Author Nona Willis Aronowitz coined the term “woke misogynist”. The man that talks big game about gender equality, has read more feminist pieces than you and labels himself one too – only to turn around and harass, belittle, and gaslight women. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Being a male feminist is admirable, it can even get you laid. Oftentimes these men who claim to be feminists can be found sleeping with girls they’ve met that night, hitting and choking in the name of ‘good sex’. I sat down with girls who have experienced hookup culture within Trinity, and it was increasingly evident this experience is not a one-off.
In candid conversation among the group of girls, it shed light on the complex dynamic of modern day sexual encounters. How men that have successfully convinced women of their feminist credentials use the opportunity to make an advance. One of the girls shared a vulnerable thought that has likely crossed the minds of many: “I’ve wondered while in bed with someone, ‘if I asked you to stop right now, would you actually stop?” Another added: “And if he did stop, would he make me feel uncomfortable for asking to stop?” These queries reveal the uncertainty that can linger in intimate encounters, even among those who outwardly portray and believe themselves to be progressive.
Amidst these discussions, a profound observation was made: “I’ve found that guys change when they have sex. They often become animalistic, and it’s like ‘oh, I’m an object to you right now’.” A guy you may have felt relatively safe and comfortable with a moment before, changes when you get in bed with him. Putting on a performance that was not discussed beforehand, a performance perpetuated by internet culture and porn. One that often harms women.
One of the many cancers sprouted by internet culture is the idea that anything short of Guantanamo Bay in the bedroom is considered ‘vanilla’. When asked about the pressure of societal expectations, one girl remarked: “It feels like there’s no other option than rough sex. If it’s not rough sex, there’s no sex to be had.” There is a cultural narrative on sexual encounters that the default needs to be rough sex, and those that prioritize womens’ pleasure (i.e. feminists) are expected to partake in solely rough sex. This narrative is perpetuated by the ‘woke misogynist’.
The conversation also emphasised the significance of safe and respectful environments for sexual exploration, especially in established relationships: “Experimentation and exploration of sex can be so healthy and so fun when in a closed circuit, which is why relationships where you are comfortable and safe work.” However, it was noted that introducing curiosity and experimentation into encounters with strangers can lead to problems when mutual respect and understanding are lacking. There is a time and place for experimentation and exploration, and if not previously discussed, the time is not when hooking up with someone you don’t know well.
The finger is not just being pointed at men though, women play a role in this as well. When discussing how women perpetuate the norms of rough hookups. One of the girls states:“It’s as indoctrinated in guys’ minds as it is in womens. The idea that ‘if I’m not performing, or being super macho and manly, or if I’m not arching my back and moaning, then I am not sexy’, it’s two sides of the same coin. Both sides uphold the expectation of performance.” We’ve been culturally conditioned that rough sex is the norm, as is putting on a show and performing for the person you are sleeping with. And when a man doesn’t want to put on that show or wants to take it slow, it can often lead to women questioning themselves. One of the girls stated: “Recently, I went on a couple dates with a man, who wanted to slow it down and when it came to hooking up he was very respectful and gentle. It was the first time that it was no until it was yes. What I found interesting was that I was worried he wasn’t attracted to me when he wanted to take it slow.” Illustrating the power that men have in sexual situations.
Women are often considered sexually liberated today because we are free to enjoy sex, particularly rough sex, but the current cultural moment encourages women to mistake sexual liberation with sexual extremes. This, paired with the belief internalised by men that women want aggressive sex, perpetuates harmful hookup culture. In the culture we live in today, everyone has internalised misogyny. In order to reconcile this, we must acknowledge it and accept it. The most difficult thing to grapple with, though, is the hypocrisy of a man who covertly embodies the behaviour he proclaims to denounce.