Can’t Always Get What You Want

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.

One of the Boys

The popular western-style bars in my city in Korea happen to be sports bars; I visit them at least once a week, so I know all the barflies.  I was sitting in one of these bars last week, talking with a sports-loving acquaintance, and Lorde came up in conversation.  He started talking about how he finds her unattractive (he said it in MUCH harsher words), and I went off on him about how talented she is and how he shouldn’t give a fuck how she looks because it’s not important — and besides, she’s super beautiful!  I then laughed at myself and said, “I’m feministing you.”  “I realize that,” he replied.  Then he continued: “But you objectify women at least as much as I do, Jo.”  “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said.  He laughed because he thought I was kidding, but in my head, I was thinking Fuck.  Fuckfuckfuck.  Is he right?  DO I objectify women as much as this guy?  He constantly talks about women’s appearances, and when he asks me questions about whether or not I’d have sex with any given woman in the bar, I actually answer him.  It was one of those instances where you realize you’ve done something wrong, feel horrified, feel ashamed, and then want to deny it but can’t.

I had complained to his girlfriend recently about how he talks about women and asked her how she could be with a guy who seems to respect the individual but not the gender.  I told her that he has said some really fucked up shit to me about women, and he has — but what I didn’t say is that when he was saying those fucked up things, I said nothing.  I did nothing.  And in my silence, I was complicit in his words and behavior.  She mentioned to him that maybe I don’t want to be treated as one of the guys, and he said to her, “What are you talking about?  Jo loves being one of the boys!  She takes it as a compliment!”  And the thing is — he’s right.  I’ve always taken it as a compliment when my male friends tell me that “I’m just one of the guys.”
But I’m starting to think that the price of being in the boy’s club is too high.  Thanks to conversations happening in the sex positive world (and on the internet in general) around consent, toxic masculinity, and entitlement, I’ve been reflecting a lot about how we propagate misogyny in some really subtle and insidious ways that we might not even recognize because we’re not talking about them.  I don’t want to be a part of reinforcing the negative ways that men talk about women’s bodies… but right now, I am.  Ideally, I’d like to be a part of changing gender narratives.  This means two things: One, I have a lot of uncomfortable conversations coming my way.  Two, I get away with saying a LOT of inappropriate things to women I don’t know (“Hey — you have fabulous cleavage!”) just because I’m a woman.  Probably a good idea to make a conscious effort to stop making those comments. 
I cherish my friendships with the men in my life, and I’m friends with some really great feminist men.  I’m also friends with some pretty misogynistic guys, and I don’t want to be one of them.  Before I can have a conversation with them about the way they see women, though, I think I have some internal work to do regarding how I think and talk about women.   

Teaching Sexism

I found this horrifying gem a couple of days ago while perusing EFL websites.  Jokes!  What a great teaching tool!  I mean, nothing teaches us more about culture than its humor, right?  So let’s read some North American jokes about love and marriage to teach us about the culture of relationships in the US and Canada:

*A man inserted an ad in the classifieds: “Wife wanted.”
The next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”

Oh, I get it.  It’s because having a wife is such a burden!  I mean, if the bitch didn’t cook and clean, we wouldn’t even put up with her, amiright?

*Q: Why are men with pierced ears better suited for marriage?
A: Because they have suffered and bought jewelry.

Those gold-digging wives!  All they care about is getting their greedy little hands on some bling and making their poor husbands suffer, presumably by working long and hard hours in order to buy wife said jewelry. 

Who thought this was an appropriate lesson for anyone, let alone ESL students?