Men Aren’t Ready For The RKelly Convo Because They Aren’t Ready To Admit To Their Unearned Entitlement
Growing up, I was the weird one. I didn’t have a boyfriend at all in high school. I had crushes on people I spent time around or who I thought were cute. I never did much with it because while they were crushes, I knew they didn’t like me back. Why would they? I’d learned early on that I was the ugliest girl in the class.
That wasn’t true, but it was what I believed. I also had trouble understanding dating. I knew my peers hung out, had sex, and hung out some more but other than that, I didn’t understand the dynamics. Plus, I wanted someone to like me who I liked back and that shit wasn’t happening.
Many of my friends had boyfriends and there were rarely in our class. Since practically everyone in our neighborhood went to the same school, that meant they were out of school. Older. Usually men over 20 who still lived in the neighborhood. It wasn’t unusual for 14–17 year-olds to have 22+ year old “boyfriends” and think they were in love. Sometimes, they were actively trying to get pregnant for their partners. I know because we talked about it. Usually it was me trying to talk them out of it, but when I say this was a commonly accepted thing, with the only deterrent to pregnancy being college, I mean it was commonly accepted.
When I was ten, a 14-year old girl disappeared. Her mother was frantic and was able to get the news involved. The story around the neighborhood was that she ran away with her 20+ boyfriend. She was returned home a few weeks later and several months after that, gave birth. This was not the first time I’d see a situation like this. And at the time, I couldn’t understand why anybody wanted to date these old guys.
But that’s because I was sheltered. While my home was slightly overcrowded, we could still eek out some personal space for ourselves. While we fought and lived daily with mental illness and lack of appropriate assistance with some difficult situations, we were mostly fine. The majority of my danger came when I left the house. I wasn’t living with pedophiles or physical and emotional violence as a daily companion. What I didn’t understand was that many of my classmates and playmates did.
We all knew about the older kid down the street who would routinely bully and sexually assault kids. I’d experienced both. We knew his mother was an alcoholic who was routinely physically abused by her husband and later her boyfriends. We knew that her youngest kid was physically and sexually abused by his older brother.
We knew about another couple — the wife was almost compulsively religious while her husband was compulsively violent. Their fights would spill out the house regularly and at one point he chased his nude wife down the street beating her up and then dragging her back home.
We knew about the husbands regularly sleeping with other womxn. We knew about the wives who stayed because they couldn’t afford to leave. I knew of classmates who’d been sexually abused by their fathers and then punished for telling and getting them arrested.
We knew grown men who sexually pursued the girls in my neighborhood. We walked past them all the time and told ourselves it was a compliment to be leered at and grabbed. To have our bodies ogled and fondled without our consent. There was a normalcy to being sexualized as children that I’d learned to navigate by ignoring and avoiding because my home was safe, and I had the privilege of opting out.
I was a fat adolescent and I dressed to hide my fat. It was the time when stirrup pants and voluminous shirts were the rage, so covering up was easy. During my senior year stretch jeans came into style and the first time I wore them, guys who I considered safe suddenly became unsafe. They openly looked at me differently, and it made me uncomfortable, so I went back to huge t-shirts and sweatpants.
By college, my standard wardrobe was a joke. I looked at it as comfortable and never really thought of it as armor until I put on clothes that fit and, again, men who I had playful, comfortable interactions with suddenly felt compelled to talk about my body and ask shit like “where have you been hiding all this?”
I experimented with my look. For class, I wore loose fitting clothes but for the club or parties, I’d wear more form fitting things. I’d be more…open to the sexualization that was happening to me. I’d be more complicit with it. I fucked up a few times, but I fought to control my sexual narrative, even before I fully understood that I was at war. Before I fully understood that physical and sexual violence were cruel and wrong and abusive. Before I understood that every woman I knew was figuring out how to fight that same battle against hardened veterans of the practice.
I have friends who have been raped and accepted it as their fault for being vulnerable around men they thought were their friends. I have friends who have experienced sexual trauma all their childhood and were trying to figure out how to be “normal” without outside help. I have friends who have never sought help, who hate sex and blame themselves every time they cannot meet that need in a relationship. We have all learned in one way or another that our will, our bodies, and our right to choose were barely acknowledged and often stripped away at the whim of some male ego.
We are conditioned to love our abusers, to keep space for our abusers, and to accept and internalize the pain of our abuse.
We are not exceptions. We are the NORM. The exception for us is the poisonous snake who doesn’t bite.
And while my significant other has not exhibited any behavior that would lead me to think he is sexually violent, life has taught me that everyone is capable of anything, and that I am putting my life in his hands every time I choose to sleep next to him, which is why during my single days, I never let men sleep over when we had sex.
Men struggle to respect womxn. Men struggle to understand that they struggle to respect womxn. Men assume that womxn defer to them out of respect rather than fear, exhaustion, or frustration because we’ve been doing this ridiculous dance around male egos for decades and still haven’t managed to remain unscathed. Men don’t see how society has conditioned them to see themselves as bastions of reason and fairness and that anyone who challenges that is somehow broken.
Men struggle to see how they feel entitled to womxn’s trust. They struggle to see how each and every one of them is a potential threat. Men struggle to see how their words and actions are automatically assumed to be more accurate, worthy, or informed than the womxn around them. Men believe that this is the case and navigate the world talking over and disregarding womxn’s ideas and autonomy at will, and when challenged will resort to manipulative and abusive behaviors to reassert their perception of dominance.
Men refuse to see they are monsters of entitlement and, like me with my safe childhood home, will opt out of examining the traumatic conditions that make the intolerable a reasonable option. They won’t see the financial vulnerability that makes a market for sexual exploitation. Instead, they’ll call womxn hoes and consider us sub-human. They won’t see how they create and facilitate a market for sexual exploitation of children; they’ll blame the moms and call the children sexual deviants begging for abuse. They won’t see the ways men exclude womxn from decision-making conversations and interactions, but instead will say that womxn just aren’t interested in the conversation. They won’t see the ways they build all-male networks and feel completely justified in making decisions about womxn’s lives despite knowing virtually nothing about what it is like to be a woman in this society. And they won’t admit how their fragile, wounded egos can’t accept that plenty of womxn are better at the shit they think they’re great at doing.
Men hate the truth because that means they aren’t better than womxn. They hate learning that whatever tiny bit of success and power they’ve “earned” was because of a society that actively works to subjugate and destroy womxn, thereby minimizing their competition and when you factor in race, that takes it to a whole other level.
It must suck knowing that you are “dominant” by proxy instead of skill. But that’s something for men and their allies to finally realize for themselves. I learned that shit long before I understood it and now that I do, I choose not to make it my personal problem anymore.
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Originally published at talynnkel.com.