I'm going to say something rather shocking now.
Or, well, I find it commonplace — common sense, even — but apparently the world in general does not. Certainly not society, nor books/films/television/discussion thereof. Judging from the lack of this sentiment being sung from the rooftops, as I think it should be, I guess I'll just say it here.
Just because someone loves you doesn't mean you owe them a darn thing.
Or, tried the other way —
Just because you love someone doesn't mean they owe you a darn thing.
Sounds pretty simple, I know, and I'm sure I look silly for making a big deal out of it. But the truth is, people seem to forget this a lot, and the media certainly isn't making it any easier to remember.
I see this trope everywhere, but particularly when the dreaded discussion of Nice Guys comes up again (please see this iconic post by MightyGodKing in lieu of me ranting about it — I'll wait). A guy loves a girl. He's a good guy — both Nice or genuinely nice count here — and he does a lot of things for her. Maybe he helps her realize she doesn't need to do [insert self-destructive behavior or relationships here]; maybe he helps her realize she doesn't need to listen to her family all the time; maybe he literally sacrifices his life for her, or at least puts himself in danger to save her.
The rhetoric that follows is usually thus: the girl is, somehow, obligated to fall in love with him, and if she doesn't she's "ungrateful" — but even if she does, she won't deserve him. Scores of fans and/or critics will kvetch about this nice, self-sacrificing guy doing all this for a chick who isn't good enough for him.
Katniss from The Hunger Games gets this — Peeta has feelings for her, he's a fairly good guy (at first), and he nearly gets himself killed in several horrible ways for her. Yet she doesn't instantly drop into a swoon, instead taking a while to focus on her feelings independent of all the outside pressures — and, you know, not dying — so wide circles of the Internet have declared her an unfeeling, callous bitch.
Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's (the film) doesn't want to be tied down, and refuses to believe that she should own — or be owned by — anyone. Her day job is a high-priced escort, and she's had enough of it that she doesn't want it in her relationships. It's not exactly healthy, but it's what she wants right now. The hero, Paul-not-Fred, can't let this go, going so far as to tell her that she does belong to him, because that's what happens when you're in love.
The end of For Better or For Worse was basically a clustermuck of wilting, mustachioed proportions as Elizabeth, a spunky, independent woman who dated more than one guy in her life (shocker!), slowly gets whittled down by family and friends to give up the life she carved in order to settle down with Blandthony, a boring guy who married a woman he didn't love and had a baby she didn't want and works at a gas station and who saved Elizabeth from a rape only to sob on her shoulder five minutes later that his marriage was cracking and he still loved her.
The girl in Avril Lavigne's Sk8r Boi decides that popularity is more important than a guy she made eyes at a few times across the cafeteria, and so she spends her life "nursing the baby, […] all alone", complete with "gotcha!" moment when she realizes the guy is MTV-famous now. (I could do a whole post about this song, really.)
I don't even think I need to list the modern (as in, 80s and later) romantic comedy for this one.
In discussions about these types of stories and in real life, the smug sentiment prevails that this girl had better "come to her senses" and snap him up now, because he won't wait forever, and then one day she'll realize her mistake but it will be too late and she'll spend her life with cats or some jerk who doesn't love her or the kid some guy knocked her up with before leaving — and the nice guy won't care because he's moved on and is married to twenty Swedish supermodels who are also contortionists and nuclear physicists. Bitch.
"He won't wait forever!" "Soon it'll be too late!" "It'll be your fault!" "You'd be lucky even to have him!"
On and on and on. There are so many problems inherent with this, especially given that we aren't existing in a medieval society where the first gaze meant ownership, that I can't even go through them all. That having a child and then becoming a single mother is shown to be the "punishment" for not being interested in Nice Guy X is a rant on its own.
But at the heart of it, it boils down to this: we fall in love when we fall in love. Yes, other people can affect that, but they can't actually make us unless they do something very illegal with a syringe and oxytocin.
And if we don't fall in love, it's not out fault; we aren't bad people; we don't do it on purpose; and we don't deserve to be stigmatized for it.
Love is not Quinn Morgendorffer's checklist of which guy is the best to date, based on car, choice of restaurant, clothing, or seasonal vacation equipment. We don't actually sit here thinking, "I know this guy loves me, but I'm going to consciously erase the part of my brain that might reciprocate".
Harsh? Yes, but I'm tired of it. Being in love does not entitle you to anything, and that includes if you're a nice guy or the one who really understands her or the one who's known her longest or has her coffee order memorized or, yes, saved her from death.
Loving someone does not entitle you to anything.
Being loved by someone does not mean you owe them anything.
Let's get out of the dark ages and into the proper millennium, shall we?
Fandom on the internet in general is a pretty fantastic place, but particularly when it comes to sexuality. Kink, taboos, paraphilias, and pretty much anything you can think of get addressed in fandom; written about, debated, discussed. If you think you're the most sexually liberal-minded person out there, you're probably wrong. It's never-ending. Sexualities of any and all sorts get treated with respect, or at the very least, curiosity and genuine interest.
Fandom is a kinky place; I don't think of myself as easily shocked (anymore), but occasionally someone will request a fic that has even me turning pale and looking for the nearest Disney film to recuperate. I've discovered squicks (don't google that) I never knew I had, but I've also realized that I'm comfortable with the idea of much more than I would have been. Kink and fandom are extremely comfortable with one another.
Which is, I suppose, why the one sexual orientation I still see treated with disregard and outright denial is asexuality.
A lot of fandom doesn't understand why some people think Character A is asexual, because that doesn't exist. The character is repressed, or celibate, or damaged, or busy, or just has never had the opportunity. Authors who write Character A as asexual are fooling themselves, falling for the very delusion that the character is under. At the very best, asexuality is a choice, one that Character A makes for personal, religious, or whatever reasons, and which can be un-made when they realize just how darned attractive Character B is.
This is one of the rare times when fandom attitudes overlap with life. Asexual people are told, constantly, that they cannot, and do not, exist; that their orientation is not valid; that they must have been abused, or traumatized, or hurt in some way; that they have a hormone imbalance; that there is some reason why they are like this; that they're not normal. Asexual people are told that if they just give sex a try, they'll like it! They're told that asexual means "bisexual without experience". Sex is "only human", and "natural", and asexuals are not just denying themselves, but supporting the anti-sex patriarchal whatever. Finding this attitude so condemningly — and, yes, condescendingly — in fandom, a self-professed safe space, is unbelievably frustrating.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a place where sex is stigmatized less than in fandom. While society still persists in slut-shaming and any horrifying number of attacks against sex, fandom is, in general, a place that celebrates sex. All kinds of it. Perhaps that's why fandom sees asexuality as something to be derided and ignored — it's no fun. It's not titillating. To put it crudely, you can't get off on it.
Which is why I'm so, so grateful for Sherlock. BBC's modern retelling of Sherlock Holmes has Holmes as decidedly asexual, professing outright to have no interest in any sort of relationship — hetero, homo, or otherwise. This is in keeping with Doyle's version, and I was thrilled to see it.
Of course fandom is rife with Sherlock/Watson slash stories anyway, and at the very beginning I read a horrifying fan-article where the author basically derided anyone "deluded" enough to write Sherlock as asexual, but the attitude is changing. Asexuality visiblity is beginning to happen. Fandom is, slowly, beginning to realize that asexuality exists, and that asexual people can be just as interesting as sexual ones.
Then again, Sherlock is a "high-functioning sociopath", which gives people a "reason" for his asexuality, so we've still a way yet. Most characters in fandom who do register as asexual are otherwise strange. If you want to claim that a character is asexual, be prepared for people to leap on you with reasons why you're wrong. (Case in point: Jughead Jones and Velma Dinkley are, in my mind, firmly asexual. But Velma is a lesbian icon for some reason, despite showing no interest or tendency toward either sex, and people don't want that taken away from them.)
My point here is that if you are a person in fandom whose initial response to asexuality is to scoff and denounce its existence — and, even worse, to argue with an asexual person that they're not really that way — please stop. Remember that fandom is a place that gives voice to people who have sex with anyone — and in any manner — they so desire, and it should also give voice to those who don't.
[Note: maybe later I'll make a post on asexualty vs. aromanticism. Sherlock, for example, is asexual, but whether he's truly aromantic is up for debate. We'll see.]
So I was going to do a big post about any of several social issues that have been raising my blood pressure lately, but I realized it would be nothing but paragraphs of “AAAAAAAAARGH KA;FJ;LFJF FHFDLA;LKH ;LFHF FDLFKJAFDLK;J FHLFDH FHFHDJFL !!!!!!!!!! >:C”
So here’s a picture of my cat, doing his best to be difficult: