Tag Archives: society

Are you a shark or a leech?

I’ve observed that our culture has certain stereotypes of women and men – women as being latchy and manipulative and parasitic and opportunistic and exploitative (like a tapeworm), and men as being aggressive and predatory (like a shark).

I hate these stereotypes. I invariably run into them whenever I’m among any group of single people of any orientation and gender. Gynophiles of either gender are on guard against being parasitized by those needy, latchy women who will move into their house, keep them up all night talking, and spend up their credit cards. If you’re a straight(ish) man who has been around the block a bit, you might be on guard against women wanting to marry you as quickly as possible, spend your money, and have the babies that you will have to support but never get to see. Or so sayeth the Internet. If you are a gay(ish) woman, then you might be concerned about the “U-Haul Lesbian”┬ástereotype and that the woman who came home with you from the company Christmas party… might take two years to get rid of.

Androphiles of either gender are on guard against being predated upon, consumed, digested, then shat out; the predator will then find other prey to consume. Straight(ish) women and gay(ish) men alike despair that they’ll never find love and tenderness, and fear that men only want “one thing”… and then to move on as quickly as possible.

Mind you, I am speaking in stereotypes… but I feel I’m expressing the fear and dread that many singles have, and how unflattering gender stereotypes play into this fear.

The worst part is that the stereotypes are not equally perjorative. Sports teams do not call themselves the “Fighting Leeches” but wolves, tigers, sharks, and other predators adorn their banners. Nobody wants to be predated upon, but there’s still a certain glamor to being a predator.

Both predators and parasites consume others, but predators consume from the outside. Parasites get inside the body and consume you from within.

Women’s dating books tend to try to show women how to avoid being predated upon while also convincing the other party that they are not a parasite. Trouble is, as a woman, you’re already seen as a parasite. You can’t gain prestige in the scenario when you never had any to start with; as soon as you said “yes” to the date, the other party may have already assumed that you were likely to want to move in with them and have their babies by the third date, and may have lots of rules to keep them from getting parasitized.

Furthermore, there’s some degree to which there is the meta-message that women are opportunistic; it’s thought that we take what we can then cash out our chips to go off and have babies, as if we’re just there – on the job, in a relationship – for whatever resources we can extract, without actually contributing anything to the body we’re parasitizing.

It’s all very ugly – but the thing is – of the two – the “parasite” image is actually far, far less flattering. It’s hard for me to look myself in the mirror if I have to think of myself as a parasite.

Predators tend to take a certain pride in being predators, and we tend to admire them for being strong and goal oriented, even as we cringe at the bodies that drop around them…

But who wants to be a parasite?

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