I no longer have an owner,
I consider myself a feminist. I consider myself to live in a world where things are certainly not equal for women, but being white, married, middle class, heterosexual and reasonably solvent meant that I did not experience the injustice so many women do on a daily basis. Then I got divorced and became a single parent. Now before anyone tries to say I am comparing being divorced to being part of a group with a protected characteristic, please, do me a favour. I know I am lucky. The lottery of birth is a game I came out of well.
However, I can't help but realise that being married protected me from so much. Because I had an 'owner'. I have spent the last decade (well almost a decade, but forgive me for rounding up here) as a married woman. Just wearing a wedding ring, being introduced as a 'Mrs' and being known as a woman who was married meant I was almost exempt from being hit on by married men, being sent unwanted sexual messages, being asked for intimate details about my sex life... there was a respect for me which I never really considered, because it was... well, just so. I rarely felt vulnerable. My wedding ring was an invisible force field of safety.
Now the last time I was single was in my 20's. I remember sometimes being on the receiving end of predatory behaviour, but it was rarely coercive. Now I am ownerless, and to many that translates as 'rejected by owner', and so being soiled and unwanted goods, I am fair game. Prey. And whilst you could argue this is a sign of the times and that if I were a single twentysomething now I'd receive the same treatment, what you can't argue with is the vibe that I should be flattered. That I am lucky. Because given my owner didn't want me anymore, any kind of attention should be met with a happy, smiley and compliant demeanour. How dare a divorced woman, one devoid of an owner, reject the advances of a new owner?
So, after a decade of 'ownership', I announced I was separated, in the process of getting divorced and essentially becoming that thing society hate so much, a 'single mother', and well, it seems this makes me fair game for any Tom, Dick (lots of Dicks) or Harry to make a pass at me. And I'm not talking being asked out for a drink or a meal or a film. When I say pass, I mean sex. And when I say sex, I mean illicit sex.
To date I have had married exes offer their services, married clients asking for hook ups 'when I'm in town', random strangers send me messages offering me sex (whilst using an avatar of themselves beaming inanely wearing top hat and tails, arm around their good wife, on their wedding day), direct questions from playground parents about who I am sleeping with, oh and my favourite, a message from a man I vaguely know offering me sex whilst commenting that I ought to be grateful given I've vaginally birthed three kids and well, you know, maybe things are less than ship shape down there. I should clarify, I am not on any dating sites. These are all unsolicited advances, mainly through social media.
It gets worse. If you politely decline the kind offers of meaningless, no strings attached sex with married men, apparently you are being picky and should remember that really, given your age, your number of dependants, your gloomy financial future and your sexual frustration, any offer of action should be thankfully accepted. If you moan about this to friends, you are often reminded that it's nice to be popular. That these offers are a compliment. Well, sorry, but being offered sex by married men is not a compliment. It makes me sad. And it makes me feel a little bit evil and prone to screenshotting and hunting down their wives. But then the messenger always gets shot, no?
And this isn't just me. I often post 'stories' on Instagram, and after a small rant about the above situation was surprised to be inundated with messages from divorced women telling me exactly the same stories. All being approached by (mostly) married men, all offering them sex and all being clear that they should be flattered. Often becoming irritated and aggressive when rejected. These men were often known to them. The husband of a best friend, the husband of a sister, the husband of a colleague... these men have so much to lose. But they're not scared. Because a woman without an owner, well, what is she worth? Who would believe her?
If I sound angry, it's because I am. Divorce is not a great time in most people's lives. You're in mourning for a love that didn't last the distance. Even if you instigated it, you're still hurting. And amongst that hurt you start very slowly to believe that there might be another love for you one day. There's hope that somewhere out there, there's someone who might love you again. And you might trust them enough to love them back. These half men, offering their services as a side line from their main relationship, they quash hope and dreams.