Click! Super Sloppy 17ths

I realized I was a feminist the first time I gave myself permission to be angry with men. My first boyfriend in high school spent a lot of time undermining me in ways that felt like love. He’d tell me I was pretty but not sexy, and then have sex with me. He’d tell me I was smart, but then laugh with his brothers at how I was “ditzy.” He’d look deep into my eyes and tell me the world was ours, and how much he loved me, then tell me I was being crazy when I’d call him more than he liked, or when I’d ask for anything at all. He gave me what he wanted to give me when he wanted to give it to me, and I got to tell myself over and over again that it was what being in love was like.

That guy broke my heart when he broke up with me, and I felt like I lost my whole world. He made me feel like my world wasn’t any bigger than him and that any attempts to make it so were a result of me being “crazy.” After that I gravitated towards any guy who made me feel validated for a few minutes. I wanted to be friends with guys only—I told myself that women were catty and shallow, and that I just got along better with guys. Looking back on that time, I was desperately unhappy and also desperate to be someone who mattered. And the only people I knew who mattered were men.

I sat through marathon sports sessions and pretended to care. I cooked and I cleaned and I fetched beer and I sat by while guys made comments about other girls … girls who weren’t me, because I certainly wasn’t that girl. I wasn’t stupid and slutty and weak, I wasn’t obsessed with Sex and the City and bad alcohol, and I certainly didn’t get easily offended like all those other girls did, by stuff like porn and strippers and sexual comments.

I could keep that face on until I couldn’t. And that’s when the shortfalls of these guys became painfully apparent. When I missed my first boyfriend so much, I cried during sex with a one night stand and the guy asked if I was OK—and when I said yes, he kept going while I kept crying. When a guy cheated on his girlfriend with me and—nevermind that I was drunk and he was four years older and it was my first week of college—she stayed in a relationship with him but made sure everyone we knew heard about what an evil, dirty, boyfriend-stealing slut I was. When I was too drunk to drive home and asked a male acquaintance to drive me, and we had sex that I don’t fully remember—but he told everyone. And this stuff happened again and again, until it culminated in a night when at a fraternity party, someone grabbed a microphone and asked if anyone wanted their turn at “super sloppy seventeenths” with me.

I dropped out of school then. I felt so worthless I wanted to die. Everyone had figured it out: I was weak, worthless, stupid, and worst of all, a total whore. And after I hit rock-bottom I started to wonder why. Why was it that sex meant that something had been taken away from me and given to some guy? Why was it that guys could shamelessly talk about their sex lives, but I was supposed to be ashamed of mine? Where exactly did this slut label that was breaking my heart come from?

And then the first guy came back. After another painfully draining relationship with him, I got the opportunity to tell him to go fuck himself, to get his things out of the house and leave me to my life. I finally started living for myself. And I realized that straight white men are given power, but the rest of us have to find ours. That made me so angry and so determined at the same time, and something inside me fundamentally changed: I stopped accepting things for what they are and started asking questions about why they are that way. This changed my career trajectory in an insanely positive way. It changed how I relate to men, which led to a fantastic, egalitarian relationship with a man I plan to marry (I’m the one who proposed). And perhaps most importantly, it led to some deeply rewarding friendships with other women. whom I stopped viewing as the enemy in my quest for male validation and started to see as fellow survivors of the patriarchy.

I found feminism like some people find religion. It changed my life and it made me whole.

Photo from Flickr user icanteachyouhowtodoit under Creative Commons.

This post is a part of a week-long blog carnival in honor of Feminist Coming Out Day.

Comments

  1. You didn't become a feminist, you figured out you were a total doormat and decided to change it. And being a doormat isn't a female thing, there are straight white males who are total doormats too. I'm sure you've seen the guy with the shrill harpy for a wife who is beyond mean to him yet he just takes it and does whatever she says. If you haven't you will. That's a doormat. The guy who dates a woman, spends tons of money on her and gives her whatever she wants, and she constantly cheats on him yet he won't break up with her and makes excuses for her? Doormat.

    Good for you for figuring it out, but it's got squat to do with feminism, and more to do with having some farking self-respect.

  2. You basis for being a feminist is on your experiences with teenage males. Guess what? While you were learning that all most men are pigs, men were (hopefully) realizing that their desire to couch girls has more than the immediate consequence of simply couching girls. Not saying that every guy realized this — a lot never do, eternal manchildren — but some can and do move past that.

    The problem is that we view sex as, well, sex. It's not a big of a deal to us. It's pleasant, we desire it intensely, but it's little more than the moment for us when we're young. We can move on much faster from it and it doesn't seem to make us into emotional wrecks unless it disrupts an intense relationship or we were so embarrassed by it that it leaves our self-esteem in shambles.

    It's not an issue of dominance, of going out of our way to control women. It's to get the monkey off of our backs so we don't have to deal with it. Some guys, especially young ones, are cocky about their sexual exploits, but that has more to do with wanting to flout their exploits to other guys than with embarrassing the girl — these people either get their shit together and stop viewing women as purely sexual objects or end up going to jail for rape or spousal abuse in their 30s when their little dream world of women and the reality collide — violently.

    I sympathize with you, I truly do. I'm also happy to see that you are getting married and, thus, rather than simply rejecting men, you have realized to an extent that not all men are evil. But I do ask you to consider the context — high school. Everyone is new to this, experimenting, and completely unsure of what they're doing. Guys make mistakes and, believe it or not, some are strong enough to change.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Genevieve. I think so many people will feel validated by your story. It’s a good, and difficult lesson, when sharing your story, that it will make some people feel automatically uncomfortable and defensive; and they will find ways to discount you. Please don’t anybody let that stop you from telling the truth. Your courage keeps the struggle for freedom alive.

      “Some people complain that people working for social change are being ‘divisive’ when they draw attention to gender or race or social class and the oppressive systems organized around them….Oppression promotes the worst kind of divisiveness because it cuts us off from one another and, by silencing us about the truth, cuts us off from ourselves as well.”–Allan G. Johnson, The Gender Knot.

      For the people who have shared that they feel uncomfortable with her story, it’s not Genevieve’s job here to make you feel comfortable or to convince you to become a feminist. If you’re truly struggling with what feminism is, I HIGHLY recommend reading The Gender Knot: very accessible, and written by a white male.

  3. Jerk, your name couldn't be more appropriate.

  4. Chauvanist? says:

    I thought the same thing "Jerk" thought. This is absolutely ridiculous. You didn't become a feminist–you just decided to stop dating a**holes. I'm all for the whole equal treatment thing, but seriously, you're no feminist.

    Or am I a chauvanist because I married a great (Read: equal, intelligent, beautiful, and perfect, please. Otherwise she'll make me sleep on the couch) woman, and I proposed to her myself?

  5. Rich Sol says:

    You allowed yourself to be abused. It’s good that you got over it, but it hasn’t nothing to do with this mythical patriarchy. And the added gratuitous racism and heterophobia of stating that white straight men are given power is even worse. There plenty of women, non-whites, and homosexuals with power; conversely the great majority of men, white people, and heterosexuals don’t have much.

    There are plenty of men who act the way you did, and other follies more common to men, but that’s not the fault of some brown gay women power structure, nor were your issues attributable to your putative straight white man power.

  6. Carol King says:

    The double standard around sex is really at the heart of misogyny. If women enjoy sex, seek it with enthusiasm and don't have to worry about getting pregnant, then how will they be controlled? That's why fundamentalist, anti-choice activists are so opposed to birth control, abortion and even sex education. It's all about keeping women "in their place." Good for you that you found feminism. Brava!

  7. Not a jerk says:

    Feminism is the radical idea that women are people, nothing more. Jerk doesn't seem to get that, not ironically. And yes straight white men are absolutely given power, even if they refuse to admit or realize it. Congrats dearie. I too remember seeing women as competitors in my compulsive need for male sexual attention and validation (even as I eschewed otherwise and insisted I was just one of the guys) and now, well, when I see a woman who "doesn't like" or "doesn't get along with" other women, I wonder why.

  8. Chauvanist? says:

    I have absolutely no problem with women, or even equal rights for women, but has anyone else noticed how the women here, in both the comments and the article, have problems such as "compulsive need for male sexual attention and validation" and clear self-esteem problems, but want to blame men for it? This is why we have a problem with "feminism." Again, not all women, and not all women who want to be equal. Just feminists. You're just like everyone else, but instead of blaming yourselves you blame men and the women who refuse to call us chauvanists.

    • Chauvanist says:

      "I have absolutely no problem with women, or even equal rights for women"
      Well aren't you special. What do you want, a medal?

      • Chauvanist? says:

        I'm just pointing out that I'm not posting because I'm a chauvanist, but because "equal treatment" doesn't mean "man-bashing." I guess you wouldn't understand that. The two seem to be the same in the minds of feminists. And yes, a medal would be nice.

  9. J. Destroyer says:

    Congratulations on getting it together. It is hard not to hate the haters – I can't do it.

    People are going to undermine you and undermine feminism because of their own lack of self-worth. It sounds to me like even though life isn't over yet, you've beat the hard part. Good job.

    This is what a feminist looks like.
    Johnny D.

  10. Wow so you got angry at a guy and became a feminist.

    Angry man hating feminist….there is a reason stereotypes are around.

  11. Nicely written, but by all means has nothing at all to do with feminism.

  12. elizmc09 says:

    Why are people who don't agree with critical points of feminist ideology trolling Ms. blogs?? I don't understand, if you don't think patriarchy is real why are you reading Ms? To the author of this piece, congrats on finding feminism. It's such a life altering moment when you realize that many of your problems are a result of the patriarchal society we live in and then you can decide to fight it.

    • Chauvanist? says:

      It was linked here from Fark with a good enough headline that we wanted to check it out. We read the article, and the rest is history. Maybe, just maybe, you should consider the fact that not everything we men do is designed to make sure you're staying in the kitchen and manufacturing soldiers for the new revolution, instead of perusing the blogs. Or you could keep ignoring rationality and be defensive. Whatever makes you happy. (See? I'm a good guy. I'm giving you a choice.)

  13. did any of you actually read the article?
    when have you ever heard of a young man being humiliated in front of a group of their peers for having too many sexual partners?
    "Why was it that sex meant that something had been taken away from me and given to some guy? Why was it that guys could shamelessly talk about their sex lives, but I was supposed to be ashamed of mine?"
    To me, these are the most important words of the article. And there IS something there. I do not believe it is the fault of the men that view sex as a conquest any more than the women who are made ashamed of their sexual decisions. No action, not one, exists in a vacuum. Acknowledging differences in treatment doesn't mean blaming any one group for that difference. Through acknowledging that there is a problem, we can work towards a solution, towards as men and as women as as sexual agents. Acknowledgment doesn't require blaming because, in this case, both men and women slut-shame. So don't get so bloody defensive and just attempt to think about what she is saying before pressing submit. Don't give some asshole knee-jerk reaction without even bothering to consider whether at least part of her post has a valid point. There IS a double standard! Men are shamed for not having enough sex, women are shamed for having too much. As if sex takes something from women but gives something to men. Wouldn't it be a much better world if sex was just something that 2 (or 1 or 3, or 4, or more) people can enjoy together and collectively gained from? Not a game that can be lost or won depending on what parts you have?

    And to Genevieve- Thank you for sharing your story. It takes courage to talk about how you came to be a feminist when the story is so deeply personal.

  14. I applaud your conviction and strength. I suppose anything in the extreme is dangerous, but there is nothing at all evil in stopping and pointing a finger at hypocrisy, or questioning why everyone is so enamored with "the norm". Oddly, this sort of prevalent sexism is cyclical. The shit that our mothers wouldn't put up with, I find many young women giving a pass. Maybe the political climate? Puritanical -> tentative movement towards equality -> permissiveness -> shaming -> back to puritanical. It's sad, but the women who generally stop caring about what others think, and pick up a guy for sex without a worry and go about their lives tend to be older women now. Forget the dipshit "cougar" thing that guys go on about. There is a truth. That truth is that patriarchy is ingrained into our society, in subtle ways that are often not overtly noticed (rationales for pay caps, breastfeeding bans, and stereotypes of kinds of women). We all buy into it to a degree, until we cannot. Those that step away, for better or worse, get my congratulations.

  15. For anyone who is wondering about some of the more ignorant (and bitter) comments from those who seem to lack reading comprehension – Genevieve posted this article to Fark and some of them are coming over here to troll.

    PS – if ever you have someone in your life who doesn't understand why feminism is still necessary, have them spend five minutes over there, particularly in any thread dealing with rape, dating…or women in general, really. I've managed to open more than a few people's eyes thanks to Fark. God bless it.

  16. Dominique Millette says:

    The mansplainers are out in droves, I see.

    Go mansplain and whitesplain someplace else. Or wait. No, don't.

    • What is a "mainsplainer", exactly? Is it a man who is afraid of being lumped in with the kind of men described in the article and tries to explain themselves? Because that seems like a legitimate, if misguided fear.

      The assumption by men who do not personally know or have spent much time around feminists is that most feminists are angry at men, as opposed to simply wanting to change some of the parameters that society operates under. When you talk about the evils of patriarchy, it sounds to some guys like you're using these sorts of stories to affirm the idea that men have screwed everything up, that we're all collaborating and colluding to make everything better for ourselves and worse for you, and wouldn't it be so much better if things were just how women wanted them. Some feminists may even believe that, but the impression of many men is that MOST feminists believe that.

      Those guys who try to be nice people but who don't understand what feminism is generally about may get defensive at the perception that they're being lumped in with horrible guys like Genevieve describes, and generally described as "the problem". Coming from the mistaken perspective outlined above, I think that's an understandable concern.

      Perhaps it would encourage more meaningful dialogue with men in general if you were more sensitive and understanding of the sort of ideas and beliefs your self-ascribed "feminist" label implies to men, whether they are correct or not. Otherwise they'll just be arguing against ideas you never had, and you'll be getting mad at them for misunderstanding.

      It might also help not to use insulting-sounding phrases like "mansplain" or "whitesplain", as it sounds like you're writing off anything they might say simply for the crime of being white or male, and I'm sure you'd never want to endorse the idea of marginalizing another's opinions based on color or gender. That would be silly.

      Anyway, just trying to help lay groundwork for fruitful discussion and perhaps give you some food for thought from the entirely respectful perspective of a half-white male. Carry on.

    • yoteech says:

      :-)

  17. melmelklein says:

    I enjoyed your post and applaud you for sharing this. I know many, many women and girls who have similar stories but don't share them out of fear, fear of the type of ignorant comments many people have posted here. So, I support you, I feel ya, I know you, I was you! Thanks again,

  18. crtrue, yes, lots of young and not-so-young men brag about sex not to embarrass the woman but to make themselves more macho, but fundamentally that’s because they think women don’t count as people to them – the only people that matter are themselves and to some extent other guys. And society encourages that viewpoint.

    And yes, Mike, there’s a reason for the stereotype of angry man-hating feminists, which is that they’ve had to put up with this shit all their lives, and they don’t deserve it. I don’t blame them a bit…

  19. Jarred C says:

    As a straight white male, all I have to say is: Good for you. I don't know you, but I'm proud of you. Your attitude sounds very similar to the woman whom I am marrying.

  20. I'm glad you decided to write this out. The penis mightier!

  21. Patriarchy? says:

    Glad the author found someone she’s happy to be with who treats her with respect.

    I’m a little ashamed to admit that the word feminism elicits a knee-jerk reaction of annoyance in me. Maybe I don’t like that a large group is openly hostile towards me because my genitals match those of some perceived male oppressor. Perhaps if all the men who treat their female counterparts abusively based on a pathological sense of machismo got together with all the women who feel a constant sense of conflict with everyone and everything male-related

    got together, the rest of us could move on and treat each other with some civility and respect.

  22. Your response of living for yourself and sticking up for yourself shouldn't be pigeon-holed into "feminism." That's just being a good and well-rounded person. Nobody should put up with that sort of treatment you received. While i may not be a Feminist I do believe that there's a huge double standard and it's good that you've stood up against it now.

    • What exactly do you think feminism is? These stereotypes of feminists as being bra burning man-haters is what evokes such negative reactions from men, who don’t take the time to research what being a feminist really means. It doesnt mean “man hater” but simply, equality for woman socially, economically, sexually, and in every realm.

  23. Sarah D says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Genevieve, and congratulations for finding a way to be happier with yourself.

    I hope that you ignore some of the comments you've received, such as the one from "Mike". Obviously, he missed the point of your story. Despite everything women have done in our attempts to at least level the playing field, sex is still one of the areas that men seem to have dominion over. In your case, certain men made you feel that your worth was based solely on your willingness to have sex with them, and then they and others made you feel worthless when you did. On the flip side, women who are unwilling to have sex with them are worthless prudes. Either way, the keyword is "worthless". Either way, you lose. There is, as you pointed out, a definite double-standard.

    And people agonise endlessly over why so many women have so-called "issues" with sexuality? Is it really any wonder?

  24. I can't help but think your struggle is rooted in a very low valuation of yourself. You are hanging around a bunk of cruel men and saying you're converting to feminism because of it. It sounds a lot like to me you're realizing you do have value as a person and you should not hang around with the haters. There are multiple villains in this story and they are not all men. I have no problem with feminism, but I'm not sure if feminism will answer the question of why you are drawn to people who are cruel to you. I do wish you good luck.

  25. Jim Sutherland Sr says:

    Proud of you girl.

  26. aelfheld says:

    You lay down with dogs but were upset that others noticed the fleas. Sorry, I don't buy it. Nice that you've got your act together, but you were deciding to sleep around and hook up with unsuitable men, not some mythical 'patriarchy'. Mayhap one day you'll grow up and take responsibility for your actions.

  27. I have to agree withe Jerk and a few others. Unless feminism is just a word for self respect, the only thing you have done is grow up and realize that you shouldn't let yourself be treated the way that you had been (good for you). The only examples that you gave from past relationships though, were from either high school and college. Your talking about "boys" who still need to validate themselves to their friends or frat brothers by making others look small. I don't know your age but it seem that you need to experience a few more adult relationships before you start throwing men under the bus for not making you feel good about yourself. Maybe you should re-evaluate the types of men that you look for

    Don't think that what your describing is a one-way street either. I've seen and dealt with women who have done the same types of things to men including me, so that they in some way will feel better about themselves.

    • Well put….All I read here was a report from the Bitter Institute.

      The boys aren't the problem…it is her…she was programmed through her life experiences to be attracted to those boys.
      Take some responsibility for your actions and choices.
      And avoid the douchebags at all costs.

  28. MostlyCivil says:

    Sadly, those guys, the ones who were craptastically stupid and mean…aren't generally all that selective about their targets. As badly as they treated you, they probably treated the socially inept guys just as badly. Can you say fraternities?
    It's too bad you had to run into a long string of knobs before you found some decent humans. It's nice to not have to be on the defensive all the time, isn't it?

    Also, good style on the piece. You've established a voice. Keep writing.

  29. Really? Really! says:

    Strange, Genevieve, that so many of manage to make a distinction between selfrespect and the lack thereof without the need for an -ism.

    Feminism has grown into a bitter, foaming at the mouth state of being where being equal to has given way to better than.

    If you cannot identify yourself without a label, give “womanist” a try. Empower your own sex without disempowering the other.

    Here’s hoping this article is only the start for you.

  30. So the trolls are resorting to a familiar variant on the theme of blaming the victim, who allegedly "allowed" herself to be debased by insensitive and emotionally abusive men. While it's true that men are occasionally victims of the same phenomenon, women are relegated to that position far more often by the cultural dynamic that the author describes so well. Even if victims might passively "consent" to the abuse, the moral burden falls far more heavily on the perpetrators. Trying to shift the responsibility isn't at all helpful.

  31. If I hang out at seedy bars and write about all the women who are whores and disease-ridden then my observations are true, but worthless. Observation requires mental acuity to observe/live outside of your normal data-set and determine if maybe, just maybe you are the person who keeps showing up to the scene of the accident.
    As a white male – I take offense to the implication that I have been given anything! It is small-minded and simple to make such a comment. I work harder, than the people that I have "power" over – you should try it sometime!

    • it's strange that there are so many people on here that completely missed the point of this story. How did you get to the "Ms. Magazine" blog, white-male-who-refuses-to-accept-that-you-have-been-given-an-undeniable-advantage-in-life?

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we're better because we ARE white males…. just that it IS better to be one (Louis C.K.).

  32. I love this story. Millions upon millions of women have stories like this, and anyone who tries to silence your voice is simply wrong. I am a proud feminist, married to a proud feminist. We are raising our daughter and our son to be proud feminists who value women for their personhood and refuse to accept that women must be abused and relegated to second class simply because of their sex.

  33. Let’s try a bit of a role-reversal here. You know, just to put things into perspective:

    I realized I was a feminist the first time I gave myself permission to be angry with women. My first girlfriend in high school spent a lot of time undermining me in ways that felt like love. She’d tell me I was handsome but not sexy, and then have sex with me. She’d tell me I was smart, but then laugh with her sisters at how all men are jerks and children. She’d look deep into my eyes and tell me the world was ours, and how much she loved me, then tell me I was being crazy when I’d call her more than she liked, or when I’d ask for anything at all. She gave me what she wanted to give me when she wanted to give it to me, and I got to tell myself over and over again that it was what being in love was like.

    Now tell me how that would make you feel about this article if that’s what you read in the first paragraph. Notice that I didn’t change “feminist” in the first sentence; because, you know, feminism is all about “equality, and if it’s okay for her to be angry at men, then it’s okay for me to be angry at women, right?

  34. girlpower says:

    You go girl!

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