AskMe concerns about moralizing in answers July 4, 2006 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm concerned about AskMe, particularly with regard to relationship questions, becoming a forum for members to moralize and reinforce the most conservative expectations of behavior. Like in this thread, for instance. I don't think it's in anyone's interest, and particularly so if we want a diverse and enlightening dialogue, for threads like this to become a pile-on of abstract moralizing about committed relationships in general.
posted by clockzero to Bugs at 11:21 AM (100 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

There was a short derail about the responsibility of society to respect the boundaries of the marriages of other people, but I felt it was pretty much an asked/answered sort of thing, though I was keeping an eye on it. I felt like the thread was not too heavy-handed in a moralizing fashion otherwise, though I was surprised that people agreed as much as they did. If you have an alternative suggestion for anonymous, feel free to post it in the thread, I'm pretty sure people wouldn't jump all over you.

My concern with that thread was the appropriateness of totally sarcastic responses. Noise or no?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:28 AM on July 4, 2006


wtf did you expect that thread to turn into?
posted by puke & cry at 11:28 AM on July 4, 2006


...that was to clockzero, not jessamyn.
posted by puke & cry at 11:30 AM on July 4, 2006


It was a total mess, and since AskMe isn't a place for censuses, there's absolutely no point in 70 people giving the same answer. This is just chatfilter without the almost-redeeming factor of being occasionally entertaining.
posted by fvw at 11:33 AM on July 4, 2006


(and yes, I would advocate deleting the question, or if that's not going to happen, comments 2 through 70)
posted by fvw at 11:34 AM on July 4, 2006


If a train wreck of a thread leaves the office at 2:46 AM MST ...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:35 AM on July 4, 2006


man, I reread that question and it kind of pissed me off. What a selfish asshole.
posted by puke & cry at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2006


My concern with that thread was the appropriateness of totally sarcastic responses. Noise or no?

It's noise, but there are many times I have to stop myself from doing the same. Some questions are just idiotic. Everytime I read "I've lost feeling in my toes and they're turning black...should I go see a doctor" I want to say "no, I wouldn't worry about it".

People ask a lot of questions that they already know the answer to. It seems they just want to chat about it.
posted by justgary at 11:45 AM on July 4, 2006


I deleted the joke answer you linked, jessamyn.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:02 PM on July 4, 2006


puke & cry:

That's just the thing. I don't think this type of thread needs to become that. People come to AskMe for a discussion; like with regular MeFi, if you have nothing but vitriol and distaste for the subject at hand, you might consider going elsewhere. I don't like the idea of AskMe becoming a place of judgement, and the mere posting of a question should not be construed as an invitation to be judged.
posted by clockzero at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2006


People ask a lot of questions that they already know the answer to. It seems they just want to chat about it.

You're probably right, but people are also looking for new ways to think about problematic situations, I suspect.
posted by clockzero at 12:05 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Jesus H. My answer was no joke. I think it's a daringly awesome idea and I want that young fellow to go for it. Just because my advice is controversial and groundbreaking does not give you, good sir and/or madam, to judge it "sarcastic." I want an apology, by God.
posted by xmutex at 12:07 PM on July 4, 2006


I was going to throw out a contrarian answer but at the last second I remembered that I was married.
posted by Ryvar at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2006


What's wrong with good faith attempts to "reinforce the most conservative expectations of behavior," exactly? Nobody is harmed by comments suggesting probity, so long as they remain reasonably respectful and perhaps even contribute factual information, links, or personal wisdom.

Those of alternate morality can feel free to mix and match viewpoints, as they routinely do in the rest of their lives, or disregard what they consider conservative opinions altogether. As long as AskMe doesn't become a messy pit, diversity of opinion and experience in answers should be welcome, if not actively encouraged. That's often the very thing posters are requesting.
posted by paulsc at 12:14 PM on July 4, 2006


I don't like the idea of AskMe becoming a place of judgement, and the mere posting of a question should not be construed as an invitation to be judged.

Why not? The thread is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to what happens if the OP goes through with it, the woman cheats with him, and it becomes public knowledge. The weight of public opprobrium is brutal, sure - does that mean we must pretend it doesn't exist?

If you see a guy about to drive off a cliff, which is better? "All cliffs are equal and tolerated under the law, and we must learn to love cliffs," or "Hey dude, dunno if you realize, but you're about to drive your car off a FUCKING CLIFF."
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:16 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Jessamyn: I posted my opinion about the question itself in the thread, and I do appreciate your encouraging me to do that.

It's not that I want to take issue with any particular piece of advice, or with the majority opinion, though I happen to disagree with it. I'm just concerned about the prevalence, in threads of this type, of an attitude which sees someone like the poster of the question as a threat to the institution of marriage. I apologize for getting on a soap-box here, but isn't there enough paranoia about marriage and relationships going around in our society these days?

I realize that every member brings something unique to the discussion, and I don't mean to denigrate people who happen to feel strongly and normatively about the inviolability of their own relationships.
posted by clockzero at 12:22 PM on July 4, 2006


There's nothing conservative about not losing your job and acting like a reprehensible jagoff.
posted by bardic at 12:29 PM on July 4, 2006


Paulsc:

Well, I'm not sure those attempts are in good faith, though we may have different ideas about what that means. A statement about how all marriages ought to be is not a thoughtful or productive or meaningful answer to the guy's question, it's just a knee-jerk reaction. Saying that he shouldn't do it is one thing, saying that nobody should ever do anything that might in any way affect someone else's relationship is quite another.

Ikkyu2:

Honestly, going through with an affair may be a terrible idea, in this case and probably in many others. I've no argument with that. I just don't think that being openly judgemental is helpful, and I think in fact that it creates a hostile and counterproductive environment. You can say that pursuing that thing is a bad idea without (for example, I know you didn't do this) calling the poster names or declaring his intentions beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour.
posted by clockzero at 12:37 PM on July 4, 2006


"Conservative" is not a synonym for "bad".

Ten people answering identically sends a message that one person's answer doesn't send, and it scales linearly.

(But did you really read the question closely, or did you get hung up on the volume of answers? The "flirting" he's thinking about risking his job over involves saying goodbye at the end of the day and asking about how her weekend went. Considering that normal office behavior is not so much conservative as detached.)
posted by mendel at 12:38 PM on July 4, 2006


I feel that if it were a different question, along the lines of "Hey this hottie married chick at work is flirting with me and I like her too, what should I do?" the responses might have been a lot different. The particulars of this question seemed to lead towards a fairly narrow set of answers, and the anonymity precludes useful follow-up or detail adding. I don't generally see MeFites as aggressive defenders of the sanctity of marriage, so I think this has more to do with the scope of this question and a few specific replies, than any trend in a conservative morality direction.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:39 PM on July 4, 2006


I'd be surprised if there had been more people objectively pro-adultery. Which is basically what the poster was really asking: should I have an affair with my married co-worker?

Clocky, it seems like how you took the question (in the Ask thread) was 'how do I get over this attraction?', judging from how you answered. Which is different from how it appears most everyone else in the thread understood it, hence the disconnect you're pointing out here in MeTa. Since when did respecting someone's fidelity to a committed life partner become a 'conservative expectation'?
posted by SenshiNeko at 12:41 PM on July 4, 2006


I just don't think that being openly judgemental is helpful, and I think in fact that it creates a hostile and counterproductive environment. You can say that pursuing that thing is a bad idea without (for example, I know you didn't do this) calling the poster names or declaring his intentions beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour.

Sorry, but this is one of my pet peeves. Discrimination and judgment are not bad things. Calling names and being sarcastic and hurtful are bad things, but not only are they not equivalent to judgment, they have nothing to do with it. Unjust discrimination - "Get off my bus, you [member of oppressed race" - is awful, sure; but the ability to discriminate wisely is known to be virtuous.

Good judgment is one of the great virtues that it's possible for a person to have, and when a person is asked to give an opinion, that person is implicitly being asked to exercise her power of judgment.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:43 PM on July 4, 2006


In general on AskMe, I agree that too many responses judge the poster rather than answering the question asked.

But in this case, the poster specifically asked "Do I...?" So the chorus of "NO" seemed appropriate.

I do see what you're referring to as heavy-handed moralizing. But were I the poster, one of the top two reasons I wouldn't hit on that coworker would be "respect for the commitment people make when they get married and that the marriage then shapes their entire life" -- I nodded in agreement at that first covenant comment -- so I didn't see it as "moralizing" so much as some commenters' opinions. (And I'm not that conservative, just when it comes to marriage.)
posted by salvia at 12:54 PM on July 4, 2006


"There was a short derail about the responsibility of society to respect the boundaries of the marriages of other people"...and I helped. It might not be a derail if the women is your mom or wife. It might not be a derail if you consider yourself a responsible member of society. It might not be a derail if some asshole is stupid enough to ask if his shit stinks and he gets the answer I gave him.

I'm just concerned about the prevalence...of an attitude which sees someone like the poster of the question as a threat to the institution of marriage. Huh? You don't see homewrecking as a threat to the institution?
posted by klarck at 12:54 PM on July 4, 2006


I was going to throw out a contrarian answer but at the last second I remembered that I was married.

... and, almost as crucial, that your wife reads the site...

My problem with this thread was that so many posters felt the need to post essentially the same advice. I felt the same as they did, but I didn't see the point in chiming in just to sing the exact same tune when there was already a full chorus.
posted by orange swan at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2006


clockwork:

I find the use of reply references without quotation, like here, really distracting—by not providing literal context for what you're replying to, you're requiring readers to follow your link. That's damned annoying. References are fine and dandy, but I don't want to go hopping up and down the thread just to make sense of your comments. Even a half-sentence of quotation would remind what comment you're referring to.

</peeve>

posted by cortex at 1:08 PM on July 4, 2006


I was piled-on by the AxeMefi crowd for a question I once asked, and in retrospect I am very glad that I got the response I did.

Sometimes when people are frustrated (sexually or otherwise) and not thinking straight, they need a good piling-on to be made aware of the error of their ways.
posted by randomstriker at 1:24 PM on July 4, 2006


I was about to come here and post something like this. For some reason, AskMe seems to be very, very much more conservative than Mefi proper. To the relationship moralising trend, I would also add the copyright and legal questions -- you'd expect that people would have a more liberal view, AskMe is often really far on the copyright Nazi/sue 'em all side of things. It's strange, really.
posted by reklaw at 1:38 PM on July 4, 2006


Another recent overly-conservative thread: the 15-year-old in the bar.
posted by reklaw at 1:42 PM on July 4, 2006


Conservative? Really? The question was essentially "Do I try to break up someone's marriage because I have a hard-on for this girl?"

And you think it's somehow conservative to say "no"? You're going to have to explain this logic.
posted by puke & cry at 1:57 PM on July 4, 2006


I was going to throw out a seriously contrarian answer but I figured the thread couldn't handle it. AskMe really just isn't good at relationship questions. People tend to just retreat into cliched moralizing and berate the asker. There's not much to be done about it I'm afraid. Mathamyn may catch the worst offenders but the overall result is the same. There should be a stronger prohibition against out-right insulting the asker since the insults serve no helpful purpose whatsoever.
posted by nixerman at 2:01 PM on July 4, 2006


clockzero, you're confusing repressive sexual and relationship attitudes with common sense here.

If the question was "there's this woman I really like at work, but she's in a relationship, what should I do?" you'd probably get a lot of people saying just be a nice guy and maybe gently approach the subject with her someday. But the question was "there's this woman I really like at work, but she's married, what should I do?" and going from someone that is dating to someone that is married is a major step.

You don't see answers saying "oh, why not talk to her about it!" because breaking off marriages is a long, difficult, process that involves lots and lots of money and time. It's not something someone can just bail from and start dating you over.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:03 PM on July 4, 2006


particularly so if we want a diverse and enlightening dialogue,

I'm not sure what sort of diverse and enlightening dialogue you might expect from the decision on whether to hit on a married woman.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:11 PM on July 4, 2006


If you have an alternative suggestion for anonymous, feel free to post it in the thread

Exactly. What exactly is your point here? "I don't like the fact that most people don't share my wild and crazy take on things so I want them all to shut up"? People are going to say what they think, whether you like it or not, and in this case almost everyone thought the same, not because of mindless groupthink but because it was an open-and-shut case. The occasional moronic response like this just provides a useful hint about how seriously to take the commenter's ideas in future.

And now that the OP has responded (via jessamyn), it turns out that, gee, all those one-sided responses weren't useless after all:

I did come in looking for a justification to make it okay, but I sat down this morning and looked at what I was doing and all of the responses and realized there wasn't any way to make this an okay idea... I've got 76 reminders right here (okay, a few said go for it... call it 73) that it's a monumentally stupid idea. [Emphasis added.]

Thus we see that sometimes quantity becomes quality, and 73 responses saying "No" are not the same as one response saying no. I hope we've all learned a lesson here.
posted by languagehat at 2:16 PM on July 4, 2006


The lesson I've learned is to be glad I didn't have you lot telling me what to do when I was going through it.
posted by timeistight at 2:25 PM on July 4, 2006


The OP disagrees with you, Clockzero, so I guess those answers were pretty good.
posted by LarryC at 2:28 PM on July 4, 2006


if we want a diverse and enlightening dialogue

We...don't actually want this in AskMe, last I checked. We want answers to questions and solutions to problems.
posted by Gator at 2:30 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thus we see that sometimes quantity becomes quality, and 73 responses saying "No" are not the same as one response saying no.

I don't buy this at all. AskMe is not a polling station. The quantity of a given answer, particularly when each answer is nothing more than a vacuous 'me too', does not induce any sort of quality. This sort of mob mentality should be discouraged in the green and each answer should be forced to stand on its own. The 'me too's are noise at best. In this particular case the OP was just looking for an excuse so it's doubtful if he ever was really serious, but even if he was--so what? I'd rather he make an ass of himself than have to deal with another thread where 99% of the answers are identical.
posted by nixerman at 2:31 PM on July 4, 2006


Though as a compromise I'd be perfectly willing to see a mechanism where others, beside the asker, could rate up a question. Only up, never down. There have been several cases where I chose not to toss in another 'I'll 33rd ...' but I did worry the asker might miss the excellent response in a sea of mediocre answers.
posted by nixerman at 2:35 PM on July 4, 2006


I propose renaming the "human relations" category to "trainwreck". Seems to fit the content better.

Gator writes 'We...don't actually want this in AskMe, last I checked. We want answers to questions and solutions to problems.'

Exactly. Arguably, every relationship question seems to fail the fundamental AskMe test: is there an answer?
posted by blag at 2:36 PM on July 4, 2006


I think nearly all relationship advice and questions are stupid. There is never enough information given by the poster about the situation for the community to weigh in on the best choice. Also I've seen just horrendous advice given, I would not be disappointed to see relationship questions to go all together. They're voyeuristically fun, but that's it.
posted by geoff. at 2:37 PM on July 4, 2006


When it comes to sex and love or both, "If you have to ask. . . ." It's a shame people are jerks in the green, but man, some people are just asking for it, and seem to value attention (good or bad) more than anything.

Anyways, gotta get back to working on my sex dungeon. In-laws are coming over.
posted by bardic at 2:41 PM on July 4, 2006


I think the moralizing questions about committed relationships do answer the question asked. "I am attracted to a married woman. Do I tell her?" That was part of the question. The next part was about sexual harassment, etc. There isn't a lot of substance to many of those answers, but anonymous probably just needed a sanity check. Attraction can wind one's brain up into strange shapes and make bad ideas seem like good ones. Nothing wrong with checking the peanut gallery for a chorus of "nos" from time to time before acting.
posted by scarabic at 2:44 PM on July 4, 2006


I don't buy this at all.

YOU don't have to buy it. Seriously. It's not about you or me or anyone else except the original poster who was polling for answers.

AskMe is not a polling station.

Actually, sometimes it is.

This sort of mob mentality should be discouraged in the green and each answer should be forced to stand on its own.

Who's going to discourage it? Who's going to force it to stand on its on?


I'd rather he make an ass of himself than have to deal with another thread where 99% of the answers are identical.


No one said you had to read the whole thread.


Though as a compromise I'd be perfectly willing to see a mechanism where others, beside the asker, could rate up a question. Only up, never down


Ah, so a mob rule is ok under circumstances you deem fine.

Look the original poster was clearly "lost" and looking for help. A crowd of people reminded him that this was a stuipd idea and he reminded of that. This is a good thing because it stopped one human being from doing something selfish and destructive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:47 PM on July 4, 2006


I'd be surprised if there had been more people objectively pro-adultery. Which is basically what the poster was really asking: should I have an affair with my married co-worker?

The co-worker in question is obviously not interested in the guy asking the question. That makes all the difference in the world. If he had said "My married co-worker and I have some serious chemistry, and we have both openly acknowledged this, how do I deal with it?" then the answers would have been different.
posted by bingo at 2:57 PM on July 4, 2006


It was hardly a mob, it was more like a consensus.
posted by LarryC at 2:58 PM on July 4, 2006


what the hell?

the question was "what should i do?" accordingly people told him what he should do.

so what if the answers overwhelmingly recommend responsible behavior or whatever else you think "most conservative" means?

i'm pretty liberal, but i recognize that many of the so-called traditional values that conservatives talk about basically stem from the perfectly worthy notion that you shouldn't be shitty to other people. if you find the concept that you should be decent to other people to be too abstract, i don't know what more to say.

this is just idiotic.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:17 PM on July 4, 2006


i'm pretty liberal, but i recognize that many of the so-called traditional values that conservatives talk about basically stem from the perfectly worthy notion that you shouldn't be shitty to other people.

Strongly agree. My only point of disagreement with conservatives becomes when they start prioritizing the inflexible "values" over the "being shitty to people"
posted by vacapinta at 3:23 PM on July 4, 2006


The negative judgments weren't conservative in themselves (and were surely the correct pieces of advice), but you could definitely feel a strong conservative vibe leaching through that thread. I was surprised to see people call the asker a homewrecker. That word sounds to me like it's straight from the 1950s. It stigmatizes divorce when many divorces are good things, and it treats the person leaving the marriage as if he or she were stolen chattal and didn't leave of his or her own autonomy. In my ears, anyway.

Also, I agree with geoff. These relationship threads are ridiculous. Askers are forced to condense complicated scenarios into a few paragraphs, and the only way for people to respond is to interpret the story as an abstract fable with a connect-the-dots moral.
posted by painquale at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2006


I think anyone who thinks the answers in this thread are identical is wandering around in some kind of self-generated mental (and moral) fogbank; there were twenty or thirty different varieties of NO in that thread, and a few of them are new enough to me I'm marking it for future reference the way I have some software-advice questions.

I'm surprised and pleased by the OP's response. I had mistaken him for a hardened and willful narcissist unlikely to be deterred by words, without sanctions backing them, from anything he really desired. And, as languagehat points out, there is the added bonus that I won't be making the mistake of taking seriously certain posts I will now know to dismiss out of hand.
posted by jamjam at 4:16 PM on July 4, 2006


I can't believe that someone brings this to MetaTalk and the only response is "well, breaking up a marriage is always wrong". I can only assume that it's the strong American contingent making all this noise (America: where even the liberals are conservative). I would think most people could see that it's not even remotely as black and white as that -- you can feel the 'traditional' hangups positively radiating from that thread. Like painquale says, 'homewrecker'?

I think the reason you end up with such a funny feeling from reading that thread is that it feels like people are acting that way just because she's married, and marriage is special -- it feels like things would be different if she was just in a relationship. Seeing marriage as extra-specially sacrosanct in that way reeks of conservatism or, at the very least, Americanism.
posted by reklaw at 4:47 PM on July 4, 2006


What the fuck is wrong with you if you think breaking up a marriage is a good thing?
posted by puke & cry at 4:50 PM on July 4, 2006


What the fuck is wrong with you if you can see that it's not always bad and certainly not always the end of the world?
posted by reklaw at 4:52 PM on July 4, 2006


Why is it that people give other people so little credit for being able to make their own minds up about their relationships that they think that an external person can actually "break up" a relationship? In the same way that I find the whole "covenant with society" thing borderline offensive, I find the idea that somehow we're all obligated to help other peoples' relationships survive offensive. If it needs external help to survive, maybe it's time to pull the plug, you know? If someone's in a committed, monogamous, relationship and actually happy there, then they won't cheat, if they're not happy, then they might, it seems patently self-delusional to think that opportunity is the main deciding factor, and that otherwise faithful people will hump each other like bonobos given the opportunity, it's only opportunity if you're already primed to cheat, otherwise it's just social noise.

The problem in the AskMe thread (as I saw it) wasn't the fact that the co-worker is married, but that she'd given absoutely no indication that she was even remotely interested in anonymous, and that she is in an openly committed relationship (as indicated by the ring), and hitting on someone like that is potentially extremely embarrassing (this has nothing to do with some kind of imaginary defense of marriage act and everything to do with the fact that if someone makes it clear that they're not available, then it's plain old rude and insensitive to hit on them as if they were hanging out at some meatmarket bar).
posted by biscotti at 5:15 PM on July 4, 2006


So reklaw, you're in favor of extramarital affairs? Nice. Hope it never happens to you, buddy.
posted by puke & cry at 5:18 PM on July 4, 2006


The curious thing about human relations questions is how much is extracted from so little. I learn more about the responders than about the oriignal asker:

Q: So...I like this girl and she smiled at me. What should I do?

A1:Ask her out, idiot. Clearly she is in love with you! i mean, thats how my wife and i met!!!

A2:You creepy stalker! I am a girl and i like to smile and i hate it when every creep on the street takes that as an invitation to say "hello". You disgust me.

etc.
posted by vacapinta at 5:28 PM on July 4, 2006


what biscotti said.

it was interesting to see if AskMe's inner Dr. Laura come out with fangs bared all due to notions of the inviolability of the "marriage covenant", when we all know or should know, and are products of, the messy reality: people lie, cheat and steal all the time. it is our nature, and yet we act with surprise and contempt when reminded that this is so.

divorce is so commonplace as to be unremarkable. 'howewrecker' is a term so loaded with corrupt '50s Eisenhowerian "family values" that the only other person i've heard utter it is blimplike ubermoralist Bill Bennet.

i guess being in the advice-giving role has the tendency to turn people into bluenoses, never daring to utter in public anything other than the conventional wisdom of morality, as the truth eludes them all around.

remember that the adulteress was jesus' favorite (or lover, depending on what you believe).
posted by Hat Maui at 6:09 PM on July 4, 2006


if, 'howmewrecker'
posted by Hat Maui at 6:12 PM on July 4, 2006


All your wives are belong to reklaw.
posted by xmutex at 6:42 PM on July 4, 2006


That there's a non-consenting, uninformed third party involved — the spouse — should be a GIANT FREAKIN' CLUE that the action is just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sleep with whomever you want, fersure. I've no judgements on that. But it is essential that all affected parties be fully informed as to what's going on. If they're not, you're just a plain ol' asshole.

What surprises hell outta me is that apparently we have established MeFi members who don't seem to understand this.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:01 PM on July 4, 2006


What the fuck is wrong with you if you can see that it's not always bad and certainly not always the end of the world?

It's entirely possible that a good relationship could have come out of this situation.

However, most responders in the thread realized that trying to date a married person where you work is NOT the ideal beginning to a satisfying relationship. That's probably why most people responded as they did.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:30 PM on July 4, 2006


I think people who make posts expressing "concern" about perceived moralizing in AskMe responses to questions which clearly demand a moral opinion are boring, bitter, dessicated little tossers who ought to get a life, a clue and a damned good kicking. Not necessarily in that order.

When someone talks about something like an extra-marital relationship, they're going to get their asses moralized on a bit. And oh, jocularity! What merry fun it is to see!

Shut up. Don't read the fucking thread if you don't like the way it shapes up, you witless dullard.
posted by Decani at 7:35 PM on July 4, 2006


What exactly are you complaining about? It's like someone posted a question saying "I have $4.63 in cash and $25 in the bank and I have to fly out to Berlin tomorrow with no passport so I can blow up the Brandenburg Gate. Also I'm an escaped felon and I want to take my crack rocks as carryon smuggled inside an Eastern Timber Wolf; how can I make this happen?" Then there was a response saying "well, you probably can't because you don't have enough money" followed by one saying "you can't; you don't have the passport," then one saying "you'll never make it past pre-flight screening because of the warrant" and one saying "maybe think about leaving the crack at home" then one saying "you know customs takes an interest in endangered species and, well, any other kind of animal, crossing international borders," and then one saying "just be sure to wear a turban and a thobe," and then clockzero came to complain about all the answers saying the same thing.
posted by Tuwa at 7:42 PM on July 4, 2006


I thought the most interesting response was the one which said "if she wanted to cheat on her husband with you she'd be sending signals to that effect" -- it added an extra dimension, it was non-moralistic, and spelled out reasons why doing anything would be a bad idea in purely practical terms.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:18 PM on July 4, 2006


You know the saying "there's no such thing as a bad question"?

It's dead wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:25 PM on July 4, 2006


Are there no such things as bad questions because you're still beating your wife?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:37 PM on July 4, 2006


I went through something like this with the famous "being bugged" thread. Sometimes, people give really bad advice, and that's all there is to it. As much as it may piss us off, there isn't anything we can do about it except to shout at them a bunch in MeTa until shouting doesn't feel good anymore.

The fact is that when someone posts to AskMe, they are opening themselves up to all kinds of advice, excellent and catastrophic. Anyone who does not understand this should stay as far away from AskMe as humanly possible, as it may literally be harmful to their health.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:49 PM on July 4, 2006


It was people just being Puritans about someone dating a married woman, reklaw.

1) The woman is married, probably happily (she's never complained about her husband or marriage).
2) She's a coworker (his superior at that), which raises a bunch of other issues.
3) During all the time the OP has known her, she has never flirted with him or reciprocated in any way, past being friendly in an appropriate workplace kind of way.

It's a no brainer.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:55 PM on July 4, 2006


Wasn't people just being Puritans...
posted by Devils Slide at 9:56 PM on July 4, 2006


I think people who make posts expressing "concern" about perceived moralizing in AskMe responses to questions which clearly demand a moral opinion are boring, bitter, dessicated little tossers who ought to get a life, a clue and a damned good kicking. Not necessarily in that order...Shut up. Don't read the fucking thread if you don't like the way it shapes up, you witless dullard.

Really, Decani. There's no need to get nasty.

What exactly are you complaining about?

Tuwa, I'm not complaining per se. I'm just voicing an opinion about the tenor of that response.

I think the moralizing questions about committed relationships do answer the question asked. "I am attracted to a married woman. Do I tell her?" That was part of the question. The next part was about sexual harassment, etc. There isn't a lot of substance to many of those answers, but anonymous probably just needed a sanity check. Attraction can wind one's brain up into strange shapes and make bad ideas seem like good ones. Nothing wrong with checking the peanut gallery for a chorus of "nos" from time to time before acting.

That's a good point, scarabic.

What exactly is your point here? "I don't like the fact that most people don't share my wild and crazy take on things so I want them all to shut up"?

No, of course not LH, I don't want anyone to shut up. And it doesn't bother me that some people don't agree with me. What concerned me, as I said, was the presence of a sort of response that situated a unique moment in this guy's life in a rigid, harsh moral scheme, because I personally thought those responses were less intended to help and understand than to induce guilt and reinforce arbitrary societal expectations.

clockzero, you're confusing repressive sexual and relationship attitudes with common sense here.

That is possible, but where does one draw the line between the two?
posted by clockzero at 10:25 PM on July 4, 2006


You're ignoring the fact that the answers were dead on, based on the OPs response. So you're concern isn't shared by the OP.
posted by puke & cry at 10:55 PM on July 4, 2006


I know what you're talking about, and I've seen it many times in AskMe, but I don't think this thread is really a good example of that. Now, if the asker had said "I'm attracted to this woman; we flirt a lot, and she's made it pretty clear she's interested in me - but she's married and we work together. What should I do?" and all the answers had been, "omg! it's a marriage! What are you thinking?!!", that would be more in line with what you describe.

The fact that there was just no nuance in the context of the real question that could remotely suggest it might be a good idea is the reason it was so unanimous, and the defense-of-marriage stuff, while not really necessary, addresses the fact that the suitor simply has not been encouraged at all, so answers tended to channel that way.

Jessamyn's answer, though, is a great example of addressing the question without weighing the soul of the asker, and I think people would be well advised to emulate this sort of calm/practical approach.
posted by taz at 12:11 AM on July 5, 2006


from the good citizens of a country with the USA's appalling divorce (and remarriage) rates I expected a marginally more sophisticated reaction to the question -- but then, I consider the relationship advice found on askmefi, with some exceptions of course, to be consistently bad.

the question seemed to be a pretty straightforward one -- the poster wants to do it, he knows it's a mistake, he's leading people to tell him "NONONONO" just to get some reinforcement to his obvious doubts about the situation. it's very human.

in a fortunately quite distant past, not that I'm proud of it but I'm not necessarily ashamed of it either (it's simply none of you guys business), I've had relationships with married women and coworkers. I don't recall looking for advice on the Internet, back then (maybe it's just because I had dial-up back then, who knows)

life is not as simple -- or as black and white -- as some of our askmefi moralists think it is, or would like it to be. having said that, with all due respect, I consider it unlikely that I'll ever ask you guys' opinions on my love life, thank you very much. YMMV and all that, obviously, so more power to those who insist on it

and by the way I thought people stopped using "homewrecker" in the 1950's
posted by matteo at 1:57 AM on July 5, 2006


I've had relationships with married women and coworkers.

Feel free, you fucking asshole homewreaking piece of shit.

with all due respect, I consider it unlikely that I'll ever ask you guys' opinions on my love life, thank you very much.


Good for you, asshole. I doubt any advice would be considered, anyway.

and by the way, "homewrecker" is still a valid term for assholes like you who who ruin other peoples marriages.
posted by puke & cry at 2:23 AM on July 5, 2006


Whoa there puke & cry! Did matteo bone your missus or something?
posted by MrMustard at 3:43 AM on July 5, 2006


Ahh America, so stupid and lumpen and unsophisticated. Where even the liberals are conservative and the divorce rate is sky high because we lack the calm, classically liberal moral center of western Europe: Home of light adultry, fresh pasta and utter enlightenment.

Come my fellow Americans, let us away to our conservatism camps where we will learn how to think about other subjects. Feh.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:05 AM on July 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


up in yr h0us3 stealin' yr wif3
posted by exlotuseater at 4:09 AM on July 5, 2006


I think nearly all relationship advice and questions are stupid. There is never enough information given by the poster about the situation for the community to weigh in on the best choice. Also I've seen just horrendous advice given, I would not be disappointed to see relationship questions to go all together. They're voyeuristically fun, but that's it.

Nobody is going to take any relationship advice from AskMe that they weren't already predisposed to take. What these questions do is help to push people into making one decision or another. Ideally, answerers will make different assumptions and one of the responses will ring true to an extent that enables the poster to make a choice. I think this works most of the time.
posted by teleskiving at 5:00 AM on July 5, 2006


What concerned me, as I said, was the presence of a sort of response that situated a unique moment in this guy's life in a rigid, harsh moral scheme, because I personally thought those responses were less intended to help and understand than to induce guilt and reinforce arbitrary societal expectations.

And yet you were wrong on both counts: the responses were largely thoughtful and appropriate, and the poster found them helpful. I don't see you acknowledging that and saying "Sorry I posted this waste of MetaTalk space."
posted by languagehat at 5:27 AM on July 5, 2006


maybe it's just because I had dial-up back then, who knows

I laughed.
posted by iconomy at 7:01 AM on July 5, 2006


There is certainly a disntiction between somebody having an affair with a married person, who actively seeks an affair and whose marriage was "on the rocks" (take that for 50s lingo) as opposed to somebody who wants to have an affair with a happily married, or at least not discontentedly married, person who is not sending out vibes. He or she may be able to make it happen if they push hard enough, but yes they would be a "home wrecker", or if you like a more modern term, "asshole".

1. Marriages don't always end in divorce; the idea that many marriages do end in divorce does not mean that marriage is worthless or unimportant.

2. All marriages go through ups and downs. All of them. This does not mean that all marriages are doomed to fail.

3. A calculated push by a self-centered third party who puts his/her desire above the emotional investment of the married couple can lead to a marriage that is going through a bad moment to break up. You can rationalize your part in the mess away all you want, but you would be partly to blame for a shitty situation.
posted by sic at 7:07 AM on July 5, 2006


if we want a diverse and enlightening dialogue

Gator: We...don't actually want this in AskMe, last I checked. We want answers to questions and solutions to problems.

That pretty much wraps it up with a nice little bow on top.

Of course, it's also amusingly ironic to start from the premise that AskMe is intended to promote "a diverse dialogue," then complain about people expressing views that differ from your own.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:34 AM on July 5, 2006


Feel free, you fucking asshole homewreaking piece of shit

Um, puke and cry? You probably don't wanna hear this, but she was gonna dump you anyway.

Women who are happy in their relationships don't usually stray -- and when they do, it's even less common for them to leave.

Time to move on, bud.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:40 AM on July 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


I understand and somewhat agree with the sentiment of the original post here, but I think that the example used is a terrible one.

There are definitely some hardcore pile-ons in the relationship threads that I think are unwarranted, but the example given in this post is a pretty clear cut case of what society deems "the morally right thing to do", and even if you personally disagree with it - it's the generally right thing to do (not mess with someone who's married) according to most people. As a result, it's probably (though not always) the best course of action or lack thereof.


With regards to the puke & cry freakout, though -- there's no such thing as a homewrecker. While I believe it's wrong for someone who knows someone else is married to mosey on in and pursue them anyway -- that doesn't change the fact that the person who ended up reciprocating did so. If it wasn't with that person, it'd have been with someone else. Marriages / relationships aren't wrecked by outsiders. They're damaged already, and the outsider is the catalyst or excuse to finally break the bond that was already busted up in the first place.

If you believe an outsider can "steal" someone from you that was somehow meant to be forever until it was ruined -- you're with the wrong person. It's the cheater's fault as much as if not moreso than the person with whom he/she went outside the marriage/relationship.
posted by twiggy at 8:50 AM on July 5, 2006


You're all a bunch of homewreakers.
posted by bardic at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2006


And yet you were wrong on both counts: the responses were largely thoughtful and appropriate, and the poster found them helpful. I don't see you acknowledging that and saying "Sorry I posted this waste of MetaTalk space."

Well, I don't think I was completely wrong. I don't have a problem with the responses that said "Don't do it," I take issue with those that used that opportunity to bandy about a stultifying moral vision and implicitly or explicitly berate the questioner by the apparent violation of such. I don't think that these responses were either thoughtful or appropriate. I am glad, though, that the OP found the resounding negative response to be helpful. And I'm certainly not going to apologize for making use of MeTa.
posted by clockzero at 9:22 AM on July 5, 2006


It's strange how many more people seem to have a reasonable view on the matter here in MeTa compared to on AskMe. Were people just afraid to jump into that pile-on or something?
posted by reklaw at 9:47 AM on July 5, 2006


You know reklaw, I didn't think there were people who actually thought it was defensible to go after married folk. Oh sure, I knew there were the folks who reasoned the marriage was bad or the married spouse really loved them and that made everything OK, but they had reasons, even if the reasons were deluded. Nothing as coldhearted and, well, evil as yours.

I dunno. When I approach a relationship I like to consider the feelings and promises of all parties involved, not just mine. I thought it was what decent people did.
posted by schroedinger at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2006


Feel free, you fucking asshole homewreaking piece of shit

Um, puke and cry? You probably don't wanna hear this, but she was gonna dump you anyway.


That's silly. Who'd leave such a charming soul with a talent for interpersonal communication without some outside impetus?
posted by phearlez at 10:48 AM on July 5, 2006


I'm afraid it's time for this:

Metafilter: an abstract fable with a connect-the-dots moral


posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2006


I think the reason everyone was so un-nuanced in the thread is that it was an un-nuanced question. Giving good advice requires, to some extent, talking to the advisee in language he will understand. The questioner sounded a bit clueless, and dismissed her being married in a throw-away half sentence. So many people assumed that he was a bit clueless and didn't fully understand the implications of her being married, and they phrased their answers accordingly.

Taking into account the phrasing and apparent thought processes of the person asking the question is not a bad idea when giving advice, despite the repeated accusations of "reading things into the question" that such an approach seems to garner.
posted by occhiblu at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2006


schroedinger: I didn't think there were people who actually thought it was defensible to go after married folk.

Of course there are. Consider that I believe being married is no different to being in a long-term relationship (a matter of personal opinion, I'm sure you'll agree -- I just don't think marriage is as important as it's made out to be). Now, is it defensible to go after people in long-term relationships? In some cases, yes, it is. Divorce is now common -- and if there are no children involved, not even especially painful (plenty of people seem to have marriages when they should just be having relationships, and it doesn't do them much harm). It's just really not that bad.

Just look how quickly this all descends into being about what 'decent' people do -- oh, those upstanding members of the community with their traditional moral values, all bow down to them. The whole idea of being a 'homewrecker' and 'taking another man's woman' belongs a long way in the past, along with all the nasty conservative sexist baggage it brings with it.

If you're going along with that, you're buying into the thinking of the US laws cited in the thread, where you can have legal action brought against you for destroying someone else's affections towards their partner. I believe that people have free will. I don't think that it's possible for a man to 'steal' a woman away. I believe that if you really have these kind of feelings, you only get one life, and you might as well act on them -- for all you know, she might feel the same way.

It's just a cultural disconnect, as far as I can see, much like with that 15 year old in a bar thing. No matter how much we talk about it, you're going to think that a 15 year old being in a bar is a terrible awful dangerous thing, and I'm going to think that it's no big deal. It's just upbringing and surroundings that do it.

The worst thing is, I bet a significant percentage of the moralisers in the thread are having affairs themselves, right now -- statistically, it's overwhelmingly likely. I hope you all damn well choke on your own hypocrisy, and come join me in the 21st century sometime soon.
posted by reklaw at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2006


The worst thing is, I bet a significant percentage of the moralisers in the thread are having affairs themselves, right now -- statistically, it's overwhelmingly likely. I hope you all damn well choke on your own hypocrisy, and come join me in the 21st century sometime soon.

reklaw, I think the rest of your comment is interesting, but this is just ridiculous. Would you like to show some numbers here, and account for the self-selecting sample of people who object vocally to extra-marital hooha? Because it sounds like a weak, petty, baseless jab to me.
posted by cortex at 4:37 PM on July 5, 2006


I for one am not married, and also not dating, yet nonetheless think that relationships are something best presumed honored rather than not. So clearly I am a hypocrite and a moralizer, rather than someone trying not to be presumptuous and self-centered.
posted by Tuwa at 5:28 PM on July 5, 2006


I hope you all damn well choke on your own hypocrisy, and come join me in the 21st century sometime soon.

Welcome to the 21st century, where having affairs is good, and respecting relationship commitments is "conservative," "judg[e]mental," and "moralizing"! It's like the groovy, swingin' 60s, baby!
posted by pardonyou? at 7:53 PM on July 5, 2006


Welcome to the 21st century, where having affairs is good, and respecting relationship commitments is "conservative," "judg[e]mental," and "moralizing"! It's like the groovy, swingin' 60s, baby!

and where people cry for days and days and think about killing themselves because their spouses cheated on them.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:58 PM on July 5, 2006


It's strange how many more people seem to have a reasonable view on the matter here in MeTa compared to on AskMe.

Funny, I was thinking the exact opposite.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:01 PM on July 5, 2006


That's OK - the questioner can read the AskMe thread & then this MeTa one & come to a nice, balanced conclusion.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:01 AM on July 6, 2006


Really, Decani. There's no need to get nasty.


Well, we'll have to agree to disagree on that score. I generally experience an incredibly pressing need to get nasty when people talk witless crap.
posted by Decani at 5:12 PM on July 11, 2006


Long weekend?
posted by cortex at 5:16 PM on July 11, 2006


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