Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Ask Polly: Should I Give In And Be The Other Woman?

Appearing here Wednesdays, Turning The Screw provides existential crisis counseling for the faint of heart. Because you can't always do who you want.

Dear Polly,

I am catnip for guys with girlfriends. Six times a guy I really felt a connection with has informed me that he has a girlfriend after we've flirted/kissed/went on incredible dates, etc. Last weekend, I met Number 6 through a friend at a music festival. We totally bonded, hung out casually all night, flirted while he walked me home and then he kissed me. Like, a "holy shit I feel like a damn woman" kiss. A feel it to your toes kiss. And I want him. He messaged me saying he wants to see me again, that he's not going to be able to get me out of his head.

The next day, when I gushed about it to our mutual friend, she was all, "Holy shit! You mean Number 6? He totally has a gf!" We checked and it was true. I haven't brought it up with him, and he's going to be in town again next weekend? I feel like his relationship problems are his own to deal with. I just want this beautiful man on my pillow, stat. I want an affair to exist in its own self-contained universe, where we can just have an awesome moment and explore this connection without anyone getting hurt, but I recognize that that's not the reality. Talk some sense into me? I am sick of missing out on incredible experiences because of my moral compass, and I'm thinking of going ahead with it.

The Maybe Other Woman?

Dear TMOW,

Missing out on incredible experiences like fucking some dude with a girlfriend?

I suggest you set your sights a little higher. You sound a little proud of your status as catnip for guys with girlfriends. Serving as an intoxicant for a deeply fickle animal is not exactly an honor. One minute he's rolling around, relishing your specialness. The next minute he sees something shiny glinting across the room, or a fly batting against the window pane, and he's gone. I mean, look: he told you that he's not going to be able to get you out of his head until he sleeps with you. So fucking what? He makes you sound less like an incredible person and more like some kind of bacterial infection.

Taking great pride in your ability to attract men and turn them on is a little bit like bragging about the fact that you breathe oxygen and grow your own hair. Look around you. Turning men on is pretty goddamn easy. Men live to be turned on. If you're not there to drive them crazy, they'll find something else to do the job: a teen star bending over a pool table in the pages of a shitty magazine, a passing smile from the cashier at Fatburger, a little inadvertent jostling from a stranger on the subway, the luscious curve of a tower shaped like a giant peach. Believing that you're made of magic because you can make a guy hard? That's borderline delusional. For some reason the Pussycat Dolls spring to mind, with their angry porno pouts and their "Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" pushiness. Billions of women share this magic. Having a moral compass: Now that actually separates you from the herd. Why would you toss it aside for the sake of this girlfriended jackjuice?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I hit on this friend of a friend at a party, made out with him, then wound up in some giant house in the Hamptons with a bunch of his friends. Sounds kind of assertive and spontaneous and awesome, right? It was, until my guy ran off to the bathroom, and two of the women there told me to "watch out for him." How do you watch out for a guy you're sharing a room with, 3000 miles away from home? Turns out he'd had a rotating cast of women out to the house every weekend that summer.

Now, I wanted to roll with it. It's not like I started the whole thing with him because I was in love. But on the ride up there, talking and drinking coffee, ocean breezes whipping through my magical-rando-arousing hair, I thought that I was special, and that of course he'd see that, and of course he was probably falling in love with me already. So I sat there by the pool next to those two (kind? malevolent? who knew?) women, and I rewound the tape. In fact, the only two revealing things my guy had said to me were 1) that we looked so good together that people on the streets of NYC kept stopping and staring at us (red flag!) and 2) that guys probably found me intimidating because I already had a successful career (giant blaring alarm!). Anyway, he came back from the bathroom, and we talked in "our room." I told him I felt a little weird. He said what's the big deal? Meanwhile, the two women in the next room played that Lauryn Hill album, the one about having some self-respect for once in your life, you pathetic little hoochie piece of shit? They played it over and over again, at a very high volume. It was like some kind of divine (malevolent? who knew?) intervention. The next day, I felt less like magic and more like the not-so-flavorful flavor of the week.

We drove back to the city. When I got back to my friend's apartment, she told me that she thought I was an idiot for being so spontaneous and assertive in the first place. Then I flew home, feeling shitty.

My point is, existing "in some self-contained universe where you can just have an awesome moment and explore this connection" is all well and good, but it pays to consider some of the unknowns. When you picture this man on your pillow, you probably imagine that all of the variables line up the way you prefer: He is attentive and enthralled. He doesn't mind using a condom. You don't notice any herpes sores or the like. His cell phone doesn't ring, and if it does, it's not his girlfriend. He doesn't use a really sweet voice you've never heard before when he talks to her.

You're placing yourself in an emotionally dangerous situation which you may believe you're thick-skinned enough to tolerate. I'd argue that, if you really are that thick-skinned, then you have even bigger problems than the ones currently on the table, and, as a start, you'd be better served to treat yourself with more protective kindness and love instead of throwing yourself into situations that are custom-designed to eat away at your self-esteem.

Women who can disregard the feelings of other people's girlfriends and wives are women who have been disregarding their own feelings for a long, long time. So first of all: Stop doing that. You deserve better, and so do they.

You're in the habit of leaping before you look, getting wrapped up in the moment, being swept away by a great kiss before you know the first thing about a man. Believe me, I get it. Back when I lived that way, men told me all the time how mesmerizing and special I was. But they never seemed to want to call me up, sober, and take me out for coffee. It never occurred to me that I might simply sit back and wait for an attractive man to show some real interest in my personality before I agreed to spend time with him.

Think about what you really want for yourself, in the best of all possible worlds. You sleep with this guy, and you're solidifying your status as drug-for-the-ficklest-of-animals. You're leaning into your role as flavor of the week. Pick up your fucking moral compass, dust it off, and walk away.


Dear Polly,

I'm having kind of a weird situation with a work colleague. I'll preface this by saying I'm happily married with two kids, definitely talk about my family a lot at work, etc. Anyway, this guy and I are in the same department and friendly, in the sense that we get coffee (in the building) together sometimes and IM here and there to bitch about bosses, work, etc. But lately he's starting to weird me out. We already live in the same general area, which is not really a big deal, as we tend to not run into each other outside of the office. But for quite a while now, every single time I work from home, he IMs me with some joke about him coming over to my house for whatever reason or us eating lunch together. And a couple of weeks ago, he just randomly blurted out "so when should I come over tonight?" like an hour after I'd passed on department drinks because my husband had to work late and I had to get the kids. I'm just getting pretty squicked out. I mostly ignore or take forever to respond to his IMs these days, but today I just got another IM about hanging out, and ick.

So I'm not really sure what to do. My bosses are pretty useless at handling conflicts and I'm kind of reluctant to turn this into a harassment thing when it's not really sexual or threatening. I guess what I'm looking for is a good way for me to diffuse this situation myself. Any thoughts on what I can do?


Sick of Creepy Colleague

Dear SOCC,

I like that term, squicked out. It sounds the way it feels.

Personally, I like to get a little mean in these situations. Sneaky mean. Still friendly, but harsh. Fight his casual insinuations with casual insinuations of your own.

In your case, bringing the mundane and (if possible) disgusting realities of your life into his brain at inopportune times should do the trick. When he IMs "So when should I come over tonight?" you IM back, "Whenever you're ready to wipe some shit off some little butts." For times when your husband is in town, you could say, "Definitely come over right now. You can watch the kids while (husband's name) and I get a hotel room." He'll get the message.

During the day, when you're alone in the house, you can IM things like "I've got a sick kid here, actually. Want to scrub the vomit out of the couch cushions for me?" Or say, "[Husband's name] took the day off to surprise me! Isn't that sweet of him? Have a nice afternoon! ;)" Don't forget the winking emoticon at the end, which should shrink his boner faster than an ice cold drink poured straight down the Dockers.

When you see him in person, be sure to talk about how in love you are with your husband, how attracted you still are to him, how you're planning a weekend away and all you're going to do is lay around in bed and drink and eat the whole time. If his dating life comes up, always say how lucky you feel that you found someone who's so perfect for you, who makes you happy every time you see his gorgeous face.

But if that doesn't work, and you really want to shut this guy up forever and ever, Amen? Mention that your husband is incredibly well-endowed.

I know that sounds absurd, and risky. I'm sure that introducing a sexual topic is not recommended in any of the sexual harassment handbooks. But let me tell you something, those handbooks are written by people who don't know the first thing about this kind of a guy and what motivates him. What motivates him is the fantasy that you want him, bad. What decimates this motivation is talk of big dicks that don't belong to him.

I had a male acquaintance who kept saying lewd things to me. It started with him talking about girls he was dating (I was just another frat boy confidant), but then it got more personal, and repetitive. He was sure I wanted him, and simply saying "I have a boyfriend" didn't do much to convince him otherwise. Plus, it was obvious that he thought my boyfriend was kind of a chump, maybe because he was nice and slightly dorky and didn't make six figures like Mr. Wonderful himself. It pissed me off, and his nonstop talk of screwing around started to make me uncomfortable, in spite of my running assumption that lewd talk could never get under my skin. So I mentioned in passing that my boyfriend had a really big penis.

I thought this comment would quiet him down for a second, that's all. Instead, it was like I dropped a nuclear bomb in the room. He looked sick. I almost felt guilty. But there was no more getting squicked out, ever. He didn't say another word about us. Instead, he'd bitterly say things like "Oh, but you probably want to run home and fuck your big-dicked boyfriend." The mere mention of my boyfriend's name upset him.

It was pretty extreme. But I sort of enjoyed how much it tortured him, because I am evil. (My boyfriend liked it, too.)

But if this coworker of yours doesn't have a giant yuppie ego that's begging to be whittled down to size, you should just talk about your great husband and your adorable kids constantly. Every time he IMs you, tell him something cute your kid said, then say "Have a great day!" (Insert emoticon here.) Do it over and over again. Do it when your kid isn't being particularly cute or clever at all.

He won't want to spend time with you anymore, trust me.


Are you getting squicked out by something? Write to Polly and tell, tell, tell!

Heather Havrilesky (aka Polly Esther) is The Awl's existential advice columnist. She's also a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness (Riverhead 2011). She blogs here about scratchy pants, personality disorders, and aged cheeses. Catnip photo by Linda MacPhee-Cobb. Giant dong photo by Brendan Wood (heh).

56 Comments / Post A Comment

Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

Don't give into fatalism, LW#1! So your personal history has you in intimate contact with attached dudes looking for a side piece on a number of occasions. So what? Don't mean nuthin'.

Do the right thing.

chevyvan (#201,691)

@Werner Hedgehog Right? Guys with girlfriends hit on you? Join the club! Which also includes every other woman on the planet (and lots of dudes too).

wallsdonotfall (#6,378)

I remember Edith Z. once saying in an interview something like, Oh, the advice columns are exhausting, 99% of people are seeking permission to cheat in their relationships. I'm curious how the numbers shake out for this feature.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@wallsdonotfall Well, that one guy who gave Polly a "challenge" to give him any logical reason why he shouldn't cheat on the mother of his two little kids was exhausting enough himself.

Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

@wallsdonotfall "Dear Polly -

I deserve to have an affair because:
i) x,
ii) y,

Do I deserve to have an affair?


dj pomegranate (#201,598)

@wallsdonotfall But Polly's answer to that was so great, it was almost worth the exhaustion.

melis (#1,854)


Smitros (#5,315)

@melis That was a rejected tag line for Mentos.

kfizz (#240,720)

Women who can disregard the feelings of other people's girlfriends and wives are women who have been disregarding their own feelings for a long, long time.

Sing it, sister! (Same goes for all humans, imo.)

PistolPackinMama (#231,054)

@kfizz I copy-pasted that myself, for just reason you did.

lovelettersinhell (#13,711)

@kfizz I kind of completely disagree.

astrangerinthealps (#178,808)

Any man who is actually intimidated by the rumor that another guy is packing more than he is himself deserves to be played like that. What is this, the high school cafeteria?

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

LW1: The most glaring thing about your story is that you seem completely oblivious to the significance of the fact that the guy is not being honest and upfront with you either. So wherever issues he has with his girlfriend are obviously not safely contained in that relationship, and are continuing on with you too.

LW2: Don't play games with this dude and give him those wishy-washy "hints" that may be misinterpreted. As long as you refrain from giing him a straight answer he will think he has a chance. Just straight-up tell him you're not interested in being anything more than friends/colleagues! You're a grown woman.

BeccaLovesRocks (#246,386)

@fondue with cheddar On the one hand, I understand the desire to not straight up confront him. You aren't 100% sure he is looking to hook up (just 98% sure). So I can understand dropping subtle hints just to not embarrass yourself. However, I have been in a similar situation, in college. I was a geology major, there were only 6 of us and I was the only girl. Imagine the stereotypical group of 'nerdy scientists.' Socially awkward men with few/no friends. We hung out a lot, went to lunch, I invited them out dancing with my friends, etc. For one guy, I was the first non-relative female that hung out with him. He developed a crush on me, and began interpreting my friendship as 'flirting.' Lasted for months. When one of the other guys told me about it, subtle hints did NOT work. I had to straight up tell him. It was awful, but it was really the only way.

@BeccaLovesRocks I've been in that situation lots of times. I always seemed to attract that type of guy, and I tended to give them the benefit of the doubt, inadvertently leading them on. Eventually I learned that subtlety doesn't usually work and that I had to be upfront about my lack of interest. It does suck, but it sucks more the longer you wait.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"Every time he IMs you, tell him something cute your kid said"

For women who don't have kids: tell the horndog something cute a neighbor's kid said, or even better, send him a stock photo of any random kid or a baby. Should turn him off quickly.

testingwithfire (#244,161)

Every time he IMs you, tell him something cute your kid said, then say "Have a great day!" (Insert emoticon here.) Do it over and over again. Do it when your kid isn't being particularly cute or clever at all.

I love it – like being pecked to death by a duck, as I read somewhere once. A similar tactic once worked very well for me. (smiley face!)

PistolPackinMama (#231,054)

In a similar vein to "tell them your BF has a big dick" if you are single:

He: Heh heh when should I come over?

She: I dunno. I guess that depends on whether or not you are any good.

He: *shocked* Of course I am!

She: That's not what I've heard on the street. I'll take a pass.

Implying people have been talking about how lazy and bad they are in the sack will get them to STFU and leave you alone.

folieatrois (#246,338)

Holy Cow! Polly is a trip. Penis size shaming, old skool "make sure he loves you the most" angst, torture by duck/kid crayze, Hampton's escapades. It's all there. Polly reminds me of a hippy samurai warrior from finishing school. I just don't even.

E (#14,552)

Polly, you had me right up to the penis thing. Penis size is a main body insecurity dudes have, and it seems unkind and vindictive when women do this thing about penis size-even if the guy is a terrible guy. What woman hasn't felt the burn of having some body part be dismissed as not the right size, and the fear they're not as worth loving because of it?

It seems so unnecessary to pass the body insecurity misery along. I think you could say many other things that are just as intimidating but aren't contributing to some concept that men with small penises suck. His stamina, his skill, his libido- those are all good ones. "I've never met a man who likes to have sex as much as he does! I can barely walk. wink wink. The thing about him is his tongue…is magic. Magic. The man can weave 12 cherry stems into a tiny basket!" etc.

Plus, what if this creep has a huge penis? What if he thinks to himself, "AHA, I have a chance! Mine is huge!?"

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@E The problem is that those alternates you suggest would not only not work, they would even encourage the creep. "I've never met a man who likes to have sex as much as he does! I can barely walk. wink wink." would only be met with "well, baby, you don't know what you've been missing out on until you try it with me" or some such.

You've lost the whole point of having to defend the victim of unwanted advances in your efforts to protect the feelings of the aggressive asshole. She is not supposed to give him some sort of a inspirational fantasy material, but to strike him so bad, he wouldn't think of getting up to try again.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@E "Plus, what if this creep has a huge penis? What if he thinks to himself, "AHA, I have a chance! Mine is huge!?"

Oh, I didn't even see this at first. So, your proposed tactics are somehow magically immune to this "what if he could do the same thing?" backfiring scenario?

E (#14,552)

@Niko Bellic I'm not interested in protecting the creep's feelings. I just think that if someone was like, "this girl is a real creep and is trying to get me to cheat on my girlfriend" and the advice columnist was like, "you know what makes all women insecure? Telling her your girlfriend has perfect nipples and long legs and the best vagina ever"- I would think that's not a good strategy.

Maybe it's distracting to my point that I came up with an alternate way of putting someone else down that doesn't rely on physical features, because certainly, all of those rely on the idea that the person isn't confident in some aspect of their sexual prowess. I just think the penis size thing is an out of bounds choice because I it's relying on and enforcing an expectation that someone would feel shame or insecurity for their physical features. And that is a toxic thing.

I don't think I've "lost the point of defending the victim in my efforts to protect the feelings of the aggressive asshole". I think the analogy I'd go with is that if someone was like, "you know what stops men from catcalling you on the street? Calling them a racial slur or a homophobic name!", I'd still say, "it's not cool to shame someone else in your tactic to defend yourself" and it doesn't have anything to do with protecting the person being the harasser. Everything else Polly said is great advice. I just think that part was not polite and mean. Not polite to the world as a whole, not in keeping with the rest of how this column really sticks up for doing the right thing. Defending yourself from one person doesn't mean you should strike out and hit some other person.

littlebear (#246,345)

@E I don't think commenting on how much you like your significant other's body is necessarily shaming someone else. If a friend of mine told me that he loves his girfriend's perfect nipples, I wouldn't take that as a slight against me in any way. Really, I would only feel a sting if for some reason I wanted him to think about MY nipples instead.

I don't think it's very polite to refuse to take a hint and I also don't think there's anything wrong with saying something that you wouldn't hesitate to say to someone who was really and truly just a friend if that is what they are supposed to be (I suppose we may vary in what we are comfortable saying to our friends) .

Knitty Witty (#246,339)

LW #1 sounds really, really young. I think Polly's advice was on-point, but I also think it's all some shit this chick will hopefully figure out with some more years and more dating experience under her belt. We've all been there. And we've all been tempted to throw caution to the wind and jump in. And sometimes we do and then we get burned and eventually we learn.

I hope Ms. Catnip figures it out!

It also bears saying: who's to say this lady would be THE Other Woman for all that long? In my experience, people cheating on their S/Os aren't necessarily doing so with only one person…

Susannaf (#231,800)

LW#1 – are you sure you'd be absolutely deep-down ok with a grown-up relationship with a man who was single?

Or are you perhaps avoiding something by seeking out men who are already attached (even if you don't consciously know it) and who will never, therefore, threaten you with having to deal with someone who is exclusively in love with you?

Just a thought.

illiteratefool (#246,362)

Answer to 2: I don`t understand? You could have replaced answer to 2 with Greek shampoo instructions and I would understood just as much? Why do she have to put so much effort into all these elaborate hints and why does she have to talk about penises when this guy is making inappropriate comments that make her uncomfortable?
Why can`t she just say "I`m married, you are a friend, these comments about coming home to my house are make me uncomfortable and I want you to stop." Once. And then if he does it again, say the same thing, and say she`ll make a complaint. And if he does it a third time, make a complaint. Even if bosses are useless! (There is no HR?)

Euchre (#246,387)

@illiteratefool Yes, seriously this is how to deal with this problem. Maybe it's a more interesting article with Polly's anecdotes (I enjoyed reading it) but women really should not have to dance around desperately trying to avoid confrontation, wracking their brains for a way to diffuse every situation with some perfect quip or subtle hint. Just be blunt and use your words, for crying out loud.

Or block him on IM at least.

musicmope (#428)

I'm not quite certain what you're offering here, but I'm pretty sure it isn't Feminism. Must a woman justify her individualism to others by the ethics of her sexual partner or whether her boyfriend has a big cock or not?

Danzig! (#5,318)

@musicmope and the main thing I got out of the anecdotes in LW1's answer was that women are policed for the bad behavior of men and they deserve to be.

davidwatts (#72)

I've been thinking about this column a lot, and I think I identified the thing that's been bothering me about this feature. It's this:

"Taking great pride in your ability to attract men and turn them on is a little bit like bragging about the fact that you breathe oxygen and grow your own hair. Look around you. Turning men on is pretty goddamn easy."

It seems to me that, every week, this column goes out of its way to de-legitimize sexual feelings, to deride the idea of sexual desire as a powerful force in a human's life, and to generally have a sort of Liz Lemon-y "eww gross!" reaction to any discussion of sex (which is more than a little ironic, since it seems that most of the people writing in have sexual questions).

I mean, I honestly find it both confusing and a little sad that this column continually answers real concerns from people full of sexual desire and conflicting impulses by ALWAYS making a person with unfulfilled desires seem weird and gross.

That isn't to say I don't get the thrust (ha) of what you mean with the above, but, at the same time, being desired in a relationship is a magic, electric thing that I don't think you can dismiss with the flippant (and more than a little insulting) generalization that men just are attracted to anything, if someone you're attracted to finds you attractive back, whatever, it's dumb, who cares. Like, really?

K. Mae (#240,479)

@davidwatts Yeah. "Men are attracted to anything that moves!", in addition to not being true, is not a particularly helpful thing to say.

shegotzen (#246,406)

@davidwatts Plus, there are plenty of times (lately, for example) that I feel like I'm not the least bit attractive to men and that I'm completely incapable of turning them on. I've even been in relationships in which, after a couple months, the guy barely seems interested in sex. That's pretty well-trod territory with the genders reversed, but "men are attracted to anything that moves." If getting guys to fall all over you is like breathing to everybody else, what is that supposed to say about me?

anonymouse (#241,559)


But there is something to be said or recognizing that while yes, sexual desire in a relationship is a magical-feeling, vital thing, it can also happen between people who have nothing else in common, and is not itself alone grounds for making or breaking a relationship. And it IS really common, and the fact that some people *feel* that no one desires them and assume they are exceptions to that rule is unfortunate, but it doesn't make it not true.

Saying "I feel undesirable, therefore I must place exceptional value on anyone who desires me, nothwithstanding any other factors" might be a temporary sop to someone suffering from low self-esteem, enabling them to scrape together whatever most-obvious sources of feeling desirable they encounter without regard to viability, healthiness, or even their own attraction to the source of validation (how many people have you known with partners they chose mostly because of how obviously the partner wanted them, rather than wanting the partner themselves?). But it isn't grounds for a healthy relationship and it ignores reality. I know people far, far outside the bounds of "conventional" beauty who are deluged with admirers and know it, and people who are "objectively" beautiful who are convinced no one wants them. These conditions have little to do with the reality of their desirability (there is someone, lots of someones, desiring to fuck everyone, everyone, *everyone*) and more to do with their self-perception. Having their belief in the delicacy of their desirability and the rare magical unicorn nature of this one rare case of someone wanting them reinforced might feel good as it justifies their going ahead with bad decisions (like ignoring red flags) but it's so much nonsense. It sucks if people don't feel desirable, but that's about how they feel, not about how they actually are. It might hurt to hear that yes, the guy who wants you despite his girlfriend wants other people too, and this is not an exceptional situation, but it's *truth*. Novelty is enchanting to most people, seduction and secrecy are intoxicating to many, and they don't neccesarily mean the object of them is going to be desired once they rapidly wear off. And if the person desiring you is already in a relationship. and already lying to you, then the magic feeling of their desire is pretty thin grounds to excuse their shittiness as a person. It's accepting the reality of that that gives people a shot at real happiness with a partner who wants them, is wanted in return, and actually has any other redeeming qualities.

You compared it to Liz Lemon- remember when she justified taking awful Dennis back because "he was the only one who inquired"? Feeling desirable does feel great, but if that's the sole justification for wanting someone, yes, ew. Don't be the Other Woman, or Other Man, *just* for that. By itself it *is* common as dirt, and if you feel like it isn't, for you in particular, and it's driving you to accept bad relationship choices, take some time and examine those feelings. They don't reflect reality and they're steering you in shitty directions.

22045168@twitter (#246,428)

I wasn't terribly impressed with the "I almost threw caution to the wind and had a weekend fling once but then everybody told me it was slutty so I didn't do it THANK GOD I NARROWLY AVOIDED SLUTTINESS" anecdote she related to LW1. Maybe it's just me, but it didn't seem to have much to do with the LW's actual question. And also, you know, slut-shaming.

RamblinLady (#246,593)

@ 22045168@twitter

I know, right? It seemed like that anecdote had bupkis all to do with LW1's issues.

"I feel like his relationship problems are his own to deal with. I just want this beautiful man on my pillow, stat. I want an affair to exist in its own self-contained universe, where we can just have an awesome moment and explore this connection without anyone getting hurt, but I recognize that that's not the reality. Talk some sense into me? I am sick of missing out on incredible experiences because of my moral compass, and I'm thinking of going ahead with it."

RamblinLady (#246,593)

@ 22045168@twitter

Like, Polly is saying she would have felt like the old flavor of the week with that dude. More or less that he "wouldn't have respected her" or have cared about her. (While, humblebragging about how hot she is). And of course, those other ladies wouldn't have respected her either. Nay, how could she even have respect for herself?

It's not like she was just down for a romp with a cool human being that might not be looking for commitment or want to be tied down. Relationships are heavy. They are also spectacularly light, if you are lucky. But they are almost universally heavy. Sometimes it's nice to keep it light and to explore in that way… to not be bound to a "two-ship". If she had had awesome sex with the dude, and he was a cool dude who would have felt fond affection for her and the (brief) time they spent together… then instead of feeling "less magical" she could have felt totally magic as she moved on to the next adventure in her life, even tho she did not engaged in a "relationship" but was rather footloose and fancy-free…

Seems like she wanted "him" to make her feel special. And when she didn't feel special to him, she felt less special herself. Which, I get that it's important to be valued by the people you take into your life, but some rando you met at a party? That's adventure…! Not freaking Before sunrise or some shit where you meet your so-called soul mate. Who cares if you are not the only adventure that someone else has? Will you value your time with him less just because he's followed by a different totally compelling dude… maybe a musician, or a surfer or a writer? Or two, or more dudes? If you have a string of lovely men you spend a night or a coupla with while traveling, do you write them all off just because there was more than one? Is any less special or memorable simply for not being singular? Can you not remember them all with tender sweetness, made perhaps even the more so by the brevity of your encounters? If that dude was a douche, if his friends are douches… and those ladies sound like class-A bitches, then sounds like her picker was broken.

But being special does not mean being exclusive, and I wish people would realize that. Just because you maintain exclusivity doesn't mean you are actually appreciating the specialness of a person, or they you. In fact it can be really easy to lose touch with that if all you have is the feedback of one person who relates to you in one way and that then becomes almost "the definition" of who you are… People should explore more.

That said, in 2013 if you are not honest about the openness of your relationship, that's totally lameville. LW1 tell these dudes who are attracted to you that you are totally down for some exploration, but only if their lady-friends are in the loop about it, and let 'em know that they should count themselves lucky that you don't give those ladies the 411, because that ain't cool, jack. It's funny how a lot of dudes are cool with the idea until they realize it's a two-way street. The whole point of monogamy is that it can make it hotter if you keep the circle closed and you do it right (done wrong, it can kill the spark, or greatly dim it). But keeping someone else on the hook while you play around breeds bad karma, and you should have nothing to do with it. Upfront, or not at all. The reason being that there is just a bad, negative energy associated with being deceitful.

RamblinLady (#246,593)

If you have a string of lovely men you spend a night or a coupla with while traveling, do you write them all off just because there was more than one? Is any less special or memorable simply for not being singular? ….is any less rich for not having been the only one? If there was only one, would that person matter more? Because there was just one? The only one you have for reference? So that you would weight the experience more heavily? Or can each exist on their own terms, as their own lovely souls, with whom you engaged in your own unique ways, each having something special to offer, each experience (and person) being treasured and valued, perhaps even more so by virtue of the richness of being varied. Don't get me wrong, I'll take depth over breadth any day. But I think it can be helpful to have a little breadth to get to depth. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules. Except keep it honest. As a rule, keep it honest. And as a hard and fast rule, always keep it ethical. Or else you'll pretty much pay for it later. It's good to be able to look yourself in the mirror, and also good to be able to meet other people's eyes without something shifty going on, on your end.

whyowhine (#246,480)

I'm a little late to this convo, but I wanted to chime in. The penis size comment seemed pretty off to me. From what I can tell, you're advocating 1) objectifying a man, sexually, and then 2) using that objectification to shame him, shift the social balance of power in your favor, so that you can 3) get what you want.

For what is typically part of a pretty feminist blogging network, it seems like all of the above should be huge red flags, and it all seems hypocritical.

Which, as far as it goes, is fine. But it's reading stuff like the above that has always made me feel very comfortable (as a straight guy) writing off feminists, and the rest of their ilk. At the end of the day, everybody just wants to get special treatment for themselves and people they identify with personally, but nobody actually wants to do the same for others that they can't identify with. So whatever.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

@whyowhine I guess I don't view the world as some sort of gigantic group therapy session catering to shitty dudes who can't get it together enough to know not to say "when am I coming over" to a woman they work with.

whyowhine (#246,480)

@migraineheadache Yeah, fair enough. Everybody does things when it suits them, and rationalizes it as 'why cater to [somebody not like me]', where [not like] can easily be swapped with [less than].

I do too, and that's why like I said, I feel pretty comfortable writing off feminists. When principles only apply when they're convenient for you and personally benefit you, they're clearly not founded in anything that deep to begin with.

WhyneNot (#246,552)

Good naturedly, I'd like to point out the flaw/contradiction in your reasoning (again, a very common occurrence among humans, we have so many foibles to guard against!)

On the one hand, you state that this "advice" is not what you would expect from feminist quarters. And then you go on to conclude that this is why you don't appreciate feminism.

As has already been pointed out in the comments re Polly's advice: "I'm not quite certain what you're offering here, but I'm pretty sure it isn't Feminism".

So, it sounds to me like you DO appreciate feminism… And you are surprised to find such a retrograde (and unfeminist) point of view being espoused in what you associate as a feminist-friendly/leaning blog.

This isn't the high school cafeteria. It's a progressive blog where women don't shame men for their penis size because that's a very male-centric view of masculinity anyway, that doesn't resonate terribly strongly with women to begin with, and this in large part (haha) misconception/misinformation should not be reinforced. Bigger is not always better and is frequently worse for many ladies (who are very different and have different and individual preferences) and it would be quantitatively better for men to focus on the clit and creativity and connection and yes, also feelings rather than obsessing over their "manhood". I think most of the ladies will agree.

BTW… that was me who accidentally thumbs upped you instead of hitting the reply. As I'm sure you can see, I do not agree with your sentiment! I'm a huge fan of feminists/feminism. Not to the exclusion of humanism, since I think there's a humongous overlap, just feminism recognizes the extreme historical power imbalance that has (and still continues unfortunately to some degree although there have been quantitative shifts) existed.

WhyneNot (#246,552)


For the record, I realize that Polly was all, "Use the patriarchy to fight the patriarchy!" and I think she has a salt-of-the-earth kind of no holds barred approach to life, and I appreciate that many of her instincts seem pretty good. But clearly she also has her own issues, getting off with her boyfriend over the size of some other dude's belittled dick. I mean, I'm just saying…. that's not the kind of pillow talk I'm familiar with.

Than again, Polly clearly has a bit of the "Top" in her, so… I imagine her and her boyfriend roasting marshmallows on a bearskin rug and drinking vodka while this conversation is taking place…. And, that guy was clearly a huge dick, no matter what the size of his actual dick was.

whyowhine (#246,480)

@WhyneNot I don't think there was a contradiction there; based on what I've read from Polly (or Heather) in this blog I think she'd probably identify as a feminist, and like you seemed to suggest, this blog generally subscribes to that philosophy as well.

I definitely 'appreciate' feminism in that I understand what most feminists believe (personally, I am a huge believer in understanding those you disagree with). And I did note (internally, if not explicitly) that some people responded by calling her out for being pretty unfeminist in her reply. But very few did.

And THAT was more my point. I know a lot of feminist women, and I know that most of them all talk about men in equally objectifying ways, and treat them as much as sex objects. My point was that very few people actually subscribe to the pure philosophy, because it's a lot more fun in life to only get uppity when YOU are the person that is being 'made lesser'. My point was that Heather is actually a fairly typical feminist – when it's convenient and advantageous to her.

And that's why, since it is not particularly advantageous to me to be a feminist, I am not and never will be. (And no, I'm really serious, if you heard a lot of the things I say to my friends and a lot of the viewpoints I hold and ways I express them, you would likely hate me and find me disgusting.)

So to be very clear – it's not that the philosophy itself is inconsistent (it most definitely is not); it is that very few people actually subscribe to the philosophy, and that to me is sufficient evidence for its general invalidity (at least as far as conducting my own life and curtailing my own behavior goes).

Sundaisy (#246,640)

if you heard a lot of the things I say to my friends and a lot of the viewpoints I hold and ways I express them, you would likely hate me and find me disgusting.

Thanks for the fair warning. Jerk thinks jerk behavior is justified by others' jerk behavior. Lives in world of jerks.

Yes, I will pass on that ride! I prefer a smoother whip than that hooptie, though I guess people like what's familiar (and thus comfortable) to them. While I generally subscribe to a don't feed the trolls philosophy… look! I am being inconsistent, it is not a "pure" philosophy! Inconsistency, quixotic humanity!

If I were a man, I would definitely be a feminist. I think what you fail to grasp is that feminism does benefit you, unless you need your ego stroked by "being the man." The thing about a social hierarchy, especially one based not on actual legit virtue, is that the person on top, the "top dog" actually is not a "winner". First of all, everyone is out to get your spot — so there's the constant paranoia and fear to contend with. Second of all, everyone is a sycophant who actually hates you. There are some great benefits to equality. It's very self-serving and advantageous for the intelligent man or woman. The advantages to you as a man for being a feminist is that you can have an equal partner who is not relying on you to "make it all right" but rather a partner who is taking responsibility with you. Is it easier with a leader/follower structure. It might be. Is it better? Definitely not. Sex is best when it's dynamic, and varied. Not when it's rote and there are set roles which you always play. So the sex would be much better, too. (That one alone sold me.) It's healthier to grow and explore your strengths and weaknesses and not be limited to one way of being that excludes vast parts of your personhood. So there's another advantage to being a feminist as a man, not just a woman. A feminist man doesn't give a shit what you think about his manhood and any deviations from it. He's not trying to prove a false construct that keeps him circumscribed to a limited socially-sanctioned role. That's for suckers. People who are afraid not to toe the line, but who never once take the time to check out what that line is all about to see if they actually agree with it. They just live in fear of it, and let other people draw the lines for them for who they should be. So as a dude who is a feminist, you don't have to be assigned to a social role that may (and sure as shit, does) cut out a large part of your humanity. Perk!

Big shout out to all the feminist dudes! You rock the cock! You are an example of a true, good and decent strong men. Nazis, racists, and other asshole jerks… you do nothing for my tingly bits. Those aren't "big men" to me. They are little shits and frightened little shadows of men. It is advantageous to care about equality. But, you do have to be smart to see that. Otherwise, you might be like: I got all the bananas mine mine mine! And think you're living in some kind of paradise when you're really living in a self-created hell. I've seen fat banana hoarders up close, and it is not a pretty sight. Dumb monkey thinks that's winning, but hold that up to a picture that's actually winning and you'll see that traits like cooperation and fairness are fuckin' way better and more personally rewarding and pleasing/pleasurable. Because it's shared, and humanity is a shared experience. No matter how much we may try to insulate ourselves from that fact. If I'm around a bunch of people who are in a shitty mood, or who are miserable or suffering, it's not going to contribute to me being happy. Sounds like you think it's perfectly great to be offensive to women, because you feel like they're just as offensive back… which does not sound like a very nice relationship to me, I'm assuming that you want relationships with the opposite sex? You may find your bird of a feather where you both don't take it personally but that still sounds less than ideal. Why not lift the bar, rather than limboing down to it's lowest point? If you were self-interested, I mean?

whyowhine (#246,480)

@Sundaisy Sorry, I wasn't trying to come off as a troll (if I was, I would've said some of the things I alluded to). Rather, I was just trying to express a viewpoint, which is that most feminists 'talk the talk', but don't 'walk the walk', which is just one reason it's very hard to get men (such as myself) to modify our behaviors. Ie, telling somebody else to change themselves is always convenient, especially when you get to benefit and have to give up nothing.

You're right though, if I thought that being more feminist would make my life better (and improve my relationship with women), I'd probably embrace it too. As it stands, I don't really think it affects my relationships, except in so far as I usually don't say some of the things I say around my guy friends when women can hear me / are in a position to give me shit about it. Maybe you're right and things would be a lot better if I were more feminist; but I'm happy with my relationships as they are, and for the most part all I really need to do is pay lip service about caring about feminism (or rather, just not say openly offensive things to their face) and things are usually fine.

WellThen (#1,251)

To LW#1, I'd also offer up the advice that while it sounds like she's hoping for a "no-strings-attached" affair, that's really unlikely in this situation. He's already neglected to mention even having a girlfriend, and my guess is you probably don't know much about her? (You probably don't know much about him, either?) Keep in mind that the longer you keep up a relationship with him the more likely it is she's going to not only find out who you are, but also get a hold of your contact info. She may not do anything with that information. Or she may actually contact you.

Several years back a guy asked me on a date and when I went to meet him outside his work he was locked in an intense staring contest with a woman as they growled things at each other under their breath. I should have run the other direction then, as I wasn't super enthusiastic about the date in the first place, but I did not and when she left he told me she was his "roommate" and they'd had a fight.

I kinda assumed she was an ex and they were still living together because those things happen and it's rough and I didn't push the subject. Later that night though she called my cell phone. Repeatedly. And eventually left me a message telling me that this guy was her boyfriend and calling me some names I guess I won't repeat because it isn't important.

Now, I don't actually even know if she was really his girlfriend–he could have totally been telling the truth–but it does kinda break down the illusion of the no-strings-attached romance, doesn't it? I felt pretty "lucky" that she never called me again after that night, but I wasn't exactly thrilled she had my phone number in the first place.

Lizaboots (#246,553)

I just wanted to say I thought the response to LW1 was absolutely brilliant.

Also, sacrificing pleasure to do what's right is the point of morality. So you met six creeps? Would you say "But I haven't embezzled money from my last few workplaces"? "But I've gone to so many stores without shoplifting when I could have"? There is a difference between shoplifting and cheating, of course: the second one inflicts more pain.

pestsikeng (#246,557)

Also, sacrificing pleasure to do what's right is the point of morality.

b3k (#12,241)

As a straight guy, I think that the LW2 big-dick advice is just terrible. Not because it's demeaning to the small-peened, but because the guy's already proven himself to be delusional, and therefore it's a mistake to talk to him about anything sexual at all. He's just going to think "wow, she likes talking about cocks with me!" and turn that into "wow she really wants to screw me." It's sort of like telling a guy like that that you're a lesbian — he's going to turn that into "woo hoo, threesome!!!!!"

Please don't (#247,372)

"I'm sure that introducing a sexual topic is not recommended in any of the sexual harassment handbooks. But let me tell you something, those handbooks are written by people who don't know the first thing about this kind of a guy and what motivates him." But who do probably know the first thing about getting fired or sued. So far he's done nothing overtly sexual and she starts talking about penises to a work colleague. Do not do this. Don't do this. This is not a wise idea. Wherever you land on male anatomy shaming or being more forthright or feminism or whatever, do not be the first person to bring genitalia into a work conversation unless you are independently wealthy and do not need a job.

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