Today, I’ve been thinking about two experiences that I don’t think get a lot of attention:
Not all young women have sexual power. Puberty makes some of us ugly. There’s this persistent mythology that once a woman goes through puberty, she’s saddled with this insurmountable power over men. This is true… for some people. I think what people are wont to forget is that it’s not age alone that makes women attractive to men; it’s also beauty. Youth just empowers beauty, but one is not a substitute for the other. That special kind of beauty that you can only have when you’re a teenager isn’t given to you simply because you are a teenager. Some people never experience this.I think the experience of being ugly is a lot more common than the conversation around adolescent girls is willing to make room for. There exists a nontrivial subset of young women who are awkward, hapless, gangly, fat, lopsided, acned. You know exactly who I’m talking about: the kind of teenage girl who, out of desperation, defensively develops a crush on the weird kid and still gets rejected. These are women who are basically de-sexualized; any sexual attention they do get is as ‘the practice doll’ for the real prize, the pretty girl. It’s incredibly painful, and woefully real. My suspicion is that at a minimum, we underestimate the impact this kind of wholesale rejection has on a person. We’re doing better at recognizing its impact on men. With women, this “nobody wants me” phase might be more fleeting—it’s usually limited to your middle or high school bubble—but it’s still something people experience. Young women are routinely sent the message that adolescence and even very early adulthood is the prime of her life, where she should be imbued with an almost magical power over the people around her. But what if she isn’t?It probably goes without saying that the impact this kind of message has on girls who are beautiful is significant, too, but that’s another post entirely.
The inverse of the fuck boy is the emotional grifter. Here’s something I almost never see get brought up: why is it that we excuse women who treat men like their boyfriends, but withhold sex, then act surprised when those same men develop feelings for them? I think I’ve seen this in media once, as a footnote plot point in the movie Stuber. Other than that, it’s basically ignored. Now, I’m not talking about women who are friends with men, and the men read the firmly boundaried friendship as a sign of sexual interest. I’m talking about women who will purposely cultivate a certain amount of emotional intimacy with a man, and then act surprised when he reads this as a sign that she wants to have a deeper kind of connection with him. Or act surprised if he pulls back or doesn’t want to give her the same level of energy.So many women purposely coax men out of their shells, knowingly try to get them attached to them, and then reject them sexually and act surprised when there are hurt feelings. I don’t think this describes every emotionally intimate male/female friendship. I can certainly think of friendships I have that are both mixed gender and genuinely intimate. We can talk about anything, call each other’s at a moment’s notice, and even talk with frequency—but there’s no confusion about where we stand. Let’s be real, the texture is different in what I’m describing above. I suspect that most people know when they’re doing it, too. These are the friendships that always have the hint of something more. There’s a tension there you can’t quite pin down, and it’s never acknowledged because it’s a little bit too hot.I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that men do this to women, too, both in the emotional and physical dimensions. But I think there’s a female version of a fuck boy, and it’s not the girl who fucks you and ghosts. It’s the girl who’s emotionally your girlfriend then leaves you hanging.
As I’ve been doing this whole week, opening this up for discussion. I guess this is what I do when I don’t post hot takes on Twitter all day. (Cue nervous laughter.)
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