The Prison of Choice

“The problem with modern technology is that there’s too much choice out there. It’s too easy to walk away from people.”

Or so says the single person at the bar. But not me. I’m pretty sure that the benchmark of American capitalist consumer culture is that our freedom to choose is a good thing. You can choose what shampoo you’re going to use, you can choose which car you want to drive, and you can choose which person you want to fuck. Choice is a good thing. (And, yes, I’m aware that citing a culture for which I have an overt disdain does not behoove me, but, however, I’ll admit it: I am pretty brainwashed into being an American consumer, and I’m sure you are, too, so let’s just roll with this one.)

Although, I know that the problem isn’t that modern technology gives us too much choice. The problem is that modern technology gives women too much choice. And people don’t really seem to like that. People are having a hard time readjusting to the fact that if a partner is not up to par, a woman can go back on Tinder and find a new one. So while people might like to say that this overabundance of choice is bad, and that people are not capable of commitment nowadays like they were back in the day, I have to wonder: who says that getting into a long term, monogamous, committed relationship at an early age after having fewer partners is a good thing?

As a woman, I have to admit that I am quite pleased with my smorgasbord of sexual options. I’d like to think it has made me a better person. It has certainly made me a better lover, and this new plethora of choice has given me (and I’m sure many other women) the opportunity to explore what it means to be a woman, what it means to be sexual, what it means to desire, to love, to fuck, to lose, to suffer through broken heart, to find hope again. With fewer sexual options, the opportunity to explore the vastness of human emotion would be different and quite possibly diminished. Fewer sexual options brings with it the expectation that we will choose and settle down more quickly. More options gives us the liberty to decide what we want, and, then, if we don’t get it, we have the freedom to say, “No, this isn’t good enough. I can do better.” More options gives us the opportunity to grow.

Of course, the opportunity to grow is threatening to men who are now being held to a higher standard. It is much easier in this brave, new world for a woman to discard a man who refuses to love her back, to fuck her right, to be kind to her, to believe in things that matter, to get along a fundamental social level. If a man is not up to par, a woman is not necessarily inclined to just deal with it, to settle, to compromise. She is allowed to point out a man’s flaw with the ultimate threat of abandonment as the solution to the problem. This, in confluence with women’s aspiration to break the glass ceiling, has released women from the stranglehold that men have on romantic relationships, which in many ways function as a prison for women who have nowhere to go, no one to go to, and no money with which to leave.

And this has nothing to do with commitment or loyalty; the accusation is that this overabundance of choice diminishes a woman’s ability to settle down or to commit to a man. The general idea is that all this choice overwhelms women, and they wind up dating or sleeping around instead of choosing a long term partner. But who’s to say that dating around is a bad thing? We are allowed to explore all the options that have been laid before us, and just because we sample some of life’s options doesn’t mean that we are ultimately incapable of making a selection at the end of the day. Sure, we risk passing up the best option at times because we are spending time getting to better know ourselves within the context of our own sexuality. But we also risk losing a deeper sense of self knowledge if we settle down too quickly. Some women may find that successive short term relationships work best for them; others have to experience it learn that commitment and monogamy is something that they truly want. Self knowledge is never a better thing.

If we’re looking at societal double standards, we see that a man who doesn’t settle down right away is given the esteemed title of bachelor. A woman who doesn’t settle down is considered a cat lady, generally because one a woman has gotten too old and outlived her sexual utility, she offers nothing to the world other than to care for cats. But this new plethora of choice is dispelling that myth; there are plenty of Samanthas out there.

Perhaps the abundance of choice becomes reckless when men are held to that higher standard and women are not. This, surely, is problematic: that women are too drunk on choice to evaluate the double standard. I’d like to think that we are better people than that, but, then again, each woman is on her own journey. Every journey looks different. Not everyone will have the luxury of ending this journey better than when she started. But giving women the opportunity to do so is what matters.

So, ultimately, the problem with too much choice is that it gives women the opportunity to acknowledge their own power. I’m not threatened by that. Are you?