How Not To Weaponize Your Desires

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

When I wrote about how The Fish In The Pond Are Not For You To Eat, I argued that it wasn’t wrong to put filters in place to screen people out of your dating pool because you don’t think they’ll make you happy.
And it isn’t wrong.  You don’t have to date everyone.
The problem is that some of your filters can get weaponized.
Which is to say that if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date people who won’t meet me at a munch first,” the potential dater might see that as a silly hurdle to jump, and refuse to do so- but it probably wouldn’t get their hackles up.
But if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date trans women,” the hackles would start to rise.
And if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date fat women,” the hackles would be up and teeth firmly bared.
Thing is, under the right circumstances, all of these can be valid filtering criteria.  Yes, some are behaviors, while some are inherent traits, but all of them can be things that someone would not want in a partner.
I’m a straight dude.+  Very few rational people would expect me to date a gay man, because they acknowledge that’s not where my kinks lie.
Likewise, it’s entirely legitimate if someone isn’t attracted to fat people!  (And mind you, I speak as one.  Check my pics; you’ll find an abundance of adipose.)  Nobody is obligated to find anyone else desirable; “attraction” is an ephemeral thing that’s not fully under most people’s control.  If someone doesn’t get turned on by fat people, it’s as unfair to them to demand that they must date you as it would be for a gay guy to demand to date me.
The desire for skinny people frequently gets weaponized into insults at fat people.  And that shit is *trouble*.
You can see some of that in the FetLife comments to my fish in the pond post.
RIGHT: “If someone doesn’t want to meet me at a munch, they are likely to lack the characteristics I want in a partner.”
WRONG: “If someone doesn’t want to meet me at a munch, they’re probably some furtive creeper.  Something’s wrong with a dude like that.”
Aaaaaaand weaponization is complete.  We have now taken a desire on our part, and turned its absence into a character flaw that should be corrected.
The thing I didn’t mention in my previous essay is, “Would I meet up with a first date at a munch?”  And the answer’s no.  I’m not particularly good at meeting strangers.  And I’d have some valid concerns about going to a munch to get to know a potential date, and finding that she didn’t have the time to talk to me.
The fact that I would not go does not indicate an objective flaw in me.  It means that I have certain priorities and desires of my own, and they don’t mesh with yours.
But that’s how you weaponize a filter: you make it into something objectively wrong with everyone who has that trait.  It’s not that you don’t find fat people attractive: it’s that fat is evidence of some slovenly laziness, and walking around with all that weight is an offense they’re perpetrating upon the world.  (This fat dude is a workaholic who spends fourteen-hour days writing and programming.  Lazy, I ain’t.  And my wife, who is fifty pounds overweight, did three triathalons this summer.)
And so some of those filters get really tricky.  Because many people do use them as legitimate filters – as in, “I’m not usually attracted to super-skinny women, so I generally refuse dates from them because I know that doesn’t do it for me personally.  But I think they’re fine people, and they don’t need to ‘eat a sammich’.”
Yet many more people do use those filters as weapons.  They don’t like skinny, so shit, why aren’t those women fattening up?  They find trans people unsettling, so shit, why don’t those people give it up?  They don’t find brats appealing, so what the fuck is wrong with brats?++
The core trait of all of these weaponizations is “I have a preference, and the hubris to demand that the world must bend to my desires.”
So it gets really hard to put up some sorts of filters, because you try to say “Sorry, fat people aren’t my thing,” and what people hear is that hurricane roar of condemnation that fat people are bad, fat people are wrong, fat people are all horrible failures at life who should be shunned by every righteous person that every idiot with a weaponized filter spews, and they assume you’re just another hater.  When you’re not a hater, you’re just someone who finds that trait not to be a turnon.
(This would be a good time to reference @Manic_pixie’s excellent essay Don’t Tell People Why You’re Rejecting Them.  Often, it’s kinder not to get into specifics.  Also, despite what either side may say, nobody owes anyone any explanation as to why you don’t want to date them.)
How do you fix this?  Well, you can go to lengths not to weaponize your own filters.  Just because you want something doesn’t mean that other people are somehow deficient in lacking that quality.
More importantly, when you speak, speak with the knowledge that the default is often to assume that this lack is a character defect, and specifically correct that.  Seinfeld made a running gag out of “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but that sort of caveat is often necessary.  When you say “I don’t like old men,” you may well mean it in the sense that this is a personal preference, but the weaponized elderly-haters around you are taking this as agreement that yeah, all those old dudes are just wastes of flesh.  Putting that disagreement in there helps stop the spread, even as it often feels ludicrous.
And then apply that filter thoughtfully.  One of the problems with dislikes is that you’ve settled upon them long ago, and they’ve crystallized.  After a while, you start snap-dismissing people because they don’t fit a very elaborate set of criteria, and that snap-dismissal often leads to irritation – goddammit, yet another person who failed to fulfill my needs!
Yet just as you’re not here to fulfill their desires, they’re not here to fulfill yours.  Them failing to live up to your standards doesn’t make your standards objectively good, it just means that they’re not compatible with what you need.  That doesn’t make them failures at life, it just makes them not good dating material for you – and the minute you start conflating “Not good for me” with “Bad at life,” you have written your preferences into the fabric of the universe.
And that’s always a sin.
+ – This isn’t strictly true, but it might as well be. I’ve written about the difficulties I have in finding dudes to date in a fairly explicit post over on Fet, making me effectively straight if not actually so, and one of the problem is that I’m not attracted to men who look like me.  I see all the me I can get in the mirrors, man.  If I’m gonna be dating a guy and taking some radically new genitalia for a spin, my partner’s body needs to be radically different from what I’m actually toting around.
++ – It gets super-tricky when you do actually believe it’s a character flaw and it’s a character flaw that someone’s chosen to believe – what the hell do you do when you think that believing in MRA/feminism/Republican/Democrat/libertarian/Christian/atheist/brat/flying Spaghetti Monster issues is, in fact, something that’s perpetrating injustice upon the world and needs to be corrected?  What happens when a group is in fact carrying out subtle wrongs upon the world thanks to their philosophy?  But that’s an essay for another time, kids.

1 Comment

  1. Yet Another Laura H
    Dec 16, 2014

    It’s not weaponizing your desire. It’s weaponizing the desire of someone else. The whole “no fat chicks” thing isn’t so hard for fat chicks because one of the easiest ways to take down a man’s position in a social hierarchy is to say, “I would not fuck the woman you’re fucking.” That’s why politicians get their wives made over. It’s actually a pretty rare man who can stick up for their mates over their friends. Trust me, fans of Mr. Steinmetz, fat women get all sorts of fans. It’s just not okay to have sex with someone who’s ashamed of you, let alone someone who’s ashamed of himself for being with you.

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