Musings from a 21-year-old male ally

I am 21, male, and very grateful to have many strong female influences in my life. They have taught me so much about what it is to be a woman and go through the day-to-day experiences of verbal assault, unwelcome advances, and other explicit perverse behavior. My heart goes out to all of you that have had to suffer the immature, uncivilized conduct of what I hope is a minority of men. That said, I am still a man, and understand first hand the biological and societal conventions of men.

My story is short, and rantings long. I have devoted much time to educating myself about the differences of men and women in an effort to understand and improve my own social capabilities.

Riding with my aunt and female cousin in a cab in NYC one afternoon, we came to a stop light somewhere in SOHO. A group of men in their early twenties were waiting to cross. They were clearly staring at my female companions and my mind painted an image of a group of apes puffing out and beating their chests, making loud screeches, and throwing grass around (a la Tarzan) in a sort of primal routine meant to attract a mate. I positioned myself to block their view of my family and gave them a look that said, eloquently enough, “fuck off.”

Unfortunately this seems to be as far as a lot of “civilized” people have psychologically evolved. Our long evolved biological inclinations for mate selection and reproduction are so influential that our recently developed social structuring cannot compete. Some of the problems I have witnessed or experienced include:

Men are inevitably rejected at some point when first exploring intimate interactions, and without proper coping mechanisms, cognitive dissonance leads to justifications such as “she doesn’t like me, so she must just be a bitch” and other thoughts that can build up and lead to self loathing and increasingly more damaging interactions (abuse, rape etc.)

Women have a much greater investment in child bearing than the man, they carry the child, breast feed, etc. They have to be much more selective, and may have to reject so many advances that their rejections become reflexive and callous. It may appear rude to a shy nice guy that gets up the courage to talk to her but has no social intuition.*

Many men are so starved for physical intimacy that they try force a romantic relationship with a woman they are attracted to without bothering to look for things that really matter in a relationship, like compatibility, shared interests, good conversation, or what is often vaguely described as “chemistry.”

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of aspects, techniques, and rules of social interactions that need to become mainstream knowledge so that women can feel safe, men can experience more positive relationships, and society as a whole can function better.

– Nick W.

*[Editor’s Note: Or the women have faced so much harassment that it’s hard to distinguish “nice guys” from harassers. Too many seemingly nice guys turn into harassers, stalkers, or even abusers later.]

This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.

2 Responses to Musings from a 21-year-old male ally

  1. Nigerian Sista says:

    You made a good point in regards to pointing out that some guys have bad coping mechanisms with rejection and then use that as a way to react improperly. They need to grow up. We as women constantly ger critiqued about our appearance in public by guys and sometimes the critiques can be very negative, mean, and cruel. If we can still bounce back from that then they should learn how to cope with rejection. Also as the editor noted, women get harassed so much that it gets to a point where you just can’t distinguish the good from the bad and you shut ALL out. I think their needs to be more standup guys like you who address this issue. I don’t know how many times a strange guy had approached ME only to turn around and be rude and dishonorable. It got so bad that my only coping mechanism was to simply ignore EVERYONE.

  2. Alan says:

    Thanks for sharing thus, Nick. Many good thoughtful comments and observations. Here’s hoping all men could be as sensitive to the issues and shield their aunt and cousin from unwanted street harassers!

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