My Contributions to #MeToo
So I've wanted to talk about #metoo from the other side of the equation... but I haven't wanted to pretend this discussion was about me or how much of a shithead I've been in my life. This movement is not about me. Well, it is... because people who grew up like me have instigated the situations that produced this entire discussion. I just wanted to let people know that some of the men who put undue pressure on them have grown to understand and regret the things they did. It might offer some comfort, even if it's not going to heal the wound.
I've always understood consent, and for that I'm thankful. I'm not sure I could live with myself if there were times in my life when I didn't. But I certainly lived in the illusion that "playful" pressure was an acceptable part of courting. I grew up in the 80's, where our film heroes got the the girl through persistence and perseverance. We honestly believed we could earn our partners by pushing past their objections and demonstrating how we were ideal for them. This poisoned us as a generation, and for many years... far too many, I lived with this notion in my ideological foundations.
This means that on many occasions, I honestly believed that pressure was a good thing. And I wasn't alone. I can't recall the number of my friends who used every ridiculous angle they could to seduce a woman. I laughed out loud that the whole "blueball" thing actually worked, because I knew that was a truckload of nonsense. Yet boys spoke of it incessantly as something that girls needed to alleviate. And this was only one of the copious lies and manipulations I saw among my peers. I watched so much insincere and dishonest seduction., and in the story of my life, it honestly made my crap look benign in comparison.
Because I genuinely felt like a good guy. As I said, I understood consent.. and would back off when I recognized I didn't have an invitation to continue... but I'd try to change women's minds.. and I'd certainly do so thinking fallaciously that they were just stuck on one hurdle. My mindset was such that if we just spent some time making out, the inhibitions would be history. Once we were kissing, the scales would fall from their eyes. Once they dated me, it would all work out. I didn't view those initial "No"s as a deal-breaker. I treated them like challenges to get around.
This put me in some situations I still regret to this day. Trying so hard to get my date at the Naval Academy to kiss me that I missed out on enjoying the time we had together. Completely skipping all the "getting to know you" questions I was being given by one woman at Auburn, which were the seeds for future dates that I would have really, really wanted. Pushing a good friend away in my early 20's because I was so determined to actualize the romance I figured was my due. The list goes on and on. I was wrong. Even in my slightly-enlightened state, I was a negative force in many women's lives. The narrative I wove around myself painted the picture of a star-crossed smart kid hoping to earn the love he deserved. This can be a dangerous, dangerous illusion. Love was not something I was due... and was certainly not something I could demand from others. I had "Nice Guy" syndrome pretty badly, thinking that women only liked jerks and that they were wasting their time with those other guys. Early on, I even got angry at promiscuity that wasn't directed at me. My egotistical and self-serving perception of women in my life was part of a cultural aggression towards the very women I wanted to bond with. My actions were inexcusable, and I still feel my skin crawl when I imagine how it must have felt to be on the other side of some of my pursuits.
That's one reason why I've spoken up for women so loudly as an adult. I was so misguided as a kid, that once I was secure enough to accept "No" as more than a hurdle, I learned to regret all my earlier foolishness. And I am so, SO glad that the new generations of kids get exposed to consent and social justice at an age where they can actually digest it before beginning their journey into dating. And I hope that messages like #metoo soak deep into their ideological foundations, so fewer women end up with feelings that make my pathetic regret seem laughable.