Feeling Sexy

About 2 minutes of research on google reveals that when straight women say they’re feeling sexy, they mean they think they can turn someone else on. When straight men say they’re feeling sexy, they mean they’re feeling horny.

In the middle of the night, I had this epiphany that I communicated to my friend in gchat in the morning.

Me: Oh my god, I just had an epiphany. So like, I date all these people who express an asexual masculinity who are only able to express their sexuality through attraction to me.

Friend: This is not a coherent epiphany. Learn to write, plz.

Me: Ok. Ok – so, what I mean is, when I date people, I’m responsible for bringing all the sexual energy. Like, I have to look sexual enough to turn *them* on, but also have to be horny enough to be turned on *by* them when they’re not even trying to impress me.

Friend: http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/mind_blown.gif

Friend: Also, you are very smart and pretty, and have been looking very in-shape lately.

(May not be transcribed exactly.)

One of the marginally irritating features of my life, at least as a woman in her 20s (soon to be 30s,) is that people *always* perceive me as sexual. I’ve been sick for months, and regularly go out in vomit colored egg sweatshirts, and I still propositioned nearly daily. I have a whole setup of sun glasses and ear phones to block out the world and signal DON’T TALK TO ME when I’m walking down the street because it’s a big problem in my life.

I have talked to some of my male SF programmer friends, and the way they describe walking down the streets is totally different. Words like “ignored” and “lonely” come up a lot. And, that sucks. I can’t even really imagine what it’s like to be honest.

But what happens if I start dating someone who expresses an asexual masculinity (i.e. they’re masculine, but repress aspects of themselves that may be read as sexual – “business casual” male is a key example) is that, for the first time in a long time, they have a place to express their sexuality. But, it’s completely tied to *my* sexuality, it doesn’t stand alone.

(On a side note – I don’t mean to just call out men. I see this sometimes with the dapper/vintage masculine lesbian look. Personally, I find it to be a strangely asexual due to its historical associations, but it could just be me.)

And, on some level, society is hard on men in this way. But, on another level, many men have chosen *respectability* over *sexuality*.  And, that’s fine – but, if you’ve chosen to be respectable rather than sexual, you have to anticipate that this may have an affect on the people you date. Have you heard of the low-libido crisis in American women lately? It’s always blamed on women (they work too much! they’re too tired! birth control!)

But, how many men do you know that put effort into being sexy? Do you think men being completely uninterested in impressing women could be linked to women being uninterested in them? (Or, they want to impress women with their awesome career – the adult version of impressing that popular girl in high school with your good grades.)

Did you know, if you’re a woman, dying your hair blonde can vastly increase the number of responses you get on a dating website?  It’s not because men prefer blondes (or, so I tell myself as a brunette.)  It’s because dying your hair blonde signals something. Something sexual. Similarly, a motorcycle or stupid hat can do the same thing for a guy.

Think about it.

(Don’t actually get that hat.)

When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you

Friedrich Nietzsche

We live in a time of cancerous technology growth which threatens to leave nothing untouched by its metastatic tendrils. Yet, even as the world overflows with devices numberless devices whose conception was impossible only a decade earlier, our lives have not become comparably filled by a similar abundance of meaning. If anything, they are becoming more empty. Depression has become 10 to 20 times more common in the past 50 years, and antidepressant use has skyrocketed by 400% in the past 20 years. But, I’m not here to bash on technology (maybe another day.)

Instead, I’m more curious about what our technology says *about us*. If we stare into this technological void that we have created, what do we see reflected back at us?

Before leaving school, I had seen videos of horses raping women, videos of people beating homeless men, and received rape threats from people who found various online personas of mine. How could my parents ever prepared  me for such a world? The one they grew up in was nothing like that. I’d seen images of women who stuck beer bottles up their vaginas and getting DPed before I’d had my first kiss. The world was a desperate, angry, horny, vindictive place and I knew no better. I never judged it, or questioned it because I was too young. This is just how people were, and I accepted it.

But, I don’t think this is how people have always seen each other. If I had a read on the generation slightly older than me, the ones who were just old enough not to internalize the “normal-ness” of these internet shenanigans, I think what they feel is a level of resigned disappointment. Their interpretation is something like “the worst people come out on the internet.” My interpretation is closer to, “the internet allows us to show a part of ourselves we keep hidden in the daylight.”

What does it say about us though? That, as soon as we had a platform for major anonymous expression, porn, and blood, and shit, and violence came spewing out in all directions?

You know the cliche about the serial killers? “He seemed so normal, so nice and polite – I would never have guessed?” Well, isn’t that how we all turned out to be?



Death of a High School Classmate

One of my high-school classmates was killed recently in a suicide bombing in the Islamic East. I don’t want to be too specific, because I’d rather not have him be identifiable from this post.

I had to look up photos of him on the internet to be sure I was remembering him right. It was strange, because he looked different – older, adult. Not how I remembered him. I watched a video of him talking, and his accent seemed to have changed – or possibly I’m not remembering it correctly in the first place. His voice was definitely deeper. In high school, he was a somewhat conflicted young man. We went to a very liberal school, but he had conservative and patriotic values. I remember arguing with him about women, something about how we should appreciate more of our female heroes, and he argued that there weren’t that many. I also think he may have gotten in trouble at some point for bringing a confederate flag to school.

My senior year, my gay friend apparently came across him on some sort of gay chat room. My friend confronted him about it, and apparently, my classmate said something to the effect that he was a gay man, and comfortable with his sexuality. I didn’t really hear anything about him after that, but in my mind, I sort of filed him away as one of those strange gay conservatives I hear about.

After looking him up after his death, however, he seems to have become a far more complicated individual. A scholar of some renown, (although, obviously still quite young) he had become a governmental advisor, travelled the world, and written a book. His ideas appeared to be well thought out, and unique. Possibly, some of the complexity of his adolescence led to a more thoroughly thought out intellectual standpoint, I’m not sure.

But, reading through my facebook posts was sort of empty.

This is very sad news.

Our prayers are with his family.

Shocking. Tragic.

They were so void, I’m not even completely sure I was remembering the right person – everything they said was so generic it could have been about anyone. They called him “brave” and “unique,” but whitewashed out some of the more interesting aspects of his personality. As I searched for him on the internet, I desperately wanted an answer to the question who was this person? What were his struggles, and his successes? What took him to the place where he finally died? Did he believe in heaven, hell? Was he afraid of dying? Did he fall in love?

I hope he fell in love.

I haven’t thought of this man in over ten years, and yet now I  desperately want to talk to him. When I was younger, I wanted to be seen. As I get older, and a few have started twinkling out, I’m starting to realize how important it is to see who these people really are while there’s still time. Who am I? Who was he? Who are you? It’s all connected, I think. We can never know the answer to one without knowing the answer to all.

Goodbye, and good luck.

The Terrible Things we do to Boys are Why Women Aren’t Welcome On The Internet

I saw these two articles on facebook yesterday, and they seemed related: why women aren’t welcome on the internet and there’s something absolutely wrong with what we do to boys before they grow into men.

A lot of feminist reading I’ve read has focused primarily on the female experience, which is important. It has been helpful for other women to call out their experiences getting hate mail, getting harassed on the streets, and having it be dismissed as unimportant. It has helped me realize that I’m not alone, and I’m not crazy.

That said, there’s not a lot of discussion about the male experience. Why do some little boys grow up to be so angry at women? How have we produced a world, where for every feminist blogger, there are hundreds of men who want to tell her to go get raped? Many people, male and female, I know would basically just dismiss these men as human scum, but it doesn’t address the problem. Apparently, 6% of college aged men will admit to attempting to force a woman to have sex when he knows she doesn’t want to (but, will decline to call themselves “rapists”.) 6% is pretty high. If you think of 17 men who have been to college, in theory, one of them will admit to attempting to force a woman to have sex with him. And this is just men who come clean about attempting rape – if we include men who didn’t admit it, or behaviors that aren’t rape but are still intimidating to women, the percentages are probably much higher.

In fact, you probably interact fairly regularly with a lot of men who have committed some assalt-type behavior on women. And, you know, they might actually be a pretty nice. The majority of men who send death threats to women on the internet are probably totally capable of interacting with society on an acceptable level in public, but for whatever reason, have a need to vent some anger when they’re alone.

So, what’s going on here?

Why will some men present a politically correct front to the world, while hiding a much more sinister personal view on women?

Male majority sexist conversations I’ve been a part of (which, I’m sure are biassed because I’m a woman) tend to go one of two ways. Either, a group of men goes on to make a bunch of jokes about women unchecked, or one of them will speak up and say something like “not cool, bro.”

But the question “why are you so angry at women?” never goes asked. I don’t even think it can be asked. To ask a man why he feels something in a social situations is inappropriate (dare I say, “emasculating”.) For men to admit that they have emotions, that things might go wrong for them sometimes, can be an admission of failure. (This is not true of *all* men – I have many male friends who are able to articulate the problems they have without shame, but I think it’s true of enough men, particularly in professional settings, to cause problems.)

And, feminist men who speak up on the behalf of women are really great. But, I don’t think they’re gong to change the world.

I think the world is going to change when more men speak up – sexist men, rapist men, angry men, stalker men – and explain what happened to them that made them act the way they did. And, the more we blanket condemn these behaviors without asking *why*, the worse they’re going to get. We can’t arrest half of Reddit.

We can’t stop this by force. That is both the curse and the blessing of the internet.

I’m Jealous of Artists

Sometimes, I read a really good poem or see a really beautiful picture, and I’m touched.

Then, I’m jealous.

I think to myself, “maybe, if I hadn’t spent all those years learning how to program, I could create beautiful art.” Instead, I’m always ashamed of the things I create. My words are always so clunky and labored, my pictures so crude.

I can’t communicate with anything as quickly as I can communicate with a computer. But what is that? It’s not as if it’s ever going to talk back.

When I was younger, I saw this in myself. I was condescending toward other people’s technical abilities, not because I really thought I was better, but because it’s all I had. Sugar said Art isn’t anecdote. It’s the consciousness we bring to bear on our lives. When I look at the work of an artist, I think “Why do you get to bring consciousness to your life, while I have to figure out how to spam people’s facebook walls with messages they don’t want?”

I mean, if I can’t be *better* than artists in some intangible way, then I have to face that what I’m programming is ultimately devoid of anything that actually touches at what it means to be human. Well, I guess I get more money too. Maybe if I spend enough, I can look attractive enough to make other people jealous, and then that would almost be like winning. 

Truth is, deeply, I do believe there is something there to our technology – but what is it? I’ve become so distracted by the mindless repetition of the ideas I’m inundated by that I’ve lost the ability to step back. 

So many people want to “get into” tech, and I desperately want out. Not to stop programming, but to be out of this fucking bubble where programming is valued as somehow elite. People are willing to waste their minds doing meaningless tasks in order to “be technical,” rather than really figure out “is this what I want? is this what we want?”

Why work an 80 hour week to impress people, when you could be – say – living? I have actually blown off dates so i could work until 10 pm before. For what? So people would like me more – or act like they liked me. I’m not sure someone who actually liked me would want me working an 80 hour week, but then again, they may simply have not thought through the repercussions. 

What does it mean that all we can do with our time saving technology is work more? Is this the end game – program more, and teach more people to program, so we can keep programming? 

Or is there something else?


I just finished reading this XKCD,

and – frankly – my views very much fall in line with the man in the hat.

In  fact, I found this whole comic was fairly annoying. The hat man *didn’t* tell the strangers they were “having experiences incorrectly,” he simply stated that he hated how people did that.

I agree – not because people are “living life wrong,” but because I don’t like taking photos. Suddenly, all activities I engage in become “photo” fests, and I have to wait around for my friends to take stupid photos of stupid things, but I don’t like it. What if you didn’t like dancing, but every single event you went to required you danced at the beginning of it? It would totally blow, right?

When the hat man says “documenting your life detracts from living it,” I think what he means is “you documenting your life makes it harder for me to live mine.” Sure, if random strangers are taking photos who cares? But, when it’s people you’re around that you’re forced to engage in  it becomes very frustrating. When I was driving with my parents across iceland, they stopped about every 10 minutes to take photographs. An eight hour drive was turned into a two day drive because of this. It took more than twice as long, and that extra day was a complete waste of my life as far as I’m concerned.

And for what? To cling to some scenery in some images that will never be looked at anyway? To hold on to tangible reminder of a real event, so you can create a fictional story around it and use it to impress other people? Why do we even want photographs in the end? To show off? To forget?

Sure, if the act of taking them is pleasurable, enjoy it. But, if it’s not as pleasurable as – say – something else you could be doing, do that instead.

I fucking hate photographs.