A great man once wrote that a revolution must be not only be structural but super-structural - meaning a society must take into account both its economic set-up as well as its ideal/ideological/institutional framework. What this man failed to see is how this full-fledged anti-capitalist revolution applies to gender relations and relationships — especially of the “hetero-normative” variety.
This isn’t to suggest that all hetero male-female relationships are singular or that they are all intrinsically backwards or oppressive; on the contrary, these can be excellent sources of social transformation on the most basic level of social relations. However, “progressive” and transgressive exceptions notwithstanding, (especially within the radical culture of the Bay Area) there are still problematic symbolic and social (as well as economic and systemic) roles and effects that both parties may be subject to without being aware of their complicity to this violent, insidious phenomenon (- excepting explicit role-playing scenarios where parties have pre-agreed to such, which is a separate issue for another post on another day).
Even outside of stereotypical hetero relationships, it is still fairly common among young couples today for the males to define and set the terms for what a “progressive” or radical relationship can be or mean. Because sex and sexual culture are always already dominated by something called the “male gaze” and the hegemonic male-dominated popular cultural view, a true break away from the standard categories of heterosexual sex and love would entail, on a structural level, allowing the woman in the relationship (or female-identified partner) to set the terms for the relationship sexually. Many women today complain that their boyfriends won’t perform oral sex on them or will refuse certain acts while expecting/demanding the same equivalent of their partner (expect anal sex, refuse to be pegged; be okay with two-female-one-male threesomes, refuse male-male sexual contact; allow for polygamy while expecting emotional monogamy, etc.). These are obviously myriad and complicated scenarios, and each “two”some is unique.
For more modest, conservative hetero couples, this can be as simple as the female rarely experiencing orgasm- or having her sexual needs be secondary to her male partner’s, which by definition of the “hetero-normative” relationship is actually organized around the penetrative act. What could be more masculine-dominated than heterosexually-defined “sex” wherein the act is structured by the needs of male orgasm?
From an emotional (super-structural) point of view, the romantic and amorous aspect of said relationships can be equally, if not more, complex. Within these hetero relationships, even feminists with feminist boyfriends or ally partners may still find their feelings neglected out of repression (feeling unable to speak, wondering if their partner will feel overwhelmed or burdened by all of their feminist thoughts) or often trivialized when spoken freely (this can also happen where both parties treat each other as equals without paying attention how they are socially unequal outside of the union, and how some gendered emotions are frequently different and unequal and require/demand that the feminist’s specific needs be given extra attention and care).
This can be as simple as initiating a conversation asking how your feminist partner feels in the relationship: are her emotional and sexual needs being met? Is she satisfied and happy? Does she feel she is being heard and responded to? Does she feel she is being treated with respect as an equal, mentally and otherwise? Does she feel that her own independent, individual life is being neglected because she is devoting too much of her time to the relationship? Is the male partner doing his best to fulfill those needs while also giving her space to make her own life/career/artistic/couple decisions? etc.
You may ask why these needs matter, and the answer is simple: society is driven by and organized around “male” needs. It is a male sexual culture, and a male romantic/emotional one even - where males decide who they can impose their romantic fantasies on, despite female consent, because male heartbreaks and pain are the only ones that society lends sympathy to.