The big story of the week is the piece that Chloe Dykstra quietly posted on Medium, where she talked about her former long-term relationship with a podcaster turned CEO, who had been older and he’d been emotionally abusive.
The internet has been trying to pigeon hole this discussion into categories, and I’m here to tell you that discussions about abuse are not easy to define. Every story is unique, and should be treated that way (even if you’re talking about the same abuser).
But people want to fit things into nice neat categories, so you see people try to dismiss her story because he wasn’t as bad as Weinstein. Or because they were in a relationship and she knew he had rules.
One of the things I told a certain person in my life who dates older men is that there are a lot of issues inherently with dating someone who wants to date younger women. Either they’re emotionally immature and want someone on their level, or they’re built their life the way they want it and think that a younger woman will accept this and do what they can to fit the life without question – in short, they know that women with more experience are likely to call them on their bullshit, and they want someone they can make into their ideal “partner.” I put that in quotes, because they don’t really want a partner. That implies a relationship where you try to meet in the middle. These men want someone who is exactly what they want them to be. A pretty face who’s grateful for their attention and won’t push the boundaries they set.
Which can easily turn into something emotionally abusive.
I saw a lot of people trying to trying to say that it wasn’t so bad, since he didn’t rape her.
Man, I hate that phrase. When I talked about what happened to me, a lot of people openly said that they weren’t sure why I was so traumatized- it wasn’t like I was raped. And seriously, trauma and damage can happen for a lot of different reasons. But I’m getting off topic, here.
It was very clear, from her piece, that she was not enthusiastically consenting to sex. It was expected, and out of fear of how he might react, she complied. That means she was coerced. (And if she was coerced, she couldn’t have consented – which makes this sexual assault, no matter what your personal definition of rape) And sexual coercion is something that we do, as a society, need to talk about.
It isn’t always as clear cut as what we think of when we think of the word coercion. It sounds like twisting someone’s arm, to get what you want. But in the case of sex, the more likely coercion comes from the date/partner that pressures you into changing your no to a yes. Or who expects sex for a particular reason – whether it was because they paid for your date, a gift or whatever. If there is an expectation without actually asking, that’s coercion.
And we have written these rules into society, unfortunately. We teach girls, that if you let guys pay for so many dates, that they’ll expect sex in return. That sexual favors are the expected form of thanks for gifts. They show up in women’s magazines, men’s magazines, get regurgitated everywhere.
How often have your heard a girl talk about how she didn’t want to have sex, but the guy expected it, and someone chimes in with “well what date was it?” or “did he pay?”
This is a really difficult and awkward conversation that needs to be had. Separately from dismantling serial sexual harassers and abusers. Because these are insidious things that we’ve accepted as being okay. It’s much easier to point to emotional abuse and say it’s wrong. To point to rapists and say that isn’t okay. To point to sexual harassment and say that shouldn’t happen. But the moment we start talking about moments like this, it opens up a wealth of people who don’t see what’s wrong with it – who wonder if it isn’t a problem because she didn’t say no.
And that is why we need to talk about it. I don’t know where or how, but this isn’t just about taking responsibility for one’s part in a failed relationship or an abusive relationship – it’s about understanding why someone wouldn’t just say no. Why they didn’t think that was on the table.