Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dan Savage: Privacy

I've been Dan Savage's column Savage Love for a while, and I adore it. But today, he posted a response to a previous column about privacy:
Regarding last week's reply to NORTH: Sure, it's fucked-up that this woman is doing escort work without telling her boyfriend. But he snooped through her e-mail! What you have here are two people who are both untrustworthy—they sound like a good fit to me! Because if snooping is okay, who knows what else he's doing behind her back?


I knew that not including a little standard-issue snooping-is-always-wrong boilerplate in my response to NORTH—a woman who neglected to inform her boyfriend that she was sitting on other men's cocks for money—would get me in trouble with some readers. But I didn't include it because I don't believe it.

A confession: I've looked through my boyfriend's e-mail; I assume he's looked through mine. I've scrolled through his text messages; I assume he's scrolled through mine. Expecting your partner not to snoop is like expecting your partner not to fart or fantasize about other people. It's a nice thought, JB, but knowing what we know about human nature—and knowing that we ourselves snoop, fart, and fantasize about other people—it's a little unrealistic.

And I'm sorry, but when someone goes snooping and discovers that their partner is doing sex work—or is secretly gay or is sleeping with or visiting lesbian-bondage-themed nightclubs with Michael Steele—then the snooping is retroactively justified.

Then I started reading the comments, and it seems like a LOT of people are up in arms about the fact that Dan is OK with light snooping through your partner's emails/texts/phone logs.
I'm actually really surprised by this... I mean, Mike and I have each other's passwords for everything. We consistently forget to log out of facebook/twitter/emails on our shared computer...because to us, it is no big deal. Am I alone in this?

When we got married, we understood that we would be sharing, our bed, passwords, get it. I guess I understand that some people like to feel like a piece of their life is private and personal and entirely theirs, but I just don't have that desire, and neither does he. I can agree that early in relationships it would be wholly in appropriate to look through the texts/emails/facebook/call log - but as I'm married, and been with Mike (in some capacity) since we were 18, I don't see the big deal.

Shouldn't you have no secrets from your partner, or am I living in an elaborate fantasty world? Mike knows more about me than anyone. He knows my dirty little secrets and I know his...isn't that the point? Don't you want to share everything with the person that you're with?

Some of the commenters have said that if they caught their partner snooping they would kick them to the curb. But that makes me think that the people who are adamant about their privacy may have something to hide. Something that needs to be kept private. I feel that you shouldn't really be concerned about privacy if you have nothing to hide.

I think Dan Savage has it almost right when he says:
Expecting your partner not to snoop is like expecting your partner not to fart or fantasize about other people.
Except, I don't even consider it snooping. Rarely do I look at Mike's emails/facebook/text messages (mainly because it's boring), but when I do, I'm not looking for anything, or suspicious of anything. If I have to give a reason: Idle curiosity, or checking to make sure he's communicating with his family, or staying in touch with long distance friends.

I feel like snooping (if I were to argue semantics) is LOOKING for something to be wrong, or when something is wrong, looking for a reason. To be clear, though, I don't think that snooping (or being idly curious) is ever a substitute for proper communication. If you feel something is amiss, it should be discussed with your partner. I feel like snooping is nosing into places that you don't have access.

Maybe that's the difference - Mike and I have granted each other that access. We have made it clear that there's nothing interesting on our phones/in our email/on facebook, so sure! go ahead and look around...but you're likely just going to find video game strategy (him) or friend and celebrity gossip (me).

What do you think? Am I an idealist? A rarity? Or do you AGREE with me? I wanted to comment on his site, but it was already overrun with comments (that both disagree and agree with my point of view) and I wanted to find out what people closer to home thought.


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