Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What is "a presumed exclusivity right"?

I wrote that this morning when discussing the consequences of a guy paying for some or all of his girlfriend's birth control.
A certain level of entitlement and a presumed exclusivity right would go with payment.
Some people might be thinking, "So what?" Isn't sexual exclusivity still taken for granted in relationships? Well yes but ...

The thing is that there are degrees of exclusivity just as Frederick William Maitland once pointed out there are degrees of freedom. When a woman enters into "a relationship" with a man there is a tacit assumption that neither of them is going to be having other lovers but the door to other lovers, while it may be shut, is still openable. That they aren't getting married, at least not yet, implies that the door might be opened to someone else someday. It's an option.

How much of an option? That depends on the person, the situation, the expectations.
Suppose Jill meets a guy at college and they start dating and come Christmas they both go home to their separate cities. And she meets her ex-boyfriend from the summer before she went back to college.

And things move along until they are in bed together more quickly than she anticipated. And Jill tells herself that she is not cheating on her boyfriend with someone new but with a guy who'd already "been there". "That's different." And it's just about the sex anyway because they have already established that love doesn't work and besides they are both seeing someone else now. In fact, a big part of what got them into bed was that they felt they could talk to one another about their new partners in a  way they couldn't talk to someone else.

Jill's best friend Catherine, meanwhile, sees what Jill is doing and is appalled. She'd never do what Jill is doing. It would be a denial of everything Catherine is and everything she stands for. But not because she couldn't do it, you know? She could, she just wouldn't, but just to say she could means the door is openable.

Jill's mother, meanwhile is married and her door is nailed shut. But a door that is nailed shut can still be opened and if things got really uninspiring with her husband, she might find a handyman to open her door for her.

Catherine's mother is even more rigorous about these things. Her door has been removed and bricked over. She never even thinks about the possibility. But somewhere in the back of her mind she knows that should her husband die or, God forbid, leave her, there are ways of re-opening the door.

Every woman instinctively grasps letting your boyfriend pay for part or all of her birth control changes things. She knows that with this goes the assumption that she is going to put a better lock on the already closed door. A lock that makes it harder for her to open.

And just as letting her boyfriend pay for half the cost of her birth control gives him a special claim on her sexuality, so too will allowing the government to mandate that health insurance will pay for all of it will give society a special claim on her sexuality.

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