Irony of ironies: a piece of writing attempting to redefine sexiness in feminist terms is met with sexist derision and mockery.
At Gay Magazine, Longreads contributor Monica Drake recounts learning that a young, white, male intern at a literary magazine she’d submitted to had publicly humiliated her by taking her story to a party to read aloud and make fun of a sex scene she had included — a scene in which traditional gender dynamics are upended. The intern, she writes, “turned my writing into a party girl forced to jump out of a cake, or a stripper hired for the entitlement and entertainment of drunk men. Men in charge, women as object, these are the only stories he knew, apparently.”
Adding insult to injury, when she tells the story to an aunt, who knows the intern, the aunt is overcome with “himpathy,” cautioning Drake against speaking out lest she ruin a young man’s career.
At a family dinner, I mentioned what happened in front of my aunt, among others, my cousin’s mother. I mentioned that I planned to speak to the editor who worked overseeing the interns. It wasn’t right, to use a woman’s work or words in that way. It was exploitive. It created a space that wasn’t safe for literary submissions or ambition.
I’d trusted the magazine.
Part of the thrill in taking my written work to a party and giving an impromptu drunken, degrading reading seemed to include knowing exactly who I am: in other words, a young “writer,” who had published exactly nothing, as far as I can tell, had made an active choice to parade the work of an older woman author around by name at a party, specifically to lay her bare and take her down.
It was a move that reinstated male domination over female sexual expression, and a power trip. It was a forced engagement, an exercise in attempted humiliation.
The intern was close to half my age. My work was and is informed by life. He displayed the truth of his perceived privilege by thinking he had a right to be a gatekeeper at all.
I’d become an unwilling victim of the literary, written equivalent of sexual abuse. The intern had used and displayed my body of work, body of words, body in imagery and literature, for his own pleasure, ego and gain. He’d aimed to shame me for being unabashedly myself, in the public circle of his male friends.
When I mentioned the general, overriding concerns, my aunt burst out, “He’s a good kid! You’ll ruin his job!” She’d known him since he was a child. She’d handed him snacks, once upon a time. He was to be protected like a child, though he was now an adult.