After a particularly long period of sexual inactivity with an ex, I finally decided to give him some action. It was terrible. TERRIBLE. I started crying in the middle and although I know he noticed, he did not stop right away. He annoyedly asked what was wrong. I hadn't yet mustered up the courage to say, "I hate you and this has been over for months," so I settled for an "I don't know." He was grateful I let him touch me at all. He even giggled a bit about the cryin,g he was so pleased. To make matters worse, when we began to discuss how long it had been since we'd been intimate, he exclaimed, "Man! It's been so long. I thought I was going to have to rape my girl!" Although I was not a self-proclaimed feminist at this point, I didn't need the title to know things with Jackass McGee would not last.
I'm constantly reminded how disturbed we are as a society when I share these kinds of stories on social media and am met with a resounding "me too" from the women in my life. Surely we can do better. And the onus of responsibility to do better is on the men of this world to conscientiously and wholeheartedly disrupt patriarchy wherever and however it manifests.
There are a multitude of ways to play an active role in dismantling the structures that relegate women to second class citizenship, even in their own homes —but the first step to any revolution is knowing there is a problem. A lot of men and even women have allowed the mainstream media's harmful and chaotic rhetoric surrounding issues like rape prevention (just don't drink or go out late and watch what you wear!) and domestic abuse (well, if she stayed after the first time, she deserves it!) to skew their perception of the issues at large in lieu of a case-by-case basis which absolves men as a whole from being accountable.
I hope the following list will help the men in your lives or those who would like to be in them understand how not to be, for lack of a better phrase, pieces of shit.
This is the part where you pass your screen to your future boyfriend — pending his reaction to this list of course. Feel free to let dad, your favorite cousin, brother and uncle check it out as well:
Whether the novelty of a new relationship with your equality-seeking bae has worn off, you've recently referred to a woman you don't know as a bitch because "that's just how you talk" in the presence of your latest crush, or you've sealed the deal only to land in the doghouse because she doesn't like the fact you try to tell her what she likes during sex as if you know her body better than she does, having a healthy, functional sexual relationship with a feminist can be a task for the male ego.
Notice. I said for the male EGO. Specifically. A man who understands that women are living, breathing humans and not a monolith to be grouped together based upon the most outdated categorizations of respectability is one who probably gets ass on the regular. This man knows the women who came before you have no bearing on what your sexual preferences will be. This man knows it's not a good idea to bring up the men who came before him and what you did with them since it is irrelevant in the context of your new relationship. But not every man is this man.
The average guy doesn't realize how often he's acting as an agent on behalf of the violent heteropatriachy, crushing women's rights across the globe because he's so riddled with hypermasculinity. Small things like sexist assumptions based on a woman's clothing, as well as larger things like the aversion to reproductive rights you conveniently failed to mention until three months in, KNOWING she was all for unconditional female empowerment, can be deal breakers — especially in the sex department. While some may be short lived issues that can be cleared up with an honest conversation, others can fester and become huge issues in a long term relationship.
Here's what you need to know so that you can be worthy of not only feminists and womanists, but women and femmes everywhere.
Cause some girls may want the dick, but NO girl wants to date A dick.
1. The term "good guy" is relative
A lot of men get wind of a woman's feminist politics and decide they'll woo her by being a feminist too. "I've never street harassed anyone ever and I think it's gross!" "My mother is the most important woman in my world. She is my Queen!" And that's cute. It is. But have you ever seen a woman being street harassed? Have you ever been walking with friends who became the street harassers when a beautiful girl walked by in a summer dress? Did the mother-loving "good guy" in you feel it necessary to intervene on her behalf because it was the right thing to do, or were you more concerned with keeping up appearances? These are the questions you have to constantly ask yourself if you truly want to be with a feminist. She's not looking for a guy who's only "good" when it's convenient.
2. Silence is compliance.
Piggybacking off of #1, when you don't take the time as a man to address the problematic language and behavior of other men, you are participating in their violence by allowing it. If you know better, do better, and spread the knowledge. What might sound "bitter" or like "femi-nazi" rhetoric coming from a woman may resonate when coming from one guy to another. Sad as that may be, it matters, and the women of the world need all the help they can get to fight patriarchy.
3. Your respect for women cannot not be conditional
Listen. We all have preferences and we're entitled to them. If you like "church girls," that's your business. If you like a woman who enjoys showing off her God-given assets, that's fine too. Hell, even if God didn't give them to her, I say ROCK ON. But what you should NEVER do is compare one to the other in an attempt to delegitimize the station of any woman as worthy of safety and respect. This is a common occurrence that many men don't see as disrespectful because women ought to "dress how they want to be addressed." The reality is that when we base the value of any human being on how we perceive their personal choices, we are engaging in discrimination, which is inherently violent.
4. You cannot listen if you're talking
Have you ever stopped a woman halfway into her statement because "you know what she's going to say"? News flash. You don't. Whether you've had the conversation once or a million times with that woman or others, the simple task of listening to understand, and not just to respond, is crucial to maintaining balance and respect in any relationship. Interrupting and ignoring the woman attempting to engage you in dialogue or mansplaining your way around the points she makes will immediately land you in a sexual void I like to call "dude bro purgatory." Extra squinty side eye to the assholes who try to compliment you out of a strong opinion. "You're so hot! Why do you have to talk like that? It's not that serious baby!"
A feminist gal doesn't have time for the low grade misogyny most guys carry with them but it's not impossible to shake. It's simple really. Be a good guy when no one is watching. Be a good guy when other guys are watching by calling them out when they exhibit misogynistic behavior. Respect ALL women and encourage others to do the same. Engage in active listening when women are speaking. As daunting a task as romancing a feminist may seem it's really quite simple if your manhood is not rooted in the oppression of women. She still may not want your ass but if you follow these rules, you'll be much less of a dick, and the women of the world, feminist or not, will be safer for it.
Top photo via soirart.tumblr.com
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Tajh Sutton is a proud mother, writer, educator, activist, entrepreneur and performance artist. Follow her on everything at @Afrocenchick and her community endeavors at @LocLoveLivesHere and @YoungPeopleOfColorInc. Check out her blog at afrocenchick.wordpress.com.