Kevin* and I were best friends in college before we got together, so I thought I really knew the guy. He had a unique sense of humor, and I had seen his sensitive side enough times to know there was some depth to him. He was athletic, smart, and skeptical. After two years of a solid friendship, we couldn't live without each other — and sort of fell into a relationship, much to the surprise of all our mutual friends. Halfway through senior year, we moved in together. We got a cat, and then another cat. We stayed together long after graduation. We were perfectly happy for a while, but little by little, I became privy to his misogynistic values and habits. And after a while, I realized how sexist he truly was.
Sexism comes in many different forms, some of them more insidious than others. Kevin wasn't the Donald Trump kind of sexist who openly demeans women and refers to them as "whores," "sluts," and "fat pigs." He wasn't a womanizer or a guy who annoyingly mansplained his way through a heated conversation about politics. But there were subtle layers of sexism that permeated our relationship and eventually messed with my head.
Looking back on it now, I'm embarrassed that I stayed in that relationship for almost two years, but I was young, naive, and blind to the male chauvinism coming from a person I deeply cared about. I doubt it's uncommon for women to go through this during their young adult years, in fact — we're not exactly taught at a young age to stand up for ourselves when men spout sexist rhetoric at us. Come to think of it, we're indirectly taught to take it all lying down. That's part of the reason why it took me so long to come face to face with Kevin's sexist ways.
Here are seven things that happened when I dated a sexist:
1. He Paid For Almost Everything As A Means Of Control
Kevin came from a rich family and I didn't, which meant he was able to live more comfortably than I was. It became hard to keep up with him in our social life and weekend outings because of how much money I ended up spending. So he started paying for me. Eventually, he insisted on paying for everything, which was sweet at first — until he started using it to make himself the dominant one in the relationship.
Because he paid for me, he felt he had some kind of ownership over me. A 2013 study by LearnVest and TD Ameritrade proved that this is common among men — 59 percent of men surveyed said they want to pay for women on a date because it makes them feel "fulfilled and accomplished." That's how my ex acted after dishing out a certain amount of money for me. He walked around with a puffed-up chest, thinking that he had achieved authority over who I could go see on the weekends and what I could wear. We ended up fighting about this a lot.
2. He Never Cared About The Things I Was Interested In
He was the one seemingly in charge of the relationship, so he acted like he was the only one who had anything worthwhile to say. He and his two friends were starting a business together after we graduated college, so nearly every second of the day was devoted to their work. That would have been fine, except the only thing he wanted to talk about when he wasn't at the office was his new business. Every time I tried to bring up what was going on in my life, he would shut me down and start talking about work again.
Women get shamed all the time for trying to speak their minds. Although many people actually believe that women are wired to talk more than men, studies have shown that that's complete crap. But that's how Kevin acted: As if I was talking way too often and it was annoying to him. Having my partner shush me all the time as if I were a shallow "attention whore" gradually began to chip away at me and left me with very little confidence that what I had to say was worthwhile.
3. He Shamed Me For The Guys I Had Been With Before
He couldn't handle any talk about my ex-boyfriends or any guys I had hooked up with randomly during my early years of college. We got into a huge fight one night because I ran into an ex of mine and we were friendly towards each other. We weren't even flirting, but the fact that we were remotely civil completely set Kevin off. When we got home, he crudely asked me if I had any self-respect when I was "busy messing around" with different guys. I told him I did, thanks very much for asking. But at the end of the day, he wasn't OK with my choices to be a grown-ass woman who liked to have fun. He didn't call me a "slut" outright, but he sure did get close.
4. He Made Insensitive Comments About My Menstrual Cycle
Every time I got upset about something he would ask, "So, you on your period, or...?" It was a snide comment that made me wildly upset, and as soon as I told him what a misogynistic thing that was to say, he would condescendingly nod his head as if he were right all along. Our society constantly reinforces sexist values about menstruation and PMSing, and my ex-boyfriend was right there in the thick of it. If I were rightfully angry about something he did, he simply chalked it up to my menstruation. This only got worse as time went on, and towards the end I felt embarrassed to talk about my period out loud at all, for fear that he would ridicule me for it.
5. I Soon Realized That A Lot Of Men In His Life Were Also Sexist
The longer we were together, the more time I spent around his friends from home and some of his family members. This was when I started to understand who Kevin truly was. His high school buddies used to crack jokes about how worthless a woman was who couldn't cook for her husband. He had a few older friends who invested in his business, all of whom had no problem announcing that they preferred to have obedient wives who remained silent when the time for decision-making came.
What frustrated me most was seeing him sit there, listening to these shenanigans and laughing along. It was like he had no idea how sexist these comments were, and how harmful they were to women everywhere. More importantly, it was a glimpse into our future. I knew that if I stayed with him he would, one day, like his friends, expect me to clean up after him like a little kid.
6. When I Finally Broke It Off With Him, He Couldn't Accept That It Was Over
Kevin knew he had completely lost control over me when, after much fighting and begging on his end, I finally broke up with him. We were long distance at the time — I was in graduate school in Boston, and he was still in Atlanta, working on his business — and he'd call me for hours on end, yet I didn't answer. All of a sudden, he was saying things like that he had never appreciated me for the wonderful girlfriend I had been, blah blah blah. He even tried to bribe me back by saying that I could buy anything I wanted with his money, then proceeded to send me expensive gifts. Seriously, I couldn't make this up if I tried.
After trying to reach me for days on end, he employed some of his family members to text me and ask me to call him because he was very distraught about the whole thing. It was pathetic, to say the least.
7. He Tried To Tell All Our Friends And Family That I Cheated On Him
This is the part of the story where the ex turns from sexist to sexist a**hole. We had one final conversation on the phone, and I made it very clear to him that I didn't want to be with him anymore. After that, I deleted his number, arranged to have my things in his apartment shipped to me, and decided to move on. But he wasn't ready to do the same.
When I started seeing someone in Boston, he caught wind of it from a friend of a friend, and he concocted this elaborate story about how I was dating this new guy long before we broke up. He told his sister, his parents, and our mutual friends that I had cheated on him. He even tried to make my cousin believe that I was unfaithful. The only ones who mattered to me out of all those people knew that wasn't what happened, and they stood by my side.
Needless to say, it all added up to a drama-filled part of my life that taught me a lot about the many subtle shades of sexism. I guess the good part to come out of all this is that I've got a pretty keen sexist radar today, so misogynistic dudes rarely fly by without setting off a huge alarm in my head.
*Names have been changed.
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