Try Me, I Dare You

The results of this election have awakened a sleeping lion inside of me. Before November 9th, I was content to sit back and complain. Now, the intersectional feminist in me is readying herself for war. My heartbreak is becoming revolution, and I am preparing to combat every inane, apathetic response I encounter.

“We survived Nixon and Reagan and Bush.”: WHO survived them? The people killed in the Cambodian genocide? The people who died during the AIDS crisis? The people of color being locked away for a bogus “drug war”? The countries in the Middle East that we waged war on? Who “survived”?! Oh, that’s right. Straight, white people survived. They always do.

“Just wait and see.”: Let’s sit back for a second and really think about this “wait and see” policy. I am a Jewish-American woman. I have been nervously obsessed with the Holocaust since I could understand what the Holocaust was. The sight of swastikas, the words of survivors – these things impact me deeply.

Steve Bannon is a Nazi – he is a living, breathing Nazi, who is now in the White House. It is true, and my reaction to this is not an overreaction. Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon is an obedience test for America. The way in which we react to a Nazi being given a position of power is an excellent way for Trump to gauge exactly how much leeway he and his other White Supremacist cabinet members will have. Will we say, “Absolutely not. You are not allowed to do this.”? Or will we say, “This is America, it’s not possible. Let’s spout some bullshit about acceptance and unity and try to assuage our feelings of guilt with safety pins.”?

He is testing how much Republicans will put up with, and how much resistance all other citizens will offer. Do we normalize this with safety pins? Do we make jokes? And as these tests get closer and closer to atrocity, we have already normalized the outcome of the last test, so the next one barely seems worse. This is how Hitler did it, and this is how our president-elect is doing it. They are already discussing a registry for Muslims. It won’t take long for internment camps to pop up, which, by the way, have not been deemed unconstitutional. That, in itself, is an outrage that we have ignored for 72 years.

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“But Hillary was corrupt!”: And Trump isn’t? The man is literally settling $25 million fraud lawsuits as we speak. His conflicts of interest are unprecedented. He is a living, breathing, walking lawsuit. His likelihood of being impeached would be comforting if Mike Pence weren’t even scarier than Trump.

Hillary is imperfect, like most politicians. Anyone who is ambitious enough to run for the presidency is going to have some fishy backstories. But those of us with vaginas are not allowed to be imperfect. Marred by a long and extremely accomplished career in politics, Hillary had too many skeletons. Trump didn’t have an email controversy or a Benghazi controversy – because he never had the opportunity to fuck up in politics. There are a million other reasons why he is not fit for the presidency, but those don’t matter, because he is “anti-establishment” (Yeah, he’s really “draining the swamp”… and making sure to keep the scum at the bottom) – and because he has a penis.

And to those who will argue that sexism did not play a role in this election: imagine you were given two anonymous resumés to fill the position of the presidency, resumés that list every scandal and every job experience, and you tell me which of the two you would have chosen – the one with 30 years of experience and a lot of scandal (most of which has been debunked), or the one with zero years of experience and a lot of scandal (most of which is accurate).

The people who elected Trump are not allowed to get angry when they are called racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic. They are not allowed, because regardless of their intent, they saw a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic RAPIST and thought “Well, he’s better than ‘Crooked Hillary!'” They are not allowed, because regardless of intent, the actual impact that his presidency has had, and will have, is far more wide-reaching than their intent. The hate crimes are only the beginning. The people who elected Trump have elected a symbol of hate and misogyny, and symbols mean something. This symbol is giving people a license to hate and a license for bigotry.

I used to be annoyed and frustrated when I walked down the street and men stared or catcalled. Now, I am furious and frightened. Any safety I once felt has been stripped away, and I am left to build my own defenses. According to Trump and Pence, I do not deserve to own my body, so I must own it in whatever small ways I can. I am creating a shield inside me, thicker and stronger than any I’ve built before, and most other women I know are doing the same.

And if you’re wondering what this has to do with the theme of my blog: this shield that I am creating has a mind of its own. I have never been less romantically or sexually attracted to men in my entire life. I am having consistent, violent, and ferocious fantasies from the most sadistic parts of my subconscious. I am disgusted by the inability of the men around me to be even a little bit validating, supportive, and understanding. I am repulsed by the men who tell me to “get over it” or “stop being so angry”. I am enraged that my father has not said a SINGLE word to me since the election, other than to jokingly comment on how I am “the most attractive of his LinkedIn endorsers”. My fury is seeping into every interaction that I have with any man. I am bored by their predictable “bottling up” of emotions. I am sick of accommodating their needs over my own in the name of “compromise in relationships”. And, frankly, I’m not at all worried about whether this feeling will fade in time, because I have better shit to do now than worry about how comfortable the men in my life are.

 

 

Some ways to get involved:

I Am Finished

I am no longer going to keep myself quiet in order to make the men around me more comfortable.

I am no longer going to swallow my words when someone says something bigoted.

I do not owe anyone an explanation for my anger, and I will not let anyone tell me that my anger is not justified.

If someone catcalls me or stares at me, I will stare right back and I will respond, so long as it is relatively safe to do so.

I will not hold back on social media just to make others feel more comfortable.

I will utilize this anger, and my Masters degree, to fight every injustice I see.

I will find a way to help.

I will learn to vocalize my words, because although it is not my strength, it is necessary.

I am no longer going to shave my pubic hair because my partner prefers it that way.

I will not be pulled into sexual situations that I do not want to be a part of.

I will own my body in every single way possible.

I am not afraid. I am furious. I am a goddamn hurricane, and I am going to destroy everything that stands in my way. 

About Last Night

Today, November 9 2016, has been the saddest day in my entire life. I woke up this morning, after three hours of restless sleep, with the heaviest of hearts, in a catatonic state. I walked to the subway with lead shoes. I met a woman’s eyes – she also wore all black – and they were shiny with tears. I mustered the smallest smile of empathy, she reflected it, and I broke down into racking sobs – right there, in the subway car.

I hadn’t been able to stomach breakfast, but I thought a stop in Whole Foods might cheer me up. I hoped my love of psuedo-healthy food might shine through the darkness, but I barely remember strolling the aisles, the haze of disbelief was so thick. I slouched into the very place I had so triumphantly marched the day before, so weak that I could barely muster the energy to take off my coat. I sank, for a moment, into the realization that I have never, ever felt this level of acute depression before.

On my subway ride back home, a white, handicapped man – wearing red, white and blue – sat right next to me and read a triumphant article of Trump’s win. He smiled, and I could not contain my disgust. It crept up my body, filled every crevice with malice, and I felt paralyzed. I met the tear-soaked eyes of another woman, and we both burst into tears. The beauty of this moment was not lost on me. Humanity has taken a blow, but we are mourning together.

I am bereft. I am lost. I am terrified. I am furious.

We have elected a man who has raped his ex-wife. We have elected a Congress that will strip away our rights. We have failed our country, we have failed our people, we have failed the world.

 

All the women.

In me.

Are tired.

I Am Heartbroken

I am an object. I do not deserve to make decisions about my own body. This body can be grabbed without my consent. My voice should not be heard. Nasty, competent, tough, intelligent women can not be trusted, and can not get elected. This is what America has said to me tonight.

 

WordPress has notified me that this was my 100th post. I wish I could celebrate, but I am empty of joy. 

The Pussy Will Bite Back

I have spent a lot of time, over the past week, thinking about Donald Trump’s words. Frankly, they come as no surprise to me and I’m a little miffed that this is what seems to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – of course it’s not until he talks about white women that people begin to pull away from him. But of course, this is when I feel the most horrified, as well.

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I was surprised, however, by my own reaction to hearing that recording: pure, unadulterated anger. I was actually shaking, and even now thinking about it, I want to cry. I kept repeating, I’m a fucking human!, as though I needed to remind myself of this fact. And all I could feel was my blinding rage, as I replayed every sexual transgression that I, my mother, and my friends had ever experienced. I have had kisses forced upon me, I have had my ass grabbed by strangers, I have had men shove their fingers and tongues in places I did not consent to. These things have hurt me, in ways even I don’t fully understand. And here, we have a fucking presidential candidate speaking about these things so cavalierly – and people are still going to vote for him.

During past campaigns, I have been quick to dismiss most candidates’ arguments against the others’ as muckraking. Sure, sure, Obama did this, Romney did that, but in the end, it’s all pretty much the same, because anyone who actually ends up on that ticket is going to have skeletons in their closets. This is different – I am no longer apathetic. I am livid. I actually, physically hurt when I think about the countless people (men and women) in my life who have invalidated everything I experience, who have called me crazy and irrational because I believe that women absolutely still experience oppression, every fucking day – and YES, even in America, and NO, not just from sexual predators – from coworkers, from lovers, from parents, from friends. All women are impacted by it, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. And all other genders are impacted by it, too.

Perhaps Michelle Obama put it best: “This is not something we can ignore, not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season…. I feel it so personally… the disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman? It is cruel, it’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It’s like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body… We are drowning in it. And all of us are doing what women have always done. We’re trying to keep our heads above water. Just trying to get through it, trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us. Maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us, as women, look weak. Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet, because we’ve seen that people often won’t take our word over his. Or maybe we don’t want to believe that there are still people out there who think so little of us as women. Too many are treating this as just another day’s headline. As if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted. As if this is normal. Just politics as usual…”

My Evolution

So I’ve arrived: I am twenty-six years old, in the supposed “prime of my life”, with a graduate degree, jobless, and in the midst of a full-blown existential and/or identity crisis.

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I’m no stranger to the feeling of not having an identity. Events in my life have forced me to bend and mold; I am a chameleon. My identity has always been shaped by where I am, and who I am with. In a particularly intense session with my therapist, when I explained that some might call me a “commitment-phobe” (although that’s not a word I would use for myself), she asked if I am afraid of losing myself. I agreed, instantly, but then pulled back: “But I don’t even know who I am, really.”

Over the past ten years, I have been in five relationships that lasted longer than one year. With each of these men, I was a different person – not only because I was changing and growing, but also because I believed that they each required a different version of me.

I decided to ask these men, including my current partner, for three words to describe me or our relationship – good or bad. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, but I figured it would become clear to me once I’d heard back from everyone.

Unsurprisingly, my first boyfriend did not respond. I can’t say I blame him, the request reeks of narcissism and a ravenous ego. His response, of course, was the one I was most interested in, because I couldn’t think of words to describe us. I was, perhaps, least myself with him – I tried too hard, I was too self-conscious, and I had no idea how to be in a relationship, and I often didn’t want to be. I hated feeling like my mental state was in his hands, like everything he did and said weighed more in my mind than my own words and actions. I became obsessive without really knowing why, and felt a surprising amount of relief when it was over.

Second: “Sexual, stabilizing, connected,” he said. Stabilizing?! My relationship with him was probably the least stabilizing experience I had ever encountered. We were certainly connected – by our mutual destruction of each other! We were tumultuous partners, exalting in our reciprocal tortures. I felt simultaneously inadequate and esteemed. The sex was astonishing, his affection was intoxicating, and his criticisms were agonizing. With him, despite my best efforts to display nonchalance, I was inwardly meek, easily manipulated, and eager-to-please. When I finally displayed my spiteful side, he forced upon me the most shame I’ve ever felt, and our eventual demise created a wall so thick, it has yet to be demolished.

Third: “A contagious laugh/sense of humor, an electric personality, and a kind soul,” he responded. I’m touched, and also not surprised that his response had nothing to do with our relationship; I can hardly think of any words, myself. He always did think too highly of me, and with him, I could feel that way about myself. I was radiant, driven, and strong – or, to put it less flatteringly, I played the role of “too good for him”. It was easy to feel better than him, because he offered me something I hadn’t experienced before: unblinking adoration. He provided safety after the Second’s disaster, and allowed me to exact a strange sort of revenge on the gender that had so tormented me.

Fourth: “Unguarded, connected, adventurous,” he offered. These are accurate, of course; he is ever astute. His generosity and love lit something in me that I didn’t know I had. I felt like becoming a better person for him. I even allowed myself to picture a tentative future with him, clinging to real or imagined hints that he felt similarly. And although the slow realization that it will never happen has left ugly traces of resentment on my memories, I still love him for weakening the wall and giving me a definition for “love” that sticks. With him, I was my ideal form – a less neurotic, less insecure, more composed version of my authentic self.

Current: “Sex, hard, mundane (which he then changed to ‘routine’, when I reminded him that mundane means dull).” I can’t help but laugh. Convinced my request was a trap, he went ahead and said the bad things anyway – and that is one of the things I admire about him. Sure, from my perspective, two out of three of those things are not good, and it took every ounce of restraint not to ask, “What the hell are you doing with me, then?” But that’s for him to ask himself. I know why I’m with him, and I know that we’ll end. And of course, he is the only one who says anything bad – because we have not yet created rose-tinted memories, and because he met me when I finally started to become real. With him, I don’t hide my neuroses. I don’t hold back my anxieties. I am pigheaded and irrational and, I’ll admit, often boring. So of course it is hard, because I do not try to be better for him. In fact, sometimes, I find myself playing up this “damaged” role, because he allows it; it is comforting to feel supported and cared for while playing the worst version of myself.

I’ve found surprising gratification in this little experiment. With each passing relationship, it seems that I become more and more “myself” – whatever that really means. But questions remain: why must I form my identity around my lovers? Who am I when I am completely alone? By jumping from relationship to relationship, am I losing myself, or am I finding myself? If it is true – that to find ourselves, we must lose ourselves – perhaps it does not matter, the finding or the losing. Whoever I am will find me, if I ever stop running.

Monster, Me

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I am an empty fleshbag. I am continually seeking ways to fill this hollow sack.

Sometimes, the fleshbag is hungry for validation, so I hunt for compliments. This merely takes the edge off; my pride does not usually allow me to beg like a puppy for treats.

Eventually, the fleshbag craves emotions. I track down reasons to be sad or angry, because those are the strongest antidote. My bones don’t mind the pain, but misery does not flatter the figure.

Often, the fleshbag itches for physical sustenance. So, I eat and drink and fuck and suck and run. These are my disguise, this is how I appear more human, less monstrous.

My vessel is never satisfied, never whole. I fill myself with lovers’ identities. I try them on, force my arms through their sleeves. For months, I feed on their sexual desire – I am a scavenger, picking meat off the bones. But when the flesh is gone, I ache for more. I claw at their hearts: only the source of their sustenance will gratify. Their pleasure and affection is ample, at first. I fatten them with cuddles and giggles and carefully curated words. Their contentment oozes through my pores. Comfort, though, does not mollify for long. When luxury ceases to be enough, I lust for disaster. I thirst for heartache. I never create the collapse; I cannot have the blame lie anywhere near me, or else I would be exposed as the hollow, ravenous beast that I am. So I wait patiently, prodding ever-so-cautiously, nudging us towards destruction. Because that’s when I finally feel fed. Lovers’ desolation keeps the fleshbag glutted.

Objectification Versus Love

I remember the first time I was catcalled. I was a late bloomer, and my tits barely grew at all, so I never received the same level of attention that some of my friends did. I spent much of my middle school and first year of high school convinced that I would remain a virgin, because no one would ever be interested in me and my tiny tits. Ah, how naïve I was!

On this occasion, I was walking to high school, fourteen years old. It was a mile-long trek on one bustling street that connected several towns along the Long Island Sound. The man on the far right of the truck whistled at me and stuck his tongue out in a circular motion. I looked behind me, convinced that he could not be pointing that attention at me, but I was a lone pedestrian. In the first moment, I felt shock. In the second, I felt disgust. In the third, I felt excited. And in the fourth, I felt fear.
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I am a very lucky woman. I grew up in suburbia, rarely took public transportation, and did not develop an objectively “hot” body until well into my college years, where I finally figured out how to exercise, and how not to be so gangly. I was sheltered from a fair amount of unwanted male attention during my most formative years. I think this is partially how I developed such a “sex positive” outlook – although living in New York City as a social worker is a continuous abuse to this attitude. This walk to school, and the countless instances that followed, were a rude awakening. I couldn’t deny the thrill I got from becoming a sexualized being – but the more it happened, the less exciting it was, and the more afraid I became.

Being seen as a sex object can feel supremely empowering – when that person also cares for other aspects of you. But these men on the street don’t know a thing about me. All they know is that I am a woman, and all they believe is that I am walking by them solely for their entertainment. Their lewd gestures and repulsive words are less an appreciation of my body than an assertion of dominance – a constant reminder that I am being studied, that my female body is not safe. It does not matter what we wear or how we walk, we are sex objects.

As I began to engage in more and more sexual relationships with men, I started to notice that there is a fine line between feeling appreciated as a person and as an object – and I often cannot tell the difference. Sometimes love feels like objectification. And sometimes objectification can feel like love.

I used to commend myself, internally, for never having experienced the typical “one night stand” scenario. Not once have I been ghosted or dumped by a man that I was interested in. But while I may not have experienced the blatant objectification of being “used” for a night and then discarded, I have still been a sex object to those who appreciate other aspects of me.

There are men who have loved me because I represented something to them: an escape, a taboo, a mistress. To them, I am an object, a mirage; I embody what they need, I am merely their projection. Until very recently, I didn’t mind playing those roles. It felt fulfilling, because I was also using men – for validation, for sex, for novelty, for intimacy. But as my need for novelty and validation wane, I’ve found that achieving intimacy while playing an inauthentic role is impossible. And as the reality of misogyny, the leers on New York City streets, and the barrage of messages on OkCupid finally set in, I have begun to resent being a sex object – even for the men who care about more than my body.

It has become exceedingly difficult for me to separate my anger at the patriarchy’ from the individual men in my life. I struggle with conflicting feelings of immense love and gratitude versus frustration, disgust, and resentment. Determining exactly when I am being objectified, and how I should feel about it each time, feels like an insurmountable task, and it’s completely fucking exhausting. And yet, to not do so seems unthinkable. Feminism today is using humor and optimism to undo the damage that sexism has caused. And while this is a useful and worthy tool, ignoring the reality of our combined experiences, and the impact these experiences have had on our mental, physical, and emotional well-being does not heal our wounds. “We laugh with Amy Schumer, listen to Beyoncé tell us that girls run the world or Sheryl Sandberg when she tells us to lean in…But maybe we’re doing ourselves a disservice by working so hard to move past what sexism has done to us rather than observe it for a while. Maybe it’s okay if we don’t want to be inspirational just this once.”

Similarly, laughing off the men who treat me like their own personal sex fantasy feels like acquiescence – not humor – and I am quickly running out of chuckles. But, importantly, these are not just the men on the streets or anonymous online messages. These are also the very same men that I love, or fuck, or have loved, or have fucked. These are the men that love me, the very same men who commend me on my intelligence and humor. These are also the men that I adore for their generosity and kindness. These are the men that I want to gratify, because I care for them, and because it pleases me to do so. How can I love someone for their sweetness, and simultaneously feel objectified by them? Where is the line between feeling used and feeling special? And how do I balance my adoration with my frustration?

XHamster’s Publicity Stunt

All that can be said about Brock Turner and his jail sentence has already been said. This story is nothing new: survivors of sexual assault are put through grueling, horrific re-traumatization, they are called liars, they are blamed, and in the end, there is little to no justice. People can write think pieces, they can rally around anger or frustration or sadness, and still nothing changes. And then companies come along, eager to prove just how “anti-rape” they really are – as if there should be any other stance. USA Swimming can ban a rapist for life, so that people feel as though something has been done – hurray for USA Swimming! We can all rejoice in your progressive stance and continue to support… whatever it is that USA Swimming does! Except that there is nothing progressive about publicly shaming and denouncing a human being – no matter how atrocious his actions were. Hatred only breeds more hatred, and absolutely no one benefits.

And then there’s this bullshit cherry on top of the pile-of-crap sundae: the “Brock Turner Rule” on xHamster. Essentially, the site will be tearing down any type of video that depicts rape, authentic or simulated. If anyone searches related buzz words, they will find no search results, and a message that says, “If you are searching for this category, probably it’s time you consulted with a professional psychologist.”

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Ah, I see! XHamster has decided to utilize a tragedy in a conspicuous publicity stunt, and simultaneously pathologize literally millions of porn users. In order to make a bold statement, and create the illusion of being an altruistic brand, xHamster has not only decided to set itself apart from the people who commit heinous crimes, it also apparently is setting itself apart from those who (according to popular belief – not fact) may, in the future, commit that crime.

Many people’s first response to this was: “but won’t that leave potential rapists with no safe outlet?!” But this is not about helping potential rapists find the help that they need (and, needless to say, that is also flawed logic to begin with). This is about xHamster’s brand. It’s an attempt to convince pornography consumers that they are “bettering the world” by supporting the “good guys” in the industry, like xHamster.

In short: it’s about money. And, as xHamster has made clear here, there is money to be made in proliferating fear, including fear of sexuality and deviance. Entire industries are built on fear: fear that we’re not attractive enough, fear that we’re not safe enough, fear that we’re not healthy enough. By denigrating sexualities that are “non-normative” (although, let’s be clear, rape fantasies are absolutely the norm across all genders), xHamster is lauded for being “anti-rape”, while upholding the systemic fear, othering, and pathologization that fuels our current capitalist society.

Not only has xHamster turned a woman’s trauma into a publicity stunt, they have missed the opportunity to normalize the sexualities of their consumers. Instead, they’ve chosen to demonize a huge amount of people who utilize their website – and that’s not a brand I’d put my money behind.