Love the Film, Hate The Filmmaker

Submitted by M. Baker

This week you may have learned the name Nate Parker.

This October, the first time director will see the release of his Nat Turner biopic, Birth of a Nation, which has already become a prominent Oscar contender after its overwhelmingly positive response at the Sundance Film Festival. Prior to this, Parker was an actor mostly known for appearing in roles such as the humble romantic lead in Beyond the Lights, and a more-than-disgruntled plane hijacker in Nonstop. In 1999, during his time as a student at Penn State, he and his roommate/co-writerJean Celestin, were charged with and put on trial for the rape of a fellow student. Parker was acquitted while Celestin served 6 months. The victim stated that she was unconscious during the assault, but the boys insisted she consented. The woman, who chose to protect her identity and is known only as Jane Doe, committed suicide by overdosing on pills in 2012. Her brother spoke with Variety on Monday, shedding light on Parker’s past, the effect it had on his sister, and his reservations towards the actor’s recent rise to fame.

I found this very troubling to read. It’s terrible what this woman went through. Considering how few rapes are actually reported, let alone go to trial, it’s immensely brave that she chose to face her accusers. It must have been devastating to see these boys get away with a mere slap on the wrist as she had to live with the emotional scars of the assault. After this information surfaced in the media I had to ask myself, “do I still support his movie?” Can you celebrate a movie whose driving creative force and voice is that of someone who denies any truth in a rape case? Parker posted a quasi-apology on Facebook saying he was “filled with profound sorrow” upon hearing the news of her death and says he does not “want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial,” yet he maintains his innocence. It’s an unsettling circumstance of a man who doesn’t own up to his actions, besides realizing he didn’t empathize enough at the time.

The initial reaction to my own inquiry was “well now I don’t have to see another slave movie.” Not that I had qualms with Birth of a Nation; I’m pretty excited that it’s re-purposing the name of one of the ugliest films in cinema’s history, but it will most likely continue the cycle of the only black led films nominated for Oscars are about slaves or - if you’re The Help - happy mammies. Especially after #OscarsSoWhite, it’s frustrating that the brief solution will be a biopic where most, if not all, the black characters will die. Don’t get me wrong, Nat Turner is an important historical figure who deserves some big screen reverence. I just want there to be a Birdman led by Idris Elba or a Spotlight featuring Kerry Washington to balance it out. But there is a flipside to this. No doubt Birth of a Nation is a film starring many talented black actors that generally don’t get the opportunity to play a prominent role in a prestige picture. More diversity onscreen will hopefully lead to more diverse casting in future films. 12 Years a Slave turned Lupita Nyong’o into an “It Girl” and Oscar winner, which is still impressive considering it was her first film role. If this film is successful both critically and financially and becomes an awards favorite, then it could prompt more studio backing and endorsement for directors of color.

But what to do about Parker? I’m obviously appalled by his actions. I’m disappointed that the only reason he regrets this mistake is because he’s a “man of faith” and now realizes that it would be dreadful if any of his daughters had to go through the same ordeal. No shit. Women don’t like getting raped. There are people in the world like you who could enact the same crime on your kids. This is a man who clearly grew up with a weak understanding of consent, as exemplified by his misconception of that night. It’s a blatant example of a man assuming that a highly intoxicated woman is capable of consent; an issue that has garnered awareness in recent years, especially on college campuses. Sadly, I recognize in good conscience that I cannot boycott his film because it would be hypocritical. I’ve seen many films made by white men who have committed equally heinous crimes. This year alone I saw both Woody Allen’s 30’s Hollywood nostalgia piece, Cafe Society, and Bryan Singer’s unrelenting X-Men Apocalypse (the latter I quite bemoan). I still go out and pay money for films made by people who “allegedly” have some really fucked up skeletons in their closet. I hate that in this instance I’m playing the race card, but when white directors with reported sexual assault allegations still screen their movies, then so should Parker. Maybe we have to let Birth of a Nation slide. Maybe we allow him the same privilege white men are so accustomed to. If you can shower Midnight in Paris with praise, then you can give Birth of a Nation a chance.

I unabashedly dislike Nate Parker as a person. He committed a crime, got off, and a woman’s life was destroyed. I grieve for his victim and so many other women who find themselves in similar circumstances. It is so important to speak up and seek justice in the case of rape, and college campuses need to continue cracking down on the issue. That being said, Nate Parker is a representation of something important to film culture. He is a black auteur whose film broke records amidst the bidding war for distribution rights (Fox Searchlight acquired it for $17.5 million). He is a symbol for studios to take more risks with non-white voices behind the camera. The success of Birth of a Nation could cause other unknown directors’ indie films to be bought at a festival or funded by a major studio. It’s a shame that the number of prominent black filmmakers is so low that I feel obligated to support this man’s feature in hopes that it will have a trickle-down effect. If we lived in a world where it was easy to name more black directors than Spike Lee, I wouldn’t have to support Birth of a Nation. The movie industry remains caucasian-centric, and the way to vote for change is with your dollars. I don’t want one bad apple to ruin the future of black filmmaking. Birth of a Nation happens to represent something greater than one man, much like Nat Turner himself. A single movie can ignite change in the industry. It’s always more important to focus on the future than the past,  but I implore you not to let Parker forget about his past.

Megan Baker is the talented writer behind The Vintage. Check out her incisive movie reviews and retrospectives!

Head Over Heels For My Puddin

Submitted by C. Fox

Let’s talk about the intersection of female sexuality and public opinion. As you all know, this topic is an Internet staple. Lately it’s been revved into overdrive by the release of Suicide Squad – a film I haven’t seen and don’t plan to see. Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter are rife with the trending hashtag #relationshipgoals attached to a photo of Harley Quinn and The Joker, Warner Bros has released a line of merchandise that proclaims the same, and the attendant screeds that wish to put to a stop to this phenomenon are full throated and annoying as hell. At first, I ignored it. Now that this film has grossed over $280 million and the voices of dissent are becoming louder and more ubiquitous, it’s impossible to continue ignoring it without unfriending half my mutual followers. The Negative Nancys usually unfurl the following argument: 

“The Joker and Harley Quinn are in an abusive relationship” – insert comic panel showing The Joker punching Harley or otherwise hurting her – “and should NOT be idealized.”

Then there’s a whole lot of bloviating about the nature of domestic abuse and Stockholm Syndrome, as well as a horde of mansplaining comic geeks that want to remind us all that Harley Quinn is an allegory for domestic abuse (a contentious topic), and should never be emulated. “She isn’t badass – she’s a victim!” is repeated ad nauseum, and there are passionate diatribes about what a delusional person she is, how she and Mistah J are definitely NOT in love, definitely NOT a “relationship goal,” and that the women who fantasize about these two need to be educated on what a healthy partnership looks like.

I’ve been clenching my teeth on the subject, because I’m not a DC fan and am therefore not personally invested in the discussion, but now I wish to say something, because this is a carousel that has gone around more than once. The central tenets are always the same: women don’t know what’s good for them, deserve to be lectured about their troubling sexual fantasies, and can’t grasp the concept of fiction. It happened in 2008 when The Dark Knight came out, and here it is again, bigger, louder, and more misogynist than ever.

 A woman making a statement about the type of person she's attracted to? UNACCEPTABLE.

A woman making a statement about the type of person she's attracted to? UNACCEPTABLE.

What I’m going to present to you all is the idea that women are capable of identifying the difference between fantasy and reality. Shocking, right? Suicide Squad is a silly action movie starring charismatic actors. It’s set in the darkest of the popular comic book universes, and its heroes are the clinically insane and criminally violent. It’s pure escapism. Who doesn’t occasionally dream of inhabiting a fictional world? That’s why these things exist. Furthermore, Hollywood glamorizes all kinds of horrid, unhealthy shit, and this is what moralizing assholes are seizing upon? I’m sure it has nothing to do with policing female sexuality and everything to do with protecting victims of abuse and promoting good role models for women, right? Yes? No.
    
Eight years ago, the internet exploded with erotic Joker fanfiction courtesy of Heath Ledger fans who really dug his turn as the Clown Prince of Crime. Luckily for them, the DC universe comes equipped with a ready-made Mary Sue in the form of Harley Quinn, so that fanfic was easy to churn out. Almost immediately there was a wave of outrage (not all of which came from “nice guys” who were butthurt that the geek girls of their dreams were getting off to thoughts of a psychopath), including op-eds from fairly respected sources like the A.V. Club. Men and women of all stripes came forward to admonish these fans and let them know that they didn’t want to hook up with The Joker. I don’t think I need to point out that these criticisms were lobbed exclusively at women. There was no condescending finger-wagging aimed at the legions of male fans who rabidly loved Ledger’s Joker, because apparently it is perfectly okay to imagine being a violent man, but not okay to imagine fucking one. I also found no mentions of gay men who may have dipped their toes into the warm waters of erotic fanfic. It was a decidedly gendered backlash, and in their haste to make pronouncements about female sexuality and share their very un-asked for opinions, these neckbeards and wannabe pop psychologists failed to acknowledge a couple of things.
    
For one, fantasizing about a fictional character is different than wanting to actually experience a real world approximation of that fiction. Fan clubs devoted to real serial killers are rare. People aren't posting photos of Chris Brown and a battered Rhianna with the caption “relationship goals.” If women really wanted to be brutalized, they’d have no trouble locating a brute. Maybe all this Joker/Harley fetishization is just –gasp! A FANTASY.  And hey, maybe it isn’t up to you to armchair psychoanalyze these women and lecture them about their fantasies. Maybe women’s fantasies are none of your business, Dr. Freud. Just because they’re writing about them on the Internet doesn’t mean they’re inviting you to weigh in on their emotional states and/or intellectual competence.
    
Some women have rape fantasies. As icky as many of us may find that, it’s pretty common. Human psychology is complex and varied. Even people with PhDs don’t fully understand how it all works. Why does every Tom, Dick, and Harry assume they know how it works? Assuming that women can’t separate fantasy from reality is insulting, not to mention inaccurate. Some women are into BDSM. Some women are into humiliation. Someone women are masochists. The last time I checked, The Joker was a fairly sadistic character. Why not use him as a cipher in your erotic fanfiction? Why not use Harley Quinn as a stand-in for yourself if you want to get off to hardcore sadism? It’s a safe space to play out scenarios that could not and would not ever happen. Stop yelling about how “unhealthy” it is, and stop lecturing women about relationship dynamics. This is kink-shaming of the highest order.

 If you're gonna be kinky, make sure it's nonthreatening and easy for men to exploit.

If you're gonna be kinky, make sure it's nonthreatening and easy for men to exploit.

 ”But Candace, it can and does happen!” I hear you screaming. “Women find themselves in abusive relationships all the time! Lots of abused women identify with Harley Quinn.”

And of course you’re right. But this feeds problem number two: Are you claiming that those women ended up in abusive situations because they idealized them ahead of time? If so, that’s blatant victim-blaming. That’s another iteration of “she asked for it,” and lets the abuser off the hook. Women fall into abusive relationships for a slew of reasons, but I promise you that fantasizing about mental patients in a comic book universe isn’t one of them. The Joker’s relationship with Harley Quinn is abusive at times, but these are criminally insane freaks in clown makeup who don't exist. What woman is honestly idealizing that relationship and basing her own life decisions on it? Women don’t need morality exemplified by a fucking superhero movie. We can think for ourselves, thank you. Jerking off to something doesn't mean we've lost all sense of morality.

It’s also likely that many women fantasize about extreme sexual and romantic situations out of boredom, regardless of personal fetishes and kinks. Female sexuality is repressed, policed, and controlled at every level of society. Maybe The Joker and Harley Quinn represent an alluring nihilistic escape from such puritanism. Maybe women aren’t the fragile little angels you think they are. Maybe women are so sick of being told they must fall in love with “nice” men that they’ve developed an attraction to very, very bad men. I’m certainly not the first person to suggest that. And maybe those same women enjoy imagining themselves doing taboo, violent, and illegal things without consequences. Again, it's called escapism and it's why fiction exists. I don’t see anyone bitching when women insert themselves into Jane Austen novels. That’s considered perfectly normal, but swap Mr. Darcy for The Joker and everyone gets upset. Why? Because one of those fantasies is socially acceptable and the other isn’t? Let's take a moment to ponder why that is. Additionally, Joker/Harley storylines are varied. Even someone with only a glancing knowledge of the Batman canon knows that Harley Quinn's character has been through dozens of re-imaginings, and her relationship with the Joker redefined again and again. Certainly all those stories aren't abusive. I know for a fact most of the fanfiction isn't, so these women are clearly seeing something in the characters that the squalling naysayers are either missing or ignoring. 

The only argument I halfway agree with is that Suicide Squad’s marketing tactics are irresponsible. The offending Joker/Harley merchandise is clearly targeting teens and pre-teens. I know who shops at Hot Topic, and those kids are not mentally equipped to navigate the complexities of BDSM or the blurry lines of consent that accompany it. Branding an extreme kink as a relationship goal and selling it to a demographic with only a nascent understanding of romantic relationships is pretty sleazy. The budding sexuality of young women should probably not be subjected to images of a grinning masochist experiencing orgiastic pain/pleasure at the hands of a deranged maniac. Without anything else to compare it to, some unhealthy ideas could form. On the flip side, there’s a plethora of toxic Hollywood romances that aren’t as obviously cartoonish. I'd like to think that no kid, regardless of age, believes movies like Suicide Squad represent the real world. Parenting should come into play here, but I acknowledge that not everyone’s parents are stellar. So maybe, maybe it’s not great to show these kinds of relationships to teenagers. Having said that, human beings are not robots that become hopelessly indoctrinated by the media they consume. If someone, even a young person, finds herself titillated by a screen couple’s relationship, that means that some part of her resonated with what she saw. That isn’t something a writer, director, actor, t-shirt, or hashtag is responsible for. 

 Now our children are gonna be jumping into vats of acid to impress their crushes. THANKS, HOLLYWOOD

Now our children are gonna be jumping into vats of acid to impress their crushes. THANKS, HOLLYWOOD

Keeping women safe is important. Awareness of domestic violence and abusive relationships is important. Promoting healthy and happy human connections, romantic or otherwise, is important. All too often, media and entertainment utterly fail to do those things, but shaming women for their sexual fantasies is not the answer. That speaks to misogyny and nothing more. If you want to write angry screeds about the film industry's irresponsible portrayals of domestic abuse, that’s fair. If you think teen-friendly clothing shops at your local mall should refrain from carrying Suicide Squad merchandise, feel free to organize a boycott. You have a right to protest things that you believe are unethical or in bad taste. What isn’t fair is berating female fans for having fantasies that you don’t approve of. Stop kink-shaming. Stop victim-blaming. Stop trying to control female sexuality. The next time one of these movies comes along and makes a big splash, stay in your lane and recognize that women have a right to enjoy whatever escapism floats their boat, just as men do.

There have already been Internet rumors of a stand-alone Harley Quinn movie, and possibly even a Joker spin-off (obviously Jared Leto is hoping this is the case – otherwise, why would he have been such a try-hard?), and I’m preemptively bracing myself for the inevitable tide of outrage that will follow in their wake.
 

One Day, Maybe Next Week, I'm Gonna Meet You

Submitted by C. Fox

As promised, here is a detailed account of my second brush with stalking. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to use this as a blueprint for what NOT to do when someone is creeping on you.

Chaz was somebody I met online in the spring of 2013. We started up a correspondence after discovering a mutual love of all things kitschy and 80s. Though he lived seven hours away, in another state, it was worthwhile to keep talking to him given our esoteric tastes and shared sense of humor. We were a couple of lonely dorks searching for understanding and companionship - a common beginning in stories such as these.

About a month after making his acquaintance via cyberspace, I invited him to accompany me and a close friend to a comedy show in a city equidistant to both of us. Prior to this encounter, Chaz hadn’t mentioned that he was an agoraphobe. I had no idea that being around unfamiliar people would terrify him. I quickly figured it out, as he was quiet as a corpse and looked like he might keel over at any second. I offered him a Xanax, which he accepted, and during the show he downed several beers. In spite of all the chemically induced inhibition-loosening help he’d had, he never said a word. I kept asking him if he was okay, and he nodded with a tight smile. A few hours later we parted ways with an awkward hug.

After that night, I wrote him off. I know it sounds mean, but there had definitely been no sparks between us. It was a dead end as far as I was concerned. When you regularly meet people from the Internet, more often than not things don’t progress beyond one lukewarm meeting. I’d been through it a hundred times already, and I figured that would be the last I heard from Chaz.      

Oh, how wrong I was.

He kept texting me and profusely apologized for his social anxiety. He said he’d been battling agoraphobia for most of his life, and that it had wrecked his ability to connect with people. He said he really liked me, and I felt guilty about my knee-jerk reaction to ditch him. Why shouldn’t I be friends with the guy? He clearly needed a friend. My internal voice of reason had yet to sound the alarm. He seemed harmless, and I saw no reason we couldn’t stay in touch.  

For a year, staying in touch seemed adequate. Chaz texted me often; usually just memes and funny thoughts he had throughout the day. He made me laugh. His living situation was pretty fucked up, as was mine, and we both felt like our lives had stalled. It was nice to have someone to share that with, even if we kept the conversation light. We were never super close, but I gave him as much attention as I could reasonably spare. I did my best to be a good long distance friend.

Perhaps inevitably, our correspondence led to something darker. The longer we knew each other, the more he contacted me. Eventually my life underwent some pretty big changes, and I moved further away from Chaz. New city, new job, new connections, and a new relationship caused me to re-shuffle my priorities. I crawled out of stasis and began to drift away. It wasn’t a conscious decision; just a consequence of moving on. It had been more than a year since I’d met Chaz, and I’m not one to stay in the same situation for too long. As I interacted with him less and less, his anxiety surfaced in the form of self-pitying texts. He said things like, “I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want to talk to me either. I hate that I always ruin things.”

 This'll teach you to have a life.

This'll teach you to have a life.

Upon receiving messages like that, I snapped into comfort mode and tried to soothe him.  Our friendship didn’t mean much to me at that point, but it clearly still meant a lot to Chaz, and I wanted him to know that my slipping away had nothing to do with rejection. I tried to make him understand that I had a lot on my plate, and faraway friends that I never saw were difficult to keep up with. I assured him that someday, when things were different, we would reconnect and catch up, but even as I said it, I realized it was a bizarre assurance to make to someone who had barely said five words to me the one and only time we’d seen each other in person.
           
I was moving on; why wasn’t he? As with Yosef, our relationship was casual and definitely not romantic. Chaz knew I was in love with someone else. He knew he didn’t have a chance with me. We were the kind of friends that easily drift apart when more important relationships crop up, and perhaps more poignantly, we were the kind of friends that don’t keep in touch constantly. I could never figure out how I had come to mean so much to him. For the better part of two years, I replied to maybe one in ten texts, and rarely initiated contact. When he screwed up the courage to talk of sweeping me off my feet and whisking me away, I pointedly ignored him. Why was he so determined? Why was he obsessed, and when would he meet someone new?
           
Fast forward to three years into our friendship. Chaz never went away, and my opinion of him degraded significantly. His clinginess had grown, and I had gotten sick of it. He apologized for overstepping boundaries and blowing up my phone, but he never stopped contacting me. When I lost my patience and demanded space, he restrained himself for as long as he could stand (a couple of weeks at most), and then the constant barrage of texts resumed. This was during my period of no Facebook, so when I went a particularly long time without acknowledging his existence, he tried to reach me through other social media. That pissed me off. I felt coerced. He knew I wasn’t interested in him. He knew I had other friends and a partner I loved. He knew he was a low priority in my life. A few times I resolved to disappear altogether and block him the way I’d blocked Yosef, but I could never bring myself to do it. It wasn’t fear that stopped me then; it was pity. I felt so damn bad for Chaz. His loneliness wasn't a secret, and for all I knew, I was one of his only friends. The fact that I wasn’t as invested as he wanted me to be made me feel guilty. I had neither the time nor the desire to give him the attention he craved, but I hung in there. In spite of how trapped and repulsed I felt, I refused to burn that bridge.
           
Earlier this year I finally began to feel that Chaz may not be as harmless as he appeared. Due to a lot of unwanted activity on my Tumblr, I installed a tracker to gather metrics on my traffic. It logged a number of things, including the IP addresses of visitors. Within a day, I discovered that Chaz looked at my blog more or less constantly. The hits occurred in 20 - 30 minute intervals. It looked like he was refreshing the page every half hour. My metrics were completely full of Chaz’s hits. That gave me a slimy feeling. Who has that much free time? My Tumblr is pretty impersonal and doesn't reveal information about my life. It’s mostly pictures and quotes that I’ve lazily reblogged from other sources for my own amusement. It tells you virtually nothing about me, except what bands and authors I like. Why was he so fascinated by it? I barely even update it.

 YES! More glittery mood boards and Joy Division lyrics! 

YES! More glittery mood boards and Joy Division lyrics! 

I stared at my computer screen. How long had he been doing this? I shuddered. Did he check my other social media that much? Jesus! I placed a blocking cookie on his IP so that it wouldn’t show up in my data anymore and tried to forget about it.
           
When I announced that I was moving to the West coast, Chaz was extremely enthusiastic. He said that he and his housemate had been thinking of doing the same, and he was overjoyed by the prospect of living in the same city as me. I feigned encouragement, never for one second believing that he was telling the truth. A few weeks prior, Chaz had confessed to not leaving his house in three months. Not once, for any reason. Not even to go to the store. He said he'd dropped out of college for the third time because he couldn't muster up the courage to go in public. The idea that he would move cross country was laughable, and after the Tumblr discovery, I didn’t want to be anywhere near him.
           
As my move grew closer, Chaz began to talk about taking a temporary trip to my new location. He didn’t give me a lot of detail, and I admit that I continued to blow it off. I’d become an expert at giving him just enough attention to keep him from having a meltdown, but I had checked out of the friendship. Our correspondence existed entirely for his benefit. Whenever my phone buzzed, I would loudly say “Not now, Chaz!” without even looking at it. 9 times out of 10, it was him. On the rare occasion it wasn’t, I was surprised. Thats how much he texted me. I hoped that moving across the damn continent would be enough to convince him we didn’t have a future together. 

Much to my chagrin, Chaz was telling the truth about his little journey. I wish I could describe the sense of foreboding that invaded me when I realized he was actually on a plane speeding toward my location at 500 miles per hour. It seemed unthinkable, yet it was happening. Memories of Yosef flooded my mind. It had to be a coincidence, right? He just wanted to go to the hemp festival, right? I tried to tell myself it had nothing to do with me, but deep down I knew that wasn't true. I planned to avoid Chaz as much as possible while he was in town, though I did agree to hang out with him once. I figured it was the least I could do after all these years. I mean, I didn’t hate the guy. I was just creeped out and wanted my life back. I hoped that this final meeting would prove our incompatibility once and for all. I hoped he would realize that I was a complete stranger with nothing to offer him. Needless to say, as soon as he arrived he brought with him an unending stream of messages that trickled in at all hours of the day and night. 

 “Sup?”
“We’re doing ___, do you want to come?”
“What are you doing?”
“So, when you want to hang out?”
“My plans are go to the hemp festival and hang out with you as much as possible.”
           
And so on.
           
He used texting and Facebook messenger simultaneously to make sure no question or invitation slid past me. When he didn’t get a reply through one channel of communication, he’d try another. The more he reached out, the more I didn’t want to see him. The urge to blow him off entirely and avoid the whole thing was nearly irresistible. I was a single woman in the middle of moving into a new apartment in a new city, preparing for a new job, juggling a million different responsibilities, and fighting off a brutal case of bronchitis. My first two weeks in the Northwest were not fun. I patiently reminded Chaz of the all the pressure I was under and made sure he understood how busy/sick I was, but my words fell on deaf ears. I sensed his angst and desperation, and knew he wouldn’t ease up.
           
Finally, I made plans to see him the Saturday before he went home. I just couldn’t avoid it any longer. He brought his housemate along, so I thankfully didn’t have to be alone with him, but I still wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. I felt like a cornered rat.

 After years of careful planning, I am finally ready to rock your world. Please stop screaming.

After years of careful planning, I am finally ready to rock your world. Please stop screaming.

We met at a video store, and to my surprise, Chaz actually spoke to me. He didn’t say much, but he wasn’t silent. I chatted about stuff I thought was cool, picking up old VHS boxes and waxing nostalgic about this or that B movie. I thought maybe our common ground would give us something to talk about. After a while, it became clear that we didn’t really have the same taste after all. Most of the stuff I geeked out on brought a blank look to Chaz’s face. There was no thread of familiarity, no spark of mutuality, and our shared past seemed like a joke. It slowly dawned on me that everything we’d bonded over had been researched. That was why he checked my Tumblr so much. I had no idea who this person actually was. He’d been pandering to my interests to get close to me. That gave me another slimy feeling, and I made arrangements to beg off as soon as I could. After one beer at a nearby club, I bid my strange companions adieu. Chaz looked like a forlorn puppy watching his family leave him at the pound, but I ignored his stare and silently vowed to evade him. I was done.
           
For the remainder of his visit, Chaz messaged me incessantly. I continued to remind him that I was busy assembling IKEA furniture, nursing a bad cough, and preparing for a career change, but he didn’t care. Finally, on his last day in the city, he asked me to stop by his hotel because he had a present for me. I had no idea what it could be and didn't want to find out. I was about to politely decline, but as I typed, he sent a second text asking for my address so he could mail me the gift if I failed to show up. That was the last straw. My stomach churned at the thought of telling Chaz where I live, and I suddenly realized that I was afraid of him. He’d been fixated on me for three whole years. He was incapable of recognizing that I wasn’t interested. He had no respect for my privacy. He had misrepresented himself in order to feign a connection. He compulsively monitored my online habits. He flew to my city and hounded me relentlessly only a week after I moved. Now he wanted my address?
 
I didn’t reply. I deleted his texts and blocked his number. I blocked him on Facebook. I cleansed my life of Chaz within five minutes and tossed my phone onto the half-finished futon I'd been building. I felt immense relief. I replayed the previous three years in my mind, searching for any indication that Chaz might fly off the handle. How would he react when he realized I was unreachable? In the past, when I put off answering his messages for too long he wallowed in a pit of despair and hinted that he might hurt himself. What would it take to turn that emotional manipulation into something worse? I worried about what he might do, but there was no turning back. I wanted to be free.

Less than 24 hours later, Chaz tracked me down on Ok Cupid. Determined to contact me no matter what, he actually looked me up on Ok fucking Cupid. His message reeked of the same unknowing cheerfulness as Yosef’s repeated attempts to get back into my good graces as he casually apologized for “pushing too much.” That apology rang hollow, and the extremity of his efforts went entirely unacknowledged. I was chilled by his obliviousness. I'd turned my back on him. Could he really not see that? 

I explained my position as politely as I could and told him that I no longer wished to know him. Chaz responded by minimizing his years-long obsession and explaining it as a product of social awkwardness. He said he considered me one of his best friends. He said he loved me. He said that my silence had confused him and he hadn’t understood what was wrong. That comment rendered me speechless for several minutes. My silence? I'd been off his radar for one day. Just one goddamn day. Social awkwardness is not knowing what to say to your boss at the company picnic; frantically hunting down a woman you barely know through any means necessary from 2,000 miles away is something else. How could that seem like reasonable behavior to any semi-sane person?

 I firmly informed him that I would file for a restraining order if he contacted me again, which is something I wish I’d had the bravery to do when Yosef stalked me. I haven’t heard from him since, but it’s only been a few months. Time will tell whether he’s really gone, and if I’ll soon have to worry about sharing a city with two deranged individuals.

Is it time to hire a bodyguard or what?

One Way or Another I'm Gonna Find You

 Submitted by C. Fox

I’ve been stalked.

Not to the level of extremity that would warrant police involvement, and for that I’m thankful. I’m lucky that neither of my stalkers have turned violent. I suppose the threat is always there, but at the moment I’m optimistic that the worst has passed. What I’m about to recount will strike a nerve in every woman who has ever rejected a man that refused to accept rejection. In today’s social climate, “creeping” is an accepted practice and usually only draws attention to itself after it has gotten out of control. Women are so accustomed to men bombarding them with unwanted advances from every conceivable angle — on the streets, at work, online, in virtually every public space imaginable — that we’ve become desensitized to these intrusions and consider them normal. It’s not out of the ordinary for men to tirelessly message you on social media, approach you out of the blue when it’s clear you don’t want to be approached, or to have no understanding of the word ‘no.’

We have learned to shut it out. This can be dangerous, and my two brushes with stalking are examples of what can happen when you ignore the warning signs. Of course, there have been many other men in my life who came on too strong too early or overstepped boundaries in ways that seemed much more sinister, but fortunately I was able to evade them before something bad happened. The two men I’m about to discuss were friends of mine at one time. Our preexisting friendship is what prevented me from severing ties before things reached critical mass. To me, an insider threat is more frightening than unexpectedly crossing paths with a deranged stranger, so while these experiences have yet to lead to a harrowing end, I am shaken nonetheless.

My first stalker entered my life in 2008, when we met through mutual friends. He was gay, and I had a boyfriend, so our affection was purely platonic. We stayed up late into the night discussing obscure records from the 1970s and drinking box wine until our eyes were too tired to stay open. We made vegan sandwiches and borrowed a canoe from one of those mutual friends so we could float down local rivers and comment on the decay of modern society. We were insufferable college hipsters bonding over insufferable hipster bullshit. The potential for a close friendship existed, but never materialized.

A few months later, things started getting weird. I heard from this person way too often (let’s call him Yosef so he’ll have a name that is nothing like his real one). He called me several times a day and wanted to talk for hours. That should have been a red flag, but at the time I didn’t think much of it. We were talkative people. After a few conversations, it became clear that Yosef merely needed a receptacle for his narcissistic ramblings. He was obsessed with personality assessments like Myers-Briggs and EPI. He spent countless hours taking such tests and pondering the results. It was all he wanted to talk about. After a week of his self-involved soliloquies, I grew tired of the calls and we had an argument. Soon after that, Yosef met a guy, fell in love, and fell off the planet. I didn’t see him for about a year.

When Yosef resurfaced, he suddenly began to demand a lot of my time. He had recently broken up with his partner (though this behavior technically began about two months prior to the break-up), and had decided for reasons unknown that I was his very best friend in the entire world. This development blindsided me, as my life had changed quite a lot since we’d last spoken, and I rarely thought of him. Why did he think so highly of me?

He blew up my phone seven days a week, smothered every corner of my Facebook in comments, including tagging himself in photos that he wasn’t even in; repeatedly overstayed his welcome when he came to my apartment, showed up at my workplace uninvited and followed me throughout my entire shift (even when my supervisor repeatedly asked him not to), and eventually began to say and do things that were far too intimate for the casual nature of our relationship. On a typical day with Yosef, he clung to me like a booger on the end of a finger for upwards of twelve hours. Even if I had other things to do, or invented things to do to get away, he would simply not take leave.

No amount of “Well, it’s getting late…” or “I sure do have to wake up early in the morning” or “I have a big paper to work on” would get him to scoot. One night I went through my entire bedtime routine before his very eyes, went into my bedroom, turned off the light, climbed into bed, and asked him to lock up when he left. He hung around that long. All my attempts at courteously kicking him out failed.

I should point out here that I refrained from being blunt and insisting that he leave because I was afraid of hurting his feelings. See, Yosef was the kind of person who had to be handled carefully so he wouldn’t break. You could never be too forward with him, even though he willfully ignored the wishes of virtually everyone around him. He was messed up, and we all knew it. He needed people. It wasn’t just me; all our mutual friends felt the same way. After the details of his break-up got out (suicide was attempted by at least one party and threatened by both), I never had the heart to tell Yosef to buzz off and leave me be. I was genuinely afraid he might hurt himself.

 Exploiting your kindness and keeping you too afraid to assert yourself is romantic, right? LET ME LOVE YOU.

Exploiting your kindness and keeping you too afraid to assert yourself is romantic, right? LET ME LOVE YOU.

As his presence encroached on my free time more and more, I began to develop separation anxiety. Every time we parted ways, he hugged me for an uncomfortably long period of time, sighed several times, and said creepily intimate things like, “I could hold you all night” or “You’re one of my best friends; I love you so much.” I felt absolutely trapped by his companionship. I hated it, but I also hated saying goodbye and enduring the awkward bullshit that came with it. I began to suspect that Yosef wasn’t as homosexual as he pretended to be, or that I was his unicorn. He no longer treated me like a friend. He treated me like someone he wanted to date. This persisted for months. Every time I ignored his calls and texts in an effort to draw some boundaries, he’d track me down and angrily tell me that he didn’t like being pushed away. He acted like a possessive boyfriend. More baffled than anything else, I refused to believe it was stalking.

I asked myself what I could have possibly said or done during the course of our friendship to give him the impression that we had such a deep connection, but I came up with nothing. His clinginess cropped up out of nowhere. I was also in a fairly serious relationship by that time (my partner would eventually become my spouse), so Yosef’s pursuit of every second of my free time and blatant disregard for my significant other began to seriously upset me.

Things came to a head when Yosef invited me over for dinner one night. I was hesitant to go to his house, but he lured me in with the promise of a fully functioning washer and dryer. It was the end of a hectic week, and I was a broke college student who didn’t feel like spending $10 at the laundromat, so I accepted. My plan was to do my laundry, scarf down whatever vegetarian pasta dish he fed me, and bolt. That may sound opportunistic, but I was pretty sure Yosef was trying to bribe me. What happened next taught me to never again ignore my inner voice of reason. 

As I bent over the dryer to fling my wet clothes inside, Yosef came up behind me and groped me. He touched me like he owned me. I froze in my bent position, mind racing, wondering what to say or do. It was a bizarre situation. Before I could react, Yosef took his hand away and kept talking to me as if everything were normal. I opted to keep my mouth shut and ignore it, lest he lose his composure and do something to hurt one or both of us. That was one awkward dinner, and by the time I finally hauled myself out of there, I was crawling out of my skin. The smug little bastard never even acknowledged it.

After that, I resolved to finally put some serious distance between myself and Yosef. I didn’t care if it upset him; I felt violated and wanted space. I knew he had other friends that could cater to his social needs in my stead, and I was ready to be rid of him. I avoided him completely. No texts, no calls, no social media, nothing. I gave him the cold shoulder and figured he’d get the message and back off.

No such luck.

Yosef was impervious to the stone-wall approach. It just made him try harder. He started showing up at my workplace again, because it was the only place he was guaranteed to find me. Rather than the indignation he exhibited previously, he decided this time that throwing gifts at me would bring me back to his not-so-loving arms. He insisted that I take a number of records from him (one of which was incredibly expensive, I later found out) and offered to buy or prepare me meals of all kinds. His unabashed desperation shocked me. Why was he so obsessed? Why wouldn’t he get a grip and realize that I just wasn’t into him? That I was engaged to someone else? That we had never been close and never would be? That he was harassing me? That he had fucking assaulted me? A couple of our mutual friends later confessed that he talked about me incessantly when I wasn’t around, and that it really freaked them out.

I ended up blocking him from every channel of communication I could think of, changing my phone number, and quitting my job. Two months later, I left the country to attend graduate school abroad. There was no other way to be rid of him. He didn’t take hints, and given the apparent instability of his mental state, I had no desire to try and explain the situation. I assumed that he would calm down and move on after I left the country, and that I’d never have to deal with him again.

For a while, I was right.

Two years later, I found myself back where I’d started. Brief jaunt to Europe over, brief jaunt to California over, marriage over, grad school a bust, back to square one. Within two days of moving back to my old town, I got an email from Yosef cheerfully asking me if I wanted to have lunch with him. My blood froze. How had he gotten my email address? How had he known I was back? After I cut ties with him, I implored our friends to keep my information and whereabouts a secret, and I trusted that they had not broken their promises. When I came back to the States, I stayed off the grid for a long time. It took most of the people I knew months to figure out I’d returned, but somehow Yosef knew right away. He knew, and he was ready to bring his obsession back full force just 48 hours after I stepped off the plane. I deleted the email and blocked the address it came from. I hoped that would be the last I heard from him.

 Begone, devil! The power of Christ compels you!

Begone, devil! The power of Christ compels you!

The following year, I heard through the grapevine that Yosef had moved to Seattle. Two of our mutual friends, Maggie and Harold, lived in nearby Portland, and they filled me in. I once again reminded them not to ever bring me up in his presence, and they agreed. They said he’d been dating women almost exclusively since landing in the Northwest. That didn’t surprise me. I silently prayed to the universe that he was cured of whatever emotional malady had plagued him.

Six months after that, one of my closest girlfriends decided to move to Seattle and asked me to be her copilot so she wouldn’t have to drive cross-country alone. She didn’t know Yosef. About halfway through our western odyssey, somewhere out in Kansas, I received a friend request from Maggie and Harold’s cat. It was a little out of character for them to make a Facebook profile for their pet, but it seemed plausible enough. “Lazarus” messaged me as soon as I accepted. It was largely gibberish, so I played along to keep the joke going. It seemed harmless. Once my friend and I landed in Washington, I received a message from Harold:

“Hey, I don’t know if you’ve realized this or not, but Yosef is the person that controls the Lazarus account. He asked us a few weeks ago if he could make a profile for our cat, and we said yes, even though we thought it was weird. Yesterday he made a bunch of creepy comments about how great it is that he can stalk your Facebook and see what you’re up to. I thought I should tell you, because that's not cool.”

The timing was impeccable. Could it be a coincidence? It didn't seem like one. Seattle is a big city, but knowing we both occupied similar zip codes gave me a panic attack. Stalk. He’d actually used the word stalk. Is that what he was doing? Stalking me? For the first time, I faced the reality that my attempts to get rid of him had not been an overreaction. I hadn’t acknowledged this person’s existence in almost four years, and there he wasobsessing over me just as much as he ever did.

Shortly after that ill-fated trip, I left Facebook altogether because I no longer enjoyed social media. That absence lasted just under two years, and brings us to the present. A few months ago, I made the decision to move to the Pacific Northwest myself. I have a lot of friends up here, and the job prospects are far better than where I’d been living previously. Just before I left, I returned to Facebook. I figured, “new chapter of my life — why not? Maybe things will be different this time.” I was very selective about who I friended.

Within a day of the inception of my brand new profile (security settings not at maximum capacity, but still pretty high), I received a friend request from Yosef. I immediately deleted it, blocked him, and scolded myself. How could I have forgotten him? Of all the people to preemptively block, he’s at the top of the list. Luckily, my location isn’t permitted on my public page, so he couldn’t see that I’m just a short drive away from him now, but that didn’t stop a cold wave of paranoia from washing over me. He has ways of finding things out.

I have been avoiding this person for six years, and 24 hours is all it took for him to notice I was accessible to him again. When I venture into public spaces, thoughts of Yosef are never far away. I avoid places I think he might frequent. Record stores are enemy territories where I don’t dare tread. I’ve completely abandoned that hobby. Sometimes when I’m lying in bed at night and the motion-sensitive light in my front yard comes on, I quake with fear, never sure if it’s merely the neighbor’s cat setting it off or something more sinister. Yosef never threatened me. I admit that. I have no rational reason to fear him, but I do. 

  Much like horrible sex demons, stalkers will have you looking over your shoulder for the rest of your days.

Much like horrible sex demons, stalkers will have you looking over your shoulder for the rest of your days.

If this didn’t chill you, stay tuned. While I was busy trying to forget the nightmare of knowing Yosef, another man without healthy boundaries became fixated on me, and that was no picnic either.

Part two is forthcoming.

Is You Is Or Is You Ain't: Bisexual Edition

Submitted by P. Wozniak

There are so many manifestos about bisexual erasure on the Internet these days, and I want to state for the record that I support them 100%. Bisexuality absolutely does exist, and the way both the hetero and gay communities often treat it is ignorant and disrespectful. However, just as I also support the basic tenets of the Fat Acceptance Movement, I do still have a few bones to pick. Not because I necessarily disagree with anything being said, but because there appears to be a lack of nuanced discussion about this issue. To draw a further parallel, should obese people be shamed, bullied, or discriminated against? Hell no! But should we all pretend like obesity isn’t a gigantic health crisis that claims thousands of lives every year and costs billions of dollars? Um, no. Not at all. That’s destructive and promotes misinformation. In a similar vein, in this crusade to prove the existence of bisexuality and dispel the myths surrounding it, a whole hell of a lot of people are failing to acknowledge that some of the accusations leveled at bisexual people are legitimate, and that some bisexual erasure is actually a positive thing. I know this is an unpopular position, but hear me out. Members of the queer community will understand what I’m saying, and I hope we can get a dialogue going whereby we put an end to this “all or nothing” mentality in regards to bisexuality.

Gay culture is seen by many as trendy and cool, and there are a lot of straight people who want to carry a queer card for the cache it lends them. We’re all familiar with “party bisexuals,” and the “bicurious,” and people who lie about their sexual orientation so they can seem more open-minded or edgy or whatever. Those people aren’t as common as the queer community sometimes fears, but they definitely do exist. Let’s stop pretending like they don’t. I don’t think it’s enough to identify based on sexual desires alone; I think we need to look at the bigger picture and consider our deeper feelings. Romantic, rather than sexual, orientation is the real revealer of identity. There are tons of people who have queer desires, but only a fraction of those people actually experience queer love. Same-sex marriage is finally legal in America, and queer relationships the world over are steadily gaining the respect and protection they deserve. More people than ever are out, and even though our society has a long way to go before there’s true equality, the social landscape has improved to the point where we should all re-evaluate the way we contextualize our sexual desires, because now the stakes are higher than ever.

 We're sorry to inform you that as beautiful and amazing and perfect and gorgeous as this is, it's not for everyone.

We're sorry to inform you that as beautiful and amazing and perfect and gorgeous as this is, it's not for everyone.

Unfortunately, bisexuality is the biggest culprit of romanti-sexual crises in the queer community. I know, I know; bisexuality has this totally unfair stigma attached to it, and we’re all working hard to change that (me included), but the ugly truth is that all those stereotypes and misconceptions about bisexuality are not always false, and we’re not going to legitimize bisexuality as a sexual orientation until we acknowledge and deal with that. There really are fake bisexuals in the world (for a super famous example, look at David Bowie. He once said that coming out as bisexual was the worst mistake of his career because it wasn’t true and people continued to believe it even after he took off his sequined leotards and said, “Just kidding! I never blew Mick Jagger or Lou Reed”). We’ve all met at least one or two. There really are bicurious people who vastly play up their curiosity so as to seem like honest members of the queer community, and then when someone is interested in them, they start backpedaling and backing off and acting weirded out by the attention. Um, hello, you’re in a gay bar! If you’re not open to the possibility of gay love or gay sex, get out. I mean, that’s just common courtesy. Nobody expects you to put out, but if you’re just barely okay with receiving sexual attention from a queer person, you need to exit our spaces. If we’re not safe from humiliation in our own spaces, where are we safe? And then there are the people who do it for attention, or to advance their careers (usually in music or showbiz – see above), and the list is just endless. The fact is, a lot of bisexual people do need to prove themselves, because there are a lot of pretenders. It hurts me to write that sentence, because it validates bisexual erasure, but goddamn, it’s fucking true, and as much as I want to, I can’t make it untrue.

Don't crucify me yet. Consider this:

People say that behavior doesn’t define your sexuality; desire does. Well, I agree completely, but nobody says you have to shout about your desires from the rooftops. When it comes to dealing with other people, and representing yourself to the world, you might want to consider only announcing what your behavior can corroborate. Otherwise, you end up looking like a big, fat liar. If you have secret sexual desires for people that you would never, ever allow yourself to fall in love with, please don’t tell the world about it. Your closest friends and family, sure. You confide whatever you want to your inner circle. I’m talking about the rest of us.

The vast (and I do mean vast) majority of bisexual people I’ve met say that while they’re attracted to multiple genders, they only have relationships with one. And I’m sorry to say, it’s usually bisexual woman who are most guilty of this. Most of the bisexual women I’ve met are romantically interested in men only. Though they feel physical desire for women and sometimes have sex with women, they do not want to seriously date women. They do not ever fall in love with women. They only fall for men and form relationships with men. This is a problem, folks. On one hand, a person’s sexual habits are no one else’s business, and I’m not proposing that we create some kind of queer police to evaluate just how queer someone really is. That would be fucked up beyond measure. On the other hand, there’s a huge difference between having the capacity to really love someone and merely finding someone sexually alluring, and most bisexuals do not acknowledge this. Most of society does not acknowledge this. Hell, think of all the horrible little straight fuckboys out there who think that women are living, breathing blow-up dolls that exist for the sole purpose of their sexual gratification. They don’t view women as people, and they don’t want to have relationships with them. Not really, anyway. They just want to fuck them. We don’t ever question whether or not they’re straight, and why not? They seem to love their male friends with a great big passion, while women are subhuman and only exist to drain their cocks. “Bros Before Hos” sounds an awful lot like a misogynist gay anthem to me. I mean, which is more meaningful? Real love or merely getting off?

Anyway, I digress. The point is, for someone who is romantically queer, dating bisexual people is a minefield. Dating in general is a minefield, and when you’re queer it’s just that much harder. Think of it this way: If you’re romantically queer and you go out with someone who is only sexually queer, what do you think is going to happen? If you’re both attracted to each other, and you spend enough time together, the romantic queer is likely to feel a real connection and develop real feelings, and the sexual queer isn’t. The sexual queer is going to enjoy the sex but never consider her partner a real love interest, and thusly the romantic queer will inevitably get hurt. Separating the people who want to use you for sex from the people who are genuinely open to a relationship is difficult. One of the things that makes it so difficult is that almost everybody identifies as queer now. It’s just too tempting not to. If you’re a straight woman who sometimes feels tingly when she sees Kate Upton’s boobs, then you must be bi! Hooray! You’re queer! Tell everyone! Throw a party! Except, maybe don’t do that, because there’s more to a romantic identity than just tingly genitals. Maybe examine your desires and try to figure out if they point to anything deeper, or if you’re just admiring the sex appeal of a sexy person (or, God forbid, supporting the sexual objectification of women). Sexuality is fluid, after all. We know this. Science has proven it again and again and again. Sexuality is fluid, and just because you feel turned on by someone it doesn’t mean that your romantic orientation includes that person.

There are bisexual, pansexual, and asexual people out there who are genuinely romantically attracted to multiples genders. They really do exist. I submit that we’re moving toward a future where the majority of the population fits one of those descriptions. As rigid sexual socialization falls by the wayside, and we move toward gender equality and gender neutrality, we may find ourselves in a future where our genitalia are the least important parts of us. That would be beautiful, wouldn’t it? Until then, we’re trapped in the now, and in the now most people have “preferences.” I think we should allow those preferences to guide us and be a little more selective about how we identify to others so as to minimize confusion, and to allow those of us who actually do include multiple genders in our romanti-sexual orientations to be recognized. The term bisexual has been used too loosely for too long, and it has caused nothing but problems. Whenever I read articles that justify this muddiness, I feel annoyed. I think, why the fuck are we counting people as bisexual when they’re obviously straight? I’m sick of meeting “bisexual” women who can’t love me because I don’t have a penis. They're straight. You’re straight if you’re a woman who only loves men. Admit it, own it, and move on. Stop thinking you need to be queer to be cool.

 She has no idea I'm only dating her because an acceptable penis-haver hasn't swept me off my feet yet.

She has no idea I'm only dating her because an acceptable penis-haver hasn't swept me off my feet yet.

Women are people, not an assemblage of body parts. If you’re not passionate about the people who own the body parts you're lusting after, then your attraction is shallow indeed. If you like to eat pussy, but you could never fall in love with someone who has a pussy, then you are not really bisexual. You're just sexually fluid. This is why so many lesbians are leery of bisexuals, and why so many just refuse to even entertain the idea of getting involved with one. Treating women like sex objects and upholding the dominant paradigm of woman = sex does not make you queer. Loving women makes you queer, and I’m sorry to say, there are a ton of women who identify as queer who have never had real romantic feelings for another woman and never will. And know they never will.

There is nothing wrong with experimentation. Experiment all you want! Be bicurious! Be fluid! Come to the gay bar and hang out! Just. Be. Honest. About. It. Don’t tell people you’re queer if you’re romantically straight. That’s dishonest. If you know your interest in someone will never progress beyond the physical, be up front about it. Yeah, that might result in someone deciding you’re a waste of her/his time and declining to fuck you, but that’s fair. People who are interested in relationships should not be tricked into hooking up with someone who can’t or won't commit because of identity confusion/misrepresentation. Don’t lead someone on if they’re just a lay to you. Be honest about the fact that you want nothing but sex, and that said sex is not terribly important to you. That person may or may not go for it. If they do go for it, then they’re doing so with full consent. If they don’t, that’s their prerogative. They wanted something you couldn't provide and made an informed decision not to put their feelings on the line. That’s ethics, my friends. Does it mean you’ll have less sex? Yeah, probably. But it also means you’ll hurt fewer people, and that’s a good thing for everyone involved.
    

In Defense of Mistresses

Submitted by Anonymous

[The author of this post asked that her identity be redacted for reasons that will soon become obvious.]

Here's a confession: I prefer to have affairs with married men rather than pursue so-called “real relationships” with so-called “available” men. The reason why is simple: married men are better lovers, and I'm going to make a case for it. Buckle in, darlings. This is going to be a bumpy ride. 

In addition to their considerable sexual experience and unspent energy, I prefer married men to single men because they don’t smother me. I want fleeting intimacy on my own terms with no obligations. I want to be appreciated, but not possessed. People say, “Then just have casual sex with single men. Don’t be a homewrecker; there are plenty of single guys who aren’t into commitment.” Not so fast. My dears, there is no such thing as casual sex with single men. I have never had an affair with a single man that didn’t end with him trying to rope me into a relationship. Never. Even if he doesn’t want a relationship himself (and he usually doesn’t), he wants me to want one. He’ll say and do anything to coax me into exclusivity. This new generation of womanizers isn’t looking for sex. They’re looking to conquer a woman’s heart. They crave love and fidelity from their lovers with no intention of providing those things. Only guys who get their love and fidelity elsewhere are truly accepting of my decision to live independently and with no serious emotional strings attached. The moralizers cluck their tongues and say that this isn’t true, but it is. 

Married men don’t lie to me. They don’t fill my head with romantic nonsense or make promises they don’t intend to keep. Unlike single men, convincing a woman that they’re crazy in love with her so that she’ll fall crazy in love with them is not in their best interests, so they don’t do it. In fact, they actively avoid cultivating too much intimacy so that their mistresses won’t fall for them. When your mistress decides she wants you all to herself, you have a problem, so married men give me plenty of space and make damn sure not to lead me on. They don’t want all my attention. They don’t want to conquer me. They just want some excitement in their lives, which is exactly what I want. I’m not looking for a “real” relationship, whatever that is. I simply want the thrill of being desired, some passionate sex every once in a while, and to share the company of someone who genuinely likes me. All this monogamous domestic partnership shit is for the birds. It’s mostly founded on lies, and I see precious few opportunities for feminism to exist in that space.

I’m sick of being treated like a prize that men want to win. Even when I didn’t fall into their traps, the manipulation games came thick and fast. Being someone’s mistress is simpler, more honest, and affords me the autonomy and dignity I deserve. “But how is there any dignity in infidelity?” the moralizers ask. My dears, let me posit something: monogamy is not the holy grail of human love. There. I said it. Life is not a Disney movie. Furthermore, a cheating man is a cheating man. People will do what they want, and if your husband isn’t sleeping with me, you can rest assured that he is sleeping with someone else. I don’t attempt to entice anyone who isn’t already willing, so it might as well be me your husband fucks, because I’m not trying to ruin your marriage. I know it will hurt your feelings if you find out, but I try very hard to keep my affairs secret, and if your husband isn’t a complete dumbass and really does love you, he’ll be discreet too, and you’ll never know about us. Be glad it’s me he’s seeing and not someone who wants a husband of her own. I’ll never try to take him away from you.

And don’t bother to make the polyamory argument, because that’s just as bad as monogamy. In fact, most polyamorists are actually monogamists. I won’t get into the details of that sticky wicket, but I’ve seen it again and again. Polyamorists are just the same as single men. They encourage women to form expectations that will never be fulfilled. Give me swingers any day of the week. They want sex, and so do I. You can keep your flowers and poetic words, and all the manipulative shit you say to women to make them feel like they can’t live without you. I don’t want it. All I want is a warm body in my bed and a passion that is unspoiled by deceit and familiarity. You’ve heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt?” It’s true. Beyond a certain point, the more I get to know someone, the less I like him. Married men seldom wear out my patience. They’re not around enough. They provide the perfect balance of attention and neglect. When I’m done with them, they’re usually done with me. Nobody’s heart gets broken in these situations. We just run out of steam and then go our separate ways. It’s natural, fair, and stress-free. Relationships with married men are far more egalitarian than relationships with single men, because single men always want to wield this huge amount of power over their lovers, while married men just want to have a good time.

Instead of being hurt by infidelity, I would rather be the other woman. If I can exist independently, what do I need a relationship for? The reason so many men dislike commitment is because they don’t need it. If you’re attractive and successful, why on earth would you tie yourself down to one person? You wouldn’t. The real reason women are relationship-oriented is because it’s so much harder for us to achieve financial stability. It’s hard to earn enough money to completely support yourself. Relationships take some of the burden away by letting you share it. This is why Baby Boomers and the preceding generations were so against workplace equality. The knew what equal opportunity and financial independence would mean for sexual relations between men and women. Keeping women dependent means keeping women desperate, and keeping women desperate for a partner ensures that men get to call the shots. The only way to truly be free from all of this is to make your own living and be utterly secure. Once that is achieved, you will not feel so much internal pressure to fall in love, settle down, and tie down some man. You’ll find that you’re far less clingy than you thought you were, and that you really don’t fall in love as easily as you thought you did. There have been other factors influencing that. Take those factors away and you might find that you enjoy being single and free. Now you’re wondering what this has to do with sleeping with married men.

The equation is simple. Single men demand to be needed, not merely wanted. For their egos to be fully fed, they need to feel like they own you. They will sweep you off your feet with the most magnificent lies you’ve ever heard, talk about the wonderful future they hope to have with you, and generally work as hard as they can to make you feel like you can’t live without them. Single men are needy, dishonest, and will always burn you, even if they do make a commitment. There are some men who are faithful, sure, but the majority isn’t. Sooner or later your long-term male partner is going to fool around on you, and most of them are going to leave you. So then what? Do you just never settle down? Of course, but there’s more to it than that. In order to remove the danger of being roped into some guy’s romance game, you can’t just rely on yourself to resist. There will always be at least one man who can break your resolve, get inside your head, and get you to cave. Loneliness is powerful. To avoid this altogether you need to date men who won’t try to break you in the first place.

Being a mistress is really the ideal situation for a heterosexual woman, because she can enjoy intimacy on her own terms. As long as you’re not secretly hoping for happily ever after, you're safe. The less you put on the line, the less damage they can deal you. It’s also worth taking note of the power you have over them. Single men risk very little when they ensnare you. As I mentioned, they are the manipulators and therefore wield all the power. Married men, on the other hand, are risking quite a bit to be with you. If they wish to stay married, they’re putting their lives on the line, and that potential sacrifice isn’t lost on them. They realize that they need to keep you happy to make sure you don’t ruin their lives, and depending on the situation, their jobs may be in danger as well. I recommend having an affair with a man who is both married and your colleague or boss, because that way you have sway over more than one aspect of his life. You’ll be amazed by how forthright and fair a man can be when he knows you have the potential to hurt him. Naive women who date single men delude themselves into thinking that they can hurt men the way that men hurt them. Not so. The things that hurt you will never hurt a man, because men are not invested in relationships the same way women are. Again, they don’t have to be. But when you have the power to cost him his job or marriage? He’ll be very, very sweet to you indeed!  Even more importantly, he won’t make promises he can’t keep. He’ll be honest.

And this is the crux of the matter, ladies. The way things are, you have two choices: Be a patsy or be a lover. Be the broken-hearted partner or the sexy mistress. It isn’t wise to bank on being one of the very, very few happy non-broken-hearted partners in the world, because they’re rare, and the odds that you’ll be one of them are low. I personally choose to be a lover, because I enjoy sex and romance. I believe those things are transcendent human experiences, but only when they’re pure. Most men are incapable of purity unless you force their hand. They must exhaust their trickery on someone else before they can give you something meaningful. 

I know that the women reading this are probably thinking, “Oh my god, what century is this?” And I do agree that what I’m positing here sounds ridiculously antiquated. It seems like we’ve stepped into a time machine, I admit. But honestly, when you go out in the world and start dating these little fuckhead millennials, you’ll see that men are depressingly slow to evolve. Even though we have bigger and better feminism, polyamory, Internet, gay marriage, more trans recognition and rights, and a better understanding of gender and sexuality, the vast majority of men are the same Neanderthals their grandfathers were. My advice is absolutely sound. Don’t believe me? That’s cool. Go spend seven or eight years dating twenty-somethings and then report back with your findings. Go on. Do it. Off with you.

You'll come around.
    

No More Mr. Nice Girl

Submitted by C. Fox

Nice – (adjective) 1. Pleasant, enjoyable or attractive. 2. Used before adjectives or adverbs to emphasize how pleasant something is. 

Kind – (adjective) 1. Having or showing a friendly, generous, or considerate nature.

No, this isn’t a vocabulary lesson. It’s just some food for thought. I’d like to propose a hypothesis: Niceness is overrated. It’s a quality that is touted over and over again by just about everyone you meet. You hear all the time about how nice or not nice someone is, men who consider themselves nice are forever complaining about why their niceness doesn’t get them anywhere with the opposite sex, the phrase “nice guys finish last” refuses to die, and there are diatribes and screeds and treatises written on the subject of niceness and all that it entails. Nice is almost always considered a good quality to possess (unless it isn’t getting you any sweet poonanny), and too many people use it as a yardstick to measure social worth. If you’re a woman, niceness is almost as important as sex appeal. There is a huge taboo against being too outspoken or aggressive if you’re in possession of ovaries. It’s considered very, very Not Nice, and is a huge social crime.
    
As I get older and gain more life experience, I find myself increasingly baffled by our fixation on niceness. Many brilliant, empathetic, and deeply kind people aren’t what you would call “nice.” Even though the words ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ are pretty close synonyms (okay, I guess this sort of is a vocabulary lesson), they are not identical terms, and nuance makes a big difference here. Nice is a veneer. Of course it’s pleasant to interact with a nice person, and some people are born with the lacquer of niceness already applied, but nobody really needs to be nice, do they? I mean, in their personal lives, not professionally. Think of the smartest person you know, for instance. Is she/he particularly nice? I’ll bet she/he isn’t. What about the most successful person you know? The most talented? Anyone who is unduly preoccupied with the concept and value of niceness needs a priority check. Niceness is so shallow, so material. My car is nice, my house is nice, my neighborhood is nice. Do I really need nice people to go with those things? Nice little people who say and do what I want them to? Nice little people that accentuate my nice little life like decorative rugs? Many people who are nice are not kind, and vice versa. Kindness is more about being considerate toward others and doing the right thing. Niceness is more about being polite and inoffensive. Is there some overlap? Heck yes! But we’re intelligent, discerning grown-ups here, so let’s pull out the microscope and take a closer look.
    
One of the most annoying things about society is that it is slowly being commandeered by a generation that grew up with paper thin egos. Those of us who are in the process of inheriting America from the Baby Boomers were subjected to parenting styles and children’s programming that focused on building self-esteem. On the surface, that sounds great, because childhood can be hell for those of us who are shy or weird or don’t fit in for some reason, and aggressively discouraging bullying is a noble thing for society to pursue. I’ll be the first to say it: bullying is extremely damaging and no child deserves that kind of cruelty. The problem is that not all peer critique is bullying, and constantly telling your children that they're the smartest, bestest, most perfect human beings on the planet gives them a completely unrealistic view of themselves and others. I’m not sure if Sesame Street and Dr. Spock are to blame for what happened to us all, but somewhere along the way we grew up and forgot the difference between reasonable people calling us out on our flaws and assholes viciously gnawing on our sense of self-worth. Thusly we now have a generation of adults that is obsessed with the idea of “niceness,” where niceness is really just shorthand for “never saying anything that upsets me.”

 "Remember Snuffy, nobody should ever correct you, disagree with you, ignore you, or laugh at your foibles. Respect is given, not earned."

"Remember Snuffy, nobody should ever correct you, disagree with you, ignore you, or laugh at your foibles. Respect is given, not earned."

I don’t want to go too far into comedian territory here (e.g. everyone needs to grow a thicker skin and stop being so PC), but it seems that a whole fuck ton of people have lost the ability to differentiate between genuine cruelty and normal social competition. Everyone is so used to the concept of getting an A for effort and being given a trophy just for participating, we have failed to grow the type of thick skin that we actually need to have. We deflect criticism that could help us improve. We take every perceived slight way too seriously. If someone takes a sarcastic jab at you, laugh it off or respond in kind. Don’t get butt hurt and scream about how mean and nasty that person is. You’re an adult. You can defend yourself and move on with your life. If some woman fails to smile at you, don’t chide her for having “resting bitch face.” What’s wrong with you? Even if she actually is a bitch, how is that any skin off your nose? If you’re offended every time someone doesn’t fall all over themselves showing you how grateful they are to be graced by your presence, you need to retreat to a mountaintop and do some serious self-reflecting. Maybe you’re utterly clueless in social situations and you always creep people out by being awkward. Don’t freak when someone helpfully points that out, and don’t seethe with rage when you’re quietly ignored. Is it nice for someone to tell you that you suck at life or that they’re not attracted to you? Not really, but is it necessary? Um, depending on the circumstances, absolutely yes. I’m not saying we should all go around busting each other’s balls at every opportunity, but this expectation to handle everyone’s egos with kid gloves at all times is a form of cultural insanity. Some people’s egos really, really do not need to be pampered and fluffed. Some people’s egos are in danger of collapsing under their own weight.

One of the worst things about this kind of social climate is that it hasn’t done anything to curtail bullying. All that’s happened is that people who have no natural inclination to bully others are now overly self-conscious and sensitive, and those those who do have an inclination toward bullying are finding it easier than ever to attain their objectives. And as always, the people who are bullied most are the underclass and disenfranchised. Gay people are scrutinized and denied, trans people are discriminated against, obese people are discriminated against, institutional racism is alive and healthy, and the list just goes on and on. Women are unfairly “taken down a notch” all the goddamn time, while men scream about every tiny little ego infraction they suffer or imagine they suffer. Privileged, white, heterosexual men consider being disagreed with a form of abuse. This bizarre focus on niceness has just given society yet another tool with which to bludgeon second-class citizens into submission. You can just label that troublesome woman or black person with a synonym for “not nice,” and endlessly howl about how they did you wrong by expressing themselves, and other people will listen and take it seriously. There’s this ridiculous expectation for everyone who isn’t a straight white guy to be affable, non-threatening, and downright obsequious. If you’re a member of the underclass who gains a reputation for being angry or difficult…oh boy. Society will fucking shit all over you. It doesn’t matter how apropos your anger might be. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been genuinely failed by your community of if someone has genuinely harmed you. If you’re not a member of the privileged class, you’re supposed to take it all on the chin and remain “nice,” because if you’re not nice, you’re worthless.

 When you dislike my sexist, racist, classist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, fat phobic "jokes" it makes me feel so OPPRESSED. 

When you dislike my sexist, racist, classist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, fat phobic "jokes" it makes me feel so OPPRESSED. 

And yes, this phenomenon also plays into the anti-PC movement, because the main proponents of that shit are – you guessed it – straight white guys. Politicians and comedians are the two groups most guilty of saying wildly insensitive things in public forums and then responding to their detractors with confusion and defensiveness. Please take a moment to reflect on exactly how straight, white, and male those groups tend to be. Look at how many senators, governors, and presidential hopefuls shamelessly proclaim things that are sexist, racist, classist, and just plain awful, and then react with surprise when there’s a backlash. Look at how many comedians tell “jokes” that are sexist, racist, classist, and just plain awful, and then react with surprise when their audience doesn’t contain any women, minorities, or gay people. Remember when Daniel Tosh told a shitty rape joke and then exploded and went on a misogynist tirade when some woman told him it wasn’t funny? Remember when Mitt Romney openly declared that he didn’t care about poor people and then couldn’t understand why poor people didn’t want to vote for him? What’s going on here? Don’t these people realize that we live in a Nice Society now, and that if you want people to like you, you have to be very careful not to upset them? Well, no. They don’t realize that, because the rules don’t apply to them. Niceness is for losers, so to speak. Niceness is for people who have no means of forcing people to do what they want.

You can sort of see this at work in the dating world, too. Among straight men, there’s a very persistent theory that niceness is only for men who can’t attract women through looks and charisma. Niceness is something that men “resort” to when they’re too unattractive or awkward to effortlessly bag hotties simply by existing. It's a transparent mask worn by people who either have nothing else to offer the world or are browbeaten into because society will fucking tear them to shreds if they don’t mind their Ps and Qs. Meanwhile, the powers that be are free to be as cruel and insensitive as they please. In other words, they bully the rest of us.
  
 I propose a mass rejection of niceness. Unless it’s something that is really just intrinsic to your personality and is inviolable, let’s all stop worrying about it. There are more important personality traits to emphasize, like courage, intelligence, fairness, productivity, and honesty. Let's build a society that combats bigotry and bullying, and values honesty and altruism over noncommittal inoffensiveness. Let's stop enabling the tyranny of thin-skinned oppressors.

The Nine Guys You Meet On Dating Websites

Submitted by C. Fox

Dating: one of the worst experiences in a woman's life. We all do it, and those of us who lean toward the hetero side of the sexuality spectrum find ourselves trying to meet eligible men, which is one of most frustrating and futile quests a person can undertake. It's sort of like panning for gold or searching for that one sock that went missing at the laundromat two weeks ago. Sure, you might  find it, but more likely than not you're wasting valuable time that would be better spent eating pizza rolls, watching Netflix, and preparing to adopt the 900 cats that will keep you company in your old age. Now that we all live on the Internet, it makes sense that dating websites are the new singles bars: Ok Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, FetLife, Tinder, etc. It's a wild world, and luckily for you all, I've taken one for the team and identified the nine most common troglodytes you'll bump into should you choose this method of interviewing potential boyfriend material. Enjoy the ride. And pour a glass of wine for your girl. I need one after talking to all these shitty dudes. Here they are in no particular order: 

The guy who wants to be friends

“I’m just looking for friends, and you’re very pretty.”
“Please, give me a chance. I want to be friends first.”
“Why won’t you be my friend?”

It’s awful when someone is pushy about going on a date or having sex, but it’s downright bizarre to have someone pester the dickens out of you because they want you for a “friend.” Make no mistake, these guys want a lot more than friendship, but they have somehow internalized the idea that a woman will be more receptive to dating if it occurs under the guise of platonic interaction. We're all familiar with the "Nice Guy" phenomenon, so I won't delve into that here (plus, that always seems so much more covert). For some reason, there’s a huge number of foreign men who seem to think that the word “friend” means “sex partner.” Plenty of Americans use this tactic too, but it’s a disproportionate number of men from other countries speaking English as a second language who use “friend” as a magic incantation to convince a woman to give him the time of day. Frankly, I blame our movies and other narrative media. The hero-gets-the-girl trope is older than Methuselah's shit, not to mention the fact that the plot of almost every rom-com in existence is "Boy likes girl, girl doesn't notice boy, boy buddies up to her and shows her that all the other boys are unworthy, boy gets girl." If you're learning about American culture and relying on our media to help you figure out how to approach American women, you'll think we're all childlike simpletons that need male kindness forcefully shoved down our throats in order to make cognizant relationship decisions. That by no means lets these men off the hook, but I do feel some measure of sympathy. Unfortunately, thanks to Bill Cosby, the word “friend” is now pretty fucking terrifying when uttered by someone who’s trying to get into your pants. No thank you!

 "Why are you acting like I committed a crime by giving you drugs and having my way with you? We're FRIENDS!"

"Why are you acting like I committed a crime by giving you drugs and having my way with you? We're FRIENDS!"

The guy who doubts your authenticity.

“You seem too cool to be real.”
“Are you as cool as you pretend to be?”
“I want see if you’re as cool as your profile suggests.”

Okay, what’s with that challenging tone? Is this another form of negging? I don’t have to prove myself to you, stranger. If you think I’m cool, cool. Let’s hang out. If you don’t think I’m cool, just move on. If you think I’m cool but you’re too cool to tell me so, you’re trying too hard, and that is most decidedly uncool. It’s truly weird how many guys come at me with this “think you’re so smart and tough, huh?” attitude. I’m just a woman minding her own business. Presumably these guys want to go out with me. What do they think is going to happen when they challenge my authenticity? Why would I meet someone who is openly skeptical of my personality? Like, “Oh shit, this rando from the Internet doubts my coolness! I better go out with him to make sure he believes I really do like David Lynch movies!” Sorry, but that will never happen. What will happen is I will delete your message and never think about it again, unless I’m writing a blog post about how lame it is. I am not so insecure that I feel the need to prove myself to strange men who spend upwards of 12 hours a day sitting in front of their Xboxes.

Also, I’m not even going to go into what exactly they mean by “cool.” I’m assuming they mean the stuff I like (the coolness of which is definitely open to debate).

 Ah yes, James Dean didn’t die; he moved to a dumpster in Los Angeles and turned into a dirty potato skin

Ah yes, James Dean didn’t die; he moved to a dumpster in Los Angeles and turned into a dirty potato skin

It’s really anybody’s guess. If they mean I’m aloof and nihilistic, and really, really into leather jackets, then they’re 100% correct. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what they mean.

The guy who strikes out and then strikes back…months later

“Hey whore, did you ever meet anyone on here?”
“It must suck to have such low self-esteem.”
“Too bad you’re such a cunt, we could have had something.”

Okay, so most women are pretty familiar with negging and the particular kind of rage that men exhibit when they’ve been rejected (ByeFelipe), but there’s also delayed rage, and that really boils my noodles. There have been dozens of hopeful suitors who sent me a couple of messages, failed to interest me, disappeared for a few months, and then reappeared with a random insult out of the blue. Most of the time, I don’t even remember the original conversation. I just recognize that it’s someone I’ve spoken to before, and the tone of the message reeks of the hurtest butt that has ever been hurt. They also tend to roll in around 2 AM, and as we all know, 2 AM is that dreaded time of night when the slings and arrows we dodge in daily life plague us most. This is the scariest kind of message. I’m having a hard time making jokes about it, because a hostile stranger obsessing over you is really damn unnerving. I don’t think I need to point out that women are stalked, raped, and murdered by disgruntled men all the time; or that exchanging just a couple of messages with a woman on social media is one of the lowest tiers of social interaction. I mean, I could kind of understand if we’d gone on a few dates and built some level of rapport. It would still be a dick move to send me a nasty message months later, but it wouldn’t be a psychotic dick move. Maybe these dudes are just bored. Maybe they’re trolls. Maybe they’re completely unfit for society. Who knows? That’s just one of the games of roulette you play when you sign up to a dating site!

The guy with a kid

“My daughter is my life.”
“I have a wonderful son who always comes first.”
“Nothing means more to me than my children, NOTHING.”

Now, maybe I don’t get it because I’m not a parent, but it seems to me that there are a whole lot of single fathers out there who think any potential date is scheming to become an evil stepmother who leads their children to a gingerbread house in a haunted forest. Some of these overprotective fathers go so far in describing their devotion to their brood that it sounds like they’re actively trying to dissuade women from contacting them. Like “I’ve already procreated! You are all useless to me! There is only so much love and affection in my heart, and my offspring are already receiving every bit of it! Don’t even try it, she-devil. Just don’t even try to get me to care about you!” Jesus, why are you attempting to meet someone then? Go shove your swizzle stick into a glory hole and remove the human element of sexuality entirely. Yeah, the person on the other side of the wall probably has a Tom Selleck mustache, and you might not be jazzed about that, but at least they won’t get any ideas about stealing attention from your precious kid. The tragedy of this guy is that responsible single dads are totally sexy. They’ve proven that they can unselfishly provide for another human being and they wield the ever-coveted dad bod. There’s a lot going for them. Why do so many shoot themselves in the foot by jealously guarding the bonds they have with their kids? This isn’t even about protecting them from potential predators; it’s about sending the message that no other relationship could possibly mean as much to them. Sorry dude, but that sounds like a big fat waste of my time and energy.

 "You think I could ever love you? PLEASE. I have a CHILD."

"You think I could ever love you? PLEASE. I have a CHILD."

The guy who posts gross body shots and no face pics

Listen, I might be crazy, but for me, the face is the part of the body most likely to attract me. I know, I know. You think six inches is a crazy big wang that every potential girlfriend needs to see right away, but you might be surprised to learn that the face is actually a greater tool of seduction than your mediocre physique. FetLife in particular is notorious for this. People on FetLife are reluctant to post photos of their faces, and that’s something I totally get. What I don’t get is why those same people have no qualms whatsoever about taking high res photos of their naughty bits against a background of dirty sheets. Does that make it harder for someone to identify you? Yes. Does that make it easier for someone to be utterly disgusted by your nudity? Also yes. I’m not trying to body-shame anybody here, because lord knows I’m no supermodel, but unless you are truly an Adonis, you should leave your clothes on until someone wants to rip them off. Bad skin, back hair, man boobs, uneven limbs, stretch marks, weird teeth, and unimpressive genitals are perfectly acceptable… in context. If I’m looking at a whole person, and I’m already attracted to that person, then their so-called flaws don’t bother me at all. If I have to see those flaws outside the context of attraction, I take gulp of whiskey to chase the images out of my brain. You don’t want to lead with that information is what I'm saying. You want to lead with your best features. Your beautiful blue eyes? Your lustrous hair? Your sparkling personality? Your sharp wit? Your ability to mix pancake batter while driving down the freeway at 90 miles an hour steering the car with your knees? Hell, anything but your giblets! Even if you do have an objectively great body, bodies are still too generic-looking to elicit much of a response. I’ve received about a hundred messages from guys with the same basic build and skin tone, and their pictures are the exact same naked mirror selfie with the head cut off. It literally looks as though one man is contacting me through different profiles.

 Wow, look at this utterly unremarkable white male torso! It's all I've ever needed in a significant other. I hope he sends me a dick pic!

Wow, look at this utterly unremarkable white male torso! It's all I've ever needed in a significant other. I hope he sends me a dick pic!

The guy who wants to date a literal dog

“I swiped right for your dog”
“My dog is cooler than you”
“I probably won’t like you as much as I like my/your dog”

Similar to those single dads who loudly proclaim that their kid is more important than any woman he might date is the guy who claims the same of his dog. This particular weirdo is most commonly found on Tinder. Whether I run into this a lot because I live in a city of people obsessed with dogs or there are just a lot of dudes secretly in love with their canine companions is a mystery. It’s truly ridiculous how many men think that dog > you is an equation that will lead to romance. I see this all the time. About one in twenty profiles I come across makes some mention of how rad dogs are and how not-rad I probably am. While I’m tempted to file this under negging too, most of the time it sounds like a completely misguided attempt to be funny and charming, and a sneaky way to convey empathy. Like these guys want you to think “Oh, look how much he loves dogs! What a sweet person he must be! So much better than those robotic, unfeeling, sociopathic cat owners!” I’m sorry to inform you, that is not what we think. Implying that we have to compete with an animal for your affection is a creepy, assholish thing to do. What I actually think when I see this is “Oh, he wants to fuck a dog. That’s too bad.”

 Left! Left! Left swipe LEFT! 

Left! Left! Left swipe LEFT! 

Listen, I have a dog. His name is Falkor and he helps me fight The Nothing. He is my best friend. He sleeps next to me every night, and occasionally I think that sharing my bed with him is better than sharing it with a human man (there is less farting and drooling, for instance, and I never wake up with a giant boner pressed against my butt), but I would never give the impression that my dog is a stand-in for my boyfriend, even as a joke. At best, that would come across as bitchy (heh, see what I did there?), and at worst I’d seem like a woman with a really unhealthy attachment to her pets. And hey, I get it: you’re a sensitive guy who cares about animals. You and your furry buddy are thick as thieves. I relate! But like…aren’t you trying to find a romantic connection on this here Internet? Tinder exists for two reasons: finding dates and finding hookups. If either of those scenarios involves you wondering if your dog couldn’t better fill the void than the woman you matched with, you do not belong on Tinder. You do not even belong on FetLife. You belong on zoophilia boards that I’m not brave enough to check out even for the sake of writing something funny.

If you swiped right for my dog, I will never, ever allow you to meet him. Creep.

The guy who insists you come to his neighborhood

“I’m in the Southeast part of the city. Let’s check out a place near there.” 
"Let's grab a drink at ____. That's where I hang out."
"Sorry, but I don't know what's near you."

I live in medium-sized city of half a million people. It’s about 15 miles wide and there’s a big ol’ river bisecting it. Navigating it isn't a huge hassle, but you’d think so by trying to date dudes from the Internet. Nobody wants to go outside their comfort zones. In fact, the last time a guy suggested going on a date equidistant to both our ’hoods I ended up seeing him for four months. That's how rare it is, and that’s how much it impressed me that he was willing to put forth the tiniest bit of effort to meet me. Tinder is a wasteland. You have a kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince/princess, and it makes sense to invest as little as possible in a date with a frog. I mean, the slime? The fly-eating? Gross! Traveling four to ten miles for that is madness. Why stray more than a few blocks away from your apartment? Because, numb-nuts, it’s rude as fuck to insist somebody drive or bus all the way across town just to slurp some overpriced espresso with you, especially when they’re probably going to be as disappointed as you are. Have you ever considered the possibility that you're the frog? The stakes are exactly as high for your date, so why do you expect her to inconvenience herself while you kick back like an entitled prick? Just as you don’t want to waste precious time and effort pursuing a dead-end, neither do I. You want me join you for Sunday brunch at a pretentious hipster cafe downtown? Okay, answer me this: After spending 20 minutes in the car, will there be an affordable place for me to park? Oh, you don’t know because you live within walking distance and you’re completely unconcerned with things that don't affect you? Congratulations, you’re a fucking douche canoe. I’d feel differently if these invitations included a caveat like “Hey, I know this is a bit of a trek for you, but there’s a great place in my neighborhood I’d love to show you. If you don’t mind the commute, I think you’d really dig it.” Man, if you said that to me, I’d run every red light and stop sign between here and there to reach your sexy, considerate ass as soon as possible. And if you pick up the check too? Top form, my good man, top form. Too bad the vast majority of online Romeos are too lazy to perform even the most basic of courtship rituals (or use Google Maps). You suck.

 

The guy who is desperate for sex

It’s hard to come up with quotes for this one because they’re all over the place. Pick-up lines and icebreaker messages are highly variable. They’re like a rainbow of awkwardness and shame. Desperate guys are annoying for a lot of reasons, but the biggest kicker for me is that they don’t seem to give one single, lonely crap about what I’m looking for. There's nothing wrong with being horny. In fact, I get horny sometimes too. Imagine! When seeking sex partners and significant others, we all have preferences. If you find someone with similar preferences, you might get somewhere. Nothing is more embarrassing than full-fledged adults trying to act sexy and failing. If middle school hadn’t already completely desensitized me to humiliation, FetLife would be a torture chamber of fremdschämen. I mean, it’s bad enough when someone neglects to read my Ok Cupid profile, but when a 60-year-old dom who identifies as a “daddy” messages me to ask me if I like daddies when my profile explicitly states “I am not into daddies,” then my forehead slapping escalates to whiplash-inducing velocity. Because it’s never just a friendly “Hey, are you interested in grabbing some coffee?” type of message. It’s always a sexual proposal laden with as much clit-tingling charm that person can muster. It falls completely flat because I’m de facto uninterested, and that’s never a fun thing to say to someone. And don’t think that more respectable dating sites aren’t fraught with the same idiots. On Ok Cupid, many of my questions are deal-breakers, i.e. I won’t even consider someone who would “strongly prefer” to date someone of their own race, or someone who thinks that global warming is a hoax. You’ve got to have standards, people. One of the most telling signs that a guy is looking to get horizontal with anything that will let him is that he won’t bother to even narrow his search to women who might actually be interested in his dong. He’ll message women who have absolutely nothing in common with him and act like they’re soulmates. Copy and paste is a tool he uses often. If I had a dime for every militantly conservative, confederate flag waving anti-feminist who told me he liked my profile and thought we'd make a good match, I’d have enough money to fund a queer pinko commie revolution of the most glorious magnitude.
 

 "Hey girl, I see your values are exactly the opposite of mine. Opposites attract, right? Right? Please touch my penis!"  

"Hey girl, I see your values are exactly the opposite of mine. Opposites attract, right? Right? Please touch my penis!"  

The guy who acts innocent and offended when you call him out on his bigotry

“Well, look at you making assumptions!”
“Unlike you, I don’t judge people before getting to know them.”
“You don’t even know me. I’m nothing like that. You're ignorant.”

So, when one of those confederate flag waving anti-feminists makes the dire mistake of messaging me, I always make sure to let him know exactly why I’m rejecting him. I’m hoping that maybe he’ll wise up in the future and actually read someone’s profile before opening a dialogue, or that he’ll suddenly feel so enlightened by my rejection that he’ll swim over to the hot gay interracial party boat of liberalism. Win-win situation, right? Because I don’t take too kindly to people thinking that homosexuality is evil or that it’s okay to call women sluts, I don’t use the most delicate language during these exchanges. Depending on how much of a bigot the person is, I might say something pretty harsh, like, “I’m not interested in gun-loving, God-loving, anti-choice, anti-welfare, homophobic racists who believe that women have an obligation to keep their legs shaved. Learn how to read, you illiterate fuck!” And in almost 100% of cases, the guy in question acts surprised and reprimands me for “making assumptions” about his character and “judging” him without getting to know him first. It’s stupefying. Is there a non-racist reason to vocalize a strong negative bias against a certain race of people? Is it somehow not sexist to say that men should be head of their households or that a woman who’s slept with 100 people is a bad person? Believing that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry or have children is just “something you were raised to believe?” Oh, well then! I guess you’re pretty groovy after all. Excuse the fuck out of me for taking it the wrong way. Look dude, I don’t have to make assumptions about the fucked up shit you believe, because you’ve proudly outed yourself. You volunteered that information. It’s all right there on your profile! I didn’t take anything out of context; I simply reiterated things you admitted to. I guess they think that because they couldn’t be bothered to read my profile, I must be similarly lazy/incapable. A few of them are just obviously backpedaling because they want to talk their way out of the horrible first impression they’ve made so they can maybe still bone me. Weirdly, I have more respect for that type of asshole than the asshole who thinks he just doesn’t have to take responsibility for hating people. Like, “How dare you think I’m a bigot just because I told you I was a bigot! Don’t you ever give people the benefit of the doubt? This is why feminists are such terrible people! They’re so judgmental!” Yep. You just keep telling yourself that while you jack off with your Cheeto fingers, Brohaim. I’ll be over here going on real dates with real people. Eventually.