“ You don’t understand what it’s like to be a man, to feel entitled to women’s bodies. You don’t understand what it’s like because you’re not a man. I am. “
“ Most of the violence that happens in this world is committed by men, especially young men. Whether it’s aggression towards women and children or towards other men, it’s almost always young men who are doing the beating, raping, and killing. “
“ Women put themselves in statistically much higher danger by being sexually involved with men than they do by being involved with women. It’s dangerous to go on a date with a man. You might be physically hurt or violated every time you go home with a man. “
These are all snippets of conversations that I’ve had with some of the (cis, woman-loving, young-ish) men in my life. These conversations have stuck in my mind in the last year since they have variously happened.
They’ve stuck with me not because the information was new. But because of who the speakers are.
They’re all men that I’m close to: feminist men, activist men, sex-positive men. They’re men that I respect deeply in the ways that they challenge the patriarchy and uphold gender equality in their daily lives.
Apparently they are also man-hating men, misandric men.
And the conversations have stuck with me because of who I am. A femme, a victim of sexual assault, and a survivor. A small, white, cis woman. Who sometimes dates and goes home with men.
When I hear the men in my life make statements like these, I feel fear.
Though they may not intend to, I feel they are threatening me.
But the fear I feel is a familiar one. It’s the fear felt by individuals socialized from birth to believe their bodies are for the service and enjoyment of others. That their bodies incite strong, often violent, feelings in male bodies.
Growing up female means being taught that some situations are inherently just too dangerous. Don’t smile at or talk to strange men, don’t walk alone after dark, don’t travel unaccompanied, don’t dress or wear make-up like that.
Don’t give them a reason to rape you.
Growing up as a woman means living in a body that society seeks to control, primarily through fear.
Nowadays, as an adult, even in the feminist, sex-positive, responsibly non-monogamous communities that I seek to surround myself with, I can still feel men seeking to control my body through fear.
One of the men that I have a romantic connection with is visible uneasy and suspicious every time I mention any of the men that I’m into. And it’s not just a me thing — I don’t think I’ve heard this man say a positive thing about any of his femme partners’ masc partners (i.e., his masculine metamours).
And it’s not just a him thing. In fact, while all of the men that I’m romantically or sexually involved with have a good theoretical understanding of why a “one penis policy” is toxic, misogynistic, and homophobic. They also display a tangible emotional discomfort about other men.
Their expectation of other men barely a stone’s throw away from “boys will be boys” bullshit,
“ I’m glad she broke it off with that guy. Every time she gets involved with men, there’s drama. It’s messy. “
“ Oh, you’re still seeing that guy? He sounded immature. It must get tiresome always having to teach dudes how to be in relationship. “
“ That’s great you’re trying not to date any new men. Men can’t communicate. It’ll be good for you to hook-up with people who can actually control themselves and understand consent. “
The way that the men I’m into approach the conversations we have about my other masc romantic/sexual connections (or the other masc connections of their own femme partners) has often left me feeling that they might prefer a one penis policy.
But maybe it’s not just misogyny and homophobia that motivates this. There is this one crazy theory that my friend suggested. Just maybe, it’s because of vulnerability and insecurity that the men in my life feel like a one penis policy would be something easier.
Impinge on a woman’s freedom to love in order to soothe their trauma of competition in relationships and the scarcity of intimacy in our culture.
The stoic façade of masculine power doesn’t allow for expressing these kinds of doubts and fragilities.
What I’m left with instead are conversations about sexual violence.
And, yes. These men are all technically correct. Men are dangerous. The facts, data, and statistics are all on their side. My own and others’ personal experiences have also borne this out. Much of my motivation for writing this blog is to make sense of my painful history with men and patriarchal society.
During a 2nd date some months back, the man I was having dinner with explained why #yesallmen is so important to him.
“ We need to recognize that, as men, we are all capable of doing horrible things to women. And we are all guilty of it. Every single one of us. Myself included. “
I shuddered and shrank back in fear at his threat.
The threat of this man who hadn’t considered his audience when he made his statement.
That maybe this wasn’t the first time that I’d been told, as a woman, that I should be fearful of men.
That maybe I’d been socialized from birth to believe that men are dangerous.
That maybe I had chosen to reject this self-fulfilling prophesy. This stereotypical narrative of fear that gives men the justification to control my body and my actions.
That maybe I’d been in relationships with men who were loving, nurturing, vulnerable, emotionally intelligent; men who are so much more than what is allowed by the label of “man”.
I guess what I’m trying to say to the feminist men, to the activist men, to the sex-positive men that I deeply respect in the ways that they daily challenge the patriarchy is this:
Stop telling women how dangerous you are. That’s not a new narrative and it’s definitely not a new insight for this audience.
Women-who-love-men are not the ones who need to hear this.
And we definitely don’t want to hear it from you.
We’re already scared of most men, we don’t want to be afraid of you too.
If you need the support of a trusted woman in your life, try leading with your feelings and vulnerabilities.
Your message is important. But you need to share it with the relevant audience. You need to share it with men.
Some Resources for Men:
[please suggest more in comments]