A reader recently requested that I write a post on unwanted, or unwelcome, male attention, including sexual advances, and to position that issue in relation to my understanding of femininity. A challenge. I thought about it for a few days. Maybe a little too hard, actually, because I almost scrapped the idea and wrote an entirely different post. Yet, I continued to feel I should address the challenge presented to me. It wasn’t until I was heading home from work yesterday afternoon, while thinking about something unrelated, that I realized exactly what it was I needed to say. And it’s no different from anything I’ve already said. (How terribly anticlimactic.)
As my posts on this blog have progressed—particularly my forays into eroticism and my attempts to self-define femininity—I noticed that, at some point, I began to be guided by a more totalizing vision of the feminine, of womanhood, or of an essence that acts for me, as a kind of ideal. A self-created, or self-fashioned, woman. A future self, perhaps. The more I delve into the complexities of female eroticism, the more firmly she takes root in my imagination and the better I am able to fashion her on the page. I think about who she is, how she is, how she conducts her relationships, handles difficult situations, and navigates life’s challenges. It is with her in mind that I write this post. As I craft my ideal, I craft myself. Or, I allow her to create me. Of all of the approaches I could’ve taken to this topic (most of them well-worn), I decided that being guided by my own self-created vision was best.
Here is how I believe my ideal woman—the paradigm of my own self-creation—would handle unwanted attention and unwelcome sexual advances:
She would understand, first, that the vast majority of the unwanted attention she’ll ever receive won’t come from sexual predators. It will come from otherwise well-intentioned men who don’t quite know how to treat her. It is true that some men won’t value her sexuality like they should—that some of them suffer from a character weakness, or fear, that it would take something much greater than her to fix. It is also true that there is a world of difference between a bonafide sexual predator or harasser and the average man who is, maybe, flirting a little too hard. She would know better than to demonize the latter by treating him like he’s the former. Because to do so would also weaken her.
She would take the initiative in showing men who she is, what she desires, and how she deserves to be treated. She would know herself. She would have made the effort to develop confidence in her sexuality, a confidence that can only come from exploring the facets of her erotic life: her body, her desires, her fantasies, the behaviors that make her feel sexy, powerful, vibrant, expansive, content. She would know that her interactions with men—sexual or otherwise—will be riddled with obstacles, apprehension, and misunderstanding if she cannot be herself fully and allow men to be comfortable enough to be themselves around her.
She would never settle for an existence rooted in her grievances but would define and elevate herself instead. If she believed that men didn’t understand or value her sexuality as they should, then she would do the most audacious thing it was in her power to do: she would become the version of femininity she wanted them to see. And, that’s how she would teach them that femininity can be confident, sexy, and unafraid.
Under no circumstances would she make herself helpless. She wouldn’t allow herself to get swept away in a torrent of rabid emotion. Nor would she pour all of her energy into blaming the other person (because she would understand that also renders her helpless). She would assert herself. She wouldn’t wait around for men to change their opinions of her or place demands on them that they can’t possibly fulfill. In the way she acted, in the way she walked, in the way she talked, she would demonstrate her worth. That would be the image she projected to the world. She wouldn’t wait for someone else to free her. She would be an example. She would do it herself.