Why Do You Care Who Wears The Pants In My Relationship?

I’ve seen people try to openly emasculate my boyfriend, implying that he can’t be a proper man with a headstrong girlfriend like me. 

Want to hear a few stories about pants-wearing in relationships? Here’s just a few from my recent experience…

Yesterday morning, Medellín, Colombia.

Migs and I are at a stoplight and, like always, a street vendor stops at our car and props some of his wares against our open window. This time it’s Trident in four flavors.

“You want some?” says Migs.

“Yeah,” I say.

“500 pesos,” says the guy outside the window.

“What flavor?” asks Migs.

“The black one,” I say.

Guy outside the window cracks a grin. “Gotta let the women make the calls, don’t we, parce?” he says to Migs with a knowing cackle, handing over the Trident.

Migs gives the man an unindulgent smirk. I give them both the side-eye.


A few months ago, on Facebook.

A guy Migs and I know posts an article I find both ridiculous and misogynistic. I leave a sarcastic one-liner in the comments.

Guy responds by tagging Migs asking him to explain to me that that’s how all men think.

Migs leaves a long, diplomatic comment along the lines of why can’t we all just get along?

I love him for it.


The following weekend.

Same guy brings his girlfriend and another couple up from Medellín to visit Migs and me. After dinner, everyone goes out to smoke except me and the girl from the other couple. We start talking about polyamory. She’s interested in the concept and asks me lots of questions about mine and Migs’s experience. We talk enthusiastically about the subject for 20 minutes.

Later, Migs tells me they could hear our conversation outside. The girl’s boyfriend apparently spent those 20 minutes badgering Migs to come in and make me stop talking to his woman about my sex life.

Migs didn’t, obviously. I love him even more.


A couple weekends later.

A friend of mine, a young expat painter, asks us to visit her and her husband, along with another couple. In the afternoon sun, she breaks out her camera, starts snapping photos, and a lively conversation ensues about the female gaze in art. She passes me the camera, and I head over to the men and start snapping photos of their ankles. (I love male ankles.)

Her husband’s friend is commenting to Migs about how annoyed he is by mandolinas. Two feet in front of him, I swing the camera up to his face and ask him to explain the term.

“It’s like, you know, the stringed instrument,” he says awkwardly, shifting in his seat. “And also women who tell their men what to do all the time. You know, wear the pants in the relationship.” He shoots an uncomfortable look at Migs as I snap his picture. “I really don’t like having my picture taken.”

Migs raises his eyebrows mildly, takes a swig of his beer, and changes the subject.


I know sometimes I’m a liability for my boyfriend in front of his friends, who seem to believe that men should tell women what to do, or at least pretend to. Migs doesn’t give me orders (at least not always). And because of that, I’ve seen people try to openly emasculate him, imply that he can’t be a proper man with an uncontrollable girlfriend like me.

Is it fair for me to expect my partner to take a hit to his social status because his headstrong girlfriend has big ideas about what equality in relationships looks like? I don’t want to tear him down.

But that is what I’m expecting—equality. I often ask myself: How would we negotiate issues in our relationship if we were a same-sex couple? It would be exactly that, a negotiation, no assumptions about who should do what, who should call the shots, based on our genders. And then I try to act like that, negotiating based on my perspective, expecting him to push back on issues that matter to him.

Contrary to what lots of straight men think, this feminist is not trying to dominate men. In fact, men who don’t have a good enough sense of themselves to advocate for their own needs don’t attract me at all. I expect men not to be so frightened by women that they need to either dominate them constantly or resist being dominated with passive aggression that implies they’re actually the superior ones.

To me, equality happens when you have enough mutual respect to push each other over what you believe in. Iron sharpening iron.

A young guy friend of mine this week tried to explain, with the very best of intentions, that the pick-up artist movement that’s currently getting so much press is actually just about men trying to figure out how to be what women really want.

Let’s remove the mystery, so that hopefully men can stop shooting women who reject them: Strong women want men strong enough to be themselves, not some idealized version of maleness, and strong enough to hear us when we tell them what we need and want.

And that’s really it.

Samantha Eyler is a freelance American writer, editor, and translator based in Medellín, Colombia. She has written about politics, immigration, Latin America, and social justice for publications such as NACLA and the New Statesman. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter. 

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