Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Entitlement: or Why I hate dating

I date. I use an online dating site. I've had eh success with it. I do not believe that people should or shouldn't date/use online dating sites, nor do I think that there's something wrong with anyone who is looking for a significant other or a fun night.

That said, the dating environment has some huge, huge issues, ones that I'm not going to let go. "If you have a problem with it, then don't date!" you might say, or think. Or, how about this: if there are widespread issues with dating, how about we FIX them, yes? And one thing I'd like to fix, just about right now, is entitlement.

This post isn't meant to be a ridiculously comprehensive textbook on entitlement in dating, to be taught in sociology and women's studies classes 'round the globe. Instead, it's meant to briefly-ish discuss the lived experiences of myself and a friend of mine, both of us single, feminist women in our early twenties. My friend blogs about her experiences with online dating on her website, ihateokstupid.wordpress.com; I highly recommend it.

So, what's entitlement? If a woman believes a guy should pay for a date because she agreed to go out with him, that's entitlement. If a guy demands that a woman explain her ethnicity during the first few moments of a conversation (you don't think that happens? Read my friend's blog), that's entitlement.

From what I've learned, male entitlement occurs far more frequently than female entitlement. It seems to stem from the myth of the Nice Guy and the Desperately Insecure Single Woman.

The Nice Guy feels entitled to your attention. Why? Because he's a NICE GUY. He paid for this dinner! He didn't tell you that you were ugly! He was super duper sweet and perfect! So why is your clothing still on?!

The Desperately Insecure Single Woman is, as you might expect, not only desperately insecure about herself, but acutely aware of her unacceptably single status. She must find a man (not a woman, obviously)! So, if that guy over there messages you, you have to get excited. I mean, a guy is paying attention to you! And if he wants you to talk to him because he's bored, talk. After all, if you don't treat this guy like a king, then he will stop being kind enough to ignore all of your HUGE, unacceptable flaws, and then you will stay single and die single and be a complete failure.

Now, we also have the Playa Guys (who, if they pay attention to you, obviously you should be flattered because they only go for Hot Chicks; therefore, revert to fawning behavior to keep his attention), or Shy Nerds (who, if you're not interested, harp on you for being shallow for not falling head over heels for them, you awful person, you!). Women can also be Shy Nerds, who have to hide all the Shy Nerdiness in order to impress guys, or they can be Out of your Leaguers, who still have to deal with male entitlement.

Oh, and if you're a bi woman, guess how many guys are going to ask you whether or not you'll have a threesome?

Does everyone fit into a category? Well, no. No one really does. But you see the patterns. In the heteronormative dating world, women have to be nice to men to avoid being stuck a spinster. Never mind whether or not we actually LIKE being single, or having ... standards. Or like women.

The way I most frequently experience male entitlement in the dating scene is my reluctance to come right out with how I feel about the guy. So far, "how I feel about the guy" has always been, "I'm not interested in going out with you," or "I'm not interested in another date." However, after years of being socialized, along with my female peers, to be accomodating to people, especially to men, I find it very difficult.

I worry about being called names, or otherwise harassed for saying, "No thanks." When on an actual date, sometimes I worry about assault. I don't feel paranoid about it, but the threat is always there, just like when I walk alone at night. And sometimes, I really just don't know what to say in the moment.

Here are some of the ways I've experienced male entitlement, more specifically:

- being told by a guy I had dated only a few times before I tried very hard to shake him off, several months after I'd last spoken to him, that I should go to an event so that there would be someone he knew there

- several times, I've had a guy IM me through the dating site who tells me he is bored and then gets annoyed with me for not entertaining him

- several times, I've had a guy IM me, and either the first or second thing he says is a comment on my appearance, which he expects must be taken as a compliment

- a few times, before I changed my profile (where I was much more explicit about being a feminist), men IMed me or messaged me, insisting that I defend my feminist beliefs (once, I was told to "prove" my senior project, which I had not yet begun to research)

- some men have asked for a date within five minutes of IMing me, and when I have said, "No thanks," or "I'm sorry, I'm busy," they've persisted (one guy in particular kept asking me out when I told him I was busy every day for the next month. I wasn't lying either; I wanted to go out with him originally, but I was really that busy. When he wouldn't stop pestering me, I had to actually tell him outright that if he messaged me one more time before a specific date, I wouldn't ever go out with him; he never messaged me again)

- a guy will ask questions about my bird, talk about how much he likes animals, and then be peeved when I do not seem interested in the conversation

- men who are older than my top age range will message me anyway and then give me a hard time when I say no thanks

Of course, if I complain about any of these things, I'm told to either change my profile, be nice to these guys, just ignore everything, or stop dating. Or how about this whole entitlement thing goes to hell, please?

Lately, I've been trying to stop the whole, "I want to tell this guy to fuck off, but I don't know how." Once, when a guy IMed me three nights in a row and bored my brains out, I finally just told him that I wasn't interested. That's worked other times, too.

My friend, who blogs about her experiences, gets more crap than I do, probably because she's black and bi (and I am straight and as white as anyone could possibly be). She has guys who persistently tell her that she needs to give them a chance, who demand to know exactly WHAT kind of black she is. She gets white guys who tell her they want to date a black woman, but then deny the racist implications of their desires. Really, check out her blog, ihateokstupid.wordpress.com, since it'll give you a much better idea of what she has to deal with than I ever could. I think one of the messages I got is blogged there (it was so hilarious, I couldn't stop laughing the entire rest of the day).

So far, it looks as if our standards have prevented us from graduating into that elite, special class of woman: the Woman in a Relationship (which, as you can guess, is totally like being a Disney Princess!). But I'd rather be single and laugh about it than actually date someone who doesn't meet my reasonable and reasonably selected standards.

After all, if falling in love with you means that I will ignore that you're a high school dropout who smokes a pack a day, only reads WWE magazines, lives three hours away, voted for Bush and McCain, and thinks feminism is for lesbians, how am I supposed to ignore that IN ORDER to fall in love?

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