My name is Morgan. I am a queer, cisgender woman (who prefers partners of any/non gender who have cocks — for the sake of continuity and criticism I will say “man” in this essay) and I refuse to participate in traditional heterosexual gender normative behaviors. I don’t play games. Although I date all kinds of people, I mean ALL kinds of people, I would say that I am not exactly successful at dating. Meaning, I haven’t gotten past the meeting one another turned casual sex thing. This satisfies my radical sex positive views, but unfortunately for someone who does care about companionship, those satisfactions fall short in the pursuit of a serious romantic partner. Though, I will say, I have had a wildly fruitful sex life and I have gotten to intimately know far more incredible people in my life than I can properly pay gratitude towards.
I had a friend who should write a book on the art of manipulating men, mostly so I could write a book about why manipulating men is a setback to feminism. But, she’s got it down to a science, I will give her that. Being a heterosexual-ish woman in the modern dating world often times feels like an act of either conforming, submitting and faking it or being in radical opposition to all expectations. It’s a feminist limbo — we make a lot of progress, but we are still waiting for some latent misogyny to shake out in our every day privileged lives. If things worked the way I would like, we could be accepted and appreciated for who we are, gain admirers, get to know one another with total transparency and date or not date. But, transparency is a thing valued in psychology — a thing that helps two people to have an honest and productive conversation in which all cards are on the table, so to speak. No manipulation, no ego prioritization. It isn’t a thing that is valued in dating: obtuseness and coyness are — things I’m not, and things I would be lying to myself to be. I’m not going to play that game, and here are three reasons why.
1. The Desire For Unwanted Sex AKA “Playing Hard To Get” Perpetuates Rape Culture
This one drives me absolutely insane. Going back to that same friend’s advice — that if I want a stable partner then I should withhold sex — she and many others suggest I should not be forward about being a sexual person (though I’m hardly more sexual, if at all, than most women), and that sex is something you have to make men work for. All I hear in that is: men only want sex if the woman doesn’t have agency or desire (or, if it’s taken not given). Or that, men only want to commit to and respect a woman who is not sexually open or forward about her desire. I know that’s true for some men, but thankfully not all men, and it isn’t a behavior I want to encourage. Nor is it my ideal image of myself or a respectable man. As I’ve said to friends of mine while in this mire of uncertainty and self doubt, “if a man judges you for fucking him on the first date, be thankful it happened that quickly.” In other words: RUN.
The refusal or fear of acknowledging a woman’s sexual agency is dehumanizing, and one of those things that perpetuates, and justifies, rape. It’s that irritating (to put it lightly) battle that psychoanalysts tried to call Hysteria. A frigid woman is a bad wife, an overly sexual woman is a whore (and it’s cool if she dies in the story). So, a woman who receives a man when he wants it, never asks for more, and maybe even makes him work/fight for that intimacy is a good mate. WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?/Looks like abuse.
My career as a writer and artist is based around sexuality — I like talking about my desire — but what’s more is, I like to hear about other people’s desires, I like to be empathetic about all sexual/nonsexual states, I like to have a dialogue about what is and isn’t appropriate: hard limits, fantasies, fetishes, traumas, triggers. I like to be open to a man’s right to refuse sex from me in a relationship, and how that can be an okay conversation to have, not a devastating ego-crushing one. If I’m going to love you, I want us to respect one another. Lying and creating false ideas about one’s own desire does not create a very healthy recipe for respect and understanding. It’s setting the stage for oppression. And, a man is going to find out that I was or am a sex worker, even if I lie in the beginning to make him like me (another word of advice in dating is to withhold this information). Fuck that, he has to get down with what I’ve got to get my love and respect. Sex work, like all my experiences, only brings me closer to a more empathetic and realistic understanding of the sexualities of others as well as my own.
2. My Abusers Played the Same Games
To be fair, I know that some people use these tactics actively or subconsciously in retaliation after being subjected to abuse and I am in no position to judge a person’s reaction to trauma. Personally, I’m not competitive (in any circumstance) and I don’t feel natural being dominant in relationships. If I have to compete for power in a relationship then I really can’t be bothered. I had a partner for two years, “officially,” who would routinely manipulate and gaslight me, do things to intentionally enrage and upset me just to watch the fire works go off for his own enjoyment. He would find ways to make anything my fault and he would use sex to control me. Withholding sex and associating sex with punishment and reward was a major way that he was able to have power over me, destroy my confidence and make me feel entirely indebted to him. I won’t go into all the details of the emotional abuse roller coaster this one kept me on for 8 years on and off (and luckily, no longer counting), but his behaviors and tactics left a huge impression on me (and made me susceptible to the abuses of future partners, though he certainly wasn’t the first).
I know that if I try to withhold or behave in a way that’s unnatural to me in order to get a desired result, I will panic. For some survivors of emotional abuse, we know that trying to get the right result out of the wrong person through manipulation or any other tactic (acting the right way, saying the right thing, withholding) all still lead to the exact same devastating end of the road, dead end, fucked up place. Something as simple as choosing to not send a text in order to get the “right result” is enough to send me into wack-o-ville, so I opt for straight forward transparency. If that’s unattractive, so be it, I’m not putting myself on that track just to get something I may never get anyways. There’s a lot of shame in withholding that I don’t want to deal with. It’s my responsibility now to not continue unhealthy patterns, and game playing-to me, is unhealthy.
3. I Would Rather Die Alone Than Hide My True Self
I’m an arrogant person. I am true to myself at, almost, all costs. However, I do believe that there are times when not being your full-frontal “true self” is important like, for example, when you are staying with your amicable parents, you should obey the rules of the house. I try to keep my tattoos covered up to make my mom feel better when I go home. Even though that’s not being true to myself and my beliefs about agency and beauty, I also respect my parents and I’m in their home, not mine. Dressing properly for employment is another. If looking like an S+M vixen at the coffee shop isn’t acceptable, I probably shouldn’t do it. Though I did get in a decent amount of time making cappuccinos in leather shorts.
As I get older, I start to understand and respect conformity, and that’s mostly because conformity in my mind had everything to do with appearance and not identity (like any young -white- punk, appearance and identity were the same thing). In love and sex, concealing my identity and my true spirit is wrong. I worked too hard to recover from the experiences I’ve had and to validate myself and to believe in myself. I’ve worked too hard to come back around from alienation and feeling unwelcomed on this planet. It’s hard enough being different, as a person, as a woman, as anything. It’s not about having piercings and pink hair anymore, that was an easy crutch and easier to talk about, it’s about who I am, who I have always been, how I love and how I behave. I would rather risk loneliness than force myself into an idea of a woman who is quiet and reserved and waits to be approached by a man, and who has to lie about her sexual history, sexual desires and career. Or a person who is simply the radical opposite of me. I am an absolute freak. I am strange and sometimes uncomfortable to be around. It’s my job to be nice to people, not to force a new identity in order to make someone else comfortable.
It’s worth the every day rejection for the times when I meet like minded men-who I praise, and who set the example for a humanizing dating experience. There will be a day when I meet a man who loves me and who also, doesn’t play games. At least not, THOSE games.