As I write this, my children are asleep in their room, Loretta Lynn is on the stereo, and my wife is out on a date with a man named Paulo. It’s her second date this week; her fourth this month so far. If it goes like the others, she’ll come home in the middle of the night, crawl into bed beside me, and tell me all about how she and Paulo had sex. I won’t explode with anger or seethe with resentment. I’ll tell her it’s a hot story and I’m glad she had fun. It’s hot because she’s excited, and I’m glad because I’m a feminist.
Before my wife started sleeping with other men, I certainly considered myself a feminist, but I really only understood it in the abstract. When I quit working to stay at home with the kids, I began to understand it on a whole new level. I am an economically dependent househusband coping with the withering drudgery of child-rearing. Now that I understand the reality of that situation, I don’t blame women for demanding more for themselves than the life of the housewife. [. . .]
When my wife told me she wanted to open our marriage and take other lovers, she wasn’t rejecting me, she was embracing herself. When I understood that, I finally became a feminist. [. . .] Going out alone to hooking up with others was an easy transition. It does work both ways and, yes, I too enjoy sexual carte blanche. I just don’t use mine as much as my wife uses hers. What’s important is equality of opportunity, not outcome.
As John Durant points out, none of this is “feminism,” so much as a role reversal of pre-Sexual Revolution norms, or a photographic negative of Mad Men. Now, the man stays in the domestic sphere with the kids, in a state of sheltered naiveté and willed blindness, while the female matriarch provides for the household and grants herself the privilege of occasionally going on the prowl. All that’s missing is a Loretta Lynn record playing in the background . . . oh wait, that’s there, too.
On another level, Sonmore, despite himself, reveals something important about feminism. It is not about “equal opportunity” or any of the various liberal catch-phrases he recites. Feminism is a symbolic and psychic punishment of men for millennia of patriarchal rule. Men must endlessly engage in sadomasochistic ritual and role playing in order to extirpate the sin of once governing society.
The fact that people like Sonmore enjoy their punishment does mean that it is not punishment, or that his arrangement with his wife is not founded on an overriding sense of Male Guilt.
I’m sure Christian monks secretly enjoyed their self-flagellation, too.