Tag Archives: men and women

For “Me Too” Women and “Not Me” Men

The “Me Too” campaign, in response to all the accusations, admissions, apologies, non-apologies, and political maneuvering, has had enormous effects. Women everywhere are opening up and sharing their stories of microagressions, unwanted attentions, assaults, and rape that many of them have never spoken of before. Most of the attention has gone to politicians and media figures, but the problem goes right down to every level of society.

I’m one of the women who has “Me Too” stories.

  • When I was delivering a job to a client at his home, he tried to kiss me on the lips. And my boss made light of it, wheedling me into saying I wasn’t afraid (I wasn’t) and that I wasn’t offended (I was), and telling the client that I wasn’t bothered by it. I suppose it came in the category of unwanted attentions, though technically it may have been at least battery.
  • Then there was the time that a different boss sat on my lap, just to make me uncomfortable. (He did.)
  • Another boss went around the business comparing the size of female employees’ breasts, including who should be in the “Itty Bitty Titty Club.”
  • And there was the guy who expected sex even though I was newly engaged at the time (one for the road, as it were), then stormed off in a huff after the “No.” (I’m glad that’s all he did.)

But I also have plenty of other stories – of men who were decent, gentlemanly, and reasonable, men who had my back when I needed it, men who respected my autonomy.

I don’t want to get into the “Not All Men” debate, or the “Now I can’t even make a pass” furor. I was challenged by my friend Diana to think about the good men in my life and celebrate them. And that’s what I’m doing here.

Let’s start with my father. One clear memory I have is of when I went to buy my first new car and he came with me. He looked at the cars with me, gave me advice on their mechanical soundness, and shared his experience of various models. I picked out my car (a blue Chevette) and he went with me to the sales office. The salesman asked my dad if he would co-sign the loan with me. And my dad said, “No.” Firmly but politely.

This was back in the day when young single women found it hard to get credit for a major purchase, especially if there was a man around who might take up the slack. But my father said, “No.” He believed that, since I had a job and was living on my own, it was my responsibility to make my own financial decision – and take responsibility for fulfilling it myself. Was I upset that he left the transaction up to me and the car dealer? I was proud.

Then there were the friends, male and female, in line with me at a restaurant. I objected to the racist and sexist decorations. The host replied, “If they really bother you that much, you could leave.” Did I just imagine the sneer in his voice?

“You’re right,” I said, turning on my heel and marching off down the street. When I finally looked back, every one of those in my party were following me, including the men. They literally had my back.

Or the work friend, whom I joined in after-hours putt-putt golf matches and card games at his house. He was a notorious horndog, but he never made a move on me – until the day that we were driving around and he confessed that he was interested. “But you haven’t even kissed me yet,” I replied. Then he did, once I had given him the go-ahead.

There have been men who accepted a “No,” without getting mad, or whining about the “friend zone,” or making me feel like dirt. There was even one, a big, tough guy who accepted a “No” when the interaction had reached the point of “heavy petting,” and held no grudge.

There have been men who accepted a “Yes,” without gloating or bragging or taking it for granted.

And then there’s my husband. We met under peculiar circumstances, in which I was stranded in a town miles from home (by a man who ran off with another woman, never giving a thought as to how I’d get home). Dan lent me money, drove me to the bus station, and gave me a bag of dried apples for snacking during the trip.

Since that time he has had my back every minute, under every circumstance, supporting me when I needed it, backing off when I needed to handle something myself. He has loved me when I was unlovable, cooperated when I was uncooperative. He’s literally supported me when I couldn’t work, and not resented when I could work and made more than he did. We’ve had our disagreements, but he always listened to my side – and sometimes changed his mind because of it. All in all, he’s an unusual man.

So either I’ve met a lot of unusual men and only a few jerks, or there are decent, reasonable, polite, and understanding men out there who get no publicity. Because where’s the newsworthiness (or entertainment value) in saying, “When I knew so-and-so, he treated me like a person. And I appreciated it”?

Is the “Friend Zone” Hell?

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Men fear and hate it. They see it as a torture device invented by women.

If someone harbors any hostility toward you for “only” wanting to be his friend, he’s probably not the best friend or boyfriend. Your friendship is not a consolation prize – and the idea of being relegated to friend status hinges on the notion that he was expecting more in the first place.

Sadly, there is an even worse response than “sex or nothing.” This is what’s known as the “beta male” movement. According to the Urban Dictionary, a beta male is “an unremarkable, careful man who avoids risk and confrontation. Beta males lack the physical presence, charisma and confidence of the Alpha male.” Beta males see themselves as the “nice guys” that women are never attracted to sexually because they are all pursuing “bad boys” who are obviously wrong for them, if only they could see it.
This reaction turns toxic when it leads to anger at the women doing the overlooking of the betas. The “beta uprising” is a (we hope) theoretical rebellion of the supposedly second-class males in order to – I’m not sure what. Eliminate the alpha males so there’ll be less competition? Punish the women who’ve not had sex with the betas?
Some people claim that the threats of violence that can ensue are fantasies, pranks, or posturing. But Reddit, 4chan, and other anonymous groups and sites perpetuate the concept and provide places for the betas to egg each other on. The Colorado theater shooting and the Umpqua College incident have been claimed as part of the uprising. Even if these claims are untrue, I’ve read the threads on 4chan. They’re truly terrifying and appalling.
 So what’s the solution? Remove the term “Friend Zone” from our collective vocabulary? Socialize women so that they become the willing sex partner of anyone who asks? Or how about socializing men so that they understand that sex is a mutual choice, not a male entitlement? Socializing everyone to realize that friendship – between partners of any gender or gender identity – is a good thing?
I’m dubious, but it’s worth a try.

A Field Guide to Jerk Boys

A gentleman is a man who, when he pees in the sink, takes the dishes out first.

A Jerk Boy, on the other hand, not only pees in the sink whether there are dishes there or not, but is proud of it, especially if the kitchen is nearer to the bed than the bathroom is.

A Jerk Boy will cheerfully fix your dishwasher or even offer to buy you a new one. Don’t let him do it. A lady accepts only countertop appliances. Then he leaves for two weeks in Chicago without telling you and expect you to welcome him back with hot-n-juicy sex.

If you do have a wonderful romp in bed, he made turn to you afterwards and say tenderly, “How did your butt get so big?” Or he will fart in bed and 30 seconds later ask you to marry him. (Don’t. Just don’t.)

Many JBs are unreconstructed sexists. Personally, I don’t mind that, despite my rabid commitment to feminism. At least with a Jerk Boy, you know where you stand. He won’t open doors, of course, but he also won’t tell you he supports your every ambition and then undercut you with a smile. If he does sandbag you, it will come with a pat on the ass. Also, he will not allow you to pay for the meal or the motel room. If he can’t afford a motel room, he will offer sex in the front seat of his truck. Go for it if you want to – and if you don’t mind getting Doritos crumbs in your underwear.

How can you spot a Jerk Boy? There are definite signs. One JB I know was dating two different women and, to be fair, invited one of them to a wedding and the other one to the reception. Only a Jerk Boy would think this is a good solution, one that won’t cause problems or be appreciated. He will look wide-eyed and innocent and say, “What? Why are you mad at me? At least I’m not playing favorites.” That perplexed look and the phrases “What did I do?” and “What did I say?” are dead giveaways of a Jerk Boy. So is “Sor-REE!” in the tone that says, “No, I’m not.” Also if you ask a question and they repeat it back to you.

Every man is a Jerk Boy at times. Even the most sensitive have their JB moments. One day I heard my husband say, out of the blue, “No, Mom, of course Janet doesn’t mind if you come to stay for two weeks at Christmas. Here, Janet, tell her you don’t mind” [hands me the phone].

By now you may have some questions.

Is Jerk-Boydom composed entirely of rednecks? The simple answer is no. My husband, for example, is from the Philly area. JB-hood is an equal opportunity state of mind, not a state of state. Some notably famous Jerk Boys include Bill Clinton, Hugh Grant, and, most likely, Henry VIII.

Are there equivalent Jerk-Girls? Probably. In fact, writing this may prove that I myself am one. But I leave that question for future sociologists to explore, after they’ve figured out the effects of poverty and violence, and the behavior of Furries.

Most women have, or have had, a Jerk Boy in their lives. Why do we keep them around? That’s a good question.

Jerk boys can be fun and sexy, when they’re not peeing in the sink, that is. They are decidedly uninhibited, positively boisterous, and maddeningly self-agenda-ed. You can enjoy them or ignore them. But whatever you do, don’t try to change them. That only increases the Jerkitude.

Proceed at your own risk.