On FB today my partner Ralph shared a wee video from an author and self-styled relationship guru named Greg D. – the proprietor of a website, DVD, etc. with a tagline cited as “Pure Attraction – The Art of Christian Social Dynamics”. I’ll let you watch for yourself.
Although Ralph’s resultant commentstream was full of people expressing revulsion for this man and his condescending yet cringeworthy and inept “tactics” to make himself seem approachable and relaxed and, mostly, to meet his goal: getting closer to a woman – I mean “a girl” – for his own purposes of relationship, I would imagine many people in our social sphere are likely to mock this as a symptom of Christian dysfunction instead of examining, you know, men and masculine culture in totality. It’s easy (and occasionally fun, to some) for many of my peers to make fun of this man because of his stated goals of helping Christian men and his unabashed identity within a Christian church (or other targets, like his appearance), but of course there are so many secular approaches to “dating strategies” for men that involve condescencion, “openers”, inauthentic performance, predation, stereotyping of women (much of it misogynistic or even trigger-warning worthy), and a bevy of extremely problematic approaches to women – including, as in this video, a complete insensitivity to women’s lived realities. To wit, a stunning ignorance that the supposedly refreshing and straightforward, “You’re adorable/beautiful/sexy/hot” and/or big brother/little sister approach upon a first-time meet is not universally experienced as complimentary, welcomed, charming, and/or desired, however a woman may respond in the moment she’s confronted by it. See, many people call-out these dating gurus and “How To Meet / Bed Ladies” as being inept and dehumanizing but kind of silly and harmless and ha-ha, no one actually uses these (oops, some people do!, p.s. did you know when you kill women specifically because they’re women we don’t call it a “hate crime”, whee!); conveniently these same people simultaneously ignore the misogynistic root of most approaches and their disturbing prevalence in mainstream magazines, media, etc. that make money hand over fist and adorn the landscape of public life (oh hai Maxim!).
Departing from the mainstream media and back to the personal, in watching this video tonight with our small dinner-guest group I felt deflated. Partly it was my mood, but partly it was mentally living out my history and memories. At some point I grimly identified aloud having had all these approaches levied at my person (including, verbatim, “You’re adorable,” etc., the video opener that bothered me most), and this took me on a mental trip through the many nuances of incredible Assery I’ve experienced, like the much-older coworker who told me over our first lunch in the breakroom that he hoped we could be “fuck buddies” – a particular record-scratching moment that immediately precipitated a soul-cocktail of simultaneous tedium and mild despondency – the persistant fellow at the meetup who upon my rejection threatened to hit me, the fellow that staggered up to my friends and I (ah… StaggerPuss has happened to me so, so many times) and asked if there was truth in the whole, bears-can-smell-menstruation myth (answer: Fuck. Unbelievably. Off. also: no. Also: Fuck Off, have I mentioned? Also: Steve Carell is hilarious).
At my brief omission at being on the receiving end of “openers”, our male friend (who, like my partner, is able to participate in discussion of human rights issues for women without suddenly having his Man Card revoked) said, “I’m sorry you’ve experienced that.” Even then my kneejerk response is that whole, “I’m nothing special” bit I always feel like pointing out: I believe a lot of women have experienced a lot worse or more frequent than I have and of course, some women who’ve experienced what I’m naming might tell you these behaviors don’t bother them (and some women are often labeled as “undesireables” in a myriad of ways and they get a whole bevy of other Assery I’m not even touching on here). But the desire to quickly deflect attention from my protestations of mistreatment, or my knee-jerk impulse to say, “Oh it’s not that bad”, is precisely what I’ve been Feminized to do – my whole life.
My friend can’t apologize for things he didn’t do to me, personally, although (I think?) I appreciate his sentiment. See, what is more important to me is we quit the bullshit that sex is some kind of predatory evo-psych reality and the oppositional sexist dictum that women categorically withhold sex and physical affection (which is shitty and manipulative of them to do) and men cheerfully and/or aggressively should pursue these goals (which is only their right, after all). Men need to decide for themselves if women are people as opposed to male-fable plot-points or sexual receptacles or ego-fodder. Me personally, just tonight anyway, I’m a bit tired of trying to convince people of the former, even if I know it deep down in my guts to be the truth and the lived reality we should aspire to.
When any writer objects to some of the predatory, problematic, rape-apologist, patriarchal, oppositionally sexist (P.S., read this book) and/or patriarchal axioms of a man’s actions or a masculine institution (traditions and behaviors that often include and/or support the practices of racism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, transphobia, and classism, to name a few), inevitably someone steps in with their “What About The Mens?” wail. You know, Hey these guys are just trying to start a conversation and they get nervous too! AND/OR not every guy who tries to talk to a lady is a would-be rapist and you are totally saying that about all guys right now! AND/OR what’s a guy to do these days, one time I opened a door for a lady and she got all upset about it!
And yeah, I get it. I understand men are human and exhibit frailty and clumsiness and they want love (yay!) and of course, I am partnered with a man whom I love and respect and I cook for him and and sometime mend his clothes and I even let him touch my goodies and everything! I understand and believe patriarchy really, really does hurt men too (and please do read that previous “WATM” link). That doesn’t excuse the repeated derail into making conversations about women’s experiences ALL about men and their rights to sex/hurt feelings, etc. But I get that men are hurting too.
Because, on a less social justice bent, I think often of the many men and women who suffer social anxieties; the many men and women are lonely and want connection. It is also true that many people are afraid of loneliness and vulnerability and, sadly, those of us who can help will often shy away from such people. I think of the twelve year old girl visiting the other day who routinely worries about “creeps” following her and I tell her, Well most men aren’t dangerous creeps. And I know it sucks to be called or considered a Creep when you’re not. But it also sucks for so many men to put themselves in the Not Creep category and lift nary a finger or think nary a thought about the fact that while they’re all busy being the Not Me & Not My Problem they’re making sure things stay exactly the same way for everyone else.
I hope there are a few fellows who read here and understand that seriously, I am not going to personally mock them for making clumsy pickup attempts or having really crappy or ill-formed ideas about ladies because heck, lots of ladies have the same. It isn’t really a man-vs.-woman thing at all (but many want you to believe it is) since so many women have internalized misogynistic and sexist worldviews. But men benefit from male privilege and don’t always see the hurt their sisters have had (and continue to have) wreaked upon them. It hurts these totally-decent men when they realize they’ve been authors and conspirators. And yeah, I know that’s a hard realization to have. I do.
But if they let their injured ego stand in the way of a commitment to doing better, it’s a huge shame. For all of us – including people these men deeply care about, no matter if their gurus and “dating” self-styled experts demonstrate a bottomless void where Awareness, Wisdom, and Compassion should be in evidence.
And now, in closing, I give you the world of fiction – which is, sadly, not all that fictional – and a wonderful scene performed by Tom Cruise from the film Magnolia: