Okay, I Guess

“Bless the thing that broke you down and cracked you open, because the world needs you open” – Rebecca Campbell

 

I said, “okay.” At first, I said I didn’t want to, but eventually I said, “okay,” because he had been buying my drinks all night and his actions implied that I owed him. I said, “okay,” because I didn’t know how to ask him to leave, and because I didn’t know how to say no. I said, “okay,” because I’d surely be leading him on, otherwise, and because he was being persistent; it seemed easier to just get it over with.

 

You might be wondering how a person gets to a point where they feel like they have to say, “okay,” to something like this. There was a lot of conditioning in my life that led up to this. I’ve said, “okay,” to a lot of things that made me uncomfortable and that I didn’t want to do, but this instance really made me aware of how bad it had gotten. It started a thought process for me about why I felt this was something I had to give in to, and I realized all the ways this notion engulfs the lives of American women.

 

love people kissing romance
Photo by Katie Salerno on Pexels.com

We have an idea in our society that it is romantic for men to be unrelenting in the pursuit of gaining our affection, even when we give countless “nos.” It’s the somehow-accepted idea that “no” just means “try harder.” There are countless examples in media (Love, Actually, among others) where the man’s tenacity leads to winning over his love interest. We, as women, are taught that we would be lucky to find someone who is so devoted to winning our affections. These ideas are also internalized by men in our society, and display themselves in the form of, “Come on, just for a minute.”

 

College only solidified and built upon society’s expectations of men and women for me. A lot of my college experiences shape my behavior and my beliefs about myself now. Within this group of newly-liberated teenagers is an entirely new set of social norms. It quickly became apparent to me, from the beginning, that freshman girls were something of a commodity on campus. I don’t mean that in a figurative way; I mean that in a truly economic sense. If you were a freshman guy and wanted access to a party, you had to bring at least four other girls with you; a 4:1 ratio. I remember being rounded up by guys who would tell me to recruit all the girls I knew so they could get in. And it wasn’t just to get in – bringing the most girls meant increasing their hierarchical rank among their peers. They were trading us girls to a party full of sexually-hopeful guys, for access to higher social-standing.

 

There was yet another level to this broken economic system. Access to a party, as a girl, was a trade as well. It was traded for expectations of sex. Guys made me feel pressured to kiss them because they allowed me to drink cheap beer in their asbestos-covered basement. My friends and I came to realize that we could only talk to a guy for so long, get so many invitations to social functions, before he would expect more. Seeing enough of these transactions planted a subconscious seed in my brain about my self-worth. If I wasn’t going to “put out,” then a guy’s time and energy couldn’t be spent on me. It was a conditional relationship, a woman’s body is a commodity, and that commodity comes at a price.

 

photography of couple holding hands
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

This sentiment carried over after college, as well. Once, I was on a date I wasn’t enjoying, and this niceties-for-sex idea had me borderline-begging him to let me pay for the meal, because I didn’t want him to expect anything of me if he did pay. I wish I could say that this type of transaction-expectation dies out with maturity but, just yesterday, my friend and I were discussing a guy paying for my drinks, and she said, “Play the fake-sick card, and you don’t even have to sleep with him.” Don’t even have to sleep with him. Exchanges like this remind me of how widespread this expectation is for other women, and that I’m not crazy.

 

I didn’t even think about it until I wrote this sentence, but after so many years of having my denials rebuffed by persistent men, I got worn down and I stopped trying. I knew it would just end with me giving in. Instead, I subconsciously tried to mask this realization with the illusion that I was owning my own sexuality and giving a middle-finger to a society that shunned promiscuity. That makes me sad, now. Most of all, it makes me sad for early-college-aged me, who wasn’t able to see the flaws in the social system before they broke her down and debased her beliefs and confidence.

 

I wish I could say that that night awakened me and enabled me to change my behavior, but if I’m being honest, it’s been an incredibly slow process that I’m still struggling with. It takes consistent reinforcement of these changes to really be effective, and I slip up all the time. I say, “I’m not interested,” a lot more; I turn down drinks that will lock me into an unspoken contract; and I subject myself to fewer situations that I know will make me uncomfortable, just for the sake of being nice. This isn’t exclusive to dating, but applies to all facets of my life. For a long time, I had a latent feeling that I had to put other people’s happiness and comfort above my own, and it feels good to start living my daily life in a way that repositions that happiness and comfort back within myself. When someone expects something like this of me now, I think of the girl I was before society’s expectations infiltrated my brain, and I try to treat myself how I wish that girl had been treated; because somehow that got lost along the way.

 

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Alyssa Hohorst is a Psychology student at the University of Colorado Denver. She aspires to become a research psychologist and to study cognitive and evolutionary psychology between genders. Alyssa has recently become interested in writing and is excited about carrying this topic over and exploring women’s experiences in American society. When she’s not working on her degree, you can find Alyssa cooking, practicing photography, or bingeing true crime until she’s afraid to leave the house.

4 thoughts on “Okay, I Guess

  1. I’m not going to call this a “nice” break in the otherwise chill narratives I’ve read so far on this page–because this topic isn’t “nice”–but it is a necessary and important break. I’m glad to see that this isn’t just narratives about daily lives, but big and heavy topics that so many of us women experience. I appreciate how this was approached, too. It was from the “I” position, which humanizes the article (of course) but also doesn’t make this entirely unrelatable from the other sex. This isn’t an attack piece; it’s an experience, and one that you and countless others have to reconcile. It was written movingly, and I am glad to have read it.

    Some suggestions:

    1. Some sentences get just a bit clunky. This line, for example: “I said, “okay,” because I’d surely be leading him on, otherwise, and because he was being persistent; it seemed easier to just get it over with.” You could trim the persistent part or even put a period instead of the semicolon and begin anew with “It.”

    2. ” They were trading us girls to a party full of sexually-hopeful guys, for access to higher social-standing.” I would avoid “us girls” and just use girls. Again, this is more about how the sentence is actually reading. It loses some of its power with “us,” in my opinion. Most of my comments would be nitpicky and about the grammar, which I find reductive. So just a reread (possibly out loud) would help clarify your voice.

    But really, kudos to you approaching this topic in a respectful, sincere, and meaningful way.

    -C.Noble

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Along with my fellow Freshman Collective editor, C. Noble, I agree that the first-person perspective really brought light to this subject. As a woman myself, I’ve found myself in numerous occasions similar to this one and it’s really unfortunate. We don’t owe anyone anything.

      – To prevent dragging out what C. Noble said above, another clunky sentence I found was, “This sentiment carried over after college, as well.” For some reason this just didn’t read the right way while I was reading the blog. It’s a minor fix, but I’d recommend taking out the comma because it implies an awkward break. As C. Noble said, I’d try reading the blog out loud too! I find it helps when it comes to finding your voice.

      Overall, I really liked this blog. It was sadly relatable, and I found myself connecting to it in a way I didn’t expect.

      – D. Skillings

      Like

  2. This is an amazing article that is timely, informative, personal, and brutally honest. I think you did this heavy topic justice by telling your side of the story. This notion is something that almost ever woman struggles with–especially new-to-college age women.

    Just a few things I found:

    1) You used the term “nos”, but I think it would be better as “no’s”.

    2) I LOVE this line: “Guys made me feel pressured to kiss them because they allowed me to drink cheap beer in their asbestos-covered basement.” Even through a heavy topic, you provided some comedic relief to your audience.

    3) I agree with the comments above–rereading out loud will help find some awkward pauses and sentences in the article.

    Overall, you truly did this topic justice with your piece. I enjoyed reading it, even if it is a not-so-pleasant topic.

    -K. Moffet

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alyssa,
    This topic is so often considered taboo and sensitive, and although we should be talking about it, I’m so glad that you did. You did a nice job approaching and conveying an experience that is too often avoided. I appreciate that you covered the serious in this publication. (I love the name you all chose, by the way!)

    Here are a couple of suggestions:
    1) I can hear your voice as a writer in this piece, but it is sometimes helpful to read it aloud — I know our other group editors already suggested that, but the composition teacher in me kind of goes to that suggestion first.

    2) I liked the chunking of text that you have, but the extra space in between paragraphs is maybe too much. I’ve suggested this to other writers that I’ve edited, but make sure that you look at it in multiple views because the text blocking doesn’t always look right in other views (like from a phone). I realized that from someone else’s suggestion, and it really helps so that your images are part of the post, but not difficult to navigate around while reading!

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Great job!

    –J. Montague

    Like

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