It is I, your male-identifying cohort, Chnurk Mandog, and it’s time we had a little talk.
Before we begin this talk, though, I’m gonna tell a story.
Recently, I was in Florida, aka, America’s Moist Dangly Bits, and while there, I was on Sanibel Island, which is known in part as possessing the best shelling beaches in the world, and also offering up tiny invisible bugs called no-see-ums that appear in a shimmering cloud and buzzsaw you down to your bones. While on a shelling beach, I witnessed many things, including pretty shells, a dead rat, several dead stingrays, and a vicious red tide. I also witnessed this:
A family was walking up along the top margins of the beach. Meaning, away from the water, up by the trees. It was a father and a mother, both I’d guess in their late-30s early 40s, and a pack of four boys. Presumably, their children, or maybe clones, I dunno. The boys were chasing lizards, and one of the boys came up to his father and said, “DAD CAN I GRAB A LIZARD’S TAIL?”
And the father said, “Yeah, just don’t let him bite you.”
The boy ran off to join his lizard-hunting brothers.
Thankfully, the lizards were faster than these shitty kids, and the boys became so irritated and bored with not-catching lizards that they fucked off down to the water’s edge, instead.
My own son was with me, and I asked him, “Do you think you should grab lizards by the tail?” And he asked me, “Won’t that hurt the lizard?” And I said, “I dunno, probably.”
“Will they bite you?” he asked.
“Does that matter?” I asked. And when he looked up at me confused, I explained:
“The effect of the action on you is not as an important as the effect of the action on the lizard. Doesn’t matter if the lizard bites, because it’s not okay to go grabbing living things, because they’re not yours, and because you might hurt them.”
Our son, a little burgeoning rules lawyer, seemed pleased with this answer, and I felt, yay, a teachable moment. Huzzah and hooray.
The day went on, as days tend to.
But I was bugged by the event because I felt like I should’ve said something. Not to my own son, but to that dickhead dad and his dickhead boys — normally, I have a very strong DON’T PARENT OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN creed in place, because you can do what you want with your kids and I will handle my own, thank you. I’m not the Worldfather, I’m not your Parent Cop, and we all make mistakes. Just the same, I felt like those little fuckers are probably out ripping tails off lizards because their father couldn’t be bothered to tell them that wasn’t nice to do.
Later that afternoon, we were at a grocery store in the island called Jerry’s — and outside of Jerry’s is an array of other shops, a little courtyard, and maybe six cages that play host to various parrots or parrot-like entities. My son and I were toodling around outside while my wife was in one of the stores, and together we walked up to one of the cages, which contained, if I recall, a squawking blue-and-yellow macaw.
An older dude, maybe early 60s, was standing there next to us.
On the cage hung a sign, clearly written, in big, bold letters:
WE ARE ON A SPECIAL DIET.
PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS.
The older dude was noshing a pastry of some kind. A danish, I think.
And as we’re standing there, he took a piece of the danish, and thrust it through the cage bars to the parrot. Literally moving his hand three inches above the sign that clearly tells him DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS YOU FUCKING DING-DONG in an act of willful ignorance.
As the bird moved to the food, I snapped at him:
“You’re not supposed to feed the birds.”
He shot me a look, confused. Maybe angry. Said nothing.
“It says right there on that sign you’re ignoring. They’re on a special diet. Don’t feed the goddamn birds.” He stared at me, mute, and I said, “Are you listening?” Slowly, his hand retracted before the bird was able to claim its inappropriate pastry snack. The man continued to look at me, not saying anything, and he then hurried away toward his wife. As he scurried off, I explained to my son loudly, because I’m a jerk, “YOU CAN’T FEED BREAD TO BIRDS BECAUSE BIRDS DON’T EAT BREAD. YOU DON’T SEE BIRDS BAKING BREAD, DO YOU? NO, YOU DON’T. BREAD CAUSES MALNUTRITION IN BIRDS.” My voice got louder and louder as I said this, to ensure that the old man heard me. My son, who is now reading actual words, said, “It says right there on the sign, don’t feed the birds.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Yeah,” my son said.
“Yeah,” I said again, righteous.
I’m sure as soon as we walked away, Ol’ Danish McGee probably wandered back up and shoved a gobbet of cheese danish into the macaw’s beak. But at least I said something and I felt a little better about that, even if it didn’t answer for the jerkwad boys who were ripping tails off lizards.
You might say, Chnurk, what is the point of this story?
To which, I point to this as a partial answer:
Now, of course, obviously what I’m doing here is I’m leading up to something, and that something is not that women are lizards or birds, nor do they have tails or special diets, but rather, hey men?
You need to keep your damn hands to yourself.
Your touch is not a gift.
Your gropey, searching hands are not charity, they’re not a favor, they’re not God’s Benevolence, they’re just your dumb hands, and you need to keep them — and all your other parts, especially your stupid probably very ugly dick — to yourself. This shouldn’t be difficult. It’s literally a lesson we taught to our own son at a very early age: “Don’t touch people who don’t want to be touched.” And that want to be touched part is not only essential, but rather, it’s essential to realize that only vigorous consent can alert you to the desire to be touched. It’s not implicit. It’s not in her eyes, it’s not whispered on the wind, as if by magic. It’s spoken by the mouth, or written on a piece of paper — if someone asks for a hug or some other kind of physical contact? They want the hug. If they don’t, you can ask them proactively: “HI, MAY I HUG YOU?” and if they say yes? Hug them appropriately, in the Normal Hugging Way. If they say no? Then do not touch them. No-handsy, no-touchy. This shouldn’t be difficult. These are preschool rules, man.
It’s not even an insult if she says no. It’s just a choice. A choice born maybe of trauma you can’t see. Or a choice based on preference or predilection. Or maybe it is an insult, maybe she doesn’t like you, maybe you’re an asshole, maybe this, maybe that. It doesn’t matter. A no is a no. You are owed nothing. She is not yours. The world is not yours. More to the point:
Life is not your buffet line of sexual opportunity, jerks. Women are not in a stable for your mate or mistress selection. I once watched a dude at a grocery store hit on a blind woman (I am ashamed I didn’t say anything to him, honestly), and what I said then remains true now: women are not just sockets for your plugs. This is true everywhere. It’s true at the grocery store. It’s true in your own home. It’s true at work! I know! At work. But isn’t the workplace just a meat market where you, the Hunter-Gatherer, will select your Ladymeat from the Ladymeat on Display?
No! No you fucking ape, it’s not. The women there in the workplace are there to work. That’s literally it. They are autonomous, independent individuals, just as you yourself are an autonomous, independent individual, dude. That’s true no matter their gender, their color, their able-bodiedness — they are not yours to touch or ogle. Your own autonomy extends to the margins of your own body and no further. And, by the way, since I have a number of writer and other creative folk following along, please note too that our workplaces are a little more fluid and flexible — conventions and conferences, for instance, are our workplaces. They, too, are not your sexual buffet line. The women there, be they fans, volunteers, readers, writers, artists, whoever, are still not a box of lusty chocolates from which to choose.
Keep your shitty demon hands to yourself. They are in time-out. Stick them in your pockets if you must. Duct-tape them together. Burn them with cigarettes if they seem motivated to stray. Keep them hidden or someone is going to rightfully chop them off.
Listen, I get it. You’ve been told, or at least shown, that the WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER. All you gotta do is grab it, pop open its shell, and suck down the meat that you have claimed for yourself. Grab all the lizards you want, dominionist man! Personal liberty says you can feed that parrot whatever the fuck you want, mighty parrot-conquerer! You can feed that parrot danish, or dishsoap, or your own dick, why not? Why can’t you fuck the parrot? You are God-chosen caveman! Club what you choose and take what is yours! Women are there for your pleasure and your breeding, ha ha ha right? Christ, my own father would drive his big-ass pickup truck close to other cars so he could stare down women’s shirts. We’d go to a couple local bars, and — in full view of my mother! — would flirt with waitresses, slap their asses, that kind of thing. He never said to me, “Son, women are yours to do with as you please,” but he certainly demonstrated that. And that kind of demonstration continues today, all around us. “Rape culture doesn’t exist,” someone surely believes even as we elected an admitted sexual predator to the highest office in the land, a guy whose only spoken moral is, “You can do anything,” and that includes grabbing women in whatever way he chooses. That sexual predator is now endorsing a secondary monster, Roy Moore, who is credibly-accused of child molestation in a way where he was banned from the local mall. (But not banned from the Senate, I guess!)
And here you might be saying, whoa whoa whoa, how’d we get here? Clearly that is different. Clearly there are stratum at play here — nuance is essential, right? A guy who forces a hug is nowhere near the same as a guy who picks up 14-year-old girls and tries to force sexual acts upon them? And you’re right. Points for you. They’re not the same. The matter of degree in difference is considerable, in much the same way that slapping someone in the face is way different from blasting out their middle with a shotgun blast of buckshot.
And yet, slapping people is still wrong.
And it’s still an act of violence.
The difference between what our president has admitted doing — or what Weinstein did — and inappropriate sexual misconduct in the workplace is obvious, but both actions come from the same place: the belief that you can do what you want, that you can touch who you want, that you do not require consent to do so.
That is incorrect.
JFC, men. Stow it. Stick your hands in the nearest glove compartment, then have someone — preferably a woman — slam the compartment shut in a way so violent that it dismembers your monster hands and contains them in the prison of that glove compartment.
I have no greater point than that. The world is not your plaything. That extends to women, to each other, to all humans, to the creatures of this world, to objects you do not own, to really every damn thing under the sun that is not a part of your body or purchased by you with cash-slash-credit. Yes, you can hug women, if they consent to being hugged. With vigorous consent, you and all other consenting parties can slap all your parts together in whatever configuration you find most delightful. Affection is not dead. It’s just meant for people who actually want it. Why the fuck would you want to give affection to someone who doesn’t want it? What the fuck is wrong with you? Put your hands away. PUT YOUR STUPID HANDS AWAY. AND YOUR MOUTH AND YOUR TONGUE AND ALL YOUR BITS.
And seriously, also, your dick.
Put your dick away.
Nobody wants to see that thing.
Even people who want to see that thing really don’t want to see that thing.
No, no, I’m not saying to be ashamed of your dick, I’m just saying, unless you get an email where the font is in 144-point size Comic Sans and it says PLEASE SHOW ME YOUR DICK AT THE NEXT OPPORTUNITY, I WILL GAZE UPON THIS DICK DIGITALLY OR IN FULL 4K REALITY, and it has a signature of authenticity underneath that is notarized by three licensed sources, stop showing people your stupid dingle.
Teach this to your children.
Tell this to the men in your life.
If you see something, say something.