He Means Well

I’ve had a few interactions with men in the last week which have irked me. These were all good people, “decent human beings,” as I like to say. But I think their male privilege had blinded them to the fact that women experience the world differently than they do. In only one instance did I try to help the other person see things from an alternate point of view…but the inability of that well-intentioned man to put himself in a woman’s shoes became quickly apparent.

I was hesitant to write about this today, because I feel it’s fairly off-topic for this blog, but as my roommate pointed out: this disconnect gets in the way of understanding and love. If putting this out there can help bridge that gap and allow for more love, then perhaps it isn’t so off-topic after all.

The first situation involved a relatively serious conversation about rape. The gentleman I was talking to then uttered this gem:

“I only weigh like 150lbs, there’s no way I could rape someone.”

Yes, he was implying that he was light enough that anyone could shove him off. I’m about 80% sure he wasn’t kidding. He had this sort of “look at me, I’m harmless” argument that he felt made him a safe guy to be around. “Women are safe with me because I’m too weak to overpower them,” he seemed to think.

I just…couldn’t. I didn’t have words in that moment, but I do wish now that I’d said something along the lines of, “Hey, I guess you might not know this, but rape is not just about physical domination. Women, men, trans people, and children have been raped by women, men, trans people and yes, children of much less physical strength. You don’t need to be strong or heavy to rape. I don’t want to imply that you could rape someone, of course. I just hope that the reason you couldn’t rape someone is because you WOULDN’T. Because it’s wrong. It’s terrible. Don’t do it, and don’t imply that if you were stronger or heavier you’d be capable of it.”

Don’t.

So there was that. The second time I found myself in a conversation that made me squirm, I was more ready with my words. I was chatting with a new friend over drinks, and we were comparing experiences meeting new people and navigating the friendship-FWB-relationship lines.

“Women never know what they want, though” he said. “So many times, I take a woman out, we have a great time. We meet up a second time. Things seem to be going somewhere, and then *poof*, she disappears. No more texts. No more calls. Nothing. And no reason given. It’s frustrating.”

As a woman who has been on the other side of that, I tried to offer some possible explanations. It could be many things, of course, but personally, I’ve found myself in that position when I’ve met someone that I’m not attracted to at first, but keep seeing anyway thinking they might grow on me. Once I realize that it’s just not happening, I start to move away. In the past, that sometimes meant ending communication. Today, I like to think I’m better at being honest about why and communicating my reasons, but I was once a “disappearing act.” When I think about why I would do that, it was mostly to avoid confrontation. In my experience, men wanted to know what they did wrong to cause a lack of attraction, and when they found out they’d done nothing wrong and I STILL wasn’t attracted to them, they’d get angry. I have been called childish, stupid, a dumb slut, and other things by men I’ve turned down after meeting. Who wants to hear that? Safer to be silent.

Today, I can recognize insults like that as reflective of a problem with the man, and not with me, but in my younger years…and certainly for many other women like that younger version of myself…it felt safer to just fade into the background. Now I just go on less second dates; if I’m not attracted to you on the first date, then I’m probably not going to be on the second one, so I’ll save us both time.

I did try to get the man sitting across the table from me to understand this, but he…just…couldn’t. He thought it all sounded immature. I don’t think it’s immaturity. I think it has more to do with women being expected to not start conflict, not shake things up, and to please everybody. The moment we know we’re going to make a man who is interested in us unhappy, we feel guilty. All he did was treat you well, and you’re not attracted to him? How dare you!? The common reaction of men to label women who aren’t interested in them as “bitches” certainly doesn’t make being upfront and honest an attractive option.

So there’s that.

My last interaction was one-sided, as it was simply a Facebook post that I didn’t bother commenting on. He had a lot of supportive comments on it, though, which terrifies me a little.

The post mentioned that there would be an advertisement about domestic violence during the Superbowl. The highlights of the post were basically: We’re not ending DV any time soon, if the ad convinces one person to rethink the way they treat their spouse, great, but this is otherwise a waste of time, men are victims too, DV is a psychological problem that a commercial can’t fix, and people lie about DV in divorce cases all the time.

So. Not. The. Point.

I can’t even begin to delve into all of the “no” here. There is already so much literature on domestic violence, and I am much less articulate on the topic than the many people who have put work into making it a more visible issue and encouraging victims to seek help. I didn’t have the energy to reply to him on Facebook, and I don’t have the energy to go into it here, either.

Please, world, take the time to open your eyes and consider other people’s perspectives.

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Duke

I’m sure that the blogosphere is and has been blowing up about the Duke University freshman who is a porn star, but I’ll be honest: I haven’t really looked outside of my own little circle of blogs I follow, and within it, I haven’t seen a single mention. That really surprises me, given the blogs I read. It also means that a lot of people in my circle of friends are probably oblivious to the topic and the conversations I’d like to have surrounding it.

So, here’s me, having a conversation with myself about it.

Over at xojane.com, the woman in question submitted an absolutely amazing, well-written, honest and direct response to the negative attention her story has been getting, in a piece titled “I’m the Duke University Freshman Porn Star and for the First Time I am Telling The Story in My Words“. I absolutely loved reading it. You should read it. It’s good stuff from an articulate Duke student, which I think makes it even more powerful.

I am well aware: The threat I pose to the patriarchy is enormous. That a woman could be intelligent, educated and CHOOSE to be a sex worker is almost unfathomable.

That’s it right there; people are so aghast because, as an articulate Duke student, why on earth would she choose PORN?!

…the answer is actually quite simple. I couldn’t afford $60,000 in tuition, my family has undergone significant financial burden, and I saw a way to graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I absolutely love.

SHE LOVES IT! She absolutely loves it! And who wouldn’t? Sex is awesome! Being filmed having sex, if that’s your thing, is awesome! And think about it, as the Duke Chronicle article about Lauren* (name changed) points out: “With an estimated 450 million visitors each month, porn sites account for 30 percent of all data transferred across the Internet.”

Clearly, people, lots of people, watch porn. If Lauren gets off on making it, and people get off on watching it, who’s losing here? Why are people so up in arms and upset?

In addition to explaining her personal experience with filming porn, Lauren also brings up issues bigger than herself: the fact that, though she has had a wonderful experience in porn, many women do not, but the problem can’t be addressed if we keep pretending that these women “deserved it” for choosing to be sex workers. She brings up slut-shaming and rape apology, which she has encountered outside of the pornography world, but not within it. She addresses the issue of society convincing women that sex is shameful, something to withhold, something to make hard to get – but not too hard, lest you land on the “prude” end of the female sexuality dichotomy rather than the “slut” end.

Wait, what? Exactly.

She’s intelligent and aware. She asks anti-pornography feminists, and everyone, to “deconstruct why they treat female sexuality with such disdain,” to ask ourselves why “we condemn women who have had multiple sexual partners outside of a marriage.”

Great thinking points, great talking points. I like this girl.

I can say definitively that I have never felt more empowered or happy doing anything else. In a world where women are so often robbed of their choice, I am completely in control of my sexuality. As a bisexual woman with many sexual quirks, I feel completely accepted. It is freeing, it is empowering, it is wonderful, it is how the world should be.

A Sickie Quickie

(Apologies for the odd title; I’m sick today, which hinders my mental capacity, and this is also a quick entry, thus…you get what I’m saying.)

A friend who has much more free time than I linked me to this Jezebel article about “female purity” being bullshit yesterday. Mostly, it’s stuff I already know, and mostly, it’s stuff I’ve covered here on this blog. There were, however, a couple of gems, such as the author’s imitation of a male trying to justify not wanting to sleep with a “slutty” female:

So you’re about to have sex with a woman you’re attracted to, you really want to have sex with her, but all you can think about is her getting pounded by tons and tons of dicks? That sounds like an entirely different issue.

“No! I just mean that I struggle with the same powerlessness and insecurity that all human beings do, so as a coping mechanism I take advantage of our culture’s patriarchal power structure and exorcize my feelings of worthlessness by perpetuating shame-based proprietary attitudes over women’s bodies. Basically I’m obsessed with controlling women’s lives because I can’t control my own.”

Oh, honey. I know.

That certainly got me a-chucklin’. However, I think my favorite gem was actually in the comments, from TheBigManJoinedTheBand:

This is what I don’t get — women are impure because males have touched them. Who’s the dirty one here? And guys, don’t you get annoyed at being a metaphor for ruining another person’s worth? How can that feel good to hear?

I think I might be in love with TheBigManJoinedTheBand. I don’t even know them, and yet, the stirring feeling is there…*swoon*

Thoughts On Slut Shaming: Respect, Infidelity, Logic, Gender Equality, and So Much More!

thoughtfulNow that my fear of slut shaming has been covered, I’d like to tiptoe a little deeper into the topic and share some thoughts I’ve had about slut shaming since I discovered the term.

My current theory: the slut shaming of women is related to the old “wife as property” idea of marriage. If a man is married and sleeps with someone other than his wife, well, what can she do? She’s his property – she has no real say. He has a mistress; that’s the way it goes sometimes, even if it’s not very admirable. In some cultures, men even take on additional wives.

But, if a married woman (the property) sleeps with another man…well, it’s a bit different. One man’s property is being used by another man, without any kind of compensation. I don’t even know of a word for the male equivalent of “mistress.” There is nothing but shame for the husband who has been “duped;” he’s a cuckold.  In Puerto Rico, it’s a common insult to call a man a “cabron”: a man who’s woman sleeps with other men. Are there equivalent words for women whose husbands cheat on them?

As a woman, if you have extramarital sex, you shame your husband, and you shame yourself, because you are his property. Perhaps this is part of the reason why slut shaming women is so much more popular than slut shaming men.

Or is it?

sad man

Slut shaming today does not only target women. I once began seeing a guy and was “warned” by a concerned friend that he slept around a lot. Because of that, this concerned friend thought that he wouldn’t be “relationship material.”

I was annoyed, not just because this friend assumed I was looking for a relationship, and not just because they assumed they knew what “relationship material” meant to me, but because this person was making a judgment of someone based on irrelevant information. The guy’s promiscuity should be viewed as just that: promiscuity. It should not be viewed as an indication of any other aspect of his character. It should not be assumed that it affects his relationship material-ness, which is vastly different for different people.

The definition and example of slut shaming posted on Urban Dictionary suggests that it is only bad because it means people will have less sex. It’s more than that, though. It’s an attack on character. For some reason, people associate what someone does with their sex life as relevant to the kind of person they are in other aspects of their life. It’s a cheap logical fallacy which is unfortunately used by educated people all the time. Be better than educated, people; be intelligent.

I think that one of the reasons why some may think slut shaming is only ever aimed at women is because it is more widely and vehemently done so. I haven’t conducted any studies or anything, but I feel that while there are probably plenty of well-intentioned people out there slut shaming men, telling them that they’re missing out on experiencing “true love,” informing/warning potential lovers away from them, and encouraging them to “be more respectful of women,” those people are labeled “cock-blocks” by popular culture. On the other hand, it’s much more acceptable for icons like Taylor Swift and even one of my favorite artists, Pink, to insist that self-respecting women certainly know better than to have sex. Apparently, being respectful of women, and women respecting themselves, means leaving their vaginas alone. What…err…cunt-bunters? Twat swatters?

People just need to respect people, regardless of gender identity, and regardless of how frequently they have sex. Part of ethical nonmonogamy and sluttery is that people are supposed to be considerate of one another’s feelings. Manipulating a person’s emotions to get them to have sex with you, or purposefully hurting their feelings afterward, is still unethical and disrespectful. Making it clear that you have no intention of being monogamous, being honest about who you are and what you feel or don’t feel, and finding someone who wants to sleep with you with that knowledge, is not disrespectful or wrong. It’s beautiful. Even if it happens 10 times in one week.

Slut shaming shouldn’t be perpetuated against anyone, but maybe it’s the way we interpret it and the way it is supported/unsupported depending on who it is aimed at that contributes to the sense of inequality we notice when it comes to slut shaming.

Slut Shaming & My Fear of It

As defined on Urban Dictionary:

Slut Shaming:

An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity. Often it’s accompanied by urban legends such as the common virgin misconception that the vagina becomes larger or looser with use– in fact, sex has no effect on vaginal size.

However, since most people would rather women be MORE sexually active than less, slut shaming is counterproductive to the aims of most men and quite a few ladies.

I know that many in the polyamory and ethical nonmonogamy community are already familiarized with this term, but the thought occurred to me today that it’s a term I haven’t defined and talked about here for the people in my life who read this blog and aren’t involved in the online communities I frequent.

Slut shaming is counterproductive, as demonstrated in the example that accompanied the Urban Dictionary definition:

Guy 1: Ha ha Megan had sex with two guys, she’s such a SLUT!

Guy 2: You idiot, do you want her to stop having sex? We should be encouraging this. Your slut shaming will simply discourage more women from sleeping with us and we will be virgins forever.

And even more than perpetual virginity, slut shaming is counterproductive to gender equality. More on that in another post, hopefully.

I will admit, slut shaming is something that I fear a bit. I didn’t know that there was a term for it until recently, and now, knowing that there is one, I feel more empowered to identify what is happening in a situation, if it ever happens, and call someone on it.

Still, the fear lingers. Why? Because even if the effect slut shaming tends to have (sluts stop being so slutty) is unlikely to affect me, there’s the fact that I spent my whole adolescent and young adult life surrounded by slut shaming, and it’s ingrained the idea into me that promiscuity is bad. For a long time, I thought that was true. As I grew into an adult, I thought it was true. It was five or six years ago that I started seeing the possibility that promiscuity was not inherently bad, but even after so long, I’m still working so hard to push that message out.

My fear, I think, is based on one thought. One thought that I fear admitting, because it will open me up to attack from all those people who do think sluts should be ashamed.

What if I’m wrong?

We all fear being wrong from time to time. This one’s a biggie for me. What if my promiscuity means I lack good decision-making skills? What if it means I have low self-esteem? What if my promiscuity is the result of “daddy issues”? What if this, and my lack of ability to commit to a monogamous relationship, and my lack of ability to stick to a career, and my depression, are all linked…the common denominator being me, and me being the problem?

When this fear grips me, I have to take a deep breath. I remind myself that I have great decision-making skills. I’ve helped so many programs I’ve worked for grow, develop, improve. I am an excellent problem-solver and leader. I have left situations in which I was unhappy, and those to me are the most important decisions. I have healthy self-esteem. I know my strengths and hopefully most of my weaknesses. I use my strengths to help others, and am thanked for it often. Sure, Daddy and I have issues, but I’ve accepted that, stopped blaming both him and myself, and moved on. All the other things, well, I’ve spent so many years investigating them, writing about them, and even getting professional help for them, that all I can do is know that I’ve done the best I can with who I am, and, ultimately, I am happy.

And that is what is most important.

I Love This

Jus sayin’

 

Other than that, I’ve been connecting some points on human matriarchal societies, and perhaps the reason why we don’t know of any on our planet is because they look like egalitarian societies, and collecting evidence to support that…theory?

Will report when I get around to it. In the meantime, slut on!

Sharing is Caring

In lieu of a completely original entry of my own making, I am going to simply link to an interesting blog post I read today. My time dwindles more and more, it seems. I hope that some of you enjoy this as much as I did.

The Ferret: Hate Twilight? Hate Bieber? Hate Women?

One Reason Why I Love Reading

…not only do I learn new things, but I unlearn things that I thought were true!

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For example, when I read Sex At Dawn last year, I was schooled on my understanding of the “typical life span” for humans before the advent of modern medicine. My mother had on occasion pointed out to me, and other sources reinforced the sentiment that, because humans used to only live to around the age of 40-45, marriage was easier, because life was shorter.

But, wait! What does “typical life span” mean to you? Because, apparently, while “[a]t the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth was around 45 years,” this was largely due to high infant mortality rates. [1] When you average dying babies, aged “0”, right in alongside people living to 75 and beyond, well, yeah, the average age of death might be 45, but that certainly isn’t a typical life span for someone who lived past infancy (which, by the way, I’m pretty sure you have to do to get married…)

So, yeah, married people probably had to put up with each other just as long back then as we do now. That, of course, doesn’t change the fact that they probably found just as varied solutions to the problem of desired infidelity as many couples secretly (or not so secretly) do today, but it’s definitely a little factoid that I felt was worth sharing with my mother on the next occasion she brought up life expectancy averages.

Today, I am reading a different book, The Future of Marriage, by David Blankenhorn.

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Would you like to know what fun fact I unlearned today?

In regards to the concept of a dowry, or “bride price,” which some of us have come to understand as the equivalent of “purchasing” a bride, making marriage a strictly economic transaction, and making the bride “property” of the groom:

“[S]cholars have shown that families frequently expected the economic value of the gifts to the bride’s family to be essentially equal to the value of the return gifts to the groom’s family and the gifts from the bride’s family to the bride, called the dowry.” [2]

Excuse me? Return gifts to the groom’s family? Dowry was a gift to the bride, not the groom? Why did I never hear about this stuff? I was definitely under the impression that the bride herself was a gift to the groom/groom’s family, and the groom/groom’s family presented jewels and goods in exchange for her.

Wtf? o.O

Now, you may have noticed that the two things I have unlearned actually are were pretty good support points against monogamous marriage as we know it today. They certainly were two points that originally influenced my hesitation to embrace the concept. I remain, however, unconvinced that monogamous marriage is for me, in spite of unlearning these things.

Why? Because there is so much more out there that I’ve learned, and which I still have yet to learn. So far, the path leads me away from desiring traditional marriage, and I’m not going to jump ship just because of these two new bits of information. Rather, I now feel more confident in my decision. I am now more well informed on this topic than I was yesterday, and I am proud to say that I still feel confident in my personal wariness toward traditional, monogamous marriage.

More research, as always, is required. Onward!

[1] Sex At Dawn, p266

[2] The Future of Marriage, p50