On the last night of my trip this past February, I went out for dinner and drinks with a man I’d met in Laos and then accidentally run into in Thailand. He was tall, handsome, easygoing, and very open; our conversation flowed effortlessly, and he made me laugh. After a couple of beers, we started walking around the Chiang Rai night market and got caught in a rainstorm. I said something inappropriate; he pretended to leave, and I touched his arm and said, “Stay here and kiss me instead.” He smiled a very warm smile and said, “You know, I’m actually enjoying our conversation. I’d like to just stay in the moment and keep talking if that’s alright with you.” And OF COURSE it was. We ended up drinking until 3:00 AM – past bar closing time – and laughing our asses off. It was a fantastic night. The kind of night where you share really personal shit with a total stranger because they’re a total stranger.
All of this is to say, as Girl on the Net did in a fabulous recent post: Not all men want to have sex all the time. I can’t count all the times a male friend or acquaintance has said to me, “Ugh, you’re SO lucky; women* can just sleep with anyone they want any time.” But the thing is, guys, we can’t. Because not every man is up for sticking his dick in any person that comes along, and the narrative that they are is ridiculous at best and insidious at worst.
This narrative that men are sex-crazed, testosterone-fueled horn dogs who spend all their waking hours thinking about how to get laid is damaging for both men and women. First, it contributes to the “boys will be boys” narrative that is used to justify sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. The idea that society (including lots of television shows and movies that we all watch and love) propagates that men are obsessed with sex and that’s just the way it is encourages men to buy into it and all of us to look the other way when they do. When they don’t, they’re often mocked by their peers as being weak or feminine, which is bollocks. I can imagine another guy from my trip saying to the man who told me he just wanted to spend time talking to me as a person, “Are you kidding, man? You didn’t hit that?” That.
Second, if men are perceived as hormone-driven perpetrators of sexual aggression and violence, how does that affect how other people interact with them out in the world? There has been a huge outpouring of grief and anger recently over two Argentinian women who were murdered while traveling in Ecuador; the news of this was followed by hundreds of internet comments from women saying they “should have known better than to travel alone” (even though they weren’t alone…) and basically that women should, for some reason, expect to be harassed when they travel. ‘Cause, you know, that’s just what men do.
As a solo female traveler, this fills me with rage. Rage that women are being killed not only when they travel, but domestically as well. Rage that anyone has the audacity to say they somehow had it coming because they dared to be independent and explore the world around them.
It also makes me reflective, though – people are always telling me that it’s too dangerous to travel alone specifically because I’m a woman. But if they’re regarding women as perpetual victims, it means that they’re also regarding men as perpetual predators. When I travel alone, I actually feel pretty safe because for the most part, people are looking out for me because I’m a female solo traveler and they’re worried about my safety. People see me as a potential victim; does that mean they see all men as a potential threat?
I do not automatically get to fuck anyone I want because I’m a woman. Just like I’m not automatically a victim because I’m a woman. Just like men are not automatically aggressors – nor will they fuck anything that moves – because they’re men. We live in a more complicated world than that.
When we say that straight women can just pick up any guy they want whenever they want, we’re saying so much more than that. While I would have loved to take tall, handsome, charming man home and ridden him like the dirtiest cowgirl, I am more than okay with the fact that he wanted to spend time getting to know me instead of my body. That was hot.
I know this is Serious Stuff – promise to write a filthy one next week.
*Of course, when they say “women,” they mean cis hetero women, which is a whole other rant.