Whoo boy, and the ride never ends. A few days ago, I received a letter from a guy who wanted to respond to my street harassment piece with his own explanation of this pattern of male behavior. I find the letter to be quite disturbing and a little scary, but mostly it makes me sad.
I believe the writer is sincerely trying to participate in the conversation about street harassment, and for that I am truly appreciative. I’ve received enough junky hate mail on this subject to know what straight-up misplaced aggression looks like, and this isn’t it. He has granted me permission to republish in full and I have not edited his letter at all.
Here’s his caveat that he included: “I do not think that the letter offers a good or healthy perspective, however, I suspect that a portion of guys can relate to it, because at some point in their lives they have felt some of the nasty things that the letter describes. Also, such nastiness needs to be expressed, even if its not PC, because how else can we talk about what’s going on?”
* * * * *
To the Girl Whom I Harassed At the Bar
It’s a drizzly Friday in Chicago and I’m loitering outside a bar after midnight. My friends and I would like a hookup, but we don’t have enough guts to talk to any girls. Sure, we can joke and snicker at them. Being assholes is kind of our strategy, because it gives us the upper hand.
We’re chilling on the sidewalk when two young women walk out of a bar. They’re not dressed up, but they’re still pretty. I notice they’re having a good time. My friends are I are bored. So I go up to the ladies and say something about their “tacos.” My friends all laugh. I laugh too. I feel pretty good, except that part of me doesn’t feel good. It’s an odd feeling. I don’t understand. It’s just another mixed up moment in my life.
Here is something you should know about me. I intentionally hurt people sometimes to make myself feel better.
Being in the presence of a woman can be anguish. It’s loneliness (and sometimes horniness), and all that other Freudian bullshit rolled up into mundane moments. Just walking down the street can make me feel helpless when I pass a woman sometimes. I can’t shake it. If I could shake it, I would. Trust me. It’s no fun. But this is the hand I’m dealt, so I roll with it.
It’s no one’s fault that I want to connect to someone sometimes and can’t.
You ask when will someone make a gender-swapping plug-in for real life? Well if you want to gender swap, then here’s my world. I live in a zero-sum culture. There is no harmony of the sexes; it’s a battle of the sexes. Who will be overcome by desire first? Who will have their daily routine interrupted by unwanted sexual tension first? If I were a saint, I would rise above the bullshit and say no one has to suffer. But I’m no saint.
You might say I that have a problem, that I’m wounded. Maybe you pity me. Pity doesn’t help me though.
Do I want to be this guy. Hell no! But who knows another way to become a man? Who can show me how to connect with a woman and respect myself? Not the women, since half of them are ignoring me, and the other half don’t respect themselves when I diss them. The men, at least the men I know, don’t know nothing. They just watch pornos and get pussy-whipped.
Love is a zero sum game.
Sometime, when you’re ready for a change, consider this question. If you find yourself in a vicious game, would you rather be the predator or the prey?
* * * * *
Yikes. Wow. Oof. Kapow. I don’t really know what to do with this, exactly. A big part of me is afraid that this writer’s perspective is all too common. I’ve heard this kind of language, “zero sum game,” “predator or prey,” etc from other young men before and it’s usually in the service of justifying unquestionably mean-spirited, manipulative, Douche-with-a-capital-D behavior. Some of this is straight out of the pick-up artist handbook, especially the idea that if a tactic works (on the women who “don’t respect themselves”) it’s acceptable to use.
The most consistent feedback I’ve received for the original street harassment piece is the overwhelming need for empathy, literally the capacity to recognize emotions that other people are feeling and try to vicariously experience them as well. When I reread the letter with that in mind, I lose a lot of the gut reaction rage that this letter inspired in me.
Without minimizing the overwhelming perfect storm of body hating, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, mixed messaging media bullshittery that women face on a daily basis, I do think there’s a void for young men about what modern masculinity really means. This is a conversation we’ve sorta kinda maybe a little bit started in this country, but for guys like this writer, already in their twenties, there are few role models of “manliness” that don’t involve killing the bad guy and getting the girl.
Is that an excuse? No. Treat women like humans and not opponents to be triumphed over and you might have more success with them. Don’t make taco jokes; say hello and smile. Approach with no expectation of anything more than a pleasant exchange with a fellow person just doing their best.
And this is not unidirectional. Ladies (in this imaginary all-hetero world I’m writing in at the moment), don’t be jerks to guys that try to talk to you (assuming they are civil), whether you’re interested or not. You can politely move on without rolling your eyes, turning away, sighing in disgust, or being a generally uninterested pretentious douchface.
People, be nice to each other. Niceness is a awesome. Niceness doesn’t mean I want to bone you, and it doesn’t mean you deserve a date or a drink or anything of the sort. It means that shit is hard out there, son, and a little kindness goes a long way.
Related Post: You don’t have to be a jerk to get laid.
Related Post: Two letters.