Sure, men love beautiful women. Who doesn’t? Beautiful women make this world go round. Who inspires the arts and our will to live better than a beautiful woman? Being beautiful comes with its perks, too: automatic social acceptance, an abundance of smiles, compliments and courtesy, as well as a better shot at career advancement. Life is easier when you’re better looking, so it should come as no surprise that women are encouraged—some might even say pressured—to strive for their most beautiful selves.
Beauty comes with its disadvantages, however, from not having one’s viewpoints taken seriously enough to becoming a target of sexual harassment or assault. Being beautiful is both a reason to be lauded and a reason to be blamed, should any hapless man be tempted by my silent siren call to unabashedly give my tits an unsolicited squeeze. Because by being beautiful, I am “asking for it.”
Wait! Stop the presses. Did I just call myself beautiful? “Whoa there. Tootin’ our own horn, are we now?” Let’s not forget the first rule of the Beautiful Club: You do not talk about being beautiful. To acknowledge one’s beauty is to confirm oneself as vain, self-absorbed and inevitably, pretty stupid. The solution, of course, is to play dumb: “Me, beautiful? No, there must be some mistake. You must have confused me for someone else. I am incredibly hideous. Are you off your meds again, grandma?”
Her tolerance is lower, her inhibitions are nil. What’s the harm?
But you know what? Fuck the rules: I’m beautiful, and you know what else? I like getting attention for my beauty. So what? Why would I wear shoes that sound like the trots of a horse cantering into the room if I didn’t want you to notice me? Why would I wear lipstick if I didn’t want you to look at the fullness of my lips? Why would I expose a little cleave if I didn’t want you to admire the fundamental fertility of my jugs?
While I may be asking you to notice me, look at me and admire me, I am not, my friend, asking for "it.” That is, sex—or to be harassed, assaulted, stalked, raped or exposed to in pursuit of it. Know what I mean? You may believe a woman who has spent time on her appearance is, at the very least, asking for a compliment. I’d say the compliment and how that compliment is delivered make the difference between a flattering remark and sexual harassment. Are you offering a kind word because her appearance has genuinely brightened your day or because you think your praise is the lube that’ll lead to a hot encounter? The former is appreciated; the latter comes off as aggressive and predatorial.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it to one of your male friends, don’t say it to a woman.
For instance, let’s say one of your lady friends is wearing a dress with a pattern that catches your eye. It just so happens that this dress also hugs her curves, and that ass is looking tight as hell. No need to mention this: simply take a mental picture for your spank bank and think about it when you get home. For now, “That’s a nice dress, I like the pattern” will do. Case closed. You complimented a woman without being a creepy perv. Congratulations! I hear you: The urge to say, “Damn girl, can I just say that dress looks really good on you, like those boobs are looking good enough for me to squeeze. You got a man or what?” is so strong, so culturally ingrained, so socially acceptable among your brethren that toning it down may feel—I don’t know—weak. But think about what if, out of no where, one of your male friends or colleagues said, “Daaaaaamn boy, can I just say that shirt looks really good on you, like those manboobs are looking good enough for me to squeeze. You got a woman or what?”
You would feel uncomfortable, right? You didn’t ask to be sexualized. You simply wore the Hawaiian shirt with the top button undone because casual Friday and laundry day converged this hot summer week, and now you’re sitting alone in your cubicle wondering why you were called out in front of the whole office with a lingering sense that nobody respects you or the work you do. What a shitty feeling I will never understand. Perhaps you believe a woman who wears revealing clothing is undeserving of your high opinion. I know, it’s an anomaly: how can a woman who displays her cleavage like a farmer parading his prize pig expect to be respected? Is a burlap sack preferable? A burlap sack won’t get me that unmerited promotion, so no.
Maybe you were taught that women who reveal their bodies are not only unworthy of your respect, but clearly do not respect themselves. These beautiful women—insecure, vain and stupid—primping themselves for your approval are then ripe for the groping because surely, you wouldn’t grope a woman you respected or one who respected herself. Say, who’s more grope-worthy: the woman who could mentally outwit you or the drunk girl at the party doing keg stands?
When I’m asking for it, I’ll use my words.
Predators looking to get their fill aren’t looking for an intellectual challenge. They’re looking for the easy, guaranteed yes to sex. The less conscious, the less likely she’ll reject them and their insecure asses. And so, the drunk girl at the party doing keg stands is, well, “asking for it.” Her tolerance is lower, her inhibitions are nil and the chances she’ll remember a predator copping a feel are nearly non-existent. What’s the harm?
Hey, how ‘bout you? What if you woke up to one of your best bros getting his jollies off by plucking your beautiful anal flower? All you did was get drunk and pass out. Were you asking for it? No, of course not– you’re a man! You exist in a world where you can trust other men to not sexually assault you, whether you’re at work, on the street or passed out at a party. What a privilege it must be to trust the better judgment of your fellow man.
Maybe one day, I’ll be able to trust men, too. And when I’m asking for it, I’ll use my words. My beauty will no longer be a non-verbal invitation to sexually harass and assault me, but a pleasant delight that helps make this world go round.
Andrea Werhun is a writer and performer based out of Toronto and the author of the forthcoming book Modern Whore, a collection of memoir, fiction and photography created in collaboration with filmmaker Nicole Bazuin. Based on her two years as an escort in Toronto, the book is set to be published by [Impulse :b] in October 2017. Follow Andrea on Twitter: @andreawerhun.