by Amelia Hanson
I love dating, and I particularly love dating men. But the thing is, over the last year-and-a-half, I have grown to (generally) hate (most) men, and that makes dating a lot more difficult.
I have always been a bit of a hopeless romantic; it’s hard to avoid falling into that position with the way girls in America have been raised. We’ve been imbedded with the idea that our worth lies mostly in our ability to secure a good husband and produce children. And we’re taught that the path to the perfect man is paved with pain, heartbreak, and a lot of assholes; it’s just par for the course. This has been deeply engraved in me. Since the first grade I’ve been creating romantic narratives in my head about all my crushes, real and fake, and constantly on the search for Mr. Right, but it’s never quite worked out for me.
When I was younger, I let my hopeless romanticism be just that, hopeless. I pined after men who treated me horribly, constantly convinced that I was doing something wrong and it would work out better the next time. I was never willing to give up on someone I’d told myself I was in love with, when I should have given up early on. And, of course, my insecurities about my body never helped me much.
Then something changed in me. I can’t pin down the exact moment or cause—it was a blend of significant weight loss, a newfound sense of style, a great haircut, and profound heartbreak. But I felt ready to stop being the victim to the men I wanted to have love me.
From then on, I viewed my dating style as my version of feminism. I wanted to date just like a man—treat it as a fun numbers game with a lot of sex thrown in the mix. I dropped any shame I had for my number of partners, and lack of long term commitments, and had no problem letting the guys who ghosted me or fucked me over know exactly what I thought of them. I played it all off like I gave no shits and was just having a blast. But underneath it all, I still just wanted committed, beautiful love, and so much of what happened to me continued to cut deep.
That’s the thing about being a woman dating men, we are warned from birth that, if we’re not careful about what we say, how we dress, how we act and how much we drink, anything could happen on a date, and if it does, it’s our fault. While for a man, consent is anything that isn’t a flat-out “no,” consent for a woman is a complicated minefield. It’s never as simple as yes or no, desire or distaste. All too often we don’t even raise the issue, don’t even attempt to say no, because the fear is constantly in the back of our heads that, if we do say no, if we reject him or push him away, something much worse will happen.
That’s why, in my history of dating, I’ve let guys kiss me less than an hour into a date, put their hands between my legs while talking about their girlfriend, and have sex with me when I’m utterly disgusted by them, because the possibility of the alternative is unfathomable. So we convince ourselves it’s fine, that, sure, he kissed me far before I was ready, but he’s still cute and a few more dates couldn’t hurt. That if I have sex with him now it’ll make him feel like he won, so when I tell him I don’t want to see him again he’ll be less of an ass about it (he won’t).
We just so desperately want to believe that better men do exist, that we’re willing to put up with just about anything to find them. That’s how the movies say it works, right?
Then Donald Trump was elected president, and the façade of a country progressing towards equal treatment was destroyed. 2016 had already been bad enough, but when our country decided it was okay to elect a self-professed sexual assailant, countless women, myself included, realized that there was no one to stand up and speak for us but ourselves, so we did.
In that time, in the middle of Harvey, Bill, James, Aziz, Louie, Larry, Kevin, Casey, Donald, Donald, Donald… we saw that our inklings that men didn’t care about our wellbeing, our feelings, our bodies, were all true, and very few men cared to change our minds.
November 6th 2016 was when my dating bubble burst.
In the two years before that, I’d racked up 20+ partners to my list and tended to average a date a week.
In the year since then, I’ve slept with 6 men (and only really cared for 1 of them). I’ve taken multiple 2-3 month stretches without dating, and spend most of my evenings discussing how awful the world, and the men in it, are. What was once fun often just feels like an exhausting uphill battle, and anytime a sparkle of hope appears, a friend is raped, abused, called horrible things, heartbroken.
And yet, I still want so badly to fall madly in love with a good person, who calls me beautiful, likes to smoke pot and cuddle, and has a cute face, and 70% of the time I want that person to be a man.
So the question is, how can you be a hopeless romantic interested in men, but still practice intersectional feminism?
My solution: Give no shits, be aggressive, and be selective.
Gone are the days of avoiding touchy subjects on dates. I now make a point to bring up Trump, Weinstein, and Michael Jackson. I test their ideas of feminism and listen very closely to what they said. I will always call out some mansplaining or racist, sexist jokes and comments. I no longer allow men to do what they want to me without full consent, because they will never learn without clear communication. And yeah, I do try and do it in a charming and witty way, I am still trying to impress my date and get some action at the end of the night, but I also don’t care if I make my date uncomfortable, because if he has a problem with my views, I have a problem with him.
It’s still an uphill battle, and a constant string of contradicting thoughts. On my drive home I find myself going from raging over the latest accusations and policy changes, to tearing up wondering how weak it would make me look to try and win my ex back. I’ll spend half-an-hour swiping left on every face I see on Tinder, loathing the idea of who they might be, but still jump with excitement anytime one of them messages me.
Dating while feminist isn’t easy, nothing worth fighting for ever is, but it’s up to us to do the work to make sure that, when we do find someone to settle down with, our kids can date with a carefree sense of safety we’ve never had.
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