Let's do a little exercise.
Think of the attributes women often list when talking about the guys she’s dating or has just started talking to. How does she describe him? Chances are she mentions how respectful, caring, considerate, how attentive he's or seems to have a genuine interest in her thoughts, opinions, and life endeavors. Or how he gives great eye contact, texts first, and at least acknowledges her friend's existence. He certainly hasn’t felt you up in some frat basement without consent, doesn’t cheat, and, most importantly, is just such a nice guy. So essentially, someone well-adjusted who practices basic consent and treats women like people. Despite those positive attributes being possibly true and great for a partner to have, they are hallmark characteristics, and traits generally championed in all people, let alone expected, especially in women.
It doesn’t take much to earn the gold star of approval as a man in a heterosexual relationship as long as he maintains at least a veneer of human decency and empathy to a moderate extent. In many spaces, the fact that a man does not cheat nor is physically abusive to his partner remains enough to qualify him as God’s gift to women. The standards are low, abysmally, catastrophically low. The bar is in hell—the ninth circle. Therefore, I implore all sympathetic individuals to join hands in prayer for heterosexual couples around the world because the girls are not okay.
A common throwaway explanation for the laughably low expectations for men in straight relationships is that simply men are trash. Men are not trash. Men are not ontologically evil. They are complex human beings capable of genuine empathy, kindness, nurturing, and respect. Although, they are generally socialized in a way that's chiefly devoid of essential characteristics like being pleasant or at least nice. Traits such as kindness, generosity, and empathy are not rewarded within traditional hierarchical structures of masculinity.
In contrast, they are deemed standard if not compulsory for women in daily life and especially within relationships. Therefore, within a heterosexual relationship, emotional and nurturing expectations are often placed upon the woman. Furthermore, expectations for women in heterosexual relationships are not just focused on traits that construct a proper well-adjusted person but also concern how she caters to the needs of her male partner. There’s a reason why when people ask guys what they like about their partners, they often list things that she does for them in addition to personality and physical attributes. Liking a partner primarily because she's pretty and caters to one’s wants is an interesting choice given that women are worth more than their appearance and ability to serve others. Shocker, right?
Notably, the level of differentiation in gendered relationship expectations also applies to physical characteristics too…especially recently concerning hygiene. A man who showers daily without a 6 in-1 and parts his cheeks to wash with soap and water should be a given, not a concrete voiced expectation. Meanwhile, women are expected to complete Cassie from Euphoria’s 4am 20 step morning routine while meticulously grooming and manicuring every part of their bodies to present themselves as desirable.
The general socialization of men, which remains devoid of the basic tenants of a good partner and member of society, works in tandem with gender hierarchy and dynamics to produce vastly different expectations within straight relationships. The result of these societal and cultural circumstances leaves women in quite a precarious position that makes wanting someone who is at least nice and not downright evil understandable. So, in a way, I empathize with the girl who takes her boyfriend telling her he’s afraid of Rottweilers as a sign of immense emotional vulnerability. I really do.
Yes, this all sounds like hell because it is - yet it doesn’t have to be.
Women, men, boys, and girls worldwide have realized that bare minimum relationship expectations for men do not only do their potential partners a disservice but men as well. Being an enthusiastically active participant in one’s relationship while maintaining the same level of decency towards non-romantic partners should be an expectation for all parties involved. Men should not be rewarded or receive extensive praise for supporting their partner or showing consideration to others. No one gets a prize for not committing heinous crimes or paying their bills on time, so why should we reward the bare minimum in relationships?
Hopefully, the cultural tide will continue to shift. Women are demanding more of their current and potential male partners. There is a rising prevalence of men aware of the staggeringly low expectations of men in heterosexual relationships and are actively subverting the ever-persisting, piss-poor standards. While there are also groups of men, which have found themselves more alone than ever before because no one woman is willing to drink the proverbial pickle juice that would be a relationship with them, pushing back against these prominent cultural shifts by espousing awful and often harmful rhetoric.
Has the path to salvation led the girls to deliverance? Will the bar ever even make it into purgatory, let alone beyond? Possibly. As of now it seems as if we’ve made it at least past the ninth circle. However, where there remains work, there remains the opportunity for growth.
Until then, the bar has been and will continue to be in hell.