A very good friend of my mine recently told me “Grace, don’t be a victim”. He was right.
It is so easy to become the victim. “Someone made out with me”, “he wouldn’t stop texting me”, “I didn’t know how to say no so we just kept going”. In each scenario, the dude completes the action and the woman (me) receives it.
(And has anyone been following the campus rape issues around the country? I haven’t been too closely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the assumed passivity taught to many females in our culture perhaps “confuses” men into believing that the girl actually is consenting. But by all means, know I am NOT trying to say women victimize themselves in these situations… rather that there is a larger culture around male initation that needs to be addressed)
I for one victimize myself all the time in my interactions with men. Most recently I’ve been framing unwanted advances by Colombian men as “sneak attacks”. “He sneak attack kissed me!” “I ended up on a sneak attack date and I was so annoyed”.
What exactly is a sneak attack? A sneak attack is what I have deemed to be some sort of sexual or romantic advance in which I play a passive aggressive role. Then I complain about it afterwards. Sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it?
Yeah, it’s lame and decidedly unacceptable (see ending of this post). To explain my unacceptable passivity, I admit to being absolutely horrible at communicating with men, whether it be a “no thanks” or a “yes, I’ve developed feelings for you”.
In a recent example, rather than saying something simple and clear like “please take me home, I’m not interested in dating you”, I pretend to be sweet and nice until I can escape and then deflect text messages until the guy gives up. And well, that’s me in a post-college world where I live outside the realm of late night text messages.
In fact, my self-victimization gets much more pathetic. In college I would torture myself waiting for my phone to vibrate, fully convinced I was nothing but a mere pawn of some inescapable world of male initiated texts. A message before 12pm signified “he’s not even too drunk yet, this is good”. A 9 or 10pm message would literally knock my socks off: “what he soberly thought to text me!?” And well, to wake in the morning to a missed text, well… that just meant I had played hard to get and could celebrate a sign of strength I had clearly not at all earned.
In this world, texting a guy first was a cardinal sin, a sign that I had given in to “the game”. When I would finally summon the courage to send an initiating text message because oh btw, I have feelings that I want to express (what??), it would only be after encouragement from at least one BFF who assured me that it was “my turn” or that “he’s definitely going to text back”. Indeed, in retrospect nearly my entire college “dating” (hah) experience was all not much more than a power struggle between girls and boys playing a hook up game. It was a miserable experience in which I actively participated (though as an often passive participant).
The saddest part of all is that this victim role I play dates all the way back to middle school. Any one remember the days of AIM? That’s where I first learned the tremendous value of “he messaged me first”. As though it were my greatest accomplishment to have succeeded at sitting at my computer… waiting, begging, praying for a box to pop up with the infamous “hey”, which maybe, if I were really lucky, would be followed with a “what’s up?”
Dear lord, who am I? I’d say I’m a product of a world contrived to make women believe that their best option in the world is to express “power” through waiting for someone else to dictate the relationship.
Literally, there was one boy, a boy I would wait hours, days to hear from. When we were together, I always alarmed him when I would deny his oh so kind gestures to open doors or pull out chairs for me. He’d ask, “Geez, are you a feminist?” Considering he was the first to ask, maybe he was on to something. But really… does it take a mere “I can open the door myself” to call someone a feminist? Did he really expect me to wait not just for his text messages, but also for his obviously more powerful arms to pull out that bar stool for me? Was I capable of anything other than waiting? Apparently not.
If I had waited for these things, these texts and door openings, is that power? You could argue that indeed it is, in the vein of “you go girl, you make him wait! You make him work for it!” Or perhaps, this sense of “power” has been produced to hide the reality that in fact, as long as we give the majority of the initiating power to men, and as long as we feel sh*tty about ourselves when we initiate something, we will not be able to fully realize our equality as human beings with equal measures of proactivity. (This is not to say there isn’t worthy power in waiting in the right circumstances, but when it becomes a matter of torture, one must question why she is subjecting herself to something she could in fact address).
But then, what about my recent “sneak attacks”? This type of self-victimization is perhaps a product of both a personal issue with confrontation in all areas of my life, and also the form of femininity I have adopted. I am a girl, which means, to me, that I should be try to be nice and caring as often as possible. I cannot imagine myself halting a guy mid-kiss and saying “don’t”. It sound so easy, but at the same time, sounds so painful. How awkward is it going to be afterwards? How badly might be feel? And am I going to look like a… gasp… an angry feminist? It’s so much easier to just kindly wait it out and then be an angry/uncomfortable/pissed/annoyed/flustered/awkward victim later.
Well, rather than continuing to expound upon my victimization and thus further victimize myself, I will say I am trying to change. People here don’t send text messages, but if the day comes that I find some guy here interesting and attractive, I will not stare at my Facebook inbox willing a message to appear. I’m not going to like, jump up and profess my every last emotion, but I’ll try to legitimize my feelings enough to recognize when I’m subjecting myself to painful waiting because I’m too scared to do something. And the same goes for my “sneak attacks” and general passivity when it comes to discomfort… I will not subject myself to passively dealing with whatever happens in my life. If I don’t like it, I’ll say something. But well, if I do like it, I guess I won’t put up a fight.
** I talk a big game. So I’ll test out my new mantra and report back.