Last semester, on October 27, hours after the opening of my show “This Is Not A Play About Sex,” I received an anonymous email from a self-proclaimed “anonymous douchebag fratboy” who shared with me some of his thoughts on the hook-up culture at Colgate. He refers particularly to the monologue “Pleasure Party” where a female character who spent her Colgate career negotiating body issues, self-esteem problems, and the imbalance in what she perceives as a male-dominated hook-up scene wonders aloud why it is that women have to expect to be treated like dirt by men on this campus. Here are some of fratstar69’s thoughts on the matter, followed by my response:
Dear Christina Liu,
Great job on the play…I’d like to offer my perspective as one of those ‘douchebag fratboys’ that [the monologue] is referring to.
…It seems that every girl complains about guys not ‘wanting’ to commit, but what it comes down to is – if we show signs that we want to commit, you’ll lose interest in us… I used to be that guy my freshmen year. The girls that I were interested in, I treated them with respect. When they were blackout, lost and confused, I walked down to hill to find them, bring them safely back up to their dorm, get them water and food and made sure they passed out in their bed without taking advantage of their state of mind – even when they asked me to. I never got anywhere with those girls. I didn’t realize until joining a fraternity that that was not what girls were actually attracted to…
It really sucks having to pretend to be someone who I’m not to get attention from women that I’m attracted to. I’m with an amazing girl right now… But to get to this point, I had to be an asshole to her, play with her emotions and destroy her self-esteem from time to time. It feels terrible having to hurt someone you truly like and care about, hook up with her friends who I did not want to hook up with at all, blow her off to make her wonder what I was up to, just so that she wouldn’t write me off as just a friend. I really wish that I could have just asked her out on a date and be upfront with her, but if I did so, we wouldn’t be together right now.
Sorry to everyone that I’ve been a jerk to. Sorry to everyone that I’ve kept wondering if I’d call back or not, if I’m interested or not. I hope you’ll understand my perspective and why I do these things. I don’t know if my actions are justified or not, but the truth is, it does bring results. I think that most guys here at Colgate will attest to the fact that being a dick attracts more attention and interest than otherwise.
Anonymous Douchebag Fratboy
Dear Anonymous Douchebag Fratboy,
First of all, thank you for attending my play, and thank you for so openly sharing your frustrations, your perspective and your apologies with me. I’d like to begin by saying that I understand why you feel forced to play the role of the asshole, and you have aptly noticed that the hook-up culture is the result of a double narrative where both genders (if we can speak heteronormatively, for the moment) play a role in perpetuating it. But I think you missed a crucial point. You target women as the culprit, women who denied you in the past when you were nice, genuine and respectful; they were the ones who forced you to play the role.
I am similarly dissatisfied with this culture which does not foster healthy relationships and which encourages people to let themselves be treated with disrespect, but if we are going to speak about feeling victimized by this culture, let’s also talk about what different degrees of victimization look like. Yes, it does suck having to actively manipulate and hurt someone else when that’s not what you want to do, but it sucks more to be on the receiving end of systemic blows to your self-esteem. Yes, it does suck to miss out on an easy hook-up with “blackout, lost and confused” women, but it sucks more to wake up after a night of being blackout, lost and confused not remembering the consent you did or did not give, and wondering if this uneasy feeling is the result of an assault. It sucks to have to systemically tear down someone else’s self-esteem just to get a date, but it sucks more to have internalized so fully your low self-esteem and oppression that you need the attention of a man in order to feel validated again. I hope it is clear that what is missing from your interpretation is that this culture is not about assholes, it is about power.
I can see in your email that you are at heart a thoughtful individual, but what I am most troubled by is the justification of what sounds like “I’m sorry I am being forced to hurt you.” It is a displacement of responsibility for your actions which at best results in wondering why a text has not been replied to and at worst results in the current culture of violence we live in where every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in America.
You say you do the things you do because it attracts attention, that being nice doesn’t bring results, but I’d like to ask, why should we be rewarded for treating other people with dignity? Why is human respect dispensable when it doesn’t help you get laid? And why is the focus on getting any someone rather than getting the right someone?
You asked me in your email to think about the men in my life and which ones I have friend-zoned and which ones I am attracted to. Here it is. The type of man I am attracted to is one who is strong enough to interrupt a culture he does not agree with, one who can keep me interested not by making me wonder whether he will text or not but by his character, his wit, his passions, his talents and one who does not have to rely on the hook-up scene as his only means of interacting with me. Find me someone like that, and I can assure you they will have my attention.