Who Do You Think I Am?

January 19, 2012

I’d like to get a few things out of the way right off the bat here. I’m white, I’m a guy, I’m young, and I’ve got a thing for women (and men) of a certain skeptical kind of mindset. When I see women I find attractive at atheist events and meetings, I get all kinds of ideas in my head about how I’d like to talk to them and see if there’s anything there worth pursuing. Yeah, it’s a little trite but it’s true – I am, on some level, always looking for someone who I’d like to date and take home afterward.

However, I never go up to these women, I never talk to them, I never even ask their names. It’s partially because I’ve got some wicked social anxiety (the reason du jour, I know) and it’s also because I don’t know who they think I am. I don’t know what they think of me, I don’t know if they trust me or not, or if they’ll even talk to me. There is one thing I do know that they know about me, though. They know that I’m a slightly overweight white guy at an atheist or skeptical meeting, convention, or get together. They know that I’m part of a group of people that has harassed them, that has insulted them, that has excluded them, and that has refused to acknowledge how that’s made them feel. That’s the point (and it happens every time I even think about talking to a woman), that realization, is what keeps me from striking up a conversation with a woman. I avoid them so I can help make their evenings a little less uncomfortable.

This isn’t because I think women don’t trust men. I’m not assuming anything about those women other than that they know what kinds of men run in the circle we both find ourselves in. This isn’t because I know they’re “probably” not available or that they’ve got a distaste for dating guys from atheist groups. I’ve met plenty of women who, after I get to know them, are interested in atheist guys and actually ridicule me for worrying so much. I do this because I refuse to be included in the group that harasses women, refuse to be included in the group that sexualizes women at all times, and I refuse to be part of the group that has raped women. My absolute refusal to be included in these groups means I avoid repeating their behaviors, and one of those behaviors is propositioning women everywhere they go.

I didn’t write this article to talk about them, though. Or to talk about me necessarily. I’m just outlaying a thought process I go through several times at every atheist convention or group I’ve attended. I don’t like to do this and I wish I could be less anxious about approaching women, that there was enough trust fostered there that I didn’t feel like I was possibly putting them in danger or on edge just by expressing interest. It’s not their fault they feel that way, and it’s not mine.

Somewhere out there, though, there’s someone reading this that treats women as objects, who stalks women at conventions, who propositions women at the wrong time, who only describes women by how sexy he thinks they are. It’s his fault. Him and all of the men who think and act like him. The creepy, leering, sex-focused guy who finds some way to flirt with all of the women in any given group and disregards them as intellectuals whenever given the chance. His existence means that whenever I say hello to a woman she’s going to evaluate if I’m one of His men or if I’m something different. His existence means that whenever I flirt with a woman, she’s going to ponder if it’s something He would say. His existence means that if I want to get to know a woman outside of a skeptics meeting I need to find some way to ensure she doesn’t think I’m Him before I even get the chance to get comfortable talking to her. That means I’ve got two gauntlets of social anxiety to run and I can only talk myself through one of them. The other one is totally out of my control, totally out of her control, and is purely the domain of Him.

When I talk to my peers about these kinds of problems, especially those who are part of ‘alternative’ lifestyles or sexual persuasions, they all agree on the problem of His existence. He makes it difficult to impossible to be both respectful and sexual, to be both engaging and flirtatious. There’s never any innocent flirting because of Him, there’s never any dipping one’s toes in water when He’s around in a scene, and there’s never any relaxed but sexually charged atmospheres when He’s part of a group. In short, it’s almost impossible to be a good natured person who is looking for women to sleep with so long as women have met Him.

This is part of what drives me as a Feminist – finding Him and asking Him to leave. Not just so women don’t have to put up with Him, not just so I don’t have to put up with Him, but so I can get comfortable talking to the people I find attractive in the group. These reasons, I think, are good reasons and I use them to fuel my discussions with people in the atheist and skeptical communities, within the gaming and roleplaying communities, and I ask guys to not be Him. Sometimes I even ask a woman not to be Him ’cause they can do it too. Then the worst part about Him comes to surface in the community – He gets defended as just being one of the guys.

There’s two distinct problems here. For those of us who’d like to date the beautiful, intelligent women who steal our hearts and parts of our emotion-driven minds who we met at our local atheist meeting we need to both overcome the imposition that we might be Him and we need to not be confused as supporting Him. And yet when I hear people expressing interest in the former, I still hear them becoming and defending the latter. We can’t have women be comfortable around us, especially if we’re expressing sexual interest in them, as long as He is around. If we want to be able to come onto women we don’t just need to be mindful of respecting them, acknowledging proper place and time for such things, and being devilishly handsome and comely – we also need to stand up for all women and ask Him to leave.

‘Cause when you get down to it, if we have any ‘game’ the only thing ruining it is either not being mindful or the fact that He exists. And if you’re not being mindful? You’re not reading the posts online from men and women about proper place, time, behavior and all that? You’re still thinking that they’re uptight prudes and you’re somehow evolutionarily predestined to put your penis in everything that moves?

Well, you’re Him.

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2 Responses to “Who Do You Think I Am?”

  1. an Drake Says:

    How deep are you going on this? Gonna address the deep psychological realities of BOTH genders that drive a patriarchical society with the behaviora of Him you describe? Or just addressing one side of issue?

    If former, I might be able to give you some fodder to think about… if the latter, well… as a geek I get it but the gauntlet you cant control probably isnt addressable even if you manage to eliminate a local minima of Him.

    Jan

    • Luarien Says:

      I may approach both sides but there’s a lot of good information out there about the woman’s POV in geek and secular communities (including two recent, and really good, posts on Skepchick) and I was inspired to write this after reading some of the stuff at the More Than Men project. Since this is a a little ranty, I posted it here instead. And both my girlfriends (as well as nearly all my friends) are ardent feminists, so I’m knee deep in gender discussions on a regular basis.

      As for the last part, you’ll always have some kind of anxiety gauntlet for most geeks and nerds, but that second part – the knowing that there’s an inherent distrust in all guys by women in the community – can be eliminated and it’ll make it easier on everyone. Men and women alike.

      Danny


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