The Subjectivity Police

Matija Marohnić

When reading articles about of love, sex, and relationships (especially monogamy vs. polyamory), I’ve seen people policing each other for not stating their opinions subjectively enough. If authors don’t prefix every statement with “it is my own personal subjective opinion that”, they often receive comments that “it doesn’t work that way for everyone”, that they “shouldn’t generalize” etc.

I call these people the subjectivity police.

Yes, the field of romance and sexuality is very diverse, just look at the options that OkCupid provides for sexual orientation: straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, demisexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, lesbian, pansexual, queer, questioning, and sapiosexual.

Did you have to google some of those? You’ve seen nothing yet! These are the gender identity options: woman, man, agender, androgynous, bigender, cis man, cis woman, genderfluid, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, hijra, intersex, non-binary, pangender, transfeminine, transgender, transmasculine, transsexual, trans man, trans woman, and two spirit.

Feeling dizzy yet? Even though we’re clearly different, we still belong to the same species and as such have many similarities. For example, we have sex regardless of whether women are fertile or not. It’s a generalization based on biological evidence.

“That’s just your opinion.”

Most of what we say is an opinion. That statement was also an opinion, and this one is as well. Opinionception! If you comment that someone didn’t state their opinion subjectively enough, this is just your opinion and you’re actually making the same mistake. If you can provide arguments better than “people are different”, that’s much better, healthy discussions are fun. However, chances are that criticizing someone’s way of writing will not be welcome. That job is for friends and editors.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. —Marcus Aurelius

Often there is no objective truth—to someone the weather can be cold, to someone else it can be just right. Neither of them are right and at the same time both are, because that’s the truth for them.

On Facebook I said that the music was too loud on most live concerts I’ve been to. While I’m aware that lots of people love concerts (so it’s obviously not too loud for them), my ears were actually hurting when I was there, so I wasn’t inclined to make my claim any more subjective—it was the truth for me. Then I got a comment that I should’ve said that the music is too loud for me.

As a member of the Toastmasters club I have learned to do my best to avoid unnecessary words and expressions. Excessive subjectivity falls into this category as well—it’s just not that informative. No matter how subjective we sound, our opinion can still be either wrong or right, so what’s the difference? The opposite is true as well, if someone’s expressing their subjectivity, it doesn’t automatically protect them from criticism just because they’re “entitled to their opinion”.

Like the stand-up comedian Jim Jeffries says, we can’t really be certain of anything:

The only thing we know for sure is "I think, therefore I am", everything else is open to interpretation (watch until 4:45).

“You’re generalizing.”

Damn right I am. It’s not bad to generalize if your arguments are compelling. My opinions might be wrong, so what? Are we not allowed to be wrong anymore? Relationships are very complicated and we’re going to be wrong so many times, especially about non-monogamy, which is still mostly uncharted territory. A great way to learn is to talk about these things rather than keeping our mouths shut because “people are different”.

Don’t judge someone if they said something that you don’t believe is true. Instead, you can politely disagree and provide arguments supporting your point of view. If you have a problem with people sounding too objective, give them a benefit of the doubt and try to read their writings as opinions rather than facts. You’ll be less frustrated and be less inclined to post negative comments. I’m not perfect at this sort of things either, but we should try to be more positive.

People are very biased. Asking us to acknowledge our biases every time we say something is simply too much to ask.


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