A few weeks ago, Clutch ran an article by writer Janelle Harris that detailed her experiences in pole dancing class. Although many women, such as myself, have taken up pole classes to spice up our workout routines, Harris says she took the class to “please her man” and make sure he stayed away from the strip club.

She wrote:

I’ve always railed against standards that bully women into believing that we have to do it all to be That Chick. We gotta take care of babies, work eight hour days, come home in a good mood, cook a delicious and nutritious dinner and then oh! be ready to put it down like a porn star when the dishes are put away. Part of it is pressure we put on ourselves because that’s the definition of “superwoman” we’ve seen our mothers and grandmothers live out. Part of it is residuals from the old-school sexism that made them try to live it out in the first place…But even with that consciousness at the front of my mind, I still put myself in the position—well, sort of—to go way above and beyond to try to keep my man satisfied. Dudes have so many distractions and in this put-‘em-on-the-glass culture, I guess I got caught up.

While I didn’t agree with Harris’ assertion that women can keep their happily coupled men away from strip clubs and looking at porn (I mean, they are men after all), simply by adding a few tricks to the bedroom, her article brought up an interesting discussion.

Many of the comments derided Harris for wanting to please her man. Perhaps it was her misguided attempt to keep her man out of the Champagne Room (which sounded a little like personal insecurity), or perhaps it was just years of messages telling women and men that we shouldn’t be a sucker for love, but many of the readers seemed to take issue with the idea of women pleasing their mates.

But why?

In my mind, both men and women need to cater to the ones they love to make a relationship work. For instance, if I knew my dude loved classic Italian food, but my cooking skills were lacking, I’d study some cookbooks or watch the Food Network so I could learn to make at least one good dish. Likewise, if I love a good back massage, my boo better step his masseuse game up and work out my kinks (on the regular). It’s a team effort, and pleasing or wanting to taking care of your mate is one way we express love.

Just to be sure I wasn’t letting my inner-June Clever get the better of me, I posed this question to some of my male friends. I asked them if they thought it was necessary for both parties to cater to one another in a relationship, and if they looked at women who seemingly went above and beyond the call of duty to please her mate any differently. To their credit, all of my brethren confirmed that they love to both please and be pleased by their woman. The guys felt giving was a necessary part of a relationship because it showed that both parties valued each other. But with one caveat. While they would like their woman do whatever freaky, sneaky (or otherwise) thing they desired, they overwhelmingly agreed that she should never do anything that made her uncomfortable just because he might like it, because they, for damn sure, wouldn’t either.

So why do we have such a difficult time with the concept of pleasing our mate?

Part of me thinks it boils down to our culture’s devaluation of love. Back in the day couples happily, and openly, expressed their love—albeit in “traditional” gender roles—for each other. Women would make sure their husbands had a hot meal, clean shirts, and a well-maintained house, while men would cut the lawn, take out the garbage, work long hours to provide for the family, and buy their wife a little something nice every now and then. While these roles permeated with the pungent smell of patriarchy, many couples took pleasure in transparently expressing love for one another.

On the contrary, today love is seen as something relegated for chumps. If a man does something nice for his woman/wife, he is called “whipped,” a “punk,” or less than a man. And if a woman wants to go out of her way to try something new to please her man, she’s sometimes called “desperate,” “thirsty,” or charged with having low self-esteem. Somewhere along the line submitting (or simply catering) to our mates took on a negative connotation, and signaled that we were weak, not an attentive lover.

Caring for your mate and expressing love is a personal matter. Each of us does it in a myriad of ways. However, being open to try new things, keeping the romance going, and adding a little spice to the bedroom are all essential parts of a happy relationship. When we view these things suspiciously, we limit our chances of finding and maintaining lasting love.

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