The world seems to think it’s complicated, but that’s the way it always is with women. Every word we say and move we make is something to be decoded for all of its double-talk and deeper meaning. Humans are complex, that’s true, but it seems like the complexity of women is often a more refined way of asking ourselves “Why are all these bitches so hard to figure out?” I think, in many ways, what we (we being straight, single girls, of course) are looking for is quite straightforward.
For so much of our romantic life, we are not treated with respect. We are called at from the street, we are looked at in ways that feel almost physically aggressive, we are pushed to go farther in bed than we ever intended. If we don’t bend to these things, we are called names and rejected and told that it was our fault. You learn it when you’re just ready to have your first kiss, maybe around 13 or so. Little Billy is going to think that all your hand-holding and lip-touching means something more. You’d better be careful, don’t give him any crazy ideas. It’s like our bodies themselves — our existence in this world — is constantly giving boys bad ideas that are going to make them do bad things that we should be steeling ourselves against.
How many relationships for us were only brief, regrettable interludes for the person we loved? An efficient way to acquire sex? A placeholder for a more meaningful relationship? How many touches did we allow ourselves to succumb to because we were taught that it was the only way to really get a boy to like you, or to notice you, or to keep his attention? The romantic world is carved out for us as the one place we are supposed to find purpose and worth, but also as a world of fear and pressure to never make the wrong move. Don’t be a slut, but don’t be a prude. If he calls you, even if it’s a day after he said he would, just be glad that he’s giving you some attention.
We want to be loved, in a way that isn’t directly tied to how pure we are sexually or how much we’re willing to “give away.” We don’t want to be some object on the street that exists for a moment of visual enjoyment or to exert your dominance over her sexuality. We don’t want to spend the whole night running over the first date in our mind because we are worried about coming off as too easy or too stuck-up, or have to give in to a million different physical advances that we are taught is our most effective way of getting what we desire. We want to be loved.
But in that love, we want to be human. We want to be touched and cared for and listened to like a person who occupies a full body, a full space, a full voice that is as meaningful as anyone else’s — even when it is not naked, or in flattering lingerie, or photoshopped with the perfect amount of invisible makeup. We want to be people that exist on multiple planes of humanity, who can fill many roles in your life, who is not seen as dichotomous from your “friend time” or your “fun time.” A relationship is such a beautiful thing, and we can feel when it is being pigeonholed into one very specific corner of your otherwise-full life. We can feel when we are just the Woman, and not the Partner.
We want respect, and it feels so silly to have to ask for such a thing. We don’t want to be playing games with our dignity or our honor or our ability to make choices for ourselves. We don’t want to wonder what you think of us because we’ll know that, no matter what it is, it’s not because you have less esteem for us as a gender. It’s not because you view us as sexual or maternal, and never both at the same time. It’s not a hard thing to imagine, that kind of full, honest love, but it’s something we are sometimes scarcely afforded. Our lives are filled with unwanted remarks and aggressive touches and conflicting expectations, but we want to find an island in that storm. We want a place where our sexuality is healthy, and fulfilled, and not at all in conflict with our respectability.
If that sounds like a tall order to you, I suspect that you’re not ready to love anyone.