This is a letter to all lazy men. A plea to men who continuously use women. After decades of constant battle to be seen as a human, some still seem not to understand that we are not yours to exploit. It is a battle so ridiculously basic, so hilariously straightforward, that most of us like to avoid the discussion of power in intimate relationships. For most women I’ve met, the everyday tragedies of being disregarded as a human are just too tough to think about. Yet they experience it every single day. But what about men? Why is it, again, that we need to fight this battle ourselves? Why can’t we share the scars and the wins? Men, how could you still not see me as a human? How could you not respect me as a being? How are you so self-righteously lazy in enjoying your power?
I realise intimacy is difficult to talk about, but we have to address how constructed gender roles bring pain into everyday intimate life. I also realise that some might even disregard these thoughts I am currently writing down about cultural issues in intimacy as yet another illusion or emotional exaggeration. Gosh, just toughen up. My grandmother would tell me that women have to persevere, it is their job to do so. They just have to. We nurture while others beat us down, and give us absolutely nothing in return. These problems of intimacy in relationships, in interactions, in family life, all these problems are lived through women. They are the ones who are affected, they are the ones who suffer. It is not an exaggeration, and I would like to think we can finally stop persevering in the ridiculousness of being sexual and/or servile objects to men. Persevering in our public job to make a man’s private life easier. Persevering in giving pleasure or emotional support to a man, without enjoying intimate life as an equal.
It was not long ago that I realised how deeply we are all affected by these intimate power dynamics. I was often in weirdly imbalanced relationships, but I always considered these situations as mine alone. I was the problem, and I needed to fix myself. So that men could handle me. So that I could handle the men in my life appropriately. Does this not sound like a blatant reproduction of the caring woman narrative? The woman who takes care of herself only to fit into the male world.
Although I always considered myself a feminist, I never actually applied any of those thoughts to everyday life.
Sure, I was all for equal pay. But I always side-glanced the women who raged on about power imbalances in everyday life. Surely, I thought, the situation is not that dire? As Roxane Gay writes in her Bad Feminist essays, the fear of being ostracized, being seen as a troublemaker, made her disavow feminism. I was exactly the same.
But I cannot lie to myself any longer. I was, too often, betrayed by men. Rarely do our stories, as women, get to matter anyway and it is despicable of men – who were supposed to be lovers or my friends, who were supposed to cherish me on a personal level – to throw me away in an instant when they felt like it. They came and went. Most probably without using a condom or asking if I found any of their pounding pleasurable. My existence was minimised in a single night, a single moment. It is too often that we trust our male friends and then suddenly we become a faceless, sexual toy in a bedroom setting. Do not tell me imbalanced intimacy is not a cultural issue when I became an object – to a friend. To a friend who I trusted, who knew I was once already in an abusive relationship, who squished my worth into a chocolate square, wrapped in his ego.
Give me back to me. I am not yours to take, steal, use. I am not your source for a more pleasurable life. I am a human. See me as such. The least you could do is give women, your fellow human, the respect they deserve. Stop pulling your condoms off during sex. Stop getting high while she is aborting your child you did not want. Stop convincing her to have sex when she told you no because you are too scared to confront your fragile pride. Stop trying to kiss her when you notice she is a bit too far gone in her drinking, and you know she would otherwise reject you. Wipe away her tears you pretended not to notice. Give her the space to feel and yell and be imperfect. Give her permission to be dominant, but submissive. Allow her success and allow her to bask in the safe space she so obviously lacks.
It’s in the mundane, not just in the utmost horrific cases of rape and sexual assault. It’s in the mundane.
Stop stroking your goddamn egos with a fellow person. Stop turning a blind eye to our suffering. And I truly believe this is your suffering as well. I find it hard to believe that enjoying power brings actual happiness. There might be a sense of gratification – but is it actually enjoyable to use another human being?
Look, sex and love is a weird dance. We, women, often do not realise how overpowered we are in bed or in a silly argument about Foucault. You have to understand, we were brought up to serve you. And as we discuss our sex lives with our girlfriends, we often connect through the small tragedies of our everyday lives. The tragedy of no harm was truly inflicted upon me, but my integrity was undermined. I, as a person, was disregarded.
I wanted to be wanted by men to such an extent that I was, sadly, used in almost all these cases. And what is even more hurtful – most women in my life carry this burden. The burden of wanting to be wanted by misogyny. As Agnès Varda, disabused of her delusions, said “I can no longer bear to be desired or loved by misogynists.”
It is women who gave me my power back. My love. My strength. All of which I lost due to my extreme hunger for male validation. Not once did a man stand up for me, ask me if I am okay. Not once did a man let down his ego. It was all women. My friends who read me Audre Lorde’s poetry. My mom who showed me powerful women in folk stories. Female artists who made me crave space, self-expression, and love.
It is brave to be vulnerable. It is cool to care. And sometimes, you might even think to give that care back. Give the pleasure back. Give us some of that ego boost you store so carefully, that ego you manipulatively took away from me.
So this is a plea. Please, think of us. We sometimes have a hard time speaking. Not all of us were able to read empowering manifestos before you took us for yourselves. But this is not because we are lazy or stupid. This is because we are so terrified of using our own voice. Of taking up space. We were taught not to love if you did not give us permission to. So please, think of us and give us a safe space to land on. Give us space to feel pleasure in. To feel the ecstasy of life. With you. You will love it, too, I promise.
Take care of me and I will take care of you. We women should not be alone in care and love. Nurture us. Do not use us when we’re at our most vulnerable. Do not abuse our trust. Stop being lazy with the power you hold. I beg, I beg of you.
Written by Dagmar Nared.
Dagmar is a sociology and anthropology student based in Ljubljana. She is currently working as a researcher, and in her free time, she likes to read, write, photograph, film or get angry over politics.