The most infuriating and heartbreaking response I've heard from other women when a toxic man is exposed is, “I don't think he's dangerous. He can just be clueless.” Infuriating because it reeks of patriarchal oppression wrapped in a polite bow. Heartbreaking because these men will go on to behave badly without consequence.
Since the #metoo movement, there are countless resources for both men and women that explore updated concepts around consent culture and what it means to be a decent human. If I hear of another scandal involving a man taking advantage of his position to lure and seduce women, I'm afraid my head will spin like Linda Blair in the Exorcist as green vomit spews from my mouth.
Considering the precarity of online dating, getting to know someone through a social outlet or work environment seems wholesome by comparison, and yet most victims of sexual crimes know their abusers, see them often and have had regular interactions in environments which would otherwise be considered "safe". And while the word seduction sounds harmless under the assumption that there is mutual consent- we are, after all, humans with very natural instincts- there is a difference between honest consent and coercion as the result of emotional manipulation.
But before I get ahead of myself, what is consent by today's standards? By definition it is the granting of agreement and permission. However, a proposition lacking pertinent information or which is deceptive, harmful, or presumptuous renders that consent invalid. Consent is a moment to moment contract that can change under any given circumstance defined by the person in a lesser position of power. A social contract between two people is under constant negotiation because people, by nature, are not stagnant beings. We are thinking, feeling, experiencing, evolving, chemically motivated creatures. Re-negotiating agreements is essential to functionial relationships.
For instance, if a woman consents to romantic involvement is she consenting to unaddressed trauma, addiction, and/or mental illness? Asking because I know women who were filmed in the shower without permission. I know women who found themselves on a spreadsheet that listed their partner's sexual conquests, replete with graphic details and goals for future sexual coercion. I know women who have been lied to so thoroughly that they have lost all belief in their own intuition. And women who set boundaries only to become harassed or stalked.
When we consent to dating or sleeping with a man, do we also consent to being contacted by other women who, having experienced a toxic pattern of pathological behavior, want validation for their experiences of being shamed, gaslit, lied to, and manipulated? Do we consent to sexually transmitted diseases that we weren't told about, to the effects of porn and sex addiction we didn't know about, and to other sexual or romantic partners we were clueless about?
Seriously, who's clueless now?
From the time we are born, we receive messages about our roles, our aspirations, our value, and our appropriate responses to a world that very much fears the prospect of our rise to power because simply- and I'm sorry if this seems anti-climactic-it may affect the population. That sounds absurd, right? Like I've watched too many dystopian feminist TV shows. But at the end of the day it’s really about that. We’re animals after all, animals whose population bloom has effectively accelerated us to the top of the food chain.
Honestly, if we actually behaved as animals did, men would not be in power. Have you ever watched a pride of lions? The females outnumber males, and when a male is born it grows up and fights the other male to establish his position as top male. The females aren’t prey, they are stone cold killers who teach their cubs to track and hunt all while nursing and protecting the pride with the other females.
Unfortunately, due to the oppressions of our great great grandmothers, we are stuck with recordings that tell us to compete with each other, defend our abusers and use sex to secure our positions (and self-value). Honestly, it makes me want to go full lobotomy some days.
So when we downplay another woman's story by defending a predator, we are perpetuating violence against women. Please, believe women. Even if it's not your experience. Those examples of creepy behavior described above aren't imaginary scenarios. They are stories from women I know and love and trust and believe. They are my story and your story. And if you are a man reading this, they are very much your story (hopefully by proxy). We simply cannot eradicate sexism and misogyny by turning a blind eye or staying in denial. It is 2023 damn it, and Pluto just entered Aquarius. This is not the time to be silent.
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