Here’s the lens to view things though: Every woman is flirting with you because you’re powerful.
The problem is, you remove that lens, and the truth is that some of those women aren’t flirting with you. Let’s be generous and say that most of them are, but 10% are just being nice.
When you expect to see flirting, everything becomes flirting. Someone making eye contact becomes their bold way of seducing you. Someone’s looking away when you stare at them becomes their shy way of leading you deeper into their boudoir.
When what you expect to see is women wanting to fuck you, well, you can always find evidence that someone’s trying.
And if you are a powerful man, with the ability to make or break their career, and you have this lens that everyone’s secretly trying to fuck you, then there’s a good chance you start trying to fuck them. Which, again, maybe a lot of the women there want you.
But the ones that don’t suddenly wind up with a tongue in their mouth, or your hand on their intimate parts.
And some of them freeze. They freeze because they’re reliving some former trauma, or they freeze because they’re trying to figure out how to tell you “no” without losing the career they so desperately need, or they even freeze just because this is so far out of the line of what they expected that they don’t even know how to react to this.
And if you expect every woman to be into fucking you, you’ll see that very still and silent moment of them, breathlessly savoring what they always wanted.
Except it wasn’t that.
It wasn’t that at all.
Even if, reluctantly, they let you keep their hands there in that intimate place because they do that awful math and decide that “getting assaulted” is better than “being beaten up and assaulted.”
But you don’t see that, because you expected them to fuck you, and that lens transforms a trembling, sobbing woman into a girl who was so very nervous about revealing how much she wanted you.
And that’s the thing: you can be right 95% of the time. Maybe you are that attractive, maybe you are that sexy.
But as a human being with any kind of compassion – are you really okay with raping or molesting one out of every twenty women you’re with?
Or do you double down on the lens because you really want those nineteen women, and that twentieth becomes someone who you’d rather lose behind the distorting fog of the lens of “EVERYONE wants me,” and slowly sell your humanity off one 5% risk at a time?
Look. I get a lot of women flirting with me, and I don’t even vaguely qualify as a celebrity – I’m a sex-blogger with a few thousand fans. I can believe that when you’re on national television, you’d get offers that would blow my mind.
But I keep that firm idea in my head: FLIRTING IS NOT NECESSARILY DESIRE. Even though a lot of the times, honestly, it is.
Because that “not necessarily” becomes vital when you start moving into other equations, such as ACQUIESCENCE IS NOT NECESSARILY ENTHUSIASM and SILENCE IS NOT NECESSARILY APPROVAL.
That “not necessarily” is where the remainder of your humanity lives, when temptation comes knocking. That “not necessarily” is where you avoid that 5% exception, or that 1% exception, or even that .01% exception, because holy fuck, what percentage of women are you comfortable assaulting, shouldn’t it be zero, God I hope it’s zero, please Lord let it be zero.
All the women flirted. And maybe they did.
But it’s what you do with that interpretation that makes you either a human, or a monster.
(Title taken from a quote by Donald Trump, but it could apply to any number of people who wind up getting more fame than they counted on.)
1) Over on Twitter, John Rogers has an excellent thread on what locker-room talk is and what it isn’t. He makes a clear delineation on why what Trump said, even allowing for how crude guys talk, is different. It’s good.
Go read it. Now. Because when I’m discussing “locker room talk” in the next sections, I’m not discussing grabbing women randomly – I’m discussing the objectification and rampant fantasy that often happens, and oh my God there is a distinction.
2) I’d like to tell you I’ve never said anything crude to other dudes like “God, I’d love to fuck that one.” And honestly? I don’t remember ever talking like that. I’m mostly demisexual – I like bodies but I need brains first, and I’ve long discussed my desire for a strip club where I sit down with a clothed woman and we talk about our mutual love for Terry Pratchett and oh my God have you seen the latest Steven Universe and THEN after fifteen minutes of discussion she goes “So you wanna see me naked?” and I’d be all like FUCK YEAH.
I’ve probably exchanged locker-room talk with guys, crudely objectifying.
Because I’ve known guys who do talk like that. And at many points in my life, I really wanted to fit in, even with guys I actually kind of thought were dicks. And I don’t recall a moment where I went along with this shit, but I am not so stupid as to imagine that there wasn’t a time when I didn’t.
Furthermore, I got lucky in the sense that I never had to work with those guys, because then I’d have faced a real and very ugly choice in when to stand up and how.
Which is not to say that this kind of talk is acceptable. It isn’t. It’s just that an awful lot of people are VERY PROUD of themselves because they would NEVER EVER stand for that – and while there are very definitely laudable dudes like that, the insidious thing about locker room talk is that it’s always presented as something you can easily walk away from.
But I know folks who were working $5.50-an-hour jobs who had to decide whether to piss off their coworkers and their boss, potentially losing their salary because when they pay you $5.50 an hour, they’re not overly concerned about replacing some asshole who annoys them. I know folks for who the choice was “tolerate the locker room talk or have no friends at all,” which, again, comes down to “choose isolation or awful, awful tone-switching.”
And it’s always easy to say “I WOULD NEVER!” in a theoretical world. The reason this shit is so perpetuating is that you can often get rejected by support groups you really need for shouting this awful behavior down.
Even more toxic: If you go along with this shit, eventually it becomes normalized. You become the mask. You start slipping in terms of what you think is acceptable behavior, forgetting the whole reason you started talking like this was solely to be accepted, and you internalize it. And whoops, there goes the ball game.
I don’t talk locker room talk. I don’t think I’d tolerate it now. But I also don’t want to do the strong-guy alpha-nerd-male RAR of I WOULD NEVER AND I HAVE NEVER AND I WOULD INCINERATE ANYONE WHO EVER SPOKE THAT WAY WITHIN MY EARSHOT, because damn, guys, if we were to listen to every one of you then nobody ever got to speak like that, and yet somehow, a lot of people do get away with it.
And I don’t think you stop that behavior by trivializing the reasons that otherwise-opposing guys cave in. It’s not pleasant.
But it happens. And I’m probably culpable for at least some portion of it, even as I can’t point to a specific incident.
3) So. Bill Clinton, huh?
As far as I can tell, what he did to Monica Lewinsky was scummy but consensual, in the sense that there was a clear power differential but Monica also was attracted and willing.
There is a huge difference between “coming around to a voluntary seduction” and “grabbing women by the crotch and hoping they’re into it.”
So when conservatives bring up Monica, the easy out is for liberals to quote the playbook and say:
a) HILLARY IS NOT BILL
b) WHAT BILL DID IS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT
Which is…. only sorta true. At least when it comes to b.
Because that b), well, Bill Clinton’s been accused of rape, if never convicted. He’s been widely accused of unwanted groping. He’s exposed himself to Gennifer Flowers.
His career as a troublesome hero goes WAY beyond Monica, people.
I’ve heard liberals furious because, you know, Trump is literally on trial for raping a thirteen-year-old girl, literally a hundred women have said “Trump tried to kiss me against my will,” and yet Trump’s allegations remained buried in the media until he actually admitted it, on tape.
“We don’t believe the testimony of women,” goes the line. And that’s true. It’s so sadly, fucking true.
But if you wanna listen to the testimony of women, you have to look at Bill Clinton’s past, too.
And for every Democrat screaming, “HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THAT SONUVABITCH TRUMP?”, I remember a lot of very conflicted feminists sorting through Bill Clinton – certainly a serial cheater, certainly a man who disrespected women’s boundaries, quite possibly a rapist – and coming to the ugly conclusion that the laws he passed that protected them were a lot better than the laws the Republicans would pass.
And Republicans keep bringing up Bill Clinton because yeah, the GOP is supposed to be the party of family values, but the Democrats were supposed to be the party of feminism.
When it comes to politics, we routinely swallow the personal bile to choose someone who’ll actually get shit done – and I remember saying the same about Clinton in the late 90s.
Welcome to the current Republican choice.
…except I can’t respect anyone who votes for Trump, even on that awful axis of “I loathe the man personally but I think he’ll protect my rights better than his opponent.” Trump has flip-flopped so many times I don’t think he’d have the stamina to even pass the good laws by a conservative standard, or have the knowledge to get the Supreme Court justices that would be effective for the GOP in the long-term. Trump would be a disaster on every level.
If he was smart enough to listen to the advice of experts, maybe – Dubya was a nice, quiet puppet – but can you honestly look at everything that’s happened this election and tell me that Trump listens?
He’s a failed businessmen, a huckster, a fraud, and anyone supporting Trump because they think he’ll be a better Republican than Hillary is really baffling to me because the dude is a clear serial liar.
Now, I’m not saying that Trump is good. I’m saying that Clinton did a lot of bad shit, and he’s still someone Hillary feels comfortable parading around giving stump speeches because liberals still love Clinton despite his uncomfortable past.
And I do feel that weird frisson of people saying, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE ACCUSER!” when most of what I saw on Twitter from my liberal feed during the DNC was “BILL CLINTON’S SPEECH IS SO ON POINT I MISS BILL.” If I was to sample my liberal friends’ Bill Clinton Criticism, I’d say that criticism of Bill Clinton’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policies and his welfare policies and drug laws are like 95% of what I see, and 5% maybe “Well, what happened between he and Hillary was his business.”
And as a polyamorous dude, maybe Hillary and Bill had a “Don’t get caught” agreement, which Bill violated. I’m glad Hillary and Bill worked it out. They seem to have a pretty decent and supportive marriage now. Remember, you can have instances of cheating and emerge stronger.
But it’s not about just Hillary and Bill. It’s about the women involved who may not have wanted to be involved, who felt uncomfortable speaking up because holy shit, did you see what happened to Monica? And Monica was willing. Monica had the biggest courts in America trotting out evidence to prove what happened in closed quarters, and still she got dragged.
Hillary is not Bill. But the current polarization of America makes it seem like if you condemn Trump, you can excuse Bill – or if you demonize Bill’s personal life enough, Trump is somehow okay.
They were both kinda scumbags, personally speaking. And I wish that was more acceptable to say.
(And there is a minor difference in that Bill, at least, seems to have spent the last fifteen years reforming and rethinking, whereas I see no evidence that Trump has tried to do a turn-around. I actually believe people can evolve beyond their flaws; the fact that someone was a scumbag in the 1990s doesn’t necessarily mean they are one today. But that’s a sketchier argument because maaaaybe Bill’s just gotten better about hiding his flaws – a lot of feminist dudes do that – and “how one repents for past sins” is something that’s very personal, and everyone has a different measure on how (or if) that can be done.)
4) Lastly, on a lighter note:
There is nothing that demonstrates the incompetence of the Republican nominees more than the fact that they had almost a year to dig up dirt on Trump and found nothing.
Here’s a fun fact that will teach you something valuable about consent: I only want to eat Mexican food once a year or so. I’m not opposed to Mexican – but if you ask me what I want to eat, I’ll suggest burgers, or Thai food, or Chinese, or sushi, or one of a hundred other foods before I get around to burritos.
Yet my wife loves herself some Mexican food, and so periodically she asks me if we could get Chipotle tonight.
And here’s the consent issue:
When I agree, my “yes” could by no means be construed as “enthusiastic consent.” I pause. I ponder. And when I eventually comply with her flautinian wishes, it’s often more of a resigned shrug than anything else.
Yet I do agree, for any number of reasons:
- It’ll make her happy;
- It’s not like I’m actively against it, it just wasn’t my first choice of Things To Do This Evening;
- I’ll probably be more enthusiastic about this once we start.
Now, the big trick is realizing that some nights, this is also how we have sex. Both of us. Often, one of us is more raring to go than the other, and the not-quite-in-sexytimes-mode partner gives a Mexican Dinner Consent of “…all right.”
If the Rules Of Consent were to be invoked, this would be a travesty. All consent should be enthusiastic! You should not just agree, but be vibrating with untrammeled ardor, pumping your fist as you cry YES to the world!
Yet the secret is, a relationship sustained entirely on enthusiastic consent is often a small and selfish one.
Good long-term relationships have their share of Mexican Dinner Consent.
Don’t get me wrong – enthusiastic consent is, and should be, the default behavior when dealing with new partners and/or new situations. If I ask my wife, “Hey, could you eat a doughnut off my dick?” and she’s like “….uh, I guess,” then I’m gonna stop and wait until she’s raring to go vis-a-vis the whole donut-on-a-dong situation.
Because the goal of “enthusiastic consent” is a marvelous one that basically says, “If you’re not sure about this person, don’t risk pushing them into new places they might not like.” Peer pressure from comparatively new people can pressure folks into doing things they don’t enjoy – and while yes, you can letter-of-the-law yourself into justifying the experience with “THEY SAID YES KEEPER KEEPSIES NO TAKEBACKS,” the truth is that someone just did something they didn’t enjoy with you. Which, if your goal is to provide pleasurable experiences for your partner, should be a drawback.
(Hint: If your goal is not to provide pleasurable experiences for your partner, people should not fucking date you.)
But that “enthusiastic consent” model often forgets that mature relationships often involve doing things you’re not all “WHEE YAY” about. Mature relationships involve boring tasks with well-known consequences like cleaning the bathtub and paying the bills and doing your taxes, and if you wait until you’re all like, “I cannot WAIT to clean out that cat box!”, then you’re going to have some pretty malodorous apartments.
Sometimes, you don’t do stuff because it’s going to fill you brimming with joy. You do it because you know it’ll make your partner happier than the effort the act will cost you.
At which point people go, “…are you comparing cleaning the bathtub to having wild, crazy, over-the-top sex?!? WHAT SORT OF SHITTY SEX LIFE DO YOU HAVE, ANYWAY?” And the answer is that yeah, my wife and I have wild, crazy, over-the-top sex too, and those nights are fucking awesome and they’re filled with fire and floggers and all the craaaazy stuff anyone would want in a good sexy relationship. Those are the nights where we’re both equally driven, and they’re frequent, and they’re awesome.
But we also have nights where one of us is a little tired, or we were planning to get some work done, and the other asks, “…so you wanna?”
And the other agrees, for any number of reasons including:
- It’ll make my partner happy;
- It’s not like I’m actively against it, it just wasn’t my first choice of Things To Do This Evening;
- I’ll probably be more enthusiastic about this once we start.
And the truth is, what often happens with Mexican Dinner Consent is a moment where we have more intimacy than if we waited exclusively for “FUCK YEAH LET’S DOOOOOO THIS,” and we’ve opened up an experience to make our partner happy, and that lukewarm consent has made both of our lives better because we don’t have to wait for both of our Sexytime Gauges to reach MAXIMUM INTENSITY before one person’s needs can be satisfied.
Sometimes, my wife asks if I want to go to the museum, and I wasn’t really planning on seeing sculptures this afternoon, but I give her Mexican Dinner consent. Sometimes I ask if she wants to see a movie with me, and it’s not a movie she’d see on her own, but… Mexican Dinner consent. And sometimes she wants to get Mexican, and I wasn’t really up for it but I realize how much happier Mexican dinner will make her, and so… it’s Mexican Dinner night.
And sometimes we want sex. Sometimes that’s Mexican Dinner Consent. But not on a night when we’ve actually had Mexican Dinner, because goddamn, people, how does anyone move when you’re stuffed full of refried beans and tortillas?
(AN EDIT FOR CLARITY: It’s good to remember the difference between “a request” and “a demand.” In my personal terminology, a request can be freely turned down; a demand has consequences for rejection.
(All the above examples are requests – if my wife was going to get angry at me because I didn’t feel like having Mexican tonight, well, I probably wouldn’t advise going along with her just to keep the peace. There is a VERY LARGE distinction between “Do it or they’ll get mad” and “Do it because it’ll make their life better, and it’s not something you’re drastically opposed to.”)
This story’s been infamous for years.
I’ve read excerpts of my brain-in-a-jar story, twice. Both times, members of the audience took me aside later and told me they didn’t want to get turned on by it, but they did. Both times, several people asked me for the full story.
But I couldn’t get it published, because frankly, it’s pretty hard to find a market for an explicitly sexual story where a phone sex operator falls in love with the cerebrally canned. I’m not ashamed to say this one got rejected a lot. It’s weird, even by my standards of weird.
Then Uncanny Magazine – honestly, one of the best magazines in the business – took it, added some editorial magic to make it even better, and here we are.
But even Uncanny Magazine had to put a content warning up before they published it. But publish it they did. And now, at last, y’all can read it.
Yet I suspect that if any of you have had a kinky relationship, you may see parts of yourself uncomfortably reflected in the smeared surface of this jar. Here is my story “Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex.” But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So seriously, guys! R/Fantasy was kind enough to let me get on there to (potentially) discuss my new book, or maybe just answer endless questions on horse v. duck battles. Either way, I am PREPARED!
So get on over there and ask me anything!
If you’d like to know what it’s like being married to me, I can show you in three photos:
And that last photo went mildly viral, with Angry Robot putting it on their web page to discuss the amazing trivia contest Barnes and Noble held to promote my new book Fix. Even my biggest nemesis, Annie Bellet, asked to see more of me in the Rocky Pajamas, but that’s probably because she wants to see me sillier.
So I figured: Why not raise funds for my favorite charity, Rebecca’s Gift?
Here’s how it works: I’m signing at Powell’s in Portland(ish) tomorrow, and on Thursday I end my book tour at University Book Store in Seattle. If Rebecca’s Gift gets $500 in donations before I attend either of those events, I will wear the Rocky suit – in public – and let you take as many pictures of me in it as you want.
Rebecca’s Gift, if you’ll recall, is the charity set up in the name of my goddaughter Rebecca – who was the inspiration for Aliyah (the lead character in the Flex/The Flux/Fix series) and who died of brain cancer on her sixth birthday. Rebecca’s gift is a small charity that helps families that have endured the death of their child to help healing – and let me tell you, there’s plenty of support while your child still has a chance, but after the funeral there is a great emptiness and not much help. Donating to Rebecca’s Gift will help families remember what it’s like to be a family after someone they loved so dearly has gone.
So donating to them will help strangers and humiliate me, both of which I fully support.
If you can raise $500 in funds by 5:00 PST tomorrow, September 27th, I will wear the Rocky suit to my signing in the Powells in Beaverton, Oregon.
If you can raise $500 in funds by 5:00 PST on Thursday, September 29th, I will wear the Rocky suit to my signing at University Book Store in Seattle.
And if you can’t raise $500, you’ll have still donated to a fully-legal charity (I’m not gonna Trump you here) that will help families in dire need, so it’s totally a good thing.
So here’s the link for donation. Please.
Hey, San Diegoites! I’ll be doing a reading at Mysterious Galaxy tomorrow evening – and as always, when I arrive, I bring donuts. For donuts represent all that is good and compassionate in my ‘Mancer series.
The question is, “Where are San Diego’s best donuts?”
I asked this when I did my reading at San Francisco last week – and there was even a contest! Because my friend Flitter said, “No, Ferrett, hipster donuts are just as good as classic donuts! Here! Let me bring my hipster donuts to your reading to show you their hipstery goodness!”
And Bob’s Donuts in San Francisco fucking creamed them.
Bob’s Donuts are like my platonic ideal of a donut, except “platonic” isn’t quite accurate, because I would totally have sex with these donuts if San Francisco didn’t have laws against that. Bob’s Donuts were this perfect mixture of sugary-crinkled dough and thick chocolate layers and a beautiful, creamy, sweet filling.
I will be driving down to San Diego today. A second stop by Bob’s Donuts would put me ninety minutes out of my way.
I am considering it.
So! I’ll be in San Diego tomorrow. I want San Diego’s best donuts. Tell me of your donuts, and then if you want to see the winner, show up at Mysterious Galaxy, where I will be dispensing fine donuts!