The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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I Want an Equal Relationship
Trina McCune

Names have been changed.

I have an announcement: I hate the stereotypes that have been put on girls and boys surrounding dating. I even hate the ones that are supposed to be nice for girls, like a boy doing everything for the girl he’s with.

I’m 15, and I don’t date yet, but I observe things, and I’m figuring out what I want when I do get into a relationship. I want to feel strong and capable of doing things for myself, and I think an equal relationship will help me feel that way.

My friend Nadine has a boyfriend named Derek. I see Derek open doors for Nadine and pull her to the inside of the sidewalk, away from the cars, when they walk together. It looks sweet, like Nadine is protected and well cared for. But I don’t want a boy to pull me to the inside of the sidewalk. Is the idea that he will save me if, say, a car jumps the curb? That boy is human too; he does not walk around with a shield protecting him from natural disasters, guns, fires, or vehicle accidents.

Guys shouldn’t have to be the protectors: Men and women should protect each other.

Another thing girls are supposed to like but I don’t is the rule that the boy pays. I see my friends in situations like this: A girl and a boy go out on a first date, and he pays. They like each other, and they decide to go out again.

Their second date is to Applebee’s and they get the two for $20 special. That boneless barbecue chicken makes me feel special. But I don’t like it any more if a boy buys it for me!

image by YC-Art Dept

Split the Bill!

At this point, the girl might think she can just leave her money at home. She doesn’t even offer to leave the tip. But, girls, consider his background. Does he even have a job? He’s probably not rich, so what are you doing making that boy pay for your meal twice in a row when he’s a kid and either has no job or a low-paying part-time job?

Even if he does have more money, if he pays every time, the woman doesn’t have a chance to feel equal in the relationship. I’d rather split the bill or take turns paying.

The pressure for boys to pay isn’t fair to anyone. There’s this attitude from some men like, “It’s my job to pay; your job is to just sit there and look pretty.” Paying for everything lets guys think that there is nothing more to girls than their looks. It doesn’t make them respect us.

Where did these roles come from? For most of history, women have been the property of men. When slavery was legal, slave owners could use enslaved women for sex or anything else, and the women couldn’t say no. Even white women couldn’t get the jobs that men had, couldn’t own their own property, or get credit cards. To this day, women in the U.S. earn only 79 cents for every dollar men make.

Making more money, being the protector, and paying for dates are all ways society tells men they are superior beings. This puts women down and puts pressure on men and boys, too: When boys don’t fight or won’t discuss girls’ bodies with their boys, they are judged as “feminine,” which means less than. And to be “more than,” they have to dominate women.

Men paying and thinking that this puts them in charge has messed up sex too. Sex ends up being mostly what the man wants because he is paying, and the woman feels like she has to let him do what he wants to her. And then other people get the idea that this is normal.

No one should be dominant in a relationship, and gender stereotypes keep relationships from being equal. So guys: Instead of following any “real man” rules, try asking a girl what she actually wants.

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