Hello Internet, today is Friday, November 23rd, and when I got home today I had no idea what to blog about. And then, I saw this article, and now I sort of know, I think. I’m going to talk about men.
This is a notable occasion, in that I have never talked about men on this blog before. So, here we go.
I am spoiled.
I’m spoiled because I was raised by a man who openly calls himself a feminist. Without hesitation, without disclaimers or definitions. He’s a feminist, because society doesn’t consider women as equal to men, because women earn less than men, because women have to deal with discrimination that men do not, and he believes that that’s not all right. The man who raised me once told me in no uncertain terms that, were I ever to get married, he would not be “giving me away” at my wedding, because I am not his property, nor will I become the property of the person I marry. He’s a person who thinks about stuff like that, who derives meaning from symbolism and who raised me to think critically about the symbols in my own life.
I’m spoiled because the men in my romantic history have been, by and large, respectful of my boundaries. Because my normal romantic interactions are full of respect, it is easy for me to isolate a situation where I am not being respected, and then to pull out of that situation. That is, unfortunately, an advantage that not every woman has, and it has served me well.
Because I am spoiled by kind, gentle and respectful men in all aspects of my life, I often forget about that aspect of society that we can’t seem to shake, where men “go hunting” for women at bars, where women will choose not to sleep with someone “too early” because she thinks she should make him work for it. That little piece of culture that led to phrases like “why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” And then, once every couple of years, I meet a guy who can’t hear “no.” And I blame him for it.
Here’s a true story:
I have a colleague who likes me. He likes me a great deal, in fact, and, after a little while, he asked me out. I agreed to a date, so off we went. It was pleasant, if a little awkward. Typical first date stuff: favourite movies, passtimes, books, music. And then we kissed, and everything changed.
Basically, this man took the kiss as an invitation for… further physical intimacy. He had his shirt off before I could even think of something to say, and when I finally found some words, they seemed to bounce off of him. He was listening, but he didn’t seem to hear me at all. My words would slow him, but he was still determined to change my mind. In the end, I walked out on that date, insisting firmly that I would prefer not be walked home.
The next day, he apologized. I accepted his apology, but made it clear that we would not be dating in the future. Or, at least, I thought I made it clear. I said the words “we will not be dating” to him.
Since then, this fellow has asked me out many times, has lingered around me while I read a book, has complimented my appearance at every opportunity. Every time, I have told him no. Every time, I had thought it had stuck. But there has always been a “next time.”
So, today, when he asked me out for a beer, I said yes. And I came down on him hard.
I told him he couldn’t hear me when I spoke. I told him it wasn’t my job to teach him how to be a good boyfriend, or a good person. I told him he had to start listening to women and believing what they said. I reaffirmed that we were never, EVER going to date.
I stand by all of that. It’s all true.
But how can I blame him for not being able to hear “no,” when we are constantly teaching each other that sometimes “no” means “yes”?
How many times was I told by friends, by television, by horrible teen girl magazines, that you have to turn down a boy a few times to get him to “really like” you? If that’s what women are being fed, then by association, men are being given the information that sometimes, women who say “no” mean “maybe yes, but try harder”. So they try harder. And then women like me come down on them like anvils.
I can’t blame him. He’s doing what he was taught to do. The problem isn’t with the individual, it’s with his training.
So, how do we retrain each other?