this article is mostly things i already knew but it does a very good job of presenting them in a very clear and unapologetic way. it also sparked some thoughts that i wanted to share and hear people's reaction to.
i want to say in advance that i do not believe (nor necessarily disbelieve) my own experiences and feelings here are universal or even commonplace among women. i'm an outlier in a number of important ways; perhaps most saliently, i have avoidant and borderline personality disorders which i'm told seriously warp my values and priorities. (incidentally, bpd is interpreted by the manosphere as an extreme amplification of normal female behavior and thought processes. take from this what you will.) however, common behavior trends among normal women that seem self-destructive and irrational to men make perfect sense to me - i just don't know if it's for the same reason that it makes sense to the women who engage in them.
alexander talks about the well-known "nice guys finish last" phenomenon, where women are strongly inclined to treat friendly, respectful men exclusively as friend material, and almost exclusively take aggressive, brash, confident, sometimes violent men as lovers. (feminists are largely convinced, contrary to all evidence, that they have debunked this idea.) i have very mixed feelings about how what my reaction to this phenomenon should be, but before i get to why i want to dissect one of the common excuses psychologists use to handwave this behavior and why they ring hollow to me.
"yeah, he hit me, but i know i can change him!!" does this line sound familiar? one of the weirder ideas that has gotten lodged in the vast, seething memeplex that is western culture is the idea that women feel a responsibility to moderate and improve their male partners, or at the very least that battered women will refuse to leave their abusive spouse out of the belief that they can somehow fix their husband's violent tendencies, that if they just work at it enough, they can make everything okay and the marriage will work out in the end. i don't have any statistics on hand for this so i can't comment on its reality. however, i sure can comment on the unique spin psychologists put on this: that women don't just rationalize staying with abusers, but will actively seek out violent men out of a desire to fix them.
i'm pretty sure this is bullshit, but i'm also pretty sure it's a bumbling misinterpretation of a very real phenomenon. lemme tell you about some of my own experiences.
i have not, historically, been particularly lucky in love. i've hand a handful of partners over the years and all of them (with the singular exception of my current boyfriend, who has shown me all the love, kindness, compassion, and care i could ever have hoped for) have been to various degrees neglectful or outright abusive. i freely admit that i am profoundly attracted to broken people, so much so that it swamps pretty much all of my other sexual preferences. historically, this hasn't worked out well for me, and i've made plenty of my own excuses to justify staying with and loving people who were treating me like dirt (and in at least one case, almost certainly never actually loved me at all). i'm sure i sounded like a stereotypical battered girlfriend to the friends who tried to convince me to gtfo of there - but i still don't feel that i was wrong about it all.
let me give you some context before continuing.
when my friends or partners or relatives are allergic to therapists or just haven't been able to find a good one, i'm generally the person they end up turning to. this has been the case for most of my adult life, and has ranged from college classmates to frantic online queers to parents to partners and older friends with more life experience. when we were alone together my grandmother would open up to me about things she'd never told anyone else, and when she passed away, my mother - who had a single bad experience with marriage counseling and refused to ever see a therapist again - came to rely on me to help her find her way through the trauma and cope with the stress and pain of being the executor of her mother's will. she felt horribly guilty about this, and another friend of mine thought this was completely inappropriate for a mother in her sixties to lean on her twentysomething daughter for support that way. he also felt really guilty about doing the same thing, in part because i was younger than him, and in part because i'm a woman. i have complicated feelings about all of this.
on the one hand, i'm fucking terrified. from my own experiences with psychologists i know all too well how a single misstep trying to counsel and comfort emotionally vulnerable people can cause catastrophic damage to them, and i'm in no way formally educated on the right ways to do this. it's playing with fire, i worry a lot that i'm going to end up burninr the people who rely on me. and i don't let them rely on me without repeatedly urging that they see a real therapist - at least, when i can do so without making them feel even guiltier about leaning on me.
on the other hand… i have a better track record than some actual psychologists. there are people who are still alive because of me. there are people who escaped horrible situations because of me. there are people who began to show glimmers of self-respect and started to stand up for themselves for the first time in their lives because of me. and since none of these people were willing to talk to anybody but me about their problems (or had utterly ineffectual therapists), and because i've been able to succesfully lead people toward better outcomes in the past, i can justify keeping it up (as long as i'm being extraordinarily careful not to further damage their psyches.)
i say "justify" bc the thing is, this is not something i do grudgingly. intellectually, i can understand why my mom felt so guilty about leaning on me; why my best friend, who works very hard to hew to the masculine ideal of a reliable provider and protector to women, thought it was so inappropriate. internally though, it makes no goddamn sense. in fact, i feel exactly the opposite. not only would it be supremely selfish to choose not to help people when i'm capable of doing so, it would be contrary to absolutely everything i am. i care deeply about the people around me and being useful to them, being able to help them and meaningfully improve their lives, is the greatest joy i've ever known. i don't understand how anyone could feel differently - but that's because i'm a woman and am thus very people-oriented by nature. (i also suspect some sublimated maternal instincts may be at work here since i greatly dislike children but tend to take a caretaker approach to the people who matter to me.) i don't help people because i'm obligated to - i help people because i don't like it when others are in pain.
so this gets back to the "attracted to brokenness" thing. i'm pretty sure i'm not attracted to people because i get some kind of bizarre sexual thrill out of Fixing them, and you can't fix someone who isn't broken. i'm pretty sure i'm attracted to them for two reasons: one, i can relate to and empathize with them much better than any normie; two, when i see someone innocent in pain, i want to stop it. i get impulses to hug random men in public who look depressed and lonely. when i see people who are kind and brilliant and thoughtful and hurting and alone, it breaks my fucking heart and makes me want to give them the stars.
but what about the abuse thing? easily falling for broken people on its own doesn't explain why i stay with them when they're mistreating me, as happened with both of my previous exes - in fact, they both ended up discarding *me.* the explanation for that i think has a lot to do with "bpd warps your values" thing.
here's the thing: at the absolute top of my priorities, high above even the need for food, water, and shelter, is the need for companionship, to not be alone. being beaten routinely would hurt much less than things like being constantly yelled at for wanting to spend time with a partner, or not anticipating their needs and desires and catering to them immediately. which themselves would hurt much, MUCH less than being alone. and it's long been observed that borderlines are easy to abuse for exactly this reason. however, what tends to get lost in translation is that fact that, at least for some of us, abuse just genuinely isn't as big a deal as it is neurotypicals. (i outright told one of my exes at one point that i wished they would take their anger out on me physically instead of neglecting me, gaslighting me, and lashing out at me verbally.) i have friends who think i'm insane for feeling this way, who think i'm brainwashed or deluded or being self-destructive by trying to repair and maintain relationships that are important to me, rather than discard those i love deeply over crossing an arbitrary red line. the people i tell about this seem incapable of understanding that i genuinely experience less pain and distress than they would if they faced the same treatment, or that i'm feeling insufficient distress and this is Wrong somehow, or that i'm suppressing the true pain it's caused me (spoiler: being broken up with (despite promises not to) did vastly more long-term damage to me than the abuse ever did.)
it also must be said, truism that it may be, that women are attracted to strength and power. whatever the evo-psych explanation for this might be, it's a pretty well-established fact. i can't generalize to the experiences of all women (though the astonishing prominence of rape fantasies in women's sexualities suggest there might in fact be something to this) but i will say that very little makes me happier than being with someone who can and will overpower me physically if they feel like it and make me feel vulnerable and helpless at their hands.
all of this leads me to suspect that on the whole, we tend to prefer rough, possessive, and moderately controlling behavior from our partners, of whatever gender, because it's exciting and it makes us feel comfortable and safe and wanted. this certainly does not match the model of the polite, tame, respectful, terrified-of-offending-women Nice Guy. it does, however, strongly match the model of the Henries out there.