“It’s Just a Beer”

Unspoken contracts between men and women

| Winter 2018

  • How does a hashtag improve conditions for poor Appalachian teenagers smoking cigarettes in shady small-town bars?
    Photo courtesy of Adobestock / Jacob Lund

The first time I failed to pay up, I was a high school student at a bowling alley in my small town in central Pennsylvania. An older man bought me a beer and talked to me while he shot pool. Smoking and drinking in that grungy bowling-alley bar in the seediest part of town, I felt cosmopolitan and mature. I was oblivious to the transaction taking place: by drinking his beer, I was entering into an implicit and unwritten contract in which I was expected to fulfill a sexual obligation. One of my more astute and experienced friends told the man that I had a boyfriend and had no intention of being intimate with him. He became irate and threw a lit cigarette into my hair as I left the bar. I went home scared and confused as to why my acceptance of a beer and friendly conversation had gotten me into a terrifying mess.

What I learned that day is that attention from unfamiliar men is implicitly transactional, and a failure to pay the price can result in some traumatic consequence. I admit that on this point, I have been proven wrong repeatedly over time. But I have also had enough disturbing experiences that every male stranger is suspect. It’s always possible that I am going to be expected to acknowledge a tacit, unwritten contract and obey its terms and conditions. It’s a contract only a man can create, and sometimes it feels like only a man can break it. Women are expected to sign on the dotted line.

In my early 20s, while in Galway, Ireland, I accepted a drink from an older man in a bar the night before I was to board a ferry for more remote islands off the Irish coast. I wouldn’t be in another city for a while and was craving human voices and activity. I declined the offer of a drink and company at first, aware that I might regret accepting. But after his second offer and his insistence that it was “only a beer,” I decided that I could use some conversation.

I was up front about having no intention of sleeping with this man, and I offered to pay for a round of beers. I asked him questions about things that piqued my curiosity: his opinions on Irish politics, the economy, and the European Union. I thought that by being direct, I could evade the contract, or that my company alone had value since we were two solitary souls away from home on a rainy night. But after a short while he became increasingly insistent and my rejections became harsher, until we were directly debating whether I would sleep with him. I left the bar in a disappointed huff, only to have him follow me out.



I ran away from him up the tangled Galway cobblestone streets as he yelled obscenities.

Last week at a concert, a woman friend told me that during the course of her day, she is most terrified during the brief period when she gets to the door of her house but doesn’t yet have her keys prepared to unlock the door and is momentarily vulnerable on the doorstep. When I hugged her goodbye, she slipped mace into my hand and offered to drive me to my car only two blocks away.

pizzarebbe
1/12/2019 12:14:04 AM

The other side of this story is that there are in the world men like me, who would never dream of pushing boundaries like those Kira described; there are too many of those, and it's enough for me to shudder in horror at being mistaken for one of them. Some of my best female friends are lesbian, and while I am straight there is another unspoken contract which we honor, of not expecting any intercourse other than the intellectual variety, which is truly more satisfying if the subconscious is not screaming to get ready for a fight or flee situation. I regard sex between two human beings of any gender as something that needs to be consensual, and in my ideal world it should not be expected that the male has to propose and not the woman, as it happens in more socially developed places like Scandinavia; and no means no, we can still talk about anything else but that subject has been removed from the agenda. This also means: "I believe that when you said no you meant, and you are not playing a sick game with my head in pursuit of power, so that you plan to say yes and then blackmail me emotionally or even financially. A contract to share the joy of intimacy (sex too, but so many people are desperate for a hug with no sexual connotation or expectation; pure brotherly and sisterly love should not be limitad to same gender company, it's immorally absurd to be unable to have every single life's transaction be tainted by the ghost of sex) should be written, but not signed under duress by either party; it is scary when after many years somebody shows up in your present to slice for h(im/er)self a slice of your future and your salami. No baloney, it still happens a lot. While I am at it, one more aspect of the world's uglification is paedophilia, that is running for legitimation; I am not one of those either but a happy and proud grandpa of 17 who range from 22 years to 9 months and when I walk somewhere I meet young mothers with toddlers who smile at me innocently; I am now afraid to return the smile to avoid a misunderstanding by the mother and at the same time I am aware that by not returning the smile or a word I am contributing negatively to this child's future behaviour and happiness..


pizzarebbe
1/11/2019 11:36:57 PM

The other side of this story is that there are in the world men like me, who would never dream of pushing boundaries like those Kira described; there are too many of those, and it's enough for me to shudder in horror at being mistaken for one of them. Some of my best female friends are lesbian, and while I am straight there is another unspoken contract which we honor, of not expecting any intercourse other than the intellectual variety, which is truly more satisfying if the subconscious is not screaming to get ready for a fight or flee situation. I regard sex between two human beings of any gender as something that needs to be consensual, and in my ideal world it should not be expected that the male has to propose and not the woman, as it happens in more socially developed places like Scandinavia; and no means no, we can still talk about anything else but that subject has been removed from the agenda. This also means: "I believe that when you said no you meant, and you are not playing a sick game with my head in pursuit of power, so that you plan to say yes and then blackmail me emotionally or even financially. A contract to share the joy of intimacy (sex too, but so many people are desperate for a hug with no sexual connotation or expectation; pure brotherly and sisterly love should not be limitad to same gender company, it's immorally absurd to be unable to have every single life's transaction be tainted by the ghost of sex) should be written, but not signed under duress by either party; it is scary when after many years somebody shows up in your present to slice for h(im/er)self a slice of your future and your salami. No baloney, it still happens a lot. While I am at it, one more aspect of the world's uglification is paedophilia, that is running for legitimation; I am not one of those either but a happy and proud grandpa of 17 who range from 22 years to 9 months and when I walk somewhere I meet young mothers with toddlers who smile at me innocently; I am now afraid to return the smile to avoid a misunderstanding by the mother and at the same time I am aware that by not returning the smile or a word I am contributing negatively to this child's future behaviour and happiness..


pizzarebbe
1/11/2019 11:36:56 PM

The other side of this story is that there are in the world men like me, who would never dream of pushing boundaries like those Kira described; there are too many of those, and it's enough for me to shudder in horror at being mistaken for one of them. Some of my best female friends are lesbian, and while I am straight there is another unspoken contract which we honor, of not expecting any intercourse other than the intellectual variety, which is truly more satisfying if the subconscious is not screaming to get ready for a fight or flee situation. I regard sex between two human beings of any gender as something that needs to be consensual, and in my ideal world it should not be expected that the male has to propose and not the woman, as it happens in more socially developed places like Scandinavia; and no means no, we can still talk about anything else but that subject has been removed from the agenda. This also means: "I believe that when you said no you meant, and you are not playing a sick game with my head in pursuit of power, so that you plan to say yes and then blackmail me emotionally or even financially. A contract to share the joy of intimacy (sex too, but so many people are desperate for a hug with no sexual connotation or expectation; pure brotherly and sisterly love should not be limitad to same gender company, it's immorally absurd to be unable to have every single life's transaction be tainted by the ghost of sex) should be written, but not signed under duress by either party; it is scary when after many years somebody shows up in your present to slice for h(im/er)self a slice of your future and your salami. No baloney, it still happens a lot. While I am at it, one more aspect of the world's uglification is paedophilia, that is running for legitimation; I am not one of those either but a happy and proud grandpa of 17 who range from 22 years to 9 months and when I walk somewhere I meet young mothers with toddlers who smile at me innocently; I am now afraid to return the smile to avoid a misunderstanding by the mother and at the same time I am aware that by not returning the smile or a word I am contributing negatively to this child's future behaviour and happiness..




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