Shut-Up Cosmo: Date Rape Is Not The Victim’s Fault

In the latest issue of Bitch magazine (Fall ’08, Issue #41), a scathing article by Jennifer McDaniel, “Don’t Take Advice From Cosmopolitan, Part 877″, blasts Cosmo’s recent (June 2088) article — and related sidebars — on date rape.

The article, featured on the cover with the line “5 Signs a Guy Is Capable of Rape”, is called “How a Date Rapist Works”; the related sidebar pieces are “Reading a Rapist’s Body Language” and “Personality Traits That Make You Vulnerable”.

On the surface you might think this helpful advice — but only if you believe the imperative premise that women are the ones responsible for men’s behavior. As McDaniel writes:

The article, like its gray-rape predecessor, ends up being both insulting to women and victim-blaming to boot. If a rapist could be identified with such easy-to-spot criteria, what woman wouldn’t readily discern a potential assailant and haul ass out of that bar? Rape victims are traumatized enough without being made to feel that their rapists were giving off clear signals that they were too stupid or oblivious to read.

(For the record, the “grey rape” article referred to was published in Cosmo back in September, 2007; you can find that pile of steaming crap here.)

It’s dreck like this that has had me avoiding Cosmopolitan magazine for a long time now. I hope you’ll avoid it too because the only help you’ll find in those slick pages are how to perpetuate the abdication of male accountability.

Does anyone really need that?

While I want women to be safe (and I hope Cosmo does too), it’s absurd, irresponsible, and down-right hurtful to put the blame for male violence on female victims.

As McDaniel said, “It’s not so surprising that Cosmo still seems to think so little of men that it refuses to hold them accountable for their behavior, but couldn’t they try to expect more from women?”

Instead, grab a copy of Bitch — better yet, subscribe. Because Bitch does expect more from both men and women.

13 Dating & Relationship Tips De-Myth-tified


Thirteen Things About Dating & Relationships

1 Meeting people is hard. Come on people, unless you are a hermit and not on the internet, you meet people every single day. So stop whining that meeting people is hard when the fact is you’re not making the effort. In fact, if you can’t make the effort to meet people you’re just not ready to be in a relationship; keeping a relationship alive and working takes more effort than finding Mr. or Ms. Right.

2 There’s such a thing as “dating fatigue”. Bah. You’re not tired of dating; you’re just tired in general or too lazy to smile, practice good hygiene, make any effort at all. True, you should not date when you are a sleepy-slacker-dating-putz; but don’t blame it on ‘them’. It really is you, darling.

3 Never make yourself “too” available. The game of playing hard-to-get only entices other game players & puts off sincere people. While it’s true you shouldn’t stalk (it’s illegal) or pant like a puppy at the object of your affection’s heels, the fact is that you should make the time to meet & get to know interesting people — if you are a fascinating woman, interested in many things with activities & plans to prove it, your schedule will make arranging dates difficult enough as it is.

4 Compromising means giving up what you like. Compromising is like trading; you both give and take. As a general rule you should never ever give up what you like to do, be it attending book club, dancing with the girls — or in bed. How can he or she be The One, add to your happiness, when you are giving up something which is vital to your happiness and who you are?

5 Work out in advance where you are likely to meet people. This is like stalking — only you have no clue who you will be stalking. What I believe (and hope!) people who advise this really mean is that you should follow your interests and passions by attending events related to them — where you will naturally meet people with similar interests. For example, you like art history? Attend local university galleries, lectures and book store events. Immersed in what you are interested in, you’re more likely to meet people — friends (who know other people), potential dates, and, sure a few. (Talking with people will help you separate the posers from those really interested.) This is called living your life, finding your bliss, and meeting new people along the way. Even if you’re dating online you need something to put in the profile, right?

6 It’s more difficult for shy people to find dates. It may be a bit more true for the shy males (more on that later), but really, after the first hour or so, even the most fascinating, scintillating bar-fly will find that her groupies have dispersed, the men not ‘in like Flynn’ off circulating. (And the wise woman who receives all that attention from the start also knows she has to chase off a few of those with the biggest swagger in order to view those at the fringe or sitting elsewhere.) You don’t need to be a loud-attention-seeking-missile of an extrovert to get attention.

7 Date in your own league. The experts will say to choose only those ‘targets’ that you have a good chance of dating and couch it with kindness saying, “Don’t aim low; but do aim realistically.” Jeebuz that bugs the crap outta me. Who the hell’s to say what dating league you belong to? Are we to be superficial ninnies who decide that “money” makes for a “better” “dating league” than kindness? Do “big boobs” put you closer to that league? Forget all this crap and just do what you want to do — literally. Like yachts? Get one and go yachting. Ditto horses, fancy cars, art, rare historical manuscripts, etc. Don’t worry if you can’t afford it; there are clubs, groups, lessons, lectures, and other events where you can learn without owning. And should you prefer bowling, darts, beer or whatever it is that you feel is more ‘lowbrow’ and join the leagues, groups, bars etc. which offer those things; rich folks & those with big boobs like those things too. Let your interests dictate your activities — and who you meet; not some silly “dating league” hierarchy.

8 Get a new look, new clothes. While such things can be a pick-me-up for a foul or depressed mood, the truth is a new look can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. Maybe you’re not used to those itchy bangs, eating with red lipstick on… Maybe the shorter skirt length makes you nervous perching on that bar stool, the top which requires a new bra makes you fidget with the straps… Maybe you’ll discover on your date that you’re allergic to whatever it is those new earrings are made of. Ick! Wear only the clothes you are comfortable — and attractive — in. I wouldn’t suggest wearing those old sweat pants you lounge on the sofa in, but wear what makes you feel confident. If and when you update your look, give yourself plenty of time to get used to it before going out in it.

9 Join a gym; begin a health & diet regime to look your best. You should be doing this stuff for you — not dating. Your health matters period. But if you’re not interested in being fit (or being that fit), don’t pose. No one wants to date the super-fit-hot-bod only to find that after months of dating she’s “let herself go.” (See #4 too.)

These last four have to do with politeness v. stupidity. Sure, you want to be polite, considerate, but not to the point of stupidity. Of course, you also don’t want to look like a needy neurotic either.

10 Should you ask your date if they had a good time? No. That’s a sign of a needy neurotic. Wait for him or her to call, ask you out again — or not. There’s your answer. You can & should offer your own, “I had a great time!” — but only if it’s sincere and you are not looking for a response back. (And even if they respond with a “me too” remember, they may just have been being polite; so wait for that call before you believe it.)

11 Should you try to please your date? Well, you certainly shouldn’t be rude! But don’t be a people-pleasing-puppy at their feet either. You don’t have to agree with all their opinions, do what they want on every date. Dates are to help you both determine if you’re a good match. Pretending to be interested in something you’re not, or posing as someone you are not helps no one. (See #4)

12 Should you talk about your baggage? Your ex? Your children? There’s a fine line here between informing someone of the realities of the situation and being an annoying boring record with the needle stuck. As a general rule, talk of any baggage should only be limited to relative conversation (i.e. you are asked) or a need-to-know basis. The latter category consists of things such as you are an alcoholic and you’ve been asked to go to a bar or winery. It also includes things like that you have a psycho ex who follows you about or had friends monitor you — and you’re sure it’s happening right now. (Better to tell your date than to spend it in private angry conversation with some dude by the door, or have to dash without explanation.) When it comes to kids many moms want to shield the children from their dating — which is a good idea until you have a serious relationship. But the people you are dating have a right to know and, yes, the right to refuse dating you because you have children. (Save everyone the long nights crying into the phone &/or pillows and state it up front.) Just remember: Baggage may be something you take with you everywhere; but it doesn’t need to be opened & the contents spilled out everywhere.

13 Should you answer your phone, check messages on your PDA/Blackberry/etc? It’s always a good idea to shut such devices off. Dealing with others on a date, be it flirting with the bartender or talking with your sister, is bad form. If you need to check for messages (boss, babysitter, etc.), do it during a short trip to the restroom — and keep it quick!

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The Truth About Sexy Red Lips & Dating

I wasn’t going to answer this question right away, but seeing as 1) it’s holiday time where dressing more glamorous is de rigueur (or at least more possible), 2) that Twolia’s own Josi has written a great tutorial on how to apply those perfect red lips, and 3) three of my friends and I were just debating this very topic, it seems now is the time…

Do men really like women who wear makeup — big hair and sexy red lips — or is this something we do for other women? Men often say, “I prefer you with less makeup and more natural looking”… Yet who are they looking at in magazines, movies and yes, at clubs? And the related question, when women are so gussied-up (no matter who it is for), are men put-off on the action aka kissing or touching you?

There are many kinds of men, so this is going to be pretty generic advice; but…

For the most part, men are just as much part of this culture as we are and as such, they see and are as moved by beauty as we women are — in fact, they may be even more manipulated by it and our female use of it. Sure, some women eschew such glamor and so we can reasonably expect some men to do so too; but as a general rule, men find the woman with sexy red lips beckoning to their libidos.

We may buy the products, but they buy the end result.

Does such gloss and glamor keep his attentions at bay? As a general rule, I say, “Nay.”

They may not want to wear the red smudges in public, but in private… When men are attracted, aroused, they really aren’t concerned by such things as lipstick smeared on their faces or hair that deflates as it rubs on the pillows.

We women are though.

We women often hold men at arm’s length, telling them not to muss the ‘do or smear the face. In that sense, what man wouldn’t say he prefers his woman au naturel? So ask yourself if you haven’t trained your partner as Pavlov did his pooch — only you make your mate drool but then don’t give him the treat he seeks.

There are, of course, other times when a man may state his preference for your more natural look.

If he said it in response to your disclaimers of, “Oh, but I’m such a mess!” when he called to say he’s in the neighborhood or otherwise has suggested a sudden visit (or just impulsively stopped by), it’s simply the proper thing for him to say.

If he said it just before, during, or after sex, well then, “more natural looking” is about as reliable as those three other little words said at the time (I love you).

But there are times when a man says he “prefers you without makeup” or “more natural looking” (and I’m assuming here that you are not applying it like a clown!) when he may just be full of crap.

The best way to know that such statements are bullshit is if he first approached you when you were your glamor-doll self or if you typically are a makeup-wearing woman (at least whenever he could see you) — because, baby doll, if he was attracted enough to your glamor-doll self to ask hit on you or ask you out, then he likes that look.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s lying either.

It may mean that he’s attracted to painted ladies, but fears others are too and doesn’t want you being attractive to others.  That’s why I said his claims were bullshit.

It’s not only a contradiction, but it’s a sign of insecurity.  Especially if he’s derogatory about you being “made up.”  And men so insecure as to manipulate you to meet their needs are worse than a waste of time — they can be dangerous. (Such manipulation is just steps away from controlling and abusive behavior.)

It doesn’t matter if he is insecure about himself, fearful because he’s ‘been burned before’ by a cheating (or ‘promiscuous’) partner, or just has this view of women as in control with their attractiveness and is upset by it; if he’s so insecure that he feels your application of red lipstick is akin to Roxanne putting on the red light he’s too insecure in himself to be partner material. And don’t kid yourself, ladies; he’s not even good casual dating material because he’s going to see your casual attitude and read that as proof of his fears. Just walk away.

Unless…

Unless he’s willing to talk about his issues, his insecurities. If he can learn to deal with your likes as well as his own dislikes, if he can learn to separate you the person from your lipstick, the lipstick from his definition of a slut, and himself from the cuckold of his fears, then there’s a chance.

Who Has Questions?

When I decided to start this blog I figured that I’d need a base of questions to work with. Sure, I have my ‘classics’ to share with you (and I will), but it could take awhile before those of you reading here are brave enough to send in your questions (more info on that here). So I gathered twenty of my friends and assigned them the task of filling out a blank piece of paper with one of the following:

a) a relationship question they’ve always wanted to ask, but been to shy/embarrassed/uncomfortable to ask

b) a description of a relationship issue or dating situation they’ve seen or known about which had them thankful they weren’t a part of

c) the story of a past relationship issue or dating situation which they think they should have handled differently

d) any sort of relationship ‘stumper’ they’d like to test me on

I thought I’d have problems with them filling out the papers — I even had a complicated plan for them to use my computer, instructions for folding the paper the same way, so that I couldn’t tell who wrote them. But amazingly I received 36 good questions and lots of loud laughter.

What this tells me is that your friends probably have a lot more questions & concerns than you know about — they’re just waiting to be asked.

We usually behave on the old friendship rule of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — meaning we wait to be asked to offer our advice, but may of our friends are just waiting to be asked to unburden themselves. So, this busy holiday season, you may want to make the time to ask your friends for their advice (you’ll find they are rather willing) as well as make sure your friends know you are really open to helping them with their relationship stuff. If nothing else, you’ll improve your relationship with your friends.

Anyway, all this gives you an idea of where this blog is heading, what you can expect.  There will be lots of questions, lots of answers, and lots of laughter.

Search Engine Strengths

Let’s take a look at the widely excitable ecommerce community & the impact that search engines have…

Each year the ‘holiday numbers’ are big news in the web world. Proof that we exist, I suppose. Some sort of ‘I shop online, therefore I am’ sort of a thing. Legitimizing the strength & position of the internet, as both commonplace tool, and proper place for corporate entity. But aside from that, there is gold in those glittering holiday numbers, so let’s take a look:

According to Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence service, the market share of all U.S. visits to Shopping and Classifieds sites reached their highest weekly levels during the week ending Dec. 11, 2004, reaching 9.73%. This broke the prior record set Thanksgiving week 2004 (9.72%).

And these numbers are, in part, due to search engines.

Of that record setting high week, ending Dec 11, 2004, this is the percent of that traffic contributed by search engines to those shopping sites:

Google 4.26%

Yahoo! Search 2.24 %

MSN Search 0.54 %

“The holiday shopping frenzy is continuing strong on the Web, with search engines becoming ever more integrated,” said Bill Tancer, vice president of research, Hitwise. (And this here is the super important part: ) “While Google dominates overall referrals, it is important to note that the leading search engines vary in their strength to refer traffic to certain categories versus others. Marketers should carefully consider the nuances of each engine in order to maximize their search strategies.”

While all three of the big search engines contribute to the traffic (& therefore sales), they seem to do so differently.

While all three major search engines seem to send to the same categories* they have different areas of strength:

– Google sends a higher share of its downstream traffic to Books, Sports and Fitness, and Music.

– Yahoo! Search is stronger in sending its shopping referrals to Video and Games, Automotive and Classifieds.

– MSN Search sends a higher share of its shopping referrals to Apparel & Accessories, House & Garden and Appliances & Electronics.

What does this mean to you?

It means you may want to rethink your ad campaign on Google if you are in the video or gardening business.

Or it may make you think a bit more about the ‘why’ the numbers are that way. Perhaps the ‘kids’ are using Yahoo! (on their parents’ pc/ISP with those free Yahoo! email accounts), and so Yahoo’s audience is younger…

Who knows? Not me. Yet anyway. But you can bet I’ll be thinking about it!

* The top three downstream retail categories for the three major search engines were Rewards & Directories (mostly comparison shopping sites), Auctions, & Department Stores.