That's What She Said.
"Don’t you like cock?" and other things that aren’t jokes

I write because it’s something I like to do, and I write because it’s something I — creatively — need to do. Sometimes I write because I don’t want to turn into Ned Flanders when he morphed into the Devil and screamed at Homer, “YOU ARE NOT SMARTER THAN ME.” And tonight is one of those times.

I shouldn’t have to tell you guys that asking a strange woman if she “likes cock” isn’t a joke, or that if she gets offended, it’s probably best to back away and apologize. I really shouldn’t. But here we are, hanging out after dinner, and here I am with further proof that we all have a long way to go.

Here’s the thing: I like joking around. Obviously. Especially on the Twitter dot com. But if you are my server at a restaurant (one that I go to a lot, but not one I go to enough for you to know my name), if we start joking around, when I mention — in all seriousness — that I support gay rights, it’s probably best not to ask me, accusingly, “Don’t you like cock?”

That is a very jarring thing to hear. It’s a very weird thing to hear, especially since asking that question is incredibly invasive. It’s even more invasive when you (if you’re me) try to shut the situation down, only to have that same question asked again and again, as if I’ll magically answer. That’s bad enough.

It’s worse, though, when instead of apologizing, that guy tells you why you shouldn’t be offended. In this case, according to him, I shouldn’t be offended because I write comedy. That’s why I shouldn’t be offended if a relative stranger asks me about my sexuality in a very aggressive way. Because I’m in comedy. Because I write jokes, I should laugh off a man asking me who I’d like to have sex with. Are we getting all of this? I write jokes, so I should let you ask me about my sexual preference. (And I wasn’t for one minute going to tell him that I like men, because noooooope — he gets no insights into my life or mental pictures, thank you very much.)

Stupidly, I tried to explain right back: that asking a woman questions like that can be intimidating and scary, especially thanks to rape culture (which I even more stupidly tried to explain). I told him it’s not a question of jokes, but a question of what things like that represent, and that it’s part of a greater systemic problem having to do with an imbalance of power. I was interrupted constantly. See, guys, he “knew” women.  He “got” women. Women were worse than men when it came to jokes. (Who’s keeping score?) Women, also, talk shit behind men’s backs, etc. etc. etc., and they love dirty humour. Whatever, man. At some point, I just stopped arguing, paid my bill, and GTFO.

Not once did he apologize. Not once did he offer anything more than his opinion on why he was right. I hated that. I hated even more that I felt guilty. Like maybe I was overreacting for feeling the way I did. That maybe I really should get used to “jokes” like these. That maybe I was being too familiar, and too friendly, and I deserved where the conversation went.

But then I remembered FUCK THAT. Nights like tonight are why we hesitate to get too familiar with men we don’t know, worry about smiling too much, and second guess everything we say. This is why we question how we dress and what tone we use and whether we’re giving someone any signals and yadda yadda yadda. AND I AM SICK OF IT. I am sick of feeling powerless.

I’m sick of being gaslit. I’m sick of feeling “sensitive” when I don’t like what somebody said. Frankly, I DIDN’T like what he said. What he said was garbage, and even if it was a joke, it was terrible — it didn’t even have a set up (or point or punchline). I’m sick of “oh, don’t get offended” becoming a shit substitute for an apology. It’s not even about men, women, and gender politics — it’s about human decency. So here are my new set of rules: 

IF YOU SAY SOMETHING THAT UPSETS SOMEONE ELSE, APOLOGIZE FOR IT.

IF YOU USE SEX AS A WEAPON OR AS A TOOL OF POWER — WHETHER VERBALLY, PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY, ETC. — STOP.

IF A WOMAN SAYS TO YOU “THIS IS OFFENSIVE AND HERE’S WHY,” DO NOT REFUSE TO LISTEN, DO NOT MANSPLAIN, LET HER SPEAK, SHE IS A PERSON.

IF YOU THINK SOMETHING YOU HAVE SAID MIGHT BE INAPPROPRIATE AND/OR SEXIST, IT PROBABLY IS. SO DON’T SAY IT, OR APOLOGIZE IF YOU HAVE SAID IT ALREADY.

ASK YOURSELF, “IF SOMEONE SAID THIS TO ME, WOULD THAT BE FINE?” IF IT WOULD NOT BE, DO NOT SAY IT.

JUDGE A SITUATION: IF SOMEONE SEEMS UNCOMFORTABLE, BACK OFF. OR FEAR THE CAPS LOCK WRATH.

Yes, CAPS LOCK WRATH. And for good reason. This is the worst, and it’s got to stop. Today it’s me and an ignorant server. Tomorrow it’s someone being sexually harassed at work. The day after, I don’t even want to think about. But for the love of all that is good, let’s get on this shit. It’s fucked up that people genuinely do not know better. Let’s educate them*.

*I did offer the guy a reading list. So if you’re him, and you’re reading this, just shoot me a message.

  1. baltimoregal reblogged this from betheboy
  2. notjustmovies reblogged this from annetdonahue and added:
    I finally got Wi-Fi on vacation so I’m catching up on a bunch of stuff, and this is typically great writing/thoughts...
  3. scramblinghome reblogged this from annetdonahue and added:
    Yes. This. Omfg woman you have every right to be angry and I fully support you. That man was talking absolute bullshit...
  4. craftlady reblogged this from erinmallorylong
  5. jalmotaesseo reblogged this from betheboy
  6. dissolvedstorm reblogged this from annetdonahue
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  14. garagequeen reblogged this from annetdonahue and added:
    Fuckin’ A.
  15. laurasnapes reblogged this from annetdonahue and added:
    YES, ANNE!
  16. vaspider reblogged this from slackmistress and added:
    yup yup yup yup UNH HUNH
  17. schmanthonyp reblogged this from annetdonahue
  18. carnalthoughts reblogged this from annetdonahue and added:
    Or, Shit Stupid Men Say.
  19. frenchick-eh reblogged this from amandabrookeperrin
  20. bawdybynature said: This is everything.
  21. erinmallorylong reblogged this from annetdonahue and added:
    Anne is the best and this is all important information to think about. I know I need to hear “hey, YOU’RE not the crazy...