I am sitting in a bed at a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where I will perform as a 12 year old/dancing-fool chicken for the next two weeks. Life is good. And also weird as hell.
I’m also sitting here typing away at the beginning of a three (maybe four? Not 100% sure yet) part entry I thought I would never write. Not because I don’t think the message is overwhelmingly important, but because I never wanted to go public about this. After all, what will people think? Will they make this all my fault? Did I do this to myself? I still battle all these thoughts as I type out the stories that led me to understand the deep-rooted misogyny which thrives in American culture (and most of the world). But after I read all the #MeToo stories on my Facebook wall, I trusted that maybe, maybe we had found legitimacy in numbers. If enough women are talking about this, people who haven’t shared these experiences will take us seriously. They’ll believe we aren’t just “being dramatic.” And that’s when I typed a line on my Facebook status for all 1,500 of my friends to see:
“I was raped by a UN Diplomat. Fucker speaks seven languages but didn’t understand ‘No’.”
Men don’t just wake up one day and decide it’s okay to force themselves onto women. It’s through both subtle and aggressive messages that we teach men that they’re fucking superheros who can mount whatever, whenever. Meanwhile, women learn it’s our job to prevent men from harming us with their lack of sexual and mental discipline. By the time I was “woke” to this reality, I’d already had a decent amount of average sex and Donald Trump was our Republican candidate. Too late?
Where Fantasy Lives
For those of you who are just tuning in, I have an entire entry about this asshat guy I called Boy Monster (You should go back and read that entry and then never do anything he/I did ever). Well after I rid myself of Boy Monster, buried myself in self-help books, and starting actually liking me, I booked a five month Musical Theatre gig! In the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire! And the pay didn’t totally suck! HOORAY! Except that I was totally bummed.
I know this may come as a shock to all of you, but I really hoped all this self-love beaming from my insides would attract the world’s best boyfriend. I was super ready to jump into the NYC dating scene with an entirely different perspective of myself. A more confident, interesting Mattie Jo that didn’t settle for total losers just because they’re over 6’0”. So OBVIOUSLY the Universe/God had to go and give me what I had been asking for - work in my field. And how the hell was I supposed to meet someone in the fucking boonies of New Hampshire? I seriously cried about this...A LOT (TBH I still do this. I get what I’ve been working for/prayed for and then I complain I don’t have a boyfriend. God must be rolling His eyes at me like “MJ you’re always saying how men are the worst and you really just want a Tony. Please make up your mind.” or “Bitch, be patient, I gotchu.”).
I really hoped all this self-love beaming from my insides would attract the world’s best boyfriend
So here I am doing this job that wasn’t exactly ideal but it was a step in the right direction - working for a great company, 5 months of acting work, an exceptional cast, living in one of the most beautiful regions of the country - crying about my lack of boyfriend. So, as suggested by my gay castmates, I downloaded Tinder (again).
Here’s the thing about me and dating apps, I really am so bad at them. The idea of meeting up with a total stranger whom I don’t even know is funny or not? Yikes. Like maybe they’re less cute than I’d hoped, that’s fine. But what if they’re boring? Or worse, what if they don’t think I’m funny? The horror! So anyway I went on a date with this guy I met on New Hampshire Tinder.
The date went fine. We ate at this cool rustic restaurant with beer flights so I definitely had one. We talked about his religious background (I swear I didn’t bring this up...I probably brought this up) and before I knew it, shit was getting pretty personal. He must have had a great time* because instead of offering to end the date after dinner (as I was hoping. Netflix awaits!), he asked if I wanted to go stargazing**. Aw, how romantic. So we watched some stars for a little bit and then he finally drove me back to the cast house. We made out for like five minutes in the car and I sent him on his way. Phew. That wasn’t awful. And I still have time for one episode of Friends!
*Despite my disdain for dating apps or really dating at all, I’m pretty great at them. I would like to tell you it’s because men are intoxicated by my exceptional wit but it’s actually because 1. I’m not ugly 2. Will openly talk about/listen to anything without judgment. I am a Cowsert, afterall! 3. I’m way too empathetic to be a bitch, even if they’re totally annoying 4. I’m not ugly
**Stargazing: The Kygo song featuring the guy I lost my Vcard to (y'all remember that story?). This is totally irrelevant, I just like to brag that he's famous now
Shamelessly Devoted to Sex (that other Grease song)
I am literally brushing my teeth, makeup totally off, with MY RETAINER IN, when I get a call from this dude.
Dude: Hey. I know this is so dumb, I’m really embarrassed but I’m like falling asleep at the wheel. Is there any way I could stay over with you tonight?
Me internally: What? No. I have to be up early to work with children AT A THEME PARK, I just took my makeup off, I’m wearing period underwear, and I want to watch Friends. But also, shit what if he dies?
Me verbally: Ummm...can’t you stop for coffee or something? I just have to be up super early and need to go to bed like immediately.
Dude: That’s totally fine. I can even sleep on the couch. I really would just prefer to stay instead of driving so late.
Me internally: Uh. Did he hear what I just said? That was my polite way of saying “no I would not like you to butter my muffin.” And I can't have sex anyway, because I’m on my period. Also, I don’t want to! I want to sleep! But I don’t want to be a bitch! GAgkfjadkjhfdjkahjdf
Me actually: You can’t sleep on the couch because the rest of the cast will see you and be pissed I let a stranger sleep in our living room.
Dude: Okay...I just...what if I sleep with you? I won’t bother you…
Me internally: WHY IS HE PUTTING ME IN THIS POSITION? And why do I feel so bad about just saying “No I’m not comfortable with that.”?Why do I keep giving all these excuses?!?!
Me actually: Okay you can stay over but really seriously, I have to go to sleep immediately. So please don’t keep me up.
Dude: Oh of course! I appreciate it so much.
I know you’re all totally thinking “Why the hell would you let a stranger sleep in your bed, Mattie Jo???” First of all, one could see it as a charitable act if men weren’t going around raping women so often. And secondly, maybe I was naive enough to believe that if I made myself VERY CLEAR about the goings on in MY OWN BED, he would follow my requests. What I hadn’t thought about, of course, is Dude had the gall to lie about falling asleep at the wheel just to try and have sex with me. Also, he obviously did not care about anything I said in regards to him staying over because he was on a mission.***
***Can you imagine me in the reverse situation? NO! Because I have the intelligence and basic courtesy to let a person sleep if they’ve made it very clear they’d rather be well-rested for work than have sex with me. *white boy shruggy emoji* (my favorite emoji. White boys always confused)
So what happened the rest of the evening is him making moves. And more moves. And more and more and more. Persistent without shame. I had communicated so clearly that I wanted to go to sleep. And hadn’t he?!?! He was falling asleep at the wheel before he stayed up for hours trying to convince me to have period sex with him, right? I knew I could have kicked him out at any moment, but honestly I was scared and felt terrible for getting myself in this position at 25 years old. Didn’t I know better by now? Had I learned nothing from all those years of Youth group and Abstinence class? Men cannot be trusted when a boner is involved! Erect penis = mindless monsters (T’was a man that discovered electricity, invented the airplane, and Google Maps. But the learned aversion to logic, empathy, or respect in a man aroused is a mystery that has stumped us all. What a dilemma).
I have the intelligence and basic courtesy to let a person sleep if they’ve made it very clear they’d rather be well-rested for work than have sex with me
So finally, I did what I’ve heard a lot of women do in similar situations: I got him off just to get him to leave me alone. Just so I could get some fucking shut eye, I got this dude to cum. And guess what? After that, easy sailing! He fell asleep, probably totally happy with quasi- accomplishing what he set out to do. Meanwhile, I stayed awake with my shame and anger. Why did he do that? And why do I feel bad about it? He left the next morning.
Getting Woke and Other Things Only Millennials Understand
Of course everyone in the cast was curious about what happened. I had a Tinder date stay the night! How exciting! These kinds of things are meant to be fun, casual conversations amongst friends, but it wasn’t for me. And what exactly was I going to say to them? “Oh I didn’t really want him to stay over but I let him anyway and then finally after four hours of him trying to have sex with me, I just gave him a blowjob to leave me the fuck alone and potentially prevent him raping me. Also I hate myself.” ? No one wants to be that bummer person who turns casual hookups into a conversation about societal corruption. He asked me out again, (BECAUSE SHAMELESS) and I obviously said no.
After my night with Mr. Interrupts-My-Sleep-Cuz-Hardons, I realized most (NOT ALL!) of my sexual encounters had played out in a somewhat similar way— Having no intention of getting physical, but doing so anyway because it was expected in certain situations and/or the guys’ persistence wore me down, until I finally gave in. I suppose these scenarios didn’t bother me because “That’s just how it is. They’re guys”, ya know? But the new confident, self-loving Mattie Jo respected herself way too much to ever do that again. “That” being: give control of my body because men can’t control their own.
Maybe it was the fact that I had just finished months of undoing really awful self-talk habits, especially in regard to my behavior with men. Or maybe it was America getting scary close to electing a man who condones “Locker room talk” and “grabbing them by the pussy,” but I was full-force experiencing my “Oh now I get it! Men have unapologetically used their masculinity to control, belittle, and shame me for… awhile now” A-HA! moment. How did I live in a world where kissing meant I wanted to have sex? Where “no” required endless repetition and reasons? Where physical intimacy before emotional and mental intimacy was the norm? How was I supposed to move forward being single and 100% honest with my boundaries in this world?
I determined to never condone dipshit behavior in men ever again. Selfishly, because I didn’t want to relive the shame and anger from that experience if I could prevent it. I was angry at his behavior, ashamed at following suit despite my own desires and better judgment, and also angry that I was making game plans to change my behavior when really, men just need to practice the fucking Golden Rule.
What “changing my behavior” actually meant, I wasn’t sure. Do I come right out on the first date and be like “oh btw I am not going to have sex with you until I trust you mentally and emotionally. Savvy?” Of course not, that would be weird and far too direct. Plus, that is assuming the guy is mostly after sex, and wouldn’t that be one absolutely APPALLING assumption.
So anyway, the logistics of how I was to navigate being a self-respecting, straight, 25-year-old single woman in the 2016 America that was on the verge of electing a self-pronounced misogynist as president (instead of an overqualified woman), wasn’t even a little clear to me. But one thing was clear - I knew I couldn’t expect basic goodness any longer. I mean, just because I wouldn’t annoy someone into sexy times after they said multiple times they did not want to, doesn't mean everyone is as incredibly intelligent as I. So from that point forward, despite it feeling awkward or uncomfortable, I would say the words necessary to communicate my intentions/boundaries. And I would never be physically intimate with someone out of obligation or frustration. Because wasn’t doing so just reiterating that I’m not worthy of being listened to? Of not being respected? That it’s okay for men to disregard me entirely when they’re ready to fuck?
That night left me both totally relieved and deeply sad. Relieved at not having to deal with men for another five months if I didn’t want to. But sad at going on five years totally single with no potential of meeting the kind of man with integrity and character worthy of my time and energy. Is this what setting standards feels like?
[I would never again] give control of my body because men can’t control their own
Then I met a Romanian.