After being in and out of relationships for years, which later led to me being in and out of therapy for years, I simply decided to cut off the root cause of my pain: dating men.
I haven’t dated a man since 2019. It’s been nearly two years during which I’ve adopted a dog, graduated from university, and faced a deadly pandemic. During this time, as a bisexual person, I’ve also learnt that my hiatus from men could be longer than I’d anticipated.
No, my radical act didn’t come out of one night of reading feminist literature or watching documentaries of bra-burning feminists. After years of being in unsatisfying relationships, I just decided I had had enough.
Growing up, it was evident that men enjoyed more privileges than women. In high school, I saw how horny teenage boys reduced women to their tits or ass. My first relationship taught me that some men think it’s acceptable to treat their girlfriends like objects. Some of my female classmates faced violence at the hands of their partners but I brushed it off, like they do in most Indian households, as an “internal matter”.
It didn’t take long for unhealthy relationship patterns to repeat, where I was putting way more effort in the relationship than my partner was. At the height of an abusive relationship with a man in 2019, someone told me that I can’t keep pouring from an empty cup. And that changed my whole perspective. I was investing more into the relationship because my boyfriends weren’t investing in it at all. It didn’t help that several of my male partners would sexualise me further after finding out I’m bisexual. They’d ask if we could have a threesome with our lesbian friends (the answer was always no) or stereotype bisexual women as hypersexual.
After leaving my last relationship with a man in 2019, I decided to live out my “hoe phase.” It involved a lot of hooking up and sexting where I realised I liked having sex with men but I was never satisfied dating them. I met multiple “man-babies” during this time - men who like to flirt with women but also expect them to perform all emotional labour for them. Going after them seemed pointless. Why should I chase relationships that made me feel hollow?
During the quarantine, horniness and desperation induced by COVID loneliness got to me and I decided to swipe right on nearly every guy on Tinder. I wasn’t sure of what I wanted - a stable relationship or a quickie - when restrictions were a bit relaxed. But unfortunately for me, quarantine led to more situationships than relationships. Soon, I was talking to a wannabe filmmaker from Argentina who seemed sweet but he too, wanted more labour than I was ready for. Apart from the massive time difference, I was expected to wake up early to talk to him while he’d text whenever he’d want. It wasn’t long before both of us stopped talking and blocked each other.
Weeks later, I developed a crush on a 40-year-old artist from Mumbai. We’d spend long hours chatting and watching films on Netflix Party. I’d pick Indian indie gems; he’d pick American sitcoms. I think this is where I should’ve seen it coming. It wasn’t long before I was disappointed again. He lacked emotional maturity and would ghost me for weeks. Now, he’s just another name amongst the 1,000 people I follow on Instagram.
I remember this one time at my therapist’s office when I asked, “Do men stop evolving emotionally at a certain point?” I felt bad right after the words left my mouth, but she surprisingly nodded in agreement, “In my ten years of practice, I think so too.”
On further thought, I realised that I had been raising a series of man-babies one after another; the pattern was right there in front of me. Often, they expected me to drop everything to cater to their emotional and physical needs with no discussion about what I wanted. My former boyfriends struggled to make time for me but had all the time in the world to drive across the city for a night-out with the boys. I would smile and brush it off, but I’d be hurt. A common pattern in all of the men I dated was that I was a thing, an object, something that could be possessed. Looking back, I cannot believe I let myself stay in relationships where I was constantly devalued, insulted, and made to feel like shit. Dating men was like faking orgasms - disappointing and exhausting but it convinced my partners that I was satisfied.
And then came this spontaneous decision. Last summer, I decided to not date men anymore. I hadn’t dated a man since 2019, but this time around I made the decision to no longer pursue them actively. The gender politics within relationships had tired me out, and I wanted something fulfilling - something that I found in relationships with women and non-binary people.
As someone who gets frequent acne breakouts from stress and anxiety, I’m happy to report that my skin has mostly been clear since I made this decision.
“I think every man I date in the future should be required to show a therapist’s note approving him for dating,” I texted a friend a week after not deciding to date men. “If therapy was championed as a men’s rights cause, it’d be cheaper and easily available,” she texted back.
After stepping away from heterosexual relationships, I also saw how several friends were stuck in unfulfilling relationships. I told myself it wasn’t my business, but it’s hard to look away when an entitled man constantly disrespects your best friend. It didn’t take me long to become that friend who says, “Dump him, now,” after every fight.
Sometimes, the most radical act is telling yourself that you deserve better, and that’s exactly what I did. For years, I have lived in a pattern of hating and doubting myself, but stepping away from relationships with toxic men made me realise my true worth. A colleague told me that often women themselves end up enabling men’s infantile tendencies. I couldn’t agree more. But my decision to date men comes from my refusal to settle for less.
That’s not to say this was an easy decision to make. I thought about it for months before proclaiming it. I still catch myself thinking if it was the right thing to do. As a bisexual person in a country with few queer rights, this wasn’t easy. It’d be much more convenient for me to be “straight-passing” and have a boyfriend. In India, being gay and having gay sex are legal, but gay marriage is not. Bisexual people are usually told to “pick a side” while dating. But my decision to no longer be with men is not picking a side to be attracted to, but picking a side to have a relationship with. Because while I cannot control who I am attracted to, I can choose who to be with.
Do I think about going back to dating men? Sometimes. I get an awful lot of men in my DMs and I can’t help but admit I feel a little bad when turning them down. I wasn’t very sought after in high school, and so, it is flattering when former school bullies slide into my DMs. But despite the promise of mindblowing sex or a fun date, I cannot bring myself to put in any efforts towards men at all.
Before the #NotAllMen activists slide into my DMs with elaborate explanations on how I’m a misandrist, let me make this clear: I don’t hate men. I just wish they’d do better when it came to relationships. When I say “men are trash,” I only mean to call out man-babies, toxic men, and men who love basking in the glory of their misogyny. I also wish to call out a complex and imbalanced system that in a way perpetuates and pardons men’s shitty and entitled behaviour, in relationships and in life. What I obviously don’t mean is that all men are bad or that trashness is the biological destiny of men. Instagram might have taken down my stories saying so and labelled it as “hate speech” but hey, my man-fast is at least keeping those zits away.
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