Plausible deniability and abuse

Plausible deniability,

Or how to burn trust to the ground.

Play hard to get, keep him wondering.

This is the advice which appears to saturate female oriented social and other media. Keep him guessing. String him along, de-escalate phone contacts to the level of text messages. Return only 1 out of 4 messages.

What motivates this?

Opening any issue of COSMO or any other women’s magazine will reveal a half dozen lists of tactics claiming to be relationship advice, but actually cultivate something else; personal plausible deniability.

This was distilled in a 1995 “dating advice” book called “The Rules”. This book has unfortunately informed much of the public zeitgeist of dating and romance. Here is a short sample of the actual rules as provided by the authors, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

  • Be a creature unlike any other.
    Subtext: don’t be yourself, put on an act. Employ deception.
  • Don’t Talk to a Man First.
    Subtext: Force him to take the initiative, this allows you to avoid any responsibility.
  • Don’t Talk Too Much.
    Subtext: Initiating of communication exposes your opinion and reduces plausible deniability.
  • Don’t Meet Him Halfway.
    Subtext: Invest less than he does in all social transactions. Hold power over him.
  • Don’t Call Him, and indeed, Rarely Return His Calls.
    Subtext: Establish that he must always initiate, and that you have no responsibility to do so. Also, establishes that he is always subservient to you.
  • Always End Phone Calls First.
    Subtext: Be a gatekeeper of communications, retain unilateral power in all contacts.
  • Don’t Accept a Saturday Date after Wednesday.
    Subtext: Force him to elevate you over himself in all social transactions.

Although “The Rules” is almost 20 years old, it reflects a current view that non-accountability, subterfuge, manipulation and control of power in a relationship is appropriate for women. This public view of one-sided power is widely accepted, rarely recognized or publicly identified as pathological and dysfunctional.

It should be.

The mainstream media, endlessly channeling admonitions to contrive plausible feminine deniability markets the dysfunction as though it will lead to increased romantic affection or attraction from men. It will put any woman who plays this strategy in total control of her man, assuming, of course, he sticks around for this systematic abuse. That, of course, is the reason for continued plausible deniability. Keep him not only off balance, but keep him ignorant of your intentions. Constantly undermine his trust in you, smog your communications, maximize ambiguity and your own plausible deniability – yeah, that’ll make him try harder.

But this is, all of it, stupid. First, this entire approach to human relationships relies on a set of unrealistic assumptions. Some of which are as follows. That men will tolerate unlimited contempt and scorn heaped onto them. That men are so bereft of human dignity and self worth that an endless game of hide and seek without a payoff will suit them just fine.

There are some poor saps who; out of a misguided surplus of forbearance, or possibly, consumed by socialized self loathing; willingly tolerate any of the ass-hattery mentioned above. But they’re miserable, and the women who get away with abusing such men are just as miserable. A healthy adult cannot find happiness in a relationship built on the cultivated absence of respect.

And regardless of the obvious and blatant stupidity of the tactics mentioned here, those tactics which most women will remark are destructive and foolish; most women still cultivate their own plausible deniability.

And they will do so in blithe disregard for the FACT that treating other people poorly, with contempt, and with haughty demonstrations of public scorn almost guarantees the repeated failure of every relationship.

So what inform this? It’s a long list, but included is an apparent cultural belief by women that the simple fact of feminine identity confers instant, guaranteed, unbreakable appeal. As popular as this idea appears to be, it is of course false. In fact, it’s falsehood is increasingly demonstrated by a growing cultural chorus of “where have all the good men gone?”. That question issued as a complaint by women and other social commentators realizing as they cross into their mid thirties in a continued state of unattachment, unmarried, and with ever diminished prospect for long term romantic success.

The tactics of obfuscating communications, de-escalating contacts, and of endlessly cultivating personal plausible deniability is the recipe for destroying trust, eliminating affection or love, and for cultivating mistrust and hostility.

Of course, a tool some men are using to deal with this game of communications-cripple is Transactional Analysis. Although a detailed examination of TA is beyond the scope of this discussion, some simple rules of thumb can greatly diminish the confusion created by so much female-targeted pop-advice.

And for those erstwhile adults who follow such advised game playing, or who manage relationships in a manner to put complete power in their own hands, you’ll have complete power. You will, absolutely.

But what The Rules, or any other version of this systematized mistreatment do not spell out is that this is not just a receipt for maintenance of power. It’s abuse. It’s shit treatment. It’s the psychological manipulation of another person.

Here’s the message conveyed. You’re lucky I return even one out of 4 of your calls. You’re lucky to have even a fraction of my attention. If you didn’t have me, you’d be alone, because I’m better, and I’ve lowered my standards to tolerate you.

In violent relationships there are bruises and blood. In the socially normal practice of communications cripple advocated in so much female-targeted advice, and practiced by so many women, there is no visible blood or trauma, but the invisibility of the damage is the only difference.

Let’s be explicitly clear. The advice given in almost all women’s literature about how to treat men, and how to manage relationships, is advice about how to retain an upper hand. It is taken to heart and practiced by the majority of women in their relationships. That advice is the practice of psychological abuse. The women who endorse that advice, and put it into practice – are abusers.

It’s a 20 year old book, and it informs what our society treats as normal, standard practice by women in romantic relationships. And it’s clearly and unambiguously a practice and a public narrative endorsing and maintaining a culture of mental and psychological abuse.

It has worked with amazing effectiveness in maintaining a balance of social power. Because men are socialized to put women first, and to put themselves last.

Men, in our culture have not in the last 50 years been socialized to recognize phsychological abuse against themselves as either real or even possible.

Not until now.

And just so it’s clear to everybody, I’m not suggesting to women that they should do anything differently. I am however, suggesting that to men. Do something differently. In fact, I’m suggesting the addition of a word to every man’s vocabulary.


If that’s not clear enough, how about fuck off, get lost, or go away.

Because these are the things it is appropriate to tell abusers, and bullies.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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