Chivalry Is Dead. Thank God.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Over on FetLife, there’s a kerfluffle about whether Submissives should be:
a) Warriors in paid service to the Great Dom-King but not beholden to him, able to leave if the Dom-King goes mad;
b) Knights in absolute and permanent service to their Lord the Dom-King;
c) Ronin actively scornful of the Great Dom-Emperor, because you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at you.
No, seriously.  There’s a lot of talk about how there’s much to learn from the fine, courtly manners of the Middle-Aged Royalty…. Which, you know, wasprobably a lot closer to Game of Thrones in many respects than the soft-focus lens of King Arthur.
And hey, there may be some good stuff to be found in that morass of debate, because a lot of damaged people find themselves drawn to submission… and then they have these bad instincts that lead them to become abused by someone who’s out to actively weaken them.  A framework that helps them to understand when it’s right to walk away from a toxic relationship probably has some benefit.
But what’s  interesting to me is that recently, our local poly group had a discussion on Hard Limits and Dealbreakers.  And you know what one of my dealbreakers is?
Calling yourself a knight, or a warrior, or a poet-warrior, or anything where you’re basically telling the world how chivalrous and upstanding you are.
I’m sure there are some nice dudes out there who go to great lengths to explain to random passerby the nature of their moral compass… but in general, the people I’ve met who’ve yammered on about their stern ethics and their need to follow the warrior principles were the biggest torrents of vinegar-scented water I’ve ever seen.  I mean, like a torrent of douche.  A waterfall of douche.  An ocean of douche, endlessly falling through a hole into the Pit Of Eternal Douche.
The folks I knew who seriously wanted to be a Ronin or a Knight or such were basically the kind of people who thought: “What I really want is to live in a world where the strongest guy with a weapon got to take whatever he wanted, but then had to make these optional, artificial rules to play nice.”  Which I think was a sign of the doucheitude of those folks: deep down, they wish the world was constructed so you know, they didn’t have to rape, and pillage and burn, but nobody’d really be strong enough to stop them if they wanted to.
And usually, that’s exactly what they did when the shit got tough.  Oh, they’d sometimes hold tight to their so-called ethics for years… but when the right piece of ass presented itself or the promotion they wanted involved fucking someone else over, the core Ayn Randian philosophy surged to the fore: If you really deserved to keep it, you’d have been stronger.
Then they’d talk even louder about their nobility, like a gay Republican caught in the bathroom yelling about his love for his wife.
Plus, there’s often this weird misogyny threaded throughout chivalrous thought, which kind of goes like this: Women are so inferior to me, that I must remember to protect them at all times and treat them with great respect.  I’d like to take the party line here and tell you how the chivalrous guys really idolize women… but I remember an argument on FetLife with a “chivalrous” guy, wherein several women said that they found the whole door-holding, chair-shoving thing to be off-putting and infantalizing, and the guy all but patted them on the head and said, “Well, the real women I know like it, so I’m just gonna keep on doing that.”
Yes.  You’re very noble and chivalrous, not treating women as individuals, but rather a class of people who you can choose preferences for.  (And that’s not to say that you couldn’t defend it with “More people like it than not, so it’s a reasonable default until I know better,” but his argument was of the “No true Scotsman” sort where any woman who didn’t appreciate his savvy charms wasn’t deserving of the title “woman.”  In other words, as a woman you’re completely worthy of my respect until you mouth the fuck off.)
To me, that’s why I don’t like chivalry: it’s got this toxic undercurrent of We are the secret masters of the universe, and must be kind to our lessers.  If you were really big on chivalry, you wouldn’t be expecting these huge plates of cookies every time you helped a woman with her package… you’d be doing it because you were a genuinely nice guy who helps people.  And you wouldn’t be watching for women in need, you’d be looking for people in need.  Not because you’re so superior you must maintain it via constant vigilance and acts of nobility, but because you’re as human as anyone else and realizes that everyone needs a hand.
Don’t get me wrong.  Not everyone in the SCA is foaming at the douche.  I know a lot of nice guys who can wail the fuck out of me with their armor on.  But when I sit down to dinner with them, they don’t feel the urge to spew molten philosophy all over me about how chivalry and nobility and hey, is that a little ego dribbling down your chin?  They just sit down and do the right thing, and when the conversation turns to them they don’t discuss all the fine ways they believe they are changing the world.
So no, personally speaking, in my bedroom I don’t want a King, or a Knight, or a Warrior, or a Samurai or a Rogue-Ninja-Wizard triple-classed because of their half-elf parentage.  What I’d like is someone who thinks that goodness is not something that has to be defined in terms of hierarchy, where if we all just got onto the battlefield and slugged it out we’d determine who was best suited.
Most of the kings who ruled were kind of shitty.  I could do without trying to recreate that today, y’know?
(And I write this knowing damn well that every person who reads this will tell me, “I have never broken my word, ever.”  Yes, I’m sure you’re a wonderful person.  But the kind of douche I’m speaking of goes to great goddamned lengths to tell me how honorable s/he is, even as s/he is stabbing someone in the back.)


  1. Mishell Baker
    Jun 14, 2012

    Hear hear. The men who claim to be “chivalrous” are some of the biggest creepers I’ve ever met, and this is why I have so much trouble reading the Dresden Files books, because although I’m led to understand the author himself is not sexist, it’s rough to be trapped in the first-person head of someone who takes some kind of twisted pride in harboring “old fashioned” attitudes toward women.
    It’s nice to hold the door for people sometimes. If you get there first. If they’re carrying something. If they’re injured in some way. I love it when people hold the door for me when I’m hugely pregnant, because seriously, I don’t want to bear ONE MORE OUNCE of extra weight, thanks. But yesterday at 8 months pregnant I held the door open for a guy carrying a big box, and he said “thank you” and that was it. No weird looks, no indignation that a pregnant chick was being “chivalrous” to him. Thank YOU sir, for not feeling the need to comment on the “irony” of the situation when I am the one who has freaking HANDS to use.
    Generosity of this kind should be prompted by a sense that the person you are helping needs help more than you do, not by the knowledge (or assumption) of what they’re smuggling in their undies. The thing that bothers me about men thinking they should always hold doors, pull chairs, etc. for women is that they are assuming that all women need help more than all men, no matter who got to the door first, no matter who has a torn rotator cuff, etc.
    Sure, it’s confusing when the pregnant lady and the 80 year old man get to the door at the same time. Life isn’t binary. Yeah, sometimes you have to think stuff through. Put on your big girl/boy pants and do your best. 🙂

  2. Ingrid Johanne Vaalund
    Jun 14, 2012

    Hear, hear from a Norwegian following the trial of the Utøya terrorist who considers himself a “knight justiciary”

  3. FireRose
    Jun 14, 2012

    I am proud to call myself a warrior, but since I model myself after such “noble” creatures as The Morrigan, Bridget, and other women that were often called BITCH – I live up to my heritage. I hold doors for PEOPLE, especially anyone with packages or obviously older than myself (ALWAYS be courteous to your elders). I will uphold my honor in any means needed, but if the best thing for the other person is a lie – so be it. I will fight to the death to protect those who are my “family”, but if you screw me over, you will get disowned!
    Beyond that, “Chivalry” as it is seen by many of those in the kink community SHOULD be dead, IMHO. I have seen too many men who felt that because my penis was smaller than theirs, then I needed to be protected, coddled and petted. In return, I just had to worship them in the manner they felt they were entitled to by ALL women. Since I switch, I used to confuse them BIG time.
    And don’t think this is an anti-male rant! I have seen many women who also toss around how “moral” they are who basically do nothing more than bully men they see as weaker than themselves, any subordinate, and most women. As soon as they saw me in a submissive role with another woman or ANY male and I immediately became one of those to be “protected”, even if it was against my wishes.
    I think that is what gets me about those “Upstanding Moral Warriors”… they treat you according to their chivalrous beliefs – whether or not you want them (or anyone) to! I love people holding the doors, but I get the next door for them. Turnabout is only fair play.
    ugh – time to end the rant and go wander off and watch Burn Notice

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