by Jendella Benson 

“I hate how women think that they are doing me a favour by having sex with me,” he began. “What about me? My intimacy is just as valuable!” Aside from the bitter edge in his tone, I understood what he meant. I wanted to laugh and tell him that this was one of many reasons why he needed feminism. I wanted to tell him that it was patriarchy that told women that sex was some kind of trophy, a bargaining chip to manipulate men through their “uncontrollable” desire and need to penetrate. But I knew how he felt about feminism, and I didn’t have the mental energy to get into the back and forth. So I left it.

I hear or see complaints made by men about the nature of relationships and the sexual dynamics they find themselves in, and so often I want to tell them that “females” aren’t the problem, it’s patriarchy. But nine out of ten times the man complaining is so heavily invested in the oppressive imbalance of patriarchy in other ways, that I don’t really think they deserve an answer at all – if they’d even be open to it.

Because generally women bear the brunt of patriarchy, new feminist visions of love often focus on liberation for women from the sexism that throttles heterosexual relationships, but patriarchy, by its hierarchical nature, oppresses us all to some degree. And women can also be complicit in this as they buy into the restrictive “ideals” that patriarchy embodies and project those “ideals” onto their partners, defining appropriate and inappropriate forms of masculinity by the ficklest terms.

Men may reap certain privileges from the gender imbalance, but it doesn’t mean they are exempt from narrow paths of acceptance, and this toxic culture has rules about everything. There are expectations about how “real” men handle heartbreak (you get over it and stick your penis into the next willing woman), the appropriate noises to make during sex (no moans of ecstasy, please), and generally expressive emotion of any kind is frowned upon (don’t be too eager, avoid too much affection, and don’t you dare cry). Patriarchy even robs men of the simple joys of home life when it tells them that the home is the woman’s domain, nurturing children is a female concern, and the steadying comfort that can be found in long-term relationships is a prison that needs to be avoided for as long as possible. Feminism has long been accused of trying to destroy the family, but the burden of men as the overall provider keeps them out of the house working long and desperate hours, physically and emotionally disconnected from their partners and children. There are still many men who believe that they are only as useful as the balance of their bank accounts. And for those who dare to buck restrictive gender roles they may face the scorn of their peers and accusations of emasculation.

Perhaps circular discussions on social media about who should pay on a date, how much engagement rings should cost, or whether women should or should not propose are silent cries for help? Perhaps these are the first attempts at grappling with sexist socialisation that limits the possibility of mutually satisfying relationships? It’s a possibility, but since most of these discussions are derailed and never seem to break any new ground, I’ve completely disengaged.

However, it is clear when I talk to men I know on an individual level that they want to be in relationships with women who are ambitious, confident, self-reliant, and not ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality. The real question is whether the same men who want an empowered and liberated woman are willing to give up their own male privilege in order to facilitate that liberation. While equality is not a zero-sum game, misogyny and sexism cannot exist alongside the belief that women are actual people, with intelligence, agency and deserving of respect simply for the fact that they are sentient human beings. Furthermore, the ‘privileges’ afforded by patriarchy come with their own terms, conditions and potentially toxic consequences that we see explode time and again in male violence towards women and children, as well as other men.

It can be hard to imagine love and romance outside of sexist rules of engagement when that is all you’ve ever known, but so many of us are so dissatisfied with where things are at the moment, I can’t think of any logical reason to hold on to things as they are. New feminist visions of love not only allow for the empowerment of women but also create space to unshackle men from the confines of shallow masculinity. Not only is “feminism for everyone”, but feminist relationships can be liberating for all.

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Media Diversified Headshots 142Jendella Benson is a photographer, writer and filmmaker based in London. She writes about issues of faith, race, identity, feminism and the arts for various publications online and offline, and is also an occasional public speaker and workshop facilitator. She tweets regularly from @JENDELLA and more of her work can be found at

You’re Doing It Wrong is a bi-monthly column by Jendella Benson on parenting, relationships, and the kaleidoscope of small victories, anxiety and unsolicited advice that is modern family life.

17 thoughts on “Feminist love will save men too

  1. According to you patriarchy is a suite of unconscious behaviors and habits learned about gender that somehow privileges men. But how are men enforcing these habits on everyone? What are these privileges that men experience? You don’t provide an answer.

    Apparently, patriarchy privileges men, but also defines them according to rigid standards and expectations, denying them most forms of human experience and expression. Patriarchy refuses to respect or acknowledge the legitimacy of men’s emotions, robs them of their families, makes their sexuality less valuable than women’s, and reduces their value as human beings down to their ability to provide for others.

    In all honesty, patriarchy sounds like an abusive relationship wherein men aren’t allowed to burden society with any aspects of their internal life or their humanity. So what exactly is the male benefit/privilege and where exactly is it located?

    You say that the men in your life want to be in relationships with women who are ambitious, independent, confident, self reliant, and not ashamed of their bodies and sexuality. This is conveniently what women, and society more broadly, typically code as “masculine” or “manly”. However, according to your argument these qualities seem to be the psychological traits preferred by both men and women in their sexual partners. If true it should not be all that surprising because these are the traits of adulthood. Both men and women want outcome x: sexual partners who are ambitious, independent, confident, and self-reliant. But again, according to you, only women get this outcome under patriarchy. Why is that?

    You actually have the answer to this question in your article. Patriarchy grants women greater sexual value than it grants to men. This empowers women to command the aforementioned personality traits in men. So, although the traits are gender neutral to a degree they become coded masculine because women have the power to make men embody what women want. This means that hegemonic masculinity has absolutely nothing to do with men, but is a direct result of giving women the power to command the personality traits they want in men.

    If men had that power women would also be ambitious, independent, confident, and self reliant. Women are not ambitious, independent, confident, and self reliant because they can use the greater sexual value granted by patriarchy to make men do the work of becoming ambitious, independent, confident, and self reliant.

    You argue that men won’t give up their male privilege and so women won’t embody the traits that men want. You make the case that you are unable to think of any logical reason to hold onto this traditional intersexual dynamic. Well, we have held onto this traditional intersexual dynamic because women are using their greater sexual value to get their expectations of men met. Women are winning. Men are losing. Men are unhappy with the fact that they have to jump through hoops to meet women’s expectations simply because their sexuality is not valued.

    Your article gaslights men by telling them that their experiences of helplessness aren’t real. You tell men that their utterly undefined and unexplained male privileges under patriarchy mean that their understanding of the modern intersexual reality is wrong. That men are responsible for women’s expectations of them via the magic of patriarchy and they don’t want their expectations of women met because they prefer these utterly undefined and unexplained male privileges.

    So, let me define male privilege for you since you failed to actual provide details on this in your article. Feminists define male privilege as access to high status professions, greater earning power, and being more ambitious, independent, confident, and self reliant relative to women. This maps to exactly what women expect men to embody. And it also maps to what men wish they could expect from women. Yet, patriarchy only gives women power to get their expectations met. How are men supposed to demonstrate dominance without a hierarchy? How are men supposed to create wealth without capitalism? How is he supposed to be ambitious without aggression? And without equivalent sexual value how are men supposed to command the same level of dominance, wealth, ambition, independence, confidence, and self reliance in women as women can command from men?

    So what is patriarchy really? Patriarchy looks like the result of female selective pressure on men. Patriarchy is the peacocks tail, the lion’s roar, the stag’s antleers. Male privilege is simply the fact that women exert a stronger selective pressure on men. Men perform more in response, becoming what women want them to embody which is more dominant, more wealthy, more ambitious, more independent, more confident, and more self reliant. Men’s lack of equivalent selective pressure inevitably leads to a gap in women’s embodiment of all those qualities. A gap that feminists now call male privilege.

    So, let’s demystify one of your more absurd arguments by restating it according to the terms I outlines above. “The real question is whether the same men who want an empowered and liberated woman are willing to stop appealing to female selection pressure in order to facilitate that liberation”. That makes no damn sense. If men are the ones responding to female selection pressure then they have no power to liberate women from women’s already MORE POWER POSITION. Patriarchy doesn’t create female selection pressure. Female selection pressure created patriarchy and male privilege because the gap in achievement is created by the differential in selection power that favors women.

    What is worse is that you go on to blame men for conforming to the female selection pressure and then you call that blame “love”. That is really fucked up. That is abusive. That is degrading and dehumanizing. Feminist “love” will never save men because feminist “love” is the equivalent of psychological torture and abuse. So, excuse those of us, like your male friend, who shut you down when you shame, insult, guilt, and mock us for our conscious or unconscious recognition that something is terribly, terribly wrong with modern romantic and sexual relationships between men and women.


  2. Wow! Extraordinary comments to this post show some men to be aggressive and bullying. I feel vaguely embarrassed by the degree to which they want to turn sexual relations into a victim game. It seems to me that the world has changed- due to the death of God, scientific and technological advances and some good old-fashioned arguing. There really is no point in men stomping around like angry mammoth-hunters when the person who is going to award them their next pay rise is a woman, the person who treats their stress-ulcer is a woman too and the woman who calmly processes their request for their next bank loan wants to be treated equally.

    I think these men need to come to terms with the world as it is today and begin to enjoy the freedoms that equality gives from all the tiresome nonsense of the past.


  3. This is such nauseating rubbish I can’t get through the first paragraph. It’s definitely recognisably feminist straight away: Utter brainsludge right from the start.


  4. >Aside from the bitter edge in his tone, I understood what he meant.

    So you don’t understand why he might be bitter?

    I take it by feminist love, you mean the love of people with beliefs similar to yours?

    That is, people who can’t process his bitterness, and want to laugh at his predicament? And cant be bothered to argue with him?

    Men will be saved by people like that?

    You essay is a pretty bitter condemnation of men, and the idea that they might have legitimate concerns worthy of compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That was…… William Craig level religious apologetic stunt you’ve just pulled there, ma’am.

    No wonder Feminists often hate atheists with a passion……

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know his reason to hate feminism.
    On my experience feminism jumps between two gears on the same woman.
    “I’m entitled to sex with you” to “sex is a supernatural form of torture men use to control and terrorize women”.

    But I’m great at this stuff, it seems I have some immunity when it comes to what most guys face, so I can throw their rethoric right back at you.
    It’s a fun thing to have a feminist ask “did I raped you” and say “no, you repeatedly pressured me heavy and guilty shamed me into sex while I was so drunk I was afraid to pass out and puke all over, you used extreme force and scratched me without asking for consent due to your excitation and sorta pushed off the line, but I’ve been there and this isn’t rape, this was regrettable sex and I suspect it sucked to you as much as it sucked to me, but I did consented to sex though I repeatedly told you to stop there until you heard and respected it, even though you pestered me again and again and I complied again and again. I didn’t came and I suspect you didn’t neither, so you should have just watched porn and masturbated, because we have had great sex other times. This is what cellphones are for.”
    I actually had stuff like this happen time and time again, quite fun if you think well about it, but there’s risks about it, some don’t take no for an answer and don’t stick to begging, pleading, insisting and guilt tripping. And nothing beats having some balls and leave a feminist hanging with a swollen clit.

    And it isn’t patriarchy that tells you that, it’s mommy and daddy that call you a princess and say you can’t do anything wrong to any boy in the world. It’s not even feminism, you tell that to your groups and they catch up, that’s why we have mary khoss.


  7. What an extremely misandric article. It has everything. Privilege, patriarchy, how men are monsters, back handed insults to women who do not believe your ideology, and so on.

    If you want examples of how liberating “feminist love” is, look at exclusionary radical feminist lesbian communities and their extremely high domestic violence rate.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A few things, if so called “male privilege” is conditional on behaving a certain way then it’s not really a privilege but an exchange. For example men have the ability to vote only if they agree to die for their country should the need arise, while women have the privilege of voting without that agreement. Also, what exactly are you liberating women from, and how is that conditional on so called “male privilege”? What do those things have to do with each other, and what exactly do you expect men to give up? Men are not given anything for free, they have to work for it. You even point out how men work long hours, but they are not doing that for their health, and usually not for themselves either. Most women won’t look twice at a man who makes less than her, and if you say that that is women being “complicit in patriarchy” then you should really call it what is, traditionalism. Don’t playing confusing word games by using an alternate definition of patriarchy which, when conflated with the commonly understood definition, turns into an implication that everything in society that feminists don’t like is the fault of men. It’s next to impossible to love someone that you, consciously or otherwise, blame for all of your problems. Men will not and should not become feminists until you stop blaming them for everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As the honeybadgers put, as always, wonderfully.
    Blame or love, pick one and stick with it.
    Your hate and bias show through this article, it’s time for a little self reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Feminism has long been accused of trying to destroy the family, but the burden of men as the overall provider keeps them out of the house working long and desperate hours, physically and emotionally disconnected from their partners and children.”

    Then, by all means, return to this discussion when women – feminist or not – are willing and able to work the same long and desperate hours to keep society running, preferably without turning these fields of skilled and necessary work into the usual festivals of complaint and litigation. After all, for starters, the notorious wage gap you keep on yapping about will have magically disappeared. Thank you.

    “There are still many men who believe that they are only as useful as the balance of their bank accounts. And for those who dare to buck restrictive gender roles they may face the scorn of their peers and accusations of emasculation.”

    Not only by their peers. In practice, feminists are no exceptions to the hypergamy game. Not even them. “Where have all the good men gone?” Sob, sob. – So in the unlikely event you are truly advocating against this and actually putting your money where your mouth is: thank you very much. Won’t hold my breath though. Not any time soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ah, the difference between theory and practice, especially once the 2nd child comes along and careers evolve… Perfectly and calmly written article. Especially loved this: ‘The real question is whether the same men who want an empowered and liberated woman are willing to give up their own male privilege in order to facilitate that liberation.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only “privilege” men have is genital mutilation and military disposability. As long as you keep hating men with your hateful privilege rhetoric, things will continue to get worse.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Nah, you can share our “privileges” instead. I genuinely want you to do so.

      And after enjoying half of our “privileges” for just a day, I am 100% sure that you WILL come back to us in tears, either bitterly whining and moaning or begging us to never even talk about “liberation” for the remaining duration of your life so that you can return to your well-fed, well-dressed, air-conditioned previous existence.


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