(Trigger Warning: Cursing, violent language, mentions of sexual and other violence.)
Possibly the most valuable memory of my childhood Saturday mornings, in retrospect, was not the helpful moral lessons of Sonic the Hedgehog or the goddamn catchy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song ("Leonardo leads! Donatello does machines!"...wow.) but rather the frequently-occurring Apple Jacks commercials. For those of you who didn't inhabit a certain band of early-nineties American pop culture, said commercials featured a puzzled adult demanding to know why a bunch of preteens were so goshdang fond of Apple Jacks, because it doesn't taste like apples; the kids would think *very hard* for a few seconds, and then reply "...we just do!" And then the slogan was "we eat what we like", cue corporation-sponsored rebellion and not thinking too hard about eating a breakfast cereal named for moonshine. As you do.
Not something I expected would be very relevant later on.
Except...I keep running into people who make me want to write a revised version of the script, one featuring a flamethrower and an M rating, because of their obnoxious and entitled pretense that they need, and somehow deserve, to Know the Reasons.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about dark matter or DNA: scientific curiosity about scientific things is awesome, and I'm all for it. Nor am I referring to politics, because accountability is important, nor even to the working world in general. (Although if you really want to ask the college-bookstore clerk how and why the little deactivating-the-scanner thingie works, or why she asks for your student ID, maybe waiting until the line behind you isn't three miles long. Juuuust saying.) These are areas where curiosity is helpful, and accountability necessary.
Though if I were the bookstore clerk, I wouldn't have the faintest clue how the deactivating-the-scanner-thingie works and would probably give you a blank look anyway.]
No, what I'm talking about are statements like this:
"But *why* is it awkward and creepy to hit on someone when you're the only two people in an elevator at 4 AM?"
"But *why* is it racist for me to use certain words about people of color, when they use those words themselves?"
"But *why* is it inappropriate to demand that people explain their religion-or-lack-thereof to me?"
"But *why* is it important that people have the right to marry people of the same sex?"
And, to a lesser degree, the Asshole Question Runners-Up:
"But *why* don't you want to go out with me?"
"But *why* do you want/not want to have children?"
"But *why* aren't you coming to this event?"
"But *why* do you like this thing?"
Listen, Questioning Guy. Put your face really close to the monitor and pay attention: what I'm going to say next is important.
BECAUSE SHUT THE FUCK UP, IS WHY.
That's always, *always* my first response. It may just be internal, it may be momentary, but you bet your ass it's there.
The thing is, it's not like these questions don't have answers. Oh, I know you, That Guy--you are, even now, assuming Smug Dipshit Look #71 and preparing to say something about how it's not your fault that people can't answer tough questions. I will advise you to shut up again; I imagine it's going to be a regular theme of this article.
No. People who get asked obnoxious questions have answers. People who get asked the big ones have dissertation-level responses involving any or all of the following: captive audiences, in-group limits, Schroedinger's Rapist, histories of oppression, appropriate personal boundaries, health care benefits, shit being none of your damn business, sentiment, social etiquette, knowing where someone else is coming from when they use a term, power dynamics, AND MORE. Hell, we can probably boil them down.
And then you'll ask "why" again, like a goddamn four-year-old. Except the four-year-old is excusable, because...four. You are not. You need to shut up.
See, if "Macking on a captive-audience stranger at a time when there's nobody else around is anywhere from 'gnaw-my-own-foot-off awkward' to 'extremely creepy and threatening,'" doesn't get through to you? *Fucking nothing else will.* Like, if you're at that level of not-getting-it, if you can't put a woman's possible reaction to that in the context of everything from Tailhook to Ted Bundy, it seems like your options are a) a voluntary Clockwork-Orange-style behavior modification regime, b) just not ever hitting on anyone, please, for the love of God, and c) learning to love pepper spray. I could explain that many, many women are raped or killed by men they rejected, that we haven't all memorized Know Alignment today, and that, even if we aren't worried about violence, it's still *really uncomfortable* to be trapped in a confined space with someone who might go on to pester you and make a scene. And no, we don't know that you won't, and no, we can't just tell, because THIS ISN'T GODDAMN VALDEMAR AND WE CAN'T READ MINDS.
I could say all that. But if you don't get it from the first sentence, it's not going to help, because you suck, and you're determined to suck. So go away.
Likewise, if you don't get that it has got to be very, very different to hear a word from someone who looks like me and to hear it from someone who looks like people who've historically enslaved/raped/tortured/killed other people who look like me; if you don't get that my faith-or-lack-thereof is what works for me and is often a personal decision that I don't want to summarize in two paragraphs to someone who's mostly invested in converting me; if you don't get why being *able* to marry the person I love is a big deal, even if I don't want to do it myself...barring a mountain-top lab and a fortuitous bolt of lightning, there's nothing I can do here. Certainly further explanation isn't going to help--you'll just come back to "but WHYYYYYYY?" like it matters. And like you're entitled to a response. Like explaining it is my job. Which it's not.
So shut up.
As far as the lesser questions go...most of them have answers. Most of them have answers that you don't want to know--Do you really want me to go down the alphabetical list of reasons I don't want to date you? Really?--or that are deeply personal, or that are hard to articulate. I can probably *theorize* about why I like fantasy books or dark-haired men or cherry cordials, but I'm not going to, because a) it's just a theory, b) the reasons will be different for the next person you ask, and c) you don't actually want an answer.
That's the other thing, That Guy. "But WHYYYYYY?" never actually wants an answer.** It's a not-so-clever way to push an agenda--usually an obnoxious one--or express an opinion--see fucking above--so that, if someone actually calls you on being obnoxious, you can just squirm your way back into safety. You weren't saying anything racist or sexist or intolerant or obnoxious! You were Just Asking! And intellectual curiosity is good! So anyone who objects to you Just Asking is a bad evil inquiry-stifling person!
Yeah, intellectual curiosity is good. It's not the same thing as weaseldickery, which is what you're practicing. So shut up.
see also: Disingenuousness is not an endearing trait. And while you *may* be asking in good faith, there are a whole lot of other people who ask the same kinds of questions who are asking in bad faith-because they want to get a rise of someone, because they want to pick a fight, because they want to make the other person uncomfortable. Etc. etc. etc, as the king in The King and I would say.
And even if I gave you the benefit of the doubt, which I do not make a practice of doing, there's this: the world does not owe you an explanation. Nobody owes you an explanation. Nobody has to *justify* what they find creepy or awkward or hurtful.* Nobody has to justify their preferences, or their goals in life--except to the extent that those goals hurt others--or their lifestyle. Nobody has to justify not liking you, not wanting to fuck you, not wanting to be around you.
Also, as someone who does usually give the benefit of the doubt: I agree. I also think it depends on the relationship between people: I owe my friends more than I owe the person sitting next to me on the trolley or Random Dude at the bar.
You don't understand *whyyyyy* you can't do or say whatever you like, whenever you like? You don't have to. And sometimes, you don't get to. Suck it up.
*Less angrily: there is a "freedom to swing your fist" thing here, and also an intent thing, which is the opposite of the usual intent bullshit, I think. If my short skirt offends someone, that's too damn bad; it's on my body, it's not a slur deliberately directed at them, and I'm not making them look. If my saying that Ayn Rand and her supporters are horrible people who have made sociopathy into a political movement offends them...good. I meant it to.
**There are people who genuinely don't get social rules, due to various disabilities, and who need to understand the reasoning so as to not screw up later. That's different. Nonetheless, explaining why X is not okay is still not the job of the person being hit on or insulted or whatever. Ask a close friend who you trust; find a support group; look for Internet resources. But, to be harsh, Random Chick Number 7 didn't sign up for said support group, and most of us don't have the time or the spoons to see the cause; we see the effect, and we're not obligated to have a lot of patience there.
--Izzy and Sarah
 Common paraphrase of the statement The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins usually attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes although there are a number of other similar statements variously attributed to a number of other individuals including John Stuart Mill and Abraham Lincoln.↩
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