It’s Just Lunch – Blame-the-Victim Tactics

Seventeenth in a series [gs *]

Now, you’d think we might be done, or at least that I should ‘be complete’, that I’d had my say, got it off my chest, could feel better now. But that would be wishful thinking. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed I’ve left things out.

His allusions that I may have confused myself (with my filthy female libido) over his (pure and innocent) intentions, or that I introduced unwanted sexual energy into our discussion, making him the hapless innocent drawn by my siren’s lure, threw him into the ranks of heads I’d kick in if I could. But I left my analysis of that trigger out of my email.

I chose to burst the bubble of his pathetic delusions as unmistakably as possible, rather than engage his dense head with a feminist analysis of his ugly methods. The former is always effective, and the latter a total waste of time with someone of his degree of willful obliviousness. Plus passionate denial always sounds suspiciously more like confirmation than the opposite, and I felt pretty passionate about his innuendos – violently so.

My purpose was not to enlighten him with feminist theory, but to A: make it clear I was not going to debate our relationship or how we got there any further – that it was over, and B: make it clear that it was over because he had failed to be responsible for himself, not because I felt some sexual confusion.

I wanted to deliver some facts to illuminate his analysis of what went wrong – clear, explicit, memorable data from outside his own mind to examine if he chose to.

To explicate my historical/sociological triggers with him was just a hamster-wheel. We could go back and forth forever. Whether or not he ‘meant’ to use a tried and true misogynist tactic could be debated forever, how I felt about his behavior could not.

But in truth, I was angrier now than at any previous point – just the simple certainty that further dialog would be fruitless enraged me. Seeking to enter something he couldn’t understand well enough to respect – how galling!

How much anger has to be expressed directly to count as ‘honest’? I’ve gotten stuck on that one a lot. But in general, it’s a moot point, because I only know one person who can be present in as much anger as I need to express before it suddenly evaporates into a loving cloud of gratitude and appreciation – my husband.  Everyone else seems to want me to be done prematurely (really, they’d rather I not even start), and their resistance to that one last necessary paragraph just makes me angrier, so I’ve trained myself to stop before I’m empty, and spill the last dregs out on paper.

On the one hand, there I was at lunch, a slightly interesting, clearly married, mild-mannered, middle-aged lady, with whom no man has behaved in an untoward fashion in more than 15 years. I understand sexual boundaries exceedingly well. I understand how men interpret women. I have worked with an overabundance of men, of exactly his sort. I have managed this game just fine, with far more sophisticated men than him, for a very long time, based on my vast experience in learning the hard way. And all I was doing at lunch was trying to figure out how to back this guy off of his panting puppy routine without shutting down my heart.

And on the other hand, now he’s implying that I’m a temptress, that I sexualized things and should be examining a niggling sense of wrong-doing, wondering how to make good this shameful situation I’ve inadvertently dragged this poor innocent lad into (or at the very least, he’s implying that I am responsible for the fact that he doesn’t know how to handle his physical attractions).

But of course the difference here is that none of those other men had ever heard the word ‘prostitute’ in relation to me. Say ‘prostitute’ and every nuance gets interpreted differently. Say the word prostitute, and all sorts of confusion get’s riled up. If he hadn’t heard that word, we wouldn’t even have been talking. But there was no way he’d have understood any of that, trapped in his boy-noise paradigm wherein his (purely conscious – i.e. forget his shadow & my perceptions are irrelevant) intentions are all that’s relevant and whatever I experienced had nothing to do with him – unless, of course, I was lusting after his dick, sucking at it through the ethers, and thus he could hold me accountable for his woody.

What would I have said to him if I thought him capable of understanding? I’d have shown him how his subtle, intimate behaviors reflected (albeit in a far less blatant fashion) the exact same larger misogynist pattern in civilization. What I would have said to him – if I was inclined to climb into his hamster wheel with him was:

That particular form of excusing unwanted male behavior is particularly ugly to me. It smacks of ‘she was asking to get raped’ (whether on a spiritual level or physical, it’s the same thing, holding the female responsible for the male’s actions).

Inherent in ‘she was asking for it’ is the belief that men can’t control themselves in the face of a feminine erotic presence – which is infantile bullshit.

He implied that I’m less conscious of, and responsible for, my erotic energies and intentions than he is (which, sorry – but that’s patently laughable).

His rebuttal was a (lame and unsuccessful) attempt to use an aloof rational attack to undermine a ‘women’s intuition’, let alone an experienced woman’s reading of a very dense and familiar pattern.

It secretly, and probably unconsciously, played on the shame he no-doubt presumes I must feel about having been a whore, that I would so easily accept the blame and responsibility for his inability to be aware of and responsible for his own energies and behavior. He was not just playing blame-the-victim, but blame-the-whore. Seriously – a big-time trigger.

Plus, he was the one broadcasting marital dissatisfaction, not me. Woven throughout my narrative that day was the bright thread of a beautiful love story. I intentionally made it abundantly clear that I am fulfilled at home. It really offends me that he ignored that (most essential) part of my story. What kind of a butt-brain gets himself that fucking confused, with so little evidence, and refuses to cop to it?

These are the patterns on the male side of this unhealthy equation – stereotypical behavioral adaptations to the isolation, resentment, neediness and anxiety that immature and wounded men experience in our hierarchical,  patriarchal gender-distorted reality. I know it was all unconscious on his part, but the patterns still resonate.

The humping-dog metaphor fits perfectly here – there is no context in which he would appeal to me.

Some guys seriously overestimate the appeal of their cocks, assuming that the magnetism they feel for the generic female body is reciprocated. And in an ideal world, it probably would be. But in this less-than-ideal universe women’s fully embodied and empowered – unobjectified – feminine energies are hidden away from a rapacious, demonizing, victim-blaming society, while men’s super-charged dick energies are constantly flapping in our faces – so there’s a significant difference in supply and demand. Which, as we’ve been taught, impacts value. And because men overestimate the relative value of their cocks, women are forced to hide their erotic femininity away (and I don’t mean plunging necklines here, I mean their full, heart-space and listening-to-their-bodies, receptive energetic presence). Another destructive self-reinforcing feedback loop.

I enjoy being admired respectfully. I want my presence to be viscerally satisfying, to everyone I choose to be present with. But I want a man to behave like an adult in the midst of that. I expect him to understand that I’m a whole, sovereign, separate, other. Whether he has a woody or not is not my business, unless I plan to interact with it. And just because my energy feels good to him, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to get grabby. There are more mature and less self-absorbed ways of expressing appreciation. It’s not that big a challenge either, all the men I’m close to are excellent at it.

Our society just likes to pretend that it’s insurmountably difficult so the boys can justify their bad-boy behavior. The appropriate response to my email would have been something along the lines of  ‘excuse me – I guess I’m not very experienced at this yet – how would a grown up man have handled this?”

I was trying to allow Mr. Lunch-boy an opportunity to practice that at lunch. I was trying to hold space for his development. Waving his dick (figuratively) in my face and getting grabby – those were useful pieces of feedback I could have given him, opportunities for learning. But because I failed to look away when I should have (and I don’t think I’ll ever do that again), I failed to hold that space like an elder, which confused him. Then when I restored my proper role as elder, and gave him that opportunity-for-learning feedback in an email, he chose to insult that opportunity with boy-noise and blaming-the-victim.

So, no, I was not complete in my go-away, you leg-humping-small-dog email.

But in truth, I was as mad at myself as I was at him. Utterly disgusted, in fact. I felt like I’d parsed the whole thing out & understood every ounce of it, but I, none-the-less was appalled at myself for having gotten this mucked-up in the first place.

And the whole thing threatened to undermine my courage. I began, again, to feel like the world isn’t ready for me to be open. Or maybe I’m not ready. I no longer feel stuck in goo with the lunch guy (though in fact I’m merely experiencing a wishful pause in stuckness), but now I feel vulnerable in a much larger way. I feel like my whole lifelong sense of purpose may just be a serious disaster waiting to happen, like I’d better crawl back underground, turn off the lights, and maybe let a few lifetimes pass before I come out of hiding again.

Because, in case I haven’t let you see this yet, this business of standing up and sharing my true story is terrifying. Everything about my life is different now – how people see me, who I spend time with, how I spend my days, how I see my future – which is a big blank slate, a whole universe of unknowns – and how I relate to my past. How I feel about myself, how I get along with my neighbors, the way it feels to walk into my in-law’s houses. How I see my life, how I see others. All my flaws, my strengths, my fears, my beliefs, my beautiful, beautiful gifts, my intense outsider-hood, the depths of my beloved darkness in a world that so cherishes light – everything about me is so much more visible now, and there were good reasons I hid my soul away from public scrutiny. Life felt far safer going around slightly constipated.

There are vast and powerful forces which have long (like, for millennia) meant to repress this aspect of women that lunch-guy responded to. Meant to keep them repressed, demonized, excluded from the public sphere, clearly under the control of men, barefoot and pregnant, handcuffed to the bed.

Granted, it’s easy to see how I’m over-reacting to this whole story. None if it is anywhere near as ugly as these patterns can be. It’s all rather subtle. But it’s easy to think a ‘Down’ is being hyper-sensitive – and it’s true, when you’ve been subject to the same oppressive patterns all your life, it only takes the slightest whiff to get your undies in a bundle. But such hyper-vigilance is part of survival for a ‘Down‘. And in the case of men, who can’t help but want to be close to women, they need to learn what the triggers are if they don’t want to keep turning women into their own nightmares.

Even men who think they want to interact with women differently are so trapped in the old paradigms that it all turns out shitty. I was not up to this dance 20 years ago, what makes me think I’m up to it now?

A sexual woman is always the cause of the trouble. Even if she’s old, respectably dressed, in love and fulfilled with her husband, and telling you, gently, to back off. And who am I, silly old bat, to think I have the strength to take all of that on now?

The muck, his persistence, and my horror and shame at my own ineptitude were seriously eroding my belief in myself and my intention to bring a new voice to the table. So the fact is, I was no-where near ‘complete’. I still had work to do, but, aside from continuing to act courageously, however I defined that in the moment, I didn’t know what that work was.

To be continued . . .

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"For a woman to explore and express the fullness of her sexuality, her emotional and intellectual capacities, would entail who knows what risks and who knows what truly revolutionary alteration of the social conditions that demean and constrain her."

-Louise J. Kaplan - Female Perversions