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Women wearing “makeup that hints at orgasm” can’t complain that men leer, Intellectual Dark Webber Heather Heying argues

Toxic female prepares for battle

By David Futrelle

So who’s more toxic: A dude who spends every lunch hour staring at women passing on the street like a hungry lion eyeing a wounded gazelle, or any of these women who take a moment to tell him to “stop staring at me, you creep!”

If we follow the logic set out by Intellectual Dark Webber Heather E. Heying in her recent piece on “toxic femininity” in Quillette, it would be the women. At least if they’re wearing makeup — because makeup “invites” male attention and it’s wrong for women to chastise men who give women the lustful gazes that they’re (supposedly) signaling they crave.

Heying, a former evolutionary biology professor at Evergreen State College, declares that it’s an “ancient truth” that

[s]traight men will look at beautiful women, especially if those women are a) young and hot and b) actively displaying. Display invites attention.

Apparently, any time a young hottie puts on flattering clothes and a bit of makeup, she’s basically advertising that she’s open for business, sex-wise, much like a female mandrill presenting her swollen red ass to the nearest monkey Chad.

“Hotness-amplifying femininity puts on a full display, advertising fertility and urgent sexuality,” Heying proclaims, writing about human females in much the same way, I imagine, that she’s written about the sex lives of the poisonous frogs she’s studied in the wild.

It invites male attention by, for instance, revealing flesh, or by painting on signals of sexual receptivity. This, I would argue, is inviting trouble.

So you’re saying these women are asking for it?

No, I did not just say that she was asking for it. I did, however, just say that she was displaying herself, and of course she was going to get looked at.

I’m not quite sure how that’s different from saying “she’s asking for it,” but never mind.

The amplification of hotness is not, in and of itself, toxic, although personally, I don’t respect it, and never have. Hotness fades, wisdom grows— wise young women will invest accordingly.

So dressing like a dirty slut isn’t toxic, it just makes you a dirty slut, which Heying definitely isn’t, unlike all you dirty sluts being all dirty and slutty out there with your dirty slut outfits.

Femininity becomes toxic when it cries foul, chastising men for responding to a provocative display.

Ah, of course, femininity becomes toxic as soon as women point out the bad behavior of men.

Heying dials back her rhetoric for a moment to assure her readers that, yes, she does believe that there are some male behaviors that it’s legitimate to complain about.

Every woman has the right not to be touched if she does not wish to be; and coercive quid pro quo, in which sexual favors are demanded for the possibility of career advancement, is unacceptable.

Alas, she follows up this bit of uncharacteristic reasonableness with a big ol’ “but.”

But when women doll themselves up in clothes that highlight sexually-selected anatomy, and put on make-up that hints at impending orgasm, it is toxic—yes, toxic—to demand that men do not look, do not approach, do not query.

Wait, what? “Make-up that hints at impending orgasm?”

As best as I can figure it, she thinks that whenever women use any makeup that reddens their cheeks or lips they are doing so because this redness is a simulation of the “sex flush” that many women experience during, well, sex, and that typically starts to fade after an orgasm.

Of course, cheeks also turn red due to embarrassment, sunburn, vigorous jogging, cold weather, falling into a vat of tomato soup. So maybe all that a woman with blusher on her cheeks is trying to signal is that due to her balance issues it’s probably not a good idea to take her on a tour of a soup factory, at least not without securing her with a sturdy rope first.

Also, “sex flushes” don’t only affect the face; they also tend to redden necks and chests, among other places. So for women to really convey just how totally into sex they hypothetically are, shouldn’t they cover every visible inch of skin with red paint, like this sexy lady here?

The wings are a nice touch too

But I digress. Heying continues her tirade against mean hotties being mean to men.

Young women have vast sexual power. Everyone who is being honest with themselves knows this: Women in their sexual prime who are anywhere near the beauty-norms for their culture have a kind of power that nobody else has.

Weird that very few of these women are able to use this supposedly vast power to command much higher salaries than, for example, their much older and much less sexually appealing male bosses.

They are also all but certain to lack the wisdom to manage it. Toxic femininity is an abuse of that power, in which hotness is maximized, and victim status is then claimed when straight men don’t treat them as peers.

Why shouldn’t men treat women as peers? What does “hotness” have to do with it?

Creating hunger in men by actively inviting the male gaze, then demanding that men have no such hunger—that is toxic femininity.

No one is demanding that straight men cease being attracted to — hungering for — women; they’re simply asking that men treat the women they’re attracted to with simple courtesy and not openly drool over them like creepy creeps.

Subjugating men, emasculating them when they display strength—physical, intellectual, or other—that is toxic femininity.

“Subjugating” men for “displaying strength?” Where is this coming from? What the fuck are you even talking about?

Insisting that men, simply by virtue of being men, are toxic, and then acting surprised as relationships between men and women become more strained—that is toxic femininity.

No one is claiming that all men are toxic “simply by virtue of being men.” Yes, it’s true that all men in our culture are taught some toxic attitudes and encouraged to display some toxic behaviors. But that doesn’t make all men predators or creeps.

Many men consciously or unconsciously reject the toxic aspects of masculinity — while holding on to other aspects of masculinity that they and many others (including most feminists) find appealing. Terry Crews is about as masculine a man as you can get — and he’s speaking out against toxic masculinity.  I don’t know any feminist, male or female, who has a problem with him; I’ve seen Men’s Rights Activists call him a “cuck.”

If every young woman who complains about creeps staring at them is guilty of “toxic femininity,” at least in Heying’s mind, are there men guilty of toxic masculinity as well?

True, she does explicitly acknowledge that toxic masculinity is a thing. After all, there are men out there who sexually assault women. But she’s willing to absolve most men of any degree of blame.

“Yes, toxic masculinity exists,” she writes, before moving on to the inevitable “but.”

But the use of the term has been weaponized. It is being hurled without care at every man. When it emerged, its use seemed merely imprecise—in most groups of people, there’s some guy waiting for an opportunity to fondle a woman’s ass without her consent, put his hand where he shouldn’t, right? That’s who was being outed as toxic. Those men—and far, far worse—do exist. Obviously. But wait—does every human assemblage contain such men? It does not.

Well, pretty much any human assemblage with more than a handful of men in it is likely to contain at least one toxic asshole who likes to grope women without consent. Hell, our president is one of these men, if his own boasts (not to mention the accusations of numerous women) are anything to go by. Kind of hard to argue that “toxic masculinity” is super duper rare when the top elected official on our country is about as toxic as a man can get.

This term, toxic masculinity, is being wielded indiscriminately, and with force. We are not talking imprecision now, we are talking thoroughgoing inaccuracy.

Indeed, she suggests, if you talk about “toxic masculinity” too much, many people will leap to the conclusion that “all men are toxic.”  Never mind that this isn’t actually happening in the real world.

While Heying is convinced that every young woman who puts a little rouge on her cheeks is “inviting trouble,” she cuts men a lot more slack. Indeed, at the start of her piece she literally gives human males credit for not murdering babies.

No, really. She starts the piece by noting that male lions, as is well-known,  will “kill the kittens in a pride over which they have gained control.” This, she acknowledges, is pretty “toxic” behavior. But

[g]iven the opportunity, the vast majority of modern human males would do no such thing. … the vast majority of men would not and could not kill babies, nor rape their grieving mothers.

Good to know.

So, to summarize: in order to be convicted of toxic femininity in the court of Judge Heying, all a woman needs to do is to put on a spot of makeup and then complain if men leer at her.

In order to be convicted of toxic masculinity, by contrast, a man has to do one or more of the following:

  1. Grind on or grope a woman without her consent
  2. Rape a woman
  3. Demand sexual favors for career advancement
  4. Kill some babies

With such divergent standards, it’s no wonder that she thinks “toxic femininity” is much more common than “toxic masculinity.”

It’s also no wonder she’s considered part of the “Intellectual Dark Web,” because arguments like hers deserve to be sent back into the darkness from whence they came.

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StaceySmartyPantsTwiceRemoved
StaceySmartyPantsTwiceRemoved
3 years ago

@AuntieMameRedux

WOW that is a brilliantly written analysis! Thank you for taking the time!

Oh and thank you for the super-sweet words. My owner would love you.

You are wonderful and brilliant!

Katiekitten420
Katiekitten420
3 years ago

Stacey I think we’ll get along lovely, but we might annoy the others lol. I am very well known for writing essay length comments here honestly don’t do it purposefully but I can’t help myself and then when I’m done it’s the equivalent of two pages long LOL. Well at least my reason for not believing it sistemic racism was just because of a bubble of ignorance.

I didn’t believe that feminism was really necessary in every way that it is necessary until my mid-20s because one of the biggest feminist groups at college told me that I was a disgrace to women. Like there were three of them that would literally harass me whenever they saw me. I’m very big into BDSM and as I’ve already said back then was when I was the most extreme with my outfits in the sense that I wore as little as I could get away with LOL. And for the first time I wasn’t just having the sexy times I was in a full-blown BDSM style relationship. Not to the point where I dragged other people into my sex life without consent but I wore my collar and cuffs everyday if my boyfriend was with me he would normally attach one of my chains to the collar very thin sterling silver more for decoration and feeling then to actually hold me I could have broken it if I wanted to I just enjoyed the feeling of being on a leash still do LOL.

Nowadays I would say that’s a little extra in public depending on where you are. But back then I was too young to know better. Yeah I guess in class maybe it is a bit much but that’s not the point. The point is these women said because I not only enjoyed submitting in bed but I enjoy submitting in most ways overall I was a bad example to other women and I should be ashamed of myself. Personally I honestly don’t like making most decisions, I would much rather find someone I trust implicitly and have them make my decisions for me this is still true to this day. My primary partner of over 10 years makes the majority of my decisions for me.

Apparently I was making things worse for all women by acting like this because when men see one women act like how I was acting they’ll expect it from other women or something. And also a bit of slut shaming and sort of body shaming which is best I’ve learned now very unfeminist. They would talk about me running around 3/4 naked was also bad for women in general. They said I was objectifying myself and a whole lot of stuff that was really insulting all in that vein.

So for years I was like fuck feminism. Obviously I always thought women and men are equal cuz I’m not a moron. But if they think the way I like to live my life hurts women in general and is morally wrong when I’m not hurting anybody and I’m just living how I want to be happy they can all suck my balls.

I later learned that they were a very vocal minority of feminist culture there are still some like that on the internet to this day I avoid them like the plague LOL. Judging from how I’ve been a reasonably extreme submissive since I was a little child and did not know what it was. Like hindsight makes me realize what those notions were but I was into the concept of being a submissive long before I had sex or was interested in sex. And isnt me living the life I want to live and being happy and content feminist cuz I surely think it is!

Anyway thanks Stacey, you are awesome! I’m going to go read my fantasy novel. Right now I’m rereading Lois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan books which are absolutely awesome if anyone likes Space Opera. Everyone have a lovely day

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
3 years ago

@ Katiekitten

Sounds like you ran into “the personal is the political”. That was quite a popular view in lefty spaces in the 80s; maybe it still is in some circles?

Of course, in a way all actions are political. Even something as simple as buying a chocolate bar. Does having a Kit Kat mean you’re lending tacit support to anti breastfeeding propaganda in the developing world, with all that entails in terms of women and children’s health, and financial exploitation?

For me though the problem arises when people conflate highly personal life choices with societal issues. It’s just a form of coercion. Now there’s lots you could consider in terms of ‘self regarding’ versus ‘other regarding’ acts, and how that may apply. And there’s also that whole thing about ‘choice’ feminism.

But the ultimate expression of ‘personal is political’ is Jordan Peterson advocating for enforced monogamy and incels rambling on about sexual socialism.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
3 years ago

KatieKitten420 wrote:

Apparently I was making things worse for all women by acting like this because when men see one women act like how I was acting they’ll expect it from other women or something. And also a bit of slut shaming and sort of body shaming which is best I’ve learned now very unfeminist. They would talk about me running around 3/4 naked was also bad for women in general. They said I was objectifying myself and a whole lot of stuff that was really insulting all in that vein.

Well, unless your harassers were also claiming that submissive men who walk around in public in bondage gear and on leashes “make it worse for all men because when women see one man act like that they’ll expect it from all men,” they’re making the classic mistake of assuming any member of a non-dominant social group is representative of the whole group, while any member of the dominant group is merely acting as an individual.

How very feminist of them. /s

…and I’ll reiterate my previous point: if you freely choose to do something that doesn’t harm anyone else against their will, I don’t think that can be considered an unfeminist act. Even if it involves extreme submission. And collars and leashes. And minimal clothing.

If they wanted to complain about your sartorial choices being inappropriate for a classroom, that’s an argument that might have had some merit depending on the classroom context, but making it a feminist issue is bullshit.

…unless you were specifically saying that all women should dress and behave like that, which I know damn well you weren’t.

Sorry; this kind of crap really irritates me.

Moon_custafer
Moon_custafer
3 years ago

@ Katiekitten420:

Apparently I was making things worse for all women by acting like this because when men see one women act like how I was acting they’ll expect it from other women or something.

I can’t recall where I saw it, but I believe there was a second-wave feminist who said something like “every happy housewife is a strikebreaker in the struggle for women’s rights.” I’m inclined to think it’s a better strategy to admit housework is necessary and respect everyone who does it, while simultaneously trying to stop it being assigned on the basis of gender; but, well, I talk a good fight (I generally do most of the housework, though some of that is due to spouse’s physical aches and pains).

@ Alan:

Does having a Kit Kat mean you’re lending tacit support to anti breastfeeding propaganda in the developing world,

And the downgrading of water rights. I do try to avoid KitKats or other Nestle products, but I try not to feel bad if I buy something and then read the fine print and realize it’s from a subsidiary of the company. (Put another way – I think boycotts can be useful, but elevating them to the status of purity taboos is more trouble than it’s worth.)

Katiekitten420
Katiekitten420
3 years ago

In hindsight I can definitely see how my sartorial choices may have been inappropriate for a classroom, I love the way you phrase that by the way. But then again maybe not because this was the early 2000 and people were coming to class in their boyfriends boxers and wife beaters and Hello Kitty footie pajamas so there’s that LOL. I don’t really see how BDSM gear is more inappropriate than literally a sports bra and your boyfriend’s boxers or literally footie pajamas with Hello Kitty all over them.

Hey don’t get it twisted, I had Hello Kitty, Keroppi and Pippo(does anyone here remember Pippo? Sanrio discontinued it. It’s not a pig and it isn’t the hippo, Pippo! That’s not an ad or anything being my best friend just made that up cuz we thought it was hilarious)footie pajamas and wish I could have some today I can’t find one with footies for adults these days.

StaceySmartyPantsTwiceRemoved
StaceySmartyPantsTwiceRemoved
3 years ago

@KatieKitten420

I think you make some fair comparisons there! (Besides I would be one in my strappiest sports bra and workout bikini bottoms over show-girl style glossy tights accessorized with a snazzy little gold belt and elbow length gloves and in platform heels and would just prance along right beside you as your friend and tell all the slut-shamers to fuck off! Besides, as for bondage gear sometimes in addition to helping somebody feel sexy it’s just a radical alternative fashion statement. I have a body-harness made for a woman’s body that has this neckband that buckles and is cute but “strict” looking. Not everybody has to be into that type of expression in their personal lives to understand that for some people, whatever else it is, it’s fashion and fun. We’re not provoking anybody and there is nothing toxic about it. So Heying is wrong wrong wrong.

Princess Mar
Princess Mar
3 years ago

…you know, I’m kind of curious if she (Heather Heying) thinks a women wearing pale pink lipstick are allowed to “complain that men leer at them”. Or purple blush. Or sparkly eyeshadow. Or bronzer. Or mascara, or eyeliner.

Of course, that’s assuming attention to nuance and detail. Which, given that she thinks that blushing and unnaturally red lips must imply sex…

Jessica New
Jessica New
3 years ago

I am only just discovering this because a male friend of mine just sent me a link to Heyling. (loki knows why after all the arguments Ive had with him for over 7 years about his tendency to victim blame and alternately express anger when he sees woman not conforming to gender norms…..) I guess he thought I would “come to my senses”. I watched her speak in thoughtful horror, arguments bouncing around in my head like a bingo counter machine. I am tired and was feeling that frustration of not being able to Quite express what I wanted to say. 🙁

Then! Yay! The magical internet brought me here. Thank you thank you thank you, to you writer and all the lovely comments as well.

Will I still be his friend? Well, maybe I should try, but I am getting tired. I cut him off for a year, but still he sends me shit like that Heying. Only 2 months ago he expressed when I queried him why did he think that most famous philosophical writings are by men that “well, women simply didnt need to express philosophy, because they were doing the work of being mothers”! I countered woth the Fact that women were often not allowed to publish, or even be educated. He said that wasnt true.

Anyway, i ramble, but thank you alll!

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
3 years ago

I countered woth the Fact that women were often not allowed to publish, or even be educated. He said that wasnt true.

I’m sure you see the positive side to your friend, but to me this sounds very much like gaslighting.

In Shakespeare’s time, boys played the parts of girls and women. It was considered unsuitable for a girl or woman to perform onstage.

Fast-forward to 1920 USA: Women won the right to vote.

Fast-forward again, this time to 1997 and the publication of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

Although she writes under the pen name J. K. Rowling, her name, before her remarriage, was Joanne Rowling. Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers asked that she use two initials rather than her full name.

(Wikipedia, “J. K. Rowling”)

Does your friend think that other than these three (small, inconsequential) incidents, women were treated equally with men in every way?

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