I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: August 28th, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books Canada
Recommended Age: 15+
Genres & Themes: Nonfiction, Memoir, Feminism, LGBTQIA+, Gender Issues
Sometimes I read 300 or more-page books and I wonder if I read anything at all. Not everything I stumble across has to make me look at the world differently or teach me over and over, but I want something memorable because it’s more much valuable than a book that provides you with the kind of instant pleasure and happiness that you’ll forget about two days later.
This very short book, not even 100 pages long, had my mind pausing on some of the interactions I have had with guys. So much of what Vivek Shraya shares in here is a punch in the heart because it’s oh so true. She chose carefully which episodes from her life she wanted to share, but these episodes are meaningful and raw and provide comfort at times.
Two months ago, I was hanging out with this guy I liked. We had fun conversations online and I met him three years before. So I thought we could try hanging out in real life to see if we connect. He seemed so sweet online and through the phone. So we did that. Turns out he was a nice person to be around and I started to like his real life version a lot quickly because of our previous conversations. But the moment I let him know I found him attractive and allowed him to touch me, our interactions went from friendly to… something I didn’t really understand. Until, you know, he said he wanted to be friends with benefits. Did not see it coming.
That and Shraya made me realize that once a guy is aware that he is attractive to you, he feels as though he is permitted to touch you or flirt with you or even say vulgar things like, ‘‘If you want a guy to believe in butterflies in the stomach, suck his d*…’’ Other times, they don’t even need that confirmation… Obviously I’m not sharing everything… But I have to say that I overlooked a lot of the things this guy said to me because I liked his attention and he seemed to care. Did he really care? Probably not. I also participated in the flirting because he liked it a lot but now I wish I had behaved more like Shraya and refused to flirt back because although some of those conversations were exciting… they often left me feeling a bit empty inside. And being over-sexualized over and over is not the best feeling in the world.
But, well, you learn. And you slowly start thinking about what YOUR needs are and what YOU deserve and makes YOU feel good. You know what the saddest part is? Even though I found that guy attractive and he let me know he didn’t want a girlfriend, I was okay with being just friends. But the flirting continued… and continued… and what’s the point? It’s not meaningful. It’s not going anywhere.
So, I guess, I’m afraid of men too sometimes because I don’t know what’s in their heads and I don’t know what they mean and don’t mean. I don’t know if they’re interested in me because I have a refreshing point of view to them or because they like my body. I feel like I never will know these things until I ask or until I stop overlooking. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Although Shraya is over suspicious, I think she is right to be so aware in the world and be careful and ready to bolt if a situation starts going downhill because the opposite—being too trusting and caring too fast and wanting to fix things that have no business being fixed—is much, much worse.
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