What The #metoo Movement Has Done To Dating

Have we become so hyper­-aware of this new culture that we are left afraid to initiate interest in the opposite sex?

This week, in light of conversations I’ve had surrounding the #metoo campaign storm, I’ve been thinking about two of my more incompatible traits -- an intense need for independence coupled with an innate desire for romance. The oil and water of my relationships. The vodka and decision-making. Wine and the ex-boyfriend’s number. Trump and nuclear weaponry. You get the drift.

I’ve been wondering if, in our current climate, there’s space enough for both these characteristics. Because to be an independent woman; a self-sufficient, liberated, I-can-do-it-on-my-own-thanks-all-the-same woman, seems to be far more a characteristic to take hold of and own in this day and age than to be a woman who, deep down, harbours a desire for old-fashioned romance.

A woman who wants to be complimented, who wants to be asked on a date, who wants to be pursued. To say it out loud feels almost shameful, as if somehow admitting this makes me less of an advocate for women. Like I’m letting down my side (and will likely get shunned from the team). That not only am I encouraging, but enabling the exact behaviour of men that as a woman today, I should be striving to put an end to.

However, it’s important to remember there’s a huge difference between mutual courtship within a relationship and sexual inappropriateness, harassment and abuse forced upon women. One is about respect, the other violation. One is about romance, the other control. One is equal, the other an imbalance of power. One is because you want, the other is because he can.

The #metoo spotlight has drawn the eyes of the world to a myriad of injustice that should have never been ignored. Finally, women are beginning to be seen, to be heard, to be validated. We have a platform for our voices; a place that takes us from the isolation of our shame to the solidarity of our stories. The magnitude of the outcome of this campaign and the positive impact it has had cannot be denied.

But have we become so hyper­-aware of this new culture that we are left afraid to initiate interest in the opposite sex? And what about the men who still believe in old-fashioned romance? Men who offer women the utmost respect; who value, honour and cherish them. Men who are raising sons of integrity and daughters of worth. Men who desire to pursue as much as some of us still desire to be pursued. How are they feeling in the aftermath of the campaign?

Last week, during an interview with Sky News Australia, Rodney Hogg stated, “I don’t want to be a bloke now because I do not know how to go approaching a woman.”

And while many of us rolled our eyes at such a statement (um, the way a man should have always approached a woman might be a good place to start), does he raise a valid point? Are men left feeling equally as unsure how to navigate traditional romance in today’s culture?

Recently I asked some men in my life exactly this question.

When speaking of the campaign itself, they all believed it to be positive, necessary, vital, important, and stand in support with women who have shared their story. Thankful to see the bro-culture exposed, they share mutual anger over men who have held and abused positions of power in a way that has left women feeling afraid, vulnerable and victimised. They feel there has been a definite awareness of the injustices toward women and with the veil now lifted, have been better able to understand not only how women feel, but also how their own actions and responses may have impacted women in the past.

When asked how they felt the campaign had affected traditional romance and courtship, all believed that should they seek to pursue a woman now, they would do so with much more caution and awareness of how their intentions could be perceived. That they’d probably stop and think twice about any words or actions that could be construed as inappropriate flirtations, and felt it more important than it may have once been to get to know a woman quite well before asking her on a date.

Image: Getty.

However, while they understand the campaign has had much pent-up power that is needing to be released, some felt that once the damage had been cleared it would become necessary to repair all sides of the fence -- that women also needed to be aware of their capability to hurt men through the use of their own power, which -- though perhaps delivered in more subtle ways -- can be equally as scarring. These men, too, are asking for an awareness, for women to recognise not all men are the same, and to be acknowledged for being decent men who are working hard to become part of the solution, not continuing to perpetuate the problem.

Personally, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has also endured physical, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of men who have used their position and power over me, the #metoo campaign has been a welcome movement which has enabled me freedom, empowerment, connection and healing. Through this movement I have found my voice, and an important conversation has been started that must continue.

But in spite of my experiences, I don’t believe the campaign should be used to shame men for their gender alone; to place all men in one box with the same label. I don’t believe the campaign should become so unbalanced that men are left too afraid to pursue a woman, even with only the most virtuous of intentions. There are many decent men out there, and I still choose to believe this in spite of my experiences. I still choose to believe genuine romance can exist in this #metoo world.

But it has to be about equilibrium. About being able to call out corrupt men while we honour men who are good and kind. About men and women both being conscious that their actions speak respect, consideration and understanding to one another at all times.

About not accepting any kind of behaviour that violates women while still allowing a man the space to romantically pursue a woman. And about giving ourselves permission to be independent women who can still admit that maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t mind being romanced by an honourable man occasionally.

After all -- as one of my male friends said -- decency, honesty and respect are still as sexy now as they’ve always been.

I’ll light some candles and open a bottle of wine to that.

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Kathy Parker is a freelance writer, spoken word poet and author of The Unravelled Heart. Gin fanatic, outdoor enthusiast, less than average surfer. Takes an alright photo. www.kathyparker.com.au