Looking for writing on the politics of desire, dating and relationships
September 15, 2022 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 40ish cis het white man who has always felt somewhat left out of the economy/ies of dating and romance. As I keep aging (wtf) and feeling less and less Part of That World I'm finding that I really want to understand the social politics of desire and dating in a broader sense (and beyond my specific experience). I'm looking for folks who have thought and written on it.

Topics I can think of that would be intersect here are hierarchies of beauty, colorism, how social status in general intersects with dating and relationships, general gendered expectations in dating, psychologies of desire, and visionary writing that imagines new social relations beyond these sad structures.

I'm certain that feminists, fat activists, disability activists, Black thinkers and other writers of color and others have written smart things on this but I don't know where to look. I think writing that works through related oppressive systems could be valuable too — as an example I just finished the excellent The Tragedy of Heterosexuality which helped me contextualize a lot of my struggles to connect in hetero contexts.

Note that I'm not looking for the kind of self-help writing that seeks to help people feel more confident within these systems or otherwise "succeed" despite these systems; I want the radical analysis!

I'm also someone who has somewhat specific desires when it comes to partners and that feels like a liability to me more than something exciting (the feeling that if I had a more expansive palette of desire I could be successfully connecting/dating more) — any writing that wrestles with that element of desire would be super appreciated as well.
posted by wemayfreeze to Human Relations (9 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I have two recommendations that are more along the axis of parenthood but that deal with gender, desire, full personhood for all, and the ethics of care.

Full Surrogacy Now

The Argonauts
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:39 AM on September 15 [3 favorites]

I feel like I'm constantly recommending this book but Chloé Cooper Jones's memoir Easy Beauty is just an absolutely remarkable philosophical/personal work on beauty and disability, including desire and relationships. It sounds like you want something that will change how you think, but because it's so brutally smart and incisive instead of because it's trying to get you to change how you think; this is that. (For a taste you can read her essay "Such Perfection" in The Believer.)
posted by babelfish at 1:31 PM on September 15 [7 favorites]

Thanks for asking this question. I've been on a similar quest since reading The Tragedy of Heterosexuality and am very keen to hear others' suggestions. I don't think it's exactly what you're after but Gay New York broke apart and reunited my understanding of gender and sexuality and the possibilities of... not quite dating... but let's say human intercourse, in the old-fashioned sense... in a really productive and expansive way.
posted by happyfrog at 2:56 PM on September 15 [2 favorites]

Have you read any bell hooks yet?
All About Love
posted by PaulaSchultz at 5:34 PM on September 15 [3 favorites]

W/r/t the specifics of desire—There's On Heteropessimism, and I cannot recommend enough Amia Srinivasan's Does Anyone Have The Right To Sex?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:42 PM on September 15 [2 favorites]

No book recommendations, sorry, but you sound a little pessimistic from here. The world of dating from 40 onwards is wonderful, far more interesting and with far less bullshit than the early years. I speak from the point of view of someone who was thinking like you were 15 years ago, and with a fairly dismal dating / relationship history up to that point. Chin up, it's going to get much better 😀
posted by tillsbury at 8:53 PM on September 15 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Amazing ideas already, thank you all!

Fiasco I let out a big YES when I saw just the names of those articles — will be reading ASAP, thank you.

And big yes to hooks, too — All About Love was foundational in my earlier years but this is a great reminder to go back to it with these aged eyes.

tillsbury: pessimistic, yes … for all of us under the heteropatriarchy! Heh. I appreciate the positive affirmation, though. My dating pool is getting smaller as I'm getting clearer on who I am but that overall will help me in immeasurable ways, including, possibly? finding partners that are a match.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:37 PM on September 15

Can’t believe no one mentioned this classic essay yet.
posted by shadygrove at 1:03 AM on September 16 [4 favorites]

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