In “Dentists,” the husband ... seems hemmed-in, his manliness encumbered by all the domestic trappings. Nor does it enhance what's left of his aura of masculinity that he and his wife ... are equal partners in their dental firm, and that when they get home, he does half (or more) of the housework. The audience, therefore, is less surprised than he is when he glimpses his wife in the arms of another man, perhaps the director of the amateur opera in which she's appearing as a slave girl. ...
As so often happens in feminist-influenced movies, the words don't match the pictures. Scott, who also produced, claimed that the wife falls for another man because her husband is “uncommunicative,” but his character hardly has any time to communicate. While she's running around, he cooks all the meals and cleans up all the messes, which only appears to make her more contemptuous of him.
Instead, Rudolph's images subvert the script's conventional explanations with a disturbing idea: the perfect equality of their marriage has sapped the sexual energy from it. Because he has no power over her, she doesn't find him exciting...
Tom Newman comments inter alia:
I think most Americans know down deep by now that “equal” marriage does not work and that women want the man to lead. At some point, we will all start admitting it in public.
I don't think all women want the man to lead (some prefer women anyway ;-) ) but for those who do, an overtly equal marriage would be less likely to work.
Moreover, not all forms of equality are equal. The so-called “unequal” relationship favoured by Tom and many readers of Taken In Hand is in a very real sense more equal and consensual than many a so-called “equal” and pro-feminist relationship. Plenty of pro-feminist New Men create the mere semblance of consent whilst acting in highly non-consensual ways.
Consider a relationship between an ardent radical/victim feminist and a New Men who stridently advocate “equality”, and who would be quick to brand us “unhealthy”, or “reactionary” or “atavistic” and the like. In some cases, of course, they have a genuinely good relationship. But in other cases, if you look beyond what they say to what they do, what you find is that one or other of the two (or both!) passively-aggressively imposes his or her will on the other, not just occasionally and not just in fun or in an otherwise consensual way.
Their relationship appears prima facie to be very fair and equal and consensual but it is just the semblance of equality, a sham; the form is equal and fair, but the substance is highly non-consensual. People can be very intransigent and fail to take their partner's wishes into account, whilst appearing to be models of equality and caring. People often proclaim their belief in equality whilst making life miserable for their partner through apparently nice but really toxic passive-aggressive behaviour.
The reason this is important for readers of Taken In Hand is that one of the criticisms levelled at us (apart from the usual vacuous “this is unhealthy” rubbish) is that relationships of this sort can't be good because they are not equal.
There is nothing particularly good about equality per se, because what one person might like, another might hate—it might be better for person A to get X and person B to get Y—both might be happier with that then if A and B both have Z. What people mean when they advocate equality—or rather, what they should mean—is that there should be consent.
To judge whether or not there is consent, you can't just look at the form of a relationship or an interaction and get a reliable answer. For some people positively want a relationship which to the outside world looks unequal and quite possible non-consensual. It might appear that way but be incredibly consensual and a source of great joy and personal growth to both partners. It is not merely that you can't judge a book by its cover, you can be wildly misled by the “cover” when the “book” is the kind of relationship discussed on Taken In Hand. What we have to remember is that it is the consensual substance that matters, not the non-consensual form.