On Taking a Break From Men

I want nothing to do with men right now. This is a tough statement for them to hear. They argue with me and think they are being kind. They say, don’t give up on men! You will find a good one! As if this is guaranteed. As if it is of the utmost importance, that I stay loyal to my quest to find a good man.

Even women find it difficult to let my opinion pass by unchallenged. Surely not, they say. You never know. Their eyes widen with alarm at the thought of opting out of our life’s work.

For four years I loved a man. I thought, I have found him. I made him the center of my life: the first voice I heard when I woke up, the last face I saw before I fell asleep. The heartbeat I felt harder than my own. I loved a good man and it didn’t work. I loved him so ardently that I saved nothing for myself.

I am going through a mean phase. My patience is short, my expectations high. Does it count as a mean phase when my anger is only directed toward men? Perhaps that’s an awakening.

(I must sound quite dramatic, some heartbroken girl reading too much feminist theory. Really, I am a woman who has known herself for a very long time and yet buried that person somewhere dark just to keep the peace.)

Does it count as a mean phase when you are constantly provoked into anger? When you are unpartnered, or should I say when you do not have a boyfriend, men help themselves to you. I go about my day, minding my own business, and they barge into my consciousness. They text me monologues about their feelings. They make themselves at home in my DMs. Men I have never met demand from me what I never offered and it is unending, exhausting.

Even now that anger is smothered in a jar, lid screwed on tight. I do not let it out. You would never know if it weren’t for pitiful tweets swiftly deleted the next morning. I apologize to the men who hurt me. I explain away my feelings. I tell white lies to avoid upsetting them. I care more about their feelings, their needs, their boundaries, than I care about how much that care takes from me. How much it hurts to be an endless font of care.

These men disappear the moment they could be useful. Where are they when my rights are taken away? Where do they vanish to when abortion bans go into effect? Why are they silent when their shameless, unrelenting voices finally have something worthwhile to say?

Ah, I forgot that they expect a handwritten invitation to join the fight, and endless applause for giving instead of taking, just for this one brief moment. How rude of me. How foolish to not give them credit for giving us slightly more than nothing.

It is within my rights to take a break from men. I do not owe them 24/7 access to my being. I am not a convenience store with forever stocked shelves of empathy and attention. I do not exist to serve and coddle their egos, to manage and buttress their emotions. I will give men nothing more of myself. Why would I when they give me nothing useful in return.

This essay originally appeared on Patreon. To join my Patreon community and read more of my writing about intimacy, relationships and sexual violence, click here.

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Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.