Against Jokes, Expressions of Attraction, & Free Speech for Men

I must have hit some sort of critical tipping point, because I can’t seem to go a week without a man getting angry at me for not agreeing with him when he comes into my online spaces and says something contentious. The excuses are usually based on the alleged humor of the remarks (often retroactively applied), the particular man’s sexual preferences, and Freeze Peach.

If “jokes,” “expressions of attraction, and “free speech” mean “they must agree with me at all times” in men’s minds, then I’m very much against all three.

Yes, I do have a sense of humor. No, you aren’t funny.

So you made a joke and I didn’t find it funny, and now you’re sad. Maybe I replied with snark that everyone thought was funnier than your joke, and you’re upset about my having one-upped you. Here’s a free piece of advice: You need to calm down and stop taking yourself so seriously. You made an unfunny joke or poorly presented a joke that might need work. It’s okay. It happens to the best of us.

Your mind is probably turning to rationalizations that paint me as

  • oversensitive / hypersensitive
  • lacking in a sense of humor
  • boring
  • uncharitable
  • mean
  • easily offended
  • prudish
  • politically-correct
  • joyless
  • no fun at parties

Sadly, none of these things are true. If you take these and run with them, you’re letting emotion get the better of you. Take a deep breath instead and let it go. After all, it’s just a joke. You’ll do better next time, I’m sure. Take it from me. Unlike you, I’ve successfully done comedy for unsympathetic (if not quite hostile) crowds, online and off; you’re failing even at this minor attempt at humor. My sense of humor is contingent on my ability to make people laugh, not my ability to find your half-baked attempt at humor funny.

Your sexual attraction is irrelevant.

It seems to shock certain men that their lack of sexual arousal is not germane to most conversations. It upsets them that their utterance of some variation of the phrase “I find that unattractive” is not a conversation-ender, if not a world-changer. They think that the global population is supposed to fret over their particular lack of genital swelling and work in earnest to rectify the travesty that is their lack of prurient interest.

They aren’t the worst offenders, though. Most people will recognize, at least on some muddled level, that calling someone unattractive is mean and therefore agree that saying so is unnecessary. What people who recognize the superficial problem with the act of dubbing something or someone unarousing (which is its seeming cruelty) fail to understand is the fallacy of the very premise. If you reject the implicit assumption that sexual attraction is at all important to the inherent value of anything or anyone, that some particular man doesn’t find it hot is a non-sequitor rather than cruel.

Without the rejection of that flawed premise, sexual attraction still has the potential to be weaponized in its more “positive” form. Declarations of attraction in conversations where anyone’s particular attraction is not the issue have the potential to be just as derailing and detrimental as declarations of a lack of attraction. The former is worse than the latter because they can hide behind the shield of “positivity” and “compliments.”

Take, for instance, a conversation about fat hatred. It seems that some men believe that their declaration of attraction to a fat person somehow eliminates the effect that fatphobia has on that fat person. Their well-meaning yet self-absorbed actions do nothing but re-center male arousal as the metric by which worth is determined. It is that centering that is the problem, not the alleged cruelty in declaring a lack of attraction. Yet speaking up about the problems with irrelevant declarations of attraction is considered unseemly and cruel, a returning of positivity with negativity. That is what makes it so dangerous.

I couldn’t care less about your cold fruits.

The majority of “humor” pages and websites are misogynistic and otherwise *-ist in every possible way. Many porn and “admirer”-type sites, blogs, Tumblr, subreddits, and pages allow and encourage expressions of sexual attraction. That one person didn’t want or enjoy your comments in their space hardly means that your ability to express yourself is legitimately under siege.

It seems that, to some men, free speech means being able to say whatever they want whenever they want in whatever space they want to whomever they want without ever facing any consequences, however paltry and meager, for their words. Their definition of “free speech” begins and ends with their own speech, leaving no room for others to exercise that right. Funny, that.

Even funnier is when such exchanges occur on social media. Offended men often act as if my space is the only space they have in which to express themselves. It’s as if they don’t realize that they have their own Facebook walls and Twitter feeds on which to share their opinions ad nauseum if they so wish, as well as delete and/or block any comments they don’t like.

Freedom of speech does not mean I am obligated to coddle you. I am not your indulgent filial female figure. It is neither my duty nor my responsibility to cater to every person ever to ensure that each of them finds a safe space for their opinions specifically with me. If you don’t like the way that I treat your precious words on my spaces, you are fully within your right to withdraw from my spaces and retreat to your own.

Do you wanna build a straw-man?

I can hear it now, the cries of the #NotAllMen: “But that’s not what humor / attraction / free speech actually is!”

Too. Fucking. Bad.

For me, the well is well and thoroughly poisoned through and through. I didn’t start out believing that the terms like “humor,” “sexual preference,” and “free speech” were excuses for men to be assholes. Instead, it was consistently and repeated exposure to such men, online and off, that informed me that my theoretical definitions for those terms were bullshit, and I needed to revise my working understanding of those terms to better reflect reality.

I am absolutely, positively done with men who barge into my conversations and don’t like what I say in reply to their intrusions. I am exhausted by their inability to understand that sometimes, their perspectives are unnecessary, denialist, and unwanted. I am bored by their spluttering justifications for their behavior. I am annoyed by their ability to derail and destroy interesting conversations.

I am done.

Calling something a joke is not a free pass. Expressions of attraction or lack of attraction won’t always be allowed to flow freely in all spaces. Free speech is not a get-out-of-everything-free card.

Against Jokes, Expressions of Attraction, & Free Speech for Men

40 thoughts on “Against Jokes, Expressions of Attraction, & Free Speech for Men

  1. 2

    “free speech” were excuses for men to be assholes

    And they never seem to realize that if the best thing you can say about the thing they just said is that it’s not technically illegal to say it, they’ve really demonstrated just how worthless a thing is was to say.

  2. xyz

    It seems to shock certain men that their lack of sexual arousal is not germane to most conversations. It upsets them that their utterance of some variation of the phrase “I find that unattractive” is not a conversation-ender, if not a world-changer.

    Yeah guess what. To quote Amy Poehler, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”

    The twisted part of all this is that it’s the only way they know how to tell you they consider you somehow influential or interesting; they simply can’t relate to you outside a framework of control. “I read your blog, now you have to laugh at / look like / say / tolerate what I want you to!” Ugh

  3. 6

    Calling something a joke is not a free pass. Expressions of attraction or lack of attraction won’t always be allowed to flow freely in all spaces. Free speech is not a get-out-of-everything-free card.

    It’s really pretty simple, which makes it all the sadder/more irritating that this even needs to be spelled out.

  4. 8

    Heina, this post is great. I have always had an instinctive distaste (if not revulsion) for comments where someone states his attraction, but you did a great job of articulating WHY. Thanks.

  5. 13

    … And now that song is back in my head, again. Ah, well, it’s a decent enough movie.

    This entry is, as is so often the case on your blog, absolutely marvelous.

  6. 14

    Fuck, now I’ve got an earworm…

    I know it’s really a killjoy move, but what I found quite effective when supposedly decent people tell horribly bigotted jokes is to play dumb. Make them explain the punchline.
    Because having to say “It is funny because people with characteristic X are Y” is usually really embarassing.

  7. 15

    Is this the first article you’ve written? I think it’s really awesome how aware you are in your surroundings. Maybe that makes you different or maybe that just makes you outspoken. Either way, it’s nice. Though, I don’t know why I get this feeling and maybe it isn’t even true to you, but I feel like you would be the type of woman that would stand up against the misled, beta men that populate our society, but would simultaneously enjoy the power you had over them. Sort of like a super power. It’s a feeling of comfort, that there are still intelligent and proud women out there, but we both know that publicly bashing men isn’t shining you in the best light either. Men of today aren’t taught the social skills and pick up on what they see publicized in the media. I don’t have to say it, because deep down you know that it is true. We. Aren’t. All. The. Same. Do both Women and Men the favor and just remember – Hate the player, not the game.

    – Moto

    1. 15.1

      Um, is this your first time on the Internet? I have years’ worth of archives right here:

      And I honestly have no idea what you’re trying to say? That I’m some kind of weird dominatrix? That I am bashing men merely by relaying my experiences with some men’s inability to barge into my spaces and act entitled? What’s “beta” about men who act entitled in the ways I describe? I have so many questions.

  8. 16

    I don’t often find myself having the time to read blogs – though I found your’s to be quite titillating. Alpha or social providing men, are just that.. social providing. I will admit that it’s cute how you use the word entitled as if it is some sort of negative connotation. If you really think that you are the rarest gem on the face of the earth and men are not “worthy” of trying to show their attraction to you in the only way they know how, then you might be right – but probably not. Let me explain… it will only take a second. The fact that men dislike your replies to their intrusions is simply a judgement on the character of the man, but also on yourself. Men who often approach beautiful women are accustomed to such negatively and can handle such responses like, well… men. Since you are often being approached by men who clearly can’t handle your responses, maybe you shouldn’t seat yourself so high up on your own throne. You are what I like to call, TROUBLE. I feel like you’d be the kind of girl that would love a man to sweep you off your feet without him even opening his mouth.

    – Moto

    1. 16.1

      I wasn’t talking about myself in particular, actually, in terms of the attraction thing. Nor was I speaking of men hitting on me or anyone for that matter. I was talking about something else entirely, when I’ve posted things that had nothing to do with sexual attraction and men talk about whether or not they are sexually attracted to the person or thing being discussed even though sexuality has nothing to do with it. I was speaking of men who think their attraction or lack of attraction to something is relevant to every conversation.

      Additionally, I’m not what most people would call “beautiful”. I don’t get approached by many men at all and I’m perfectly comfortable with that since I already have one male partner and am dating a woman.

      So sorry for your confusion and I hope that clears things up a bit!

      1. Being comfortable and confident should be synonyms if they aren’t already. Your preferences are personal to you and that’s great, but what most people call “beautiful” is fucked. All women are beautiful. I don’t know what it is about you all; whether it be a smile, a look, a curve or a laugh, all women are beautiful and it’s a pleasure to connect both playfully and emotionally with women like you. Either way – you’re article is so-so, but you seem cool!

        – Moto, your biggest critic

        1. You really don’t know how the Internet works, do you. Let me explain.

          1. I get hits on here every day in the quadruple-digits. This isn’t some cutesy conversation we’re intimately having on a dating site or on private message, this a performance.
          2. Sweet neg, bruh. Yes, I see what you’re doing, telling me my work is crap but I’m attractive. This isn’t my first rodeo. This isn’t a rodeo, even. It’s a blog. I’m here to write things and talk about my writing. I do not care whether or not you find me beautiful or cool. Think with your other head and focus on what this is.
          3. Saying you are my biggest critic is a really high claim, higher than you know. There is an entire forum dedicated to reading those of us who write for this blog network and criticize any little thing they can find. You’ve got major competition, cupcake.
          1. Yep, you’re not as original as you think you are. Amazing, that. You accuse me of thinking I’m too high for men to hit on me based on a poor reading of my post yet you’re the one thinking that you’re the first man to combine insult with compliment in a poor attempt to get a woman to do what you want.

    1. 18.1

      Hai Moto,

      When you visit people’s houses for the first time, do you tell them (without them asking you) that, yeah, the carpet is too red and the chairs don’t go with the couch, but, y’know, overall it shows that there’s someone with a distinct taste living there?

      You wouldn’t stay in my house for long, I can tell you.

  9. 19

    God, how can Moto’s posts be so simultaneously derivative & formulaic AND incoherent & inarticulate? If you’re going to be so predictable, at least put the effort in to make it comprehensible.

    1. 19.1

      M’thew- One of my houses is filled with oak, one mahogany, the other is modern. I’ve developed an eclectic taste and respect that in others, but I would in fact say that their carpet reminds me of spilled wine in a once decent white carpeted living room, and also that red wine is my favorite and brings back some of the best childhood memories after growing up in an Italian cultured family.

      Freemange- I enjoy having an aura of mystique surrounding my extroversion attitudes towards social dynamics, and my penis.

  10. 22

    I’m really uncomfortable with people who use complex words and phrases in an attempt to sound intelligent and then use them either incorrectly or in a clunky, over-stylized fashion. I find it makes people who want to sound intelligent sound less so and is often a decent tell that someone has an over-inflated sense of their own importance and/or intelligence. I have met a number of PUAs who engage in this sort of abuse of language and I’m not sure if it is a symptom of how they compensate for their feelings of inadequacy or if it is just part of the script. Either way, language in conversations is always best when it is used to communicate not used to inflate the speaker/writer’s ego. Just saying.

    Side note or rather a note on topic to the OP: Heina this post is, as usual, wonderful and communicates something I’ve thought for a long time but have never been quite able to articulate. Thanks.

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