Given the situation at home, I was grateful for the opportunity to head out of town for a few days. I needed a distraction, and it came in the form of my best friend who needed help moving some furniture into his new house. Of course, it was already clear that the trip wouldn’t be limited to moving furniture. A day before we were set to catch up, the trip grew to include a going away party for a mutual friend. Then, the day we met, the trip also grew to include a party at a nightclub. I already knew that the club party was going to be an adventure. Based on its description, the club had a reputation for being expensive and pretentious. Needless to say, my inner cheapskate was peeved about the cover charge and my inner homebody wanted to go to sleep, but my inner social scientist was excited (because there’s nothing like field research even if it is unofficial).
For the record, I do not like the club scene. Clubs are generally too loud to hold conversations, too crowded to do any real dancing outside of grinding, and too dark to actually get a clear view of anybody. Besides, clubs are expensive. I just don’t see the value in paying expensive cover charges just to stand in a crowded room full of inebriated people mainly there for the purpose of hooking up–especially since I’m abstinent, I don’t drink, and some people shudder at the thought of ministers ever being in such a place. (Interesting note: I recently had someone try to convince me that my occasional nightclub outings would result in me being left behind in the rapture. That conversation didn’t end well.) At the same time, clubs are amazing venues for people-watching. Worst case scenario, I figured I would end the night with something good to write about.
When the night was over, we made sure our female friends got home (or back to their cars) before hitting the road ourselves. I used to drive back to my friend’s house to ask the one question that had been lingering in my head for most of the night.
“Are men always that thirsty at the club?” I asked. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous for me to be asking this question as a grown man. I can only describe the behavior of the men in the club as reminiscent of the old cartoons where the vultures would circle the prey that appeared to be weak (or in this case, attractive and/or tipsy). It was strange to me because I tend to hang out with men who do not go out of their way to exhibit “the thirst” mainly because they are respectful. In addition, I also tend not to go to clubs with groups of women. It’s normally something I do with my respectful male friends. Since there were a lot of women in the group this time, I made a point of keeping track of them in the crowd. It seemed like there was a never-ending stream of drunk men that they had to turn down. Most of the men approached them multiple times–especially the women whom they deemed to be attractive and/or inebriated. The men were persistent, but the women in the group exhibited mastery of the art of polite rejection and continued dancing with one another.
“Pretty much,” he replied. I have read a lot of articles about the everyday sexism that women face, but this was the most poignant example of it that I had ever witnessed. Women shouldn’t have to deal with so much unwanted touching and conversation just to have a night out with their friends. Based on the crowd, these men were mostly educated members of the upper middle class who still felt that it was an appropriate showing of masculine bravado. It was clear that their objective was just to find someone to take home that night. It made me wonder of that strategy actually worked for them. What self-respecting woman in her right mind would go for that? Sure the hunter-gatherer structure may have been integral to our survival thousands of years ago, but why is it so important for men to come across as hunters by chasing women today? Then I remembered my own experiences of having my sexuality questioned because I didn’t exhibit that same thirst.
What would be worse in the minds of these men? Potentially being rejected for coming on too strong or having their sexuality questioned? I would argue that most men would see the latter as being worse. Some would say that the scenario I just described was the result of patriarchy being deeply engrained in our society and that most of our interactions in society make it seem like women only exist for the pleasure of men. As a result of heteronormativity, men who deviate from the societal expectation to be a brutish hunters of women are often perceived as if they are less masculine. At the same, I know that men do not only act in such a manner in order to maintain their social stature among other men. The unfortunate reality is that some women actually reward such brutish behavior. Often the reward is sex or at least perceived datability. Keep in mind that some women question the sexuality of a man who does not come across as the “hunter” type and feel that respectful men who do not lead with sexual innuendo are undatable. I have a lot of stories from my “nice guy” friends and relatives who have trouble getting into healthy relationships because they are seen as “too nice.”
“That’s messed up,” I continued.
“Welcome to the real world,” he responded. And with that, the conversation shifted away from the troublesome dating rituals of our generation to griping about how much money we had spent that night. It turned out that he was just as bothered by the cover charge as I was.