html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Yes, including you.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Yes, including you.

I think I heard it on This American Life, when the male narrator said that the very first thought every straight man thinks on seeing every woman is “would I fuck her?”. I believed that instantly, and also understood that it isn’t even a matter of actively wanting, just an assessment of whether. I do something sortof similar; on my first glimpse of every man, I decide whether I would win in a fight with him.

I mostly decide that I would. I trained for years and I am not small. Then I’ll relax and become friends with him. If I don’t decide I would win a fight with him (unusually tall or strong, long reach or trained) I probably won’t spend time around him. Why would I introduce that risk into my life when there are so many nice people who pose no threat to me? A tall man with a gentle presence can overcome that bias, but I am wary for a while.

Claudia thought that was a creepy, neurotic way to think, but I don’t understand the alternative. What do small or untrained women do? Just trust? Trust each man's good will? Trust societal mores? Trust their instincts to leave? All the time? Live with a mostly unnoticed feeling of vulnerability? I don’t have to do that. My reward for giving a decade of my life to taekwondo is that men should feel that about me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad that there are some women who are proactive about these sorts of issues. Trust me, if I have daughters, they will be skilled at both armed and unarmed combat. Additionally, I hope they will have your intelligent caution.

12:04 PM  
Blogger grant said...

My brother is going to Clemson to play football. I'm a power-lifter. We're both over 6'5", around 250lbs, and have shoulders so broad we usually have to turn or scrunch our shoulders to get through doorways.

We are two of the kindest and gentlest beings on earth (not to mention humble!). Neither of us have ever been in a physical fight, nor attacked anyone in a violent manner in any way whatsoever. We've both had to use our size to intimidate bullies but that's never come to blows.

Domestic violence makes us both very angry. If we're in arms reach of a man who will hurt a woman or a child or anyone weaker than himself he's likely to learn a very sharp lesson (I hope it never comes to that but I'd rather be in a position to stop the behavior than avoid a fight).

None of this is macho posturing however much it might sound like it -- it's just the way we were raised.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems like a ridiculous level of precaution to take. Right off the bat, I think it's pretty commonly accepted now that women are the source of domestic abuse just as often as men.

But, if you're so incapable of trust that you see everyone as a potential threat, I'm not sure how you can ever really expect to have a relationship.

This sounds like some sort of weird control/power issue you have with men.

Anyway, as much training, and as tough as you think you are, it's all meaningless. Even if you could take the guy, what would you do if he grabbed a bat? A knife? A gun? How about if he just waited until you were sleeping, or off guard?

It seems like you're going to have to have a lot more trust in a person you're dating than you're willing to have. You're always going to be vulnerable, especially to the people closest to you.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

After my initial "Would I fuck her?"

I usually think, "Could I beat her at Street Fighter II Champion Edition?"

1:15 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Second anonymous:

But in all relationships where there is a size or aggressiveness difference, there is one person who has to say 'well (s)he could hurt me, but (s)he just wouldn't.' (Lots of the time, that assessment is true and people live happily together.) I think most small people just reflexively decide to trust that larger people won't hurt them; big people have the luxury of never thinking about it.

There are a million ways that I'll have to trust my partner - to want to be with me, to keep my confidences, to be true to his word... . But I do not have to trust that he won't one day lose his temper and start hitting me, because he can't.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, like I said, even if you think you could take him hand to hand, what would you do if he grabbed a weapon, or just caught you off guard?

I had a girlfriend who'd been mad at me during the day about something or other, then, actually waited until I fell asleep to start hitting me. Not that she actually hurt me, I'm not even sure if she intended to, but, that's beside the point.

The reality is you're going to be vulnerable to anyone you're close to. If he really wants to hurt you, he's going to succeed.

It seems a little dangerous to start every relationship off with this kind of power struggle in your head.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Macneil said...

"my first glimpse of every man, I decide whether I would win in a fight with him. ... I mostly decide that I would. I trained for years and I am not small. Then I’ll relax and become friends with him."

Ding, ding, ding! We've found the reason you have troubles meeting decent men. If that's the first vibe you give off men will notice. Whatever great qualities you have will be nullified. Sure, some guys won't mind, but what a way to reduce the pool!

As for vulnerability, we're all vulnerable. Even that guy you could totally take might have a gun. Or, have a higher-degree belt in even more martial arts. Or, for that matter, simply get in a lucky punch. No training is sufficient enough to defend against a lucky punch (that's why they're called lucky).

At some point in your life, a younger you decided that this risk in life should have a heavy weight. You're a different you now. Say goodbye to that younger you.

Anyway, I object to the belief that the first thing a straight man thinks of when he meets a woman is sex. We think about it only to the same degree as women think the same thing (in terms of sex, not fighting). But that's only in terms of averages.

See, on average, men and women aren't all that different. The only real difference is that mean are further spread from the mean (in the positive and negative directions). So, sure, there will be more men obsessed with sex, but also more men who qualify as asexual. But mostly? We're all in the middle somewhere.

2:29 PM  
Blogger capella said...

I think people have different sorts of requirements for safety. You seem to be a very physical person (i.e. you relax and socialize through sports) so it makes sense you would view a physical assault as particularly invasive and perhaps be more relaxed about other sorts of potential harm. People with other safety needs would naturally concern themselves less with someone's ability to physically injure them because it is less important relative to other things, and you can't worry about everything.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous ScottM said...

Given the biases of our culture, your considerations are reasonable, but may be offputting. I suspect that's fine; to the majority of men (those whose butts you can kick) you'll project confidence, which is attactive to many of the men you want.

OT: Anonymous2's insinuation that "Right off the bat, I think it's pretty commonly accepted now that women are the source of domestic abuse just as often as men" is wrong. (cite & cite)

2:46 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I meant that I do that in the low-key, background way that men wonder whether they would fuck her. I don't think it is even as conspicuous as a sizing up. But it probably does carry through to the rest of my attitude. I think it is more like Grant, or other mellow, big guys. I can be easy-going and confident, because inside I know I've got the physical prowess to back it up.

I've always thought it makes me less scared or hostile, not more.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mispasted your first link, it should be

And, you may be right, I may have misremembered, domestic violence may not be equally split between the genders, but it's not one sided at all.

cite & cite & cite & cite
The vitriolic 20-year conlroversy (Straus, 1990~; Straus, 1992b; Straus,
1997) had largely subsided by 1997. There are a number of reasons the
controversy subsided. One reason is the overwhelming accumulation of
evidence lrom more than a hundred studies showing approximately equal
assault rates

Anyway, I won't argue that point any further. At the very least it's clear the problem isn't one sided.

And, my point still stands, going into a relationship with a power struggle mentality isn't such a good idea.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Brandon said...

Vibe/attitude issues aside, I suspect that I speak for the majority of men when I say I'd rather not date a woman who could take me in a fight. It doesn't matter how easy-going you are--if you're not at least a couple of inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter than me, I'm probably not interested.

Based just on my preferences and experience, here's what I think: At best, this is going to limit your options--a lot of the men you want to date may not be interested in you. At worst, you'll end up with a man who resents you for making him feel emasculated and whom you can't fully respect.

That's just me, though. People aren't all the same, and what wouldn't work for me might work out just fine for you.

I'd research domestic violence before getting too worried about it. I doubt there are very many cases where a perfect husband just snaps one day severely beats his wife. I imagine that in the vast majority of cases it's something where a reasonable person can see the signs a long time before it escalates into anything really bad.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Ananda said...

So, in other words, when you said you had a few standards for your men: "smart, funny, and nice all the way through" -- you left something off the list.

It is interesting that the set of men who are "nice all the way through" and the set of men who fail this standard appear, in your view, to have a non-empty intersection.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan, I really like the post titles you pick.


big people have the luxury of never thinking about it.

You know, this is very true. I couldn't understand this for the longest time, not until

a) I had worked through some issues with an ex because she had been assaulted at one point

b) a good friend who's on the short side got exasperated with me because I was having trouble sympathizing with the fact that women get targeted in these sick power games physically and mentally

c) I read de Becker's Gift of Fear.

I have a confidence that many people do not, part of which comes simply from always having been massive. Most people guess I weigh 50-75 pounds less than I do, and I've been this size since I was around 11. (There was an article once about the two biggest kids, by far, in the city football league, me and the center on the same team. You wouldn't believe some of stuff I can surprise a follow with given that muscle mass.)

Megan, by your criterion in this post, sounds like you probably wouldn't befriend me were we in the same city. Well, that, and the fact that the only sport I ever really like playing was soccer. I absolutely detest pointless running, but add a ball to it... Too bad, but at most I would only have grounds to be a bit sad that a person who is rather geeky and also expresses herself so well (two quantities often orthogonal in engineers and scientists), isn't interested in spending time with me. It's just the way things are for some women, and guys need to deal.


11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is another post that relates to yours....

4:40 AM  
Anonymous eric said...

Megan, that picture of the ultimate guy you posted -- he looked pretty big. I would assume that even if thats not an actual picture of the actual guy, you like guys with a similar body type? Seems like a conflict if you only are comfortable with guys you can take on.

On the other hand, I could see this just being the result of being in tae kwon do -- you get good at something and you can immediately size up whether the other person is any good as well.

And I bet most women, probably don't ask themselves if they can take the guy, but probably do ask if they need to be careful or wary.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do realize that taekwondo has pretty much zero to do with anything resembling a real world fight? Especially domestic violence which is generally more about personality than anything else.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

My caution around big men is a rebuttable presumption. For example, Tall Chris and my former team boyfriend are both big guys, and both have them have always shown themselves to be sweet-natured. I am completely at ease with both.

I still don't think I'm conveying this the way I mean to. I don't have to research domestic violence or get through this fear because my skill makes me not afraid of those things.

Some guys might not want to date someone who could take them. That's fine for them. But my last two boyfriends thought it was hot. I suspect the boyfriend before them thought my estimation was wrong and just kept his mouth shut. That's fine too. I don't think it will ever come up, but I do think it can influence the tenor of a relationship to have that power taken away from the man. I'm fine with that.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Robert Holzbach said...

Interestingly, no one has pointed out what's truly hot here.

Q: Why do men want women?
-- to do the one thing that we're totally incapable of, have children. (ok, the average 20 yr old doesn't think like this, but as you get older the suitability of the woman as a mother becomes as important as her suitability as a wife)

So, if a woman has a PhD in Astrophysics, is wealthy, or has high powers of discipline and concentration -- this all bodes well for the child receiving good genes and getting good parenting.

But, what about a woman who will not only have your child but be capable of protecting that child to a very high degree, from danger? Very sexy!

10:14 AM  
Anonymous hamilton said...

I take significant breaks between reading your blog, Megan, and now I understand why. Ron Weasley had the same reaction to Hermione in The Sorcerer's Stone (film version, anyway):

"You know, you're kind of scary sometimes. Brilliant, but scary."

Yes, I think that covers it perfectly.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan: Anonymous905 has a good point. I'm sure that you have good striking skills, but most fights end up on the ground. Can you fight on your back? Can you get out of chokes?

It may be a good idea for you to try Brazilian jujitsu. Most qualified practitioners can discuss the differences with you. (Incidentally, do not be put off by the relatively low belt level. It is my understanding that it is very difficult to earn black belts.)

Additionally, it would introduce you to yet another group of men. Just a (not so) silly thought.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

Women who can kick my ass are +sexy points.

I feel anyone who can be emasculated by this is insecure in his own skin and probably won't ever cook / clean / pack-lunches / grocery-shop as those are women's jobs.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous albatross said...

Thinking about it, I do consider this question at some barely-conscious level with most men I interact with, and occasionally with women. I have friends I'm pretty sure would wipe the floor with me in a fight, male and female, but somehow, the question comes up in my mind and I answer it internally. I'm not sure this is all that unusual. (Though I think domestic violence is not so much about whether you can win the fight, but about whether you've somehow decided that you'll accept being mistreated.)

10:38 AM  
Blogger Ananda said...

Wow, I was mistaken about when the first "You DO realize TKD has nothing to do with reality and you need to train in (insert other system here) if you REALLY want to be JUSTIFIED in your lack of fear" post would come up. I was sure it would only take a couple of hours.

There is no such thing as an effective or a dangerous system, only an effective or dangerous person. I think Megan's initial post makes it pretty clear that she has the attitude and aggressiveness that will do FAR more to help her in a physical confrontation than any particular set of techniques from any particular system.

For me her post raises two concerns: first, whether she is unnecessarily limiting the pool of men she's willing to spend time with, since "nice all the way through" should take care of any feelings of physical threat, and second, whether it's good for her to want to *inspire* the negative feelings of vulnerability in men that women without her fitness and training level experience *from* men.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little irritated, Ananda, to be included in those who wish to denigrate one system over another (having been trapped in a discussion of the relative merits of JKD over everything else.) I don't think that was A905's point, either. However, my post may have been a little too 'fear-generating' -- for that, I may have reached too far.

I agree with you that Megan's attitude is her most valuable asset. I mentioned BJJ simply because it was different, IMO more useful and would supply yet another pool of potential long-term mates that satisfy her requirements. Sounds to me like Megan has maxed out her TKD; time for something new, maybe?

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As A9:05 I wasn't talking about this martial art versus that. Just that the reality of a "fight" is completely, entirely different from any kind of sparring, no matter how full contact it is. One of my friends was raped (by a friend of hers) when she was 19. If you asked anyone we would have said that she could have taken him in a fight. But it wasn't a fight. He wasn't going for a 10 second pin or 2 points for contact. She was overwhelmed with shock, shock turned to terror, terror turned to near inaction.

Likewise another friend was unfortunately in a fight a few months back. The other guy was huge and no bookie on the planet would have given odds on the guy I know "winning". And for the first 30 seconds that's exactly how it went: teeth chipped, nose broken, blood everywhere. Then desperation set in and my friend realized he was about 10 seconds away from a long hospital stay. He bit the other guy's nut sack. Hard. End of story.

It's not about chokes or armbars or crescent kicks, it is about most people simply not being mentally capable (and this is a testament to civilization) of instantly dealing with a change from normal life to violence.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

My first thought on seeing a woman is to admire her beauty, my second is to wonder about her personality. Is she as confident as her walk suggests? I strongly question the assertion that all men - or even most men - make a sexual determination as their first thought on seeing a woman - or the implication that they lack judgement and are always ruled from below the belt and thus can not ever be trusted.

Megan, your motivations are your own. I will not dispute your concern with personal security or your solution. But as a guy under six-foot and with the scars to match, the wounds that took the longest time to heal were those inflicted with words, and the women I've met who have wielded them have by far the sharper weapons. If combat and physical defense skills give you self-confidence to meet someone, then it is an asset, so long as it does not provide a false sense of security: you may have other vulnerabilities. There are other ways to address your physical concerns, such as meeting in public places and taking the time to evaluate his personality as you get to know him before you meet him elsewhere. Conveniently, this will also tend to expose other issues.

As others have suggested, your best defense is who you are: smart, assertive, self-aware, communicative, comfortable with yourself and your capabilities, and having a heightened situational awareness.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just in case anyone is interested in slogging through over 150 comments following a very interesting and relevant post, there's some related stuff in the past couple of days at bitch phd.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Honestly, y'all. I thought this would be an unmemorable post -- mildly interesting, at best, for the gender role reversal.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

Interesting. A lot of women I know look for guys who are significantly bigger than they are. I am probably not married to one woman because I was only four inches taller and 60 lbs heavier than she (her ex is another 4 inches taller and another 50 lbs heavier). Apparently, one of the great things about high school for many girls is that the guys are finally bigger.

I figure that many women could kick my rear end - because I don't fight, and when they do, they fight to win. BTW, that woman I mentioned above took down her ex, despite their size differences.

3:28 PM  

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