DISCUSSION: “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian; “People Are Slut-Shaming the Protagonist of “Cat Person” & It Proves a Disappointing Point” by Lucia Peters; “Aziz Ansari, Cat Person, and the #MeToo Backlash” by Anna Silman

Think about “Cat Person” in relation to any of the other readings or viewings we have done so far this semester. How is it presenting similar ideas? What new conversations is it raising? How does the short story form allow the author to explore these ideas differently than might be done in a traditional, expository format?

7 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian; “People Are Slut-Shaming the Protagonist of “Cat Person” & It Proves a Disappointing Point” by Lucia Peters; “Aziz Ansari, Cat Person, and the #MeToo Backlash” by Anna Silman

  1. I remember when ‘Cat Person’ was first published on the web, and seeing how many people (particularly women) who read the story were saying, ‘Wow- I definitely had this experience before. This story hits home for me so much.’ Though I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, I could really sympathize with Margot and her experiences with this man she has very weird feelings about.

    But I was horrified when I read some of the comments highlighted in Peters’ and Silman’s articles. Yeah, Margot isn’t exactly the greatest person (she’s pretty catty herself – excuse the pun), but why does she have to be blamed for her bad sexual experience when the guy she’s dating lies to her several times (like about his cats, or hiding his age till after the two have sex)? Or when he’s doing acts that clearly make her uncomfortable (like that weird high pitched whine he makes when aroused, or jamming his fingers into her to quickly )?
    Or why does her having 6 or 7 other encounters with men suddenly impact her morals?

    It’s these sorts of things that really reflect what our society thinks of women, especially women who are sexual. While I’m glad that this piece is opening up more discussion about women’s experiences with bad sex, the fact that so many people are blaming Margot for this entire experience, while pitying Robert for his ‘destroyed’ relationship is really heartbreaking.

    It reminds me of a discussion we once has earlier in the term- that in a monogamous heterosexual relationship between a cis guy and a cis girl, the man should be the active participant in sex, whereas the woman should be passive. When a woman becomes the active participant instead, it’s either viewed as a niche femdom (female domination) kink or an act that degrades men in some shape or form. People right now aren’t used to seeing a woman having confidence and control over her sexual encounters. And its for that reason that when people are shown the effects that our women = passive in bed message has, on fictional characters or otherwise, they feel uncomfortable or angered.

  2. Cat Person is very similar to the themes we’ve talked about so far. What makes it different is the style that the reading is written in, which is essentially just a story of a sophomore girl. The themes that this story tackles are about consent, slut-shamming and the overall idea of love in a relationship. I particularly relate it to the work we’ve done with “her” and how relationships are portrayed. This story really portrayed the typical relationship between and girl and a guy and how the girl is taught to please the man. The story focused on the girl’s emotions, every thought that was running through her head and how we are brainwashed to think this particular way.

    The other conversations that this story raises have to do with consent and slut-shaming, both very important topics. In regard to consent, the overall question raised by the end of the story, and in the response articles, is “is bad sex the same thing as non-consensual sex?” This is the question that I was thinking by the end of all of the readings. To me, the story was about rape as soon as she started to doubt herself during the sex. Even as soon as she felt uncomfortable during the kiss. But it is true that there is such thing as bad sex. Is it fair to consider all bad sex as rape? I mean, if we aren’t having a good time, and we don’t like it, does it count as rape? My gut instinct thinks that it does, but then where can the line be drawn?

    On the topic of slut-shaming, it is interesting, because at no point did I ever call her a slut, or think of her as one. It never came to my mind, even when she said that she had slept with 6 guys previously. But it’s interesting seeing how people are reacting to this story. It is an incredibly realistic situation that many people go through, but to me, there is blame almost everywhere in this situation. In particular, the guy in no right should have sent those last texts. Up until that point, I sympathized with him a little for being ghosted and left in the dark. But in the same respect, even though the girl didn’t express her frustrations during the situation or after, sometimes it’s hard to talk about these things, and there is a lot of pressure, so she wasn’t in the wrong. And no one should be allowed to assume ever how another person feels.

  3. I think “Cat Person” is different from other readings we’ve done because it takes larger concepts like consent and sex positivity and plays them out in a real situation (even though this is fiction, it’s a realistic version of a relationship) where the line becomes unclear. It’s easy to write an essay about feminist ideals where there’s no one on the other side to talk back or react actual-time. It’s much harder when the nuance of the real world comes in and people behave in ways that can’t be put into one box or another. I appreciate these readings as a whole for breaking down the conversation surround consent and pointing out that it’s not always as easy as it’s made out to be. Obviously, no means no is a clear line and yes means yes usually is too. But sometimes words don’t match feelings and I’m not sure that you can really blame either side for that. It can leave a woman with an uncomfortable feeling somewhere akin to harassment, but you would be hard pressed to definitively call it that. It’s confusing, and these articles show that. I think the line “having internalized society’s messages about how it is [women’s] responsibility… to be down for anything… makes them feel rotten inside” was one of the singularly most validating sentences I have ever read in my life. I greatly appreciate Silman for writing them down in her piece on the #MeToo movement. This is an important conversation that needs to persist in society as more than just a temporarily hot-button issue, and I hope articles like these three will help to do make that happen.

  4. In my opinion the biggest difference between “Cat Person” and the other readings we have done this semester is that it discusses themes surrounding love and sexuality in much less explicit terms. For example, Kate Bornsetin’s gender outlaw discussed several of the same ideas that “Cat Person” does, but it did so in much more explicit terms. For example, Bornestein discusses gender identity and gender role by clearly defining each. Roupenian touches on these same issues when she talks about Margot feeling like a tiny doll next to Robert or Robert kissing her on the forehead “as though she were something precious.”

    These two instances are evidence of commonly accepted gender roles being played out in Margot and Robert’s relationship. As the woman, Margot feels tiny and helpless next to Robert, who acts almost paternal towards her, as if it is his responsibility to protect her from the world.

    I think the format of this essay – telling a story – allows Roupenian to present these issues in a more accessible way than they were presented in previous readings. It is easy in a piece like Bornstein’s to talk about what gender roles are in terms of their definition, but seeing them played out in a realistic scenario like they are in “Cat Person” adds a level of accessibility and relatability.

  5. While reading this, I found myself relating to a lot of the concepts discussed in “Cat Person”. I could understand many of the feelings and thoughts that went through Margot’s head as she developed a relationship with Robert. I think a lot of falling in love or developing a crush on someone is about the thrill of the chase or the thrill of being desired by another person. I think this is why Margot continues the relationship with Robert, because she wants approval and validation from someone else. Like in many of the readings we have done this semester, the idea of romance is idealized. Margot so badly wants Robert to be this perfect man that she envisions, that she continues to stick with him even though he possesses many unattractive qualities. Margot seems to thrive on the power she gets from the relationship, she likes that she is more experienced and that she can predict how what she does makes Robert feel. Overall, I think the dynamic between the two is fairly unhealthy and abusive, as demonstrated by how Robert treats Margot at the end of their relationship.

  6. I think that “Cat Person” covers several themes and topics that are discussed in our other readings; however, the way in which they are presented and discussed is a bit different. “Cat Person” disguises a hidden factor that consent doesn’t always have to be a “yes” or “no” response. “Cat Person” is different in the way that it shed light on the fact that consent isn’t always so obvious and that we may never really know what true consent is and how it should be communicated. This article touches upon topics such as consent, stereotypical gender role, and love which we are presented in our other readings and class discussions. “Cat Person” has been eye opening in the way that the story surprisingly resonated with lots of women, allowing the opening of this discussion. The discussion of this hidden abuse that didn’t seem evident or obvious from the beginning. We notice, throughout the article, the stereotypical gender roles that take place between Robert and Margot. As Greer has shared, the fact that a woman should be submissive and compliant with her man, is shown in “Cat Person.” I appreciate “Cat Person” for it has opened my eyes by informing readers that we can’t always think of things like consent to just be this single-defined term and action, but rather that there are several perspectives and a spectrum on what it is.

  7. I find that the “Cat Person” articles are similar to our other readings in the sense that they all are pushing the limits of what we currently accept in terms of gender stereotypes and the feminist movement. “Cat Person” is already a “bold” article because it is about a normal woman discussing her sexual endeavors in a relatively casual way. This is very rare and the reason why was posted in the comments. Women are torn apart on the internet for the sole reason that sleeping with seven men is deemed unacceptable to a group of strangers.

    The “Cat Person” articles were different than the other ones we’ve read because they weren’t about some huge movement or event. This article was relatable to much of its audience, and it was noteworthy because it discussed things that are still considered taboo in our society. The article made it feel normal (which it should be)
    for a woman to discuss her sexuality. The comments, specifically those from the National Press, were horrific, but it was great to see a conversation about this topic be opened up.

    The best part of this article, in my opinion, is the response. My favorite tweet was the one that said, “If you’re wondering how hard it is to be a real woman, a fictional one can’t bang 7 dudes without getting slut-shamed on the internet.” This comment sums up why the article was so noteworthy. It shouldn’t have to be a statement or bold for a woman to openly discuss her sexuality, but it unfortunately still is.

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