Emma Watson on Coining the Term ‘Self Partnered’ and the ‘Bullsh*t’ Myth of ‘Easy’ Romantic Relationships

Culture
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Emma Watson

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Emma Watson doesn’t often do interviews, but for Teen Vogue this week, the actress had a conversation with Sex and World Peace author Valerie Hudson about why women are still not taken as seriously as men and what steps men particularly need to take to help elevate women and create a truly equal world and workplace.

Toward the end of their discussion, they touched on marriage and romantic relationships. Watson spoke at length about her own view on them: What inspired her to come up with the term “self partnered” instead of single to describe her status and why kink culture and same-sex couples inspire her when she considers truly equal romantic relationship models.

Sex and World Peace

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“I often think that one of the most revolutionary things that women could do is to begin to develop words for these feelings that they’ve always had,” Hudson started. That’s why Watson reflected on her own experience doing that and going viral for it.

“I did an interview with Vogue magazine a couple of months ago, and I talked about how, in the run up to my 30s, [I felt] this incredible, sudden anxiety and pressure that I had to be married or have a baby or moving into a house, and there was no word for this kind of subliminal messaging and anxiety and pressure that I felt building up, but I couldn’t really name, and so I used the word ‘self-partnered,’” Watson started. “For me it wasn’t so much about coining a word; it was more that I needed to create a definition for something that I didn’t feel there was language for. And it was really interesting because it really riled some people up! It was less for me about the word but more about what it meant—just this idea that we need to reclaim language and space in order to express ourselves because sometimes it’s really not there.”

“It’s fascinating to me that the origin story of marriage centers around ownership and power—safeguarding bloodlines, establishing property and land rights, creating tactical alliances to increase circles of influence and establish new trading links, et cetera,” she finished.

Hudson said, “In a weird way, marriage was born out of slavery. The idea that you needed to control the reproductive capabilities of these women, just as you would control cattle and you would control land, and you would keep those things in your male-bonded kin group. We still have laws in most countries, many countries, that say upon divorce the children go with the husband’s family. …And I think one of the actual really important things that modernity did was to suggest that this contractual nature of marriage was not the only kind of marriage to have, and that there was in fact a different template based on equal partnership, equal respect, equal consideration that could be a far more healthy, prosperous, and happy type of relationship than you’ve seen previously.”

“I feel that relationships that don’t necessarily follow traditional models do require more communication and consent,” Watson mused. “It requires an actual conversation and agreement about the delegation of tasks and labor and responsibilities that maybe you don’t feel that you need to have or should have if you follow those traditional stereotypes.… The idea that relationships are supposed to be easy and it’s all supposed to be implicitly understood, and you’re just meant to get each other, it’s bullshit! It’s impossible!”

“A lot of the healthiest relationships I’ve seen have been between same-sex couples because, I think, they have to sit down and agree [on] things,” she continued. “They agree [on] things between them as opposed to [accepting] certain sets of assumptions and expectations that are made. I’ve also kind of become slightly fascinated by kink culture because they are the best communicators ever. They know all about consent. They [understand] that stuff because they really have to get it—but we could all use those models; they’re actually really helpful models.”

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