I read in the paper that a 20 year old woman has just auctioned her virginity online for US$780,000. Wow, do I feel like a loser. Not only did I give my virginity away for free but the sex was so bad I’m not sure that we actually had sex.

In fact I not only didn’t get rich, nor internationally famous as a result of the alleged deflowering, but I also didn’t end up in a relationship because my boyfriend dumped me unceremoniously within half an hour of our ‘intimacy’ (and to be honest I suspect he would have done it sooner but he was waiting for half time in the footy telecast.)

To this day I can still hear him say, “You’re dropped. Go for a walk, have a cry and get me a kebab.”

And you know what? I did get him a kebab. I didn’t utter a word.

I didn’t beg to be reinstated as his girlfriend or demand to have my virginity back so that I could lose it properly.

I didn’t stand up for myself or try to put him down because it didn’t occur to me that his behaviour was unacceptable. My only thought was that I’d done something wrong and somehow deserved this treatment.

In retrospect I realise why I thought this way. Because girls like me have grown up with the label that puts us at fault for every male misdemeanour.

We are ‘intimidating’.

I recall first hearing this term in relation to my girlfriends and myself when we were about fifteen. Without ever bothering to question what the word actually meant we simply accepted that there was something negative about us that made us unacceptable to some males.

Our mothers told us we were ‘too bright’. We assumed of course that we weren’t attractive enough.

In the ensuing years I’ve since heard the word ‘intimidating’ used in reference to women in relation to both romance and the workplace, but I’ve only ever heard it used in relation to men who are demanding money from someone whilst holding a gun to their knee caps.

Yet it’s not until today, after being defined by the term ‘intimidating’ for over thirty years, that it occurred to me look up its meaning. ‘Intimidate: to scare, daunt, to make timid; to compete by way of threats; to overawe as through the force of personality or by superior display of wealth or talent; to cause a person of ordinary sensibilities fear of injury or harm.’

My God, I’m surprised I don’t need a license to take myself out in public. I’m like a lethal weapon.

My friend Poppy said we have to change this situation. “It’s affecting our careers, and our love lives,” she said. “If we don’t de-intimidate we’re going to die poor and alone and get eaten by rats.”

And so it came to pass that last Saturday night I had a date and beforehand gave myself an intimidation exorcism, consciously erasing every part of me that could threaten, challenge or unnerve.

I abandoned independence, freedom of thought, and discussion.

I let him pick me up in his car (which I praised, even thought it just seemed like a car).

I was late getting ready (in case being punctual was somehow competitive.) I dressed like the Queen (but with a little bit of cleavage.)

I praised his outfit, his choice of restaurant and his choice of main course. I let him order for me and pay. I giggled at every tenth thing he said (unsure as to whether anything he said was actually funny I figured a 10% ratio was possibly about right.)

I was not funny. I was not interesting. I did not offer an individual thought or observation. Notes to myself that I later found doodled on my serviette during the dinner read ‘Endure’, ‘Suffer in Silence’, ‘Drink More’ and ‘Wake Up.’

Ok, it’s true. I was on a date and I fell asleep at the dinner table. All I can say in my defense is at least I didn’t fall asleep during sex, like my friend Nigel once did. (Luckily however he’d taken so many Viagra that his sexual partner didn’t actually notice.)


What’s that? Cleavage? Oh, I totally forgot to wear it today!

Interestingly my dinner date didn’t notice that I’d fallen asleep either. In fact he later referred to the evening as reaching ‘a new and exciting stage in our relationship.’

He’s asked me out again. I think I’ll send a hologram of myself instead, and the real me will go to a Pussy Riot demo.


*Front page image via LIFE archive hosted by Google.



To Thine Own Self Be True

How to Say ‘I Love You’

My Friend is a Kept Woman

There’s a Bloke In My Freezer

Looking for Love… It Begins.


*Gretel has written more then twenty books, worked as a journalist, radio host, TV host, voice artist, stand up comic, film director and doco maker, and has proudly raised her now adult children as a single mum. Gretel is a communications adviser with Gretel Killeen Communications. This is the first in a series of stories about searching for the meaning of life. You can follow her on twitter @gretelkilleen.


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  • Reply November 2, 2012


    ‘Strong’ is the word in my world, Gretel. Even my father tells me I am too ‘strong’. My thought is maybe he/they, those people are ‘weak’. Is it an Australian thing perhaps? Or do men of other countries prefer thewomen in their lives to be holograms who don’t speak up for themselves. Some Åust. men take up with women who are perhaps Asia and I wonder if this is because some of these women seem more compliant. Then I stop wondering because the whole lot bores me to snores, as does you. I say to these men, Man UP! In the meantime I remain an independant strong woman simply because I cannot be anything else.

  • Reply November 2, 2012


    My dad told me numerous times I am a hard faced bitch because I had an opinion and rarely agreed with him!!

    Have finally realised in my 40’s that I am actually quite pretty and there is nothing hard about my face at all.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Alice Shaw

      Sorry that your dad said such a nasty thing to you… awful. I wonder if a man with differing opinions would be called a “hard faced bastard” or congratulated on his strength?

  • Reply November 2, 2012


    Power of personality,power of intellect,power of our own agency….

  • Reply November 2, 2012


    @ Shelley. I don’t know about many other countries but coming from the UK I do find Aussie males definitely do need to MAN Up! They just hate a woman with an opinion.

  • Reply November 2, 2012


    Liz, I had exactly the opposite experience, as an Aussie in the UK, back in the day. I was always being asked whether all Australian women were so outspoken! I didn’t think I was being outspoken, I was just making conversation.

  • Reply November 2, 2012


    Whoops~ my message~ or should I say “one’s” message is one can give one’s virginity away more than once~ buggered if I know how to get one’s virginity back.

  • Reply November 2, 2012


    I’m tired of the excuse “it’s because he/she is intimidated/threatened by you” being used to explain away all manner of inappropriate or just down right bad behaviour by others in the workplace. Yes I speak my mind when I feel that it is appropriate. Yes I have an opinion on subjects which I am passionate about. Yes if I think something should be done because it is the right thing to do I will do it. Yes I have a brain, yes I have a healthy level of confidence in my abilities and NO I’m not afraid of using either. I will not apologise for taking the opportunities and using the freedom of intelligence that magnificent women who have gone before me fought so hard for.
    Thank you Gretel for being the kind of woman who will not change who she is – beautiful, confident, passionate and intelligent – because others are ‘intimidated’.

  • Reply November 2, 2012


    My beautiful 84-y-o dad tells me I “dazzle” people and that my daughter (12) does so as well. I think I’m comfortable with it now, but it has brought great heartache over the years, especially recently when there was a particular case of “bedazzlement”.

  • Reply November 3, 2012


    I think strong women scare the hell out of everyone, I’m often told I’m domineering, I beg to differ, I want action and a decision – if you can’t rule your own mind then you better believe someone else will!
    Finally in my life it’s my way, if you don’t like it the doors not locked – my husband loves my attitude as do my sons and my daughter, and I love them for appreciating me as the strong woman that gets shit done – utterly for their happiness!

  • Reply November 3, 2012

    Tony W

    “I read in the paper that a 20 year old woman has just auctioned her virginity online for US$780,000.”

    Wow, I reckon Tony Abbott would be proud of that girl. After all, didn’t he say a girl’s virginity is “a precious gift that should not be given away lightly.”?

  • Reply November 3, 2012

    Alice Shaw

    Yep, I’ve been called intimidating. I also tried to “de-intimidate” myself before a recent date. I really liked this bloke, alas, I either didn’t do a good enough job getting rid of my intimidating side or he thought I was boring because I’ve not heard from him again. I can’t win it seems! Unfortunately, my “strong personality” has been called into question by other women, most recently my new boss who explained it made me “difficult to be around”. This is both hurtful, and bullshit! I have a lovely bunch of friends who I’m pretty sure don’t avoid me and if my personality is scary to men well I’d rather be on my own that with a fella who doesn’t have the strength to be with someone like me.

  • Reply November 3, 2012


    I have experienced this so often! All you need to pick up ANY guy is an adoring gaze and a giggle; to work out their worth, disagree with them on something!

    @ Margot your Dad sounds wonderful! My Dad is similar – he is always so proud when I achieve something (and it doesn’t take much to be honest!)

  • Reply November 4, 2012


    Sounds all very familiar to me, I have been told a few times that i am intimidating (by women as well as men) – I am open and honest. I have a high IQ (have been admitted to Mensa). I am well educated.

    I often refer to Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote – No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.

    I knew when i was younger that I had to allow the male some way of having power/superiority, so i made sure i didn’t have much in the way of savings – buying a house was the last thing i wanted to do.

    My Dad claims to be non sexist but recently he said that he thought Julia Gillard’s speech re mysogyny was very unfeminine….my daughter and i told him that we didn’t believe being ‘strong’ was unfeminine and his ideas were outdated.

  • Reply November 9, 2012


    […] Gretel Killeen […]

  • Reply November 14, 2012


    Being a strong woman doesnt mean you have to be a ball breaker,,,, I think it just means you want to be treated with respect and dignity. Being a ball breaker doesnt give you that respect and dignity because people see it as a cover up for some sort of weakness.
    I have been single for 20yrs after my divorce, (my choice), I raised my kids on my own with no input from their father, emotionally or financially. Now I chose to do this, because I didnt want my kids growing with a stream of uncle dicks and harry’s in and out of their lives, I have had a few flings here and there, but none of them ever were allowed to have a spare tooth brush at my place.
    I get told all the time that I am a hard arse,,,, but I am actually a very kind generous caring loving woman, It just so happens that I am also a woman who is comfortable with my own company, strong and capable, and have no desire to raise a man or have a man disrupt my life in any way. I enjoy the company of men, but just as long as they have their house and I have mine I like them even better. I have been asked if I am gay, well I love a good rumor and have said yes to that question a few times, just to watch the reaction I get from people,,,,,, people find it easier to accept if I said I was gay then to say No I am just happy on my own,,,,,,,
    I would have loved for my kids to have had a strong male influence in their lives as they were growing up,,,,,, but I didnt stumble over anyone good enough, so my father and my brother became those influences.
    Please ladies you dont have to be attached to a man to have an identity,,,, you are ok if your single and who cares if people see you as intimidating,,,, thats their issue not yours. Just remember that being a strong independent woman doesnt mean you have to be a nasty bitch.

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