Cat Person, the viral short story that was published in the New Yorker has been the basis of several articles, debates, and of course, sad man babies shedding tears all over the internet. Seriously, they need to get a reality check. Soon.
Moving on, the story was intriguing, and personally, I had mixed emotions while I continued my journey through the mind of the protagonist Margot, a sophomore at college, who starts “dating” an older guy because she wanted to. Hence she did and then slept with him because she felt obliged to.
It started a very important conversation about how influenced consent is. Women sometimes feel obligated to have sex, be it within the confines of a marriage, relationship or because that is what is expected of you if you flirt back. For me, it also highlighted the fact that we hold men to such low standards, that any guy who does the bare minimum for us is a sweet, soft guy who needs to be given a second chance.
We celebrate mediocrity because we have heard so many times “men will be men” and “women shouldn’t have a temper” and “good men are so hard to find” and we believed that. We end up growing into women who value basic decency as if it was the rarest diamond to find. I confess I have been prey to this feeling too. I have defended guys because they were sweet to me.
Getting you fries when he was already at Mcdonalds doesn’t warrant accolades.
You know he doesn’t touch my butt while we kiss? He got me a cake when I was chumming, how nice is that?! OMG, he asks about my mental health and gets it, isn’t that the best? The hashtag #BareMinimum trended recently, highlighting the fact that we celebrate basic decency when it comes to guys.
Getting you fries when he was already at McDonald’s doesn’t warrant accolades. I get my colleagues food when I’m out to get some for me. That just makes me a thoughtful person, as I should be. We don’t deserve medals for being a good person. That should be the norm.
The thing is, every time we complain about men, someone or the other tells us how other men are worse. We placate ourselves that we have it good because he takes care of his own kids and doesn’t complain because he cleans the dishes at his own house. Despite being a man, he remembers your birthday or any other thing that we have been saying men are too damaged to do. Ladies, stop it!
Stop expecting so less of men. They are capable of more. They need to know they aren’t doing enough. Stop celebrating basic human decency as something that is divine. Stop saying he helps you out with housework. It’s his house too, he better take care of it.
When I read Cat Person, I connected with Margot when she kept trying to see the good things in Robert, who had enough red flags on him to be a communist nation. You know they say, when you see the world through rose coloured glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.
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The other thing that we need to stop doing is having sex because it is expected of us. Going through with it because we started and it would be bad if we asked to stop. Our feelings matter. How many times have you seen men having sex with you despite you not being up for it?
We take the no far more seriously when it comes from men. I started this thing a few years ago. I never disregard my consent or feelings when it comes to intimacy. I have stopped the guy midway because I was anxious. He was okay with it as he should be. I did not apologize, although trust me, it was at the back of my throat. I reminded myself that all my feelings are valid.
This one time, I met a guy really late at night at his place. I realised he was expecting sex but I wasn’t interested. So, I resisted, although, like most woke lib men, he did not stop trying. Gentlemanly efforts at coercing sex are the pinnacle of being woke nice guys. I, however, stuck to my decision.
A friend, later, told me “You went there late at night, what did you expect? It’s only fair that he expected sex. That is the way it is, you know.” I was amazed at that. Why would he have expected sex? I had clearly stated that I wouldn’t be interested in a hookup even though we are meeting at his place. He had a nice balcony, we weren’t gonna eat that late at night, it was just convenient.
Why do we tell other women that men are just like that? That if he ignores you, that means he likes you. No. He is just a jerk. If he likes you, he will make time for you. You do not owe sex to anyone.
You do not owe sex to anyone.
You are also not being had sex with. You are having sex. You have as much agency in the act as the man. Own yourself and assert your consent. Don’t make excuses for sorry acts of men. We don’t owe them placations or fake orgasms.
Consent isn’t dubious. You either want to and do it or you don’t and say no. The idea that women will give in eventually is the kind of thing that is common knowledge instead of consent though. Hence, men keep trying. They keep looking for that yes because they didn’t take your no seriously.
They have never considered that you would have the right to say no. That you might really not be interested despite being single. This is the culture that makes women give in to sex and keep having bad sex although it makes them feel bad afterwards. They don’t talk to the men, don’t tell them it isn’t good for them. Women are conditioned to feel happy when men find her desirable.
Any compliment is blush-worthy. Any small gesture is amplified to mean he wouldn’t hurt me. He didn’t rape me becomes the bar where we start judging character. We need to stop this cycle of self-depreciation. We, as women, need to support each other and make each other believe in our own agency. We need to assert ourselves in the bedroom as much as we do anywhere else. We also need to make sure that we respect others’ consent as much as we do ours.
While we are talking about Cat Person, let’s also explore the problematic fat phobic bits of it. Margot was repulsed by Robert’s belly. The hair on his belly repulsed her. Body-shaming, be it targeted at women or men, is equally bad. We need to evaluate what we think of as an ideal body.
Robert’s other behaviours were no good but talking about how a belly on a man is un-sexy is the wrong message to send. People are who they are. Our bodies are just vessels for our beings. All bodies are beautiful.
We fall in love with people, not genders or body type or hair colour. While Margot’s feelings about consent are valid, the inherent feeling that she’s doing the guy a favour by sleeping with him is not. We don’t do anyone any favours by having sex with them.
I’m glad the short story is starting discussions. I just hope people reflect on the important ones.
Featured Image Credit: Oh My Disney