Disclaimer: This essay largely speaks from personal experience and acknowledges that it is not always as such. It does not support stereotypes but simultaneously aims to bring out issues that many women may have faced.
Many men often lack the ability, or rather the will, to accept no as an answer. Not only does that shatter their deeply engrained and apparently fragile ‘ego’ but on a larger scale it challenges the male patriarchal system that their norms abide to. This explains their persistence, especially in situations where you add a classist society where ‘upper class’- certainly not very ‘upper class’ in their manner- men feel entitled to have or take you, as part of their objectification of women, because of their ability to buy almost everything else with their cheques. This refers largely to the phenomenon of men buying expensive bottles in overpriced clubs and restaurants to lure women- women who too play their part in their self-objectification by being ‘on fleek’ in appearance and personality. Men are not expected to achieve physical perfection but women inevitably must to be invited into such exclusive clubs.
My most recent experience of this has been in certain clubs in Mykonos island, as well as several bougie London clubs. Many of these places are, by definition, sexist but also racist. They are first sexist because of the certain standards of beauty that they uphold-the expectation of perfection- evident by the fact that since my friend and I were not wearing heels we got ‘rejected’ from a central London club. However, when we did enter a club in Mykonos men watched us predatorially, waiting – or in my case when a man grabbed me and forced his tongue down my throat without having exchanged a single word with me or me having given him any incentive- not waiting at all. Patience or not there is no virtue in this situation. As aforementioned many London bougie clubs are also racist and plainly ignorant. One must only read my friend’s, Katouche’s article (Rutherford, 2016, Buzzfeed.com), about how her disability supposedly posed a problem to her entry in a London club. We must thus understand how issues relating to any type of minority- whether that be an ethnic group, someone disabled, or more broadly a woman- are interlinked. Such places only serve to uphold a system of white male supremacy abiding to senseless stereotypes.
However, although the most obvious example is the one mentioned above, the one we as women are most susceptible to is less evident largely because we make it seem a ‘smaller deal’ than it is. Often, it may be because we do not want to hurt our partners by saying ‘no’. Thus, even if we refuse something like sex we may give in if our partner persists because we feel bad saying no. That gives them ‘entitlement’ that makes them think they can do it consistently and results in a constant undermining of our own personal will. It reduces the pleasure of sex into a-one sided act which ultimately can be classified into sexual and/or gender-based violence whose definition under the UNHCR is “any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships” (UNHCR 2001-2017). As women, we must find the power, and it takes plenty of both power and courage, to be able to deny something that may risk upsetting our partner which we may want to satisfy. However, we must remember how much better the act is in the presence of will from both sides involved. Essentially this is a reminder to all of us, and I do include myself in that category as, I too have been in the unpleasant situation when I have had to endure something unpleasant, even painful, for the sake of making a guy happy in that moment. Essentially there is no need for such a compromise because if our partner is caring enough- and hence worth our time and ‘sacrifice’- he/she should understand that we are not available 24/7.
Words by Valia Katsi
Photos of Valia by Daniel Berberi