11 Women Share Their Real Life "Cat Person" Stories After Reading 'The New Yorker' Short
Last weekend, the internet exploded with the arrival of “Cat Person,” a short story written by Kristen Roupenian and published online at The New Yorker. The story has gone on inspired a huge discussion, a large part of which involves women sharing their own real-life “Cat Person” stories. As a recent thread on the r/AskWomen subreddit underlines, there’s a reason the short story resonated so strongly for so many people: We’ve all got our own “Cat Person” experiences, and they are all indicative of the larger issues with how our culture deals with gender and gender dynamics.
I am fortunate that my own “Cat Person” experiences have been mild, and mostly limited to interactions with people I’ve never met in person. On in particular, however, stands out: When I was in college — well over a decade ago, when I was young and naïve in the way that many students tend to be — I was just starting to dabble in online dating. I rarely went on any dates; I was busy enough that my schedule didn’t often allow it — and also, I was a little bit afraid (for a whole host of reasons, including my personal safety). But I figured, hey, this might be a good way to get better at talking with people and maybe even at flirting, even if it was just in a text-based medium.
The story will likely sound familiar. A guy messaged me, and we corresponded for a short while — but something felt… off to me. He came on incredibly strongly, ignoring any boundaries I attempted to set; it made me uncomfortable. I tried to do a slow fade and eventually stopped responding. He started calling me names. So, I blocked him and carried on with my life.
He tried again later on. He used a different screen name, but it was similar to the other one (which had been a unique moniker in the first place), and his profile photo was the same; clearly it was the same person. Indeed, in light of what would happen next, I wonder now if maybe he had been reported or blocked too many times and had been suspended from the site under his original name.
Based on our previous interactions, I knew that this time, I had no interest in even corresponding with him, let alone going on a date — so I wrote back, “Thanks, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
He responded with a wall of text full of capital letters and accusatory language: How could I say it wasn’t a good idea? I didn’t even KNOW him — he deserved a CHANCE, I just needed to give him a CHANCE, I was such a BITCH for not even giving him a CHANCE.
Every alarm bell I had went off, ringing in my head with a ferocity that frightened me almost as much as the message itself had. I immediately blocked him.
I don’t even know if he remembered having spoken to me before.
At the time, I didn’t know how common this kind of experience was. Now, though? Now I know that it happens all the time. And because of that, the ending is the part of “Cat Person” that resonated with me the most: The message exchange that began with, “Hope you’re doing well!” and ended with, “Whore.”
I know now that blocking that guy was the right move — that listening to the alarm bells going off in my head was the best thing I could have done.
But I also know that I’m lucky he didn’t retaliate in other ways.
And I know that this shouldn’t be considered lucky. But I know, too, that it is — because that’s the world that we currently live in.
It’s the world in which all of these stories from the r/AskWomen thread on real-life “Cat Person” experiences exist, as well. Here are 11 of them; head on over to Reddit for more.
1“He Treated Me Like A Piece Of Meat”
As another Redditor noted, “These types tend to be the most furious at the prospect of women faking orgasms, too, without considering that they are the cause.” It's a catch-22; there's no way to win.
2“The Amount Of Times I’ve Taken On The Emotional Workload Of Men I Hardly Know … Is Exhausting To Think About”
This point is major. The thing is, it’s not just one instance of experiencing a “Cat Person” situation; it’s the whole body of instances, and the fact that this body of instances is spread out over both large groups and single individuals. Our culture teaches us two things: That men are not responsible for their own emotional workload, and that women are responsible for it. The fact that “Cat Person” has resonated so strongly with so many women just shows how pervasive the issue is.
Others made this point, too:
Which — again — just underlines the severity and pervasiveness of the issue even more.
3“As Soon As The Movie Was Over, The Texts Started”
This is an excerpt of the full story; it escalates in some really upsetting ways, eventually spreading to inappropriate communication over workplace channels.
This is not OK. None of it is OK. It needs to stop.
4“I … Minimized My Own Emotions And Opinions For Men So Many Times”
This, too, is an excerpt; the full comment comes from Redditor u/palimpsestnine. Everything in it is notable, but the chores guy really stands out to me. What is shows is that the problem of how our culture genders emotional labor is so deeply ingrained that men don’t even realize it’s happening — and even when it’s pointed out in no uncertain terms, the impulse isn’t to correct the issue, but to double down on justifying how it’s actually totally OK that this disparity in responsibility for emotional labor exists. But it’s OK — not at all.
5“Because I Felt Like I Should”
In our culture, women are socialized not to give hard “nos”(or even soft “nos” if they can help it) because it’s not pleasant for other people — that is, we’re taught to place others’ comfort above our own, even when it results in us doing things we don’t really want to do. Meanwhile, men are socialized not to take “no” for answer, because if you just push something hard enough, you can get to a "yes." And people of all genders are taught that simply not wanting to do something isn’t a good enough reason to say no to it.
All of this is BS. "No" is not an insult. Turning a "no" into a "yes" isn't something to be lauded. And not wanting to do something is all the reason you need not to do it.
6“It’s Basically The Blueprint For Every Sexual Encounter I’ve Ever Had”
And here’s the thing: It isn’t that men aren’t capable of being interesting or sensitive or sensual; obviously they are. But, as another Redditor put it in response to this story, “They just… don’t seem to feel as though it’s important, for the most part. And if it isn’t enough for you, something’s wrong with you in their minds.” It’s often true, and it’s upsetting on so many levels.
7“I Would … Put On A Show, But None Of It Felt Good”
There’s a difference between performing pleasure and experiencing it — and too often, we’re taught that the performance is everything, while the experience is secondary. That’s the opposite of how it should be.
8“I Always Feel Bad Turning Him Down, Even Though I’m Not That Into Him”
Truth. All of it.
9“He Sent Me A String Of Texts Later, Starting With Apologies And … Devolving Into Insults”
Redditor u/sycoraxxx’s story is a long one; this is just the last few paragraphs. That last line really resonates, though, especially with in the context of the full story. Head here to read it.
In a follow-up comment, u/sycoraxxx noted, “I was actually surprised to read some comments about ‘Cat Person’ where people said that the ending didn’t feel realistic to them”; what these folks thought was that the “switch to being nice or desperate to throwing out an insult” didn’t ring true. All I can think, though, is that those folks must be cis men — because that abrupt about-face? That was the most realistic part of “Cat Person” to me. Beyond being something I’ve experienced myself, it’s something that most women have experienced, and in a wide variety of contexts, at that. In a text from someone you know? Yep. On the street from someone you’ve never met before? That too. It happens all. The time.
10“We Had Extremely Disappointing Sex But He Kept Saying How Happy It Made Him”
A good relationship with someone you dig can definitely be a source of happiness — but your happiness is not the responsibility of that person. The only person who is responsible for your own happiness is you yourself.
11“THIS Is How It Should Be Done”
If there is one shining light to be found in the discussion surrounding “Cat Person,” it’s this: That real-life “Cat Person” events don’t have to end like “Cat Person” actually does. This story from u/natalie2k8 is a reminder for all of us: We don’t have to say “yes” to something we don’t have to do, and if someone hasn’t given you an enthusiastic “yes” about something, it’s time to stop, not be a jerk about it.
Some commenters didn’t agree that the situation was a “Cat Person” story, but as Redditor u/DarthLolita put it, it is because it’s “discussing the same foundation — that feeling of obligation and the fact that our current culture equates women saying no to sex as women doing a personal insult to the man who wants to havesex.” Continued u/DarthLolita, “That plus routinely teaching girls that they have to be nice and gentle at all costs leads to situations like this.” The situations in this story and “Cat Person” are quite similar; the difference is that this story has a happy ending based on the actions of those involved. And that really, really matters.
I’m highlighting this last paragraph of u/natalie2k8's story one more time, because it cannot be repeated enough:
“THIS is how it should be done. This is the purpose ofasking for consent. I'm so grateful for this guy. By giving me an out when Ineeded one, I remember him as the great guy who didn't pressure me into sexrather than a guy I had awful sex with that one time.”
Yes. Yes to all of this. Yes, yes, yes.
Check out the full "Cat Person" thread at r/AskWomen.