I was chatting with a good old buddy of mine the other eve and the topic shifted from our darkest millennial fears to a generic Straight Male Acquaintance of ours. My buddy began describing the many romantic pursuits of said Straight Male Acquaintance. He listed off a few of the girls Straight Male Acquaintance is seeing and apparently not treating well. He went on to say that S.M.A. (thank you abbreviation) is in fact treating them rather terribly. My buddy exclaimed that S.M.A. sucks real bad at communication. He has no interest in committing to any of these gals but he isn’t informing them of this decision. S.M.A. sends them a number of late night texts requesting late night sex on late night Tuesdays but he can’t invite them to a friend’s party. S.M.A. doesn’t speak to them in the nicest of complementary tones either. There are suspicions that he’s dating around purely to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. S.M.A. is a winner.
My buddy finished giving me unnecessarily detailed info about S.M.A.’s love life and he concluded with, “But, he’s actually a really good guy.” Then came the moment in the night where I did a full on spit take using the cider I was consuming in hopes of surviving this slightly (VERY) irritating convo. “What do you mean ‘he’s actually a really good guy?’” I aggressively inquired, curious as to how Straight Male Acquaintance could belong to the “actually a really good guy” category when he constantly disrespects the women he dates without remorse or care or a desire to change. My buddy had given me a play-by-play account of S.M.A.’s shitty behaviour towards several ladies mere seconds ago. Now he was making sure that I 100% knew that this identical individual, the one who uses people to gain power over his ex, was of “actually really good guy” quality.
My buddy clarified his statement by explaining, “Oh, yeah. I mean, he’s bad with women, but he’s generally great with everyone else.” This is when spit take #2 arrived. “Wait a second here,” I patted down my cider-drenched face as I dug even deeper, “How is someone who discards the human beings he dates ‘generally great?’ He uses them to benefit himself exclusively. He lies and makes false promises. He ignores their messages and denies their existence and acts like a lazy asshole. Yet, you excuse him for all of that because he’s cool with his platonic friends and colleagues? Are women not people in this dude’s eyes? ‘Cause that’s what I’m getting from this.”
My best buddies can expect this brand of intense inquisition from me. I dissect everything I hear and see and smell and taste from a radical intersectional feminist perspective. I watch movies like this. I have conversations like this. I grocery shop like this. It’s impossible for me to avoid. Feminist analysis is my word vomit and in this case I happen to think I am pretty bang on. I find that several Straight Men that I’m familiar with and some folks belonging to other gender and sexual identity categories (but who are we kidding I’m almost always talkin’ about Hetero Bros) often perceive the sentient persons they intercourse with as less than human. They consider them to be full on pleasure objects to elicit ego boosts or fill the lonely gaps between work hours and beer drinking and night sleeping and bacon eating. Sure, they think fondly of these persons they spend time inside of and heck, occasionally they even fall into LIKE with them, but broadly speaking they’re a warm body to hold and kiss and dispose of quickly when they lose interest.
It’s becoming more acceptable to believe that you don’t need to appreciate or value or show basic decency to the individuals you have sex with and it’s totally okay to evade any responsibility for your terrible actions taken towards them because that’s not really who you are, deep down inside. Yes, you’re “bad with women” or you’re “awful when it comes to relationships” or “you don’t have data on your phone” (even though you actually do you just pretend you don’t) but deep down inside you’re “actually a really good guy.” As if the person who dismissed the numerous phone calls from the individual you had been seeing for a few months because you didn’t want to bother rejecting them is not the same person who lives with your roommates and works your job and is friends with your friends. You just morphed into douchebag dating mode in order to ignore their feelings forever?
Allegedly, dating mode doesn’t obey the laws of morals and ethics. You don’t have empathy or a conscience or a steady wifi connection in dating mode. You have a genital and you listen only to the needs of said genital. In the eyes of certain jerk people, dating mode is a different mode of person. They would never behave in this cruel, selfish, unreliable manner while in professional mode. If their coworker called them they’d picked up instantly. They would never behave like that in friendship mode or family mode or purchasing a coffee mode or Snapchat mode. They’re “actually a really good guy” on Snapchat but they’re “bad with women.” They’re sweet when they order a drink from a bartender but when that bartender asks them out on a date and they go on that date and they sleep together, well, then dating mode is turned ON, baby. That bartender can’t get mad at you; they gotta remember that’s not who you are deep down inside. You’re “actually a really good guy.” Just ask your friends.
Except, the person who you are in romantic relationships is still who you are. It’s exactly who you are. It’s more who you are than at any other time. You can’t flick a switch and turn off that part of you and evade all responsibility for your terrible actions. That’s not how life works. If you’re “awful when it comes to relationships” then you’re awful overall. This is especially true when your treatment of your sexual partners turns incredibly negative or threatening or abusive. If you intensely harass an ex-lover after they repeatedly tell you to leave them alone that’s incredibly reflective of your gross character. I don’t ignore that critical fact and absolve you of your crimes and pardon your ongoing shitty behaviour when I interact with you. I remember all of it (and I have a very good memory).
‘Cause get this: you’re not “actually a really good guy.” You’ve proven that you aren’t. Several times over. You ARE garbage and you REMAIN garbage. We’ve all been garbage before but some of us don’t want to be garbage and choose to better ourselves and we recognize that dating mode isn’t real. It’s a construction. A tool used to escape the consequences of being “awful when it comes to relationships” and “bad with women” and “not having data.” The people you sleep with are exactly like the people who you work with, in that they’re people and you should treat them as such. If you genuinely want to be “actually a really good guy” then start taking responsibility for your whole person. ‘Cause you gotta remember something too: that person never stops existing.