Valentine’s Day

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted a status message reading, “Valentine’s day soon…Whoopy f*cking doo!”

She’s married in what sounds like an abusive relationship. Today, she posted

There were rose petals all over the bed with me this morning,then my husband came in with breakfast in bed,then we made passionate love for 2 hours,then we had a romantic bubble bath together,then i woke up!!!YEAH LIKE THAT WOULD HAPPEN!!! As oon as i got out of bed i got in trouble for not putting a stupid f*cking shirt in the wash last night!!!

She’s in Australia (and also appears to have body image issues). Tomorrow will be Valentine’s Day in my part of the world. And of course, I am still alone.

In between all the other reading I’ve been doing, I’ve been reading Yes means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, an anthology edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. The focus of this book is on the notion of (sexual) consent, and what truly constitutes it.

Julia Serano, in her chapter, “Why Nice Guys Finish last,” explains that we view male-female relationships through the prism of predator and prey, a “mindset [which] essentially ensures that men cannot be viewed as legitimate sexual objects, nor can women be viewed as legitimate sexual aggressors.” She writes, “Just as it is difficult for women to navigate their way through the world, given the fact that they are nonconsensually viewed as prey, it is often difficult for men to move through a world in which they are nonconsensually viewed as predators.”

Feminists, it seems, “have discussed how the sexual object/prey stereotype creates a double bind for women in which they can only ever be viewed as either ‘virgins’ or ‘whores,'” but Serano writes of “assholes” as “men who fulfill the men-as-sexual-aggressors stereotype” and of “nice guys” as “the ones who refuse or eschew it.” She writes of her experience as a man before undergoing a sex change:

Sometimes after being hurt by some “asshole,” my female friends would come to me for advice or to be consoled. They came to me because I was a “nice guy.” In their eyes, I was safe. Respectful. Harmless. Sometimes during these post-“asshole” conversations, my friends would go on a tirade about how all men are jerks and cannot be trusted, or they’d ask, “Why can’t I find a guy who will treat me with respect?” Whenever they did this, I would point out that there are lots of guys who are not jerks, who are respectful of women. I’d even name a few. Upon hearing the names I suggested, my friends would invariably say something like “I don’t find him attractive” or “I think of him more as a friend.”

So obviously, genuine “nice guys” are not worthy of consideration. Worse, the narrative that Serano criticizes even effectively denies our existence by relabeling us as jerks in disguise. Serano parenthetically distinguishes us from “the type of man referred to in the feminist blogosphere as a Nice Guy, who is the sort of man who argues that being a ‘nice guy’ entitles him to sex with whomever he wants, thus revealing himself to be merely a closeted ‘asshole.'”

Serano argues that if women want to be liberated from the “virgin/whore” double bind, that they need to liberate men from the “asshole/nice guy” double bind. Last year, I quoted Kay Hymowitz:

The female preference for jerks and “assholes,” as they’re also widely known, lies behind women’s age-old lament, “What happened to all the nice guys?” [From Craigslist, “Recovering Nice Guy’s”] answer: “You did. You ignored the nice guy. You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy.” Women, he says, are actually not attracted to men who hold doors for them, give them hinted-for Christmas gifts, or listen to their sorrows. Such a man, our Recovering Nice Guy continues, probably “came to realize that, if he wanted a woman like you, he’d have to act more like the boyfriend that you had. He probably cleaned up his look, started making some money, and generally acted like more of an asshole than he ever wanted to be.”

I have to say, that sounds like Serano’s experience. But for me, it doesn’t matter anymore. You see, since I finished my M.A. in Speech Communication last June, I’ve been unemployed. I’m destitute, which means women won’t be interested in me anyway, and I can’t afford to go out and be overlooked by them anyway.

And my Facebook friend with her body image issues faces a choice between her abusive husband and a life in which, as Kate Harding explains in her chapter, “How Do You Fuck a Fat Woman?” she will be constantly reminded that “rape is a compliment, you stupid whore.”

It would be an understatement to say I haven’t felt fairly treated by women. And while I certainly wouldn’t claim “that being a ‘nice guy’ entitles [me] to sex with whomever [I want],” the point I made last year stands: the human needs we all have for sex and affection are fundamental. That no woman is responsible for seeing me as I am, rather than as a stereotype, means that women as a whole are not responsible for addressing their own role in perpetuating the predator/prey relationship; and as Serano and Hymowitz both point out, this compels men to fulfill the role that women demand of them–to be the “assholes” that women claim to loathe–or, like me, to be left in the cold.

(UPDATE: alternative views here and here.)

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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