Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Don't You Just Sex It Up a Little?

So I was speaking to an older gentleman I know who also writes, and he was lamenting the fact that he had never been particularly good at networking- something he felt had cost him in his potential writing career. We got into talking a bit about conventions and meeting people, and he expressed the opinion that I had a bit of an advantage as a young, attractive woman.

Maybe, I said, but I really don't want to use that.

Grow up, he said, everyone does on some level, and it's not as if you would pick your nose in public, or deliberately spray when you talked, just because you felt like it gave you an unfair advantage over people who did.

From there we got into a discussion about the fact that because of some bad experiences (though certainly not as bad as it's gotten for some other people) I'm hesitant to put even flirtation, never mind actual sex, on the table. I don't want any more stalkers outside my door in the middle of the night leaving me phone messages that they know I'm home because they can hear me moving in my dark apartment and why won't I pick up the phone? I don't really want to get grabbed any more because my jeans were tight or my shirt was too low. I don't want any more perfectly nice guys who think we're going to be together forever because I smiled too wide or I laughed at their jokes. The last one's almost the worst, because they really are perfectly nice guys, who aren't doing anything wrong, really. Most times it's just a miscommunication. I've been on the other side of that and I feel terrible turning them down (admittedly, occasionally when you turn a perfectly nice guy down, he'll start with the passive aggressive recrimination, or even outright meanness and then I feel a little better about the whole thing, or at least about the choice, because he wasn't so perfectly nice after all).

So, you know, carry a jacket you can button closed over a low top, don't let people buy you drinks or dinner, take a step back and hope they don't close the gap, shut down conversations and escape them if they start drifting in that direction, that sort of stuff (because I don't really drink, I'll often just pick up someone's discarded bottle and carry it around with me, so that no one thinks I'm too much of a wet blanket, and if someone asks if I want a drink I can wave around my bottle as if I'm still working on one). One falls into patterns of being around folk.

I don't want to give the impression that I don't like people, or I'm afraid of people generally, or I don't try to be fun, maybe even a little flirty sometimes, and for what it's worth I like sex and don't feel obligated to pretend I don't,  but I feel pretty cognizant most of the time that it's very easy to get backed into a corner where either someone expects something from you physically or you're some kind of horrible tease (and before you the reading audience write in to say that's horrible, or that's not true, or that shouldn't be true, yes, yes, I know and I agree with you, but there's a very wide gulf between theory and practice, and I don't live in a hypothetical world.)

What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that flirting and giggling and dangling my body out like bacon on a string might indeed snag me some additional contact stuff, but it's perilous on so many levels, not the least of which is being tarred with the professional reputation of having either teased or outright slept my way into work- or even if I myself manage to get out not-at-fault in that scenario, having work dismissed as "oh, they just bought her story because they thought she was cute." Part of what I love about writing is that until I go to a convention, what I look like never enters into it. I have a feminine name, but for all anyone actually knows I could be 90 years old and 500 pounds. I don't have to post a picture on my blog if I don't want to, and I honestly don't think anyone cares about the physical body attached to a random name in the slush pile. It's beautiful and liberating.

And then there's the perhaps more lasting interpersonal level where people I could have been friends with become frustrated would-be boyfriends, and I lose out on a friend because the threat of sex came into it. I would so much rather just be one of the boys in possession of an incidental vagina. I want to be nice. I want to be your friend. I want to be your peer.  I want to laugh at your jokes because they're funny. I want to hang out in a group full of mutual respect with people who love the same things I do. I really, really, really want this, and anything else in my professional life, not to be about sex.

Because making it about sex makes it a no-win situation.


  1. I assume you're not talking about me, right? Because I'm pretty sure every e-mail you've ever sent to me screamed LET'S MAKE-A DA BOOM BOOM!

    It was pretty obvious.

  2. What can I say? I'm an insatiable boiling kettle of feminine need. Clearly.