By: Jenn Vicious
Jenn Vicious is the radical community’s Agony Aunt, providing life coaching and social etiquette answers for radical cultures. Need poly, kinky, or queer dating advice, need to to know what to wear to court or a family function (you know, one you have to look “respectable” at), want to understand what to and not to say in some contexts, ask Jenn Vicious.
Hi Jenn. I’ve recently started seeing someone who is sweet, funny, kind, and seems pretty interested in me. My problem is that the majority of me experiences dating cis dudes have been negative, ranging from manipulation to sexual assault. Because of this I am basically really scared of men. I don’t even really know how I stumbled into dating this person. But here I am. How do I overcome my fears so I can date healthily?
Hello, Anon. My answer for you is two-fold. First of all, the thing you will probably need to work on is not projecting onto sweet cis-guy all of the fucked up experiences you’ve had with the d-bags you have dated in the past. This will be a little tricky at times. You might feel like “omg, sweet cis-guy is eating eggs for breakfast! That manipulative piece of shit I dated before ate eggs for breakfast, too! What am I doing?” But not everyone who eats eggs for breakfast is a manipulative piece of shit, right? (Vegans: don’t answer that.) You will need to remember this when you have feelings come up for you that vaguely remind you of your past negative experiences. I have this happen to me occasionally, I think a lot of people do. Take a minute to remind yourself that sweet cis-guy is NOT d-bag cis-guy. Also take a minute to acknowledge the feelings that are coming up for you. If sweet cis-guy is a supportive sweetie and someone you can talk to, I recommend acknowledging those feelings to him out loud. It can be really helpful for him to know that the feelings you are having about something going on between the two of you is really influenced by things in your past. But try not to get too weighed down by your past. Which leads me to the second part of my answer.
It sucks that you had to go through some really shitty experiences, but you can take the strength you’ve gained from your past and use it to have better relationships now. Trust yourself to be able to recognize the difference between someone just having a hard day, and someone being a disrespectful d-bag who you need to get out of your life. You don’t need to let the past chase you down with fear. Surround yourself with people who make you feel strong. Maybe sweet cis-guy is one of those people.
Now, you might be thinking “But JV, how can I KNOW that he isn’t a d-bag?” You just have to trust yourself, dear anon. If you want to date him, give him the opportunity to prove that he isn’t like those other d-bags. I’m going to guess that he isn’t perfect, so don’t expect him to be. But do expect him to treat you with respect and kindness, rather than being a fucked-up jerk. Often, people will live up to our expectations.