When men are rejected they demand answers: On the ubiquity of male butthurtedness

I love The New York Times’ Modern Love column. The writing and stories are consistently wonderful. (Full disclosure: I submitted a piece to the column once a couple of years ago and was rejected, like more than 99 per cent of all submissions are…)

Today, Daniel Jones, the editor of the column, published an article reflecting on the kinds of submissions he receives — particularly the difference between submissions from women and men. Some of his findings:

  • “Men’s stories seem tinged by regret and nostalgia. They wish previous relationships hadn’t ended or romantic opportunities hadn’t slipped away. They lament not having been more emotionally open with lovers, wives, parents and children.”
  • “Women are more inclined to write with restlessness. They want to figure love out. Many keep mental lists of their expectations, detailing the characteristics of their hoped-for partner with alarming specificity and then evaluating how a new romantic interest does or doesn’t match that type.” (Read: women are just smarter, more rational, etc.)
  • Women often cope with the feeling of hopelessness and exasperation that comes from dating dud after dud by trying to find the humor in it.
  • While everyone deludes themselves about love, idealizing it “to an unhealthy degree,” women tend to fantasize that their soulmate awaits them somewhere in their future, in their destiny, whereas men pine for or romanticize “the one that got away.”
  • Far too many people write in clichés (please don’t use the words, “smitten” or “electrifying.”)

Most interesting, though, was that, according to Jones, “Even though only 20 per cent of submissions to Modern Love come from men, they send more than 90 per cent of the angry emails I receive in response to being turned down.”

In other words, the male ego is remarkably unshakeable.

“To these men, no does not mean no. No means the start of an inquiry as to how this possibly could have happened,” Jones writes.

Well goodness, this all sounds awfully familiar. Where else might this type of attitude appear, over and over again?

Oh. That’s right. Everywhere.

“You didn’t even read it, dude,” said one man to Jones, who replied, “Dude, I totally did.”

Female humility and male entitlement truly amazes me, despite the fact that I see it everyday, almost everywhere I go.

On my commute to work, three men take up eight seats on the bus while I huddle in the corner, on edge, planning the best strategy if one should touch my thigh or try to speak to me.

All those times — not just as a young woman, but even in my thirties — when I would make out with a guy after a date and he’d proceed to whine and complain and pout when I declined sex. (The man who did that most recently, was, in fact, the central character in my Modern Love submission — “Why. Why. Why. Why.”  He wanted answers. He wanted me to justify myself.)

I see it in my relationships — in boyfriends who are just so confident! So many of them don’t worry about being alone, about not finding a partner, they don’t worry about whether or not their partners are sexually satisfied, or about whether they’ll stray. I can’t help but feel resentful that, despite wrinkles or weight gain or grey hairs, they just don’t seem to think about it much and meanwhile I’m in the bathroom every night carefully examining my pores and applying over-priced wrinkle cream, wondering if my partner will leave me a couple of years down the road because I stop being “fun.”

I remember submitting my Modern Love story hopefully, with fingers crossed. I’d worked harder on that piece than anything I’d ever written up to that point. I thought I had a pretty good chance… Ah, the naïveté of the new writer… I received what I assume to be the same rejection letter everyone receives:

Dear Meghan Murphy,

Thank you for sending your writing to Modern Love. Although we have decided not to use your essay, we are grateful for the opportunity to consider it. I regret that the volume of submissions we receive makes it impractical for me to offer editorial feedback.

Best wishes,

Daniel Jones
Modern Love editor
The New York Times

It was perfectly polite. Most editors don’t bother or have the time to respond to pitches or submissions they aren’t able to print. I was disappointed but not angry. Certainly it never occurred to me to demand an explanation or to respond in shock: “How dare you! Justify yourself!”

Jones is generous, acknowledging that, to write about love and heartbreak truthfully is challenging:

Writing about love can be similar to falling in love in that we must be as vulnerable on the page as we are in person when revealing ourselves to someone we hope will love us back. That means exposing our flaws and weaknesses and trusting we will be seen as more appealing, not less, for having done so.

But I, like many women, are so accustomed to being vulnerable — to not only acknowledging, but amplifying our weaknesses and flaws; to ensuring everyone around us is comfortable, despite our own discomfort — that our response to rejection is, it seems, not anger but understanding. “Of course I’m not good enough. What was I thinking.”

Men, either used to getting what they want or, if they don’t, bullying their way into getting it, are flabbergasted when they are rejected — not only by women, it seems, but by editors and and others who might be in a position to withhold that which they are entitled to: jobs, wealth, power… They resort to rape, to violence, to shooting sprees.

I think a lot about my intimate relationships with men, wondering if I’m even capable of sustaining something truly long-term (i.e. more than a few years before everything falls apart) with a person I inevitably resent — their socialization offers them something I will never have.

The male ego is poisonous, but sometimes I want a piece. I want to be able to move through this world without constantly being aware of myself, without fear of ageing, of weight gain, of becoming unworthy and invisible, without being made to nurture another adult as though I’m their mother, without being shamed for putting my career first.

“It’s not fair!” I think. I just can’t get past it. It isn’t fair. Truly. I’m not sure if this reality plagues all other women or if they normalize it to such an extent that it simply doesn’t bother them anymore but I know that, for me, living with men who can simply move around in this world without really thinking much about it, who believe they deserve respect without even really having to think about why they believe that, is hard.

I guess that makes me some kind of sexist stereotype: a bitter, angry, shrew! But this is what comes from a world that forces women to be meek and then paints them as “bitches” when they dare to behave in any other way. Or teaches us to be “cool girls” — the eternally happy, “fun” girls who never complain and are up for whatever: sports! beers! nachos! anal sex! — but not ourselves.

We’re all set up for disappointment in a way — men and women alike. But no matter how many times I think (or cry, or yell ) “It’s not fair!”  I don’t resort to demanding an answer or to bullying my way in or to shooting up a school. I know exactly why it isn’t fair. I don’t need answers.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Excellent.

  • stephanie

    Hi ! i think you have pointed out some unequal truths about romantic heterosexual relationships that can largely go invisible. I think heterosexual relationships are a lot harder for women when we are involved with feminist consciousness, because we are very much in touch with inequalities and its hard to feel loved when these inequalities are so painfully exercised without thought by our partners. I think men in general are getting a pass right now in their consciousness because we as a society don’t expect much of them. (i.e. its “normal” for them to watch porn, instead of problematic). Another thing that seems to make it hard to be a feminist and date men is the scary feeling that comes from thinking …maybe we are selling ourselves short by being in relationship with men that seem like unequal partners, emotionally, mentally, sexually, and otherwise. maybe these relationships can sometimes take away from our overall feminist efforts, since they can cause emotional stress and pain that gets in the way of our own development as well as contribution to feminism for self and others. I am sorry, if you are anything like me I feel like I would like to have fulfilling relationships with a romantic partner, and i think figuring our place in history and what’s going on in the patriarchal world can make it so confusing! I am reading a Gerta Lerner history book right now, and she is arguing in fact that women need to move beyond a need for men so as to avoid this problem. Maybe part of our work is teaching men, but walking that fine line of when it becomes too much and we need to do self care. it’s depressing and its harrowing, but we’ve come a long way and I think men will eventually come around. they are changing and have been changing, its just taken a long ass time for patriarchy to form and it might take a long ass time to dismantle it. (being influenced by historian Gerta Lerner in that thinking). I feel for you Megan, and you are dead right about these issues!

    • FrustratedRadFem

      It doesn’t really feel they are changing I see too many men get into feminism to have access to women or to monitor the movement. There needs to huge changes without bullshit for anything to repaired and I think with the proliferation of porn they’ve basically chosen the path of misogyny. It’s a little late.

      • stephanie

        yeah, maybe i am being a little optimistic here because I have no choice! i agree with you that misogyny is built into our culture, which I think has been made possible in large part due to the media and the way it reaffirms, shapes, and normalizes ideas and concepts that society consumes without questioning. I was just noticing last night about how a lot of sitcomes have the “asshole” guy that we enjoy laughing at. but in real life dealing with these kinds of people is not fun. however, as long as we associate humor with these kinds of people, how are we going to challenge them if we think its funny when people (usually men) are assholes?

        • FrustratedRadFem

          I’m sorry I wasn’t in a good mood when I wrote this. Honestly I don’t how I can keep smiling after knowing what men have done.

          I agree these kind of shows aren’t funny I’m not sure why they keep getting funding. Men aren’t really funny they are just demanding they put on a ‘performance’ and want you to reciprocate by laughing even when they sucked. The funniest people I know are women and they don’t need to shit on marginalised people to do it. Women’s humour is under appreciated when men see us laughing at each other they often seem confused. Women who speak their mind don’t receive a warm reception. Men don’t consider that women have our own culture, even if it’s unofficial. A lot of what is considered humour is just about validating men and devaluing marginalised classes. He’s not there to make us laugh, he’s there because he’s a gross attention seeker. If you don’t laugh it it shakes him so he lashes out. I think the reason men are considered ‘funny’ is because they have no boundaries they don’t know how to handle nuance and they have the timing of a schoolboy who interrupts class. They validate the ‘naughty boy’ and ignore the ‘good girl’ and the despise the ‘bad girl’.

          A problem I’ve found is that there are too many restrictions on us and we have responsibilities that we can’t ditch. We don’t have a straight man because we are they straight woman. Men need us to be responsible so they be absolute fuck ups without the consequences. If we act up it’s going to reflect poorly on us we don’t have male privilege’s ‘boys will be boys’ defence. We can’t talk shit like men do because when we do we are being unfair bitches who need to shut up. Even in liberal circles if a women says the wrong thing she’s jumped on but men can fuck up constantly and he’s forgiven pretty much instantly.

          Another problem is men can’t take jokes about them. They want to have a go at women (constantly) but when we return the ‘banter’ it sets them off. They don’t have patience and don’t want to self reflect. They’ll cry about the ‘gender card’ being pulled when they own the casino.

          • stephanie

            yep – privilege, privilege, privilege.

          • FrustratedRadFem

            Maybe he’s born with it maybe it’s male privilege~~~
            (I hope you get the reference)

          • Dana

            Seriously. I see this in microcosm in this household. I live with my daughter’s dad (he’s an ex), and it’s nice to not have to struggle as hard in my single-mother-ness, but I have to pay extra attention to everything going on because he generally won’t. Why are they the ones making all the money (he’s in tech; ask women in tech how well they’re treated and paid sometime) and having all the success when we’re back here practically wiping their a**es?

            It’s why I don’t feel guilty about our living arrangement, frankly. He benefits more than I do, in the aggregate.

            Oh and he LOVES to complain because at review time each year his employer says he meets standards. He wants an Exceeds Standards rating. Dude, be grateful you have a job paying around $100k a year. I’ll never see that much in a year unless I win the lottery, and I don’t even play. Nope. We gotta hear this whinefest, each and every year. Lovely.

          • ptittle

            Oh yeah, this whole thing about gendered humor is so intriguing. Take a look at what women stand-ups say about their careers, about the difference… I once did a stand-up routine, kinda like a female George Carlin, and I realized instantly that there was no way anyone would find my stuff funny. You nailed it when you identified ‘confusion’. It was like the men in the audience simply could not even consider the possibility of a woman doing social commentary humour. The experience was very unsettling. That’s why comics like Margaret Cho are so so exceptional. Men, and most of the women too, would only laugh at ‘relationship’ jokes, in which the woman stand-up deprecates herself.

    • Dana

      I think that if we centered our social lives around our own mother-families in the first place, and maybe our female friends, we wouldn’t be so desperate to find fulfillment in men. But we’re so hardcore focused on being rugged individualists and have been routinely lied to about one of the markers of adulthood being “getting the hell out of Mom and Dad’s house.” This is not a natural state of affairs for a social animal. Look at how all the other social animals live. Daughters stay in Mom’s tribe most of the time, sons go looking elsewhere for sex or marriage or they run around in guy-gangs. I think people in general would be a lot happier if we just went back to that. My belief is bolstered by reading about the very few remaining existing matrilineal clans left in the world, including the Mosuo in China.

      Until we get to that point, if we ever do, we’ll continue to see women frustrated in being held back by men, and women and children displaced and impoverished every time a heterosexual relationship ends. The latter just wouldn’t happen if women held most of the property and wealth and passed them down to daughters. And we’d share space with our sons and (maternal) brothers too, so it’s not like *they’d* be out in the cold.

      There is a strain of radfems who insist that the feminist way out of the patriarchy is to adopt political lesbianism. They’re close, but they’re not quite *there*.

      (This all assumes most of us have sane, healthy mothers. If you don’t, I feel your pain. I don’t either. But for those of us who do? Yeah.)

    • Carmen Speer

      This is a huge problem for me too.

      I can’t tell you how many men I’ve met who espouse extreme anger (or even hatred—self-confessed) toward women because of a failed relationship. They sneer, “Women this,” and “Women that…” How much of this has to do with the woman’s actual behavior and how much with what it is they feel they’re entitled to, I don’t know.
      I try to tell them that women also experience rejection, emotional abuse, and being taken advantage of, unreasonable expectations and emotional games; i.e., all the pitfalls of any relationship. But that we also experience violence—beatings—and sexual assault, to boot. And we are the ones who have to deal with the fall-out of unexpected pregnancies.

      I’ve never had a man acknowledge the truth of what I was saying. That women experience everything they go through in relationships and far, far worse on top of it; yet most of us try not to conflate our unsuitable partners with “all men” (by definition in the monogamous world view all partners will be unsuitable until we arrive at the right one, unless you believe it’s more about the right time than the right one, and everything relationship brings something–which I do, to some extent); and we definitely try not to become bitter and hateful (and if we do become thus bitter and hateful—with far more just cause, both in terms of individual experience and the oppressive anti-woman society we live in—we don’t really receive much support for being “bitter, man-hating shrews”). Not one man has ever acknowledged that women might have it worse. Statistics, millennia of history and staring-you-right-in-the-face obviousness be damned.

      These same men might malign women as “overly emotional” and lacking in logic without taking into account their own knee-jerk emotional reactions, self-directed and self-centered and lacking in empathy. Any true analytic reasoning would inevitably lead them to agree with me, at least to a large extent.

      I’ve had many very close female friendships in which friends have expressed a desire for something more. Although I feel some attraction to women I could never do it. I’m not sure why (internalized homophobia, a weird masochism, love-rejection or a true heterosexual preference)? I AM very attracted to men and naturally therefore I am inclined to try to understand and forgive them and I want a man to be my partner.
      I know that some women who love women get mad when women who love men say “if only I could be lesbian things would be easier…” That’s obviously offensive on so many levels, and gay relationships are subject to the pitfalls of all relationships: jealousy, abuse, violence, selfishness, unequal power dynamics etc…

      The main difference, to me, is with a woman I would never wonder if my partner were behaving so badly because of her gender and sense of entitlement; because she expected certain things of me because of my gender; and I would never wonder if it were all in my head because of my paranoia concerning gender entitlement. These thoughts really wreak havoc on a relationship. How can I know if he’s being a selfish asshole because of personal faults or because he really thinks that as a man he doesn’t have to make an effort? How can I know if he has certain gendered expectations I’m not living up to (whatever he may claim to the contrary) and that’s why he’s getting angry with me for my behavior—or if I’m just being a shitty partner? How can I know if this is all in my head? And, if it’s not, how much of it should I (can I) forgive?

      Knowing this, I might be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. That’s when they walk all over you, settling the question beyond a shadow of a doubt…

      …but maybe that’s all in your head too.

      My awareness of the way men are raised to feel entitled to women’s time, energy and bodies without any need for reciprocation, or the way they are raised to think women are less and to belittle them—a not-entirely-theoretical awareness born of my own experiences—definitely makes it very difficult for me to trust my partners enough to be in a relationship with them.

      I am 31 and single, and constantly asked why I am not married. There’s definitely an idea that if a woman is attractive she should be married or something is wrong with her (I’ve heard this on several occasions). If by “something wrong” they mean now she has a choice whereas decades ago she wouldn’t have, so be it. So many times I take “something wrong” to be code for “feminist,” which many people—men and women—seem to equate with mental illness.

      So be it.

      I’m trying to reach a place where a partner would be a happy bonus (without any thought of “settling”). It’s sad because it’s a natural human desire to have someone to love and to love you (and maybe children too), but not if the price is too high. There are always your friends, and your community. And your dignity.

      So be it. It’s a loss for men and women alike, this blinkered inability to see women as people–to see a potential partner in terms of what you would do for them and not what they would do for you.

      • ptittle

        yes, so be it. keep trying to reach that place. i finally did and it’s pretty wonderful.

    • ptittle

      I think men are changing. They’re getting worse. Much worse.

  • excellent article, as always.

    I just have a minor footnote about a thought that flitted through my mind. If a guy asked me why I didn’t want to continue after we started making out, I see myself raising my eyebrows and saying, “We started and I don’t want to go on. That suggests nothing to you?”

    Can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag, can they?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ha!

  • Sabine

    “I see it in my relationships — in boyfriends who are just so confident! So many of them don’t worry about being alone, about not finding a partner, they don’t worry about whether or not their partners are sexually satisfied, or about whether they’ll stray. I can’t help but feel resentful that, despite wrinkles or weight gain or grey hairs, they just don’t seem to think about it much and meanwhile I’m in the bathroom every night carefully examining my pores and applying over-priced wrinkle cream, wondering if my partner will leave me a couple of years down the road because I stop being “fun.””

    I hear ya sister! It’s reminds me of that whole *cool bachelor/tragic spinster* crap that STILL gets peddled even today. That persistent, ingrained attitude kind of says a lot and goes some way to explaining why men simply don’t give a shit about the stuff we are brainwashed into fretting over because, at the end of the day, they so often CAN have their cake and eat it. Generally at our expense. And when it doesn’t quite work out like that we have reactions ranging from those incredulous rejection-tantrums via email all the way to rape, revenge porn and all-out massacres. The male species as a whole is profoundly, mentally unstable and dangerous. We’re living in a war-zone, 24/7 thanks to patriarchy.

  • Cepheid

    But I, like many women, are so accustomed to being vulnerable — to not only acknowledging, but amplifying our weaknesses and flaws; to ensuring everyone around us is comfortable, despite our own discomfort — that our response to rejection is, it seems, not anger but understanding. “Of course I’m not good enough. What was I thinking.”

    I just really wanted to quote this because it’s such an enormous part of my life. I never really attributed it to being female, but just that I was somehow inherently interior to others. Always bending over backwards to placate people – almost always men! – because they don’t seem to be able to handle being denied something they want.

    Makes one feel a bit less alone in this; thank you.

  • Dave Shark

    Male perspective on this: Men have more institutional access to more money, political power, education, and weaponry than women do. Yet no matter how much of these resources a man accumulates, he is fallen in the eyes of other men if a woman rejects him. This is because deep down inside, we know that a man cannot truly _make_ a woman want him. He can force her or coerce her to give him access to her body, but her _desire_ will always be outside of his physical control. And patriarchy has made men into intensely physical, materialist beings, who seek to build the world with muscles and formulas, and so we are most impressed when a man accomplishes the impossible: he attracts a woman’s completely voluntary interest. An interest that can’t be built in a laboratory or bullied into existence. It is miraculous, like fire from water. We men are awed and envious when we see it in action, and we sneer with utmost schadenfreude when we see a man try to fake it and fail miserably.

    When a man is furious with ego pain because you reject his sexual advances, it is because he is trying to summon all the physical might that patriarchy has granted him so that he might synthesize a natural desire inside of you, or tear aside the barriers that prevent it from emerging. He is, paradoxically, attempting to force you to want him freely.

    That is what it means to be butthurt, to have the male ego bruised. It is to have all the money in the world, and yet be rudely awakened to the truth that “money can’t buy me love.”

    • Sab

      This only makes partial sense to me. The part that makes sense is peer pecking order based on female interest.

      It doesn’t explain not nurturing that interest whether by cheating, neglecting the emotional side, expecting a mommy and maid instead of a partner, being self-absorbed to the point the partner is more of a usable tool than a human being, being sexually self-centred, violence, put downs expecting all sacrifices to be hers, all compromises to be hers, feeling entitled to a post-baby body bouncing back to pre in under 60 seconds, etc etc etc

      Obviously, not all qualities all men but most men don’t nurture interest once they’ve got it and still view women as less than themselves, so female interest isn’t that big a draw card.

      • Dave Shark

        The contemptuous behavior you describe is actually part and parcel of the same yearning for authentic female approval.

        Again, a woman’s desire cannot be constructed by a man’s actions. He can follow a recipe for being a courteous gentleman, and that will get him a woman’s tolerance in the same way that obeying laws will keep you out of jail. But it will not win her interest, because that cannot be won; it is granted by a woman exercising her sovereign radical freedom.

        And so the man who cheats or abuses his girlfriend is attempting to demonstrate that he has her genuine affection. “I don’t need to be a nice guy to convince her to like me,” he is saying, “she likes me for her own mysterious reasons, regardless of how I treat her.” Few men actually receive such natural desire as a pure gift, but most men will attempt to convince themselves, their peers, and their partners that they have such a relationship.

        • Lee

          No, a man who treats a woman he “cares” for like crap is showing her that he feels contempt for her, for being in the social class of woman; he is showing her that he feels he lowers himself, and is disgusted in some sense, by being involved with her. He is showing her his butt and saying, “This is what I think of you.” Making her sacrifice as much as possible, manipulating her into doing things she doesn’t want to, etc. is also a form of payment for his sense of degradation.

        • Dana

          You can tell yourself that’s the case, but what you really need are better social skills because you seem to be falling a bit short on that whole “empathy” thing.

          If your best dude friend constantly stole money out of your wallet and drove your car without asking and came over without being invited and ate all your Doritos while watching Monday Night Football on your TV*, how long would he stay your best dude friend?

          That’s kinda where your argument falls down, actually. How come men don’t have a pecking order based on how many dude friends they have? Dude friendship is based just as much in someone’s free will and agency as romantic interest from a woman is. But you wouldn’t treat your dude friends like dogs**t, not even as a test, at least not beyond the usual friendly vulgar banter that tends to happen between men.

          It’s kind of like the Emotionally Unavailable Man who trots out the line that he can’t be demonstrative to his alleged lady-love because he’s been so hurt in life. Yet when she’s not around he’s opening up emotionally to his parents, his dude friends, his psychiatrist, his dog… Give me a break. It’s not that he can’t, it’s that he doesn’t want to.

          And we blame *feminism* for the failure of marriage?

          [*Note: I am NOT comparing Doritos-eating to domestic violence or rape, fyi. I’m trotting out some mild examples of bad behavior–well, except the stealing from the wallet thing–because I know these behaviors would be deal-breakers to a lot of guys. Never mind a guy’s best dude friend deciding to beat him up or rape him. That’s well beyond the pale!]

    • Me

      No. Men are most impressed when we destroy. We are not at all impressed by mutuality. From women we can’t tolerate either caring or challenge, only servitude and slavery that allows us our profound narcissism. The rest is still a man’s lovestory with himself, if a liberal version of it.

      • Morag

        “a man’s lovestory with himself”

        I skimmed over Dave Shark’s comment, and that’s what I saw. Like we need more of that crap. Blech.

    • Kate

      Why do straight men always think that they are the only ones who are affected or hurt by sexual rejection?

    • Yeah. Many men want cheerful attention, approval, admiration and acquiescence, just like little babies get from their parent. They want women to give them their “rightful” validating mirroring and they will beat and kill if they don’t get it.

    • Lee

      No, men want women to keep our heads down, to mind our place, to show our acquiescence to hierarchy and their dominance (perceived, violently extracted, and otherwise). To not bow down is to declare war.

  • What an absolutely wonderful column – SO full of gems of crystal clear truth.

    “for me, living with men who can simply move around in this world without really thinking much about it, who believe they deserve respect without even really having to think about why they believe that, is hard.”

    It’s excruciating. I watch with fascination as guys with no talent just assume they are outstanding and build successful careers on limp mediocrity; as men who know so little opine as if they hold advanced degrees on … anything. Often I have simply bought the spin. I had a boyfriend with a graduate degree when I did not, who told me that he was exceptionally intelligent. I believed him carte blanche. It was not until years later when a friend said “I always thought ______ was a bit dumb” that I realized he was pretty shallow and simplistic in his thinking even though he could work for hours and was very good at memorizing.

    I know how, in comparison, I haven’t much helped myself by second guessing my knowledge and too often assuming someone knows more or is better when that is not the case.

    I have struggled with confidence all my life and to see under-average male people with far more of it than they merit has always driven me up the wall. It’s not enough to just recognize it. You can’t just decide “I need confidence so now I’m confident”. I don’t know how girls can come of age in this world without low self-esteem, no matter how good their parents are at encouraging and supporting. I wonder how different things might be if this were not the case.

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  • FormerLurker

    Meghan: “I guess that makes me some kind of sexist stereotype: a bitter, angry, shrew! But this is what comes from a world that forces women to be meek and then paints them as “bitches” when they dare to behave in any other way. Or teaches us to be “cool girls” — the eternally happy, “fun” girls who never complain and are up for whatever: sports! beers! nachos! anal sex! — but not ourselves.”

    Reminds me when I was a kid, my mom explaining to me why she was against feminism: “It would be one thing if they (feminist women) were happy, but they’re not…they’re angry and miserable. Who wants to go through life like that? Life’s too short.”

    And i’ve noticed myself that the happiest women I know are the more traditional ones, such as housewives. The feminist, career oriented women are either unmarried (and bitter about it) as they move into their 40’s…or else they are trying to “have it all” (husband, kids, career) and are burning out in the process – more than one has actually told me she can’t keep it up and feels on the verge of a nervous breakdown!

    Food for thought.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m actually quite happy and satisfied in my life, despite the fact that I feel angry at the global oppression of women, thanks. Women who fake it aren’t “happy,” they’re faking it. See: “The Feminine Mystique.”

    • Sabine

      The notion of having it all actually means DOING it all for women within patriarchy, hence the burnout. If men had to try and do the lionshare of domestic work and childcare on top of their careers they would have mental breakdowns within a week.

      • Joanie

        Less than a week. Look what babies men turn into when they have a common cold. If they ever had to go to work while on their period, they’d never make it.

        • Sabine

          Right. And I forgot to mention the way women are supposed to also try and maintain impossibly high standards of “beauty” (read: fuckability) on top of all this. And men wonder why we’re angry????

    • Hate to bust your bubble Former Lurker, but there’s no food for thought there. This has been considered and rejected a very long time ago. You have a LOT to learn before you will be able to keep up with this discussion.

      You grasp at feigned contentment with unjust conditions because it makes you feel better about your own sexism and the free ride you enjoy. There’s no intellectual sustenance in this thought, just self-serving inanity.

      • Morag

        I don’t want to be a broken record, but FormerLurker is the dude who is well-acquainted with publications such as The Surrendered Wife and Mein Kampf. Not in a critical way — he defends the ideas they espouse.

        • Oh. So he’s extra-invested. Gross.

      • FrustratedRadFem

        Back in the 50’s middle class white women were prescribed medication by their doctors because the had a lot of ‘issues’. Doctors were prescribing valium and other medications by the bucket load. There’s a reason prescription drugs are nicknamed ‘mother’s little helper’. That and lots of ‘cooking wine’. Women are not happy in captivity whether or not the cage is gilded. All through out history men have been making women live in crazy making conditions. A man could be batshit insane but accuse a woman for any reason of being crazy and she could have the men in white coats on her case. If she didn’t behave then it’s off to a mental institution at the mercy of their male doctors. Let’s just say there’s a reason horror movie often use mental institutions as a setting.

    • zirreael

      You seem to live in a strange world, where all women are heterosexual…

  • Elizabeth

    I have thought that perhaps one of the main reasons that I was sexually assaulted and driven down a Dark Road as a naive and vulnerable teen(it was the 60’s when we knew nothing and most of were virgins) was because the first time this man approached me(he was at least 6 years older and not in school.)
    I said NO I would not go out with you!
    I was in Grade 10 and working par t time at a Drive In restaurant.he was working and not in school.Even I knew this was not appropriate for him to even approach me at all. I was 16.
    So I said No.
    He was certainly NOT the kind of man to take NO for answer.So he connived and manipulated and ‘befriended ” my boss and “impressed my girlfriends and parents with his “deceiving insincere sincerity”.I was a Minister’s daughter and he showed up at church.He would do Anything to “prove” that his intentions were SINCERE and his intentions were Exactly the opposite.
    he was hell bent on destroying me and had absolutely No regard for me or for my feelings or for who I was. He was determined to show me “who was boss” and that No Young woman would ever say NO to him.
    So after I unforunately fell for the ruse and the deception one night he decided that his game of deception was UP and he took me against my will and to my shock and horror started driving me outside of the city against my will while I was entering a State of TERROR he was intent upon his Evil destruction of my soul.
    And furthermore he made me promise to never tell anyone.
    48 years later I have received NO JUSTICE and I have suffered and tried to be a “good girl” and suffer in silence for most of these years. Now when I Know that it is my Right to be heard and to have Justice Restored to me,I have to persist and persist repeatedly until those around me decide to defame my character and the police have endorsed this character defamation and tired to get me to give up and accept that I have to suffer PTSD for a lifetime.
    HIS MOTIVE WAS EVIL AND I HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO TRULY LIVE RIGHT BECAUSE MY TRUST WAS BROKEN UTTERLY AND IT IS QUITE FEAT TO MANEUVER LIVING WHEN HALF OF THE WORLD IS MEN AND MANY OF THEM TREAT US WOMEN AS IF WE ARE PLASTIC DOLLS.

    • FrustratedRadFem

      I’m so sorry this happened to you Elizabeth it wasn’t your fault. You should have had people on your side especially the police. I didn’t receive justice either we rarely do. They often try to move through society like and try to use people against you and try to steal your support system from under you. My assaulter tried to convince me that I had Aspergers (I don’t) that I need to research it and to not tell my mother that he ‘diagnosed’ me or anything else he did. I told mum what he did years later and she believed me. I believe you, it’s not fair that he’s done this to you. You were a kid and he was sexual predator, he knew what he was doing, he knew how to manipulate the people around you and knew this would make you doubt your first reaction to him. Everything you said resonates with me I’ve been through it on smaller scale. Please keep safe and take it easy.

  • Pippa

    Yes! This is so brilliant.

    I think about this a lot. I often like to read the relationships boards on Mumsnet, and it is fascinating to me how much women second guess themselves and blame themselves there. So many women ask whether they have done something wrong when their partner treats them like shit. So many ask if they are overreacting when they are being abused. So many just go over situations asking whether they did anything to drive their partner away, whether they are driving them away, or whether they might be doing anything to drive them away. They ask for advice on scenarios, asking other people to tell them whether they are in the wrong. There’s a whole forum section called Am I Being Unreasonable?; the question is asked so frequently that it’s one of the most common acronyms you see on the site. Do you think you’d get that on a male forum?

    I think of how my last partner reacted when I broke up with him. This was a guy who had previously cheated on me, lied to me, failed to respect my wishes about him wearing a condom when we had sex with other people together, who was completely and utterly selfish in every way… Yet when I told him I wanted to break up he was so angry. He kept demanding explanations then telling me they weren’t good enough. I was trying to spare him the list of all the reasons I hated him so trying to be relatively kind, but he was never satisfied I had a ‘good enough’ reason to leave him. And he was a very shy, mild-mannered guy, not a macho type at all, yet it was such a macho response.

    I don’t think it is solely a bad thing for women; completely lacking the ability to see your own flaws isn’t a great trait. The constant questioning, doubt, and flagellation is horrible, though. I don’t want to see more women asking whether it was their fault that their husband has spat in their face. I wish more people saw those things as the product of the patriarchy, not some strange trait women just naturally have.

    • FrustratedRadFem

      I’m sorry to say this I don’t want to up set you but you need to know your rights. The condom removal mid-intercourse or penetrating a different orifice mid sex-act is actually legally a form of sexual assault in many places. I’m sorry for saying this I don’t want you to be distressed you can process this however you want.

      You aren’t over reacting, women under-react if anything. The whole way men have set up society is gas lighting. Women are socialised not to make definite statements without qualifiers. Our thoughtfulness is used against us. Women’s approach to conversation often include being nuanced, fair-minded, picking up on patterns, asking for opinions and waits for all the information, which are traits a debater should have. They see our approach as a weakness and disdain us for trying to be reasoned and patient. But of course when they display the traits I mentioned they are brilliant debaters. *rolls eyes*

      Your ex was abusive. Abusive men aren’t a type of man, they come in all socio-ecomic classes, races, religions, political ideologies, backgrounds, sexual orientations (straight, gay, bisexual) profession (some more likely than others) etc.

      Here are some common abuser traits, which of course many non-abusive men share:
      a. being male (the statistics don’t lie)
      b. already hold sexist/misogynist beliefs
      c. have entitlement issues (has a lot of emotions and expects you to prioritise him no matter what)
      d. have anger management issues
      e. are involved in aggressive professions (police, soldiers)
      g. watch pornography/use prostitution

      Obviously there’s more to it but it’s just something to be aware of.

  • Pippa

    Thank you for the comment; I’m not upset by it. I have had that kind of thought about it before. It’s funny you mention a couple of different interpretations of what I said – in fact, he did all of those things. The first time I ever had sex with him he took the condom off part-way through without telling me. The penetrating different holes thing didn’t even cross my mind as something it wasn’t OK for him (or anyone) to do. It took me a long time to see certain scenarios as sexual assaults – even things which were quite clearly that (some that weren’t him were pretty clearly assault, but I guess I just saw people stalking/trapping you, inserting things into you, or doing things to you while your were asleep as par for the course). I have accepted it wasn’t OK for him to do those things sexually, but I struggle to think of him as an abuser. He was an appalling debater, for a start, though probably the most entitled person I’ve ever met.

    I think the thing that most prevents me from seeing it that way is that he just would not think of those things as wrong. They were like doing something that I’d told him not to, but that’s it: like if he’d used my bike when I’d told him not to. He just didn’t like condoms, y’know, and he didn’t have any diseases, so what’s the problem? Other things I feel it would be unfair to call him out on… after I dumped him he used to walk past my house or sit outside it (he then lived 40 miles away so it’s not like it was on his way home), but then I acted crazy when he used to break up with me (he needed to go away and decide whether he loved me quite a lot). I sent him angry emails (lots) and shouted at him and I would go to the shopping centre near his work and hope I bumped into him. So I’m not sure if I was abusing him, too, or if we were both just assholes.

    • C.K. Egbert

      I wouldn’t compare anything you did to a sexually abusive man. I have to say it sounds like he probably enjoyed hurting you by breaking up and threatening abandonment (very manipulative tactic).

      As women we tend to really over-estimate the badness of our own behaviors, because we are supposed to be nice and accommodating to everyone all the time, regardless of what they do to us, and we under-estimate even the egregiously abusive behavior men inflict upon us.

      Being distressed over a breakup and getting angry is normal (particularly if he was being manipulative and sexually/emotionally abusive).

      I’m glad you have moved on.

      • FrustratedRadFem

        You aren’t crazy or an asshole. I’m sorry this dick head did this you didn’t deserve it. What you described is the behaviour of an overgrown man child that doesn’t know how communicate or act logically. If he uses your things when you’ve expressly told him not to, it’s a demonstration of his entitlement. Abusive men deliberately push boundaries to see what they can get away with they often start with little things so he can try to make you out to be unreasonable. If he does it even after you’ve explained to him why he’s trying to just to undermine your authority. Then he keeps pushing your buttons so when you start yelling he can act like you are being crazy. He doesn’t feel the effects because he’s been shit stirring but if he snaps it’s fair because he’s angry. Double standards. Even if he isn’t testing your boundaries, the fact he takes your things against your wishes shows that he doesn’t respect you.

        CK is right your reaction after the breakups aren’t equivalent to his stalking and erratic behaviour. Self reflection is good but women need to start doubting ourselves and start doubting men. While not healthy showing up in public place where you may or may not see him where he can leave the building is not comparable to him going miles out of his way to show up at your private residence where you are trapped and may not be witnesses. I’ve seen men online admitting to that sort of thing and people may make fun of him but they don’t call it ‘crazy’ or ‘abusive’, even though men often stalk and terrorise women after leaving them. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘I went crazy when he broke up with me’ but I’m sure it was just distress from him bullshit not actual crazy behaviour. Yelling at him because he goes on little ‘expeditions’ to figure out whether or not he loves you is normal. I’m not sure the details but if he decides to ditch you on a whim and keep you hanging like that he’s not being responsible or reasonable. It’s best not to send emails cut off contact and don’t fall back with him.

        The truth is a lot of rape happens during previously agreed to sex (the situation the agreement happened in is often dodgy but still), think of sort of like kidnapping (not the best analogy but stay with me). You can agree to go somewhere and do something with someone but they can also attack you and hold you against your will. Genuine consent can be revoked at anytime with no consequences (or complaining). He is supposed to respect you and understand if you change your mind during sex. Another analogy is driving in cars with an untrustworthy man. You may have said ‘sure let’s go to the movies’ but then he takes you to the back roads and scares the shit out of you. Even if you get to movies what he did was wrong. You may not have specified what the ‘rules’ are but he knows that there are limitations and standards of decent behaviour and just because you get in his car doesn’t mean you are agreeing for him to drive above the speed limit on the highway. This is why hitch-hiking is dangerous, you’re in his car and he is in a position of power and can control your body. The rapist who jumps out behind a bush is not the majority of rapists. They are usually close to you because they need both closer proximity to their targets and people who will back him if you come forward.

        Many abusive men will call the police on the women they are abusing and exaggerate what she did in response to him. Like trying to have her arrested for slapping him leaving out the part when he was yelling in her face and backing her against a wall or for scratches that were in self defence while her bruise take longer to show. Women are trained to take responsibility for things that weren’t our fault but men however are used to ditching their responsibility onto others particularly women. There’s are many dodgy studies trying to ‘prove’ that women are just as or more abusive. One I remember, had some of the parameters of abuse to be such bullshit. That abusive men were claiming that not having dinner ready when they want it and not giving men blowjobs is abuse. I mean for fucks sake.

        • Pippa

          Wow, that is such a brilliant analogy – thank you. That is one of the clearest explanations I have heard… it’s shit that we have to resort to analogies to other crimes, though. If only it were self-evident that doing something to someone that they don’t want you to do during sex was not OK.

          And thank you both for your comments. I’m glad I’ve moved on, too!

          • FrustratedRadFem

            I’m glad I could help. I’m happy you got something out my comment. I can only wish you good luck with your life.

            “If only it were self-evident that doing something to someone that they don’t want you to do during sex was not OK.”

            Yes absolutely setting boundaries before you start is important but there should be unspoken rules. People have implicit and explicit rules regarding all sorts of socialisation and activities why should sex be exempt from that? That you don’t pull bullshit during sex or try and ask for unreasonable things. If a man’s approach to women ‘what came I get away with’ he’s an abuser. He should be thinking ‘how do I do the right thing by her’.

            If you try to higher the standards of consent and ask for respect or just basic decency in regards to sex you are accused of being anti-sex. Far too many men define sexual callousness as ‘good sex’ and disdain mutuality and respecting women.

            Thanks I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable in anyway I feel a bit uncomfortable about this.

          • Pippa

            It didn’t make me uncomfortable, but thank you for caring. I am sorry you feel uncomfortable – I hope I’m not doing anything to make you feel that way.

            I totally agree. I also think that raunch culture has really hurt consent. I think until my current relationship I felt a lot of pressure not to object to things so that I wouldn’t be a prude. It is a deeply entrenched misogyny: I didn’t want to be like girls, because girls are rubbish. Girls didn’t like nasty sex. I wanted to be like men because they were better and that meant accepting people doing things to me that I didn’t like. I didn’t want to be ‘precious’ or like ‘one of those girls’ who wanted relationships or kindness. That was girly and I wanted to disassociate myself from girliness. I thought the way to do that was to have no boundaries, to ask for nothing, and never to show that I wanted kindness or, god forbid, a relationship, from the people I had sex with.

            It took me so long to realise that I had been brought up by society to hate women. That I shouldn’t want to distance myself from women. That it was ok to have boundaries and want things and that didn’t make me less of a person.

          • “I wanted to disassociate myself from girliness. I thought the way to do that was to have no boundaries, to ask for nothing, and never to show that I wanted kindness or, god forbid, a relationship, from the people I had sex with.”

            I see a lot of pressure on women to comply with what you are describing. It’s sick that women are pushed to these conclusions and work to erase their own needs and requirements just to be accepted..

          • FrustratedRadFem

            No it’s ok I’m fine. I just didn’t want to overstep the boundaries.

            Porn culture has diminished women’s negotiating power in regards to sex and pretty much everything. Which why men push it. We are expected to do painful and demeaning things to be good wives and girlfriends. Internalised misogyny is a real thing and it’s not your fault but you shouldn’t externalise it onto other women or yourself. We learn to see ourselves as lesser and we need to unlearn that. This is a political and personal journey.

  • Damien Otis

    You’re speaking truth to power! I can’t wait for the male ego to be transformed into something less destructive and selfish. It’s not just poisonous. It’s insidious. I stroll struggle to exorcise my own internalized misogyny. Thanks for expressing your perspective.

  • FREEfromsexpozzies

    The male ego is as fragile as it is overconfident.
    I now know why we hedge our complaints, blame ourselves, and basically self flagellate when faced with a mans shortcomings- saying a man has done anything short of perfection can mean getting threatened, your face beat in, even killed.

    I learned just how fragile the ego, and the related idea of “manhood”, is, when I finally got up the nerve to say “NO MORE taking one for the team”, to my h of almost 12 years. I finally got the strength to say NO to PIV that was nothing but boring and disgusting, after reading rad fem works that made me realize I didn’t have to just suck it up.

    Did he apologize for a decade of misery? Promise to do better and take all the time I need, then do it? Sit back and think?

    Sure, for about 3 days
    Then he lost his shit in a series of increasingly violent fights centered entirely on how mean I was when I told him no more PIV (I didn’t rule out other sexual things, btw) After the cops came, he toned it down. They came because he threw me into a door than stood over me (w our 4yr old laying over me to “protect mommy”) screaming about how he was gonna kill me and our kids, and my neighbors heard and called (I asked them too if they heard any more fights).

    Now he whines and cries how I’m a “feminist bitch” that just doesn’t care that I tore his manhood down, he is “nothing, crushed,dead inside”. How he can’t enjoy sex now (on the occasions I am coerced into it, to stall another fight), blah blah blah. He even had the nerve to tell me (1000x) that I should have given him a “transition phase”, instead if just cutting him off from sex (which didn’t even happen, as said above)!!!

    I have been told I’m living in the past, that I need to shut up and get over it, because now that HE is hurting and destroyed, we need to focus on him!!! because he is depressed and I am responsible and need to fix it, but am too busy making him “suffer for the crimes of all men” to help him. And of course he is “losing everything, losing his family” because of me (because if I can’t be nice he is gonna go kill himself or some such- I wish.)

    ALL BECAUSE I SAID HE WASN’T GOOD IN BED AND WASN’T GONNA HAVE ANY PIV UNLESS HE BOTHERED TO GET ME OFF.

    I was/am furious, but only just realized that it’s all about male fee fees and when they are hurt, well it’s valid! He is depressed a few months and the worlds gotta stop! But my feelings? 8-9 years of unpleasant sex and the degradation that came w it? “Suck it up bitch, it’s your fault for letting me do it so long without saying anything (I did), or trying to make our sex life better (I did and was disregarded)” The obsession with me taking all the blame is really telling.

    And this is the male ego. What it means to be a man. What happens when the illusion is shattered.

    Even men that aren’t obvious or general misogynists, that do their share, and extol equality, are still willing to threaten, terrorize, abuse, manipulate, when they feel “less than a man”, even if it was deserved and entirely their fault. Again, THiS is why we capitulate, couch our feelings in apologies, take on all blame. Its a survival strategy. I just never realized how deep it went.

    (I know this is fucked up and abusive, and already made a safety plan with the DV shelter, my neighbors, and have a plan to GTFO when my new job starts – haven’t worked since I had my first kid. I’m biding time, massaging his hurt ego to keep us from danger for now. ***This is what women face if we dare stand up for ourselves, and it could be so much worse!** Giant thank you to the 2nd wave and rad fems for creating DV shelters to begin with!)

    • dag

      wow, I’m so sorry youve had to go through all that. What an utterly abusive, whiny, self-serving, manipulative jackass. it’s so heartbreaking that someone like you or any woman would have to go through this trial. it’s just so wrong on every level to put someone through that.

      I wish more women knew how often abusive men use suicide to MANUPULATE women, to control them, to exploit their decency in order to be able to control them. It’s a horrible mindf*ck and totally, utterly evil. It’s also a hallmark of narcissists.

      I am so glad you have a plan to get away from this man. I think you are being very very brave, braver than many could be, and you are going to find a better life. It’s heartbreaking, god, what women have to go through.

    • Pippa

      I’m so glad you are planning to get away from this man and so sorry you had to go through this. What an utterly horrible, pathetic, selfish man (not to mention abusive). I’ve seen those weird, self-serving ‘arguments’ used in that kind of situation so many times… the ‘well you should have done this and then it would have been fair’, ‘you’re just so unreasonable to have had needs’. I’m glad you can see it for what it is and that you’ll hopefully be free of the asshole soon.

    • ptittle

      Holy Shit. Yes, get away, far away, never look back. Ever.

  • PowderSurfer

    Full disclosure: I am a man, not here to argue. Just felt I should share something I found problematic about the title with the author.

    “Butthurt” started on online gaming chatrooms, and forums such as 4chan. I know fully well that I need not explain here what kind of violent and misogynistic language is commonly perpetuated in those arenas, and that not only are threats of rape are made like they are nothing, but even claiming to have raped an opponent in a game or in an argument in lieu of simply saying “I won”. Be aware that is where “buthurt” comes from. It is a direct reference to trauma from anal rape. I really find it surprising given the ideologies of feminists that such a term would be used even lightly, so I assume you simply had no idea.

    Best wishes, and keep up the insightful commentary.

    • FrustratedRadFem

      Well to be fair it has been overused to the point of meaning upset or pissy. I originally thought (years ago) it meant that you got your asskicked and are now complaining about it. I hope you go out of your way to tell other men to stop using sexist slurs like whore, cunt, slut, ho and the ever present bitch.

  • ptittle

    Interesting. I’ve recently read Babcock and Laschever’s Women Don’t Ask. I’m wondering now whether the real difference is that women take no for an answer (and so don’t ask for more).

  • Valar

    The only thing I would like to add is that men are under tremendous societal pressure to be confident and strong – even from women. Always having to initiate when it comes to romantic situations can be tiring sometimes, but that’s a small complaint next to how men are portrayed in e.g. action movies, as unshakeable one-man wrecking machines who don’t have feelings. Social pressures train men to not be in touch with how they feel, or to show vulnerability.

    I would not argue the male ego is ubiquitous, either – there are so many decent ment out there. There really are. I think these men do have a point when they wonder why women do frequently stick with men who treat them horribly.

  • Valar

    Thank you for your polite, considered reply 🙂

    I’m not trying to steer the conversation away from women, but this article is a critique of male behaviour, so we deserve to give our opinion.

    I am trying to point out a reason that some men behave the way they do regarding butthurtedness. Apparently it was a valid one, judging by your angry response.

    Or maybe you have had bad experiences with men. In that case, I’m sorry. But once again, we are not all like that. Does that curry me more favour? 😛

  • therealcie

    My guess would be his name isn’t actually Sarah.