Since I spend most of my time reading political blogs, it has only just come to my attention that there was a kerfuffle about ladies selling stories of Cocks I Have Known, which unlike Fond Memory of A Vagina, is not---I repeat not---a valid literary art form. Don't ask questions. It's just not. It's just kissing and telling, then, or in the words of Kat Stoeffel writing for the New York Observer, "that there is some sort of feminist impulse at work, that she derives power from humiliating men with her sexuality, the same tool they used to objectify her." Which is a continuation of the mistaken belief that feminism is an ideology that wishes to continue the war between the sexes, but just wants to give women some guns, as opposed to what it actually is, which is a movement attempting to create equality between the sexes and disputes that the sexes are inherently at odds. I know that this definition of feminism has recently attracted a mansplaination about how I'm not a for-real feminist, just a, uh, "post-modern" one, but I promise. It's not a controversial view. It's in the dictionary and everything!
I'm not usually one to turn to the dictionary for the ultimate definition. There's more to feminism than this, after all. But it's certainly useful for demonstrating that, despite the claims of my critics, my belief that feminism is more pro-equality than anti-male is not an elite, practically unheard of view of feminism invented by me to be an asshole. It seems that it's a fairly common understanding of it.
Anyway, here's the story in question, with the names changed to protect the guilty, though we have every reason to suspect his girlfriend already knows. It's incredibly long and incredibly boring to those who don't find self-delusion and other forms of cringe-worthy fail endlessly entertaining*, so the TL;DR version: A 21-year-old writer who makes up for her lack of ideas with her incredibly good memory of sexual encounters emails a 40-year-old writer who I suppose I won't name, because the 21-year-old did ungraciously name him while using a fake name for herself. His name has been changed to "Adrien Brody" now, so you have to ask around to find out who it is, but these days it isn't that hard. They meet. He continues to see himself as the hapless Nice Guy® who can't get laid because the assholes are supposedly snatching up all the booty, and he believes this despite having what our author describes as a lovely, age-appropriate girlfriend. (Seriously, he tells the young woman, named Marie, that she's more "sexually experienced" than him, though he's probably been having sex for the entire duration of her life. More partners =/ more experience, as Marie's descriptions of the sex make really very clear.) He tries to quiet his deep insecurities about not getting laid as a young'un very much by sticking it to a young woman whose profound insecurities cause her to see sex as nothing more but a way to validate herself in the eyes of men, who are the only people who count, after all. They try to convince each other they're feminists. Eventually, having to endure listening to a 21-year-old go through that process of thinking she's a profound person for having the same thoughts everyone else has had (at one point, she thinks she's a genius for suggesting that porn choice and personality might be related) causes Adrian to zip it up and get the fuck out of there while Marie cries in the bed, realizing once again that sleeping with guys you perceive as high status isn't going to cure that inescapable fear that you're not good enough.
Or that's my interpretation of it. Marie seems to believe Adrian was really into her, despite the fuck-and-run, but I'm a lot closer to him in age, and I recognize from Marie's stellar memory all the signs of someone who is only pretending to be interested because they're horny. Incidentally, both men and women do this. In fact, one of the reasons that Marie's piece annoyed me was that "I sleep around to fill the hole inside" writing really undoes the work of all of us trying to assure the world that women have sex mostly because they like it.
It's interesting to me that the reaction to this has, from what I understand, mostly been dominated by those who think men and men alone own the kiss-and-tell genre that's humiliating to the kissed-and-told-upon. You'd think women would have more to say about a story that's about a guy who presents himself to the world as a good guy, but then does something like this, but from what I understand, the reaction has been aimed mostly at Marie for the kissing-and-telling. It's a tough ethical call to publish something like that. But mostly I think there is a tendency to discourage women from speaking their experiences in their communities, if doing so---god forbid---would result in other women deciding not to have sex with the guy because of his prior behavior. That, I think, is messed up.
I just really was moved, after reading this piece, to write a letter to my fellow bookish nerds.
To My Fellow Bookish Nerds:
Let's get this out of the way: I feel you. High school was a bummer, wasn't it? Seemed like everyone was getting laid but you. Or more often than you, anyway, since some of us were actually getting some kind of action in high school. You felt ugly. Unwanted. There were a lot of people posing like they had sexy, exciting lives, but you had time to read books, and felt like you were missing out on something.
So now you're older and you feel like you're definitely getting laid more than in high school. But you're still really insecure and fear that everyone can see the unfuckable nerd inside. So you act out in really inappropriate ways that, ironically (being bookish, you'll appreciate that I use that word correctly) is making you seem like a fool, and sending out a bat signal of stay-the-fuck-away-ness to people that are genuinely fun to be in sexual relationships with. You pull the Nice Guy® whine. You exploit other people's weaknesses to get sex and then act like an ass when the inevitable fallout occurs. You promise NSA sex and then get upset that partners don't fall immediately in love with you and cure all your insecurities. You start to think that rom-com tropes are real life, and then get sickly bitter when it turns out life doesn't work that way.
Just cut it out. You don't have to carry that baggage around with you. Here is what I've learned from my years of being a bookish nerd with a particular fascination for people's endless romantic goof-ups, including my own (so you know I'm not being a dick here):
1) Other people weren't/aren't getting laid more than you, so stop worrying that you're not good enough. Yeah, teenagers have sex in high school, but not as many as you think (about half by senior year) and not as often as you think. Familiarize yourself with these statistics. The kids who were bragging about how much sex they were having? Well, they were acting out like you want to now, trying to stifle their social insecurities with a little preening.
2) In fact, most people are full of shit. Just stop taking people at face value. Everyone who you look up to and who makes you feel insecure is a sloppy bag of poop who thinks they don't get laid enough and watches more TV than you'd think. They just pull it together well so that others don't see.
3) And guess what? So do you! Believe me, most of us aren't looking at you and wondering, "Oh man, they look so pathetic. They are totally not getting laid." Most people are a) far too concerned with their own bullshit to worry about yours and b) they just can't tell anything by looking at you. If you have gotten this far and have convinced yourself, "I am good at fooling people about how cool I am, but deep down inside, I'm really not," I refer you back to #2.
4) What people really like to gossip about is people who do extremely stupid shit. If you're worried that you're not cool enough, realize that tawdry sex scandals aren't going to improve their opinion of you. They're just going to make people think you're an insecure sad sack who never got over not getting laid at the prom.
I highly recommend starting the program of getting over it as soon as you graduate high school. Insecure acting out is annoying in 21-year-olds, but when 40-year-olds do it, that's when tongues really start flapping. Something to consider.
I just want to end on this note: not all tawdry sex scandals are the result of insecure people acting out. Sometimes it's really secure people who really do think they're impervious to exposure. Sometimes it's people who sincerely don't give a shit. Sometimes it's people who were just plain horny. Sometimes it's people who have deeply personal stuff that's hard to sort.
But man, you can tell the ones when it's nerds who just can't get over the fact that people will fuck them now, and have to keep proving it to themselves over and over. That's the person you really don't want to be.
*I am not one of those people. I read it with a breathless enthusiasm, as a major fan of the entire genre of epic fail.