A few months ago, a man sent me a message on OkCupid (my online dating app of choice), and he seemed nice enough. We had a semi-flirty conversation back-and-forth, and it was going swimmingly until he messaged me late one evening and didn't get an immediate response...because I was asleep. He pulled the "Ok...LOL" response that indicates "I guess you're not going to respond and now I think you're stupid for it." I called his bluff, "innocently" asking what he'd meant in that response, and basically got him to admit that he'd taken my silence as a rejection.
I was unimpressed. I face rejection all the damned time--two years of unemployment, the dating game, hell, there are people in my neighborhood who simply glower at me when I wave and smile as I run past them--and I deal with it gracefully because I do not believe that anyone owes me a job, a date, sex, a smile, anything. Maybe some simple common courtesy from time to time, but even then, I realize that some people are just without it and I move on with my life.
Dude's reaction was a huge red flag, so I let the conversation die, only to have him try again a couple of times. Two months after the original message, he sent, "Still no luck in Lincoln? LOL" and I blocked him.
Another guy wanted to immediately move from OkCupid to texting, and even though I'm a little wary of that, I agreed because, eh, why not? He started sending me pictures of himself (thankfully, not naked, just shots of him in his Air Force uniform--but yes, I have been sent unsolicited penis pictures and no, I don't want, need, or enjoy them). In return, he wanted a picture of me, so he could set it to pop up on his phone every time I texted. As we'd only been texting for a grand total of one day, I told him I was uncomfortable with this...only to have him spend hours begging and trying to talk me into it.
Another conversation I let die.
Why? What's so bad about wanting a fully-clothed picture of a woman you're communicating with?
That's not the issue. The issue is that when I said no, told him that I don't want to do something, it became negotiation time. I'm not willing to meet this guy in person and have it become a negotiation about sex, because frankly, as strong as I am in the gym, I'm still easily overpowered physically.
To be frank, I turn some guys down because sometimes my gut tells me they might not take no for an answer, and I don't particularly feel like getting raped.
This weekend, a fascinating and crucial conversation came up on Twitter after a misogynistic young man killed six people in Santa Barbara because no one would have sex with him. I won't link to the articles--for one thing, you've already seen them, and for another, I don't feel the little jerk needs anymore attention. In response, women started sharing the stories of how they face misogyny every day, and other forms of sexist behaviors aimed at women. Using the #YesAllWomen tag, Twitter experienced a flash flood of stories...and, of course, an almost-immediate #NotAllMen backlash as guys who completely miss the point felt the need to make the narrative their own. "You're all just man-haters," they all seemed to say. "I'm not like that!!"
Stop right there. I do not hate men. I've been fortunate to know--and even date--some really great guys who respected my boundaries, let me do what was right for myself, and who didn't feel threatened by it. But I've also met a lot of men who do not treat women that way, and when my gut says, "Run, girl, run," I tend to listen to it.
After my run yesterday, as I walked home, I saw a man ahead on the sidewalk. Truth is, I didn't feel remotely afraid of him--it was broad daylight on a busy street--but I took a pic from a distance and posted it to Instagram with "You see a random dude on the sidewalk. I see the potential for danger and harm to myself." In my neighborhood, at that time of day, it's very unlikely that this man would pose any threat to me, and indeed, all I got from him was a friendly smile and a "Good morning!" I returned it in kind because that's just how we roll here. But I have had creepy guys leer at me, whistle, make me feel uncomfortable when I deserve to feel safe, and it has happened in broad daylight. So I posted the picture, with the #YesAllWomen hash tag...and I was promptly called sexist on Twitter, and compared to a racist.
I can't make this stuff up.
I get it, boys. You're not all rapists, you don't all hate women, you don't all expect sex and a woman's attention as your just due just for being alive and male. But when you downplay the very real situations women face every day, you do absolutely nothing to help the problem.
If you've never been told how to wear your hair to prevent someone grabbing you to rape you, if you've never been told that what you choose to wear causes men to be "tempted," then just...shut up. Don't tell me I should feel flattered when a man drives by me (walking down a city street) and wolf-whistles at me. I'm sick and tired of women being to blame for the everyday sexism lobbied against us.
It would be too much time and trouble to do an actual count, but I can tell you that far too many first messages I receive on OkCupid--a good majority--are messages about my body. They range from "Hey sexy" and "Your [they never spell it correctly] beautiful" to more explicit messages about my curvy hips (yes, I know, I see them every day, and I have to buy clothes for them) and my breasts. And I get these messages all the time even though I explicitly state on my profile that I don't appreciate, like, or want them. The reality, my friends, is that too many men don't care what I appreciate, like, or want. It's very likely they don't even read that far. They see a woman they deem sexy, and they steamroll their way in.
I ignore them. Starting an argument might teach one or two of them, but otherwise would just "earn" me more abuse than I have the energy to deal with. Being curvy is not an invitation.
To be a feminist is not to be a man-hater, or a misandrist. I want equality. I want old white men in politics to stop thinking they know what is best for my body (I am not a baby-making vessel, I'm 95% sure I don't even want children). I want to be freed from endless comments about how my body is or isn't pleasing to the male gaze. And if a man wolf-whistles at me, I want the other men around us to tell him, "Whoa, not okay," so that I'm not made out to be "the bitch" when I take offense.
It is not too much to ask.