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Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Mailbox: Creepy Guy Narrative (Part 4 of 4)

What about the menz!  You are badass!  Thank you. No, thank YOU!

Go here to read Part 3 or All the way back to Part 1

This is part four of a massive reply to some of the most common questions and criticisms about my article, "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative."

Yes yes, it's wonderful what you did for her, but what we should really be talking about is how difficult it is for the poor men in our society to take the initiative in approaching women and how impossible these capricious devil women make it on us with their pesky moods, mercurial tastes, and non-standardized reactions to everything.  It's almost like they think they're individuals instead of just one big conglomerate that can be treated the same in every situation by every dude. Because that's what really led to this tragic turn of events. That poor bro didn't have a decoder ring for how to get her to drop her panties.  It's so hard for us marginalized guys and we never know when is the right time and the wrong time and how to approach all these totally secret clues when we're playing women's damned mind games.  What about the menz!

Ah yes. No post this viral would be complete without the "What about the menz" contingent.

There are two types of people who write in to complain about this.  One needs to be schooled like Wesley schooled Humperdink using small words (so they can understand) to drive home the point–which has apparently gone driven in the tenure of their narcissistic lives–that they are not, in fact, the center of the universe and their desire to get some seawater on their harpoon is not the ignition fuel for engines of all creation.

The other group is much simpler; they need to be hogtied, forced into a rocket, and shot into the sun. I say the sun only because I don't know if we have the technology needed to get them to the nearest black hole, but if spaghettification were an option, I would recommend it.

But both groups seem to be of the selfish, disrespectful variety that feels their needs should come before those of someone who clearly doesn't want to be bothered.  (That's right...even you "nice guys" are actually being monumental dillholes when you put your need to have your pool cue chalked over those of someone else's comfort on their commute.) When you insist that you're entitled to talk to someone or hit on someone, you place your desires over theirs.

This article is an supermegauberawesome illustration of what this behavior is like from a woman's perspective but written in such a way that even your average self-centered "nice guy" can understand it.  Everyone EVER ought to read it but especially if you want to try your hand at hitting on someone in public places like BART or the street.

 I absolutely hate gender courtship roles, so I appreciate that getting dates is hard as fuck.

I could never get past the pink, though.
I knew that pink meant it wasn't for boys.
If they had the black and cyan ones when I was a kid,
I might have actually learned how to cook.
I was raised by a southern belle, feminist, single mother who worked as an executive in a bank as one of three women in an ocean of guys like something out of an eighties movie. Even after she remarried, she made the bigger paycheck by nearly double (and my step-dad was a tenured professor in the California State University system) in addition to doing the heavy lifting in raising me. She made six figures in a man's world back before that was a hum-drum accomplishment. (~cough~) Though I could never be completely free of the social forces of my wider culture, I was essentially raised within a microcosmical matriarchy. It's no wonder that I was destined to become a househusband because even when I was young I wanted an EZBake oven so I could "Make Mom something nice for when she gets home."

Speaking of eighties movies, I grew up on them. You know the ones with the sexually aggressive women (usually wearing the shoulder pads) who come on to the guy?

(Actually, they're kind of creepy now that I think about them because usually the guy was saying no, the woman wasn't listening, and the audience was laughing the whole way. Unconsensual sex is so fucking hilarious, right?)

Yep, everywhere you looked in those movies there was some fantastically hot woman making the first move on some nerdy awkward (but nice)guy. It was like Beta Male Utopia. I was funny and pretty cute--I was going to have it made! So the longer I went on, the more confused I got that women weren't hitting on me. Seriously, where the fuck was my hot chick?  I made like four jokes next to a whole group of cute girls. They laughed  Why wasn't anybody asking me out? My adolescence became a chain of long-burning crushes for people I tried desperately to get close to and get them to notice me.

Southern culture, just so you know, may have its problems but has two very strong foundational pillars. One is hospitality. The other is that you don't impose. Basically you don't ask for things because the social expectation is on others to offer it. It is rude to go where you aren't invited, never mind welcome. And you can pretty much count on the fact that people will invite you due to their hospitality, and if they don't, it's very, very rude to pressure them. Should that mean you sit and slowly desiccate within someone's house because they didn't offer you a glass of iced tea in hundred degree weather, that's what you fucking well better do. (And gossip about them later.) This is why when someone does ask for something in southern culture, they often use phrasing like "Can I impose upon you for..." I may have gotten the hippie feminist version of Southern Culture (less racism and fewer corsets), but those two things were deep seated enough to come through. So I don't ask for things. I wait for people to offer.

You can probably already guess where these three forces are going to collide. Throw all of this in with some general introversion and it's a wonder I ever got laid.

I'm okay flirting. I'm pretty good at hitting on people. I'm even not-entirely-awkward at seduction, believe it or not. The irony is I'm rubbish at all of it until I know it's absolutely, positively, 100% welcome. Absolute rubbish. I have to know it's okay or there are all these psychological blocks. I just can't get past them. I've rarely ever flirted with someone who didn't flirt with me first. I can count on one hand the number of people I've asked out before their tongue spent some time in my mouth. I've only ever hit on people who either hit on my first or who basically grabbed my ears, pulled my face to theirs and said, "I would like you to make a move now, so that this evening can end with us blissed out and looking for my thong."

Pretty much everyone who has ever taken a ride on my disco stick has done the coming on.

Which is my took-forever-to-get-to-the-point way of saying, dude...

I get it.

Courtship sucks. Half the women threw out the book but didn't replace it with anything. The other half is still using the book but has a keen eye on where gallantry becomes sexism and you better agree with them right down the line.  And a third half has rewritten the book but it's not posted anywhere. An undetermined half of that first half and some of the other half still want to be chased and pursued and asked many times and know they are wanted. (My hand to God, I have sat behind a pair of women on Bart who talked about never going out with a new unless he had asked three different times because he had to prove "he was really into me." And I personally know three people who--before they got settled into long term relationships--regularly posted these memes about how guys who didn't prove their desire by pursuing them would not be getting the goods.) It is so fucking ridiculously hard to know if you're dealing with someone who wants to be pursued and wooed or someone who wants their first rejection to stick or even someone who doesn't want to be hit on at all and just wants to read their book.

Christ, it's almost like you're dealing with a bunch of individuals instead of one block group you can just treat the same.

Madness right?

But here's the problem.....

When you bring that shit up in a thread of a seven hundred comments about guys being creepy, sexual assault, and even violence on a post about a guy who was so obviously not taking what was unmistakably a genuine no for an answer....  When you say "yeah but" to a story where the woman is literally looking for an escape route and has basically begged him to leave her alone, you bring this whole package of pathetic, whiny, narcissistic stop-energy to the conversation.

Now you may not intend to do this, but what it LOOKS like to everyone watching is that you're trying to change a discussion about a woman getting harassed badly into one about how unfortunate it is that you have trouble dipping your wick.

Can you maybe see why that goes over like a depleted uranium balloon?

I have to tell you, this is a little like being pissed off that some news report about a school bus going off a cliff interrupted your soaps, and then calling in to the station to tell them that yes, you're very sorry about those kids, but was Michael the twins' dad or what?  Do you also get on domestic abuse threads and say "Yes, well, I'm surprised that no one has brought up how hard it is for men to work all day and come home to a sink full of dishes."

Yes, you really are being that inappropriate.

This is going to sting a little, but it's not about you.

Women get to not be into you.

They get to not be into talking.

They get to want to just read their book.

And they absolutely get to say no.

You're running the very real risk of being an entitled jerk-off who can't handle the idea of someone not wanting to talk to them. I know it stings, but you're just not that fucking awesome! Promise. My post wasn't a case of appropriate flirting gone wrong or mixed signals. I wouldn't have intervened with that. I would have let two adults with socialization skills work that shit out for themselves. What my post was about was one person being an intimidating bully and the other being scared.

[Don't think these guys are self-absorbed?

Here's a little thought experiment. 

Go back and check out how many comments that brought this idea up specifically said something to the effect of "I'm surprised no one else has brought this up"...completely ignoring ALL THE OTHERS who had brought it up before them with almost identical wording. If pretending you read all the comments about a serious issue so that you can bring up a point that "no one else has mentioned" without actually noticing that other people have indeed mentioned it isn't utterly self-absorbed, I don't know what is.]

So I feel pretty fracking comfortable telling you that you need to let the spotlight be off of you for a minute. Read story after story after story (after story after story) of women who weren't left alone and how it made them feel.

THEM.

Let those stories in. Let them get to you. Let the scope of this dawn on you. Realize how big a deal and how REAL a problem this really is in our culture.

Then maybe decide if this is really the right place and time and context for you to be Dawson's -Creek-Facing about the fact that you can't get someone to do some squat thrusts in your cucumber patch.

I know you were made to feel horrible and were physically threatened and wondered if you were going to get raped and this is all a larger social issue and probably leads to sexual assault and consent ought to be important and stuff and it's terrible that you have to go through this over and over again because men haven't been socialized not to be dbags and take silence to mean consent, which is a problem when a woman gets castigated for being vocal with her rejection and all....

....but I'm having trouble finding someone who'll let me feed sausage to their kitty.
Take heart. Most of you seemed like somewhat nice guys (except for your clueless narcissism and entitlement issues which you can work on by Googling "Nice Guy" and considering just how well that shoe fits). It seems like you at least want to get it right. Perhaps you're just a little self centered about how difficult it has been to cook your churro.

And let me at least offer you this word of good tidings. If you are worried about doing it wrong, you're already 90% the way to being okay. The fact that you give a shit at all about a woman not being interested in you already puts you miles ahead of actual creepers.

Just make sure you stay there, okay? Especially if you want to do something damned fool like putting the moves on women who are reading on public transit--because you'll lose what little high ground you have over those assholes if you are so full of yourself that you can't handle being rejected without turning on the person who rejected you.

The reason you can't find some paint by numbers formula or five fisted secret technique for getting your pencil sharpened is because there ISN'T ONE.  Women aren't a conglomerate block of strange alien creatures who all act one way. They are individuals with individual tastes, opinions, moods, and desire to flirt with you right that minute.  It's a sliding scale that changes depending on how hot you are, how tired she is, if Marvin Gaye is playing in the background, what she had for lunch, what underwear she has on, whether she just got out of a bad relationship (or if she is currently in a good one), and even weird shit like how much you smell like her dad. You can't control MOST of those things, so when she rejects you, it's nothing personal.

And even if it is totally about you--even if it's 100% exactly about you--it's still being an entitled ass to assume you are entitled or deserve someone to bob and bounce to your Steely Dan performance.

For more awesome stuff like this, visit:
http://reenin.deviantart.com/art/Reading-Zone-311272459
If you can't read the subtle cues for when a woman is into being approached or watch their foot position or the hair playing or pay attention to how their laughing at bad jokes to know if they're into you, you probably aren't skilled enough to be going for the interrupt-someone-reading maneuver anyway, but at least–AT LEAST–remember this: if they tell you they'd just like to read their book, you've struck out. Let go.

And in case you're keeping score, I have some very serious doubts that those of you who thought this was the place to bring up your flirting inadequacies are actually as "social signal savvy" as you think you are.

Just sayin...

Now, for the second group, those of you who honestly actually thought the guy hadn't done anything wrong or that women really do owe it to your entitled ass to be graciously receptive to your every advance:

Die.


You are a hero/badass/amazing/etc...

No.

I'm not.

I was being a snarky smartass, but I'm glad I could use my powers of sarcasm for good.  That's nice once in a while.

The truth is, if you want to know why I did this or why I'm 5'6" and get into fights with bullies, (or to a lesser--more obnoxious--degree, why I turn up my Beethoven when someone's playing rap music too loud) you have to go back to that southern belle feminist who raised me.

She was the one who would go knock on the neighbors' doors if a child was really shrieking just to make sure everything was okay. She was the one who who held babies and talked down mothers in drunk rages at 35,000 feet, when the flight attendants didn't know what to do. She was the one who spent an afternoon (and if I recall correctly, one where she should have been at work) making sure a young woman with a bruised up face had a place to stay, food, some toiletries, and a bit of cash. She demonstrated in late sixties rallies for equality.  She testified at city hall when our slumlord wouldn't fix the air conditioner. She took on the school system when my teacher targeted me for auto-punishment. And you've likely never seen anything half as inspiring as her diving into arguments over lunch with entire tables full of guys she works with--some of them above her--about some feminist issue that they were being clueless about.

If I ever seem to be fighting the good fight, I came by it honestly.  My mother really took stepping up to the next level.

She showed me (not told me–showed me) that you do NOT just pretend that nothing is wrong when it is. And she may have thought I wasn't paying attention, but I remember.  Some of my earliest memories are of complete strangers coming up to her and thanking her or telling her she did a good thing.  I was proud of her before I even understood what that meant.

She was my very first hero.

And she is the badass one.

Thank you.

As stories kept coming in--hundreds and hundreds of them--I didn't feel any less embarrassed about the pedestal some people were putting me on, but I began to realize that my sense of how common this was and how seldom anyone intervened may have been influenced in the right direction by how much I read, but that even still, I didn't really have a sense of the scope.

So, I'm going to do my best to graciously say this: You are all very, very welcome. And, despite nearly getting punched and not a few uncharitable online comments as to the nature of my character, I have to tell you...it was my pleasure.

I'm also very glad to see so many of my readers, after witnessing the outpouring of gratitude and stories of similar incidents--both with and without interventions--have told me that they will never stand by and watch something like this happen again.

It is the dream of most writers to have their writing make some small beneficial impact on the world around them, so even though it feels a little surreal to actually see things like that in print, it feels a little amazing too.

And thank YOU

I never could have expected how unbelievably viral this silly little post I made would get.  (Like I said, if I had I would have drafted it a few more times and taken out some of that "as a writer" stuff.) But for me, even though the numbers were exciting, and the donations have been amazingly generous, the most incredible thing has been how this post became a touch point for so many of your stories.  The events you've shared with me, either in comments or sent to me personally, have been unbelievable.  I've heard of amazing late husbands who would have loved to buy me a drink and survivors who saw a flicker of hope someday they might be able to be able to wear clothes they looked good in again. Though most were filled with frustrating scenarios and were even difficult to read for how painful they were, I was honored and breathless to have so many of you share with such honesty and candor your own experiences.

Yeah, let's just say it got a little dusty in the old writing room quite a few times.  Kept getting stuff in my eye...

I stopped even trying to reply to everyone after something like three hundred comments, but I read them all.  And I feel honored that you shared what were clearly some very personal and often painful stories.

Thank you.



With that, we're pretty much done with all the major themes of feedback.  I know I didn't get to some of the stuff that showed up only once (like the person who had the problem with the words "narrative" and "trope") but most comments that had some kind of echo more than two or three times are on here.  If you have any other questions, as always you can email me at chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject "W.A.W. Mailbox" (if you want to be featured in a future mailbox) or without it (if you just want the question to be between you and me).  But given that the article has mostly died down, and I'm getting only two or three comments a day on it now, I think this should be the end of it.

14 comments:

  1. So, I know this is probably beyond-the-scope of your reply here (or at least beyond-the-level-of-detail-you-could-bring) but I wanted to put on my "societally assigned gender" hat for just moment to respond to one bit:

    Half the women threw out the book but didn't replace it with anything.

    I don't think it's accurate to say it was replaced with nothing - it just wasn't replaced with anything so pat as a "script". It was replaced with something a lot more nuanced and complicated called "talk to people and figure out what the fuck they want". And, yeah, that's complicated because people aren't always honest about what they want because vulnerability and fear of rejection and slut shaming and blah blah blah. Not saying it's EASY by any stretch but it's not NOTHING. If it was really NOTHING we would be replacing the "How to Respond To Courting" book with not ever getting laid or having relationships, which is clearly far from the truth of what is actually going on in post-sexual-revolution land. I'd say it's a good bet that in so much as it's what they want (and, sure, it isn't in all cases) women who aren't following the old script are getting WAY more laid than they ever could have by following it, certainly with more of the people they WANT to get laid with.

    I'm pretty sure that if I imagine a 50s era version of me she got WAY less action in her 20s than I ever did and a lot more slut-shaming for what she did get. I know you've known me as mostly-monogamous (monogamish?) but let's just say that in my 20s I made it into the 9% (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/abc_list_n.htm#numberlifetime) (I hope that doesn't come off as bragging - I don't think my number is terribly impressive but the point is it's well above average even for what most men are willing to admit to). So as far as I'm concerned, I threw out the book and replaced it with something WAY better.

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    1. Sounds like we're saying the same thing in a slightly different way. "The book" I was talking about in that paragraph was The One True Way(tm) to get laid. You seem to be saying "I have my own book now, and so does everyone else." And what I was saying is "That half did not replace the bygone techniques with any single other new technique for which all of them would NOW be beholden to." But certainly I agree (and mentioned a few times) that it's mostly about individuality.

      To us this makes perfect sense. Just figure out what someone wants and respect it. To someone who wants a connect-the-dots DIY kit for getting laid, it looks like anarchy in the streets.

      Sometimes metaphors get tangled up. (Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. There actually isn't even a book AT ALL!!)

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    2. Well it was more "I have my own book THAT GETS ME LAID MOAR!!!" The getting laid more is kinda key. Because it often seems like the poor Nice Guys (TM) think "Oh noes, the womens changed the rules and now nobody gets laid except the people who know how to cheat and go back to the old rules!" Actually, I think I DID sleep with someone who was trying to do that. Twice. And then I figured out he was a douchenozzle and quit his ass. So that's one out of *mumbles incoherently*.

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  2. I had no idea there were so many euphemisms for sex. Bravo!

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    1. And that's just scratching the surface. :-p

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  3. You know there's now an Easy Bake for Boys?

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/12/18/hasbro_s_easy_bake_oven_now_for_boys_too.html

    And for no sensible reason at all googling for this reminded me of this Kickstarter

    http://www.goldieblox.com/

    It seems to me that until the toys (and books!?) are actually about your biological gender (like physically sculpted around it), gender isn't a good way to segregate toys. But that is apparently just me. Maybe a few others.

    Both of these toys are troubling to me, much like the genderization of Lego, as critiqued by Anita Sarkesian (Feminist Frequency).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrmRxGLn0Bk

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    1. http://jezebel.com/how-to-tell-if-a-toy-is-for-boys-or-for-girls-494034840

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    2. Yeah, this was back in the late 70's/early 80's. It's better now (though still pretty bad). I also couldn't think my way out of social conditioning when I was ten--if I took a turn at Toys R Us and ended up in an aisle that was all pink, I knew I was in "enemy territory."

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  4. Drive-by comment to link the original Reading Postures artwork: http://reenin.deviantart.com/art/Reading-Zone-311272459

    I found it in about sixty seconds by googling "SketchEmily" -- most art doesn't have any such distinctive text to look up, but this one made it easy =)

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    1. Thanks! I often see images where a fake watermark was added, so I wasn't sure. I'll put the URL up with the image.

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. I suppose we can thank your mother for instilling in you the respect for women but how many people say that they would have had the guts to do what you did? Male or female, we find you admirable and what you did took guts. Snarky sarcasm takes courage, especially when facing a person who may not understand it and has the capability of beating you up. But your mother sounds like an amazing woman and she raised a wonderful son.

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    1. She is indeed an amazing woman. Thank you so much. :)

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