The Fem Spot

My wonderful/lazy/thoughtful/crazy husband

Posted in Humor, Marriage, Personal Essays, queer theory by femspotter on September 5, 2010

September 5, 2010

I am faced with the self-inflicted task of reviewing a new “gender” relationship guide for a sister site. Oy! Haven’t we seen this kind of thing many, many times before? Uh huh! (Read: Valspeak.)

The problem – aside from the misuse of the word “gender” in place of “sex” – is that, much like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, that classic from the vault of self-improvement literature, this new guide makes use of rigid stereotypes. Hey, stereotypes come from somewhere! Far be it from me to contradict that notion. But as I began reading some of the scenarios in the text – “Couple 1: After the Party,” for instance, when a hetero couple has an argument about how the woman is upset about something and has been “pouty” without explaining the reason behind her mood, I realized that my husband and I are guilty of that exact conversation…in reverse.

How is that possible? I mean, the author of the text has a post graduate degree and decades of professional couples’ counseling experience under her belt. There must be something wrong with my gender. It doesn’t correspond to my sex. I am not behaving like other women, it appears; nor is my husband behaving like other men. We are therefore not feminine and masculine respectively, but have switched roles. (For clarification, the book is about relations between the sexes and not the genders because the author is claiming that men and women act with certain reliable patterns rather than claiming that feminine/masculine people do. Ergo, she is basing her advice on the assumption of gender on both sexes: women are feminine [passive-aggressive, nagging, oversensitive] and men are masculine [insensitive, daft, acquiescing] by default and consistently. She’s really talking about how one personality type relates to another, but claims to be talking about how one sex relates to the other.)

What is wrong with me? What is wrong with my husband? I’m the one who’s always asking him to explain his moods. I’m the one who usually says “whatever you want” when it comes to picking restaurants and movies. He’s the one who pouts and doesn’t explain himself. And, while I would describe myself as “oversensitive” – one who has feelers out in preemptive self-defense to pick up on signals that often aren’t even there to be read, he’s the one who often fails to alert me to the little insensitive things I’ve said along the marriage path: like when I tell him that his pants are too big and sloppy looking, or when I correct his attempts at yoga on the Wii Fit. He bottles them up and then gets cranky many days later. And I, like a puppy who just wet her bed, tilt my head to one side and genuinely think I understand what he’s upset about when really I’ve been listening to another language: the language spoken by a person who is frustrated with me for things I said many months ago.

Of course, I hold onto to some things too: I’ve never been able to let it slide completely that he has a longtime friend who invited my husband to his wedding but did not include me. (The couple was trying to save money, so they asked friends to come alone. But when it came time for dancing, there were tables of singles sitting around who didn’t feel comfortable dancing with people who weren’t their significant others.) So my husband flew across the country to a wedding without me. Tacky? Uh huh! Anyway…

The difference between my resentment and his is that mine rears its ugly head right away and relentlessly for several hours/days/weeks/months/years until it’s out of my system. But my husband will go the same period of time without telling me what’s bothering him and then explode one day with a laundry list of small insults, which usually culminate in one precise character flaw belonging to me: my expectations are too high.

What expectations are those?

  • I’d like it if he’d organize his shoes. He has a half-dozen pairs. They can usually be found strewn all across the vestibule waiting to trip somebody.
  • I have asked him repeatedly to use the word “well” as an adverb instead of the word “good.” (I mean, he is a literate person with a great career…he might run into somebody who’s a grammar nerd like me and offend them too.)
  • He leaves drawers and cabinets open or ajar. This is a daily occurrence.
  • His socks never match each other and many of his undershirts are ripped and stained, which he doesn’t notice or doesn’t mind.
  • He says one thing but means another. He says: “I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.” Translation: “You’ll do it in three weeks when you get tired of reminding me.” He says: “I’ll be down in 10 minutes.” Translation: “I’ll be down in 45 to 50 minutes, or whenever I can tear myself away from work.” He says: “I’ll make dinner tonight.” Translation: “Would you like ketchup on your fish sticks?” or ” Do mashed potatoes count as a vegetable?” or “What toppings do you want on the pizza I’m ordering?”

I would never make the assumption that all men, married or single, leave their shoes around; or don’t talk good; or fail to close things; or don’t take care of their clothes; or don’t say what they mean. Not every kitchen has a row of condiments against the back-splash that are easy to reach yet out of the way. So not every husband fails to put the PAM back when he’s done spraying a pan. Most of the time, that scenario plays out like this: I sigh and put the can back inline. Once, I mentioned it to him – I expect you to put things back where they belong, I said; and he told me he doesn’t even see the can left out. It’s not in his realm of consciousness.

Certainly, not every wife is a neat freak and every husband a slob. I know a couple that are engineered in the exact opposite way: she’s the terribly messy one. And opposites don’t always attract: there could be a pair of perfectly marvelous and affectionate slobs married and living just next door (probably the same people who have a very powerful sub-woofer, God love ’em!). Even though biology does dictate certain traits for each sex – male testosterone makes for physical strength in many cases and female estrogen can make for moodiness, being one or the other sex does not imply adherence to the socially accepted gender binary.  Not every man is a well-intentioned simpleton and not every woman a lunatic shrew.

The title of this essay is “My wonderful/lazy/thoughtful/crazy husband.” Let me explain that despite his shortcomings, my husband is primarily wonderful. He doesn’t beat or rape me, which should be a given, but is not – so I mention it, even though it doesn’t earn him extra points. He often tells me how wonderful/loving/beautiful/smart/strong I am. He sometimes brings me flowers, which he thinks to pick up on his way home from a grueling day at the office. He remembers to say “I love you” every day, even if I’ve already removed my makeup. And, when at the supermarket, he always returns the grocery carriage to its nearest stall so that it doesn’t block traffic in the parking lot. In short: he is a lovely person!

At the end of the day, shouldn’t every relationship guide be about helping two different people get along rather than reducing people to the expectations of their respective sexes? Shouldn’t the book tell of scenarios between “Person One” and “Person Two” rather than “Man” and “Woman?” Because aren’t we all special…if not in the grand scheme of things, at least to the person(s) who love(s) us?

Uh huh!

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SeXXX robot or Stepford wife?

Posted in Sexuality by femspotter on January 17, 2010

January 17, 2010

Roxxxy, Sex Robot

It’s here: Roxxxy, the world’s “first” ever sex robot. Not just a doll, she’s a fully automated pleasure giver developed by a New Jersey-based company. (Great! That’s just what New Jersey needs: more questionable notoriety! It’s a great state, I swear!) According to an article in The Huffington Post, this robot is better than a sex doll because she’s connected to a laptop and can carry on a conversation: “I love holding hands with you,” Roxxxy told her creator when he touched her hand at a recent Las Vegas, Nevada expo.

Wait just a minute there! I thought the whole point of a sex doll or robot was to be the same for men as the vibrator is for women: non-conversing, non-politicking sexual pleasure. The idea that a man pleasures himself with a doll or robot in the privacy of his own home doesn’t offend me. Women don’t lose anything in this scenario: men who ONLY want to receive pleasure rather than give it as well aren’t worth having relationships with…unless that’s what you want. And the ones who do want meaningful human relationships can use sex toys for additional fun on the side rather than looking outside the relationship for sex with other women.

But what if the men using these sex robots are trying to make meaningful relationships with these female stand-ins? What’s wrong with this picture? Why aren’t these potential buyers of robotic conversationalists trying to have meaningful relationships with real women or men, sexual or otherwise? And if they are, why do they need a robot unless it’s just used for getting off? Scarier still: do some men want their female companions to be robotic anyway, saying only the things their weak egos want to hear?

Hetero women today already have it hard enough. According to an article in Marie Claire about the male midlife crisis, “guys (today) are part of a cause-less generation. They didn’t grow up burning their draft cards or fighting the Nazis. They weren’t part of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, or any other movement. They were spoiled as kids and now they want to spoil themselves as adults.”

And according to this article, today’s young men mostly want to play video games in their free time. That time does not include buying a house in the burbs,  and having/raising children with a wife they personally talk to every day. I worry that if we give these guys the option – girlfriend or sex robot? – they’ll go with the robot because it’s easier. And because it’s no longer just a toy, guys won’t get lonely around Roxxxy because they can talk sports and even politics with it.

I don’t engage in any discourse with my vibrator. Real sex and real conversation are the benefits of my marriage to a real man.

This line of robots isn’t the first for this robot developer, but it is the most advanced.

Douglas Hines, founder of Lincoln Park, N.J.-based True Companion LLC, said Roxxxy can carry on simple conversations. The real aim, he said, is to make the doll someone the owner can talk to and relate to.

‘Sex only goes so far – then you want to be able to talk to the person,’ Hines said.

The phrases that were demonstrated were prerecorded, but the robot will also be able to synthesize phrases out of prerecorded words and sounds, Hines said. The laptop will receive updates over the Internet to expand the robot’s capabilities and vocabulary. Since Hines is a soccer fan, it can already discuss Manchester United, he said. It snores, too.

Owners will also be able to select different personalities for Roxxxy, from ‘Wild Wendy’ to ‘Frigid Farrah,’ Hines said. He’s charging somewhere from $7,000 to $9,000 for the robot, including the laptop, and expects to start shipping in a few months.

A Japanese company, Honey Dolls, makes life-size sex dolls that can play recorded sounds, but Roxxxy’s sensors and speech capabilities appear to be more sophisticated. Hines’ goals are certainly more far-reaching.

An engineer, Hines said he was inspired to create the robot after a friend died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. That got him thinking about preserving his friend’s personality, to give his children a chance to interact with him as they’re growing up. Looking around for commercial applications for artificial personalities, he initially thought he might create a home health care aide for the elderly.

‘But there was tremendous regulatory and bureaucratic paperwork to get through. We were stuck’ Hines said. ‘So I looked at other markets.’

The broader goal of the company is still to take artificial personalities into the mainstream, beyond sex toys, Hines said.

‘The sex robot thing is marketing – it’s really about making a companion,’ he said.

Okay, Mr. Hines. I’ll buy that you have nobler intentions than contributing to the market of sex toys. But your idea that you can preserve someone’s personality is truly terrifying. A personality is just that: personal. No robot or computer will ever be able to fully simulate the miracle of life. Who do you think you are? God? Mother? Uh, father?

We humans implemented the telephone to make interpersonal communication faster and easier. What happened? Over time, we stopped walking across office floors to put in face time with each other and started picking up the phone every time we needed a bit of information. Then, we figured out that email was an even simpler way to disconnect from social interactions. We’ve substituted email for phone calls. And when people started (mis)reading tone and inflection into email, we invented emoticons to give “personality” to our informative missives through little bits of code. When, at last, we got tired of typing full sentences, we switched over to instant message systems and texting on our cell phones. Now, we don’t even need to learn to spell as children because almost every common phrase we use has an acronym or abbreviation. Sometimes, we even stand right next to each other and text rather than talk. Will we forget how to make eye contact? Will we forget how to speak?

The Stepford WivesAnd the real question for sex robot creators and buyers is this: will you forget what it’s like to love and care for somebody else? For like all of our blatant abuses of technologies that minimize social interaction, surely the ongoing development of a sex robot is just one more step in the evolution of a completely isolated, alienated human being. If you’re in the market for a sex robot who talks, won’t you soon expect to be able to purchase a sex robot who cooks, cleans, does laundry, runs errands, earns a decent wage and raises your adopted children? Where do you draw the line between sex robot and Stepford wife?

It’s true that not all people have it easy when it comes to meeting members of the desired sex. But buying a sex robot is the easy way out, and it’s detrimental to the human race. If you’re using a sex toy for sex, it’s a tool. If you’re using it for conversation, it’s a hindrance. According to another source, “Mr Hines sees his creation as not only a recreational innovation but as an outlet for the shy people with sexual dysfunction and those who want to experiment without risk.”

Experiment without risk; go for it! Shy people and those with physical dysfunctions who would seek out robot discourse usually aren’t suffering in just the romantic areas of their lives. They might need therapy and possibly medication to cope with most human interactions, from handshaking to speaking to sex. I worry that giving a “shy” person a sex robot/Stepford wife might only worsen his shyness. We get better at being with people the more we do it. And the less we spend time in the real world with real people, the less we’ll be able or even want to.

And of course, there’s this: a sex robot will never love you the way a woman can and will. Is the advancing Roxxxy a substitute for love? Will we forget how to love and be loved in return?

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