I've been quiet for some time now. I can't promise I'll be back regularly at this point. However, I wanted to take a moment so share something with you as an introduction to a series I've been mulling over.
I spend a significant amount of time online with various activities: blogging, online dating, social networking sites, and just tooling around having a good time. Over the past few months (actually, it's been the past few years, but I'm focusing on a more recent window of history) I've dealt with all kinds of guys who wanted something out of me (hint: it's usually some form of sex) and feeling entitled toward me. Talking it over with a friend, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of these men, their mentalities, and the behavior it encourages them to engage in. Part of this is because, the more I look around and talk to women, it's very similar -- though not nearly as common -- as a lot of the bullshit that women have to put up with, too. So I thought it would be interesting to do this to expose and combat some men's sense of entitlement in general and how ugly it can get, and hopefully encourage a bit more empathy for women who deal with this thing all the time. (Hint: If you're the kind of person who thinks I as a guy shouldn't have to put up with this bullshit but think nothing of it if a woman is given the same treatment because "that's just the way things work," uh-oh!)
I didn't move on this for a couple months. However, I had the perfect exchange earlier this week that convinced me it's the perfect introductory material for this post. To give a bit of background, I recently joined a social networking website that caters to people who are into or curious about kink. Through it, I found a local group which maintains an online presence and discussion groups on the site. I introduced myself in their main discussion group indicating that I was hoping to attend their next public social function and wanted to know if there was anything I needed to do, such as give advanced notice. I got a handful of warm welcomes and people told me that no advance notice was necessary and they looked forward to seeing me. All very pleasant.
Then a few hours later, I got the following message from an older man:
not gay but if you wanted someone to go with I'll gladly come with you. But and not gay married , but I do enjoy man head every once in a while, and no my wife don't know, and I don't want her or anyone else to either.
Okay, at first glance, this may seem like a friendly invitation and a cool idea. After all, the idea of having someone to pal around with at an event where I don't know anyone is very appealing to me. If one of my friends made such an offer, I'd jump at it. Under other circumstances -- that is, if the rest of what I have to say about this message didn't happen to be true -- then I might have accepted. The thing is, this isn't a friend. It's a total stranger. Offering to do me a favor by giving me some company on my way to a new social experience. That strikes me as potentially awkward.
But as the message continues, it becomes pretty clear that he's not really offering me a favor at all. After all, it's pretty clear that he's looking for a blowjob on the side in exchange for this favor. Sure, some people might argue that he never said he wants me to blow him. But let's be honest, if you're not looking for me to give you head, why mention that you like the occasional blow-job from the occasional man at all. So now there are strings that are attached to this great favor he's supposedly offering me.
And the strings get even more complicated after that. He makes it clear that he's married and that he doesn't want her or anyone else to know he fools around with guys. So now if I accept his "generous favor," not only is it presumed I'll likely blow him, but I'm required to remain quiet about it and never tell a soul. In effect, I have to submit to becoming his dirty little secret. Suddenly, this favor that I never asked for seems more about him getting what he wants, and he's not even willing to do me the courtesy of admitting to that.
This lack of honesty isn't surprising mind you. Remember that he just admitted that he had a wife, that he enjoys fooling around with men behind her back, and is likely looking to do so with me. There's not a single thing about that which I find honest. This lack of honesty is increased when I check his profile, which says he's single. So apparently, he's also lying to everyone online about his marital status.
So here we have a guy who has -- at best -- a strained relationship with the truth and is pretending to do me a favor while trying to get something out of me in reality. He's shown no indication that he cares what I want at this point and has made it clear that what he wants is paramount and Not To Be Ignored. At this point, I'm thinking there's only one appropriate response to his "offer." I decided to go with a more civil version of it instead:
I would have thought that this would have been the end of the conversation. But he decided to follow up with me.
okay not a problem and meant no disrespect if that's how you rook it
Again, at first glance this reply seemed nice enough. Then I got thinking about that second bit about him meaning no disrespect versus "how I took it." It's the whole "intent isn't magic" argument in a nutshell.
I don't care what the guy meant, I find everything about his "offer" and the circumstances surrounding it disrespectful to everyone even remotely involved. I find his choice to suggest I have sex with him in his first message disrespectful. I find all the rules and conditions he wants to place on things after assuming I might be interested in having sex with him disrespectful. I find the fact that he's seeking to fool around on his wife -- who I'm guessing believes she has been promised and therefore can expect total monogamy -- to be disrespectful to her. I find the fact he's claiming to be single on the site -- a site that welcomes and embraces openly poly people, no less -- to be another act of disrespect, both toward his wife and toward everyone he's conversing with at the site. So for someone who doesn't "mean" any disrespect, he's managed to dish out an incredible mountain of it, as far as I'm concerned.
Plus, there's the fact that he gets the idea that I might find his offer somehow disrespectful, otherwise he wouldn't be telling me he didn't "mean" it. Now a more decent person might actually turn around and say, "Hey, did you find this disrespectful? If so, could you explain why?" (Then again, a troll trying to convince me I was wrong might do the same.) Such a person might try to understand why someone might find what he did disrespectful. But not this guy. This guy doesn't care why I might find him disrespectful. He's convinced himself that how I feel doesn't matter. He just doesn't want to be accused of being disrespectful.
If you're sitting there thinking, "That's pretty disrespectful in itself," pat yourself on the back.
I also got the impression he wanted me to reassure him that oh no, I didn't find what he said disrespectful at all. In other words, he not only doesn't care how I actually feel, he expects me to tailor my feelings for his comfort and convenience. Um...no.
I spent a few minutes pondering if I really wanted to get into all of the above with the guy. I eventually decided against it. At this point, I just wanted to end the conversation. So I sent a very short message:
And that's when the fecal matter hit the mechanical air circulator. Apparently, dude didn't like being dismissed without reassurances that his behavior was a-okay. I got this back:
now when I do go to the social I'm gonna point you out as being a ass , as I said I didn't mean any disrespect to you and I said I'm sorry , but that racist ass attitude you wow be accepted this is a place where people get together make friend communicate laugh joke have fun, and people like you will not be welcome . I'll remember to point you out ! and thabks
Well, alrighty then! So much for not meaning any disrespect. Dude decided he didn't like being dismissed -- as if he was entitled to my continuing attention -- so he decided to make threats and accusations.
First of all, note that contrary to his current statement, he never actually said he was sorry for anything. He simply said that he hoped I didn't think him disrespectful since he didn't "mean" to be. That is not an apology, though I understand that we live in a society where this sort of thing is increasingly presented as an apology.
He goes on to accuse me of having a racist attitude. I'm not sure why he would come to that conclusion. At this point, I had no idea what race he was. For all I knew he was white. The accusation of racism just seems to be tacked on here as something he's hoping will cow me into accepting his sense of entitlement.
To take a moment to go on a tangent, I think this is particularly troublesome in that it only serves to provide noise people can then use to ignore actual criticisms of racism. Racism -- especially in the form of racial bias and privilege -- are very real and troubling things in our world, and things I admit that I'm not immune to. To be frank, I grew up in a predominantly white area of the country. In my combined junior high and senior high school of roughly five hundred students, I can only recall seeing three students who weren't white. There are many issues that are either unique to non-white people or affect them disproportionately more than they do white people, and I'm unfamiliar with and likely even unaware of them in many ways. So I have no doubt that there are times that I say or do things that may be racially insensitive and even contribute to systemic racism. Those are things that people should legitimately call me out on when they see me do it. I don't want to see those callouts become silenced or go ignored because of some dude who raises the specter of racism just to try and score points against me in an argument. (And I certainly won't ignore such callouts!)
I think what also gets me is that I'm open to having my privilege and problematic behavior exposed, even when I feel initially defensive or uncomfortable as a result. So his apparent attempt to use such an accusation to get me to react in a certain way seems counterproductive to me.
The whole message, in fact, is a way to get me to react in a certain way. He threatens to ruin my reputation and paint me as a rude and racist person because I didn't act the way he wanted me to. So not only has he still not given up on the idea that he's entitled to dictate how I respond to him, but he feels entitled to resort to extreme manipulation if I resist his dictates. But remember, he's meant no disrespect this whole time.
I'll also note at this point that this is where I suspect I have an advantage over a woman who finds herself in a similar situation. Men are granted more freedom in society's mind when it comes to how we respond to others. As a man, most people are probably going to allow me a certain amount of incivility and briskness. A woman in this situation, on the other hand, is more likely to be told that she should have been more polite, gentle, and even "lady-like" in turning the guy down. Personally, I disagree vehemently, but there is a lot of pressure on women to be "nice."
One thing my friends -- not to mention former friends -- know about me is that I don't like threats. I don't like being manipulated. At this point, I decided that politely declining and abruptly ending the conversation were no longer sufficient responses. So I let him know exactly what I thought of his threats:
Sure thing. And when confronted, I'll gladly whip out my phone and share this conversation with whoever confronts me. They'll see that you approached me and potentially propositioned me for oral sex behind your wife's back. I'll then show them your profile where you falsely claim to be single. Tell me, how does the group feel about liars?
Note that I didn't respond to accusations of rudeness or racism. I simply let him know that if he showed up and tried to ruin my name and if anyone took his accusations seriously and decided to confront or even ask me about it
, I figured I'd simply let the exchange speak for itself. If they thought me rude, I would accept that. But I was pretty sure that they'd take more issue with the level of dishonesty and the threat to make trouble on his part.
I guess dude agreed with me, since he immediately changed tactics:
then U can also show them later after my friends wait for you and beat the shit out you and I don't give a fuck that you show them that, u still have your ass kick, I only ask you a question, you got rude so I DON'T GIVE A FUCK I'LL STILL KICK YOUR ASS ME AND MY BUDS , now shot that
Since I made it clear that threats to ruin my reputation weren't going to work, dude decides to go with threats of violence. This isn't surprising. There seems to be a strong undercurrent in our society that encourages and permits men to resort to threats of violence and even actual violence when things don't go there way. This guy is simply following through with that.
Again, I will note that this is where I think I have an advantage over women. Even as a gay man -- because gay men do face threatened and actual violence -- the idea of someone committing violence against me is not as big and real an issue for me as it is for a lot of women. This is actually only the second such threat I've ever personally received, whereas I know women who receive such threats on a regular basis.
At this point, I decided to quit responding to dude. My personal take is that when it comes to getting threatened, it's time to walk away. I shared the conversation with a few people, who encouraged me to contact the group holding the social I plan to attend, as the group may have had other problems with the same guy. So I sent off a message to one of the board members that had responded to my public posting.
In the meantime, Dude decided he couldn't let things go at threatening to form a mob and beat me. His next message was pretty unremarkable:
I'm not sure what exactly he's laughing at me for. Is he laughing at the thought of me lying beaten and bloody someplace? Or does he think I'm actually scared at this point? Apparently, after a few more moments, he realized that he might have crossed a line (without "meaning to," I'm sure) and could have gotten himself in trouble. I get the following:
hey they can close this page I don't give a fuck because I always can open another, and bam there u go I see you again bitch!
Apparently, he realized that he could conceivably get banned by the site for threatening another user. But he wanted to make sure that this wouldn't stop him from harassing me. He'll stalk me as long as he wants to.
Fortunately for me, I haven't heard from him in over 24 hours. Apparently, he got tired of stalking me already? Again, I suspect I'm very lucky in this respect.
To quote Jayne Cobb, "I smell a lot of 'if' coming off this plan."