Opting out

Not all men and the power of no.

Long ago, I briefly dated someone who refused to go to gay bars. I promise you this person was not a bigot. He was a person who, during his last visit to a gay bar, had been grabbed by the penis.

As much as I hate the hashtag, because #notthepoint, let’s just say for the record that #notallmen grab anyone, by anything, anywhere.

At the time, his refusal sent me into next-level irritation. How dare he use one bad experience to opt out of an entire category of nightlife? I was really, really looking forward to that Little Mermaid singalong and I didn’t need that bad energy messing up my full-throated alcohol-enabled version of Kiss the Girl. Also, I was maybe counting on him for safe passage home.

Of course, my resentment was less about missing an interactive version of my favorite (sexist AF) childhood movie, and more about the power inherent in that opt-out.

I thought about all the things I’d have to categorically opt out of in order to avoid getting groped.

Full disclosure: happily, I seem to be aging out of the harassment circuit, but based on history, I’d have to avoid:*

  • Walking in public

  • Running in public

  • Biking in public**

  • Being in public at night

  • Being near construction sites

  • Going to concerts

  • Going to festivals

  • Hanging out with roommates in my own house

  • Going to networking events

  • Getting a massage

  • Going to the bathroom

  • Going to the beach

  • Hiring movers

  • Going to bars

  • Going to parties

  • Going dancing

*A few months ago living a life that avoided all those activities sounded completely absurd. Right now, well, not so far left of normal.

**I have never been groped on a bike. That bullet point just reflects verbal harassment.

That’s just what I came up with in 60 seconds of brainstorming. It’s not exhaustive but it sure is exhausting.

I confess I still harbor some ugly resentment that my date felt entitled to so much control over his own body. What hubris to demand that level of autonomy. What privilege to engage so selectively.

Mostly, though, it was pure flaming jealousy: how could I get in on that? How could I so confidently excise groping from my existence?

Of course, lest we lose sight of my extraordinary privilege: I am quite fortunate that I could always do most of the things on my list above, AND get traffic tickets, AND eat Skittles, AND sleep in my own bed, without fearing for my life.

Part of the appeal of the Little Mermaid singalong was that it was happening in a space that was likely, for me, a reprieve from the inconveniences of literally everywhere else. Even within my hyper-safe, hyper-privileged bubble, I regularly went places where the chances of getting groped or harassed or worse were quite high. I kept showing up, anyway.

How dare he think he deserved better?

And now, a special edition of media I’m glad I consumed this week, inspired by the elusive power of refusal:

Media I am not exactly glad I consumed because it made me mad

As it turns out, I should have appreciated the mildness of my date’s response, because other men have successfully used fear over possible advances by gay men as a defense for murder.

Should a man panic about some other man coming on to him, he’s fully within his rights to murder. Meanwhile, should a man rape and abuse and threaten to kill a woman, it’s not within her freedom to stand her ground.

And if a man decides to shoot his wife twice in the head and stage it as a suicide, and she miraculously survives, this is still all her fault.

Media I am actually glad I consumed this week

  • This podcast about roommates during quarantine left me feeling #blessed for my own situation.

  • This Instagram account is SO validating for these times. (h/t Nic).

  • Just finished: Normal People by Sally Rooney, and started watching the series. (h/t Jamie) It’s exactly the kind of book I want to read during quarantine. It’s beautifully written and substantive yet somehow effortless.

  • Get the memo, parents. (h/t Mom).

  • This is how I feel about the false comparisons between Christine Blasey Ford and Tara Reade. Also, here’s a journalist explaining why she didn’t cover Reade’s allegations.

  • Just started: The Morning Show, and it’s both deliciously validating but also overwritten and pedantic (at least, the first two episodes). Jury’s still out.

  • I’m not a constituent or a party member, but I’m taking notes on leadership from Governor Mike DeWine.

  • Listening to: I Like To Watch by Emily Nussbaum. The essay “Confessions of a Human Shield was the most satisfactory guide I’ve encountered for how we talk about, consume, and appreciate (or not) art created by predatory men.

  • Leaning in and just being excellent will not solve our problems.

  • Who was Norma McCorvey, AKA Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade?

Listen to me!

Speaking of power dynamics … my latest podcast episode is out and it’s all about settling for less and not speaking up for my own worth. If you haven’t listened yet, this episode about fundraising is still my fave.

A+ on the vocab quiz

descant (v): talk tediously or at length