The Great Craigslist Butt Revenge Adventure: What An Interaction With An Internet Rando Taught Me About My Ability To Ever Really Be “One Of The Guys”

Robyn pointed me toward this ad on Craigslist today:

Robyn, not knowing me that well yet, of course probably figured that I would not reply to this ad. But of course I replied to this ad. I had three reasons for doing so:

  1. Images of my butt are available on various parts of the Internet and in various contexts, so obviously I’m willing to negotiate the possibility of a stranger having a picture of my butt. If anyone should test whether or not this person is legitimately trying to get back at their employer, or if it’s just that he really likes butts, it should be me — any butt photo of mine that he would receive does not contain information that literally hundreds of thousands of other people don’t already have.

  2. I understand what it’s like to really despise a former employer, and I’m willing to wager.

  3. I’m an American patriot, god damn it, and that means I’m enthusiastic about any project involving butts.

So I e-mailed the guy and asked him what was up with this project. “My former employer was just a generalized asshole, to put it simply. We were always at odds over everything. Finally I was fired.” This raised my suspicions a little. I asked, would it be OK if someone else took the photo? He said, “That’s fine.”

So I took a quick photo and sent it to him. His response? “Maybe I should expand this to a ‘kiss my ass / suck my dick / lick my pussy’ photo thing. Care to make an additional (front) submission?”

“My advice is to not get too ambitious,” I e-mailed back. “That’s me giving your request massive side-eye.”

You know how some guys address feminism by saying “If you want equality, just take it/act like one of the guys/we treat everyone the same?” This is what it’s like to be a chick on the Internet — you take what’s supposed to be a prank photo of your butt and you get a thinly-veiled sexual request for a frontal shot. I’m down with pranks! I’m fine being one of the guys! SO TREAT ME LIKE ONE OF THE GUYS. Treat me like my ass is a big fat hairy ass that you’re getting a picture of merely because you want to deluge your former boss with butt pictures, not because you want to fap to it.

I don’t doubt that Fired Guy is genuinely trying to collect photos of butts to try to get back at his employer. I also don’t doubt that he deserved to be fired, because he’s obviously an asshole who gets a response from a chick and automatically tries to make a pass. This is a good stand-in for my interactions with probably 80 percent of men (and remember, 10 percent of men are gay): I try to be cool, I try to treat them like I treat everyone else, I try to have faith that they’ll be all right people and give them the benefit of the doubt, I try to keep an open mind, and 80% of the time, it gets turned into a conversation about their sexual interest in some degree.

And that being the case, maybe I should know better, but I try to retain my optimism. I’m not really that pissed off — I gave a male stranger a picture of my butt (which I’m distributing here, in case you ever need a picture of someone’s butt, but moreover because, like I said, he’s not entitled to information that the rest of the Internet doesn’t have). I took a wager on whether or not he was telling the truth about his stated intentions. I recognized that he would probably respond exactly the way he did.

But that’s the thing: There’s all these stated intentions when women interact with male strangers. “I’m just trying to be nice!” “I’m just giving you a compliment!” “I’m just being friendly!” “I’m just trying to get back at my boss with a deluge of butt pictures!” All of those stated intentions become equally dubious, and chicks like me become less inclined to believe that it’s even possible to “just be one of the guys,” because the guys who ask you to do that usually wind up having ulterior motives and are more than happy to say, when you eventually do get hurt, that you had it coming — you acted too masculine, too much like you expected to be one of the guys, when you’re a woman, and men will never really see you as “one of them,” when men will always see you as a sexual object — or so “the guys” say.

It’s unfortunate, because I’d prefer to be entitled to have my sometimes-immature sense of humor indulged or excused the same way “the guys” do. I’d prefer to be entitled to drink beer and walk around in my underwear the way “the guys” do, and not expect that the combination of the two will be seen as an invitation. That is the kind of equality I’d like to have, in my life, personally. Some feminists scorn the idea that women should be expected to act like men in order to be equal, but I don’t, because I want to. It’s fun, at least part of the time. My version of equality says that anyone should be able to act like anything, and if that includes buying into conventional masculinity, so be it.

So I end up in situations, more often, in which I’m “the guy,” and my guy friends are only ironically “the guy”-ish: Their occasional indulgences in hypermasculinity (action movies, bro-speak, avid fandom for sports teams, interest in automotives, hypersexuality, obsession with physical strength, first-person shooters) are as self-aware as my own, but for different reasons. My male friends are self-aware when they act masculine because they feel like it was something they were told to do — trained to do — when they were kids, but they were the kinds of guys who grew out of it as they got older. I, on the other hand, was told — and trained — not to be masculine, or else people would think ill of me, or I’d get hurt, and I did it anyway, more and more as I got older. I did get hurt for buying into the idea that I could be one of the guys, as it turns out, and my guy friends have seen that happen not just to me, but to other women they’re close with: We see toxic masculinity in action in addition to positive masculinity, and we don’t know how to feel about it. So all of us are these weird amalgams of masculinity, femininity, and our individual interests, and all of us feel equally self-conscious about acting either masculine or feminine.

That sucks. It’d be better if we could all just, you know, act how we want to and not worry about it either getting us hurt or hurting someone else. It’d be nice if I could help with a prank and not have it turned into even low-level predation.

But it is what it is, I guess, and I guess if I’m going to be one of “the guys,” it’s just going to have to be with other women, and when we want to prank people with butt pictures we can do it knowing that the stated intention is really and truly the intention, because we women weren’t trained to see each other, inevitably, as sexual objects. That’s all the equality we have, right now.

[Craigslist]

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