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Jan 2012 13

by Yashar Ali

At a holiday party this year, I noticed an R. Kelly song playing on my friend’s iPod. I looked at two of my (male) friends who were standing nearby and asked, “You guys are listening to R. Kelly?”

One of them responded, “Yeah, so what?”

“He seduced under-age girls and I’ve seen the video of him peeing on one of them. Remember when he (illegally) married Aaliyah (R&B singer who is now deceased) when she was 15 and he was 30?”

“I separate the music from the person,” the same friend said.

“Oh god–I’m sure you listen to Chris Brown too,” I said with frustration in my voice.

My other friend chimed in and confirmed, defiantly, “Yeah! I do.”

Here is a reminder: in 2009, singer and dancer Chris Brown was charged and convicted for beating, biting, and choking his girlfriend, singer Rihanna, while they were in a car in Los Angeles. With respect to R. Kelly, in 2002 he was indicted on multiple counts of possessing and filming child pornography, and through years of legal maneuvering, was able to have the charges dropped when the then 14 year-old girl refused to testify against him. She, in fact, told people that it was consensual. He was able to avoid jail by making multiple cash settlements, including one to the girl in the video.

Of course, Chris Brown and R. Kelly aren’t the only examples of male artists who abuse women. We need to look no further than Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson as examples of men who still get chances despite their abuse of women.

How many people tagged their tweets with “#winning” during Charlie Sheen’s summer meltdown? How obsessively was his narcissistic tour cheered and celebrated by both men and women? Ignoring the fact that over years and years, Charlie Sheen has been accused and imprisoned for terrorizing the women in his life, I take no great pleasure in saying that his punishments would have been more severe had some of his accusers not been sex workers.

Mel Gibson readily admits, on tape, to beating his girlfriend Oksana and he has yet to be driven out of the film business. Major movie studios, like Warner Brothers, still want to be in business with him.

This idea of separating the artistry from the person is perfectly plausible if the artist, when guilty of making mistakes, is truly repentant. And it’s also plausible when these mistakes do not cause physical harm on other people.

But, I (and all of us), must draw the line at supporting and enriching men who are pedophiles, in Kelly’s case, and virtually unrepentant domestic abusers in the case of Brown, Sheen, and Gibson. There is a difference between an artist who makes mistakes and an artist who abuses women (or men) and lacks any sense of remorse.

Both of my friends at that party are two of the biggest supporters of my writing about women. In fact, they have read almost all of my work and have been helpful to me beyond what a good friendship calls for. They are also both close to their respective mothers – they are really good men, which is why I have shared this experience with you. It would be much easier to dismiss their feelings if they didn’t treat the women in their life with respect, if they weren’t fundamentally good people.

For me, this is ultimately about one question: how can men and women stand by and separate what happened to women like Rihanna, from the women in our own lives? We shouldn’t. In our culture, we tend to compartmentalize the trauma others face as a coping mechanism of sorts. It’s a way to shield ourselves from their pain, and also a way to avoid having to help or being held accountable for not helping.

Separating the artist from the music is a convenient way to avoid looking at Chris Brown’s abuse of Rihanna, but the only way to deal with an injustice is avoid this separation, to absorb and understand the pain. That’s the way in which we have always solved or worked to solve injustices: to understand and acknowledge the inter-connectivity.

For purposes of this column, I’m going to focus on Chris Brown, who has come out virtually unscathed from his domestic abuse charges. He is back in action, with a hit album, a tour, and recently as a recipient of three Grammy nominations. His passionate fan base, mostly made up of young girls, is stronger than ever.

I’m a big believer in second, third, fourth chances. I believe most people are fundamentally good and also fundamentally flawed. But I’ll readily admit that when it comes to domestic violence, I find it difficult to forget and move on.

Why?

We now know that the 2009 instance in the car wasn’t the first time Chris Brown had assaulted Rihanna. There is rarely a case of a man hitting a woman just once. Ultimately, domestic violence is not just about the physical assault, but the consistent manipulation, emotional abuse, imposition of fear in the victim. It’s about terrorizing their entire life.

Still, despite every privilege and opportunity, Chris Brown, in my mind, has blown his second chance – for those folks who were interested in giving him one.

Chris Brown could have led a revolution in the way in which we see, treat, and handle domestic violence in our country and served as a beacon of hope for the millions of women and girls who worship him and face abuse. More importantly, he could have spoken directly to the millions of men, who like him, were born into an endless cycle of abuse, witnessing their mothers getting abused and then abusing women themselves.

After he beat, choked, and bit Rihanna, in early 2009, he took an entire week to release a proper statement of apology. A couple of weeks after the incident, he reunited with Rihanna in Miami, and flexed his biceps for the paparazzi while riding a wave runner. A disgusting pose given that those same biceps allowed him to bludgeon Rihanna’s face.

He later went on to fulfill his debt to the court system in Los Angeles County, and since, has done nothing of note to deal with or combat domestic violence. In fact, he has done what millions of men and women do every day in our country, he has demanded to have the issue of domestic violence swept under the rug.

That is why he doesn’t deserve our attention or business.

Chris Brown has moved on – on his own terms, on a shockingly narcissistic level. His behavior is that of an unrepentant man.

In 2010, Chris Brown was on Good Morning America to promote his latest album. When questioned by Robin Roberts about the 2009 incident, he answered coldly: “It’s not a big deal to me now, that situation…I’m past that in my life, today is the album day, so everyone go out and get that album.”

That’s nice. I’m so glad that beating the face of the woman whom you claimed to love is not a big deal anymore to YOU.

Brown later went on to trash his dressing room at the show, breaking a window, after Robin Roberts asked him that one question about the Rihanna situation.

One the same day, he posted this tweet (which was later deleted) on his Twitter account: “I’m so over people bring this past s**t up!!..”

He’s sick of people bringing the past up? Instead of using every moment as a teachable one, instead of addressing the past and confronting his demons, he attacked those who questioned him.

Chris Brown has been enriched not just by men like my friends, but by a legion of young women and girls who follow his every move. What kind of message is he sending to them when he continually mishandles the Rihanna incident(s)? What kind of message are we sending to these same young girls when we repeatedly support him? Hit a woman and you can still be a millionaire superstar?

Apparently and problematically, there is: Boston Public Health Commission conducted a survey of 200 teenagers and found that 46 percent saw Rihanna as responsible for what happened; 52 percent said both bore responsibility, despite knowing that Rihanna’s injuries required hospital treatment. Startling numbers.

I don’t want to give the impression that only men should be held accountable for listening to and supporting artists like Chris Brown. As I’ve mentioned, women and young girls are a big part of his fan base and in supporting him, women are inadvertently fueling the success of a man who disrespects them and helping further erase domestic violence from being a major and visible issue.

The overall statistics on domestic violence are astonishing (and keep in mind these are reported numbers only, many girls and women don’t report or discuss the abuse they have sustained): nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. Worldwide, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

Of course we continue to hear Chris Brown’s songs, because radio programmers (which, surprise, surprise, are dominated by men) allow these songs to remain on the radio, thus adding to the collective popularity. But programmers are also just doing what we want – they wouldn’t be airing songs we don’t want to hear.

This idea that we shouldn’t support men who do bad things to women becomes increasingly inconvenient for our entertainment consumption with the increase in exposure of bad behavior thanks to the internet. The days of abuse and related activities remaining behind closed doors are virtually over. There is power in using our collective ability to consume media, music, entertainment as a tool and a weapon. And by voting with our dollars and eyes away from Chris Brown and artists who abuse women, we can shift the dynamics of how we, as a society, deal with domestic abuse.

But I’m not immune to this inconvenience…

Sometimes I find myself running across a Chris Brown or R. Kelly song on the car radio when I’m driving (I can’t say the same of Charlie Sheen or Mel Gibson). For a split second, I want to keep the song on…for some reason, it’s just the perfect beat at the perfect time on my drive.

But, unlike my friends, I can’t separate the music from the men, because the image of Rihanna’s bloody and beaten face comes across my mind and the video I’ve seen of R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl is seared into my brain.

And as good as their music sounds, when I think of those images, I think of the women in my life who have loved me and made me who I am. How would I feel if my women friends and colleagues were hurt by men like R. Kelly and Chris Brown, who weren’t repentant in any real way?

I wouldn’t stand for it.

And neither would my two friends at that holiday party. Like me, they love and respect the women in their life.

Listening to or buying Chris Brown’s music or cheering on Charlie Sheen may seem like an innocuous act. It’s just a song or a TV show, right? But when we support these men in any way, even if it’s just listening to the radio, we are adding to the collective attention heaped on the artist. We are adding strength to the ripple effect that allows artists like Chris Brown to succeed and become even more successful.

I hope something changes, because until good men like my friends, refuse to support bad men who harm women, until they see that the harm done to one woman, is harm done to every woman…

Nothing is gonna change.

***

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook.

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

Related Posts:
You Don’t Drink? What’s Wrong With You?
You’re An Unavailable Man? Fantastic! When Are We Getting Married?
When Everything Is On His Terms
Now…Give Your Uncle A Kiss
The Modern Day Version of “Just The Tip”
Men Who E-Maintain Women
He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy
Why Don’t We Have More Women in Public Office? Look at Who’s Running the Campaigns

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Dec 2011 30

by Yashar Ali

Every election season, I ask myself the same question: Why aren’t more women running for public office?

Over the past ten years, I have been hopeful for the prospect and rise of women political candidates. While I never studied the numbers, I felt like we were heading in the right direction.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

Reporter Kate Linthicum’s brilliant Los Angeles Times article sheds light on the City of Los Angeles’ problem with proper female representation on the city council. The fifteen-member council, which had five female members eleven years ago, currently has just one, Jan Perry.

Current statistics about women holding federal office are equally dismal: women hold fewer than 20 percent of House and Senate seats. The House faced its first decline in 30 years with respect to women members.

Women hold fewer than 25 percent of seats in state legislatures. This sort of decline has not been seen in decades.

Why are we slipping back after so many years of slow but steady progress?

There exists real obstacles for prospective women politicians: media bias, lack of financial support, mediocre recruitment efforts, underfunded organizations built to help women run for public office.

I want to introduce a not-so-prominent problem: the serious deficiency of women in senior positions on political campaigns. With the exception of political fundraisers, you find very few women running campaigns or serving in top management spots.

The absence of women operating behind the scenes of political campaigns has been largely ignored. This is made clear by the complete absence of studies tracking the numbers of women working in politics. Open your newspaper and turn on your TV. You usually hear a senior-level male staffer speaking for candidates.

This isn’t just about my ideology. This is personal for me.

For the past two and half years, I worked for California Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. In my last position with him, I managed his 2010 race for Lieutenant Governor.

Lieutenant Governor Newsom and his wife, actress and documentary filmmaker, Jennifer Siebel Newsom (who made a brilliant documentary about women’s under-representation in positions of power and the limited and often disparaging portrayal of women in the media – see SG interview) expressed in this campaign their frustration and concern about the lack of women working on his campaigns.

Lieutenant Governor Newsom always asked, when we made hiring decisions, whether we could fill these posts with qualified women. This was not just a question for him. In his first year as mayor, he appointed San Francisco’s first female police chief and fire chief. He was also the first mayor to initiate gender analysis of budget cuts.

But I couldn’t find available and qualified women to take senior positions in his campaign. The few women I did know were already working on other campaigns.

Shawnda Westly, Executive Director of the California Democratic Party, saw a need to fix this problem in California. She, along with her colleague Robin Swanson, put their money where their mouth is, and launched a website called Political Women California.

Political Women California delivers a simple, but powerful mission: to give women working in politics a place to post their resumes so employers can find and hire them for campaigns, elections and political positions throughout California — and across the country.

Their site has been flooded with postings from women already working in politics in California. Even though I am not in the business of managing campaigns anymore, it helped me realize how many women are trying to work in politics.

Usually, people run for office after being exposed to a political campaign in one way or another. So the question is: how do we expect young women to motivate themselves to run for public office when all the people running campaigns are men?

This issue is not limited to Democrats. We need more women working on campaigns and in elective office across the political spectrum. Both parties should see the benefit of female leadership. But drawing from my personal experience, I want to speak to Democrats: There is no excuse. How can we demand equality for women in the workplace and fair wage laws, when we can’t manage to hire women for the campaigns professing these issues?

I spent the better part of two years working tirelessly for Hillary Clinton in her bid to be the 44th President of the United States. My passion for her candidacy was primarily based on my belief that she was the most qualified candidate for president. I felt her unique combination of experiences would serve our country incredibly well.

But there was another strong factor for my motivation. One I will not apologize for. I really wanted a woman president.

The dream I have for a woman president is not dead. However, if we don’t make conscious efforts to hire more women on political campaigns, we are not only limiting our talent pool, but we will also face an epidemic shortage of women running for office.

We must demand that candidates we support value diversity in their hiring practices. So, my message is for two people: the candidate and the campaign manager.

Next time you are walking through your campaign headquarters, take a look at the young woman who shows up everyday after her classes to volunteer. The same one who always pays her own way on public transportation to make phone calls and to help knock on doors. The same one that you are impressed by and think is better than half your paid staff. And probably the same one you take for granted. She could be president one day…if you give her a chance.

***

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook.

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

Related Posts:
You Don’t Drink? What’s Wrong With You?
You’re An Unavailable Man? Fantastic! When Are We Getting Married?
When Everything Is On His Terms
Now…Give Your Uncle A Kiss
The Modern Day Version of “Just The Tip”
Men Who E-Maintain Women
He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy

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Dec 2011 22

By Nicole Powers

“I wanted to keep this movie grounded in reality.”
– Diablo Cody

Screenwriter Diablo Cody’s greatest achievement with her latest project, Young Adult, is to bring her audience to a point where they sympathize and empathize with the film’s in many ways distinctly unlikable central character. Mavis Gary (played by Charlize Theron) is the seemingly successful author of a series of young adult novels, who on the page has everything going for her. Yet, despite being blessed in both the looks and career department, happiness eludes her.

When an invitation arrives in her inbox to the christening of the daughter of her high school sweetheart, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), Mavis decides to return to her hometown to reclaim her former glory – and her former boyfriend. Blinded by her own narcissism, Mavis chooses to ignore the fact that Buddy is now happily married as she obsessively engages in the shameless pursuit of her unavailable ex.

A chance meeting with a former classmate she barely remembers, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), provides Mavis with a drinking buddy, and a voice of reason. However, despite forming an unlikely bond with Matt, who in the wake of a high school beating is left as physically challenged as she is mentally, Mavis is unwilling and unable to retreat from the comfort of her self-delusions to see her world as it really is.

As with Cody’s Academy Award-winning screenplay for Juno, Young Adult combines subtle storytelling with unconventional choices. An exercise in nuance and tone, which sees Cody reunited with her Juno cohort, director Jason Reitman (Up In The Air), the film features award-worthy performances from both Theron and Oswalt that – as with the script – are remarkable for their realness.

SuicideGirls sat down with Cody in New York to talk about the film.

Read our exclusive interview with Diablo Cody on SuicideGirls.com.

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Dec 2011 14

By Alex Dueben

“They’re pushing their bodies beyond endurance to extreme ends for the entertainment of others.”
– Christa Faust

Christa Faust’s new novel Choke Hold is a sexy and violent thriller, and though it’s a sequel to her earlier novel Money Shot, it’s a very different book.

Faust has spent her career writing a series of decidedly different novels, from the Porn Valley set noir of Money Shot to the Lucha Libre detective tale Hoodtown to an investigation into New York’s S&M subculture in Control Freak to a strange erotic tale of the Peking Opera, Hollywood and homophobia in Triads (which she co-wrote with her friend Poppy Z. Brite). In between these heavily researched projects she writes tie-in books for Supernatural and other television shows and novelizations of films like Friday the Thirteenth and Snakes on a Plane. Faust, who has worked as a professional dominatrix, is also known as the writer-director of the bondage serial adventure Dita in Distress. She recently announced her next project, Butch Fatale: Dyke Dick in Double-D Double Cross, which will be released as an ebook in February (a NSFW excerpt is previewed on her website).

A longtime resident of Los Angeles, she spoke with SG on the phone.

Read our exclusive interview with Christa Faust on SuicideGirls.com.

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Dec 2011 09

by Yashar Ali

I don’t like to drink. I don’t like the taste of alcohol. And, outside of a handful of memorable drinking stories that my friends and I repeatedly share with each other, I don’t get drunk and I don’t like to get drunk. I also don’t like the loss of time that comes with a hangover and the loss of control that comes with drinking.

And it’s not because I have a drinking problem. I never have. I just don’t like drinking alcohol, it’s simply not part of my life.

Even though I am in my early thirties, I still face this incredible pressure – peer pressure – to drink. I am talking about the kind of pressure we’re reminded of when we think of teenagers, college students, or those in their early twenties, and how our friends, during this phase of our lives, were pushing us to drink.

Although we often think peer pressure in drinking is tied to a younger more footloose group, to twenty-somethings who are still finding themselves, I’ve discovered through my own experience and through learning about the experiences of my readers, that age and professional status really plays no role in whether someone will pressure or be pressured. Men and women in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are doing the pressuring.
It seems to me that social pressure to drink is more a cultural issue than an age issue.

I even have friends who claim they could never be in relationship with a person who doesn’t drink. Because that’s what every solid relationship is built on: consumption of alcohol.

In (Western) adult social culture, alcohol is a primary and important component of being part of a group, and people who are not interested in alcohol or dislike the taste, are subject to pressure to drink. They, in turn, are forced to find or create, what are deemed “legitimate reasons” for not joining in with the drinking. Failure to drink creates a barrier between the drinkers and those people, who, for various reasons, choose not to drink alcohol.

Why are we judging and pressuring people who don’t drink and why do we make them justify or explain their reasons for refusing alcohol?

Alcohol (and drinking) is a part of the wide range of social pressures in our culture and it’s part of the fabric of many people’s lives. However, it’s not an insignificant thing to ask and pressure someone else to drink.

I get that alcohol helps people loosen up in social settings, but it creates a barrier between people who choose to drink and people who don’t. And this barrier sets the tone for who talks to, and who hangs out with whom. It’s as if alcohol is the social glue that keeps us together, and if we don’t have it and are faced with some people who drink and some people who don’t, things seem to get off-balance and uncomfortable.

The idea of someone who doesn’t drink is so foreign to some people that we sometimes falsely assume that the person who is not drinking has a past of alcohol abuse or we force these non-drinkers to constantly explain themselves.

Mindy, a reader from Chicago in her early 30’s, often deals with new friends or colleagues who assume she was an alcoholic or member of A.A., because she chooses not to drink.

So when it comes to socializing, do we only have two categories for people: sober alcoholic or drinker? There are so many people that fall in between these two categories, they’re not really sober, but they’re also not active drinkers.

A friend of mine who works in corporate advertising commented on the pressure she feels when ordering a glass of water or lemonade at a restaurant with colleagues when everyone else is ordering wine or a cocktail, “I’m made to feel like I’m not an adult.”

Susie, a 38 year-old paralegal found herself being excluded from activities at work, because she barely drank.

“You won’t want to come out tonight because you don’t drink,” she would hear from her co-workers in an almost sympathetic tone (she would always be included in activities that didn’t include heavy drinking).

“I can still have a good time without drinking. It’s not like I’m standing there with my arms crossed at a bar, frowning. I just wonder if they feel judged if I am not doing shots with them and that’s why I’m not being included.”

For Susie and other people in her situation, the social interaction between colleagues, the same interaction that often aides people in their careers, is something that is stripped from her. Unless she’s willing to drink to intoxication, people just don’t feel comfortable having her around and so, Susie misses out on one part of professional networking.

My friend Erin, who is in her late 30’s, found her second pregnancy to be the saving grace, in terms of alleviating the pressure that comes with drinking, “I find it a relief now that I’m visibly six months pregnant, because I can point to my belly and say, ‘Sorry, I can’t!’”

“It will be a drag when I have to go back to explaining to people, ‘No really, I just don’t like it.’”

Having an excuse, whether it’s an illness or pregnancy, seems to offer a reprieve to those who don’t want to drink. But it still doesn’t make sense to me. I understand (but don’t accept) the social pressure to drink during high school and college-age years, but why are adults so obsessed with their friends, family, and colleagues drinking?

And why do there seem to be real, social consequences for people who don’t care to learn the difference between a Chardonnay and a Cabernet?

***

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook.

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

Related Posts:
You’re An Unavailable Man? Fantastic! When Are We Getting Married?
When Everything Is On His Terms
Now…Give Your Uncle A Kiss
The Modern Day Version of “Just The Tip”
Men Who E-Maintain Women
He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy

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Dec 2011 02

by Yashar Ali

When most people are seeking love, they have a basic list of check boxes they hold up to their prospective partners. On this list are questions like: Is he single? Is he ready to be in a relationship? Is he emotionally available? Does he want to be in a relationship with me?

It makes me wildly uncomfortable when all the boxes on that list are checked. I am attracted to and fall in love with unavailable men.

For years, especially in the past three years, I have slept with married men, men in relationships, and emotionally unavailable men (the latter would be fine if sex was all I was after).

And with some of these men, I have developed serious romantic attachments as a result of our sexual relationship and friendship. I would wish, even hope that they wanted more than sex, that they would want a relationship with me.

Why have I been so self-destructive?

I have put myself in these emotionally trying places out of fear that my imperfections and weaknesses would be exposed in the course of a serious, long-term relationship. I didn’t want anyone close to me because closeness calls for a release of all pretenses; I would be forced to expose my strengths and my faults. In a healthy relationship, accountability and questions are part of the deal. I didn’t want any questions; I didn’t want to be accountable when it came to my problems. So I chose men who I knew would not or could not be in a relationship with me.

My entanglements with unavailable men allowed me to avoid men who would see the real me and also gave me the opportunity to experience the feelings of love and emotional and sexual attraction that we all need.

I always knew going into these situations, that the men I was seeing weren’t available for actual relationships. I never had to be told by others that, “He’s just not that into you.” None of the unavailable men with whom I have had sexual relationships can say I pushed them to do anything. I never bothered pursuing romantic relationships with these men because I knew, point blank, that they were unavailable. Instead, I stewed in my frustration and sadness, sharing my pain with one or two friends.

Over the years, my friends have made multiple attempts at setting me up with prospective boyfriends, but I always knew these men would be emotionally, mentally available. What a turn off – right? So I would refuse the set-up, or I would find a reason why that particular man wouldn’t work for me after going out with him.

I would occasionally date romantically available men for short periods of time; I gave them a small chance. But I would never allow them into my world, they wouldn’t meet my friends, they wouldn’t be a part of my life. And soon, they would either tire of the situation or I would find a polite way to move on.

The concept of unavailability in men comes in many different forms and it’s an issue I’ve seen many of my friends struggle with. For some, it’s about being in a relationship with a man who could physically be in the same room, but is a million miles away in terms of his emotional commitment. For others, it’s about falling in love with a man who will never be open to a sexual or romantic relationship. For me, an unavailable man is someone who gives me enough to live on emotionally and sexually, but is someone who is totally and literally unavailable for a relationship.

Sometimes, when we chase after things, we are not necessarily chasing after something that is inaccessible. My relationships with unavailable men have nothing to do with wanting what I can’t have. These relationships are about doing everything to avoid what I want the most.

The way I would fall in love with unavailable men was always the same. In fact, it had become so textbook that a few close friends would often notice and point it out when I was heading in that direction. I would sleep with a man, whether I knew he was available or not, and once I confirmed that he was unavailable, I would become more attracted to him. It wouldn’t take much for the emotional attraction to happen. If he said something sweet to me, or asked me the right questions, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to him. Whether the attraction would last for days, weeks, or months, it was incredibly intense and emotionally draining. And I lived out that pain in private.

The process would only be prolonged when I received a perfectly timed text-message or phone call from one of my unavailable men. These connections would provide the warmth and sense of closeness that I desired. Those text messages and phone calls were enough to keep me giving them what they wanted — so I could get what I needed.

My problems, my imperfections are the kind that everyone has. But for some reason, I felt like I had some sort of invisible cloak that prevented people from noticing these flaws unless I let them in. I was wrong. Everyone saw them, as any attempt at covering up problems only leads them to be revealed more publicly. My choice to engage with unavailable men stemmed precisely from this fear of intimacy and a fear of exposing my faults and inadequacies.

My attraction towards unavailable men taught me a big lesson, a lesson about my aversion to revealing my shortcomings to the world. I have fundamentally shifted how I see privacy and what it really means to be private.

Our need for privacy, for secrecy, for keeping our imperfections hidden is seriously taxing our lives — it took me away from myself and nearly destroyed me. We ironically admire this internal suffering as a strong character trait, “Oh, she’s so private,” or “He’s so private.” We seem to think this kind of silent suffering is honorable. It’s not.

For me, sharing my time with unavailable men was a major way to hide parts of myself. Being with these men was my version of privacy. Being forced to talk about my relationships with these unavailable men or being forced to talk about the resulting pain made me feel like I was being exposed to the world. For me, talking about my problems was a weakness. And that’s why I never did it. Until now.

Our tendency towards privacy often relates to our desire to hide our problems and our desire to conceal our fear of exposing personal issues and imperfections. But problems are generally not solved behind closed doors. I also think it’s nearly impossible to cover up or hide our general imperfections or issues — human beings are so perceptive that most people will soon realize that something is wrong. For me, privacy is now about keeping things special or keeping other people’s secrets. Privacy is no longer about burying my own secrets or imperfections. I just don’t care anymore about being judged.

Usually people wait until they’re extremely successful or well past their problems to discuss them. We are often willing to talk about our secrets or our problems once we have solved them. It’s so much more comfortable to say, “That’s how I used to be.” I’m not there yet. I thought about unavailable men yesterday, I thought about them this morning, and I am thinking about them now.

While revealing this issue about my life may be embarrassing for some to hear or know about, I no longer have an issue admitting that I have never felt truly close to anyone. Until now, I have not truly felt close to myself.

I really want to be in relationship. But I know I am not ready. There’s nothing I want to do more than respond to the text from one of my unavailable men that I just received. That text still gives me enough, even though it truly offers nothing. I still have the desire to get what I need from someone who doesn’t want to give me more than sex and a kind word, someone who won’t ask me any questions, someone who won’t require me to be a better person, someone who let’s me keep my privacy, and someone who allows me to keep all of my faults and shortcomings at bay.

But I know I have to stop sleeping and falling in love with unavailable men — because my need for privacy has left me feeling incredibly lonely.

I’ve been knocking on a door when I know that no one is home. I’m tired of waiting around for him to answer.

***

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook.

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

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A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy

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Nov 2011 25

by Yashar Ali

“I’m not going to talk to you when you’re acting this way.”

Whenever I ask my women friends about this phrase and what it means when they hear it from the men in their lives, they always have a strong reaction. One of frustration, anger, and annoyance.

You know how it makes you ultimately feel. This statement is about communication, a way to shut down the potential conversation that should happen. Men typically use this phrase as a way to avoid an uncomfortable or awkward moment — usually a situation in which they are being held accountable for their actions.

More significantly, this phrase is about taking control. When someone says this sentence, they are defining the situation on their terms — a man’s terms.

It’s gaslighting.

 But this phrase is related to a larger issue I’m exploring: why is the tone, tenor, nature, path, and dynamics of the relationships (and not just romantic relationships) that women have with men, so often on the man’s terms?

The man setting the terms of a relationship may seem obvious when we think of romantic relationships, or perhaps, even work dynamics, but I want to engage in a larger exploration about all the kinds of relationships that women have with men, from male relatives, to male friends and co-workers.

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