A Delicate Man

I have a folder in my email inbox called “Creeps on the Internet”. That’s where I stash emails and screenshots of private messages from strangers on the internet who want me to give them my full attention.
Maybe read the rest of this post with Criminal by Fiona Apple playing in the background because it feels so right.

I’ve been a bad, bad girl
I’ve been careless
With a delicate man
And it’s a sad, sad world
When a girl will break a boy
Just because she can.

When I first started XOXO, Lib I was so excited about finally having a space that was mine all mine on the internet where I can be who I want to be and say the things I want to say and be my free, true, and authentic self without reservation. And it’s become that place for me for sure. I’ve met so many cool people. I love the community that’s growing in the Facebook group and on Instagram. I love us. A lot.

And things are growing so rapidly and with such gusto–I’m so excited. I can actually see ways that dreams that I’ve had for this platform aren’t pipe dreams. I’m seeing it all come together and when I think about it, I get so excited. Right now, just telling you about it is feeding my spirit in a way that I haven’t felt in a few days.

With a growing platform and more and more readers, it’s natural to get a few creeps thrown in the mix. Especially when you’re talking about fattness, fat fetishism is so real my friends. I’m not mad that the fetish exists. I’m just mad that another person’s fetish turns into a non-consensual situation that I have to find a way to navigate.

I get an occasional dude in my Instagram Direct Messages saying, “Hi.” On my very best days I’m like, “what a lazy dude.” I mean, honestly, why don’t you just come right out and say, “I’d like to have a conversation with you but I’d also like you to do all the labor of starting it and carrying the weight of it all on your own.” Now, these aren’t so bad. Because as loaded as these messages are, they’re super easy to ignore. I just take a screenshot and then block these people and move on wth my day (after I get a collection of “hi” messages I like to post them in my stories to show off how repetitive and unoriginal men on the internet can be).

But then sometimes I get messages from other types of people who want to build a monument to me and hope that I’ll never change my body ever. A lot of times I try to just ignore these messages, too but sometime I just can’t. I gotta know what’s going on in this person’s head. And ten times out of ten, these people haven’t even looked at my profile or my blog or anything. They don’t know who I am at all even! After I reply, they try to strike up a conversation by asking what my name is or where I’m from. Both of those pieces of information are available on whatever platform they used to find me. Which means that they aren’t even remotely interested in me as a person–they’re interested in cruising through a body positive hashtag and then just messaging people indiscriminately. They’re not interested in me, they’re interested in my fattness. They’re not interested in me, they’re interested in what I can do for them. They either want naked pictures or my bank account information. Every. Single. Time.

Last week, a stranger in my Instagram DM’s kept asking me where I was from and I refused to answer him with anything other than, “that information is easily available in my Instagram bio, have you looked at it?” He kept saying, “Of course I looked at your bio I want to love you. So, where are you from?”

The problem, for me, isn’t that I’m frustrated that people are talking to me on the internet. I love talking to people on the internet. Making connections with new people on Instagram is not only one of my favorite joys but it’s also my business. It’s my job. And these people aren’t messaging me on my personal page on my personal time (that one is set to private). They’re messaging me on my business account. And time is money.

IMG_4022Last night, after getting an old fashioned email (yeah, we’re at a stage where email is old-fashioned) from a man named either Douglas or Steve (inconclusive) who wanted to tell me how much he likes/ supports/ is a fan of me and other people like me (note the lack of specifics), I couldn’t take it any more.

[Image description: screenshot of an email from an account belonging to a person called Douglas Winters. The email reads, “Hi. I am a fan and supporter of your blog.
Your blog for plus women is great and it is very nice.I am a fan and supporter of plus women.I have a big appreciation for big women.I am a fan of the plus industry too.I am a big supporter of size equality.Plus models and plus women’s are great.All women should embrace their body and not be concerned to feel that they have to be skinny to fit in with society.I love how plus models and plus women feel confident about them sleeves without having to be skinngy.I am a big fan of plus size women and plus models.I have always supported them too.Plus women and plus models are great.Is it okay to email you and hope it is okay.I am a fan of you and I would really like to keep in touch with you.I want to email you because I am a fan of you and I support plus women too.Hope to hear from you and have a nice day. 
Steve”]

I know as a one-off this email doesn’t seem like much. But imagine that this is the 4th one you’ve received that day and the dozenth you’ve received this week and it’s only frickin’ Tuesday. I sat on the couch with Ryan and I cried a lot. I mostly cried for all the people out there who have it worse than me. I cried for my whole life of being seen as my body before anything else. I cried for the world that gave men this power to (I’m going to quote my friend Courtney here), “just stomp around this planet thinking they can do and say and have whatever they want.” While women are forced into shoes that are created to make us literally tiptoe around the whole world. I cried for the way that these men are allowed to come into my home, into my place of business and ask for my attention for no reason other than the fact that they don’t hate that I’m fat.

I sat there racking my brain trying to figure out how in the hell I can take my power back in situations like these and I came up with an idea. If these people are going to come into my space, into my business and demand my time, I’m going to charge them the same rate–no, higher than I charge everyone else who wants my business on my work time.

So I wrote Douglas/ Steve back and I told him that he’s speaking to me on my business account and I’m sure that he can appreciate that time is money when I’m on the clock. And if he’s looking for my time, it’s going to cost him. So I linked my PayPal account and told him my rates. I’m in charge of this interaction. If he pays me, I’ll tell him about why interactions like these are unwelcome and make me feel unsafe but I don’t have the energy to do the work for all of these men for free.

So here we are. I’ve saved that email into my notes app on my phone and I’ll, from here on out, just copy and paste it to every single man on the internet who wants my time and attention for free.

I haven’t really re-read this post or edited it. I’m just free-writing so I can sort out my thoughts. This isn’t the best/ most eloquent thing I’ve ever written, I just needed to get it out of me so that this bad, objectified feeling doesn’t live inside of me.

Thank you for listening.
I know there are a lot of points of nuance that I haven’t covered. If you’re interested in a conversation about this topic, don’t worry, I probably won’t charge you for it. *wink*

XOXO, Lib

And as always, if you feel the need to come in here and #notallmen me, please know that you’re a part of the problem. Men who know that they aren’t guilty of the behavior that I’m describing and are confident in themselves don’t need my validation which is what this all comes down to, honestly. 

Aziz Ansari is Everyman

So, by now you know that the way I usually deal with topics that frustrate and overwhelm me is to hang back and let things settle before I am able to properly express my thoughts on it. And then more often than not, after that, it feels like too much time has passed so I don’t ever say anything at all. Today’s not that day. Today I want to talk to you about the whole Aziz Ansari… situation… that is going all over the internets.

And I’m going to speak to you as though you are familiar with this story. Not because I want to alienate anyone who isn’t caught up but because I don’t want to spend all of this space waiting to get to my point. Suffice it to say that a woman who is going by Grace, told her story to a website and the internet has (surprise of all surprises) differing opinions on the matter. If you haven’t read the original article, I definitely think you should so that you’re able to draw your own conclusions.

Now, there’s so much conversation to be had about this topic and I’ll never get to it all but I’m grateful that the conversation is happening. On my best, most optimistic days, I feel like these are just the birthing pains that we will inevitably have to labor through in order to give birth to a new order, a revolution of sorts. You know, like the world Oprah talked about in her speech at The Golden Globes.

To me, the most frustrating and, frankly, surprising part of the conversation surrounding this situation is the way that people are accusing Grace of attempting to derail the #metoo movement. For reference, here’s one opinion article that I don’t understand at all. This befuddles me because, to me, this situation is the epitome of what the #metoo movement stands for. I haven’t heard a single sexual misconduct allegation that resonates more with me or my friends. No one has ever invited me up to a hotel room and asked me for a massage–implying that my career is at stake if I don’t participate. It happens–I’m not saying it doesn’t happen or it’s not vitally important to discuss. I’m just saying that story doesn’t resonate with me or my friends in the exact same ways that this one does.  And let me be clear–Grace isn’t making any legal claims against Aziz. She’s not the one who put labels on her encounter. She never called it assault. She called it a violation–which is completely valid. She’s not calling for everyone to boycott his work or for him to lose his jobs. How you want to engage with Aziz Ansari going forward is entirely up to you.

Grace saw Aziz wearing a Time’s Up pin during his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes and she was smacked in the face with memories of that night when he didn’t give even half of one shit about her comfort, safety, or pleasure. I assume that her internal monologue went something like, “Oh hell no! He doesn’t get to pretend he’s a good guy!” I understand this feeling. I, too, have swallowed that rage every time a person who coerced my friend into having sex with them posts something on Facebook about what a good feminist they are. It’s white-hot. It makes me want to claw their eyes out.

The encounter that Grace and Aziz had is so familiar–so maddening that many of my friends are completely unable to even begin to engage with it. It hits too close to home and if we are going to listen to Grace’s story and say that something terrible happened to her, we’ll have to admit that terrible things have happened to us. And we’re not ready for that. That requires a lot of labor that, frankly, we’re too weary to deal with. What’s not #metoo about that? That’s the #metoo-est.

I can’t even respond to the people who keep saying, “but why did she stay???” Is this not a refrain that we’ve been hearing since the beginning of time? Since men have been mistreating women, there’s always been someone to ask why she let it continue without even questioning why he did. It wasn’t until she finally convinced him to leave her alone for just a little bit that her mind was able to wrap itself around how messed up the situation actually was. And when she had that clarity, she got herself out of the situation.

He kept her in defense-mode for so long–trying to deal with the immediate need in the moment, unable to see the big picture or an exit strategy. It’s so easy to say from the outside, with our perceived omniscient point of view, “well here is exactly when she should have just up and left.” But that’s really easy for us to say when we know how the situation ended up playing out. But in the moment her brain is doing this thing where she wants to maintain this view of him that she’s always had. As a good guy. The good, feminist guy that he works hard to present to the world–the guy that feels safe. She even said, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.”

I’m not here to discuss the legalities of this situation. First of all, I don’t know the law and that’s not my job. But secondly, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the bar for a good sexual experience be set a little bit higher than Not Rape. If this was a situation of Aziz just not being a good lay, I’d miss this whole conversation. But that’s not what’s happening here. She wasn’t saying, “I had the worst night of my life because Aziz uses this move during sex that I called ‘The Claw’.” She was dismissed and used and disregarded. She was in a situation with a person who didn’t want to have sex with her–he just wanted to have sex period. Preferably in front of a mirror.

She used her words on at least two noted occasions to express her discomfort–immediately following one of these occasions he asked for oral sex. She used her body language repeatedly to deflect and leave the situation and he overcame every obstacle that she threw at him like a game. Eventually she would either tire out and relent or be… I don’t know… charmed? Is that really what he thought? I don’t know.
This is when I remind you that body language–yes, is a valid form of communication. And for someone who makes a living out of relaying the subtleties of human communication, Aziz Ansari, of all people, was well equipped to speak that language if he’d bothered to.

It’s been really easy for a lot of the men on my social media to call out the things that Harvey Weinstein did or what Louis C.K. did because it’s so cut and dry. And because they can’t really relate to these men. Those men are big and powerful and they know it and they wield it like a weapon in order to get what they want. But Aziz wasn’t doing that. He was just being a regular guy on a date. He just really, really wanted to have sex with this girl. And he was so wrapped up in making that happen that it didn’t even occur to him that she might not be on the same page. A fact that he only reiterated when he made his statement, “It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.” It wasn’t even until the next day that he even considered how she was feeling on their date. Imagine if he’d taken her feelings into consideration that night? He wouldn’t be dealing with this mess right now. And, while I can’t claim to know what she was going to be into that night, her account read as though she might have even been into it if he cared to consider what she wanted.

The thing is that Aziz presents himself as a feminist. An ally to and a safe person for women. And I believe that he sees himself as that, too. I think we’re all constantly learning and constantly making mistakes and finding education in them. We’re also able to learn from other people’s mistakes. If Aziz wants to present as a feminist ally–we’re going to need him to be the example, here. Someone has to fall on their sword for the cause and, while I hate that it’s him, he’s actually the right one to do it. I love Aziz Ansari. I think he’s funny and he’s smart and, you know what? I’m going to continue to like him after this. Well, you know, at least how everything stands as it is right now.

Male Feminists: This is where you put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. Because if you believe the things you say you believe, you’re going to have to prove it and let this learning opportunity happen. Coercion is not consent and coercion was what was happening that night. Consent is an ongoing conversation throughout an encounter. It doesn’t have to be sexy or flirty. It just has to be present.
“Where do you want me to fuck you” is not asking for consent. It’s assuming consent.
“Can I…”, “Do you want to…”, “Is this okay?” All good places to start.

So, friends. When a girl comes over and compliments your marble countertops, just say thank you and don’t take it as an invitation to her entire body.

 

Photo by Das Sasha on Unsplash

Stories Make Change: Update 1

**trigger warning: sexual assault**

I’m blown away by the response that’s already been received regarding yesterday’s post asking for stories. If you missed that post I really want to ask you to please go back and read it.

But for the TL;DR version:
I want to collect stories from women and men that share, from personal experience, what non-consent has looked like in their lives and the effect that remains. I want to post those stories (anonymously) to keep the conversation going and to change the general consensus of what sexual harm is.

What follows are the stories of non-consent that I’ve already collected, told in their own words. And I’ll update again as often as I can when new stories come in. They can be difficult to take in so I beseech you to utilize self-care in your reading. Check in regularly with your feelings and follow along in a way that is safe for you.

I’m overwhelmed with the way that you all have trusted me with your stories. If you have a story that you want to tell, please use the anonymous form found here or email me: libby (at) xoxolib.com

Continue reading “Stories Make Change: Update 1”

Stories Make Change

**Trigger Warning: A hopeful piece regarding sexual violence and taking a stand against it. But sexual violence nonetheless.**

Update #1

I’ve sat quietly with friends as they’ve told me their stories of sexual assault, harassment, non-consent, and rape. Held their hands, pushed the hair out of their faces, telling them “what can we do to make you feel safe?” and “whatever you choose to do is the right thing and  I’m behind you.” Inside I’m screaming out in agony that yet again, the cavern in my chest widens and swallows up the people that I love. The people that I love who are made to feel unsafe. In their own homes. In their own clothes. In their very own bodies. They’re made to feel unsafe–a price that they have to pay so that some one else can feel big for a day. Tell me how that’s right. Tell me how we’re just supposed to accept that, will you?

According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women will experience an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.

After the Brock Turner case, there’s a fire in my belly. I will not sit quietly and hold hands and nod in agreement feeling, ultimately, helpless. I won’t do it any more. Not one more time.

There’s a lot of talk about how rape is bad. And, I mean, yeah! Who’s going to argue with that? There are too many people in my Twitter and Facebook feeds talking about how easy it is to not rape a person. And especially after the Stanford case, because it was so heinous and because his victim spoke out so bravely, eloquently and admirably and because it fit the standard definition of rape so clearly, it’s easy to say “I’ve never done that and I’ll never do that” and “well, that has certainly never happened to me.”
But I know that some of those same people have had not-exactly-consensual sexual experiences. And that’s where it gets muddy.
I know that in the muddy, grey area, a lot of these people do not consider themselves “rapists” or “rape victims” and I’m not even suggesting that they should. I know that because it is muddy and because it is complicated, a lot of stuff gets ignored or pushed aside or deemed “not that bad”. But, listen. It won’t be ignored. The culture of non-consent is still worth taking on.

IMG_0360

As long as the standard definition of “rape” involves a stranger in a back alley or behind a dumpster or hiding in your closet, usually with a weapon, then we’re all going to think we’re in agreement—we’re all going to ignore the people who have experienced sexual assault in the grey-area. And that grey-area is where most of these instances occur.

I really believe that change won’t occur until we change the definition. And I don’t think one person can do that. It’s going to take a village—a great big one. So I’m begging you to be a part of that village.

What I want to do is this:

I want to show the world what sexual assault and harassment looks like in all of its various forms.

I want to collect stories from women and men that share, from personal experience, what non-consent has looked like in their life and the effect that it has. I want to post those stories (anonymously) to keep the conversation going and to change the general consensus of what sexual harm is.

You can share your story by filling out the form at the bottom of this post or by emailing me: libby (at) xoxolib.com.
You can help by passing this along. The more stories we collect, the more comprehensive we can be, the more education we will spread.

Leave your story here:

I want you to know that I honor you and your story and I will treat each one with the sacredness that it deserves. Your experiences didn’t happen in vain. They will be transformed into a teachable moment—causing a ripple effect of education.

Thank you.
XOXO, Lib

Edit Note: Because anonymity is vital with this post, I disabled comments simply as a way to keep things from getting confusing for anyone who wants to share something vulnerable. But I still want to have this conversation with you. Head over to the XOXO, Lib Facebook page and we’ll talk there. Or send me an email.
Thanks to every one who has already shared their stories since this post went live. XOXO