I have a confession, everyone! I’ve joined the online dating community and so far, it’s been a mothereffing rollercoaster. Before I begin, if any of the guys have Googled me and found this, for the sake of our potential future: stop reading now. Kidding (not really, though). So, I joined a popular, free website a couple months ago because I was sick of meeting no one interesting and liked the idea of window shopping for men in the comfort of my home. It’s like a portable buffet that’s only as far as my phone…albeit, a sometimes (read: mostly) kinda rotten buffet.
As nice as being told you are stunning from a stranger is, most of the messages have been invasive...but also hilariously creative. From opening lines like “I wanna do a line of coke off your clit” to “Just wanted to tell you that you have a beautiful smile and I think it’s within your best interest to message me back” to “I wish to kidnap you miss Ana”, not many guys have seemed safe for me to meet in person. After realizing that a great deal of the male population on dating sites makes no effort to appear normal or respectful of boundaries, I started saving screenshots of conversations. Aside from everyday life, online dating has been a constant reminder of how suffocatingly confining gender roles are and how immobilizing male entitlement renders me in the dating game.
Did you think I was kidding?!?
Being a young feminist who’s still new to dating, I find myself at a crossroads. I’ll admit that time and time again, I’ve fallen to playing the blushing, sexually shy feminine doll. I was a feminist a long time before I decided to jump into the man-infested waters of love and sex, but feel myself shying away from confronting the roles my date and I perform. Don’t get me wrong; when push comes to shove I won’t stay quiet when something sexist is said. A guy once asserted, “all women should watch sports” which I heatedly challenged while I migrated to the further side of the couch. However, when it comes to conversation and behavior, the fiery feminist takes a backseat to the alluring, docile woman most men expect me to be. Sure, I let feminism inform relations with men and I’m never, ever hesitant to whip out the “NO” card, but I watch myself play gender roles and feel out of control.
Before I get into all of the stupid shit I conform to, I’ll put a disclaimer that you might vomit while reading this list of complacency. I’ll even welcome a few hits about how I’m a fake feminist afterwards, so feel free.
- I never message a guy first.
- I rarely initiate sex and when I do, I feel confused about how it was perceived afterwards.
- I let the male gaze influence my date outfits.
- I struggle with communicating my needs for fear of coming off needy/desperate/crazy girlfriend material.
- I hide my perverted humor, my rambunctious laugh, and my strong opinions until around the third date mark. Instead, I giggle and blush wildly for days straight.
- I obsessively look at flowcharts like this one:
- I act submissive and shy away from taking charge, inside and outside the bedroom.
- I have not, to ANY of my dates, dropped the “I’m a feminist” bomb yet.
What bugs me the most is that although I’m consciously playing gender roles, I feel full-throttle how immobilizing it is and how disempowering it makes me feel. And yet, I can’t bring myself to stop. I’m constantly in a state of waiting: waiting to be called, waiting to be asked out on a date, waiting to be kissed, waiting for a guy to make a decision for me and hope that he can read my mind and choose the thing I want. It’s bullshit and frustrating as hell. I think that it’s pretty stupid that in every aspect of my life I can be a feminist through and through except for where it matters most: in romantic relations with men.
I’m speaking for myself, but I know that there are other feminists that make exceptions in their love lives as well. We’ve been fooled into thinking that true love demands exceptions, that our lives are finally complete when a man loves us, and that acquiring a boyfriend is the ultimate sign of worth. The status quo dictates the following line of logic: what’s a well-rounded woman who can’t lock down a man? What’s secretly wrong with her? We’ve been quelled by the fear of being alone and unworthy of love. The entire issue is framed insidiously that all issues in love are the woman’s fault and reflect our shortcomings exclusively.
So, after a few months of dating and neurotically playing “the game” and admittedly losing, I want to put an end to it. I want to get a feminist fist tattoo on my bicep and show it off in sleeveless dresses on first dates. I want to stop hiding a huge part of who I am in hopes of revealing it only after I’ve convinced a guy I’m cool enough despite being a feminist (as if it’s even a bad character trait) and believe that I should only invest time in the pathetically small pool of men who are down with feminism and move on from there. I want to own the fact that I’m a badass and throw away my damsel in distress costume. I want to stop caring about balancing myself between Madonna and whore and just be my fab self. I don’t want to let the rationalization that “if he wants me, he’ll do something about it” disable my decision-making.
However, even after all of this boiling in me for months, it's still a process. I might text him tonight…but, maybe I should wait. Well, now, I won’t wait as long. I realize that it’s going to take me more than a night to unlearn all of the gender roles I’ve been socialized into, but this is a start. What do you think?
Photos courtesy of my online dating account, Visual.ly, Seriously-maybe.com, 101datingmistakes.com, and howtogetaguytowantyou.com.