Henry Cavill suggested a need to stay away from dating because he’s “going to be called a rapist or something”. I’m not going to have a go at Mr. Cavill specifically, but there’s been a lot of talk along these lines since
I want to take some time here and open up – this is not science or expert opinion. This is my experience, which may be completely inappropriate and off-base. Maybe I’m alone in this. But I think it will help the discussion one way or the other. I’m committed to
#HeForShe, so risking some blowback if it improves the situation for others is a necessary risk. I want to talk about being a heterosexual male in today’s world specifically as it relates to dating and sex.
First, let’s address my bias. Women are attractive to me, personally and aesthetically. Gender bias teaches young women to be agreeable, kind, cooperative, attentive, and helpful – while I disagree with the imposition of roles based solely on gender, that does mean that I grew up attracted more to the women I knew. The men were competitive, and rarely in a respectful, sportsmanlike way. Winning mattered more than respect, and the teasing, bullying, and trash-talking associated with that was something one had to accept.
I could endure all of those things, but there were not as charming as the calm compassion I received from my female peers. Because of the aggression of the guys, co-ed activities meant the girls had to work harder to be taken seriously, which made them ideal teammates.
Then there’s the superficial, aesthetic part. I’m not above that bias. I love the way women smell, which is not a mistake. Women’s fragrances are designed to that specific end. Floral, fruity – the range of soaps, perfumes, and such covers the spectrum of pleasant aromas. And that, I think paired with lifestyle, lends and air of cleanliness to women that I rarely detect from men. I’m no lumberjack, but even without masculine pressure that intense there’s still a large degree of ruggedness to how I prepare myself. So growing up and playing sports, men were dirty to me. We sweat, fell on the ground, and had little issue with stale or musty scents. Women struck me as clean, and their presence affected me like freshly changed linen.
Audibly, men’s voices hit my ear with a strong, percussive quality. They hammer out direct messages like Morse code. Women’s voices are melodic, almost singing through words. The breathy sounds that connect phonemes contain additional information that isn’t present speaking with most men. That is, women can convey more information saying the same phrase as a man just through their intonation. It processes more like music than speech in my mind.
And visually, I’m in awe. Yes, much of it has to do with cosmetics (though some men like to pretend they hate makeup) – it can highlight features wonderfully. Eyes, noses, mouths, hair…in particular I love arms, shoulders, necks, and collarbones. Light attaches itself well to the lines – it’s like sitting on a beach and watching waves crash on the shore. I find it incredibly peaceful.
Speaking generally, women tend to have more “delicate” features. Delicate in the sense they are proportioned in a way that is thinner or smaller than that of a man’s, but I dislike the word delicate because they strike me as solid and delicate implies a brittleness.
Now, I have been married for several years. My wife is perfect for me. We complement one another well, she’s intelligent, she’s chill, and she’s utterly adorable. I could not have designed a better person to be my partner. She is the best thing to happen to me.
All of that being said, the strength of our relationship and my desire to “forsake all others” for her does not inoculate me from my attraction to other women. That part of the brain does not simply switch off when a relationship begins.
I find other women attractive. I find women who are not my wife sexually attractive. Women with whom I attended school, who work in the building with me, strangers I pass on the street – yes, if I’m being open with you, even among my followers on Twitter. And even as a married man, there is selfish, vain part of me hoping that it’s mutual. I like the idea that a woman sees me and feels a sense of attraction. I do things with my wardrobe and routine designed to that end – things I would not waste time with otherwise.
BUT – here is where we come to the “Cavill turn”.
I never, even when I was single, approached a woman on those terms. I did not impose my sexual attraction onto someone who might not feel the same way about me.
The women I liked I engaged as people. Yes, the subtext, especially with a stranger I hadn’t had conversations with before, was likely, “I find you attractive”, but that gets muted to focus on the person. A relationship is built. That does not mean marriage or cohabitation. The relationship could be, “Two people who frequent the same Starbucks around the same time and chat”. All it means is building some level of platonic familiarity.
Once established, that level of familiarity allows you to approach the topic of attraction. It doesn’t have to be to date, it could just be to hookup. This is not about a prudish notion of courtship. It’s about respecting agency and autonomy. If you ask a woman out on a date or express your attraction to her and she’s not interested, that is not harassment or assault. If she says she’s not interested and you persist, *now* you’re harassing. You are aware of where she stands.
And this includes *how* you approach, which is why the familiarity is a good idea. Catcalling is harassment. You have zero reason to be projecting that onto a stranger.
“What if you’re an attractive guy and she actually likes the attention?” one might wonder.
That is not harassment, then it’s welcome behaviour. But here’s the problem, champ – you have no way of knowing that beforehand. So if you do it, know that there’s a very high probability that you’re harassing, go back to the start, and just don’t do it. No romance ever began with a catcall.
“You should smile more” and the like are NOT compliments. A compliment is, “I like your smile” when someone smiles and you want to say something nice to that person to make them feel good. “You should smile more” is about how *you* feel and what they need to do to accommodate that. Women in particular have just been expected to accommodate these things from men and it needs to stop. She does not have to alter herself to appease you.
She does not owe you her time, attention, or (certainly not) her body. It doesn’t matter if you were nice to her. It doesn’t matter if you helped her move. It doesn’t matter if you bought her drinks. It doesn’t matter if you bought her a private island.
Agency and autonomy – she owes you nothing. Do the nice thing to be nice, not as sexual currency. That innate expectation is a huge part of the problem.
Do not send dick pics. Do not just slide into a strangers DMs to hit on them. Do not become angry when she does not respond or responds in a way other than how you hoped/expected/demanded she respond.
#HeForShe – stop your friends when you see them doing any of this stuff. It’s not enough simply for you not to do them. Hold your peers accountable as well.
Why that whole backstory first? Because I want you to understand this isn’t about killing romance or putting an end to courtship. It’s not prudish or about killing fun. This isn’t someone who is simply off the market and now free to judge everyone else. Because I love and respect my wife, I would not pursue my attraction with anyone else. Because I love and respect human beings, I would not pursue my attraction in harassing or assaulting ways.
I know what it means to see a woman and feel that level of attraction or arousal – that does not, in any circumstance, excuse your behaviour to any degree.
“She bears some responsibility for dressing like that.”
No, no she doesn’t. You decided on an irresponsible, disrespectful, and quite possibly criminal course of action. It’s insulting to everyone, regardless of sex or gender, to suggest men are incapable of self control. It’s quite simple, actually, to regard another person as a human being first and control your actions accordingly. That is precisely why the continued prevalence of harassment and sexual assault is so frustrating. The solution is easy and obvious. If the other person has not granted clear, affirmative permission, you do not have consent to behave sexually towards them. If you do anyway, there’s no defence when the accusation of harassment or assault occurs. *They* decide if it’s harassment.
Millions of men navigate all of this just fine. If you do not feel comfortable, do not just keep trying approaches with women. Definitely ignore the PUAs. Talk to women, talk to male friends who do understand it and learn. This is not a sexual mine field.
Respect the agency and autonomy of the other person. Do not use harassing language or engage in harassing, assaulting, or predatory behaviour towards someone simply because *you* are attracted to them. Take the time to understand them and the situation before you become someone’s
#MeToo story. Be supportive of others, especially those in #SurvivorCulture so you don’t become someone’s #WhyIDidntReport story. Have empathy and just be kind.