Hey, beautiful

I had a classic Freya-owned moment this evening.

I was coming in from the parking lot, trying to carry way too many things as usual, when I saw that my pothead neighbor was holding the gate open for me. I’m not a fan of pot (or potheads, or the potheads who hang out in my parking lot), but he was being polite, so I thanked him and went in. He gave me a look and said, “Hey, no problem, beautiful.”

Now, this is a guy who has been giving me looks for a while now, so I’m pretty sure it was meant in a Hey, baby way. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but still; my reactions to this comment say a lot, I think. My reactions to being told I’m beautiful, even in kind of a sleazy way such as this, are a whole lot more complicated than I’d realized.

My initial reaction was, “Who do you think you are, saying anything about me or my body? Jackass.” Followed quickly by, “Well, I am beautiful. At least he’s observant.” Followed by ten minutes of listening to misc. voices outside, thinking, “I don’t feel safe picking up my laundry right now for fear of getting hit on. Dammit.” I’ve always been uncomfortable being hit on; lighthearted flirting is always a good thing, unless I’m not really in the mood (which would quickly become evident), but being hit on has always freaked me out a little, no matter who it is. I don’t like being hit on by strangers, or guys I don’t know well; and I really don’t like being hit on when I’m at home and have my guard down. It’s created quite an internal conundrum, what with me working for a sexy, vivacious love goddess and all.

Out in the world, I can do the “Yes, I am gorgeous, don’t you wish you had me? Too bad; you don’t get any” vibe. I’m good of it.; I kind of have to be. I like to strut around and look pretty, but I don’t like interacting with unexpected new people. I can deal with them, I’d just prefer not to. One of my good friends likes to tell people about the time that we were at a shopping at a Con and someone randomly started petting my butt. (I had been wearing my leather dress, granted; but still–boundaries.) When I finally realized that someone was touching me (the leather is thick; it took a while), I gave her a look that, I’m told, can peel paint off of walls and kill a man at fifty paces. There was also a raised eyebrow and an “Excuse me; are you touching my ass?” involved (italics in the original).  At which point I got a startled apology from the woman, and she slowly backed away. (As a head’s up: women do not get a free pass on this. Sorry, ladies.)

(To a certain extent, though, I can understand her reaction–yards of soft Ravenswood leather, draping my derriere; I’d have wanted to pet me, too. But again–boundaries, people. Respect them.)

My point here being, that I can do a killer ice queen act if I need to. I do it too well, sometimes, but it really does seem to cut down on the random sexual harassment crap that I hear other women get. I see very little of it, comparatively. But this all makes for lots of inner conflict, being owned by a goddess of love and beauty as I am. And the fact that the goddess I work for is Freya, who is all about that combination of sex and power and entitlement, doesn’t help.

Exhibit A: In my opinion, Freya likes it when random people pay attention to me, check me out, call me beautiful, etc. It means that I am being valued as the beautiful being I am and being given my due. In some ways, I am winning when crap like this happens. (You know, “Look, honey! They say you’re beautiful, too! I’m not biased!” “Thanks, Mom.”) We both would prefer more respectful versions of it, yes; but still. Freya is also the goddess of personal boundaries, and requires that I defend mine; so, inner clashes ensue.

Exhibit B: I’m an introvert. I don’t like attention, unless I’m already comfortable with whoever it is and am in the mood.

Exhibit C: When I get this kind of attention, I simultaneously feel dirty, pleased, and mad at myself for not going in for the kill. It’s a uncomfortable, unbalanced mix. Then I think, but why don’t more guys do this? Why don’t girls do this to me? I work for a frigging sex and love goddess, for crying out loud! What am I doing wrong? Clearly something is wrong.

Exhibit D: (the kicker) Whenever I feel threatened, such as when some random guy is “Hey, baby”-ing me, my amber strut bitch side comes out. If you know me, you’ve may have seen it –I narrow my eyes, slow down, plant my feet with each step, swing my hips dangerously far out, and come at whoever it is like a battering ram. It’s the “I will take on a whole army of my enemies with just my hips, my attitude, and my amber. Bring it, asshole. I dare you,” attitude.  Which, surprisingly enough, has served me well in many situations. However, this does nothing to diffuse a sexual harassment situation. The strut just makes things worse. YMMV.

Since when did calling somebody “beautiful” become sexual harassment, anyway? I tell people that they are beautiful or gorgeous or adorable or lovely all the time. I am constantly repressing my instinct to go up to random people and tell them this. How do these people actually feel when I do tell them this? Am I coming across as a harasser? I don’t want to be that person.

Sigh. All the thoughts that pop into my head when some guy tells me, off-handedly, that I’m beautiful.  It feels like it should be much simpler, somehow. *headshake*

12 thoughts on “Hey, beautiful

  1. > And since when did calling somebody “beautiful” become sexual harassment, anyway? … Am I coming across as a harasser?

    Tone and context are everything here. There’s a world of difference between “Heeeeey beautiful…” from a leering pothead who is trying to engage and keep your attention and a chipper “Wow, you’re really beautiful, you know that? Okay bye!” from a passing stranger who immediately lets you go on without even trying to engage further.

    It’s also different from women than men, in most cases, we must admit – again, context matters. Women stepping *over* the boundary isn’t better, but women brushing *near* it is less worrying to most other women. I notice immediately if somebody touches me regardless of who they are, but I worry a lot less when strange women want to *talk* to me because it’s a lot more likely that’s all it is – talking.

    > I can do a killer ice queen act, really well. Too well, sometimes, but it really does seem to cut down on the random sexual harassment crap that I hear other women get.

    You know, I hear the same, and I don’t get it as much either, but it doesn’t seem to be an Ice Queen thing (more like Fire in my case – in the burning-you sense), so much as I just… go invisible?

    It was downright enlightening spending an evening at a mainstream bar once, just me and Tanisha, and watching how she attracts the men like moths to a flame, and just… moves through it. I got all bristly “I’m not the butch girlfriend, but I’m damned well close enough, now BACK OFF ASSHOLES”, but she just smiled, and demured, and sent them away… And while it didn’t work as quickly, it did in fact work. I was completely baffled.

    It might be very educational, entertaining, even, to have a gathering of us Freyjaswomen to go out to a (necessarily quiet, for me) bar or club some evening, no men, just to see how we each move through the world, and what it says about each of us, and about Freyja through us…

    –Ember–

    • Hmm, yeah. It’s always baffled me, too, how some people can take random attention and let it go easily, whereas I often feel that I need to make something more of it than it actually is. For example in this situation, one of the responses I had was that I felt responsible for then taking the random pothead up on a conversation, and guilty that I didn’t, just because he told me I was beautiful. I’m learning that it’s one of my many struggles in learning to be a better Freyaswoman, and in general learning to be a more successful person making my way through the world, just to take compliments or conversations as they are given and let it go. Maybe I think I won’t get any attention or compliments if I don’t make more of it than it is? Which I think is a pretty wide spectrum, from having no self-confidence to having complete and utter self-confidence. Certainly I’m much more confident in my desirability and value than I did even five years ago, but there’s still a long way to go, and society’s messages don’t help things.

      And I would be fascinated to see what happens when a bunch of Freyaswomen go to a bar. Or a mixed bunch of Aphrodite, Freya, and–I don’t know, say Morrigan women?–go to a bar. FASCINATED, I tell you.

      • You might know more than you realize – they tend to be quiet about it.

        I can think of three in our local community of the top of my head, but I think only one of them lists it as his primary deity relationship, if that makes any sense.

        -E-

  2. That said, the difference there doesn’t necessarily require the men to be Freyja’s (oh, I just remembered a fourth!), because the phenomenon you’re describing in this post is very strongly grounded in patriarchal gender roles. If you want to see how the men are affected, compare Freyjasmen to, I don’t know, Thorsmen. But almost all of the Freyjasmen I know also have a strong relationship with Odin, or Freyr, or both, and that would probably register first in most cases.

    As much as we want to say “gender doesn’t matter, we should be inclusive” if the thing we’re trying to address is grounded in patriarchy, yes, gender IS going to matter, and denying that only makes it harder to fight it.

    -E-

  3. They way men talk to women, in my opinion, is a symptom of how our society sees women. We are either pretty, or without value. By calling us, “beautiful,” men are trying to let us know that we have value to them… as a sexual object. Some men treat the public space like they are doing us a favor by letting us exist there, letting us know that if we are going to be there, we owe them acknowledgment. Hence, “Smile, baby.”

    Read the YouTube comments on a video put out by a woman, and compare them to those put out by a man. A large portion of those comments may say things like, “I’d nail her,” or “You look like a man.” Or, “Fat.” As if by existing, we are inviting men to make a decision about whether or not we have value by whether or not they would like to use us for their sexual gratification.

    I don’t think that they are consciously thinking this. Most people are just memetic puppets, and do what they see others doing, or act on unconscious urges (sadly influenced, to a large degree, by media). Most people have really muddy thinking on even the things they think a lot about before they do. We are left to theorize based on behavior.

    As women, we need to be aware of the part of us that feels worried that we *won’t* get harassed, or secretly feels complimented when we do. A part of our unconscious mind reasons that if we are harassed all the time, it means that we must be very valuable, because we are really pretty.

    You might enjoy this video:

    Also, when I gave some thought to how Hermes might respond to being sexually harassed, this was more or less my thought:

  4. A Freyja’s man chiming in here… Exhibits A, B, C, D—All of the above? I can only imagine… Life’s gotten me pretty good at dealing with letting seeming contradictions exist side-by-side without getting wrapped around any axles.
    I’ve identified as quiet or introverted until I figured out that Asperger’s really is much more descriptive of me. For Aspies, even consensual and appropriate flirtation is a minefield of subtext and nonverbal cues that we’re ill-equipped to handle, much less engaging in catcalls or other uninvited “initiatives”… So I imagine I might not be the most representative date point, for men in general or for Freyja’s men in particular (few as we are, I guess all points count).
    As I grew up before Asperger’s was on the map I was flying blind, and learned from early experience simply never to make first moves—not catcalling, not compliments, not saying a word or even looking, beyond what it takes to avoid inadvertent contact. First moves never brought anything good; leaving this “social expectation” behind made life a lot easier all around, not least for me, and yet…
    I’m not blind—I’m perfectly capable of beholding beauty, inward as well as outward, and being moved by it to… inspiration… thanks… pleasure… connection with the Magical/Divine/Cosmos… And it seems both tragic and unfair—to everyone—that almost any acknowledgement a man might think of in the moment would be taken as some form of harassment. Ember, even the “best context passing stranger” comments you mention are too dicey for me. As if being Aspie weren’t enough, I came of age in the days when being “politically correct” was something to aspire to rather than a blanket insult. While I thought and dreamed of what could be done to liberate gender, sexuality and pleasure from patriarchy and its roles, as a mere mortal I didn’t have that blueprint, then or now. So I adapted by internalizing, very natural for me anyway.
    But neither do I lack curiosity, a desire to understand and learn. It’s a mystery to me how some women “can take random attention and let it go easily… [while others] need to make something more of it than it actually is.” It’s a mystery to me how a few guys seem to pull off such, at best flirtatious, at worst obnoxious, “initiatives” and draw smiles, while most just dig the leering-guy-stereotype pit even deeper… (not that smiles are necessarily an indicator that everything’s good and well). Never mind when women make their own “initiatives”! Mystery after mystery… I eventually just focused on my relationship to myself and soon all the contradictions either resolved or ceased to be important… as Freyja has told me, “It’s easy, when you do it right…”

    ps—A Pagan male friend once asked me with what Deities I worked most closely, to which I answered, “Freyja, although when I first became Pagan I was drawn to the Morrigan.” He replied, “Ooh, you like dangerous Women!”
    At the time I just laughed, but on reflection, to an Aspie most women are dangerous. I can’t speak to guys’ reactions to the “mixed bunch” in Cara’s bar scenario. But for myself, perhaps with Goddesses such as Freyja and the Morrigan I am drawn to the combination of Divine levels of self-awareness, openness and comfort with being both Dangerous and Beautiful… seeming contradictions, side by side… in this world I behold Beauty, I feel what I feel, and I just offer those feelings to Freyja. No one else need know…

    • Thanks for sharing, Bill! I hadn’t thought about it, but I can see how interacting with women would be dangerous for an Aspie.
      What I’ve also found with Freya is that She is a big proponent for loving oneself first. It’s certainly something She’s got me working on, and I have been for a while now. And working with her, I see beauty everywhere, though that may be “is it the chicken or the egg?” scenario. I really liked your earlier comparison as Freya being the light and the Morrigan being the dark side of the same… coin? Energy? Goddess archetype?
      Also–I’m looking forward to checking through the poetry you sent, hopefully by tomorrow. Thanks!

  5. Already I see I should have been clearer in my PS—I love women and most of my real friends are women; it’s flirtation and “opening moves” (for lack of a better term) that I was referring to. Strangely, I find it easier relating to women of this culture than men (the reverse is true elsewhere, but that’s another topic). If a woman wants to take the initiative—or give me a pretty clear go-ahead—that removes a huge part of the “minefield” effect and I feel somewhat more confident in the usually understood sense. But early on I lost female friends either because I mistook non-flirtatious friendliness for sexual interest, or (different but related) didn’t realize actual flirtation staring me in the face. And who likes losing friends?
    But back to topic, unwanted/unsolicited stuff… I don’t like thinking of people as “memetic puppets” but at such a base level I think what brings a lot of this on is 1) sexual opportunism and 2) low opportunity cost (for this behavior) existing in a context of 3) perceived sexual scarcity. Such guys *want* (I won’t use “desire” here, saving that for the sacred erotic), and they see no reason not to take every chance they can because there is little if any cost or downside to doing so. Boom—a culture of harassment. Most discussion I’ve heard around this has revolved around avoidance strategies or somehow raising the opportunity cost, with the most farsighted speaking of raising men’s awareness generally. But when something desirable is perceived as scarce, no law, religious edict, philosophic teaching or consciousness raising campaign will keep those *wanting* from getting it however they can. Behaviorists please correct me if I’m wrong: I understand that irregular reinforcement—the occasional smile or favorable reaction, even if the “smile” is just to escape an immediate situation—is the most effective way to produce a very entrenched pattern of behavior.
    I think it will take something even more basic to get at this. I’m all in favor of mass consciousness raising and liberating society from sex-repressive isms, but I think we’re going to have some form of “Hey, beautiful” to deal with until we emerge from scarcity and perception of scarcity in the realms of love, sex and relationships. And that is where Goddesses such as Freyja can be perhaps our deepest Allies. Most Heathenfolk I know are very aware of Her spheres including all things loving and lusty on a personal level, and matters of wealth and abundance, certainly individual but also ranging to community levels (e.g., herds and harvest). But I haven’t seen a lot of connecting the two, of what Her influence might be in the generation of a culture of abundance—both absolute and perceived—in love, sex and relationships. We need both: having abundance but not perceiving it will generally still result in acting as if in scarcity; and while learning to perceive abundance before it’s generally manifest may work for some as a step toward the goal (fake it till you make it?), for others I’ve noticed it’s difficult bordering on demoralizing. Another Mystery to ponder…
    Leaving off for now the sexual utopia of general true abundance (“All in good time, my little pretty!”), even perceived abundance in love, sex and relationships would I think pull the rug out from underneath the scarcity economy driving this kind of male sexual opportunism. For my part I actually think my manifestation of Asperger’s Syndrome provided me an inadvertent advantage in this. As a variant of autism (*aut-* from “self”), I grew up perhaps a lot more emotionally independent than most; indeed, a lot more emotionally independent than many were comfortable with. When I began my relationship with Freyja in the context of my overall Craft practice, I started consciously connecting the dots described above and realized that I’m coming from an abundance perspective of sex/love/relationships in a society that only recognizes, validates and even rewards scarcity in this sphere. Subversive…
    There are lots of implications to this, and I don’t want to speak for women. But it’s obvious that we have a society in which many feel a huge gaping emptiness where spiritual culture should be. Women have been thirsting for the Divine Feminine for so long, and today more and more are discovering the Well. But that thirst is still unquenched for men, and “as above, so below” one manifestation of this is the scarcity-driven memetic puppetry of “Hey, beautiful.” I believe that in a world in which men grow up with our own deep connection to Goddesses such as Freyja, the Morrigan, Aphrodite and Others, this behavior would fall away not due to political correctness, thou-shalt-nots or anti-harassment codes, but because of inner fulfillment and abundance consciousness.
    Freyja is, I believe, perhaps the most subversive, even revolutionary, of all the Northern Gods and Goddesses…

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