So. About this “cheetahs” thing.
“Cheetahs,” as recently invented in the pages of the New York Observer, are what happens when you, a Straight Lady (NOTE: I get that you might not be a straight lady. But the article is talking about those, mostly), are reduced to hanging out in bars and waiting for the guys at the bars to get drunk enough to like you and then having sex with the guys who are drunk enough to like you (or at least the idea of having sex with you) and then hoping that every drunk guy you have sex with will want to be your boyfriend but of course none of them ever DO, because you broke up with your LAST long-term boyfriend, and now you are OLD and everything is TERRIBLE and you should have just SETTLED because no-one WANTS you now and everyone is talking about you behind your BACK using terms for your behavior such as “COCK LOITERING” and aaaaiiiiieeeeee. Basically, it is one of those fantasies of female despair that only ever seem to come from dudes. Or, alternately, ladies in the 3.5 weeks right after they break up with someone in which case that is their grim vision of The Future. I should note that those ladies might mostly be me. But for dudes, fear of That Lady springs eternal! So eternal that they have to write articles about it! Apparently! And then everyone is like, “he is trying to get a rise out of you, this is silly and a joke, calm down,” and I would even be willing to do that under other circumstances.
But the problem, here? A big chunk of the article is actually sort of a rape joke. For example:
Seth had allowed the open bar to get the better of him. He knew he was completely wasted. What he didn’t know was that a predator was watching his every move.
Yeah. The “predator,” in this scenario, is “Dana,” a friend, who – as per the article – watches him get progressively wasted, watches him talk about how he can barely stand up, then whisks him away into a cab over his friends’ objections and has sex with him. And “Dana” does this serially:
A few months later, Seth found himself watching helplessly late one night as Dana picked off one of his pals much the same way she had him: The fellow was babbling, stumbling drunk, and Dana chirped: “I’m heading the same way, let’s share a cab!” Another poor shmo who hosted an after-party at his pad one night to enjoy a little group reefer session suddenly found himself alone, except for Dana. Game over.
“She knows what she’s doing,” Seth told me.
Good God, I thought, how many of my fellow men are at risk at this very moment?!
Now. I find that discussions like these can get really heated really quickly, for obvious reasons. But first, let me say: I don’t think the writer of the article meant to summon up images of rape here. I don’t think the sexual encounters he’s describing are meant to be perceived as anything but consensual. I don’t think they were perceived, by the people involved, as anything other than consensual – at least, not the people interviewed in this article. “Horror” and “predator” are jokes, here; the tone is very clearly tongue-in-cheek. I don’t know the writer’s intentions, of course, but if I had to guess, I’d say he was just engaging in a venerable tradition of boy-joke. “Ha ha, she got me drunk! I couldn’t say no! She practically FORCED me to have sex with her!” Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. And it’s funny, to the people who tell it – in the same way, I guess, that calling Dana a “predator” or referring to her sexual encounters with guys as “prowling” or “striking” is funny – because (a) a GIRL? Forcing a MAN to do ANYTHING? Absurd! And (b) ha ha, how could someone “force” you to have sex against your will? Sex is great! You got lucky! And the rest of the article betrays no awareness of the really extraordinarily troubling overtones of the first bit, and instead focuses on what it perceives to be the main sins of the “cheetah,” mainly that she wants the guys she has sex with to be her boyfriend and doesn’t realize that no-one will EVER want to be her boyfriend because she is old and gross and pathetic, yuck. Or whatever. But, seriously: behold this quick re-write.
Sharon had allowed the open bar to get the better of her. She knew she was completely wasted. What she didn’t know was that a predator was watching her every move…
Jennifer said, “O.K., I think she needs to go home.”
David, who was 29, said, “Let’s go get another drink!”
“I wanna go home,” Sharon warbled.
“O.K., I’ll take her home,” David said.
Jennifer gave Sharon a “WTF?” look and said, “I’ll take her home.”
“Don’t worry about it,” David said, hailing a cab and then bundling Sharon inside…
A few months later, Sharon found herself watching helplessly late one night as David picked off one of her pals much the same way he had her: The girl was babbling, stumbling drunk…
“He knows what he’s doing,” Sharon told me.
Voila. A very serious story about the horror of having a rapist in your circle of friends, and not knowing what to do about it. It works this way, with the genders flipped, for the same reason that the original (and ancient) joke works: we conceive of men as unrapeable. They’re not, of course – which is why the story is troubling, even in its original version, and even if you’re aware that all of this is meant to be a joke – but the fact is that men may not live with the fear of rape in the same way that women do. What might be, for a man, an outlandish joke-story – a woman! Picking off guys who are too drunk to refuse her! For sex! – actually fits the (quite reasonable) fears or (way too common) experiences of many women. We’re all familiar with the scenario of someone isolating you when you are too drunk to give informed consent and forcing sex on you. Someone who may be (and, given statistics, is more likely to be) within your circle of friends. We’re so familiar with it, in fact, that we already have a name for people who do it. And it’s not “cheetahs.”