There were a few comments that you posted that piqued my interest and when I am on a site like feminist current, I will click on hyperlinked names to see what their blogs are about. But the comment that made me come over was your response to someone on the “hot girls wanted for a month or two” where you were talking about the gateway idea as it relates to sexwork.

    I’m definitely looking forward to reading and (commenting) on your blog.

  3. This is a great entry, as usual. You're the best!

  4. Although the submission of a wife to a husband is certainly wrong, I don't think it is wrong for the Bible to say that submission to God is wrong, especially when the language used is a figure of speech, and not actual submission or bonding. Moreover, the idea that this is blind trust strikes me as anti-theistic fundamentalism. Atheists can also blind trust in a lot of things, like the findings of scientific investigation, which is an all too common phenomenon in Western atheism that, sadly, Marxists and Communists also fall into in spite of the fact that it is technocratic and illogical. So no, blind trust is not taught in the Bible, neither is it particularly religious or inherent to any religion or at least Christianity.