"What has he REALLY done that is so jerky, though?" a friend of mine defended to me a man she continues to date even though it makes her miserable.
"Seriously?" I asked. I love my friend, especially because I've known her since we were both young and dumb in our twenties. But now, years later, I'm still seeing her hook up with jerks, and it makes me really sad that she continues to be so addicted to this kind of unhappiness in her love life.
"This is a guy who after you went on a few dates and finally had sex with him, he didn't even call you or text you after. Everyone knows that if a man doesn't call or text within three days after you have sex for the first time -- that's a jerk move, dude."
"When did this become a thing?" she asked. "I don't know that this is a thing."
"Trust me, it's a thing," I said. "Here, let me ask the Internet."
So that's exactly what I did, putting the question out there to Twitter and Facebook.
Overwhelmingly, men and women seemed to support my unscientific approximation that there is an unwritten rule a man should send a nice text or email or phone call after sex for the first time, fairly soon after (in a 24-72 hours kind of way) -- because it's just common courtesy.
Of course, not everyone agreed with me. Several guys and a few women out of the hundreds of responses I received made the case that it was completely un-feminist and backwards for the year 2013 to expect that the MAN had to send a follow-up correspondence first after sex. After all, what had women's liberation been for? Didn't women want to be treated fairly and equally and doesn't this expectation go against everything that movement stands for?
To this, I would say: Not so fast.
I'm a feminist, but I also operate in the real world. Because of the whole 140 characters limit, I posed the question on Twitter (and copied it onto Facebook with the same phrasing) this way: "Settle an argument I'm having. If you have sex with a guy for the first time then he doesn't call/text in 3 days, is he a jerk? I say yes. You?"
After 150 or so comments on Facebook including one chiding my friend for getting what she deserved because that's what happens "if the cow gives the milk away for free," another man flipped it and asked me a question.
He wrote: "Can't offer an informed opinion cos I've been out of the ballgame for 30 years, but I *do* have a question. How is it all down to the guy? Is there STILL some sort of 'unwritten code' that the male has to initiate contact? Couldn't SHE text HIM with a simple, non-stalkerish 'Well that was fun, maybe we can do it again' sort of message? If we're continuing to interact in some sort of 'boys go a' courtin' while the girls sit a' waitin' matrix I really gotta scratch my head about what the last 40 years of work was for."
To which I wrote this (edited very slightly to take out my propensity for swearing on social media -- hi, mom!):
"Send me a mailing address so I can send you the trillion dollar 'He's Just Not That Into You' book industry. Feminism has nothing to do with opening doors, thanking a woman for a nice time etc. Of course women can pursue, send a first text/call, but just the inconsiderate lack of thoughtfulness and anticipation implied in a man not knowing to do that (based on said trillion dollar industry, crushing amounts of societal messaging) tells you everything you need to know about this dude. He didn't care if it made her feel lousy. He didn't care that he knew all her annoying girlfriends would be saying 'So did you hear from him?' and she would have to say 'No.' There is a kindness in acknowledging and playing along with the dominating social mores if it means you will be showing your consideration of a girl's feelings. Hell, a dude could even text, 'I realize it's 2013 and I probably don't have to be the first to reach out but I just wanted you to know I had fun last night.' That's it. Hooray, nice feeling for everyone, especially for the woman who still has to hear shaming messages that she is a cow who has given milk from her udder when she finally decides to sleep with someone."
I was pleased to hear from my friend who read every single comment and finally admitted that this guy's behavior had made her feel awful -- but confessed to me she felt like she deserved bad treatment or that she must have done something wrong.
I have issues with self-esteem, too, so I totally understand how she may grapple with this complex of feeling like she "deserves" poor treatment. This is why I think it's especially critical for women to actively work to expect respectful and compassionate treatment from a partner -- if they're going to seriously consider having a relationship with the person in question, or consider sleeping with him again. (My friend was continuing to date this guy, despite other stories she told me of similar lack of respect toward her or her feelings.)
So I will ask the question again. I say that a man is acting like a jerk if he does not text or call within 72 hours after having sex for the first time. You?