On Romantic Illusions – Part 2

This might be romantic in fiction; not at all in real life.

I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty

~”Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke

A lot of ruckus was generated this past month and continues to be stirred around this song, and not without reason. It actually says that men can interpret whatever gesture a woman makes as sign of horniness and agreeing to sexual advances, which is not only disrespectful but also dangerous for women. The song is climbing the charts and that’s worrisome. I am not going to give further attention to the singer or the song and its MV – I hope some lyrics are enough for you and please refrain from searching it on youtube and thus giving it more credit and views; but you can check the chilling comparison with rape survivors’ testimonies here. I want to step on it to talk about misconceptions in flirting, share some experiences and make certain things clear.

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Flirting is tough business; it can be akward and humiliating and generally it can make either the initiator or the receiver feel very vulnerable. That’s why in some cases words aren’t used much, so that there is always the chance to withdraw and deny whatever occured. The one who initiates and the one who has the ultimate word is women. That’s what scientists say and what most people believe. Take a minute to reread this and find the false statements.

Not only this doesn’t reflect anymore an every-day, full of cat calling, reality for a lot of women, but also foments and reinforces victim-blaming or even slut-shaming. In the meantime, it totally ignores the fact that men have no right to make women feel uncomfortable because they have a huge ego and interprete everything to their favor, to be persistent and, much more, to humiliate them publicly. Women don’t necessarily ask for attention when they dress a certain way, and even if they want men to look at them, this doesn’t equate with them wanting to be sexually abused.

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It was just this summer, the past month, that I was going home after a plunge in the sea and I heard a ‘hello’ so I wanted to make sure for whom it was intended. I looked around and asked the waiter of a restaurant on my way if he meant to greet me. And he confirmed that he was talking to me and he said it was a simple ‘hello’. I thought that it would be weird to consider it weird, since waiters do PR as well and in the end just a greeting what bad could it be?

I was wrong though. He suggested to treat me a coffee and I said that my parents waited for me at home. He tried to persuade me to come back later that day and I said I couldn’t, I was tired and made clear he brought me to an uncomfortable position and that tomorrow could be more possible, since I still have issues saying a clearcut no and making a scene due to my upbringing (fighting to get better at it though). He kept asking and waiting for a positive answer and I tried to just get away without answering and he even tried to appeal to me through honesty when I said “we’ll see”. In the end, he agreed to see me tomorrow and although he had moved away for awhile to fix some chalk boards with the menu, he came back to me to make me say the ok and handkissed me.

I don’t need to say that I found totally gross that a stranger not only touched me but kissed my hand as well and although he could certainly understand that I was negative to his ‘kindness’ he kept going. And he was sly enough to use the virtue of ‘honesty’ to make me feel even more awful and press me to either outright reject him (though I don’t think he would take a no) or accept his invitation. Not sure if it’s worth mentioning, but it so happened that I had some purple mascara on left from a morning walk to the shops and I wore no glasses. Did he think that he had the right to be pushy because I wore make up? I didn’t go of course. I don’t like men -especially strangers- paying for me and then function like I should owe them.

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Sorry I’m not sorry, but many men should stop thinking and behaving like they’re entitled to women’s attention. They should start being decent human beings who respect when the other party declines any gesture, even a ‘kind’ one, and back off when they can see that women don’t want to associate with them. And no excuses like what Megara puts correctly in the above gif. Most probably it’s because these men don’t let us space to breathe and be honest that easily.

Nevertheless, I am not going to complain only about men being brutes, but I want to talk to women, too. Of course, men being the ‘attackers’ and all bear the first and heavy responsibility of their actions. Yet the culture and the parents, and in some cases the notion of what is ‘romantic’ and ‘desirable’ by a woman don’t help much either.

Why we don’t see this more often? Why should men be the ‘hunters’?

I have encountered a couple of times posters on social media where basically women demand from men to kiss them before they even ask them to because they are so awesome -and impossibly magical- that they can read their minds. If we stretch this line of thought a bit, we aren’t only having extreme expectations from men but also we are allowing men think they can take initiative believing they know what we want. Which might not be that important for a kiss (in an already existing relationship) but certainly it’s more than dangerous when it comes to sexual advances with a stranger and sex itself even with an intimate partner- it feeds the rape culture itself.

I am not always very fond of the jokes and language Louis C.K. makes, but there’s an experience he narrates and does highlight how messed up our worldview as women wanting romance and/or sex is. He was approached by a waitress and they ended up in a bedroom making out, but each time he tried to feel her up, she stopped him and he respected her setting limits, thus nothing happened that night. Next day, the same lady complained about the lack of sex. She has rape fantasies and there’s nothing wrong with it, except that in order to have them fulfilled safely in reality, you have to verbally inform the other party. She was actually saying that he should have … violated her!

And this isn’t just something that a single individual with a twisted perception of reality thought up and created. From discussions face to face that I had with female friends and acquaintances of different ages, I have to tell you that many women still falsely seek the ‘hunters’ or/and the ‘princes’. They want the man who takes decisions in a blink, who is proactive, who ‘hits the hand on the table’. I remember very clearly when a colleague of mine at the university was telling me how fascinated she was by a young man she met who without permission took her mobile phone, made a call to his phone to get her number, and some hours later he was mysteriously outside of her house nudging her to go for a date somewhere. I was totally freaked out. Because she was getting off with a person breaching her privacy and being bossy… Isn’t such behavior the 101 how you got into an abusive relationship?

Something has gone terribly amiss in the way we perceive romance and with our child-rearing when we seek out the fairy tales and do not learn about basics concepts as consent. To sum up, both men and women should make a reality check, and the first should learn to respect the latter.

consent 

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12 thoughts on “On Romantic Illusions – Part 2

  1. Another excellent post, Ayame!

    I get tired of my fellow males always trying to get into women’s pants. Their head swivel as women walk by and the crude comments that follow trouble me. That isn’t to say I am innocent. I have done my fair share of both when I am caught up in the “moment of adolescence.”

    I am terrible at flirting and don’t even bother. It feels like a chore, and I don’t find it fun unless it is witty teasing.

    Society forces certain ideas of intimacy that do not work for everyone. I find making out and other things completely unappealing. Intimacy, for me, is a good conversation while sharing a blanket and good tea. Intimacy is writing a letter to a friend or lover that is away. Romance is in the small gestures of each day. Unfortunately, my ideas of romance tend not to go over very well!

    What society pushes as an ideal is often linked to economics and excitement. The key to selling is to appeal to the primal brain. It overwhelms the higher sections of the brain; this results in impulse purchasing. Food and sex are the best ways to turn on that primal brain. Heck, advertisers even try to make a fast food burger into a sex object.

    Although, redefining romance to mean tea and conversation will sell a lot of tea!

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    • We all have been jerks at one point in our lives or another. The important thing is that we now know better and (don’t) act accordingly.

      Oh whatever sexual goes through the brain, my friend. Those who use that brain only in a limited way, I dunno how they function. I mostly agree with you about what romance is; though I wouldn’t exclude kissing from the mix, at least for me. It doesn’t need to be something that involves too many fluids. Hentai and other types of porn send a very unrealistic and quite ugly image of what a make out or sex is. Also, although I am not someone who sits at the table and devours quantities, I do appreciate food as sexual prelude. Some of the most awesome moments I’ve had with Neko involved a small elegant restaurant. I am not sure how to best describe what is on my mind, yet the fact that I am sharing senses with my beloved person makes my chest overflow with happiness. Although consumption is a ‘trend’, people have forgotten to taste, smell, touch. But of course whatever floats your boat.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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  2. So that’s why I’m still single. For the longest time, I have interpreted the word “no” as “no” when I should have jumped the woman instead.

    In all seriousness, I am a guy, not a mind reader. Unless a woman tells me what they want, I won’t do anything premature. Heck, in my most recent relationship 4 years ago, I had a hard time picking a birthday present for my then girlfriend.

    Maybe this is why hardcore otakus love the Type B tsundere stereotype. I’m sorry, but when a woman is mean to me, even when they don’t mean it and want me to notice them, I would want to stay far away from them. Again, I can’t read minds and I dislike guessing.

    That story about the waitress actually wanting to fulfill a “rape” fantasy left me confused.

    Actually, this entire post confuses me. I know men are persistent but some women actually WANT to be dominated for the sake of a fantasy?

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    • Picking a gift is always hard. Much more for a man, I must inform you, since the shopping list can get incredibly small.

      Human beings are very complex, you know? And yes, there are women with rape fantasies. There are also fenale submissives; do you know BDSM? It isn’t anything sick as many think. Consent between real kinksters is no.1 rule. We’ll talk about BDSM on another post though 😉

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  3. This reminds me of our skype chat regarding slut shaming^^

    I think you articulated the issue pretty well. The expectations of both men and women need to change before progress can be made.

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    • I think part 1 of this series of post is the one more focused on slut-shaming, but I guess it’s also a part of cat calling issue that I touched here.

      I have to thank you for the great conversations we’ve had and you should know that I feel I owe you a bit for making me aware to certain things.

      Thanks for the continuous support!

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  4. I think that with fantasies the intimacy is often implied or at least perceived by the person reading it. It becomes scary when those fantasies are based off a perceived reality and people then try to act off that. I think the real problem is that a lot of people of both genders do like that act. Asking them to stop seems pointless, but asking everyone to communicate better seems like a real need.

    Maybe this is obvious, maybe not, but these cultural expectations can be just as hard on men. I dated a girl once who very much expected me to push her around and think for her when we would go out and do things, she would get mad and later complain to her friends when I didn’t. It was a weird relationship because I knew her for years before that, but her expectations basically meant that we weren’t allowed to talk about romance anymore once we were dating. She wasn’t having fun if I couldn’t guess.(Which is not just an assumption, she told me that much straight out.) This was also many years ago and we were both immature, but I still can’t help wondering how many women think like she does because of their ideals, since her ideas were based on some cultural idea of being “old fashioned” I doubt they were particularly unique.

    I personally think that a lot of this problem really comes down to communication. How do you overcome the communication barrier that people throw up for the sake of romantic and cultural expectations? It’s not a problem I have a particularly hard time with, but I see other people struggle with it all the time. Again I think the real problem is that a lot of people of both genders like this act and so it won’t be going away. Telling people to stop having fun is like asking them to visit a doctor when they aren’t sick.

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    • Thanks for sharing your experience with us! It’s important to have men talk about these issues as well, as long as they are honest and don’t have intentions of degrading women (I remember an article on The Good Men Project which ultimately wanted to present the writer as the ‘poor nice guy who got friendzoned’).

      I am not sure what to assume, but if you haven’t read the post till the end please do so. I tried to throw light on your side of things, too. And I’m not telling people to stop having fun; I might have not worded it this way, but I do believe that communication is the key. Consent is after all verbally expressed and is directly related to communication. If you are referring to flirting, I am not codemning it totally: I codemn obnoxious behavior and simultaneously I urge (good) flirt by women to be more accepted. I am going to write one more part to end this series of posts and I’ll include topics such as who makes the first move.

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      • I read your whole blog. I don’t really disagree with anything you had to say, I just thought my story was relevant so I decided to share it. Consent is absolutely important, but there are people who don’t want to talk about consent and just want to leave it implied. I think it’s sort of a thrill seeker mentality, the girl I mentioned before also loved horror flicks and roller coasters.

        Perhaps it is unhealthy to start a relationship off with some silly courtship game, but then treating romance like a game with any kind of implied rules is already a bit crazy if you ask me. And of course everyone is playing by a slightly different rule set.

        I’ll be interested to read what you consider healthy flirting. Personally I doubt that such a thing can truly exist between strangers regardless of who initiates it.

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        • When someone writes online, the tone often gets lost and that’s what happened here; I thought that you might be complaining to me. Sorry for misunderstanding. As I said before, I am glad that you shared your story 🙂

          Consent is and should be explicit. For kisses between a couple might be less of a matter but sex is a whole other thing. And yes, romance isn’t a game since no one is your toy to play with their emotions. It can be considered a game since it has rules; however before playing a game you always read or state clearly the rules. They are never implied. I am a firm advocate of discussing and negotiating, never leaving things unsaid or in a fog, suspending midair.

          Healthy flirting exists when first of all there’s a common setting/interest like a conference or working space or hobby activity. Then if kindness, respect and wittiness are there, too, you don’t need to be wary. This summer I tried to interfere to something I thought it was lgbt bullying (but I got it wrong and kinda embarassed myself) and a young man there after explaining me what was going on, he complimented me on my courage and then for my beautiful smile. I found it a very simple and sweet way to flirt. Some years ago a younger boy tried to approach me by talking about the interests we shared; it was nice and cute.

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