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Jaclyn Friedman is, in short, a feminist rock star. She is the executive director of  WAM!: Women, Action & the Media. She edited the incredible Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, and continues the work of dismantling rape culture in her weekly pro-sex column. She writes as compellingly about taking off her shirt for fun as she does her college sexual assault. And she has been fucking under these conditions for nearly 20 years.

Fucking while feminist presents a peculiar set of challenges for the pro-sex single. How do you talk rape culture on a first date while still managing to get laid once in a while? How do you find the feminist guy who won’t self-flagellate to the point of unfuckability? How do you avoid dying alone, basically? Friedman agreed to talk to me about establishing a feminist fucking litmus test, the art of locating non-douchey sex partners online, and the secret perks of fucking a feminist.

Sexist: So I was eating dinner with my boyfriend the other day and I started talking about my opinions on rape kits and shit, and I realized that I could probably never talk about this stuff on a first date with someone I had never met.

JF: And if you were me, you would go the a first date, and he would ask, “So, what do you do?” My online dating profile says that I’ve written a book and I’m writing another one. So they ask about it. And then literally ten minutes into a first date I’m talking about rape culture.

How does that usually work out?

JF: The way I hope it will work is that they ask these initial questions before we meet in person. So then they can go offline and collect their thoughts and then respond to me. My profile says I’m a feminist. So a lot of people who would be really scared off by me, we don’t get very far. When the whole Polanski thing was going down, I had this big argument with a guy about Polanski. First date. And last one.

Do you have any feminist litmus tests?

JF: I would like for there to be a set of feminist litmus tests that I could reference and use to find the right guy. Right now, I feel like I’m in an endless cycle of asking myself, “Am I willing to let this slide?” I’m mostly dating guys right now, which is fairly new for me. From my early 20s to my mid-30s I dated exclusively women and trans men. I’m not romanticizing that, like “it’s so much easier with women”—-let me tell you, it’s not. But it’s a different set of questions you have to ask. I don’t feel like I can go in to these dates expecting dudes to know as much about feminism or sexuality studies or rape culture, the stuff that I live my life talking about and thinking about. I feel like I’m going to die alone if I do that.

. . . Here is what’s depressing about dating while feminist. Feminism is what I do with my life, it’s how I spend my days, it’s my job, it’s not just an opinion I have among many other opinions. If I had a hardcore litmus test, the pool of men I could date would be so tiny. And then when you weeded out men who are gay, the men I don’t find attractive, the men already in monogamous, committed relationships—-really, I would never get laid again. So I do feel that I have to try to be flexible out of necessity. But if I were to end up with someone—-and I do want a long-term, stable relationship with someone at some point—-they would have to be feminist on some basic level. They would have to be.

Right now my basic litmus test is this: Is he interested in feminist issues when I bring them up? And can he talk about them in ways that express curiosity and engagement and respect, instead of defensiveness or dismissiveness or attachment to stereotypes? If we can talk about this stuff in ways that are interesting and productive, I can work with it most of the time.

Have you ever turned anyone feminist?

JF: That would be lovely, wouldn’t it? If I could turn a man feminist with the power of my vagina? It hasn’t happened yet. . . . When I was younger, I dated mostly women and trans men. Those relationships didn’t work out, obviously, they had their own issues. But the feminist thing wasn’t as much of an issue. And the only cisgender man I’ve been in a longterm relationship was a feminist when I met him. We would have feminism arguments where I was educated by him, and vice versa. And I thought, well, how lucky I am to have found a feminist guy! And he ended up being an ass . . . in somewhat unrelated ways.

Is there anything that men can mention in their dating profiles that tips you off to feminist compatibility?

JF: I’m e-mailing a guy right now I really want to meet who used the word “heteronormativity” in his profile . . . aside from that, which almost never happens, more what I look for is. . . you know the Bechdel Test for films? It states that any good film has to have two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a guy. Well, this is my test: When I look at personal ads, I look at their lists of favorite books, movies, and music, and they have to list women in all of those categories. They don’t have to have a majority of women, but they have to know that women exist in the culture and be fans of some of them. It’s a pretty low bar—-or it should be. I used to look for guys who don’t list Fight Club in their favorites, but I’ve had to relax that rule, because all dudes evidently love Fight Club. I do draw the line at Ayn Rand. It’s more about avoiding red flags than anything else. . . . I also don’t respond to any guy who says they’re looking for a woman who “doesn’t have drama,” not because I have a lot of drama, but because I feel like that is code for women who have opinions.

. . . I also have a couple things in my profile that are screeners, that I’m hoping will turn off people I don’t want to be bothered by. I mention feminism. I say I’m a size 16. But I do it all in a flirty way, like, ‘size 16 can be sexy,” not in a way that says, “I AM ALL THESE THINGS. DEAL WITH IT.”

So when you tell people that you’re a feminist, do they have assumptions about what the sex is going to be like?

JF: If you Google me, it’s pretty obvious where I stand on the sex stuff. Whenever I end up talking about my work on rape, I also am immediately communicating that I’m a pro-sex feminist. . . . I have been with some men who are surprised that I am, shall we say, less than vanilla in bed . . . A couple of guys were shocked that I like to play various games in bed, because I’m a feminist. That’s always really interesting to me. I’m always like, ‘Are you kidding me? The feminists I know are the craziest women in bed you can find!” Those are the moments where I feel like a one-woman feminist PR machine. I’m instructing the world one man at a time that feminists are really fun to sleep with.

So do you meet guys who pass the feminist test but then turn out to be disappointments for other reasons?

JF: Oh God. There is a type of feminist guy who is so eager to fall over himself to be deferential to women and to prove his feminist bona fides and flagellate himself in front of you, to the point that it really turns me off. And it makes me sad, because politically, these are the guys that I should be sleeping with! You know what I’m talking about?

YES.

JF: Everyone knows what I’m talking about. And some of them are even really cute! I want to say to them, “If you could be a person, like a whole, complicated person, who I feel like I could crack jokes around, then I would really like you.” But they’re so serious about their feminism at every moment that I don’t feel like a person to them. I feel like I’m on a pedestal, almost. I know that they’re not going to disagree with anything I say under any circumstances. And I don’t feel like I can make a raunchy joke about sex, because they’ll be horrified. . . . I hate to be critical of our allies in any way, because we need them, but there’s something about that certain kind of hyperfeminist guy that makes them unappealing to date, to me. I suspect it has something to do with our internal conceptions of masculinity, which is terrible on my part.

I think it’s also that they haven’t really gotten comfortable with their feminism yet.

JF: Yes. They haven’t internalized their feminism, so it’s always being externalized. And it places a lot of pressure on the women they’re with. There’s this very self-conscious performance of feminism. And it does sometimes feel like they want a cookie. . . .  OK, I know this is such a delicate conversation to have, but I want those guys to wake up because those are the guys I want to want to sleep with!

So do you have any other fucking while feminist horror stories?

JF: . . . What happens to me that drives me up a tree is this: The guys who respond to me and are like, ‘You’re awesome. You’re kind of a hellcat.” They think it’s cool and kind of bad-ass that I’m outspoken and passionate about things. They think that’s really hot. They’re into it. But then when that outspokenness gets applied back to them, it’s suddenly game-over. You know the idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl? She’s light, and quirky, and she has no inner life of her own, and just there to serve our hero’s development and erotic interests. I sort of feel that I get cast in these dudes’ narratives as the Hellcat Dream Girl, there to prove how bad-ass they are because they’re dating such a bad-ass woman. They think it’s cute or sexy. But when I use that smart, outspoken bad-assery to challenge their own perspectives, it’s suddenly not sexy at all. It happens when they say something that I disagree with, and I act like a person and not someone that is playing out their particular fantasies.

It’s happened to me a million times . . . they want it as a trophy. “Hey, look at my bad-ass girl.” They don’t want to deal with me as a person. It follows this pattern where it usually comes from a person who seeks me out. They try to seduce me. They think I would be an accomplishment to conquer or something. They seek me out and try to get me interested in them, and then I am, and then they flee. . . . I feel like the same thing happened with the guy I dated for two years. He liked the idea of being a guy who would be with someone like me, but ultimately it turned out that he wanted someone who wouldn’t challenge him as much, a person who was easier and quicker to sweep away. I got evidence of that when, within three months of breaking up with me, he was dating a 23 year old who lists her political views on Facebook as “moderate.”

Do you ever feel like there’s a conflict between your life as a professional feminist and your personal life?

JF: Oftentimes I wonder what the people who know me professionally would think about the compromises I make when I’m dating. I wish this were a live conversation where other feminists were weighing in. I’d like to know what other women are doing. Am I making the right compromises here? Should dating require these sorts of compromises? Is there any tactic that produces better results? . . .  I feel very unsure about what the best way is to live my politics and have a sex life. I really feel in the weeds about it. But it’s something I think about all the time, and I don’t feel like I have the answers.

Photo by Anh Dao Kolbe