Updated: 10 July 2023
Right. Jonah Hill.
I have never written about something topical before on this blog, so we will see how it goes. But I had a conversation today, which raised a point I thought might be interesting to discuss within the topics covered by this blog. This will be a lot less edited than usual, because if I sit and ruminate on this for my usual three to five business weeks, it will be completely irrelevant by the time I post.
Jonah Hill and Boundaries
Before I get into this, I need to address the colossal affront to therapy, healthy relationships and probably the English language: Jonah Hills ‘boundaries for a romantic relationship’…
A boundary is a healthy limit you set to protect your emotional, physical or mental well-being. Boundaries are rules you impose on yourself and your own behaviour. They are not rules which you set for other people. If something is a boundary, it is your job to extract yourself from that situation.
For example, if it is your boundary that you don’t want to be at parties with alcohol, it is on you to not attend, rather your workplace’s obligation to ban everyone else from drinking at the department picnic.
It is also crucial to remember that boundaries are something set to protect your wellbeing, not your insecurities. But I will get to that in a bit.
For those not in the know, here is the most quoted screenshot of conversations between Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady is pictured below for your viewing pleasure. It’s by no means the only one, but it’s where the whole ‘boundaries’ conversation came from.
Now, why am I writing this?
Well, today, I had a lunch with a vanilla but kink-aware friend. Bless his soul, he does his best to understand my life with the earnest attention of a first-year uni student, but he does not have a kinky bone in his entire body.
We careered from topic to topic after our usual ramshackle fashion when we hit straight into the Jonah Hill thing. We talked about boundaries and how, if you can’t take having your other half surf with men, maybe don’t date a pro-surfer and so on and so forth until we hit that word which has been chucked around a lot around this topic. Controlling. And he asked me – ‘but aren’t you controlling?’
And I mean, given I am a dominant in a TPE dynamic, I can see where that question came from.
I am. Just not like that.
My friend loves to play devil’s advocate and this was a classic example. There I am, harping on about how Jonah Hill is being controlling, placing restrictions on who his girlfriend spends time with, while I control so much of my partner’s life. What’s the difference?
Well, the first and biggest difference between any kind of power exchange dynamic and the absolutely toxic brand of therapy-informed manipulation Jonah Hill peddles is consent.
His girlfriend did not consent, enthusiastically or otherwise, to being controlled. He attempted to manipulate her into accepting that control under the guise of ‘his boundaries’. There you go, nice clear line – no consent, not okay, right?
Well, to leave it there just didn’t feel anywhere near sufficient. To just leave it at consent leaves the possibility that the red flag parade above could be okay if there was consent.
Which is obviously not true.
Hence I thought writing up today’s conversation might be handy for some people – because, in a way, things are simpler in the vanilla world. If someone is controlling, that’s a red flag and a good reason to nope out of there. But in the world of power exchange, it can be a bit more confusing.
So, what makes our kind of controlling different from the Jonah Hills of this world?
Well, firstly, when someone like the soggy cardboard cut-out masquerading as a man that is Jonah Hill attempts to exercise control, it is without acknowledging that he is making demands, in an attempt to avoid any responsibility for that control. It is fundamentally something born out of cowardice, trotted out dressed up in the borrowed clothes of healthy communication to obscure what it really is.
Representing strongly for the federation of three wet blankets in a trench coat, Jonah Hill is effectively saying ‘you must do what I say because otherwise, you’re going to hurt me and that will be your fault’.
He is taking no responsibility for how he feels or his own issues – it is not his concern to get his insecurities up and moving, oh no. Rather, it’s his girlfriend who should have the common decency to give up her chosen career to make his insecurities a sandwich, so that said insecurities don’t have to leave the comfort of their sofa.
Far from attempting to exercise control over anything, and least of all himself, all Jonah Hill is attempting to do is play the victim and trick someone into protecting his fragile sense of self, purely so he doesn’t have to work on his own issues.
Put simply, Jonah Hill is not so much controlling as he is wholly incapable of facing his own issues. In short, he is a coward. Which I think is a blunter way of summing up what this kind of emotional abuse really is – it’s not about control at all. It’s about people who are too afraid to face their own issues making that everyone else’s problem.
Now, some people out there have defended this as ‘his preferences’. He’s just telling her what he needs if they are to be together, right? If she doesn’t like it, she can just say ‘no thanks’ – he even wishes her well!
Except the thing is, demanding someone change their entire life to accommodate your issues, which you are not even acknowledging as issues, is not a personal preference. It’s fundamentally manipulative.
Someone who is standing on their boundaries doesn’t dangle the relationship as a carrot – they say ‘sorry, I can’t do x’ and politely excise themselves from the situation.
So, I will just leave a list of things I went through with my friend, in answer to his poke-the-bear question. (Yes, I am the bear in this case). I do control a lot of my sub’s life, but it is very different from this kind of thing.
And it’s not just about consent.
It’s also that:
• The factors which I control aren’t a pre-requisite for a relationship – they’re not ultimatums. If a protocol isn’t compatible with our life anymore, if a rule isn’t feasible, that’s not something I threaten to end our relationship over. I don’t set ultimatums on which the relationship is dependent.
• The rules I set are not about my feelings, but are designed to create the kind of life we both want to lead.
• When I want something, I am clear and explicit about it.
• Where my demand is irrational and arbitrary, I acknowledge it and don’t look for objective reasons to justify or excuse it. Why do socks have to be folded into squares? Because I like it. Why does the tea towel need to be folded before it’s hung up? Because I said so. I don’t use guilt or make things my partner’s fault.
• When exercising control, I have regard to the consequences and the impact on my sub. I could stop him going out with his friends, sure, but I wouldn’t want to take that experience away. I consider how he feels and what he’s getting out of life.
Sadly, emotionally manipulative people pervade every area of life and the language of power exchange can make spotting them tricky. Hopefully, this quick post might help clarify what to look for.
And if you are already a red-flag spotting champ, then I do hope it was at least an entertaining ride through my largely unedited thoughts.