Confessions of Dating a Woke Male Feminist

“It’s just that I only feel affection from sex,” he insisted, in an attempt to convince me to have sex with him before he would be leaving on a camping trip with friends. I had told him I was sick, bloated, and unhappy with my body, but apparently he needed sex before that camping trip to feel affection from me. This revelation came during a rough patch of our year-and-a-half long relationship, so I doubted its validity.

He knew I hated camping, and I had initially agreed to go with him despite my misgivings until I realized I couldn’t afford the food expenses or camping equipment. I was saving to move in six months, that’s how little money I made compared to his modest yet admittedly comfortable existence. He didn’t want to move in together claiming past trauma “co-habitating” in a previous relationship, but spent nearly every night at my sublet snoring and squeezing my hand so tight in his sleep it went numb. I don’t think I ever slept through the night with him in my bed, and usually after a sleepless night I would have to struggle through early mornings at work.

I held out for my bodily autonomy the week before the camping trip, but we had sex when he returned because I felt obligated to give him what he wanted. It was the beginning of the end of our feminist relationship.

Our current zeitgeist is one where men can claim feminism as a principle but are held to different standards than women in relationships.

I think of the way men constantly push women to do things they want in sex and relationships, pushing to see how far they can go by asking with manipulation or not asking and just waiting for the woman to protest before trying to explain away their breach of boundaries. “Well, you didn’t say anything, so how was I supposed to know?” As though consent is a lack of complaint. I’ve learned that even self-styled male feminists do this and rely on male privilege to protect them from blame. “Well, I’m just a dumb guy, I didn’t mean to do it. I’m trying so hard, I’m one of the good ones!”

Every argument I initiated would inevitably include a vague and melodramatic “I do this because of something from my past” explanation, with a wistful look into the distance. Or a cop-out mention of his depression and/or anxiety, “not saying this as an excuse,” but curiously he was not seeking therapy for any of his issues clearly affecting our relationship or mentioning their effects on his behavior until I called him out for hurting or upsetting me. What an ableist I had become for not considering the trauma he endured in proximity to my trauma. I felt as though he made me into his Manic Pixie Dream Therapist, but I was unfortunately failing to make him a better protagonist in his own story by constantly nagging him for his stunted development.

Our current zeitgeist is one where men can claim feminism as a principle but are held to different standards than women in relationships, and in order to maintain allyship with these men we as women have to operate under the false pretense that men and women are already equal. But if two feminists are dating and one but not both of them identifies as a man, there can be no equality between them.

Feminist Men have the privilege of making mistakes which must be immediately and wholly absolved for The Greater Good of Feminism.

Men can say we are equal, but will always assume a position of superiority in a relationship where his feelings, his career, and his life will always take precedence over a woman’s, especially in private. (To reveal such behavior publicly opens a woman up to scrutiny, but the man will be fine in the end. Who believes women, anyway?)

I was leaving for a work trip the next day and he wanted to pick up his car outside my house and spend the night knowing I hadn’t slept the night before. I hesitantly agreed only to then find out he was leaving early the next morning for a job interview. I changed my mind about allowing him to stay the night and engaged in an extensive and one-sided text argument with him where I angrily laid out his infractions to a chorus of milquetoast apologies. That conversation was filled with his attempts to ignore my boundaries. “Are you sure I can’t spend the night? We’ll just sleep.” “I can come over just for dinner and then I’ll leave right away.” “Can’t I just see you??” He wouldn’t take no for an answer. I left his car keys at a nearby pharmacy so he could pick up his car and I could avoid seeing him. In denying him constant access to me, I “hurt” him more than he could condone.

He dumped me via email, after we had gone through the trouble of setting up a day and time to meet in person and presumably break up face-to-face. I guess he wanted to dump me quietly. Or he was just a coward. I laid the groundwork for that breakup six weeks before when I asked for space and outlined major problems in our relationship, but he insisted at the time that he didn’t want to break up, that he was going to work really hard on his issues that were holding us back from making plans and sharing our lives. He must have worked really hard on that draft before he clicked “Send.” No seminal performance from him like a film scene of how a Serious Relationship Conversation should be, just another dude clogging up my inbox with his man feelings.

It’s one thing to say we are equal, but another thing entirely to strive for equality in your daily actions. And the key word is “strive,” because Feminist Men have the privilege of making mistakes which must be immediately and wholly absolved for The Greater Good of Feminism.

“You mistrust my intentions!” is the most offensive line from his breakup email. Well, as you know from your feminist and racial justice ideology, impact is greater than intent. You can choose to forget all that you know and claim as your identity if you want to roleplay the narrative that you’re the victim of my intolerable cruelty. Is my defense against your manipulative behavior worse than your manipulative behavior? Should I have just placated a (non)White Knight for the sake of a so-called Feminist Ally?

He proudly owns a t-shirt which says “I Only Fuck Feminists,” which I can say with experience is both literally and figuratively accurate.

He still supports a podcaster who he knows to be a sexual predator. A mutual friend told him and he told me about this podcaster’s behavior. It broke my heart — our mutual admiration for this podcaster’s work was one of the things that brought us together as a couple. Apparently the women targeted by the podcaster haven’t come forward because they were afraid that due to the podcaster’s image and influence as a “woke male feminist” they won’t be believed. But no one can call my ex out if no one knows, so he’s free to feel enraged at rape culture if he’s not publicly complicit.

Everyone knows my ex, he’s the guy on Facebook, right? The one who shares all the political posts? Sometimes he even shows up to protests, always with the pained expression of a man who simply cares too much. You can find him on Tinder: swipe right for emotionally-manipulative codependency. He’ll continue to simper and blush when an unassuming friend openly claims he’s “The Best Human” despite behaving privately in ways which are counter to his own proclaimed philosophy. He proudly owns a t-shirt which says “I Only Fuck Feminists,” which I can say with experience is both literally and figuratively accurate.

They can’t all be like this, can they? #NotAllFeministMen. Maybe he was just a hypocrite. Maybe you can be an SJW and a shitty boyfriend, I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive when it’s possible to care about an idea of a person more than you genuinely care about the person right in front of you. I blame myself for being just another one of his enablers, thinking, “he wouldn’t do that to me, he’s such a Nice Guy.”

I don’t think you should separate identity politics from your personal identity in life, work, and relationships. You shouldn’t suspend your feminism in your relationship with your partner, who happens to identify as a woman. You can’t call yourself a Woke Male Feminist and just ignore your use of problematic tactics cloaked in social justice language to get what you want from women and appear blameless. Or I guess you can get away with it if your brand is “I’m a man, and I know men are the worst. If you can’t love me in spite of my flaws I guess that makes you a bad feminist, too.”

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