Posts Tagged: women

The 5 Types of Social Media Misogynist

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There you are, hanging out on Facebook minding your own business judging and commenting on everyone else’s business, sharing harmless occasionally controversial opinions and then bam. You’re hit with unexpected but not necessarily surprising misogyny. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of dealing with it.

In light of all the revelations about sexual harassment and abuses of power in various industries – Hollywood, government, theatre, tech –  here’s a handy (but not handsy) list to help you identify the different kinds of sexist you encounter on the joyful cesspool that is the Internet.

The Hypocrite

When is the man not the man? When it’s a man you like. 

This is the guy who seems, from all his outgoing posts and comments and political leanings to be anti capitalist, anti establishment, anti government and all about the anarchy and free love. Unfortunately his damn the man attitude only extends so far. He’s all about human rights and supporting the underdog. Except when the underdog is a woman and she’s challenging his male privilege and feelings of entitlement to sex with women. Oops. Bad underdog!

“All people deserve to have rights and define what inequalities they face except for women because their vaginas mean they can’t be trusted and they don’t know anything. Come on girls – don’t you want sex in the world? Why can’t anyone just ask for sex when they want it? We’re all consenting adults here. Gosh just say no if you don’t want to see your boss’s dick in the office, who cares if he threatened you and your reputation and your job? You’re not oppressed, there’s no power abuse. You can still say no. What’s that ladies? I can’t hear you over the sound of my own giant public-wank-defending manhood.” 

Guess you’ll have to type louder and more importantly 2 octaves lower for him to listen.

The Contradictator

I agree with you, but shut up and read what I’m saying because I’m right.

He’s so keen to keep you engaged in a conversation he’s practically holding you hostage. He’ll lull you into a false sense of security with that pesky agreement but watch out for those baiting questions. Ultimately you’re not really having the same conversation. He will not rest until he wears you down and make him your definitely always right and never wrong about anything king.

“I agree with everything you’re saying but…I don’t disagree but…I hear what you’re saying but…everything I write after those statements demonstrates exactly how much I don’t agree with you. Maybe I should admit I don’t actually agree with you. But then what if I’m wrong?? I just can’t bear the idea of being wrong about something. Publicly. No, not possible of course I’m not wrong. God it’s so hard. I dis…a….no it’s too much, I agree with you but…Phew. That was close. It almost looked like I was actually paying attention to what you were saying. Better to be safe and just say I agree.”

Just admit it dude. You don’t agree.

Calamity John

If it isn’t rape, it isn’t bad enough. So don’t call him. 

This one’s a bit more complex because at times he appears to be kind of OK. He likes your posts calling for more support for rape victims. He shares your smart statistic based memes about how many women die per week due to domestic violence (it’s 2, by the way. 2 women every week in England and Wales.) But if you’re looking for nuance this is not your guy. Unfortunately whether it’s the pay gap, catcalling or someone asking to take their penis out and showing you regardless of your answer, he’s not interested. If it’s not rape, it’s not a problem. Just like how doctors started working on the cure for cancer and immediately abandoned the less serious problems of fixing broken limbs and treating tonsillitis.

“Don’t you think you’ve got enough equality? In Saudi Arabia women aren’t even allowed to try on clothes in a shop! You can vote, you can drive, you can go out in public…what more do you want? Why is it so bad to go up to a woman in the street and tell her how hot she is? Do you want us men to, like, never talk to women?? Do you want us to never ask for sex? Would that make you happy? No, I don’t think the pay gap is a problem. There are real criminals in the world. Focus on them! I mean, it’s not like you’re being raped all the time.”

Oh wait. https://rapecrisis.org.uk/statistics.php

If you’re going to be insultingly reductive, at least get your facts straight.

The Twister

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No matter what you say…no that’s it. It doesn’t matter what you say. 

You’re giving it your best, measured and calm responses but it’s like this guy isn’t even reading them! Spoiler alert: he probably isn’t. And even if he is, he’s reading only what he wants to see. Like any shape-shifter this one is kind of wily and will wriggle around in what he’s saying and what he thinks you’re saying. He’s deflecting your points and twisting your words and dragging you down a conversational rabbit hole that leads to nowhere useful.

You: Given how much sexual assault there is, it’s not like there’s just one man running around the whole world doing it to every woman. There must be a similar number of men who are perpetrating this kind of behaviour. And that’s a fundamental problem with society that ties into privilege and the patriarchal system in which we live. And a lot of this stuff goes unreported so really we don’t have the full picture but it’s probably a lot worse than the statistics show. 

Him: So what you’re saying is all men are rapists? You know, men get raped too. Have you even thought about that? What you’re saying is really offensive. Not all men are rapists I can’t believe you would say that.”

Ummm…that isn’t what was said.

The Defender

Your Honour, the Defence will never rest.

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It doesn’t matter how many people are brave enough to blow the whistle and publicly say what happened to them. It doesn’t matter how many years these allegations span. It doesn’t matter how high profile the person revealing their story is. This guy does not want to hear that someone he enjoys might have done something wrong. And look, I get it. I wouldn’t want to hear bad things about someone I like either. But the incidence of false reporting is as low as 2%. So if that’s the case there’s a 98% chance that someone isn’t lying. Those are the kind of stats you think people ought to believe. Not this guy!

“I know he literally admitted to doing the things he was accused of but we still don’t know if it’s true. I mean, what did the women do to him? If he did it why didn’t they report it at the time? Oh they did? Well, we don’t know the full story. I’d like to see some proof that he did the things they and he are saying he did.”

Seriously.

This list is not exhaustive because of course there are more than 5 types of people in the world! Special mentions go out to:

  • The guy who immediately answers “But not all men…” to every point anyone has ever made about what is actually quite a lot of men. We get it. There are 7.6 billion people in the world. Nothing is going to be all of anyone.
  • The guy who just loves the system and believes it’s there for a reason and we shouldn’t be taking these matters into the public eye so much. Never mind that this system totally serves him and is currently failing to protect the less privileged, more vulnerable women who constantly have to take this shit.
  • The gaslighter coming in with the classic “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” No. I don’t think we’re overreacting. It’s not a bit much. And if it is, it’s because we haven’t had enough until now.
  • The guy whose “apology” is all about him. He “has a problem and needs to seek help”. Funny how some people would rather believe they are unwell than admit to misogynistic behaviour and sexism and a total lack of respect for women. Anything to shirk actually taking responsibility eh?

Good luck out there people. It’s an infuriating, exhausting world.

Why The #HeForShe Campaign Is Positive

 

 

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Background:

Initial reactions to Emma Watson’s #HeForShe launch speech at the UN Conference last week were fairly positive. Then a bunch of 4chan lowlives threatened to leak naked photos of her and made a countdown to her death (whether that was meant as a metaphorical death like the death of her reputation or as a real thing is unclear. Either way it was shamefully horrible, creepy and nasty) and support for Watson and the campaign soared.

 

Caveat:

For the record, I support the campaign and think it is a positive step in the right direction for achieving gender equality.

 

Main Point / Argument:

A friend of mine told me she was disappointed because she watched the speech after seeing it hyped up and shared a lot on Facebook but expected more from it. I agree with her assessment – the speech was good but not the most rousing, amazing thing I’ve ever seen. But here’s why I think that’s ok: it didn’t need to be. It wasn’t meant for me. It wasn’t meant for my friend either. It wasn’t a speech for the interested and engaged feminist. It wasn’t really a speech meant for women at all. It was relatively mild and it was measured and it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It wasn’t that inspiring to us female-women-lady-folk because it wasn’t aimed at us in the first place. It was a speech for men. It was an introduction to feminism for men, particularly men who are afraid or ignorant of it. It was a baby step for those who cannot yet confidently walk in feminism’s equality based corridors. And it was exactly right to be so.

A lot of people seem to think the campaign sends the wrong message, but we’re painfully naïve if we think everything will change in a day or with one campaign. The message the #HeForShe campaign sends is not that it’s a boys’ club at all, rather that it’s a boy’s way in to a girls’ club – very much a reversal of the stereotypes we’re used to (also check out my navigation of that complex, correct apostrophe usage. All hail good grammar! God I hope I got it right.) Historically, the boy version of a club comes first and the girls are allowed in later via a sometimes patronising, watered down version, e.g. scouts and brownies. This campaign is a magnificent idea. It’s providing an entry point (snigger) for men into feminism.

This is not about giving feminism legitimacy by asking the men to be in it. This is about demystifying feminism so they stop being afraid of it. It’s not a perfect version of the message nor a perfect message, but hey, guys? News just in: it’s not a perfect world. The same aforementioned intelligent, feminist, woman friend of mine who was disappointed by the speech said:

“It shouldn’t be about their mothers and daughters and wives and sisters. They should just understand that we’re equal humans and that should be enough to make them feminists.”

And she’s right.  It should be enough that we’re people, and to treat us with anything but equality is mistreatment. But it’s not like that. It has been demonstrated time and again throughout history across the world that it is not enough. And all the “but it should be” in the world doesn’t seem to change that.

So we have to take our strategy back a few steps and think practically.

Perceived gripes / problems / some true things:

*Yes. The campaign is a fair bit behind where a lot of thinking women are today.

*Yes. The campaign is being marketed for men – something that seems counterintuitive for a movement that is about equality for women.

*Yes. It absolutely sucks that we apparently cannot effect the change we want on our own, that for there to be progression we must have male support.

Or we could look at it this way:

*If you’re one of those thinking women then, yay and congratulations, not everyone is as smart as you. You’re a progressive thinker, ahead of the curve, you’re correct and the bloody UN says so! Hooray for you!! You believe we should all be equal because we’re human regardless of gender, race, religion or culture – and so with this knowledge and human understanding and international support, you have the power to educate and do good things. So be active, make a difference and use it wisely.

*The campaign is being marketed for men because they’re behind. They’re the ones who need to catch up. The male marketing isn’t a negative, it’s a positive. We’re making it accessible. It’s being marketed to the feminist minority. Isn’t that kind of amazing? Plus I remember reading about a psychological study years ago (apology for lack of reference – it was in a psychology magazine from maybe 2009, so literally years ago) that posited that if a woman tells her friend that she thinks a man is good looking, the friend won’t necessarily also think this man is attractive. But if a man tells his friend that a woman is good looking, his friend is likely to agree with him and they all go “yeah mate she’s well fit” together. The upshot of this was a conclusion about group mentality and how men are more likely to agree with each other about good ideas and attractive people. So if men are more likely to do that, doesn’t it make sense to get a big group of them into feminism so more of them see it as a good idea and follow suit?

*Political campaigns know full well they need the female vote as well as the male vote to win. This is like that. Feminism is the presidential candidate and so we have to get the male vote as well as the female vote, because men are also people and we need and want them on our side because we’re the good guys and why would we not welcome more good guys? We want to win. So let’s get more good guys on board.

Feminism is not about isolating ourselves or elevating ourselves to so far above men that they feel they cannot reach us. Feminism is about equality. For women. And, by definition of equality, also for men. It’s about equality between the genders / sexes. And we need both of those binary bastards to be on board if it’s going to work.

 

Conclusion:

This is a campaign to raise awareness. It’s not for you – the one who is already aware. It’s not for you because you’re already there. You’re already involved by the virtue of being female and thinking and feminist and we’re not just preaching to the choir now. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be the minority asking for equality but then complain when we’re treated like the majority. We started this club. And now we’re opening the doors to new members. If you’re already a member there’s no need to reapply.

I’m terrible at maths and I’m slightly scared of it. I couldn’t attend a degree level maths class and I wouldn’t want to. Furthermore, if someone invited me into a beginners maths class and I saw on the sign up sheet that loads of experts were going to be there I’d be terrified and embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and would probably be put off signing up. We learn gradually. We don’t jump in at the deep end of knowledge. We can’t expect to effect change and teach people about feminism if we’re not willing to give them the time to learn. It’s not patronising, it’s understanding. And yes, we may be impatient for them to catch up but we have only just properly, publicly asked them to join. We’re trying to overturn an ingrained mentality that has been present for most of humanity’s existence. Old habits die hard and this – prejudice – is one of the oldest habits around. Give the newbies a chance. Because sadly, it’s not enough that we’re all human and deserve equality.

 

Final Thought

So here’s what I suggest to my fellow wonderful, intelligent, feminist women: be happy that we’re on an internationally, publicly supported road to achieving gender equality. Realign your expectations of this campaign. Stop thinking about it in terms of what belongs to you. Feminism / equality is for everyone. And in lieu of being able to sign up on the website for yourself, ask a man you know to sign up (link provided below) and educate him. Open the door, welcome a new member to the club, share the knowledge and help the world change to be better.

Gentlemen! Sign up here:

http://www.heforshe.org

 

How I lost My Virginity

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There was once a girl…let’s call her Abi.

Abi was 17 years old and thought she was pretty cool. You see she had this boyfriend and he was a bit older than her. Not *loads* older. Just a few years. She was 17 and he was 21. That’s not that much is it? OK, he was nearly 22. So the best part of 5 years between them. That’s still not that much is it?

Spoiler alert: It is.

But we’ll talk about that more later.

Abi was a little bit (a lot) infatuated with this guy. He was older and weird and a bit messed up and mysterious and wrote poetry and played the guitar (of course he played the guitar. At 17 if he doesn’t play the guitar, he’s basically not human).  She was also kind of afraid of him because he was older and weird and a bit messed up and mysterious. The poetry and the guitar weren’t scary.  The mix was heady and intoxicating. He was wild and she could tame him. Heathcliff and Cathy but in real life and without knowing each other as children or living together.  It’s like the vampire fantasy. The whole thing hinges on there being this creature, like human but not human, of immense power, physical and mental strength. The vampire is dangerous and could easily kill you. Why is that sexy? Because it chooses not to kill you. It’s sexy because however strong it is, the vampire is weak for you. And that’s just gorgeous isn’t it? We all want to be someone’s weakness. The exception to their rules.

So Abi’s there, aged 17 dating this guy who’s 21 and he’s obviously way more experienced than her because she’s a naïve girl from North London who has led a fairly sheltered life mostly consisting of school, summer camp and home. She’s going to go inter-railing through Europe that summer with her best friend and that’s going to make her grow up a bit but that hasn’t happened yet and it’s that pre-summer summer we get in England where it’s sticky and hot and the days smell sweet and it’s that hazy heat, the kind that lingers, heavy in the air and the light makes the green of the grass and the blue of the sky technicolor but conversely when you remember it, it’s like the sun is always just about to set and everything is surrounded by a golden hue.

They’ve been dating since February / March or so. It’s vague because it has been clandestine which has only made it more exciting. She knows her parents would not approve. It’s not been a long time, 3-4 months, but it has been very intense. He’s going away and they’re fooling around, as they do, and he wants her to tell him she loves him. It gets him off. She does, she says “I love you” and then says his name and a small voice in the back of her mind (one that is possibly projected with the benefit of hindsight? Memory is fallible of course) tells her that she feels a little used when he does this, that she’d like it to be more organic and less demanded and an even smaller voice is not 100% sure she means it.  For all the excitement and intensity, she’s not totally sure she trusts him.  She has not had sex with him yet. She has not had sex with anyone yet and she’s not sure she’s ready for it so she’s held off. He’s asked, repeatedly, and each time she has refused.

And so it is June. This is the last time she will see him before he goes away for three weeks but it’s actually not such a bad thing because she has exams and he’s the biggest distraction for her. So they’re fooling around, as they do, and they’ve done the things that lead up to sex, hands and mouths, eyes looking up and breath catching and it’s all been fine. So they’re naked and rubbing and it’s not quite sex but then she feels something that is not his finger just start to slip into her and she jumps back and says “NO.”

And everything is still for a moment as he watches her. He’s impassive and still hard and she’s wary. And he tells her that it’s done. He says

“You know, you basically just had sex.”

Basically?

“Erm…what?”

“We might as well do it now. Because technically you’re not a virgin any more.”

What is he talking about?

“But…you didn’t even…it didn’t hurt or anything, it was a second and I stopped you so…”

“It still counts.”

“How? It was barely…”

Can’t find the words. Still too young to articulate things properly.  He sighs. Exasperated?

“Sex is when a cock goes into a vagina and that’s what happened. I went inside you. So if it’s even for a second, it’s still sex, it counts.”

He’s so matter of fact.

“But how? It didn’t even feel like anything? How is that…that can’t be right?”

Is it right? Is that it? Did I lose my virginity without even noticing? Is that how that just happened? That cannot be right. I’ve had sex education, I know it must be more than that.

“No, it is right. Legally we just had sex.”

Legally? He does seem sure.  And he has had sex and I haven’t and…what if he’s right? He is older than me. He must know what he’s talking about.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course.”

“I’m not.”

“Look, you’ve already done it. What’s not to be sure about now? We might as well carry on and do it properly.”

He must be right. He’s very convincing. I don’t know how to say no to this. He’s made such a strong case, and if I’m already not…

“OK.”

He moves immediately to action, doesn’t ask me if I’m certain or if I’m ok. He positions me, telling me he knows what he’s doing and that it shouldn’t hurt this way as long as I do what he tells me. I don’t say much because there’s a lump in my throat and I’m afraid and I don’t know what I’m doing and it feels wrong but it’s happening now and I don’t know how to stop it. I’m sad because I lost my virginity without even realising it and I wanted it to be special and feel right and this doesn’t but it’s too late now because he’s put on a condom and he’s pushed into me and onto me and he’s right, it doesn’t hurt but I don’t like it either. It’s an alien sensation. Or at least I remember thinking it is. It must have been. I don’t really remember what it felt like, just that I was surprised it didn’t hurt and I thought it felt strange. I can see the picture of us so clearly, imagining the bird’s eye view. I’m on my back on his floor, legs spread wide and he’s on top of me pushing into me over and over.  He tells me to tell him that I love him. I say it. But I know this time that I don’t mean it.

And as he finishes I start to cry. It’s the only time I’ve ever cried after sex.

We didn’t sleep together again after that. I didn’t tell anyone it had happened. I didn’t talk about it. I think I was ashamed but I couldn’t identify it. He went away a couple of days later and we broke up the week after he returned. The next person I had sex with was 6 months later and despite my previous experience, neither of us really knew what we were doing. I was his first and as far as he knew, he was mine. I told myself that this was my real first time, because it hurt and that made it real.  It was a discovery together and a bit fumbly and awkward and it hurt and I didn’t cry after and that’s how it was supposed to be so that would be my first time.

But it wasn’t.

I didn’t talk about it for 6 years. Ironically when I did finally tell someone it was a boyfriend who treated me very badly and spent an entire year making me feel like shit. Weird isn’t it? I wonder if my subconscious was trying to draw a link between the terrible romantic decisions I was making. Even he was shocked. It made me shocked. I hadn’t thought about it. I hadn’t thought about the implications of it. He used the word rape. I’ve not told many people about it since I told him.

I don’t think I was raped. I don’t think of myself as a victim. This isn’t a sob story. I don’t have issues with sex now. I was heavily pressured into doing something I didn’t want to do, something I very much wasn’t ready for. You may have gathered by now that “Abi” is me. I mean, I didn’t do a lot to hide it, I GAVE THE GIRL IN THE STORY MY NAME FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE, HOW MANY MORE CLUES DO YOU NEED? Also the title of this post is How I Lost My Virginity so really, what did you expect? Come on. Keep up guys.

So why, 9 years on have I decided to write about it? Let’s talk about that age gap.

4-5 years between two people is loads when one of you is under 20. At 17 you’re still at school. I met a 17 year old this year who I became quite fond of in a “let’s adopt a little sister” kind of way. She was up at the Edinburgh fringe for a while and I felt somewhat responsible for her well-being. This wasn’t something she asked of me or expected of me, but something I felt nonetheless. Being the oldest of 3 siblings by quite a few years, it is sometimes difficult to escape that nagging feeling that I am responsible for those around me, especially if they’re younger than I am.

This lovely 17 year old girl told me about an experience she had with a much older man the year before. I was shocked by it. Because she’s 17 now which meant she was 16 then and that is really young. When you’re 17 you don’t think it is, but there is such a huge difference between someone who is 22 and someone who is 17.  And I was looking at her and I was shocked and sad and suddenly I was 17 again and I understood. I understood it all as I had not understood it then and it made me so very sad for me and for her and for all the young girls who are taken advantage of by significantly older men who should not even be talking to them, let alone trying to sleep with them.

I don’t think the girl knew at the time that it was actually a bit strange for a man in his late twenties to be paying attention to her in this way. Maybe she did and it didn’t bother her, but the inference was that now she realises it was a bit weird and then she didn’t. Because it’s slightly overwhelming in a star-struck kind of way, being young and impressionable and having someone who wants to make an impression. Being the recipient of that attention feels good. And you forget about what the intentions behind it might be.

So I suppose the reason I’m writing about this now is that I would never let anything like that happen to me now. I’m outspoken and strong and confident and I know my own mind these days. I was about to have sex with someone recently (oh calm down, I’m 26 years old) and he asked if we needed to use a condom. I told him that although I do use a form of contraceptive (contraception? What’s the difference between the two? Anyone?) that yes, we do need to use a condom for all the STD’s I don’t want to get. And yet, he tried without a condom. But I’m not 17 anymore and I know how to respond in situations like this.

“GET OUT OF MY VAGINA!” I yelled in his face. I shoved his chest, hard. “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? I SAID WE ARE USING A CONDOM!”

And that was that. But at 17 I had no idea how to say no to the older, suave man on top of me. I had no idea how to articulate what I wanted to say. I didn’t know that it was fine to be that blunt as long as I got the message across. I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say. I’m not even sure I was self-aware enough to entirely know what I even wanted to say. But I do know it wasn’t “yes”.

So if you’re in your 20s or older and you’re male and you’re reading this – please don’t hit on girls whose ages end in “teen”. They’re too young. And you might not like who you become if you end up sleeping with them. Don’t kid yourself. However mature they seem, they’re still a teenager and you’re taking advantage of that.

And if you’re a girl of an age that ends in “teen” and you’re reading this, then please don’t be afraid to say no to a man because he’s older and seems wiser. Listen to what your head is telling you. If you don’t feel entirely comfortable doing something, don’t do it. Don’t let someone convince you into something you’re not ready for. Your thoughts and feelings are just as valid as his and you know yourself better than he does. It’s okay to not be ready, and it’s okay to say so.

Get up, work, get sexually harassed on my way home. Just another normal day.

 

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While walking the 10 minutes from work to the station today, a man began following me. At first, I didn’t notice he was talking to me. Why would I? I was on my own. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be talking to me.

I realised I was being spoken to and ignored it.
“Excuse me. Hello? Can I talk to you for a second? Hello? Excuse me. Darlin can I talk to you? Stop and talk to me for a second.”
No. I don’t want to talk to you. Don’t call me darlin. You can’t talk to me. I don’t want to stop for a number of reasons. I’m tutoring tonight so I have very little time anyway and even if I weren’t I wouldn’t want to talk to you. Please take the hint. Please stop. Please don’t follow me any further.
Then I felt a hand on my arm.
I turned around and looked at the man standing too close, violating my personal space and holding on to my arm.  Too tight.
“I want to talk to you.”
This, a little menacing.
“I’m sorry,” I finally said. “I don’t want to talk to you. Please let go of my arm. Now.”
He squeezed a bit tighter. I looked over his shoulder as if there was someone there. He turned away to look too and I pulled my arm free and began walking again.
“Hey!” He yelled, obviously affronted that he’d fallen for a child’s trick. Pissed off with himself that he’d been outsmarted by a woman. He decided to try a different tack.
“You want to come work for me?”
Erm. What? No. Aside from anything else, I’m quite clearly on my way home from work. And I don’t want whatever work is on offer – I somehow doubt he wants me to write for him and I strongly suspect he means prostitution. Funnily enough, that’s not my dream job but thanks for the offer.
“Why don’t you wanna talk me? Come on! Just talk to me!”
I continued walking, torn between wishing myself into the station already and questioning whether that is the safest option. What if he follows me in there? Then I’m trapped. I’m in central London. Where are all the people? Why is there no one else around? Why on earth did I wear heels?
I kept walking, confident steps. Head up, remain calm, do not panic.
I am not a paranoid person. I like people. I like new people. I do not shy away from strangers and I talk to pretty much anyone. Every instinct I have is screaming “DANGER” at me. This is not a nice man. This man is not leaving. He is not listening. He is still following me.
“I got some work for you darlin. Just stop and talk to me. Ain’t you gonna tell me your name?”
I shook my head and kept walking.
He made for my arm again, but this time I’m wise to it and side stepped him. His finger tips brushed my sleeve.
“Bitch!” He hissed at me.
I finally, finally see a person coming towards me, another man with headphones in. I make eye contact. I let the fear in my head show on my face for the first time and try to communicate one word to this man a few feet away from me.
“Help”
I angled myself towards this man. He saw, took out a headphone and I began to speak incredibly fast.
“Hi, this man won’t leave me alone. Please will you talk to me for a moment? I know you don’t know me. I just need you to stand and talk to me just for a minute please?”
He was calm and immediately put himself between the other man and me.
He asked
“Has this man been following you?”
“Yes”
I replied.
The man who has definitely been following me makes an ugly face and immediately says.
“I ain’t been following you. What you talking about you stupid bitch, what the fuck are you talking about? I ain’t following you! Bitch!”
At last he walks away, snippets of insults drifting back to me on the wind.
The man who I have stopped on the street asked me again if he had been following me and how far/long for. He asked me if I knew him, if I had seen him before and repeatedly checked that I was ok. He then told me he’s a policeman. I couldn’t quite believe the one person I’d found to stop was a policeman. He showed me his ID and asked me if I wanted him to walk me to the station.
I am not a jittery person. I don’t believe in living a life in fear. I don’t believe in walking around London feeling afraid of all the bad things that could happen. I accepted his offer because I am also not an idiot and at this point, I was afraid. It’s hard to run in heels, even chunky ones that aren’t that high.
We chatted on the way to the station and he made me feel much calmer. I wasn’t crying or hysterical or anything like that. I was slightly shaky from adrenaline and my stomach felt weird. He made sure the other guy was a way ahead of us and not in the station. I thanked him profusely and left.
I am writing this on my tube journey home. I am not wearing anything particularly provocative – a black smart skirt that stops just above my knees, an office smart, green top that is not tight, a scarf, tights, a jacket – and even if I were, I wouldn’t hold that as an excuse.
I love the fact that strangers talk to each other sometimes. But there is something about the way that some people approach others that lacks even the most basic respect. It might be a misogyny thing, I can’t say for certain. I know I’ve never made a man feel unsafe or violated. The most threatening thing I’ve ever said when initiating conversation with a stranger is “Sorry, I know this is probably weird but I wanted to tell you, you’ve got lovely eyes”. I have to say, the rare, lovely and smile-inducing occasions that I do receive a compliment from a stranger pale in comparison to the number of times I’ve been followed, cat called, harassed, touched inappropriately.
That’s not OK whatever your gender, whatever mine.
If I say I don’t want to talk to you, back off. Listen to what I’m saying. The answer is no. I shouldn’t have to say it more than once. I don’t need or want convincing. This isn’t a game. I am not presenting a challenge for you to wear me down. Don’t touch me. I shouldn’t have to break free from your grip. I shouldn’t ever have to feel afraid. I am a human being just like you. I shouldn’t feel like I need to write this to feel better this evening.
Perspective time: I wasn’t molested, or raped or hurt beyond a squeeze to my arm which may bruise. This won’t psychologically damage me. By tomorrow morning I will be fine (except if my arm bruises I’ll be peeved for a few days).
But what if Matthew the policeman hadn’t been there? What if there hadn’t been anyone around? What if it had been a bit later or a bit darker or the guy had been even a bit angrier? What then?
When men make comments about the size of my breasts I give them shit back so they don’t do it again. It’s funny to watch if you’re not the man who just made that comment. Because I am not going to silently ignore the total lack of respect any more.  I don’t want to keep quiet and take it.  My grandma tells me “silence means assent”.  I do not want to give mine any more to that kind of treatment.
We are all human. We need to be better to each other. We need to make each other feel safe. We need more people like PC Matthew, who listen, who offer to turn around and go back the way they’ve come to make sure you’re safe. We need fewer people who harass and follow and intimidate and when those people start up, we need to speak out to show them that we are better than that.
If you find yourself being followed and it is difficult or impossible to run away:
  • Pick someone and speak to him or her directly.  People respond much more when it’s directed at them than when they are allowed to be a general passer-by.
  • Do not panic.
  • If you scream, use words – shout them loud and clear, something like “THIS MAN IS FOLLOWING ME, I DON’T KNOW HIM, HELP ME.”  Shout the situation, not just noise.
  • Do not be afraid of other people. Not everyone is like that. There are really good people out there, people you don’t know yet, who deserve to be trusted.
I am extremely grateful to PC Matthew for being in that place at that time, for being a policeman, for being kind and good and helping me.  I hope that anyone reading this would do what he did in that situation.

I Like Online Dating. I Also Do Not Like Online Dating.

Online dating. Yes – it’s a thing. I’ve done it and it’s something I occasionally dip in and out of.  The pattern is that I try it for a month, swear it off forever and then go back to it after a few months, only to be reminded that I hate it and it feels unnatural and so the cycle repeats ad infinitum.

Let’s discuss profiles:

Although I don’t think you have to be a prolific writer to write a decent few lines about yourself, it’s actually not as easy as one might think.  It is surprisingly difficult to write an interesting and accurate paragraph about yourself without feeling incredibly arrogant (because you’re talking about how amazing you are) or without coming across like an actual mental (because you wrote something at 3am thinking it was hilarious when in fact the late night hour had lifted the brain to touch-typing filter and you spilled out a puddle of crazy.)

There are 2 things that repeatedly irritate me about online profiles.

1 – “Willing to lie about how we met.”

OH REALLY ARE YOU? THANKS GOSH BECAUSE I AM SO ASHAMED THAT I WANT TO MEET NEW PEOPLE.

This is not attractive. If the first thing I read about you is that you are happy, willing and able to lie, all I can think is “well, what else are you willing to lie about?”

There is nothing shameful about online dating now. It’s just another way to expand your social circle and meet new people.  If you’re so ashamed, either get over it or get off it.  No one is forcing you to create a profile on a dating website. OK, you don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, but if you’ve bothered to fill in your details and add photos and make up a stupid punny name, don’t be ashamed about it on the website filled with the people who are also online dating, and whom one assumes you are trying to attract.  Know your audience!

2 – Variations on the basic theme of “I like going out. I also like staying in.”

This is the equivalent of saying any of the following examples:

*I like being awake. I also like being asleep.

*I like wearing shoes. I also like not wearing shoes.

*I like having cats. I also like having no cats.

*I like daytime. I also like night time.

*I like moving. I also like staying still.

*I like smells. I also like no smells.

*I like eating bananas. I also like eating things that are not bananas.

 

To clarify, for the cheap seats, what you’re saying is “I like life.”

Brilliant. I also like life. But don’t most people have something a little more specific and interesting than “I enjoy my existence options.” ?

I will accept “I like staying in BUT I PREFER to go out.” or vice versa. Expressing a preference is encouraged. Opinions are the best, are they not? No? Oh all right then, if that’s what you really think.

Are people really this generic? Don’t people like specific things any more like the theatre, literature, art, photography, politics, stimulating conversation, wine, flying, astrophysics, the 80s, silly themed parties?  When did our imaginations and expressive abilities become so fenced in?

So to all the online daters out there:

I can only speak for myself, but I suspect there are other people out there who also want to know what *you* might be like. Yes, you. The unique, specific human being that is entirely and only you. I encourage you to be a bit braver and open up a teensy bit more. Because no one wants to date just anyone. We all want to be with the right person who makes us happy and who we can trust and know and love. But I think the first step on that terrifying path is being honest and saying something that might catch someone’s attention. So don’t be afraid to – because it simply cannot be that all those people who effectively put “I like going out and I like staying in” are actually that dull. It cannot be true, because that would be far too depressing for words.

 

As a side note – to approximately 85% of the people I’ve seen on dating websites: THAT CANNOT BE YOUR BEST PICTURE!! COME ON! GIVE ME SOMETHING HERE! Jeez.

 

 

When is casual sex too casual?

I went to a friend’s wedding and, aside from all the genuine joy and love in the room, I had a not so pleasant experience. I was sitting next to someone who I have only met a maximum of three times in life. I can actually only recall meeting him twice, but I like to leave room for human error with vagueness.

He had also recently got married and at this wedding, sitting next to me with his wife on the other side of him, he got steadily drunker throughout the evening. By midway through dinner, his wife was telling him to stop mucking around with a bottle of water and looked really quite embarrassed.  I asked for the bottle, as I was actually thirsty, and he responded by not giving me the water…kind of like a child…or a dickhead.

His wife, having rearranged her facial expression from embarrassed to exasperated, passed me the water behind his back. While my arm was lifted to pour the water, this man groped the area under my arm that also happens to connect with boob.

I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing and told him he had no right to touch me in that way, that it was incredibly inappropriate, that he does not know me and should not ever touch me like that again. He laughed. Because he is not a child, but is a dickhead. This really made me angry and I may have over reacted by threatening him with a punch to the face if he ever touched me again.  I was doubly irritated that his wife did nothing. If it were my husband, apologies would have been made and some serious words would have been exchanged later at home.  For numerous reasons.

 

I’ve noticed a trend in the way that certain men in my social circle behave.  There is a casual and total lack of respect when it comes to women. I know feminism exists, but it feels like it’s been warped to mean something different to men compared to what it means to women.  Is this just for my age group or is it the age in which we live?

In the last 10 days I’ve been sexually propositioned by no fewer than 4 different men.  (Yes I know, woe is me, some men want to have sex with me, first world problems yada yada yada).

I don’t have a problem with men wanting to have sex with me – it’s more the way these propositions were made.

One of them came completely out of the blue – “Hi, this may seem a bit weird but I wanted you to know that if you ever want to have sex with me (tonight? This weekend maybe?) the answer would be yes. Definitely. I’m just putting it out there”.

Erm, wow, thanks I’m flattered but you’re not really my type, good on you for having the balls to express yourself, I suppose if you don’t ask you don’t get.  I politely declined and heard no more on the subject.

 

The second was from a guy who regularly propositions me and whom I regularly ignore because he’s creepy. He even acknowledged the fact that I ignore him by saying “I think you’ll get bored with this before I do”.

No. No I don’t think I will. You should stop thinking that.

 

The third was someone I met last week – essentially went straight in with the classic approach of “I think you’re really hot, we should hook up.”

“Should” is a strong word and your logic is flawed. The attraction has to be two way. Or I’d have to not care about who my sexual partner is.

 

And the fourth was a friend who started with a cheeky bit of flirting a couple of weeks ago (ok, good so far) and then invited me over at 3am on Saturday night. Oh, fell at that hurdle.

 

What do all these things have in common? All these men did the same thing – they missed out some fundamental steps, that frankly count as courtesy in my opinion. When did it become ok to just jump straight in and ask a girl for sex?  What happened to asking her out? Am I supposed to be flattered that you want to have sex with me but you don’t want to spend any actual time in my company?  Am I supposed to revel and delight in secret late night trysts? (Ok that last one is actually quite hot, but only with a person you really fancy when you’ve got an established thing going on).

I don’t find it flattering if you just ask to have sex with me.  I find it disrespectful and at times, downright insulting. I said to one of these guys that if he wants to go for a drink and see what happens, that’s one thing but I’m not really down with the super casual super secret just sex thing right now. He declined. So to clarify – you want me to come over, pleasure you in all the ways you can think of, you’ll generously offer your bed to me for the whole night (“you can even stay over if you can’t be bothered to go home after!”) but you won’t spend a couple of hours in my company first? Are you shitting me? I don’t even think that’s such a lot to ask.

I’m obviously biased, but I don’t think I’m that repulsive. If I’m honest, I probably talk too much, especially if I’m nervous, and if I like someone, chances are I’m a bit nervous. So, as one guy recently put it, yeah “I’m a talker”.   But if you want the privilege of access to my body, you should at least do the gentlemanly thing and earn it with some kind time spent with me. That’s not to say you’ll get the body at the end of the night – a date is no guarantee – but you’ll have earned brownie points and increased your chances.  I find things like intelligence, wit, laughter and good conversation attractive. Those are the things that will get me into bed – not a late night text demanding my presence. Frankly, if I’m not in your bed by 3am, I’ll be in mine and I won’t be leaving it.

And what is this assumption that I’ll say yes? I don’t ask people for things if I think I have no chance of getting them, so these guys must think I’m the kind of girl who might well say yes to a quick shag. Don’t get me wrong – I actually have no problem with casual sex.  But to me casual sex means there are no strings attached, there’s no emotional commitment, and if one of you finds someone you want to have an actual relationship with, you don’t do it any more. It doesn’t mean there’s a total disregard for what one person wants, thinks and feels.  It should be entered into (yes, that was deliberate) with a mutual feeling of respect.  Sex is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated and enjoyed by consenting adults.  I believe we should go forth and…use a condom so you don’t accidentally multiply or spread disease.

Just respect your partner, casual or otherwise, and have the courtesy to at least approach with decency. However indecent the acts that follow may be.