Street Harassment: A Challenge to Men

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Once while crossing the street in Washington Heights a man screamed out at me, “Hey Sexy!”  I was wearing baggy jeans, a sweatshirt, a baseball cap and glasses with no makeup.  I looked a step away from a vagrant.  I didn’t respond.  Just then, I heard the same voice shout back at me, “Ya fat ass. Bitch”

I was crossing the street at the light.  Was I supposed to stop, walk over to the sound of the voice even though I had no idea what car he was in.   I knew the man was talking to me as there were no other women around, but I looked so grubby it seemed strange that he would call me “sexy.”  This same scenario plays out daily, sometimes several times a day no matter what I’m wearing or how I look.

In the worst examples I’ve been grabbed by random strangers.  They usually grab me by my arm and try to pull me into them.  It’s so inappropriate it borders on assault.  If a man did that to another man, he’s libel to get punched, pushed, shoved or slapped.  It’s just unacceptable.

One night while walking home from a comedy show a group of young teenagers walked up to me for no reason, and one of them pulled my hair and then ran away laughing.  It was near Union Square, the streets were quite busy.  My response was to immediately start screaming at the boys.  It ended with me chasing them down the block.  I did get some satisfaction when they finally decided to start running from me, the look of fear in their eyes gave me hope they wouldn’t try it again any time soon.

The infamous video that is making the internet rounds lately stirred a fairly heated debate among my friends.  When I watched the video, I saw a woman dealing with street harassment as she wore a t-shirt and jeans and did nothing more than walk silently through the streets of New York City.  What my friend saw was a racially biased video that portrayed black men as the primary source of this type of harassment.  Interesting how people from two oppressed groups can see the exact same footage and get something completely different perspectives from it.  The video did contain some white men who were harassing the woman, and a few voices were of undetermined ethnicity.  However the makers of the video did make a mistake by only using a white woman.  It would have been a better experiment to use women of various ethnic backgrounds.  Not only would the non-white women still get comments, they would probably get racist remarks on top of it.

Since I’ve lived in New York City for 13 years, I have friends from every background imaginable.  Street harassment is something that nearly all of my female friends complain about.  It doesn’t matter if they are white, black, Asian, Latina or some combination.  Every woman under a certain age regardless of size has experienced it.  Some women just block them out, but for many of us the remarks feel like acid, constantly wearing us down as we are just trying to get from one place to another.

I’ve had to deal numerous sexually charged incidents of violence over the years.  I would list them all here but I’d rather not.  I don’t really want to go there again.  A few of them were so bad though, that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  PTSD is normally associated with men coming back from war, but anyone who has lived through traumatic experiences can develop the disorder.  When I was 19 years old I got jumped by a guy after coming out of a bar.  I was thrown up against a wall and the man was trying to rip open my clothing.  I was too terrified to do anything.  Luckily someone else noticed what was going on and the man stopped.  But that incident left scars.  Now when someone grabs me on the street I explode.  I tend to start screaming, my blood pressure rises, my heart races, and I go into full flight or fight mode.  I struggle to control myself when this happens, but it’s as if a demon has been unleashed.  Luckily for me this usually causes men to immediately drop their hands, and back away.

To really prove this is a universal problem Hollaback should remake their video and show it happens to all women, and that men of all shades of skin engage in this behavior. I could see my friend’s point that it looked biased.  What troubled me instead were the comments that so many men were making regarding street harassment.

  • It doesn’t exist – women don’t really go through this
  • We should be happy to get such attention
  • If we don’t respond we are stuck up snobs
  • Women have nothing to fear from men
  • Men don’t mean any harm by these comments
  • Men can’t help themselves when they see women walk by
  • Women should just put up with this because it’s not harmful
  • If the guys were attractive we wouldn’t mind the comments
  • This is just how men act and we should accept it

Several women tried in vain to point out that this really is unwanted attention.  Why would women feel less safe when random strangers invade their personal space and try to force them to connect with them verbally or otherwise?  Why are we so guarded when walking down the street?  Why can a man just walk down the street without experiencing this?  Sure some women might make a comment towards a man, but women overall are far less of a threat to anyone’s physical safety.  About 90% of all murders are  committed by men, and 95% of all sexual predators are men.  Now this isn’t to say all men are violent, of course they aren’t.  Most victims of violence are men, and most victims also tend to know their attacker and be the same race as their attacker.  But the chances of a woman committing the same acts of violence is extremely rare.  Violent criminals tend to re-offend, so it literally is a minority of men who are the problem.  Because of this, women are far less likely to assume that every man who she encounters is going to be harmless.  Every day we have to judge if  “Hey Beautiful” just an innocuous statement or if it is the start to a physical assault?  Most of us have found that if we engage with men on the street, some will take that as an invitation for more contact.  In my own experience I’ve found even eye contact is an invitation to a few deranged individuals.  I’ve just been grabbed too many times to assume it won’t happen again.  It’s also sobering to note that according to a recent government survey 1 in 5 American women reported to be a victim of rape, or an attempted rapeAbout 80% of those women reported that it happened before the age of 25.  So any cat caller has about a 20% chance that he’s chatting up someone who might very well been a victim of a previous sexual assault.

Instead of logically trying to explain this to the men who don’t understand, I’ll simply say this.  If you don’t believe me, and you don’t want to read my stories then I implore you  to sit down with your close female friends, your sister, your girlfriend, your mother, your daughter, your niece or your aunt.  Ask them if they’ve ever been sexually intimidated by a man.  Ask them if they’ve experienced sexual violence.  Ask them if they had a man follow them down the street, block their path, or grab their arm when they were minding their own business.  I think you’d be surprised what you would find.

And if that still doesn’t get you to change your point of view then think of a young girl in your family.  Think how you would feel if your 8-year-old niece had to put up with the same comments.  I’ve seen girls who are clearly underage get lewd and creepy remarks from men in their 40’s and 50’s.  Think about what that does to their self-esteem to have a man older than her father treat her that way.  If you wouldn’t want your mother to put up with this, or your sister, your niece, your granddaughter, your daughter, your girlfriend or wife, then why is it OK to do it to random woman?

Among my circle of friends it’s usually harder to find the woman who hasn’t had some type of scary incident in her past.   I know one friend who was attacked with a hammer just last year.  She fought off her attacker but had to have staples put in her scalp to repair what he had done to her.  I know of another who admitted to being nearly raped by a man who held a gun to her head, and another still who was driven to a remote location and attacked by a cab driver. Most women have stories like these, the incidents are not rare, and it’s exactly why we are on guard when we are walking down the street by ourselves.

Sadly the woman in the video got rape threats in youtube comments.  Men trying to defend this as simple harmless behavior in the same breath threatened to sexually assault the woman.  It’s as if they are proving our point.  If it really was a compliment, “Hey Beautiful” shouldn’t be followed by “Bitch.”

So start a dialog.  Start it right now.  Talk to your trusted female friends and family members and see what they tell you. Ask your daughter if she’s ever had a man treat her like this.  We aren’t going to get past this with a simple “boys will be boys” attitude.  I’m willing to concede that a lot of men don’t realize that this is upsetting to some women.  Many honestly do think it’s complimentary or a nice thing to do.  Women we just want to live our lives like anyone else, and sometimes that means silently walking down the street without interruption.

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Life After Divorce: Please don’t Blame me for being Single

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The number one article on this blog is simply titled “Dating After Divorce: Why it’s so Difficult in your late Thirties” It’s been read nearly 30,000 times.  Nothing else I’ve written comes close to the amount of hits that article gets.  It’s certainly not my best or most entertaining piece. It gets a lot of hits because there are so many frustrated people searching for answers.

My younger friends try to empathize, but they have no idea what I go through.   When a person is in his or her early twenties, they’re constantly meeting other single people.   When they get together their friends a few strangers might end up making out on a couch in the corner.  When I go to a social event with folks my age, it’s mostly married couples.  While the pairs huddle together to discuss co-op boards, school districts and home renovations, I’m in the corner with the other single gals and gay men swapping sex stories and dick pics.  I’m not sure why, but straight single men are rare at such soirees.  At the last barbeque a unattached heterosexual man showed up alone, then bragged about his multiple girlfriends.

My married friends really don’t get it.  I love them dearly, but they just have no idea what I go through.  They wake up next to the same person every day of their lives.  They pay bills, worry about the future and plan vacations.  They might fight often, they might be at the brink of divorce, they might even romanticize their single years, but they’re still one half of a couple.  They know nothing of going to every social gathering alone, buying solo movie tickets, or being set up on horrible dates by well-meaning friends.

One married friend suggested that I change my attitude about dating.  He then listed three people who had all gotten remarried after a divorce.  I had to point out to him that all three examples were men who had married much younger women. Being single past 35 is difficult for both genders, but the challenges men and women face are different.  In two of the examples he gave, the men went on to have more children.  My age definitely makes me less attractive to a man who wants kids.  When I asked my friend for some examples of women who had remarried in my age range, he had none.  He just couldn’t see that my problems with dating are real and not imagined.  A simple attitude change was not going to produce age appropriate single men from the sky.

When I go out of my social network most of the interest I get is from men half my age.  I try to tell the young ones they won’t understand my sarcasm, my world-weary outlook and my complete lack of shame or social filter.  Usually they realize they’d rather be with someone with more of a spark of hope in her eyes rather than the jaded cougar. I don’t blame them.

I want my counterpart.  A man who’s had a few of his dreams and aspirations crushed.  At least he’ll understand my point of view and understand that life is mostly improvisation.  The young ones don’t always get that, and how could they?  The roller coasters of romance have knocked people my age around so much they’ve gotten skittish and scared.  They’ll pine away for a love they can’t have, complain bitterly about the one who broke their heart and avoid making any type of commitment with a new partner.  I do empathize as I’m not much different, but with so much hesitation and apathy it’s hard to get excited about anyone.

So I’ve tried, and I have other things to do with my life than spend all of my free time looking for “the one.”.  I’ve accepted that this could be my reality for some years to come.  It gets lonely, and there are days when I just want to scream at the top of my lungs and make it stop.  Then there are times when I’m so thankful that I’m not responsible for anyone else, I’m in charge of all of my finances and I can paint my bedroom whatever color I want.  When I walk by a couple fighting, or listen to a friend rant about their marital problems, I think – I’m free.

When did being in a relationship become the only path to contentment and happiness?  Don’t we all know couples who are miserable?  Don’t we all have friends and family members who remain in a marriage that is a toxic hell?  Don’t we all know men and women who will be with nearly any partner rather than be alone?  It’s not the years you’ve put in, but the quality of the partnership.  Right now after everything I’ve been through, I can honestly say I know more about myself then I ever did when I was someone’s girlfriend or wife.  I’ve discovered more about my strengths and weaknesses in the past 5 years than I did in the first 36.  I might not have someone to hold my hand when things get rough, but I also don’t have anyone to pull me down or hold me back.  I am responsible for my demise or my success.

I’m single and I might remain so for the rest of my life.  I probably won’t have kids.  I’ll have no first day of school photos, handmade cards with the word “Mom” scribbled in crayon, or pools of vomit to clean up after an underage drinking binge.  I won’t go through the highs and lows of parenthood, and none of this means I am less of a person.  A partner and a child do not validate my existence on this planet.

I’m not broken because I’ve been alone for an extended period of time.  I am single.  This is my life, and there is nothing wrong with me because I choose to live alone, rather than stay in a bad partnership. If two people are happy in a long-term committed relationship it’s a beautiful, wonderful, magical thing, but so is building a future by myself, on my terms and without a toxic partner.

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Dating Online – If it Looks too Good to be True…

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I’ve heard stories of women getting scammed from online dating sites, and I never thought I would be a target.  Most of the stories involved men starting up long-distance, virtual romances with women.  Eventually, the romeos would ask for money, either to come meet their true love in person or to help with a personal tragedy – a dying mother, a sick child, or a cancer diagnosis.

I always thought I was immune to this sort of scam because most of the stories I’ve heard involved older women and I refuse to engage in correspondence with anyone who doesn’t live in my immediate area.  I trust no one.  Then one day I got a message from a profile that looked like a Jaguar in a parking lot full of Hondas.   For the purposes of this article, I’ll call him Mr. Beautiful. He simply wrote,

“Hey.”

It was the classic non-committal male introduction. I probably get 20 messages like that a week, from “Hey” to “Hello” to “What’s up?” Most of them go unanswered but this one peaked my interest because the sender was a full-on pretty boy, light brown hair, striking bone structure and a chiseled hairless torso. Now anyone who knows me well, knows I have a “type.” If you lined up all of my ex-boyfriends and trysts, most of them look like they need a sandwich, or two. I like a lanky man.  A massive chest and chiseled abs have never been my thing.

I’m also overly cautious around men who are drop dead gorgeous. As I’ve said before on this blog,

He who gets the pussy easily, does not treat the pussy well.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but most of us know exceptionally good-looking men who go through women like a rottweiler goes through chew toys.  Mr. Beautiful was so attractive, I wouldn’t put him in the top 10% or even 1% of the men I’ve seen.  I would put him in the top one tenth of one percent of absolutely, crazy, perfect men I’ve ever encountered.  It just didn’t make sense to me that he would be on a free dating site.  He had his occupation listed as “model” which made sense, but models come in contact with plenty of attractive women all day long.  A typical beautiful person for hire will meet other models, makeup artists, photographers, art directors, interns, agents, managers, stylists, and even celebrities.

Suspecting fraud, I started analyzing his profile further.  All of his photos were candid. He didn’t post professional modeling shots.  Whomever created his profile tried to make it look casual and believable.  They used well lit snapshots that appeared right out of his daily life.  I still thought though that someone could have downloaded the images from a social media account and the entire thing was a ruse.

As an experiment, I decided to send him a brief email back. He responded by asking a few questions about what I did for a living.  I thought this was odd, as most men ask where I live, they don’t ask what I do.   Questions about my occupation still wasn’t enough to figure out if this man was the real deal or not.  I told him a few superficial things about myself, but didn’t give him my name.

I then read his profile more closely and discovered he was using his actual name on his account, which is extremely unusual for anyone on a dating site.   A quick google search later and I found out the name and images he was the former face of Calvin Klein fragrance.   The information on his profile and Wikipedia page were almost completely identical. It wasn’t an exact cut and paste, but there was absolutely no additional information about him on either source.  It seemed a bit too perfect, but I still wanted a greater smoking gun.  I didn’t want to go out with this man, I just couldn’t help but try to find the evidence I needed to crack the facade.

I kept digging and found two Instagram accounts. One had 32,000 followers, and the other had only 300. The smaller account was made up of a bunch of the same photos at the dating profile. The smaller Instagram account also had some of the exact same information as the dating profile such as his dog’s name, and more bits of personal information.  Both Instragram accounts were public.  It didn’t appear that one was personal and the other used for publicity.  If that were the case, then why not make the smaller profile private?  It seemed like someone created a phony Instagram account to further legitimize the fake dating profile.

I got a second email from Mr. Beautiful.

“You know I hate this site. Why don’t we just chat on this other app.”

My suspicions were completely verified when I realized he wanted me to follow him to some sort of third-party site.  OKCupid has a chat feature so there was no reason we had to go outside of it to talk in real time.  I googled the app and found that it was rife with porn offers and other adult solicitations.

I responded,

“I don’t think your profile is legitimate. I think this is some type of scam. I’m out.”

I tagged his profile as phony but waited before I blocked any future messages.  I wanted to see if he responded.  I located the real model on Facebook and left him a simple message on his fan page that someone was impersonating him on OKCupid.

I got absolutely no response from the Mr. Beautiful profile or the model he was impersonating.  I doubt the real model even noticed my comment.  He probably had someone manage his Facebook page for him.  It was surprising though that whomever created the phony Mr. Beautiful account didn’t even try to plead innocence.  I honestly expected an email like,

“Hey, I’m real. What are you talking about?”

My bet is when I called the scammer out on their deception they just deleted me and moved on. I’m sure they probably emailed dozens of women hoping some of them would take the bait.

When I started talking about this on my Facebook account, most of the comments I got were from men along the lines of

“So this happens to women too?”

My guy friends all had stories to tell of women from other countries seeking green cards, ladies asking for money and prostitutes posing as every day gals just looking for a date.

Of course an International male model could be on a dating site, even a free one, but the two Instagram accounts, the perfect match to his Wikipedia page and the insistence on using an outside application to communicate just screamed FRAUD.

I couldn’t help but think of the classic line regarding New York real estate

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

Meeting the face of Calvin Klein fragrance on a free dating website is about as likely as finding a one-bedroom in the Upper East Side with a balcony, an eat in kitchen, and jacuzzi tub for $500 a month. I’m sure it could happen in some alternate universe but it’s highly unlikely.

Part of me wonders if Mr. Beautiful really did have a legitimate profile.  Maybe I was just being too suspicious and we would have rode off into the sunset to have our painfully awkward first and only date.  I think instead I dodged a bullet of requests for nude photos, an avalanche of dick picks, pornographic spam, unauthorized charges on my credit card, computer viruses, malware, identity theft or requests for money.  I guess I’ll never know.  HA!  Whomever created the fake account wasn’t an idiot, but one of the many gifts I got from my difficult divorce was – NEVER TRUST ANYONE.  Sure it causes me problems from time to time, but I’m much less likely to fall for a scam artist in an International model’s clothing.  I still prefer a thinner guy with messy hair rather than a pretty boy with rock hard abs anyway.  If someone wanted to dupe me, they would need to use a much more average looking guy who desperately needed to fill out his clothing.  If he had a pair of specs on his face….it could be my undoing.

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Top 10 Rules for Dating in New York City

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It’s been five years since my marriage completely disintegrated.  I found myself suddenly thrust back into the dating pool at age 36.  My single friends tried to warn me, but I honestly had no choice.  My marriage was dead and there was no saving it.  I made every dating mistakes a few times.  I’ve evolved from overly emotional, clingy and starry-eyed to cynical, jaded and emotionally bereft.  I keep hoping things will get better, but they never improve.  I’ve tried online dating to no avail.  Most of the guys online never follow through with dates, so I find myself carving out precious time only to resort to sitting in a coffee shop by myself or watching House of Cards on Netflix when my date cancels.  You know it’s bad when you think to yourself that doing business is easier than dating in this town.  I’ve honestly been treated better in most professional relationships, than I ever have been in romantic ones.

So I’ve devised this list.  It pretty much encapsulates what’s become of dating in the city that never sleeps.  From what I’ve heard this across the board for men and women of all sexual orientations and gender identifications.

How to Date in NYC


1. Lower your expectations – I’ve gone from thinking “Maybe I’ll get remarried someday” to “Just answer a simple text message, I only sent you one in the past three days.”


2. Become numb – Get rid of all of your highs and lows as they will not serve you.


3. Show no weaknesses – Don’t let on your hopes and fears too soon.  Show no signs of insecurity.  These things can come later, but since this person probably won’t stick around for any length of time, they don’t need to know any of this.  Put your game face on and keep it on.


4. Expect rude behavior – If you send a simple “What’s up?” text, do not expect a response.  This is after you’ve been out with the person and seen them check their phone every ten minutes. Expect last minute cancellations, constant excuses for why they aren’t available and angry rants about ex-partners.  These are all par for the course.


5. Completely give up on the notion of age appropriate – I’m hit on by men as young as 18 up to around 27 or 28, then the next largest demographic is mid-fifties.  I can’t explain this, but I’ve given up trying.  I just go with what’s offered.


6. Google everyone – Knowledge is power.  Don’t stop at google.  Youtube, Facebook, Twittter even Instagram hold few secrets.


7. Trust no one – Because we live in a city of strangers, a person has to earn your trust before you just believe anything they tell you.  “I had to work” could easily mean – “I was hooking up with one of my other regulars” You might eventually trust your partner, but until then, take what they say with a grain of salt.  Note inconsistencies, never assume they are legit.


8. Get used to the phrase – “I’m just so busy” – You’ll say this yourself.  But you will also hear it as an excuse for everything.


9. Get used to the phrase – “Oh but you live so far away.” New York City is a big town.  We sometimes meet in the middle of this Metropolis in Manhattan.  Only later do we realize that a Bronx to Queens commute is just impractical.  Although some expect to put in absolutely no effort whatsoever.  Basically they will only consider dating you on a regular basis if you live two or three stops away on the same subway line they take every day.


10. Have fun with showing off your dick pic collection, and you’ll get one…trust me you’ll get one. – I don’t know if there is a lesbian or straight woman equivalent, or if this phenomena is as common with every sexual orientation.  I only know that straight women and gay men easily collect dick pics and full frontal nudes. I’ve scrolled through dozens in my gay friend’s phones. I’ve gotten several and I never once requested – “Please send me a photo of your cock. Preferably a self-portrait taken with your phone.  A bathroom shot would really be something special!”  I’ve also gotten requests for photographs of body parts or my mouth wrapped around dildos and various objects.  I’ve never complied. Who said romance was dead?


11. Accept your fate as a crazy cat lady/eccentric bachelor. – I know this brings us to eleven.  For men I guess the crazy cat lady equivalent is the weirdo eccentric bachelor.  We all know a few.  The guys who never got married and have that apartment just full of strange things from their youth.  It’s small and rent stabilized and they’ve lived there for years.  They’ll probably die there but they won’t be eaten by their pet cats, instead someone might stumble upon their mummified corpse after neighbors complain of the smell or they are a final no-show for their eviction in housing court.  I hope that’s not my fate, but things aren’t looking so good lately.

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Dear Rick Perry, Being Gay is not a Disease

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Rick Perry, you really don’t understand homosexuality.  To quote you directly.

Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.

You also advocated for the widely discredited, reparative therapy for homosexuals.  To quote the Southern Poverty Law Center 

Conversion therapy – sometimes known as reparative or “sexual reorientation” therapy – is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation, literally “converting” from gay to straight. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

You might also think that homosexuality is a disease, but the medical community would strongly disagree with you.  To quote psychiatrytoday.com 

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association’s Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition (DSM II). The action was taken following a review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts in the field. The experts found that homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness.

I hate to break this to you but, gay men and women have existed in every culture on the planet, long before a few scant condemnations in the Old and New testaments of the Christian bible  Despite the importance some Christians have placed on the evils of homosexuality, Jesus Christ didn’t think it was worthy of discussion.

Rick, do you ever wonder what happens to gay men and women when they try to force themselves to live a lie?  Do you think that it’s just a matter of self-control?  Do you think once they get married, settle down and have a few kids that those urges and attractions will vanish?

Well Rick, I’ve got news for you.  Most mixed orientation marriages end catastrophically with both partners greatly damaged.  I was in one of those marriages.  I had no idea my husband was gay when I married him.  He was full of so much self-hate about his sexual orientation he thought he could change himself.  He was basically lying to me and everyone else close to him in his life for years.  He tried desperately to change, but realized he couldn’t.  He is gay.  He was gay before we got married, he was gay during our marriage and he’s gay now.  It’s a fundamental part him.  It’s not a weakness of moral character, it’s not a lifestyle choice and it’s not an addiction.  He lived in misery because he was desperately trying to be something he wasn’t.  Now that he is out and proud, he’s a much happier person.

His self-loathing and shame came from the false belief that being gay is a fault or shortcoming.  When I first confronted my ex-husband about his sexual orientation he would have given anything to change it.  Luckily for both of us, he has grown to accept and love himself.  We are both better off now living authentic lives and not trapped in a sham marriage.

There are millions of other straight spouses like me all over the country.  Most of these marriages leave a path of destruction in their wake.  I know women who have buried their husbands with full-blown AIDS, others who have contracted the virus from their spouse. I have heard of suicides and even homicides when these marriages disintegrate  Parents who lose access to their children, and children who now have to split time between two homes.  I’ve met damaged and broken men and women on both sides of these doomed partnerships.  I suffered from a massive depression, I was nearly financially destroyed, I’ve had to accept that I’ll probably never have my own children and at my worst I was suicidal.  It’s hardly been an easy road for me, and I know it’s a daily struggle for many of my straight spouse counterparts.

If our spouses were happier in their own skin, if they could envision a happy and healthy life for themselves, they never would have entered into these fraud marriages.  If you claim to champion family values, you would never encourage a gay person to try to force themselves to be straight.  You would never expect someone to try to change something so fundamental about themselves.  Rick, do you think you could force yourself to live as a gay man?  Do you think you would be happy if every day you had to live a lie?

Your words have consequences.  You lead a state with over 26 million people.  Every time you condemn homosexuality you reinforce the bullying, the discrimination and hate that leads to misery, self-destructive behavior and even suicide.  LGTB youth are more than twice as likely to try to commit suicide than their straight peers.  When you call for medical quackery like reparative therapy you cause more suffering.   Homophobia affects more than just the gay people you target.  The hate splinters out like broken shards of glass cutting into everyone around the intended target.  Relationships between parents and children are destroyed and families are torn apart, and all for something that cannot be changed.  My own life was greatly harmed by this nonsense and I’m not going to be silent when you perpetuate myths and misinformation.

Homosexuality is just another way of being human, and there are a lot of beautiful LGTB human beings in your state.  They just want to live their lives authentically and without shame.  They want to raise families and grow old with their partners.  They just want to live like any other Texan.  You can remain in the dark ages as states around the country legalize same-sex marriage and end discrimination against LGTB people.  I know not every Texan agrees with you.  Hopefully more and more of them will speak out against this bigotry.  Which side of history do you want to be on?

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Life After Divorce: The Fetishization of Marriage

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If I were to write a fairy tale for young children, especially young girls it would go something like this.  Once upon a time there was a young girl who lived in tiny beaten down shack.  She didn’t have a lot of money and her parents were poor.  She decided she was going to get out of her situation no matter what, so she worked hard and went to school.  Despite the obstacles she started her own company and employed a bunch of other poor kids to come and work for her.  It wasn’t always easy and she nearly lost everything several times but she kept working hard and survived.  At some point she got married, and the guy was alright.  She also had children and loved them with all of her might.  She taught he kids to dream big, work hard and try to do right by their fellow-man.  Her marriage didn’t work out and she got a divorce.  She continued to live as happily as with her children and company.  When she died she looked back at her greatest achievements – creating jobs for so many other poor kids, and her beautiful children.  The end.

It could be easily rewritten where she’s an employee but takes great pride and satisfaction in her work.  I could also re-write it where she doesn’t have kids, and gets fulfillment through helping others or by using her creativity. The example of fairy tales is a powerful one for me since I work with kids in my day job.  I can’t help but see how much influence our myths, legends and pop culture have on young impressionable minds.

Why are we only told one story our entire lives?  With a few exceptions there are few fairy tales or fables that do not include weddings as part of a happy ending.  Why are weddings mostly absent in fairy tales geared towards boys?  Why do so many of our fables END with a marriage followed by the phrase “Happily Ever After.”  Every married or divorced person knows that a wedding is not the ending, it’s the start of a new chapter.  A fairy Godmother does not descend from heaven and make everything magical on the day we say “I do.”  In many ways everything gets harder, as the stakes get higher.

If our marriages end in divorce we are not lesser than our married counterparts. We all know dysfunctional and damaging marriages.   Just because two people remain married doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a happy or healthy union.

The wedding industry is big business the US.  With some estimates being as high as $51 billion dollars spent annually.  Yet despite all the extravagance and hoopla fewer people are getting married.  The media decries this trend as some sort of crumbling of our social fabric.  Personally I think it’s a good thing.  Marriage is not necessarily the end all, be all of happiness. Not everyone thrives in marriage and it’s much easier to walk away from a relationship that’s not legally binding.

When I was 27 I gave up my job, relocated to New York City and left my friends and career behind for a man I thought I would be with forever.  From a young age, we’re encouraged that to sacrifice for love is not only acceptable but a nobel thing to do.  Now it’s one thing to stay with a partner in a time of crisis, staying with them during a prolonged illness, or supporting them in a time of crisis.  That is a beautiful thing and a testament to the human experience.  Our bonds with each other can reach such depths that we do want to sacrifice for the ones we love.  At the same time, the emotions I have for my family and friends are just as strong as what I could have for a romantic partner.

We need a new narrative.  We need to stop telling the same story.  Marriage isn’t the only recipe for happily ever after, and honestly happily after doesn’t exist.  We live, we love and go through a lot in our lives and for most of us it’s nothing like a fairy tale.  I’d rather have a life with ups and downs than some Disney fantasy anyway.

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Dear Susan Patton: Take Your Advice and Shove It!

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Susan, I know you really think you’re helping out young women by encouraging them to nab an eligible bachelor while they’re still in college.  Interestingly though the divorce rate is much higher for women who marry for the first time under the age 25.  If women actually take your advice they might pick what you think is a brilliant mate, but if they marry him before age 25, they’ll battle the same genius in divorce court later.

Here are your eight reasons why women in New York City can’t get a husband.  I know this article was published back in March, but a friend just sent me the link and I felt compelled to respond.  I left my husband nearly five years ago, and haven’t had a serious long-term relationship since.  You claim to know WHY women like myself are still single, so I’m going to answer each one of your reasons with my own personal experience.

1. We drink too much – I actually don’t drink alcohol often, and do absolutely no drugs.  I’m a vegetarian and you would probably encourage me to seem less complicated and start eating meat.  Well that’s not going to happen.

2. We spend too much time on iphones and other electronic devices – My ipod has been broken for the past several months.  I miss it.  The earbuds drowned out the constant cat calls.  I live in a less gentrified area of Brooklyn, and it never stops.  Am I supposed to stop and engage an intoxicated gentlemen the next time he makes a comment about my ass?  Maybe that’s why I’m not meeting Mr. Right!

3. We wear too much black – Of course that’s it.  Black makes us look like witches and men hate witches.  I know Angelina Jolie gets no attention and she wears black all the time.  She even plays a witch in Maleficent and everyone knows, men can’t stand the sight of Angelina Jolie.

4. We are dating too many guys at work – I’m self-employed and have no co-workers so I’m not sure how I’m doing that.  I guess I’m dating myself too often.

5. We spend too much time with our gay friends – This is New York City, are you out of your mind?  I don’t just have gay friends.  I’ve got transgender, gay, bisexual, pansexual, polyamorous and several who identify as gender-flexible.  I’m not giving up my non-heterosexual friends.

6. We are ignoring our biological clocks – I know I’m 41 and am well aware of it.  Am I supposed to get pregnant by any random man?  That would seem a bit reckless.  How about I just accept it’s not going to happen and focus on something else.  Adopted kids need homes too.  I don’t have to grow one in my womb.

7. We hook up too much – OH HOW I WISH THIS WAS TRUE!  Honestly I’m fairly picky, I’ve got trust issues, and I just don’t feel safe hooking up with most of the guys who offer it.  It’s not their looks so much as its how they treat me.  If a guy is rude, I have very little interest in sleeping with him. I also don’t like bad sex, and hookups are like rolling the dice.  I don’t know the last time you hooked up with anyone but it can be absolutely dreadful.

8. We overly rely on NYC conveniences – Actually I don’t. Take out is pricy. You also implied this lifestyle is making us fat, but New York City women are some of the fittest in the country.  And Susan you are a full-figured gal, I would just celebrate it and stop blaming General Tso’s chicken.

So that’s your eight reasons, and I answered every one of them.  Now I have a few questions for you.  Susan you’re divorced.  How did that go? My divorce pushed me to the brink of madness and into a literal death spiral.  I had massive depression, anxiety attacks and suicidal tendencies.  I eventually went on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication.  I’m fine now, and drug free but, It was a regular horror show.  I’m sure your divorce wasn’t easy.  Since marriage is about a 50/50 chance nowadays why would you promote anyone to enter into a legally binding relationship that could end in a catastrophic divorce?

Here are my five reasons, why I doubt I’ll ever say “I do” again.  

1. I never want to combine my money with another person - This is the MAIN reason I never want to get married again.  I used to work with my husband, and when my marriage fell apart my income evaporated.  Now I make my own money and decide how I spend it.  It’s amazingly liberating and I never want to go back to even a joint checking account.

2. I don’t want to move – I like living in Brooklyn.  If I choose to move, it should be my choice.

3. I’ve accepted I’m never having my own children. – If I do decide to have a child, I’ll probably adopt.  The adoption process is long and expensive but having a baby at my age is not without problems.  I’ve also accepted that I might never be a parent.  A lot of women never want to have kids.  I did, but my life didn’t work out as planned.  I don’t feel like a failure because I won’t be a parent.

4. I feel complete and fulfilled as a single person - I know this might shock you.  I don’t know how you manage as a single person yourself.  The daily torment must be getting to you.  You must be so miserable that you write books encouraging young women to desperately get what you don’t have.  I would love to date someone special but the longer I’ve been single the more I’ve grown to love it.

5. I never want to get divorced again – If someone wants to get married four or five times good for them.  The prospect of going through another divorce though is so terrifying to me, I think I’ll avoid doing it again.

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Life After Divorce: Why I Hate Over the Top Marriage Proposal Videos

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I’ve sometimes wondered if social media has made us more self-centered, or is it simply revealing our true narcissistic tendencies?  We live in a time of people taking self-portraits ad nauseam. Social media feeds fill up with images with the same basic message:  Look at me, Look at me, Look at me I’m doing absolutely nothing interesting, but for reasons unknown to anyone I really want everyone to see it.  Some feel compelled to declare absolutely every action or thought.  Our world is on overflow of useless, mundane and tedious self-aggrandizing affirmations.

In the days of proclaiming completely irrelevant information, some go to extremes when it comes to major life events.  Pregnancies are publicly documented from nearly the point of conception, wedding announcements go on for pages and pages and a few have even shared their marriage proposals with a global audience.  People spend small fortunes, recruit dozens of volunteers, hire professional musicians, and then toil away for hours editing, all in the hopes that their declaration of love will go viral.  I don’t mind over sharing on pregnancies, and weddings have always been a big deal, but I cringe when I see the proposal videos.

I’m not just here to rain on their parade, I’m the tropical storm that shows up when the beauty pageant winners are riding in the backseat of a convertible.  I can’t help myself.  I’ve been to the dark side of a marriage gone wrong, and I’ll never view marriage in the same way again.  As a divorced person in midlife, I just don’t see the world through such a dewy-eyed prism.  Not only did my own “perfect” marriage disintegrate, I’ve witnessed countless friends get dragged through brutal divorce hellscapes.  When I watch an elaborate public engagements I don’t see a deep never-ending love.  Instead I see person with narcissistic tendencies and a completely delusional view of marriage.  The main focus in almost all of the videos is the guy proposing, not his bride.  So it makes me wonder, is this about his never-ending love for his love, or is it about his ego?

Of course there are exceptions.  If the circumstances of a couple were truly outstanding then I might understand why they might want broadcast such a personal highly emotionally charged moment.  If a partner had narrowly escaped death, returned from war, or a same-sex couple that has been together for decades and can now finally get married.  I understand why they might want to go all out.  In some instances I get it.

Marriage is not about the theatrics.  It’s about weathering the harshest storms life throws at you.  Marriage is sticking with someone when they get sick, go broke, or make huge sometimes extremely hurtful mistakes.  Marriages aren’t a Disney movie come to life.  They’re the every day grind.  Sticking it out for the long haul is about just trying to get along during those boring, tedious and stressful days.  It’s putting up with bad habits, compromising and trying to see the bigger picture.

A person has every right to have a blow out or elaborate engagement or wedding.  We all have different styles and tastes, but it certainly isn’t an indicator of the depth of someone’s love or commitment.  Because again, love in the long-term, multi-year extended version doesn’t survive at that intensity.  It changes, and the adaptations it goes through aren’t necessarily bad.  When I see these public extravaganzas I can help but think, when they are fighting about where to live, what to buy, or how to raise their kids, it won’t matter how many flash mob dancers appeared in their youtube video.

Marriage is also extremely fragile.  Our divorce rate is so high in part, because people grow and change as we get older.  Sometimes two people who made the perfect pair in their twenties, are completely incompatible in their forties.  Some spouses flip out midlife decide to start over, and there is very little the other spouse can do about it.  People get married for all the wrong reasons.  They get caught up in the excitement of wedding planning, picking the perfect dress, creating the most elaborate engagement and lose sight of why they’re doing this in the first place.

The latest viral engagement video stars a man who created it over a four-year period.  Apparently he knew after their first date, that his girlfriend was his partner for life.  The pair just graduated from college, which would make them about 18 years old when they met.  So this is probably the first major relationship for either of them.  Are they soul mates who just got lucky and found each other early?  Or are they two kids who have no idea what lies ahead of them?  Statistically people who marry for the first time under the age of 25 have a higher rate of divorce, but they could beat the odds.

Will we ever view marriage in a realistic light, or will we continue to promote an unattainable fairy tale?  Will some women start to resent a simple proposal over dinner?  Are obnoxious public declarations the new normal?   If videos like these warm your heart that’s great, and some are actually sweet. I just can’t help but see what will probably happen in at about half of these marriages.   Maybe the next trend will be dramatic divorce videos complete with flying dishes, lawyer co-stars and tear filled monologues.  I hope no one thinks that’s a good idea.

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Elliot Rodger has a Facebook Fan Page and Facebook won’t take it down

I did a simple search on Facebook for Elliot Rodger as I was curious to see what showed up.  What I found immediately was a fan page set up for him.  The owner of the page tries to say it’s not a fan page but a neutral one dedicated to discussion about Elliot Rodger, but that’s hard to believe with images like this posted on it.

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The person who runs the site tries to distance Elliot from the Men’s Rights Movement, but at the same time posts incredibly sympathetic things towards him, and a lot a virulent, angry rhetoric against women.  The page has 909 fans last time I checked and despite several complaints Facebook won’t remove the page.   Elliot Rodger is a mass murderer who killed his three male roommates and then six other random strangers.  Will another disturbed man see him as some kind of martyr and attempt a copycat event?  It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.

We could have a dialog about the plight of being raise male in the United States, the unique pressures and challenges that face men in modern American.  But no one should hold up Elliot Rodger as any sort of hero.  He was a privileged, narcissistic person who had more wealth and opportunity than most of us.   He didn’t like how things were going in his life and instead of taking any responsibility, or trying to be proactive to change things he felt sorry for himself.  Then after declaring his superiority he decided to gun down people who had done him no harm.  He is no one to emulate.  He represents the worst of humanity.

If you agree then go to his page right now and file a report with Facebook.  Here it is

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The Hatred of Women: Elliot Rodger’s Killing Spree is not an isolated incident

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A couple of days ago a 22-year-old named Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree.  He stabbed his three male roommates, and shot at least six other victims before taking his own life.  His intended victims were women who had spurned his advances. The son of a Hollywood director, he went out in a theatrical fashion, releasing several youtube videos before his death.  One was a confession, the others were video diaries meant to convey his loneliness and pain.  What they showed was an extremely socially awkward man, with a grandiose ego and enormous sense of entitlement. He also left a 140 page manifesto filled with self-pity and cries of his overwhelming victimization.  Quotes from a transcript from one of his videos:

I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.

 

On the day of retribution, I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blond slut I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much. They would have all rejected me and looked down upon me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them. While they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes.

He repeatedly spoke of women as if they were objects.  In his mind a beautiful blonde was no different than his flashy BMW or an expensive watch   The concept of women as human beings with their own feelings, dreams and desires seemed lost to him.  A young man of great privilege, he saw himself as the ultimate victim just because the women he wanted, didn’t want him back.  It’s fairly obvious this man had deep-rooted emotional problems and mental illness but what struck me about him was his sense of entitlement.  He felt he deserved to have sex with whatever women he wanted to simply because he thought he was more worthy than other men.

Some will say this is an isolated incident of a deranged or mentally ill person.  I can’t help but see a pattern.

Just yesterday it was revealed that school officials were caught destroying evidence in the infamous Stubenville rape case.  Llast week a girl was stabbed to death for spurning a date to prom.  Another young woman killed herself after being cyber bullied for making an amateur porn video.  A college Freshman at Duke University was also “outed” and harassed for working a porn actress.  A few months ago a 14-year-old rape accuser was bullied in her community to the point that she attempted suicide.  Her family’s home was later burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances.  In March the US Army’s Top Sexual Prosecutor was accused of committing sexual assault himself  In Florida a man drove up to a 14-year-old girl and offered her $200 to have sex with him.  When she refused he violently physically assaulted her and then ran her over in his car several times.  A Texas man was acquitted of murder after he shot and killed a prostitute who refused to have sex with him.  He argued the death was justified because he was trying to retrieve “stolen property.”  There are so many other examples that I could literally fill several blogs with graphic account after graphic account.

In the past few years politicians have repeatedly attacked women’s reproductive rights, even to go as far as to try to outlaw many common forms of birth control.  There was a bill introduced in Georgia that would have required police investigations into miscarriages.  Then of course there was Representative Todd Akin who argued that pregnancy a result of a rape was quite rare.

I seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.

Misogyny is alive and well in the United States.  They even have their own chat rooms and websites dedicated to their cause.  Eliot Rodger was Men’s Rights Activist or MRA.  He subscribed to several men’s rights channels on youtube. He was an active member of the PUhate forum, an anti-woman site that’s since been taking down.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has a list of some of the worst groups.  Most rail against the evils of manipulative cruel women and paint men as the ultimate victims. Common themes include: women should go back to their traditional roles, all statistics about women being victims of violence are fabricated, men are entitled to sex, women are inherently manipulative and evil but above all women are objects.

It seems Rodger immersed himself in this community and mindset.  He even went so far as to include much of their terminology in his manifesto and video rants.  Instead of getting proper mental health care, joining these groups was like putting a match to a stick of dynamite.  The misogynist rhetoric acted like a chorus in his head supporting his own beliefs of victimization.  To him being a 22-year-old virgin was the worst possible existence.  Since he was from a wealthy family, he could have driven to Nevada and legally paid a sex worker to take his virginity.

Of course the vast majority of men in the US do not hold the same opinions or values as these groups. These forums are dangerous because they feed the flames of disenchantment and disillusionment in frustrated men. Women are wrongfully scapegoated as the source of their misery and isolation. We can ignore these echo chambers and hope they go away, or we can expose them for what they are – hate groups. Any argument that women do the same thing towards men is laughable.  What makes this whole movement even more infuriating is that men still hold every position of power and wealth in this country.  Even though we make up 51% of the population women hold  18.3% of House seats and 20% of the US senate.  Women only make up 4.8% of CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies.  Yet with such lopsided representation, and disproportionate distribution of wealth and power, according to these Men’s Rights Activists – women have every advantage over men.

Of course there are militant feminist groups on the internet that are full of diatribes about the evils of men.  But where are the news stories of men being murdered simply based on their gender?  Where are the cases of men being singled out and shot for no other reason than being men.  For every female serial killer like Aileen Wuornos there are hundreds of male counterparts.  90% of all homicides are committed by men in the United States. Why is it that rape accusers are often harassed while alleged rapists so passionately defended?

II wish we lived in a world where women weren’t gunned down on the street, raped, harassed, cyber-bullied or treated like property.  Even though it’s 2014 we still a long way to go.  Ignoring this movement will only make it grow.  If we refuse to take it seriously there will be more Eliot Rodger’s who decide that someone’s wife, daughter or sister needs to die, simply because she’s a woman.

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