Friday, March 6, 2015

Some notes toward an essay on male jealousy

Interesting how men will never admit to being jealous; they always claim it’s some other, more refined emotion. (Perhaps protectiveness on your behalf.) They must bristle at the stereotype of the simplistic, brutish, jealous man. But come on: Men often are simplistic and brutish, even when capable of gentleness and complexity.

Men also insist on distinguishing between envy and jealousy, as if we don’t know the difference. What does this buy one, anyway? Someone on Twitter said, “Jealousy is the gin, envy is the vermouth.” I love that, but what could it mean? Wanting what others have makes their wanting what you have more delicious?

In my experience, by and large: When a man is interested in you or has some claim over you, any amount of attention you pay to another man is too much. The assumption is not necessarily that you’re attracted to this third party, but that you’re “leading him on.” (Oh boo-hoo.) For some unclear greater good, you should make the terms of the relationship 100% clear. What men who want this don’t realize is: one, clarity is in the eye of the beholder and two, there are social consequences for that kind of behavior. (To quote Stephanie in Saturday Night Fever, “I bet it begins with a C.”) Further, drawing clear lines can be a kind of provocation, an invitation to cross them. For women, simple kindness is a kind of neutrality – conflict avoidance as strategy.

This expectation that women will define the terms is closely related to the common wisdom that whatever attention you attract from men is your own fault: the “she was asking for it” school of thought. And further, that career-wise you’re consciously using men, manipulating situations to “get ahead.” Multiple times (but only by men) I’ve been told I got one or another opportunity because somebody wanted to sleep with me. The sad thing is, it’s probably true.

Men want it both ways: You’re supposed to be suspicious of all other men and their nefarious intentions, but not the man who is imparting said wisdom to you; he has transcended. But by showing suspicion they are playing their hand: Men are jealous because they know men’s nature.

I have an ex who was rarely jealous, that truly rare specimen. The only time I ever saw him react with jealousy was when we were breaking up, after a five-year relationship. We had agreed to see other people (completely his idea, an idea I went along with only in hopes of saving the relationship). I spoke candidly of flirting with someone at a party he hadn’t attended, my way of proving to him that I was making an effort; later that week we ran into the guy at another event, and I pointed him out. My ex turned hostile. I was astonished – he was jealous! Of this performance I was doing for him!


  1. For me it's all about loneliness, and hurt, and self-esteem. I'm speaking here from my own experience from when I've felt jealousy (something I'm too much inclined to do). I'm not suggesting that jealousy is "something else," just that it's maybe not the root feeling. That jealousy is a kind of acting-out of what we are more essentially feeling.

    I surely can't say if it's like this for all men, or men in general, or even men in the limited cultures I'm familiar with -- it's a large and varied world. I'm talking here from what I myself have felt, and the little bit I've talked about it with other men.

    For me, what it usually comes down to, when I'm feeling jealousy or anything like it, is that I'm feeling the hurt and loss and loss-of-self when I realize that the love I imagined or hoped for, the relationship I imagined or hoped for, isn't happening. I try not to vent my jealousy or similar resentments, I try not to chase after such feelings, though I'm likely not any better with that than any other "average" person, whatever that might mean.

    That's more or less what seems to make sense to me, just thinking about it here. It's hard to be very articulate about feelings that can be kind of complicated and slippery, without talking about actual examples (actual instances, women I've felt jealousy with, actual occasions), but the internet is a public place, you know...

  2. Not sure why, but the term envy/envious registers with me in a way that jealous does not, or not as much. Maybe because envy seems more like a verb to me. There are a few writers (living, of course: dead people don't make me envious) I am envious of, and I'd love to write an essay, but I don't have sufficient confidence that I could do anymore than be churlish crapper.

  3. Not sure if this is standard or not, but: those who I envy I do not maximally admire.

  4. OK, I'm dumb--this seems to be sexual jealousy. And Heterosexual at that. Good-looking Hetero couples at airports definitely make me jealous.

  5. OMG--feel dumb, made envy/jealousy distinction. I don't get the logic of that paragraph though: it implies that men are village-explaining when making that distinction, but then goes on to suggest that it's questionable that the terms mean different things. Is jealous more sexual in connotation, and even denotation? The "everyone wants a taste"..."I still get jealous" song on the radio suggests this (wow that song is annoying: I hate when men put on an air of sensitivity/vulnerability/gentle kind soul/whatever the words are when they're so clearly being un-revisionary cocks; the "Sugar" song on the radio is the ultimate--if there's one thing that asshole does not have any interest in, it's women as beings who have integrity--so hope singer didn't write it, and he sings it for the sheer profit not because he feels it means anything worthwhile). I'm curious about the etymologies, but doubt I'll look them up.