It’s probably not a shock that I regularly find myself discussing and debating women’s issues; sometimes it’s in my head with imagined misogynists (more often than I’d like to admit!), sometimes it’s with real life misogynists (not often enough), but mostly I’m ranting at people who already feel the same as I do (preach to the choir anyone?!). What I’ve come to realise is that the more aware I’ve become, the harder it is for me to avoid outrage and anger, because inequality is everywhere.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we have been so conditioned about ‘our place’ in society that even in the face of the worst male crimes against women, we still look to transfer the blame onto our own sex – or at the very least, we tend to accept when told, that a woman was the root cause of the issue.
“But she was a terrible prick-tease!”
Let me put this into context for you; whilst out for a lovely dinner with my mum and sister last week we of course got onto the subject of feminism – full disclosure – I was a little bit shitfaced and I can’t recall the exact way the conversation went, but what I do know is at some point someone, whilst discussing the prevalence of sexual assault, went down the well-trodden route of “but some women are terrible prick-teases and do lead men on!”. Boom – haven’t heard that word since the 90’s!
I’m not sure through the fog of too much Aperol spritz and gin that I had a well thought-out response, but it has bugged me since for two main reasons; firstly, regardless of how much flirting, suggesting or leading-on, can a woman’s right to say ‘no’ ever be forfeited? And secondly, I keep wondering how many times I’ve witnessed misogynistic behaviour that can solely be attributed to, and excused by, the actions of the woman involved?
I’ve really tried to dissect this – I’m not one of those feminists who doggedly believes that all women are beautiful kind-hearted angels who can do no wrong – women can, like men, be nasty, but when it comes to a woman having done something that excuses a sexual assault, no, for me it’s clear – that’s just not possible. I have seen flirting, sometimes outrageous flirting which has made me cringe, but can I think of any occasion where I have genuinely thought that a woman, because of the way she’s behaving, now needs to do whatever the man demands because she’s somehow promised him her body? Still no. I have however seen – and experienced – the backlash of saying no; I’ve been called a ‘fucking stuck up bitch’ for refusing to kiss a man I spoke to for all of 10 minutes, I’ve had my boobs grabbed ‘because they were right there’ (like, where else was I supposed to keep them?) and I’ve been sworn at more times than I could tell you for politely asking a man to leave me or a friend alone, whilst in a pub or club.
I 100% don’t buy the argument that men find the boundaries confusing, that things have recently changed etc etc; my experience screams it loud and clear – a scarily high percentage of men feel entitled to women, just because we exist. The only thing that has changed is that we are now recognising that it’s not OK, and we’re shouting about it. So could it be that the whole idea behind the phrase ‘prick-tease’ came about because we’ve been conditioned to remove responsibility from men and place it firmly on the shoulders of women? Is the very existence of these torturous vixens we all seem to know about just the stuff of legend? Well, I’m no expert, but I’ll hedge my bets on ‘abso-fucking-lutely’.
The new threat to women – the self-titled INCEL
It’s become hard to avoid the term INCEL (meaning involuntarily celibate). It refers to men who believe they are being denied sex by women, who unfairly reject them, despite the fact they perceive themselves to be great guys. They’re pissed because they believe they deserve sex and this feeling of entitlement is leading them to kill.
You may remember back in 2014 the son of one of the Hunger Games Producers, Elliot Rodger, shot and killed 6 people in California before turning the gun on himself. Prior to going on his rampage he filmed a chilling video where he explained how unfair it was that the girls he knew (one in particular – a girl he killed) rejected him in favour of, in his twisted opinion, less gentlemanly men. He hated all women and wanted his revenge. Sadly that wasn’t the end; in the recent weeks we’ve all heard that another teenage boy went on a school shooting spree after harassing a girl for 4 months, instead of simply accepting that she wasn’t interested. You may have seen the headlines; he was a ‘lovesick’ teen, she rejected him after he spent 4-months trying to win her back. She in short caused his behaviour by rejecting his advances and denying him what he was entitled to – her – whether his feelings were reciprocated or not.
The renewed publicity on the whole issue of these self-proclaimed INCELs has thrown the spotlight onto male entitlement, and the dangerous way we talk to boys about how they deal with rejection from girls they’re attracted to.
Phrases like ‘friend zoned’ and ‘prick tease’ quite plainly point the finger of blame at the female involved – she has done something to him. We tend to automatically default to thinking the woman has led the man on and in return for his attention, friendship, interest and sometimes, love, has callously rejected him – humiliating him and breaking his poor innocent heart. He keeps persevering, because god loves a trier right, and after all, it’s romantic to persist – she will be yours in the end if you just don’t take no for an answer.
This is a huge problem. Not only do we teach this to boys, we have conditioned girls to gloss over worrying, obsessive and potentially dangerous behaviour because it’s romantic, cute, flattering – the stuff of rom-coms – and if it does tip over into the creepy, then they shouldn’t have tortured the poor chap so badly and just given him a chance. I find it rather ironic when you consider anti-women’s rights typically sits on the political right – the same right wing that also tells us that men are most suited to running the world due to their less-emotional and more level-headed natures. Go figure!?!
Anyway, back to the main subject – Thinking back to my own experiences again; a man I once drunkenly kissed at a club, regularly turned up in my favourite bar just to sit and glare at me because I refused to go out with him (he lived in a different town and was always on his own), an ex-boyfriend regularly found me on girl’s nights out to make sure I wasn’t having too much fun; the same ex even refused to let me break up with him and I once woke up to find him sitting next to my bed after he’d let himself into my family home (he knew the back door was usually unlocked). At the time everyone told me to take it as a compliment; these men were obviously crazy about me, and that made me lucky. I was freaked out, scared and felt vulnerable, but I obviously didn’t make a fuss because it was sweet and I had bought it upon myself somehow right…? WRONG!
INCELs, stalkers, obsessives, killers
Obsessive behaviour costs women’s lives. Last year the University of Gloucestershire conducted a 6 month study where they looked into cases of criminal homicides. Shockingly they found that stalking was present in 94% of the 358 cases, and in 63% of the cases, some sort of covert surveillance or watching was reported.
The Guardian reported that ‘According to the researchers, 85% of homicides occurred in the victim’s home. Dr Jane Monckton Smith, a former police officer turned criminologist, found that in almost every case the killer displayed the obsessive, fixated behaviour associated with stalking.
Stalking could present itself in acts such as rearranging a victim’s garden furniture, sending unwanted gifts, loitering on the pavement outside their house, or even calling social services to maliciously report “poor” parenting.’
In summary, the small acts of obsession are not cute, romantic or a sign of love, they are – if not addressed – potentially the start of something scary. So why is it that we don’t seem to teach boys that it’s OK to hear ‘no’ and simply move on? Rejection hurts, I get it, but it’s a life lesson and boys need to be taught it. Why is it less preferable to tell them to have a bit of bloody dignity, suck it up, learn from it, and most of all, accept a woman’s right to not want them!
And as women we have to look out for each other and call it out; if you see something you’re worried about, say it. If another woman tells you she’s worried, don’t dismiss her concerns, and importantly – take notice and call it out to the men and women in your life; challenge the rhetoric and encourage others to do the same. Entitlement doesn’t go away on its own – a spoilt child isn’t going to give up their toys of their own volition; an adult has to take control and ensure change happens, so be that adult. Seriously, if we as women won’t challenge male entitlement, who will? We owe it to our daughters, our sisters, ourselves – we owe it to the 96%.