Recently I ran into a male acquaintance of mine at a social event. He’s one of those with a proclivity for preaching paternalistic behavioral prescriptions for the ladies. His Facebook status updates read as morality truisms—i.e., “if you want a man to be faithful, see that you are attending to his needs”—so I can’t say I was surprised when he presumed, immediately upon seeing me, to give me life advice.
“You’re playing with fire,” he warned me, as he looked me up and down, smirk cocked and loaded.
My degrees, my prestige, my hard work, he reminds me—I shouldn’t “throw it all away on this foolishness.” He’s heard I’m back in the business. He rests his hand on my bare thigh, ensuring that I understand what parts of me are wrong. He squeezes.
He presumes himself smarter, wiser than me. My credentials disappear beneath the shadow of my licentiousness. Working in a strip club erases advanced degrees, makes my doctorate no longer count, places him, his suit, and his MBA above me on all social, moral, and intellectual levels.
“You’re playing with fire,” he tells me, as he looks me up and down, serving up his judgment like a street preacher scaring lost souls. Naughty, naughty girl, his eyes say, as he asks, in a worried tone, “how is your son?”
By expressing “concern” for me, he terrorizes me. His “concern,” indeed, functions as a reminder that I should Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid—because who I am, as I am, does not count in this world. His world.
He assumes that respect flows like water if I place myself in a “legitimate” professional setting. Has this man, like me, ever walked into a classroom of exclusively male students to find that they have drawn a 10 foot ejaculating dick across the board? Has this man, like me, ever made $600 a month for teaching two sections of college English? Has this man, like me, ever had to reckon with the sobering knowledge that landing a 5/5 teaching gig in Bumfuck-Kansas now represents the ultimate dream for many of those in my field? Does this man know the lay of the land he encourages me to transverse?
My sexuality is a problem for him, and he sees that it will a problem for me—and it will be, in his bourgeois utopia where women wear pearls, and men smoke cigars, and a lady always—always—takes a gentleman’s advice.
This man will go home, I wager, turn down the lights, tune-in to PornoHub, and cry a single tear for girls like me, depraved whores, as he shudders one out before bedtime on the back of our labor, deliciously unaware.