White Knight

Am I only a feminist to get laid?

Tim Squirrell
Tim Squirrell  /  1 Comment

I’ve written a lot about the kinds of anxieties and insecurities that I have, and that I feel other people might share. Depression, perfectionism, self-harm, body image, having an abnormally deep and smelly belly button. An insecurity shared and subjected to the disinfectant of daylight and violently hateful internet comments (or, in the case of the belly button, baby wipes) is an insecurity that is easier to cope with. There’s a kind of relief in knowing that other people have the same kinds of problems as you do, and if they seem to have their shit together then clearly it’s not quite as awful and life-ending as we might, in our darkest moments, think.

One insecurity that still plagues me is about feminism.

It’s almost inevitable that I’ll be subject to criticism on at least two fronts for writing this. On one side, many feminists - some of whom I count among my friends - don’t have a huge amount of sympathy for men who whine about how hard it is being a male feminist. I get why. I’ve never been threatened with rape or death, I don’t (often) have crude comments made about my appearance, and the state of my leg hair or sexual orientation is not often a subject of debate amongst anonymous strangers. I’ve hardly suffered, or been threatened with suffering, for my feminism.

But it’s the second group of people who will criticise me who have driven me to write about this. Almost inevitably, when I’m involved in some kind of discussion of feminist issues in a public place, there will be people who insult me because I’m a feminist. And the way they do this is to say something along the lines of ‘you’re only a feminist because you want women to fuck you’.

It might be ridiculous, but it forces you to examine your beliefs and motivations. Likewise, women are told ‘you’re only a feminist because you’re ugly’, and no matter how untrue it may be, it feeds and waters that tiny sapling of self-doubt that every one of us has within us.


And I think for me, the reason this throwaway mean comment hurts so much is because there’s a small grain of truth in it. I did initially get into feminism to get laid, in a manner of speaking. I was infatuated with a girl who was really into feminism, and it was through her that I was introduced to the basic tenets, a bunch of literature, and small groups of people who identified as feminists. The relationship passed (like a kidney stone), but my beliefs stayed more or less the same.

The comments say ‘the only reason you maintain the beliefs that you do, or go out of your way to get involved in feminist communities and activism, is because you think it’s going to get you laid’. Without that incentive, they say, you wouldn’t be doing it. It’s an idea that revolves around a conception of human nature as fundamentally selfish. It’s seductive.

And in part, I think it’s true. Whenever we decide to spend a lot of our time and energy on a cause or in a community, we make trade-offs. It’s nothing as simple as ‘women might give me blowjobs if I’m superficially nice about them and say I’m a feminist’. But probably, for a lot of men, there’s the idea that treating women and other marginalised groups like they’re human beings is just the right thing to do, but that doing that might come with the concomitant benefit of people being more likely to find you attractive. Frankly, who would want to fuck a guy who wasn’t a feminist?

If I were only concerned about blowjobs I would just get one of these

It ties into the ‘White Knight’ accusations, and the ‘who are you, a privileged white man, to speak for these women?’ comments. As a man arguing about feminism your voice is constantly invalidated by those arguing with you. They say that you’re speaking for people who don’t want to be spoken for, because those people aren’t literally in that argument at that moment. When you point out that plenty of women have been saying the things that you’re saying, it’s just that they get ignored because they’re not men, then you’re told that it’s a small minority and most women, ‘the silent majority’, are actually on their side because they’re too scared to speak out about the evils of modern intersectional feminism.

But all these accusations, they hurt. People genuinely think that the only reason you would possibly ever get involved in feminism as a man is to get laid, and because you have some kind of deep-rooted inferiority complex which means you feel the need to ‘protect’ women who aren’t in need of your protection. These accusations are tailor-made to cut right to the heart of your insecurities, and it works. It works because lots of people - feminists or not - do have issues with inferiority, and with not feeling attractive, and wishing desperately that somebody would just love them and not knowing how to go about achieving that. It works because a lot of men, like me, probably did first get into feminism to impress women that we liked, to try to make them see us as attractive and politically engaged and caring. It wasn’t some cold, cynical calculation. We didn’t sit in our room with a whiteboard and a flow-chart entitled ‘How to get a handjob’. So many men have gotten into feminism because someone they cared about was into it, or because a woman they know has suffered and they want to do it for them, or because they’re just lonely and it seems like the right thing to do and maybe if they’re good at it then people will like them more.

I don’t think, though, that the comments and accusations and insults actually say that much about us. Those same insecurities persist in everyone. Nobody is anxiety-free. We’re all not-so-secretly worried that, deep down, our motivations are impure and we’re only doing what we do because it might make people like us, whether or not that’s true.

I think these comments say more about the people making them. They would never get involved in feminism unless there were a guarantee of sex. They could never see themselves doing anything which didn’t directly benefit them. They can’t see any reason to be a part of a movement which promotes the rights of women and marginalised groups except that it might lead to a fuck.

More importantly, there are men who will co-opt feminism in order to get laid. There are men who will loudly proclaim that of course they’re a feminist, only to turn around and make a rape joke or belittle and patronise women. There are men who will say that they’re a feminist and then commit rape. Those men are the ones that we need to worry about. They give us a bad name. They make the little jibes and throwaway comments have traction. They make women in feminism mistrust all men who claim to be feminists, because how are they to know which of us are really committed and which of us are just paying lip-service for our own benefit? They can’t. We can’t.

So really, I probably just need to accept it. Accept the fact that people are always going to want to sling mud, and that it’s often going to be nasty, and cruel, and sometimes it’s going to scrape over raw nerves. If people want to pretend we’re still in the playground, then let them. I’m just going to try to live like an actual mature human being, with selfish motivations and desires constantly battling with other nobler aims of how I’d  like to live a good life.

You know, like a fucking adult.


  • Youdon;tneedtoknow

    Must have had a real hair up your ass to write that novel. Go look up “beta” and be honest when comparing yourself. We all know you aren’t getting regularly laid by anyone hot. You are the desperate guy with the crush.