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What exactly makes a woman “wife material”—someone who is worthy of a man’s lifelong love and commitment? This topic recently came up in a Facebook group of which I’m a member. A woman who was talking to a man she met online posed this question to the group of fellow women: Even though she was extremely sexually attracted to him, should she abstain from having sex with him in order to show that she’s worthy of being his girlfriend, or perhaps even his wife one day?
Many women jumped to answer her question, advising her to wait anywhere from three dates to “as long as you can.” These answers are not unfamiliar to me. Growing up, I had received similar advice from television shows, magazines, and even other women. I was told to wait three dates—or better, five, or even better, eight—before having sex with a man. I was told to make him wait as long as you can, because if you have sex with him too soon, he will lose all respect for you. After all, “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
One woman in the Facebook group commented that, based on how long a woman waits to have sex with a man, he will put her in one of three categories: one night stand, friend with benefits, or wife material. So, she advised the original poster: If you truly want him to see you as wife material, you have to tease him. Make him work for it. Dangle a carrot in front of his eyes. Hold out for as long as you can, and make him chase you.
According to all of these pieces of advice, sex is nothing more than a prize that a woman gives to a man to reward him for his time, his attention, and his persistence. Is it any wonder, then, that idiotic concepts like the “friend zone” persist, where men feel entitled to have sex with a woman just because he spent time with her and paid attention to her when she was talking? And is it any wonder that men pursue women relentlessly even after she has said “no,” thinking that “no” doesn’t really mean “stay away from me,” but rather “try harder”?
These outdated standards of modesty that we tell women to conform to if they want to be seen as “wife material” are the exact same vehicles that drive rape culture. The idea that a woman has to say no to a man’s advances and run away from him just to see if he’s willing to chase her down goes hand in hand with the idea that a man should ignore a woman’s “no” and pursue her until she finally gives him what he wants.
When women are taught to say “no” to sex in order to keep a man interested, even when she actually wants to have sex with him, men learn that when a woman says “no” she is just playing hard to get. And when women are taught to use their bodies as a way to reward men for their time and attention, men learn to expect sexual access from women in exchange for a couple of dinner dates and a bouquet of roses—and subsequently get angry and potentially violent when they do all the “nice guy” things and still don’t get rewarded with sex.
But women continue adhere to the three-date rule in order to prove that they are, as the Facebook commenter said, “wife material”—a woman worthy of a man’s time, commitment, and respect. If she were to break the three-date rule and have sex with a man too soon, then she gets put into the category of “one night stand” instead. She is no longer a woman worthy of a man’s respect. She is a slut and a whore, and she is most definitely not worthy of being his wife—which is, naturally, what all women aspire to be.
It strikes me as funny that women constantly have to prove themselves to be wife material, while men are automatically assumed to be husband material. As a matter of fact, the sheer willingness to settle down and stop “sowing his wild oats” makes a man husband material. The bar is set extremely low. No matter how much philandering a man has done, no matter how irresponsible and immature he is, no matter how disgusting his bachelor pad is or how incapable he is of basic domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning, men are always seen as deserving of a woman’s lifelong respect and commitment.
I am never going to judge whether or not a man is husband material based on the number of people he’s had sex with. But you can bet that I am going to judge him as not being husband material if he slut shames the women he sleeps with and expects them to adhere to arbitrary and outdated standards of modesty and celibacy that, for some reason, don’t apply to him.
A person’s worth isn’t tied to how many people they’ve slept with, or how long they wait before having sex. A person’s worth is reflected in how they treat other people. And ultimately, if you are a man who loses respect for a woman once she sleeps with you, that only reflects on your character rather than hers. “Women’s lives are not auditions to be your future wives,” and your inability to see women as autonomous human beings with sexual agency speaks volumes about how you are nowhere near ready to be a husband.
Nian Hu ’18, a former Crimson editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Mather House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.
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