It gets worse.
The same day all that other stuff happened, another guy messaged me. We’ll call him Chuck II, because, again, I don’t know anyone named Chuck. Unfortunately for Chuck II, I was on an honesty kick, because of a lack of sleep and what had just transpired with Chuck I.
So when Chuck the Second sidled up to me via facebook messenger and said he was also interested in the project I was working on (translation, “Heyyyyyyyy there”), I told him the truth:
That I felt like he was physically pushy when we dated (we went on two dates total) and that it made me feel disrespected.
His response wasn’t great. In fact, it may have filled me with inchoate rage.
Let’s go back in time again to a few years ago.
On our first date, we went to coffee. So far, so normal.
At the end of our second date, Chuck II tried to shove his tongue into my mouth after we hugged goodbye. I was taken aback. Again, it felt like it had very little to do with me or with us having a “moment” (I’ve had moments before. This was not a moment). There were no signals coming from any direction that said, “Now is sexy, sexy make-out time.” Was it the bright sunlight of a Hollywood afternoon? The ambiance of the brick walkway in front of my rent-controlled apartment? Who knows.
I pulled away in surprise and soon texted him that I “just wanted to be friends,” because apparently things were escalating quickly. He apologized and said he wanted to take things at my pace. I think we settled on something like friends with the potential for more.
The next time we hung out, he was all over me. And when I went to hug him goodbye, he didn’t let go of me at first, but instead held me tightly and said, “What if I ask this time?”
And then he pressed me about why I just wanted to be friends as I was about to get into my car to leave.
THIS. This is why.
So when I told Chuck II that I felt like he was physically pushy and he didn’t respond well, I got angry.
His response? He wasn’t physically pushy—not from his perspective. In fact, he is “hyper-aware of [implied: all] the choices and moves” he makes. Respecting me had been really important to him because he liked me. And I had judged him too quickly.
Not only that—he was hurt that I felt disrespected
Come again? He had violated my personal boundaries—violated my body—but it was his feelings that truly mattered. I had misjudged him. I was wrong, and it was all my fault.
When I said that the conversation was upsetting me and I was ending it, he blithely suggested we meet up for coffee so we could “make amends.” And that’s when I really lost it.
Again, I felt like a face and a body that a man had projected his wishes and desires onto, not a real person. Hyperaware though he may have been, Chuck II made no mention of being aware of what I was thinking or feeling. I guess he meant, “I was hyperaware that I wanted to kiss you. And so I did.”
I felt like a non-entity—Chuck II didn’t think he was disrespectful, Chuck II thought he was very respectful. In fact, Chuck II was extraordinarily confident and wildly intentional about all the choices he made during the brief time we dated.
To put it graphically:
Chuck II was more confident about sticking his tongue in my mouth and pressing his boner up against me on a second date than I have ever been about anything in my entire life, ever.
It feels like I’m mocking him (which isn’t nice, I know), but I’m actually dead serious: I wish that I had that much confidence about anything—ANYTHING at all—choosing which mismatched socks to wear in the morning, my career, my decision to live in Los Angeles, anything.
|With credit to Sarah Hagi for the original version of this
Lack of dating experience or something else?
It’s not like I met these guys on the internet—we met through mutual friends and still have many, many mutual friends. We met in “Safe,” “Christian” contexts. They are “nice guys.”
It’s easy to look at these incidents and think, “Well, maybe he just doesn’t have a lot of experience.”
I’ve dated Christian guys like this. They’re not always good at dating. They make mistakes. Obviously, not all of them are this bad.
But there’s something deeper going on when a guy corners me in his car and almost demands that I give him a chance and go on a date with him (Chuck III?) or when a guy takes my picture after a couple of dates so that he can show his friends a picture of his “girlfriend.” Or when a male friend tells me I’m too closed off and judgmental because I don’t automatically assume that a stranger who approaches me in parking lot, at night, is safe (because what if he’s just a nice guy, standing in front of a girl in the parking lot of Sprouts, asking her for her number, even though all she wanted was to buy some Brown Cow maple yogurt because that sh** is delicious?).
I feel like something is deeply wrong when I’m expected to educate men in their 20s, 30s or even 40s about the fact that women are people too, or when I’m expected to “give a chance” to someone who doesn’t even respect me as a real person entitled to make her own decisions.
What doesn’t seem to factor into any of these situations is me—my thoughts, my desires, my body, my decisions, my judgment, my intuition.
And I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling like I have to scream “NO” at the top of lungs to get someone to leave me alone. I’m tired of feeling like my pain doesn’t have any meaning or significance unless I’m literally bleeding to death or dying of cancer.
I’m tired of being so disconnected from my own body that I only feel the rage of physical violation weeks, months, or years after the fact.
Consent isn’t just about sex
Consent is about treating the other person like a person—not a body, not a good-looking accessory, not a blank canvas on which to project fantasies of marriage and children, not a character from a movie—but an actual person.
And these two stories in particular (though kind of funny) have been painful to write about—I’ve had to sit in it and think about why I felt so violated in the first place.
I’ve thought about how scary it is for a man to physically grab me out-of-nowhere, against my will, and start tipping me backwards. I’ve thought about how f***ing scary it is to have someone you don’t know very well not let go of you (restrain you) and pressure you for something sexual that you don’t want to give. How out-of-control and terrifying it is to feel like in that moment your body is not your own, is out of your control, is in the hands of someone who doesn’t even see you.
I don’t know how to describe it except to say that it cuts you off from your own physical being. That when you do start to tune back in from the numbness, all you can feel is pain.
It feels like sh**. That’s what.