#IWasThatGuy – More times than I care to admit, in my long and tortured path of exploring my own sexuality. And I’m ashamed of it. And I’m terrified of admitting it in public. But nearly all the women I know are taking the courage to share in public their experiences of being on the receiving end of “that guy’s” inexcusable behavior (actually, dozens of “that guy’s” for each woman, reading the harrowing accounts that have been crossing my feed.) So guys, it’s time we develop the balls (or ball, in my case, ‘cuz I’ve only got one), step up and admit to and apologize for being that guy, however scary it is to do so, and whatever comes our way for doing it.
Here’s just one example, of many I could write about.
Recently, in a non-fiction piece I was working on, I wrote the sentence, “I’ve never pushed past a woman’s clearly-stated ‘No.'” I thought that was true when I wrote the sentence. I really did. But then, I thought, I better make really sure that’s true, before I publish it. I went year-by-year in my mind, and reviewed every hook-up, every attempted hook-up, in my past, and I realized I had to delete that sentence. Because it wasn’t true.
I was in my late 20s. A woman I knew from a party scene I was involved with had invited me over to her house for dinner. I was attracted to her. I thought it was mutual. I thought, because she had invited me over, I was sure this was going to go somewhere.
I leaned in for a kiss. She brushed me away and said “No.” We kept eating dinner, drinking, and talking, pleasantly. We danced some salsa. Thirty minutes or so later, I leaned in for a kiss again. She brushed me away and said “No” again. She was laughing. I was laughing. We were flirting. I was *sure* that was flirting on her part (and maybe it was.) We kept dancing.
So, I figured: this is just part of the game. Women play hard-to-get, right? Women are coy and demure, they hide their desires for fear of being seen as “easy.” Women play push-pull, they put up “token resistance.” She invited me over for dinner. Why else would she have done that, if she wasn’t interested? (It takes way too much for us men to realize that a woman actually isn’t interested. We are so terrified of being rejected, we try as hard as we can to convince ourselves otherwise….) I’m sure over the last half-hour of conversation and dancing and drinking, she saw what a great guy I am. I’m sure she changed her mind…
I leaned in again. Another “no,” and a gentle brush away. More laughs, more drinks, more dancing. It all seemed like “part of the process” of a night of seduction. Why would she still be dancing with me, laughing and joking, if this wasn’t going somewhere? (BTW, this is far far from an excuse, but I was heavily into PUA at that time, and all PUA teaching was saying that women played hard to get, hid their desires and their “no”. In fact, there was a term for it, which I now see was a disgusting, shameful term, which any guy who was ever involved in PUA will recognize, and I hope will wince at, as I now do. PUAs talked about a woman’s ASD, or “anti-slut-defense”–the resistance she puts up right before a hook-up, supposedly to prove to herself and you that she’s not a slut. PUA taught all kinds of ways to get past this “ASD,” most of which amount to either playing games and mindfucking her, or to just keep trying more and more seduction moves, and don’t take no for an answer, until she pushes you away hard, that’s the time to stop. Which is why almost all PUA training needs to be ditched, ASAP.)
I made these passes 4 or 5 times, and she brushed them all away and said “Not tonight.” Eventually, we mutually decided the night was over, and I left.
I didn’t think anything of it for a few weeks. My passes hadn’t been particularly aggressive, I thought. I had backed down for a while each time she brushed me away. I thought I was doing the right thing, just by backing down–and then seeing if she was interested a little later. I was just making my interest known, I thought, and probing the waters to see if maybe she had changed her mind.
A few weeks later, I realized, none of this rationalizing mattered. Even if *I* thought this was just me engaging in the usual mating dance of the guy making passes and the woman being demure… even if *I* knew that I wouldn’t have pushed harder if she had told me to fuck off and get the fuck out (which I do think is actually the case)… even if *I* thought I wasn’t dangerous, that I wouldn’t actually rape her or anything…
None of that fucking mattered. What I didn’t think about was how *she* felt about it. She didn’t know me that well. She didn’t actually know I didn’t intend push any harder than those passes. She could have been terrified, and hiding it, and playing nice to mollify me (that is a theme I’ve seen a lot in women’s #MeToo posts.) All of this was occurring in a context (I now see, from all the MeToo posts) where this shit had probably been happening to her since she was a girl.
I called her up a few weeks after the night, apologized, took 100% accountability for what a dick I had been, and how wrong my behavior was. She seemed glad to hear this. She said she had found my behavior seriously annoying, and she said she accepted my apology. She seemed to take it in stride.
But now I see, from all the posts in the last few days, that her seeming to “take it in stride” could also have been because she just didn’t expect any better of men, that she just accepted this kind of shitty inexcusable behavior from men as part of the background noise of being a woman in a patriarchal society.
We moved on. I completely forgot about this incident, until I did my own moral inventory recently, in the wake of all the abuse of other men that is coming into light.
I feel ashamed of this behavior. And there are plenty more skeletons in my closet I feel ashamed about. I did most of my bad behavior during a period after my divorce when I was doing a shit-ton of drugs and I was way out of control, when I was having (seemingly enthusiastic) sex with people when both of us were way too fucked up to be making responsible sexual decisions. I’ve gone back, talked to people, listened a lot, gotten clear on where I went wrong, tried as best I can to clean up my own shit and own it, make amends, made a lot of apologies, educated myself. And I’ve massively upleveled my own standards and practices around consent (as much of our culture is engaged in doing now, thankfully.)
If I’ve ever been “that guy” to you, and you’re willing to share that with me, please contact me. I will listen. I will make amends. I will not be defensive, and I will own my shit with no hedging. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable contacting me directly, please consider contacting me through a mutual friend.
Guys, I know it’s terrifying to look at ourselves in the mirror. I know it’s terrifying to admit this this stuff to ourselves, and to others, even in private. And I know it’s even more terrifying to admit it publicly.
But the outpouring of accounts from the courageous women that have been all over our FB feeds over the past few days, are proving to us all that it’s not just a few “bad apples” who are perpetrating and perpetuating these violations, transgressions, and harms. It’s not just “the other guys”. There are way too many harms and violations being described than could be accounted for by just a few “bad guys.”
It’s all of us men, in one way or another. All of us have skeletons in our closets. I sure as hell do. I hope this post goes some way to encouraging more men to start talking about our past sins, to start taking accountability for all the ways we’ve harmed women, knowingly and unknowingly, directly and indirectly, to listen to the stories of women without defensiveness, to feel our shame fully and be with it rather than trying to hide it from ourselves, to try to forgive ourselves, to apologize to and ask for forgiveness from the women we’ve harmed, to see the part we’ve played in the whole patriarchal system in which these violations and this violence is so prevalent, to commit to doing better–much, much better–starting immediately, and to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
One more thing. It’s so easy for us men to want approval from women for “doing the right thing” now, for “being the good guy” and “manning up” and owning our shit. But I was not the good guy in this story. You were probably not the good guy in some of your own stories from the past.
I can imagine some women reading these posts from men, and seeing all the kudos and the appreciation, and the “you’re so courageous”s, and being really disgusted. I’m not going to tell people how they should respond to this post, or others like it, but I will say I don’t feel proud of how I behaved–in fact, I feel disgusted–and I don’t think I deserve any credit or kudos in this story.
Guys, we should be meeting women’s courage with by tackling fears of our own, about looking ourselves in the mirror, about talking to men and women about our past transgressions, and about owning up to all the stuff women are calling us out on, publicly. Consider posting your own version of #IWasThatGuy or #ItWasMe. Women have taken extraordinary steps in the past few days, steps that just may change our entire culture (thank you all women who have shared your stories, taking the risk and courage to educate us.) Men, they are waiting to hear from us.