“Entitlement” is a word that gets thrown around rather a lot. Men feel entitled to women’s bodies, women feel entitled to men’s bank accounts, everybody is entitled thanks to the growing epidemic of narcissism fuelled by whatever The Daily Mail is blaming this week. But I feel it’s being overused, often for a political message in the war of gender politics.
What is Entitlement?
What do we mean by entitlement? The OED gives this definition:
That has a legal right or just claim to do, receive, or possess something.
Most recently, the meaning has morphed (thanks to the word use in North America) to also include:
Believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment;
Both of these are fair and just uses, particularly when we consider that some people are narcissistic enough to believe that their demographic entitles them to something – whether in the examples given above, that means men feeling entitled to women’s’ bodies or women feeling entitled to mens’ bank accounts, religious groups feeling entitled to special protection or extra privileges, people fresh out of school feeling entitled to a CEO position etc.
These are often fair accusations to make, but I do feel that the word has been hijacked by both radical (actually, mainstream too) feminists and MRAs in another salvo of the gender politics war.
I have discussed the Spreadsheetgate several times (here and here) and I really, desperately wanted to be proven wrong when I said that when the man condemned as “entitled” for noting that his wife persistently refused his sexual advances, the situation would have been completely different had the situation been reversed. Sadly, I was not wrong. Not only was there silence when a few weeks later two different people demonstrated just that – a woman noted that her husband persistently rejected her sexual advances. Not only was the silence deafening, if anything there was the utmost sympathy for this woman who did exactly what the man in the first relationship had done.
Why was she not called out as an oppressive bully, feeling entitled to her husband’s body? Where were the memes? Where was Everyday Sexism to remind women that they are not entitled to men’s bodies just as men are not entitled to women’s bodies?
On the other side, we have an insistence from most MRAs that most women are golddiggers – they’re not. I met a couple of women when dating who felt my value was in what I was prepared to spend to impress her, but I made my distaste clear and never saw them again. There is a difference between gold digging and hypergamy; we can argue about the latter all we like, yet most women that I know are very keen to pay their own way.
I met up with Bookworm at the weekend – the first time I had seen her in many months. We usually meet up for a coffee and a catch up and I remember during one meet up last year, she said “you bought the coffee and cake last time – this one is on me.” Not only had she remembered an instance I had forgotten, she chose to remind me and chose to act on it when she could have let it pass.
Anyway, I digress.
Entitlement vs Expectation
People now conflate entitlement with expectation. What do I mean by that? Well, we have certain expectations in a relationship. I expected that my ex-wife would never cheat on me. I expected that when she made her wedding vows, they meant something. I expected that she would always act with decency. I expected that I would always get back in return the same love, loyalty and devotion I gave her in return.
Yeah, I’m an entitled pig for thinking she should not have cheated on me 😛
A normal sex life is a relationship expectation. Nobody is entitled to sex whenever they want it, and in a normal relationship you can expect days that your partner is not in the mood and days when they are in the mood and you are not. However, if your partner is persistently rejecting your advances – for weeks or months at a time, there is a problem with the relationship that needs to be addressed. For me, the relationship expectations are:
- Honesty and openness
- Devotion and loyalty (for me this means monogamy)
- Physical intimacy (affection and sex)
- Emotional intimacy (a mental closeness)
If one or more of those are withdrawn, you would be pretty angry; yet certain elements would have us believe that your negative reaction to having your expectations repeatedly rejected somehow makes you the guilty party – the entitled one, the one who requires to be called out in the world’s media as indicative of a common problem… you selfish pig.
We are not really entitled to anything, but it is perfectly normal to have certain expectations when you are in a relationship.