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Last night, writer Slim Jackson and relationship expert Paul Carrick Brunson hosted a Twitter chat under the hashtags, #just4men and #ItsComplicated (the latter is a reference to the title of Brunson’s upcoming book, It’s Complicated (But It Doesn’t Have to Be): A Modern Guide to Keeping and Finding Love). As moderators, Jackson and Brunson posed open-ended relationship questions to black men, before opening the conversation to women as well. Explained Brunson in an a tweet introducing the discussion, “This forum is an experiment to allow us men to dialogue & learn from each other (& inform the ladies) at same time. Brunson further explained that the Twitter conversation was the result of many questions he received about his recent blog post, “Ten Things Every Man Who Is Single Needs to Know.”

It started out innocuously enough, with questions like, “Fellas, if you could eradicate one stereotype about men and relationships, what would it be?” and “Is it our obligation as men to change how the ladies think of us?” Some responses were thoughtfully conveyed. Others quickly leaned into questionable territory. A lot was said about how men are “supposed” to lead and how when women claim that men are “intimidated” by them, it’s just an excuse to make them feel better (because women don’t “intimidate” many men). The last question raised had to do with how women can “keep sexual interest without giving up the cookie.”

Critics of the discussion weighed in with accusations of “nice guy misogyny,” asserting that the questions that framed the discussion were more about “informing the ladies” (as Brunson himself suggests) about what women should believe about men (that they’re still chivalrous, that they are not dogs, that they’re not intimidated by us and that they are not without emotion) and what we should be willing to do for them (don’t be a tease, but also hint at the sex they can eventually have without giving it to them?).

Part of the problem seemed to be that women were asked not to join the discussion until it “officially ended.” By then, they’d been inundated with tweets and retweets affirming these ideas (that our stereotyping, our belief that our accomplishments intimidate men, our provocative tweeting or online photos, or our inability to keep men’s interest without offering our bodies are serious-relationship hindrances that a large representative number of black men encounter).

It wasn’t so much the idea itself that rankled its opponents; it was how it was framed: stay out of this and let the men work. Then we’ll ask you how you feel about what we think of you when we’re done. It’s difficult to strike a genuine, productive chord in relationship forums. When the men or women get together independently, it’s all too easy to turn the whole thing into a commiseration about all the things that are wrong with the opposite sex. When the discussion turns coed, it’s in danger of devolving into a “battle of the sexes.”

It would seem that the best way to moderate a discussion about black relationships online would be to encourage people to remain respectful of and open to each other’s legitimate concerns (and I guess, for some, the concern that women can’t keep from “giving up the cookie” to maintain sexual interest is a legitimate concern?)–and to ask questions that aren’t so leading.

Ultimately, though, the best way to have a healthy, productive relationship forum with measurable positive results is to keep it small. Very small. So small that the only participants are you and the person you’re seeing. In large groups, everyone’s relying on past experiences and preconceived notions. But the only real way to have a strong relationship is to mutually define it with your current partner. That customized definition works best with the two of you.

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  • Tammy M.

    I think that the forums should both gender specfic and unisex. At times it is important that men garner better info and best practices from one another. They also, much like women do daily need a place to vent and air their concerns.

    That is why I like the Together Apart session, open communication is key(@chriskazirolle)

  • Paul

    Why do young black people find it necessary to have so many “forums” and discussions about relationships?

    Is there nothing else you can “forum” about?

    Why don’t you learn from the white kids who started the OCCUPY MOVEMENT.

    They are intelligent, clearly well educated and have something to say about stuff that matters.

    Why don’t these 25y/o juveniles do something for community for a change? Have a forum about how to improve community relations rather than how to score.

    Revive grass roots activism in the black community and maybe set an example for the “pookies” and “shaniquas” you bitch about when you’re not having yet another relationship pity party.

    That’s what YOUNG PEOPLE are for. To challenge the old ways by coming up with NEW ways that are responsive to CURRENT realities.

    smh!

    Who the hell are these forum starters anyway, who do they work for? Well you can tell by the kind of propaganda they put out. If it’s conservative and reactionary then we know who.

    I always imagine what role people could play in a team I was part of.

    If say, we were invited to send a delegation of young blacks (under 30) to participate in an international young people’s conference on global warming. (Highly relevent to young people since your children are the ones who may have to deal with its consequences.)

    Who could we send?

    Should we send the type of idiot who ONLY ever talks about relationships?

    Yes – if we want to be embarrassed.

    We’d probably be better off sending a delegation of young “pookies” and “shaniqua’s”, in my experience they are far more in touch with the harsh realities of the world than simpletons who have the free time to host or participate in relationship forums everyday.

    Kiss teet

  • Anonymous

    I was tired and fed up with trying to get my boyfriend to commit to our relationship. I tried many other spells, but none of them worked for me, and things only got worse, he left me 6 months ago. When I was referred [email protected] by a friend I was recommended to try the love spell. It worked I got my life and my love back and now I am happy again. it was great for prophet harry casting this love spell for me and Dave. It’s back to just the way it was when we first met, I will be ordering from him again soon

  • 1stworldview

    Moscow clubs capitalize on lonely women starved for affection.

    Women sitting alone together in a café would not give most observers pause, but in Russia, a group of women alone acts as a reminder of the country’s

    deficiency in marriageable men. Lonely Russian women are commonplace in Moscow and other major Russian cities where men are dramatically outnumbered by

    the opposite sex. Mothers and daughters alike bemoan the lack of options available to them romantically. Men are not only scarce, but a good one is next

    to impossible to find.

    Men in Russia are prone to alcoholism, unemployment, and abuse. Generations of women in Russia have witnessed the decline of the Russian man. Complaints

    about men’s rudderless existence and poor treatment of women have become a mainstay for gatherings of women, whether at home, at work, or in a social

    setting. Wherever women gather, the subject of men is not far behind. Some of these women have taken to dressing the part of the jilted lover awaiting

    rescue, donning dramatic gowns, complete with stiletto heels as they await their knight in shining armor. A knight that few Russian women continue to

    believe in or have any hope left will actually materialize.

    Most women regale past experiences with men with very few pleasant memories. Even women that have been fortunate enough to be involved in a romance, the

    love quickly sours and is often replaced by resentment, disillusionment, and unhappiness. Russian women wish to wined and dined, and made to feel

    special. However, even promising men disappoint these notions, causing women to grow hardened as their hope of love and happily-ever-after slowly fades.

    The first experience with men a Russian woman remembers is usually her father. Unfortunately, most of these fathers were of no better ilk than the men

    available for dating at present. Russian women are often raised bearing witness to drunken fathers, heavy drinking, financial insecurities due to lack

    of motivation to work, and verbal and physical abuse against their mothers. These formative memories create the foundation for a lifelong distrust of

    men in general, and each subsequent undesirable male encountered is further evidence that the female opinion of Russian men is justified.

    To answer the demand for good, decent men, clubs have been emerging across Russia to provide women with the means the experiences they have long craved.

    One club, Marusia, has taken the concept a step further. Many clubs will have male-based entertainment for women to enjoy. Marusia offers services for

    women to be in close proximity, if not actual contact, with a desirable man. Women may pay between a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars for the

    privilege of cuddling with male employees for the experience of closeness and physical connection they cannot find elsewhere.

    Starved for affection and love, some patrons of Marusia will request men to spend time with in private rooms. 50% of Russian women are single, with few

    prospects of a lasting relationship on the horizon. Marusia and clubs like it help these women fill a void, even for a few hours before they resume

    their search for men that can step into the role of lover, partner, and provider.

    Many Russian women consider their future bleak, as the hopes of marriage and companionship become less likely. Some critics believe that these

    situations are, in some part, created by the women themselves, citing that Russian women are too obsessed with finances and fairy tales. It could be

    argued in their defenses, that as the lonely fates of these Russian women looms over their heads, cynicism increases and practicality prevail, and the

    romantic ideals of the past morph into merely desires to be cared for.

    Russian women have begun to turn to mail order bride sites to find a husband . Companies like A Foreign Affair have been capitalizing on the demand for

    marriage minded husbands. Every month they bring groups of men to Russian and the Ukraine. The women attend what A Foreign Affair calls a social,

    hundreds of young beautiful Russian women attend these events with the hope to get the chances to meet of 25 or so men that have traveled from the

    USA of Europe. 23 Year old Olga from Odessa say, “I have give up looking for a man in the Ukraine, I have no problem finding a date, but finding a

    man I would want to be the father of my children is a completely different thing. I want a man my children can admire and respect. I want a man that

    will be by friend, my soul mate and my lover”