Consent: Beyond Words

Using speech to ask for consent is the entry point and the bare minimum. Absolutely, we much teach each other to ask and teach each other to listen for the answers. No means no. Confirm that the yes is enthusiastic. Words are what we have chosen as a species to transcend the skin and skulls that keep us separate, words and their offspring are as close as we can currently get to telepathy.

Yet this world did not teach me to say, “no,” and the greatest betrayals I have faced happened when men not only did not hear my timid refusals in my voice, but they also did not hear the timid refusals in my shoulders, in my breath, in my eyes. These nonverbal cues scream to me when I see them in other women because I, too, have raised tiny shields and tiny trumpets and gone to war in silence. I ask, “How can you not see this?”

Still, I empathize. When I was first coming out of the closet, first to myself and then to others, I felt many things but one that I sensed intensely was, as I called it, my lack of agency. I saw the way some men took of women and seemed to get what they wanted, and I did not know how to enter this dance of lust and love and get what I wanted. I was frustrated. I was angry. I felt robbed.

I think all men enter this private battle that I entered. Do we trust the story we are seeing play out in front of our eyes and teach ourselves to take what we desire? For me, such a thing was patently unacceptable. I learned my own other way and I learned to ask and the love I receive is abundant. I realized that feeling robbed was my first mistake — I am not entitled to sex or touch or love. You get those things when you are good, when you are sweet, when you are open, and honestly just when you are lucky. I realized I was angry with myself the most; for being too cowardly to even ask, let alone touch. My frustration was my own fault, and on top of that, it made me unattractive.

Yet it is not so easy to come to these realizations. It is far easier to believe that asking for consent is just not sexy, or that practicing consent is simply doing nothing at all for fear of harming anyone. It is easy to believe a false dichotomy; either I’m an asshole and I get laid, or I’m nice and I get nothing.

My first steps towards shattering these myths were to realize 1) There are a wealth of messages sent nonverbally between human beings and I can hear them, see them, feel them if I try and 2) It is better to realize quickly a woman is not interested in me and move on than to postpone the discomfort of understanding rejection. The truth is, it hurts far more to pine secretly after someone than to let go when, in the end, it turns out they don’t want you.

Consent beyond words is learning to actively listen with all of your senses. The first wall you will face is the overwhelming tsunami of “No” and disinterest that you had been willfully ignoring to protect your own pride.  There are other walls, too, that I can’t even begin to describe in one blog post.

Beyond this initial sting, you will find a peaceful clarity. You will be able to forge honest friendships, untainted with motive. You will be able to present your truer, more vulnerable, less needy self. This self is, if we’re going to be practical, a more attractive self. And beyond your new calm, you will begin to recognize warm rays of “yes” beaming onto you. One might, unsmiling, avoid your eyes with hers when you ask her flirtful questions (no) while another will soak up your interest and laugh and speak back to you (yes?). The latter may, of course, be only seeking friendship, but she will be kind to you when you ask for her kiss and she’s not interested, because she does care for you. Bolstered by this kindness, you will be less timid to ask another your heart’s next desire.

Listen and see, listen and see. Cast aside your motivations and expectations. Offer your desires as gifts of insight, not as trials of sadness v. pleasure. That is the only way I can happily live, and happily live I do.

P.S. I am going on vacation, so next time will be posting early, on Saturday.

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It is Absolutely Unnecessary for Men to Touch the Small of My Back

To make these points, I am going to have to rein in my disgust and fury at the very thought of men grazing, slithering, or pawing their hands against the region of my back below my shoulder blades and above my behind. This is because I really do think most men (or at least the men I can bother to try educating) have no idea just how bad it is when they do this to me and other women.

The usual disclaimer applies — a behavior that is gross/scary when it is unwelcome can be comfortable or even exciting when it is welcome (e.g. touching each other’s bits!). And in frequent-enough cases, all that it takes for a behavior to be “welcome” to a woman is for her to think you’re hot. It’s still non-consensual to touch someone out of the blue and you still shouldn’t do it (’cause you can’t be certain she thinks you’re hot) but I’m sure you can come up with a handful of exceptions when a girl has been totally down for you to touch the small of her back (your girlfriend, your prom date, your mutual crush). I’m not talking about these exceptions — except to say, don’t assume you’re an exception, hot stuff.

If I’m being honest with myself, this is what probably actually goes through a guy’s mind when he touches the small of my back (as he passes by me at a party or the club):

blank-mind-dude-has-no-idea-he-is-being-super-creepy

He thinks nothing at all

Regardless of his intent, this is what goes through my mind:

Meanwhile my mind is like: SPIDERS

Meanwhile my mind is like: SPIDERS

Yes, spiders. All I feel are spiders.

  1. Men who do this never make eye contact first and often approach from an angle where I don’t see it coming. Therefore I tend to be caught by surprise and it’s startling. Like with spiders.
  2. Men who do this also tend to use a very light touch (except the occasional drunken paw-ers). I’ll get into why this may be so and why it’s upsetting, but the effect is also: spiders.
  3. I happen to not like being touched by men I don’t know well (‘cuz I’m pretty gay yo, and also rape culture), which reminds me of how sometimes there are freaky little intruders in my personal space, a.k.a spiders.
  4. A lot of men who do this linger like they just wish their hands could hang out on my back for as long as possible and it feels like that slow-mo moment of discovering something is crawling across your body oh holy f– IS THAT A SPIDER?

Look, while some guys are just plain creeps, I’m pretty sure even the most decent of guys (e.g. you) have done or still do this behavior. I think that guys, usually at a preteen or otherwise sexually-awakening age, witness other men doing this to women. They see that and think, gosh, I’d like to touch women, too (I mean, come on, touching women is awesome). So then they try it. And nothing bad happens to them. So they keep doing it.

i-wish-i-could-be-all-the-bad-that-happens-to-guys-that-do-this

I wish I could be all the bad that happens to guys that do this in order to deter them from inflicting back-spiders on myself or anyone else ever again, but there are a couple of things going on which prevent that.

1. It is usually difficult to react due to practical reasons. Guys tend to do this as they are passing by me in a crowded room. It may be too loud to effectively shout my dismay, I might need to focus on getting through a people bottleneck and not getting trampled, and/or I might be carrying a very full drink that would spill if I leapt away in horror.

2. I am not socialized to immediately react to this particular offense and neither are bystanders. If a strange man were to touch my butt it would be “understandable” for me to make a “big deal” out of this, hunt him down, scold him, slap him in the face, and/or sic a boyfriend or security on him, depending on the severity of the butt-touching. The back, however, is not as protected as a “sacred” place and I will neither get sympathy for or even fully understand why it so bothers me when dudes touch it like that.

Ok, but let’s break down why this is so screwy.  A man blatantly touching my butt knows he’s being a perv and knows I know he’s being a perv. A man ever-so-softly touching my back, whether or not he realizes this, is communicating to me that he knows he should not touch my butt (or even my back, really, hence the soft touch), yet wants to get as close as possible anyway. That is scary dude!! You know better but you’re still going to try to get away with something??

I am socialized to think the small of my back is not supposed to be a big deal, but I’m picking up on all these subtle undercurrents and I’m going to feel weird about it anyway. Violated, even.

This is key: whether or not you realize this, you are communicating certain things to me. Look, other men just don’t touch other men on the small of their back like this. Don’t pretend they do. They don’t. Maybe you’ve never thought of it like this, but it is totally a gendered behavior. By that, I mean gender difference is totally involved, and for this behavior, sexual intentions (conscious or not) are totally implied. Whether or not he realizes this, a man touching the small of my back is communicating to me that he has (even the fleeting-iest) sexualized energy for me as a woman, and he feels entitled to act it out in a small way by actually touching me.

Of course, some men don’t particularly have “sexualized energy” for me (or even any women; gay guys touch me inappropriately sometimes too) but what they do still have is that sense of entitlement. That’s even more terrifying, because it communicates uneven power: “I’ll do it anyway and you must accept it because ‘society’ says it is my right.”

The “don’t do this because it makes women uncomfortable” part is thus established, now let’s get back to the “Absolutely Unnecessary” aspect of this behavior. You don’t have to do it. Not ever. Not because you need to get past me in a crowded room. Not because you need to alert me to your presence when you think I can’t see you. Not because you’re worried I’m going to topple over in my high heels (this one makes me the most angry — dude, I am fine, I chose to wear these and I CAN walk in them but it’s kind of my problem to live with if I can’t… AND how is lightly touching my back even going to help me if I am actually falling???).

You don’t have to do it #1 because it’s not consensual and you should not, and #2 some acceptable alternatives do exist, in this order:

  1. Stop being in a hurry and just hover nearby until I notice you and get out of your way, like most folks do (jeez).
  2. Use your words. Speak up, shout if you have to. Hearing-abled people like me like this method the best ’cause it means you’re not doing the touching thing :)use-your-words-right-behind-you
  3. If I can’t hear you (due to environment, deafness, or otherwise)…? Just tap me on the shoulder. Tap tap. There’s a reason why the next thing that popped in your mind was a very polite, “Excuse me miss?” — because polite people put shoulder-tapping in the manners rulebook long ago and manners are really just about choosing actions which should make the most people as comfortable as possible.hand-tap-tap-on-the-shoulder-excuse-me-miss
  4. Didn’t react to your tap or there’s just no time for pleasantries? Use the back of your hand or forearm to respectfully push against the region around my shoulder or my arm above my elbow. Use your palm if you MUST but it’s better if you don’t imply that you are going to grab me. In a crowded room, this movement can be like pushing through a dense thicket. Ah yes, I am simply a branch in your path, not a girl you are going to sneakily touch in her sweet little back parts.touch-here-for-minimal-creepiness

In other words, think about how you would touch a dude if you had to and just stick with that. Oh wow, why did I write this whole blog post when I could have just written that last sentence?

TLDR; If you’re about to touch a woman you don’t know well, think about how you would touch a dude if you had to and just stick with that. (Or just, like, don’t touch her.)

2 Years of SD Survival Guide

February 6th, 2015 was the actual anniversary, but it wasn’t in my Google Calendar so it didn’t exist.

Luckily today is poop and I don’t feel like writing, so the annual recap is perfectttt.

Links, pics, and excerpts for your enjoyment!!!!!!!!!!!!  The exclamation points are how you know I am enthusiastic and not just boring and sad :D

Snapchat-20140131100329Last year’s recap… Also uses the word poop. I’ve worn a few 2-dimensional identities in my life — the kind people use when they’re trying to describe you to a friend. They’ve varied from “Anthony’s girlfriend,” to “redheaded lesbian” and at least one unpublishable moniker in-between. Slowly, over the past year, “writer” has been taking over.

IMAG0487_1Giving myself excuses to be mean lol. Also viddygames & feminism. I’d like to give you some insight into the spiraling self-doubt that occurs for me whenever I say something remotely divisive on these social media channels.

Paranoia in the digital age, snapchat, and hangovers. Hangover is a philosophy, a way of being, in which fears and anxieties are either muffled, too heavy with the poison in your blood to run rampant over you, or they are amplified with the urgency of vomit.

girlfriend-in-party-hatOne of my fav posts: Crashing parties in PB. I met an incoherent philosopher. He made us give him really long hugs, but they were more drunken than amorous so I was fine with that. Maybe because he shared so many gooey-ooey thoughts about humanity I stole one of Katelyn’s cigarettes and traded it with a stranger who wandered up to the back wall for a high five.

Bad-feminist-fuck-itFEMINISM WITH RAD PICTURES. I saw an article, “5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having,” by HuffPo and got excited to get my feminist morning-read on, but….what was I thinking this is HuffPo.

tutu rave fishnets furry legwarmersRavetastic adventure. Event page said: “dress like Bruce Lee, get in free” which is a dumb and impossible, but Katelyn confidently put me in a cheongsam-inspired top and a tutu and said it would count.

I insult you on the internet because I love you or something like that. The truth is, for me, I’m just obsessed with all of you sometimes. I want to know if it’s okay to write about you. Picasso’s girlfriend probably didn’t tell him to hide away the portraits he made of her saying, ‘baby, what? I look so ugly, do you really think my nose is that big? My eyes are that..awkwardly placed in relationship to the rest of my face parts, seriously they aren’t even pointing in the same direction…??’

Party-planning-guest-listI’ve been obsessed with parties since childhood look read my diary. Candyland was the obvious choice for my “Sweet Sixteen” but I have to admit I was most excited about making giant lollipops out of balloons and cellophane.

If you take out a notebook and write down what a person says to you, they will fall in love with you.

Being Artsy Fartsy because Sports Bars…?? Draw a puzzle piece that’s open on all sides. Explain these connections happen to you all the time, that you’re easy. Explain you understand it was special for him, but it was common for you. When you hug him goodbye, he will recite his phone number into your ear.

I love birds. All of my snapchats are of birds.

I am the worst at nerd so I write an essay on why nerd is boring and I don’t need to try. Check out these birds tho. I understand, I really do, that having a common lexicon is a short cut to establishing shared experiences. But if you go on and on about Naruto, and I don’t know jack about Naruto, what am I supposed to do?

wpid-wp-1397760228272.jpegGood weather in SF means I am cursed. Trust me this makes sense. San Diego perfect weather is relentless. San Francisco sunshine is just a little bit delirious. I know I can’t live here because in my heart of hearts I know how inconsolable I get on a “blustery” day. I know this, but the Curse tricked me into thinking I can do these things.

Snapchat-20140417115114LOL fuck I fucked up my leg. Turns out if there’s a lump sticking out of my shin a terrifying extra 1-inch, my reaction is mostly jovial. This is a battle wound. Also, I had taken 3 Ibuprofen before the concert in anticipation of wearing my improbable shoes.

My friend Alexis found a live scorpion when she unpacked her luggage in America.

Went to mexico. Killed scorpion. Temporary veganism ensues. They are giving their bodies nutrients instead of Taco Bell and are rewarded with endurance and energy. I was trapped in a vicious whiskey / crunchwrap / gatorade cycle just trying to survive ’til next Friday.

EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE.

infantino-squeeze-pouch-for-babies-holds-2-shotsLifehack put liquor in these things and then in your pants. Infantino makes a squeeze pouch “feeding line” (are they children or are they livestock??) so that yuppie parents can package up custom applesauces, vegetable purrée, and other goo for their toddlers to quaff. … I will demonstrate in pictures how to alter this fine product to smuggle liquor in your underwear.

Sami is sad maybe party help? 

Dude my parents are super cool. As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered the joys of combining alcohol with activities I once hated, such as camping, sports, weddings, and now, socializing with my parents. If it is at all possible for you, I recommend getting to the point where you can get blasted with the people who made you.

Yes I am wearing a bunch of beanie babies I hot glued together as a garment.

Confidence. Let’s break it down. I am (usually) good at empathizing.  This makes it easier to understand other people’s actions and motivations and avoid blaming myself for things that aren’t my fault.

Sexual Predators :(

…So obviously feminism.

…And more feminism.

Dafuq am I doing with this blog shit got serious all the sudden? I could form an elite group of partiers who would descend on events like glitter locusts and leave kickbacks sparkling with glaze of alcohol and shimmer of sex-sweat.

This is where my parents met. Well, that's what K'nB Wine Cellars believed for the longest time.

In case you didn’t know, there are real neato perks to drinking at the same place all of the time. Go on Mondays because you need a beer to recover from the trauma of restarting your work week. Go on Tuesdays because you wish you came with an appetite on Monday and really wanted to try those sliders but, tomorrow, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Hi, the weather is great today in San Diego and also I am not your girlfriend.

Back to feminism because I give the people what they want. In a world where, “I’m a lesbian,” works less than half as well as, “I have a boyfriend,” we need more people who are willing to make it obvious that it is simply valid for a girl to reject a man because she says so. No explanation needed.

Le Butcherettes are worth driving to Santa Ana to see, apparently. I saw her pulsate and shake in a way that defies sexually-charged gazes. I dare you to objectify me.

Remember the space koozie I was so proud of....?

Burning man.

More burning man.space koozie after

Also burning man.

dairy-drought-takes-a-lot-of-water-to-make-happy-cowCows are causing the drought, I decided. Also shrubbery. Forget just turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, the best thing to do is find alternatives to a lush green lawn. If your front yard looks like a sad, tawny shag of neglected responsibility, consider yourself the hero of this story.

Writing partyI’m writing a book!! I’ve started mentioning this wordy beast when people ask what I’m doing with my life. You know, because besides drinking, it’s all I’ve been doing with my life.

How do you speak up when it feels like it’s too late? I have been beating myself up recently for leaving things unsaid. Friends have said or done things that I was not okay with, and I pretended everything was okay and did not say anything.

Just when you think I’m done writing about festivals… I present this packing list. Things You Bring But Never Use: 4 extra friggin shirts; 2 extra friggin blue jeans; Book for “downtime” …

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 6.55.50 PMGoddamnit now this song is stuck in my head again. I “just don’t get” why the skinny shaming in Megan Trainor’s hit single is a big deal.

Unwanted sexual attention :c I often get some variation of, “If you weren’t gay, I would totally have tried to date you.”

Wanted sexual attention :) So, you think your lezfriend is smoldering hot. I’m guessing since you called her “lesbian friend” and not just “friend,” you’re either straight or bi/queer.

Resticles.Day.CloseUpHey look, burning man. And testicles.  Despite resembling hairy sacks of balls, they were very pretty.

matt-taylor-shirt-comet-landing-pensiveIn some ways it’s just a shirt, but really it’s so much more than that. This is what happens when an intelligent man is faced with his mistakes. He feels them more truly than those too defensive to see clearly. He sees the thousands of implications of his tiny, tiny, oh-not-so-tiny mistake.

Thanks drawingThanksgiving feels. I am imperfect. I am too afraid to join conversations when I imagine a response that will overwhelm me (Ferguson). I fantasized about posting a “cheat sheet” today for avoiding cultural appropriation, with cute drawings, timely for Thanksgiving, and posturing as if I have a clue.

Lost-panic-typewriter-drawing.jpgAt least some good writing comes out of my personal problems. I struggle with trigger-induced panic. Often, it is easiest to say I suffer from PTSD, though I haven’t been formally diagnosed and do not want to diminish the experiences of others who may have it worse than I do.

Jury duty made me miss my fun date to the Birch Aquarium so I sent her snapchats of "fish" all day.

JURY DUTY WAS A PARTY AND A HALF. And the prosecuting attorney was kind of adorable. He was soft-spoken, kept messing up what he was saying, and one time didn’t have his notes for a particular witness. “Uh, I’d like to request a sidebar..” he said when he realized he didn’t have them, “It’s kind of embarrassing…”

wpid-wp-1419367560968.jpegBeing quirky and mysterious is another way to avoid writing a serious blog post, lifehack. Go to the liquor store. Buy a cheap pair of sunglasses and an iced coffee. Go home. Drink half of the coffee. Write her name backwards in the the lenses of the sunglasses with a dry erase marker, and wear them.

I AM FROZEN I DON’T MEAN THE MOVIE. Friends of mine from places like Oregon *caughAlexDialcough* try to say that 44 degrees is not that cold. Relatively, no, it is not. But experientially, for us San Diegans, it is THE MOST TERRIBLE COLD WHYYYYYY

Creationism Museum Lol :D Proceed through the days of creation. Find animals. Exclaim, “Oh my god there is animals here!” Wonder if the docents have heard you take the lord’s name in vain.

Why do people treat me like a prostitute is it because I am a woman? *fake smile* kthanksbye North Park: Some guy will yell “How much?” at you from his car when you’re walking with your girlfriend to your car. It kind of ruins your night.

IMAG0150Inclusivity and cats. Recently I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I have a space and the agency to throw my own parties, so that’s added immediacy to my Responsible Friendshipping goals. I get to say who comes to the party and what the theme is! I’m also interested, however, in the bigger picture. Am I helping my friends move in a healthy direction in their communities?

Inviting people to parties the best way possible is something I think about a lot. Another strategy I’m considering experimenting with is masterminding a small groups rotation pattern. I will make it clear to friends that, to limit the size of the party, I will invite smaller portions of my larger friend base. If they are not invited to the current party, rest assured they will be invited to the next.

actually-happyGiving myself life advice on the internet and people liking, nice :) What better way to show I respect someone than to support their ideas? At times it verges on enabling, the way I cater to people’s fantasies, but I’d rather do that than be a source of discouragement for the people I love.

Wow, today is less poops. It was really lovely to remember that I’ve put all this content out there and that, for the most part, I’m pretty happy with it all. In other words, I’m rad and I deserve to feel rad :P

More importantly, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. It means so much to me when people mention reading my stuff. You make me feel heard :)

If any of you blog, please let me know! I’d like to start following more people this year.

*hugs*

sami

Making Breakfast: Should I say something?

I have less than an hour to meet my Tuesday night deadline. I had another idea for a post, but I need much more time to craft it.  Instead, I think I’ll share a small, personal victory, of sorts.

It’s called “making breakfast,” and it’s a metaphor.

Some time ago, I viewed this drawing/article.

Trigger Warning: Breakfast

trigger warning: breakfast

It has pictures. Please read it. The work the creator has done by making and sharing this is so, so important.

I have been beating myself up recently for leaving things unsaid. Friends have said or done things that I was not okay with, and I pretended everything was okay and did not say anything. Days have passed. Weeks have passed. Months. A year.

Now, I want to say something, but I freeze. Is it too late? What does it mean, to say it now? Is it even worth it? Am I crazy? If it wasn’t bad enough to say anything then, why say it now?

Enter, “Making Breakfast.”

Forgive me for twisting Anon’s original use of “breakfast” but I have conceptualized a way to forgive myself for taking so long to speak up about troubling interactions. Like the narrator, I needed time to compartmentalize. I needed to set the table and serve my friends the same smile and kindness to which they are daily accustomed. It may feel like I was being fake, but I needed time to let my feelings cook. In a perfect world, I would always be open and honest, but I have fears of my own, reasons I am afraid to fight.

“I’m not ready to talk to him because I’m still making breakfast.”

“I don’t think we should push her to confront her assailant because she is still making breakfast.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner, but I was making breakfast.”

“I have a feeling there’s something you want to talk to me about, maybe even something I did wrong, but that maybe you’re still making breakfast.”

The power of this idea, for me, is that it allows me to be gentle with myself. Yes, I should have spoken up sooner. Yes, it would be better for my friends if I am always open and honest. But sometimes, and with the best of intentions, I end up taking extra time — to heal, to process, to preserve the status quo, to believe in the possibilities of a happier story. It doesn’t mean it’s too late to speak up now

Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too

…here is Part 2.

You saw in my last post that, “Women Hurt Women, Too.”

Patriarchy hurts men, too. It hurts men because it self-perpetuates. Even women become willing participants in patriarchy. Even women ignore other women’s struggles; even women use #notallmen on their tweets. And a self-perpetuating patriarchy does not give men much room to be their true selves; it punishes men for opposing it.

This is going to be a rather dense post, so here are the bullet points you can discuss on your Facebook walls in lieu of actually reading the whole thing:

  • Patriarchy is a system that, by its own (sloppy yet powerful*) “design,” holds itself together and pops up everywhere
  • Men are hurt by patriarchy, too
  • Patriarchy punishes men who want to be “different”
  • The fact that Patriarchy exists means that women have (valid) reasons to be distrustful of men, for their own safety. For a well written, male perspective on this, I recommend the “Women are Defensive (With Good Reason)” section of Pepper’s larger essay (which, though it is about nonmonogamy, is useful in general)
  • This distrust hurts men (especially those who are sexually interested in women), too. Men have a crisis of identity, because they are told they could be “accidental rapists” and, like, no one wants to be that
  • The Patriarchy protects subtle, hurtful behaviors such that they are supposedly invisible even to the men that do the hurtful behaviors. This hurts men, because men can begin to believe that they can’t trust themselves.
  • Part of the solution is to banish these hurtful behaviors from the shadows. One of the ways to do that is to, as men, call out other men you see doing hurtful, Patriarchy-supporting behaviors.
  • If it is not obvious to you what these behaviors are, spend more time listening to women and to feminists who have spent a lot of time experiencing / thinking about these behaviors

*Sloppy Yet Powerful is my new band name.

Liberal media is talked about like it’s a monolith, a fucking machine or a conspiracy meant to control our brains. Regardless if that is true (and I have my suspicions — a little cog named Jenji Kohan got me fantasizing about conjugal visits with particular jumpsuit-wearing actresses), there’s another monolith that controls our interactions as if by invisible gears — actually, it mostly uses social scripts — and that is Patriarchy. For the benefit of my readers that might not throw around the word “scripts” like I do, they’re not just the things Laura Prepon memorizes for her job. Social scripts are those little memorized stories that tell us what to do when we have to interact with other human beings.

Social scripts tell us that when we love someone, we kiss them, and that when we really love someone, we marry them. They tell us that when someone is being a nerd, and it makes you uncomfortable, you laugh at them. They get rewritten so that nerds can be geeks, and some geeks are cool, and if you aren’t a big enough geek, maybe you’re not cool.  Social scripts are passed down to us from our parents and grandparents and/or other guardians. They play out in our favorite TV shows, and movies, and the movies we hate but we watch anyway because they’re on TV and the remote is too far away.

“Alternative” scripts are shot down, demeaned, framed as a waste of time, and, worst and most frequently of all, not imagined in the first place. Ordinary men are Patriarchy’s unconscious deliverers, because without help, ordinary people cannot imagine their own scripts. Ordinary men aren’t told any other way to be, and are seduced by the charm of stories whose outcomes they know. Any impulse to be otherwise, to be “different,” is squashed, leaving men the apparent choice of a hyper-masculine bravado (and its spoils) or an empty valley (some people call this the “friendzone”). This personality crisis hurts, too.

This is how men do not realize that #yesallwomen experience discomfort at the hands of men. The monolith of patriarchy makes a smokescreen for men like Pan to exist in the “benefit of the doubt” arena where their behaviors are seen as “normal” and not “fucking creepy.” Because it’s “normal” for guys to “sweep women off their feet,” or “seize women in a passionate kiss” — I saw it in all the movies, ever. And it’s “normal” for women to want these things, because princesses.

(Update: when a friend told Pan that “Blotted” was too fucked up and should be left alone, Pan said we are adults and she could make her own decisions. Either he has no idea about “too intoxicated to consent” or he’s using a facade of ignorance to do whatever he wants.)

Patriarchy hurts men too in that it allows these subtle aggressions to live unchallenged. That is: any man can expect that sometimes (or often) his transgressions will be invisible. Predators abuse this system; average men bumble into predatory territory because these walls are kept hidden from them. I have male friends who tell me they worry so much that they could be like the man in the “I Need a Man” story — that someday women could earnestly tell these stories about them.

Part of me is baffled, because my friends are good men, and how could they see themselves that way? Part of me knows that even my most consent-obsessed friends have moments of blindness, where they make other people uncomfortable because they take their sexual agency for granted. The world tells them it is thus, and how can they escape it?

I have a friend that was falsely accused of rape. First, the criminal justice system intervened and found him not guilty. Then, quite some time later, administrators in his college found out about the case and decided to conduct their own investigation and protective measures. This is how his entire campus found out. The administrators’ actions make sense in a lot of ways – they know how ineffective the so-called justice system can be and need to protect their students.

What is most painful for my friend is not the repeat “trial,” though it is stressful and hard and depressing, but the reactions of people he thought knew him better than to mistrust him. That his “friends” are quite capable of seeing him as “the enemy” now, when they happily fell asleep next to him on couches or walked arm-in-arm with him before. Now they are swatting his hands away not just from themselves but from others. I am sure he has even had moments where he asked himself what has he done, no truly, what has he done to deserve this?

Guys, the impulse to fear that you could accidentally be a predator is the right one. The system protects predators, makes excuses for their transgressions. The system will make excuses for your transgressions. It will tell you that you were too drunk, too overcome with testosterone, just trying to be friendly, just trying to have fun, just teasing a little, that girls like bad boys, or strong boys, or confident ones, that nice guys finish last. This same system means there is no easy distinction between rapists and men like you. As long as predators are allowed to lurk in the shadows, the women who have lived in fear of the shadows will see you in them. It is their right to be afraid, lest the shadows devour them.

Proclaiming “Not All Men” is not the answer. Women know not all men are like this, in fact a lot of heterosexual women look forward to the fact that not all men are like this and they might fall in love with one (or more) of them. Yet, for her own safety a woman has to assume the potential for any man to hurt her. She knows that other men and even other women will count her the most responsible for her own safety, rather than protect her from or blame the predators. She should carry mace. She should stand up for herself. She should know better, shouldn’t expect better. The world shows her it is thus, and how can she escape it?

This is how patriarchy hurts men. It assumes everyone is a participant. It tears the ground right out from under them when they resist it. It creates shadows around all of us. The solution is to shine a big blaring spotlight into those shadows. To stop protecting the transgressions of others. I know (some of) you see yourselves in those shadows, are afraid of being called to stand trial for your bumblings. But when the excuses stop, the dark mirror will break, and you will see which pieces of yourself you need to throw away with the shards. I really hope you will.

If you are not sure how to shine this spotlight, stop and listen. There are people out there who can help direct this light. There are people who see the shadows when they close their eyes in fright. It is not their job to tell you, because they have a hard time knowing if you are made of shadows, too. It is merely your job to listen.

I Need A Man

Edit: I forgot to mention that I was inspired to share this personal story after the North Park attacks on women made me start thinking critically about my own safety. It was a depressing reminder that it’s easy to get lulled into a sense of false safety, but that horrible things happen to women even in my own neighborhoods.

You catch those predators, San Diego, and you work hard to make this an environment where such things happen less and less and hopefully, someday, never.

——————

I am brazen, compared to most. I am not afraid to say mean things, when mean things need to be said. I am also a skilled diplomat, disguising my vitriol as obliviousness, couching my barbs in pseudo-flirtation. I ended up using the latter strategy for this party.

A good friend of mine, along with two female friends of his, wanted to find a darker, couch-ier place to pass around a bottle of whip-cream vodka. We did find a couch, in a dark room, with very loud music and an open dance floor, though no dancers. I’m noticing a trend at these burner types of parties that alcohol is scarce; perhaps we’re all skilled consumers, and by the midnight hour the beer is gone. So, when my good friend left (me with the bottle in my lap) to go to the bathroom, a man immediately approached to take his place in the center of the couch. I will call this man “Caveman.”

I don’t know if I was protective of the bottle only at this point, or the women already, but I defended my place. “I’m saving this spot for my friend,” I shrugged with a grin. I clutched the bottle.

“Oh, so you’re going to be 2nd grade about this?” Caveman said.

“Yeah,” I was.

He sat at the end instead, by who I will call “Blotted” — as she was. The way he stroked her arms made me uncomfortable. She periodically flailed them, proclaiming, “Everything is so nice.” I was not sure if she evaded his grasp or celebrated it, but at least my good friend came back and we passed the whip-cream bottle for awhile.

Between dizzy swigs I peered at Blotted. My good friend noticed my glances and began to share my uneasy expression. I leaned over to my good friend, “I think I’m going to diffuse the situation a little.” It was Blotted’s first time partying with the burner community and I wanted to make sure she felt safe and happy. She was also only 21, and not so experienced with being so blotted.

I pulled Caveman away from the couch. He was easily led. “It’s Blotted’s first time at a party like this,” I said over the music.

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yes.” I nodded.

“But you, you are even more beautiful.”

Instead of retorting in my head like I might normally, I said these words aloud, “That’s a terrible compliment.” After all, I looked fierce as fuck in a half-undone Spyro the Dragon Kigurumi and a black sports bra, so why hold back?

“What?”

“I like women. I don’t want you to put them down to raise me up. A better compliment would be…. you are also beautiful.”

As we talked, I bobbed and danced around him so his hands could never quite land on me. He seemed to, at least, understand that much — that I didn’t want him to touch me.

“What’s his secret?” he said.

“Who, him?” I looked over at my good friend where he still sat on the couch with his friends. “We’re not intimate. I’m gay. He’s my really good friend.”

“No. You’re not gay. Like all the way gay?”

Oh fuck you, too, Caveman. Just question me immediately — it’s not like I don’t get that reaction every time. “Ummm…. Welllllllll. Yes.” All the way gay, it is. He did not deserve a nuanced explanation of my complicated sexuality.

I spun and I stomped to the beat, and then said to Caveman, “His secret is he knows how to interact with women non-sexually. So I can feel comfortable with him, and they can feel comfortable with him. Your problem is that you exude sexual intent. I’m immune of course.”

“No, no you’re not. I can tell you have a heart.” Caveman. I don’t have a heart if it doesn’t beat for you/your penis? You’re killing me, Caveman.

“Yes, yes I am.” 100% immune and heartless.

I think introductions finally happened here. I think a half-naked gal started to walk up to us for some group dancin’ but smelled his desperation and pivoted away. Then he said:

“How old do you think I am?”

Looked 42, so I guessed 38. He was 50.

After his dismissal of my sexuality and this tidbit, I came to a swift conclusion: this man is a predator. He goes to parties, he finds young, inebriated things (I’m 24, but look younger, and of course Blotted is 21), and he eases himself into grope-central. Like, age is just a number but he wasn’t staring into her old soul through her young eyes. She didn’t even know his name and he was kissing her whenever her face was pointing in the right direction.

“Can I ask you something?”  This is, of course, an omen that something offensive is about to come out of someone’s mouth. “And if you want you can break my heart, you can stab me right through the solar plexus….”

Warning. Trap: I am going to confess my undying love/lust for you and if you don’t like it, it will cost your guilt and discomfort as I throw myself on the sword. He trailed off before completing his sentence and his emotional trap, unable to finish his thought, so transfixed was he by my fierce sports bra.

“I’m up here.” I actually fucking said it. I actually fucking said those words for the first fucking time in my flat-chested, itty-bitty-titty-committee fucking life. If this dude was going to be old school, this dude was going to get some old school sass to make him understand I am a human being, not a walking sex doll.

He sputtered, probably some excuse but I missed a lot of what he said due to the loud music and my blind-white shock that a guy like him got into a party like that (a very cool party, btw), and was still bothering me.

Actually, actually I remember now, at some point he told me his name was Pan. This is obviously his burner/community name, but still, he could be recognized. I don’t care at all. Hey Pan, this girl talkin’ shit over here on her blog about you. Take that in your solar plexus.

I was beginning to feel like I needed a diffusion, myself. I’m at a party to have fun, not explain to men like Pan that lesbians are actually lesbians and quit staring at my chest. I went back to the couch. He resumed his post next to Blotted.

Through an unfortunate miscommunication, I was left by my good friend and our other friend to be Blotted’s babysitter for the rest of the foreseeable night. Normally I would be happy to let her wander around in such a community on her own, and perhaps that is what my good friend expected, too. This particular crowd is very loving and enlightened and take good care of fucked-up 21-year-olds. Nevertheless, I could not bear to leave her alone on the couch with Pan.

“Want to go on an adventure?” I tried to suggest as she struggled to figure out which way was up, let alone how to end Pan’s creepy kisses. She didn’t know me, I didn’t know her. Perhaps she couldn’t process my invitation for an escape or perhaps she really didn’t mind, because she said, “Uhmmm…… I don’t know. I’m okay.”

Lucky break, he had to pee. Not a moment later I said, “Want to go on an adventure?” She agreed immediately. This, and, the fact that she never once asked, “Hey where’s that guy I was making out with earlier?” makes me certain she wasn’t interested in making out with that guy.

I was very happy to tote her along for a bit. She’s sweet and played fun blotted party games, like let’s gather a circle of people and give them new names because I can’t remember their names anyway. They smiled, like, “isn’t she adorable?” when she named them Jason, and Richard, and Amazon. I got Dory, “like that fish from Finding Nemo.”

After awhile I became uneasy, because I wanted to go in the hot tub with Katelyn and I couldn’t leave poor Blotted alone, not when Pan was still lurking. I looked and looked for my good friend to relieve me from my babysitting shift, but it seemed like he was never coming back to find me, from wherever he went.

Eventually I found one of the party hosts, a genial, tall and wiry man with a great smile. I explained my predicament, that I didn’t want to leave her unattended only because I wasn’t sure just how predatory this other guy was. The host offered a confrontation session, but honestly even if we could have found Pan (and I hadn’t remembered his name yet) I wouldn’t have wanted to talk to him for another second. The host incorporated Blotted into a circle of new friends and I felt like she was safe again.

I had a good night, a very good night, and before I left I saw Pan again. I had since remembered his name, but I wanted to call out to him just to be sure I got it right. I would say, “Pan?” I would see his head turn, and say, “Nevermind.” But in that twisted staircase, even though all the lights were on, my mind was as blank and foreboding as his big, bare chest and I coudn’t say a thing at all. I knew nothing was going to happen to me, not realistically, but I still felt something like fear. I don’t know what kind of confused glare I gave him as I tried to memorize his features — to know if they were really his, all the while the gut of panic behind my eyes knowing, yes, it is him. There’s sirens blaring in your head that it is him.

And after that overwhelming moment in the staircase, I thought, “I can’t do it. I can’t speak up. I can’t rely on myself.” I remember feeling helpless — that even after all the empowerment I’ve experienced as a woman, I can still be held to the flames of fear. That to be safe, I need to call on the help of others, even when I would rather stand strong on my own. That to be safe, I needed a man.

Related:
Women Hurt Women, Too
Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too

Only nerds assume asking for consent is nerdy

I’m fucking sick of nerds.*

And by nerds, I mean unimaginative literalists.

I was at a party, searching for a topic to fill the lull in conversation. I remembered that I’d pledged for a cute consent panties kickstarter and I brought that up with the intention to offer a pair to my friend, if they were interested, since in my pledge bracket I’d be receiving 5 extra pairs of boxers and briefs emblazoned with phrases like, “Only yes means yes.”

My friend’s reaction floored me. I thought they’d be receptive. This is a friend who wears brightly colored wigs, just asked if I’d like to see their merkin, and regularly walks about parties with floggers and paddles. I figured they might be into consent. I’d barely said, “Speaking of Youtopia, I got these ‘Let’s Talk First’ panties from a kickstarter and…” I was interrupted.

There are basically two ways to be a feminist at a party. One is to stand up for your beliefs and counter any bullshit the best you can, whether through reasoned quips or belligerent screaming, as is necessary. The other is to realize you are outnumbered, down another drink, and to instead store up your dismay and upset for an angry blog rant.

My friend has a much louder voice than me, and sometimes I am a coward, so I opted for plan B. I listened to this friend say, “Oh god, the consent thing is just annoying. I mean how nerdy is it to ask, ‘Can we have sex,’ or ‘Can I kiss you?’ I mean why can’t people just use body language like adults.”

Right, because no one in the history of ever has suffered from relying on just body language.

Now that I’m not frozen by shock, slouching on a bar stool with a headache trying to gracefully hint to this nearby guy with a cookie monster onesie that I’m pretty gay, yo, stop asking me “what do girls like about men” while ever slowly inching closer to me, please?  … I just want to emphatically say, asking for consent does not have to be nerdy.

Asking for consent can be highly erotic! I have lived this; my dearest moments contain that asking, and not because I churned out “can I kiss you?” like a robot trying to follow robot laws, but because I have internalized consent; I have made it part of who I am.

This is not about literally asking, this is about wanting to hear the answer. This is about not accepting anything less than eager, dripping-wet consent, or, if that isn’t there, at least having a talk about if we’re still all cool to try this. In real life, sex is often a bit awkward and sometimes we push through it because we still really want to get laid tonight, even if the moment isn’t perfect. What we shouldn’t do is push through a maybe because, if we take a second to ask, we know we won’t be getting laid tonight.

But fucking nerds just hear the frustrated bleating, “ask first?” and they think that literally means ask first. As if asking “can I have sex with you?” is magic phrase that shields you from qualifying as a rapist… No. There are moments when you will use your precious body language, and in these moments you have to admit to yourself when her back isn’t arching and her skin is dry and her eyes windows to another world outside of herself and her smile holds a little pain.

That’s the moment when you stop, when you use your words, when you check in sweetly, “babe, are you ok?” That is the moment you graciously tuck away your desires and spend the night holding her, knowing there will be a better time.

Or, that is the moment when her attention falls against you like a tidal wave, and that you asked breaks her walls, and she decides then, yes, she wants this, she wants you, the one who asked. That is the moment your care for her makes her brave against her fears.

These scripts are missing from our movies, our TV shows, the popular media engine. People cannot imagine consent language being sexy, because they have not seen it modeled over and over again the same way they have seen men wordlessly seize women in impassioned kisses over and over again. This mute tension, not knowing if your desires are symmetrical, fearing what speaking will do to the myth you have created… I concede this is worth living once. I’m not saying we need to strike that out of our vocabularies entirely.

We do, however, desperately need to eroticize consent. “Rebecca, I’d like to kiss you,” doesn’t do it for ya? Well, fine, use your bloody imagination. Create your own stories. I’ll share two, and guess what guys, in both of these I felt like I was in a goddamned movie:

Erotic Consent Story #1

I sat in a tree with a friend and gave myself the same mental nudge I do before jumping off the high dive. “You have to know that I find you tortuously attractive,” I said. Deep eye contact.

Tortuously attractive, huh?”

We returned to our previous conversation a moment, about socialism and money as debt, and again I found a pause. “Stick of gum?” I offered, very intentionally referring to Wet Hot American Summer, which we had watched together the week before. I’d been intensely aware of our body positioning on the couch, wondering for a moment to kiss, but not finding it, and going home uncertain, still just friends.

I added, “I’d really like to kiss you, but I have this terrible cough and I’d hate to get you sick before you travel.”

“That’s a bullshit reason.” This was almost the yes I wanted. I felt my grin more than it showed on my face.

“Well, it’s up to you,” I sat back, “I’m serious about not wanting to get you sick.”

“Wait, am I reading into this too much??”

Emboldened by my friend’s flustered reaction, I responded with a warm low voice, leaning in, “What I mean is, if you say bullshit, I will kiss y–”

“Bullshit!”

We almost fell out of that tree.

Erotic Consent Story #2

I finally had come to the house of someone you will recognize from the comic below ;) and we’d spent the night playing videogames and watching Howl’s Moving Castle. “Help!” I’d texted my friend, “We’re actually playing videogames.”

As we were both too shy to make the first move (or so I’d thought, turns out she just likes tormenting people!) I’d squirmed the whole night in borrowed jammies next to her on silk sheets. We actually slept together without sleeping together. As an ex-Christian I am especially familiar with the ‘thrill’ of delayed gratification. I’d once gone 7 months without orgasm. I relieved all 7 of them in that single night.

As soon as I heard her stirring in the morning, excitement pounded in my chest and in my arms as I kissed her. I remember her delicately small ear more than anything, colors washed from my memory in the dimness in her room, and how her earring twinkled. I whispered into her ear, between kisses, “Can we… have… sex now?” Her yes was full of laughter and everything I wanted to hear in the world.

comic-lesbian-first-sleepover-sexP.S. I am the big spoon. Duh.


*Actual nerds — like enthusiastically into science or books or something dear to them from pop culture, those kinds of nerds — are great, of course.