We’re All Dating “Sleepless in Austin”

Image Credit: Gregg Segal for Time
Image Credit: Gregg Segal for Time

Nothing sets the feminist Internet abuzz quite like sexism presented in a bulleted list. Whether it be the Craigslist “worthy gentleman” with his fondness for misplaced quotation marks, the New Jersey surgeon who went to five—count them five—universities, or the newest entry, the racist, sexist gem known as “Sleepless in Austin,” these troglodytes are comic gold. We make fun. They go away. And everyone is happy. Because we assume they are merely an aberration or an unfortunate throwback to the days when people thought reading made women infertile. But these entitled men with their laundry lists of physical requirements keep popping up because we’ve raised a generation of men who believe that it’s totally acceptable for a man to dictate how a woman should look. Sure, most men have a bit more self-awareness and empathy than this unfortunate Austinite. But they’ll still tell their girlfriends exactly how much pubic hair they’re allowed to have. So “Sleepless in Austin” isn’t a joke. He’s like 75% of the unmarried men in New York City.

Humans, both male and female, have always had physical preferences, but heterosexual young men suddenly feel that it’s socially acceptable to voice these predilections to the women lying naked beside them. Although I‘m normally opposed to blaming every 21st-century ill on Internet porn, I’m making an exception in this case. Because porn, and media saturation in general, is clearly a big part of this problem. When a young man spends countless hours a day directing one nondescript girl after another to perform at his command, it shouldn’t be surprising that he considers it reasonable to tell his girlfriend that her upper arms are flabby. When 99% of the women he encounters in the media have been curated to meet his specifications, why wouldn’t he expect his girlfriend to follow suit?

Now, I certainly don’t believe that all young men are socially-stunted, porn-addled sexists. My first boyfriend was a mensch, and I have countless male friends and family members who understand that belittling a woman’s body is on par with repeating homophobic slurs or generally being a despicable human being. But, sadly, ten years of dating in New York City has led me to the disturbing conclusion that perhaps I just have cool friends.

During the past decade, boyfriends have felt the need to instruct me on the following: my weight, my hair length and style, the height of my heels, the frequency with which I wax, the length of my nails, my muscle definition, the type of makeup I wear. And I was once called out for having an errant hair on one of my nipples. None of them handed me a list of requirements before we started dating. But perhaps they should have. It would have been much more efficient.

I recently dated a man who was particularly bad about female bodies. Although he was relatively happy with my thin frame, he continually critiqued the bodies of other women as though he had some rare form of misogynistic Tourette’s. He’d point out women who had a hint of belly pudge or look away in horror when a woman had the audacity to wear a bikini without first being skinny. When I calmly suggested that he stop being such a jerk puppet, he argued that you can’t control your physical preferences. Which is true. But you can control the words coming out of your mouth. So, no, you’re not just being honest, angry man. You’re being a dick. And you should probably stop that. Because it’s 2013, and it’s ridiculous that so many men need to be told that even though they’re free to be attracted to women of any shape or size, they shouldn’t discuss women as though we’re all Weimeraners competing in the Westminster Dog Show.

While women should obviously stick up for themselves and demand that men stop it with this “honest” talk about women’s bodies, this can be relatively difficult when you’re, quite often, literally naked during these discussions. And, moreover, I’m sick of the onus always being on women. It can be fairly challenging to celebrate and accept your body when someone is constantly pointing out your “flaws” or the apparent “failings” of women around you. Perhaps, just this once, we could put the burden of change on men. Perhaps, just this once, we could ask men to recognize that having a penis doesn’t give them the right to order up the vagina of their choice—because that vagina is attached to a body, which is attached to the brain of a human being. And that human being shouldn’t have to put up with this type of behavior from someone who claims to be a grown-ass adult. Perhaps just this once.

10 Replies to “We’re All Dating “Sleepless in Austin””

  1. I was never really aware of there being so many feminists in America until I created my website, I just always thought these types of women with these thoughts/attitudes were either bull dykes, ugly women that can’t get laid, or straight up bitches! haha!!! I had no idea that these are what are actually known as “feminists”! haha!!!! It’s so ironic that when I think of the word feminine or feminist I picture these images in my mind of beautiful women that are very submissive and feminine and lady like, you know the way real women are supposed to be! A woman is supposed to be a woman and a man is supposed to be a man! I expect to be the dominant one, I’m the man, and I like my woman to be soft & sweet. But these stupid feminists people are so manly looking and acting! I bet they even have hairy legs and armpits! haha!!! They are so demanding of what they want and they are so much control freaks, “no mans gonna tell me to do this or do that etc” These are also ironically also usually the same women you see fighting for pro choice abrotion/murder, and I always look at them and think my god why are you so passionate about this when most of you feminists are so ugly & have such disgusting manly attitudes, what man would ever get drunk enough to have sex with ou in the first place! haha!!!! I will be writing a much more detailed blog on my site about all of this later tonight! hahahaha!!!!

    When in a relationship I think it’s perfectly healthy & natural to expect your girlfriend to look good for you and vice versa. If my next girlfriend decides she dosen’t like my facial hair, fine I will shave no big deal.
    And if I think of things that my next girlfriend does that makes her more attractive to me then I will point them out as well, and yeah if she got all bitchy and said oh i’m not gonna do this or that, it’s my body, my style, blah blah blah,
    then yeah i would be very hurt & mad about that.
    I believe in 2 people trying to please each other and make each other happy. Not trying to wage a war over petty stuff just cause I may think a girl looks best
    at a certain hair length. Oh yeah, if I was dating a girl and she knew how much I loved her hair and knew how beautiful her hair was and then she just shaved it bald one day without giving a damn to how that would make me feel,
    yeah I’d probably break up with a inconsiderate bitch like that and then wonder how did I ever fall in love with someone like that in the first place.
    I mean this bitch in this article, just goes on and on and on and on about all this stuff guys try to tell their girlfriends to do for them in order to look how they would like them to look, and she’s just so pissy about it, and I’m like get over it bitch, stop trying to be so dominant, submit to some of these things a man likes and let him be a damn man and have some damn say in things! haha!

    1. The fact that you repeatedly used “that” when describing your woman of choice shows that you would not value her as a person, but rather a thing. A woman (or any person for that matter) is a who.

    2. I love how you use the naturalistic fallacy, Larry when you have those plastic horse teeth. I’m not surpised at your inability to use reason when you can’t even focus a camera.

    3. You parodied those jerk PUA guys perfectly! Bravo!… Oh…wait.. YOU WERE SERIOUS? “Romeo Rose what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. “

    4. You are an idiot Romeo and no wonder you are single. There is more to a person than looks. And no I’m not an “ugly bitch who can’t get laid”. You might want to lay off the Hahahaha’s in your writing. It makes you look like a 15 year old girl.

  2. I always assume guys like Romeo up there are insecure about whether they’re real men and are afraid other guys are going to laugh at them if their girlfriend doesn’t measure up on the hotness scale. And if not shaving my legs — not to mention not putting up with that dominant male crap — keeps guys like you away from me, that’s an even stronger argument for doing those things.

  3. Anna, it is an incredible credit to you that your article is so thoughtful and well-written, while Romeo Rose’s response (seriously, is that a name?) is so riddled with grammatical errors, obvious fallacies of thought, and a blatant dearth of self-awareness.

    I have noticed this pattern in many men who I’ve dated or been friends with. It needs to be said that, regardless of personal preference, it is not acceptable for men to consider themselves the arbiters of what women should look like or how they should behave. It is unhealthy, irrational, and degrading.

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