Slate, one of the Internet’s standard-bearing publications for American “liberal” culture, will publish just about anything they can slap a click-baity title onto. Case in point: last week, dad-blogger Andy Hinds posted an essay about his struggle to reconcile his active sexual imagination with his feminist leanings:
I assume that my “condition” is perfectly normal, because many friends I’ve consulted have admitted that they, too, might have graphic daydreams about a woman they saw for five seconds at a traffic light. And indeed, the academic research on the subject corroborates my informal polling. But I couldn’t get over the cognitive dissonance of the whole situation. How could enlightened, feminist guys like myself put up with these unbidden fantasies that violate our dedication to gender equity and basic human decency?
(In his follow up, Andy explained that his essay was just a Louis CK-inspired satire piece about male sexuality, and that, though he exaggerated his experience for comedic effect, he does feel conflicted by the “complicated, contradictory thing that happens in the monkey-minds of men.”)
Obviously, this is a touchy topic. Many people would understandably be squicked out to learn that somebody is harboring degrading or disturbing fantasies about them. Imagine if your mom told you she used to fantasize about drowning you in the tub.
But we’re libertarians, not the thought police. Actions are what matter. (To his credit, Andy assures us that he’s careful about potentially making women uncomfortable). Fantasies are definitionally private, self-centered thoughts that allow you to abstract away real-world circumstances. If I daydream that I’m athletic and bad-ass enough to take on a dozen young gangsters in a knife fight, that doesn’t mean I have an actual desire to beat up rowdy teenagers.
If I had to guess, I’d say Andy’s problem isn’t the fantasies per se, it’s his preoccupation with what these fantasies mean about him. We’ve all known men like this: sensitive soul-types with a dark streak/porn collection, who secretly hate themselves for not meeting their own moral standards. Andy’s self-reflection has become recursive – he’s worried that he’s not as feminist as he thinks he should be (in the first-person, the word “I” would appear four times in the previous statement). This essay isn’t about women, or feminism, or sex, or masculinity. It’s about Andy.
I said above that actions matter. If you sincerely care about gender equality, and you find yourself in a similar struggle as Andy, try less talking/blogging, and more doing. Donate to a women’s organization, volunteer at a shelter, call out your buddies who make sexist jokes, march as an ally in the next Slutwalk, or even seek out art, film, literature and music by female creators. Contributing yet another Controversial Click-Bait Internet article does nothing except boost Slate’s ad revenue. Do something to help, or get out of the damn way.
To paraphrase my favorite Internet comic: Your fantasies aren’t the problem. The problem is that the person having them is you.