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Tangentially Speaking

416 – WMTBG? (Discussion of “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian)

By April 19, 20209 Comments

My discussion of “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian. The story offers a subtle, nuanced look at power, eroticism, and the confusion that often results when a man and a woman try (and fail) to understand each other, taking us inside the heads of people who share physical space — but are miles apart.

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Music: “Brightside of the Sun,” by Basin and Range; “Mean Flower,” by Joe Henry.


  • Teghan says:

    How incredibly disappointing it was to listen to your discussion of “Cat Person” where you completely left out any mention of how the 34 year old man made the 20 year old feel dehumanized during sex. You talk about how emotionally immature she would be as a 20 year old woman and yet give no time to discuss how she was in a position that made her feel uncomfortable but she felt pressure to continue.

    Your recap felt extremely misogynistic. I hope you use this feedback (and assuming much other feedback along the same lines) to look inward at your own beliefs and biases.

    “During sex, he moved her through a series of positions with brusque efficiency, flipping her over, pushing her around, and she felt like a doll again, as she had outside the 7-Eleven, though not a precious one now—a doll made of rubber, flexible and resilient, a prop for the movie that was playing in his head.”

    • bla says:

      The position she got herself into is her fault alone. She never was honest with him. She kept the exchange with Robert because she was excited with feeding her own fantasy. In the end, she feels like a victim but she set the situation up.
      Moreover, that description of how he ragged doll her up is HER interpretation of what he was doing. Robert was clearly inexperienced and probably watched a lot of porn and thought that is how you do sex. Yet, Margo again just judges him and sees herself as a victim of the situation. Robert was wrong in the end on insulting her but, again, he clearly doesn’t have the maturity to understand how to handle the situation properly. He felt used and felt angry at the situation. Plus, he was inebriated and that takes away capability of judgement.

      • bla says:

        Just to complete: she set the situation up and voluntarily ignored signs which told her it would be a bad experience having sex with Robert. She was more interested in feeding her fantasy than keeping up with reality.

        • North Pole says:

          I view it exactly the same. Robert’s entire behaviour with regard to sex doesn’t seem to match his personality. It’s mechanical, unnatural and evidently motivated by huge performance anxiety. It’s not as if she met another Christian Grey. She met an insecure, vulnerable and generally emotionally fucked up man, who thinks he needs to be Christian Grey or some porn stud to satisfy her. One can’t learn how to read another person emotionally if he or she does not experience real relationships, so one substitutes such knowledge with porn where the girls always climax 😉

          • jandojando says:

            Interesting to see that it’s about the guys performance. What about her performace? Maybe she presented herself as a lifeless doll, not giving real emotional intimicy, because she didn’t wanted to, or didn’t dare to. Maybe the guy was craving emotional intimicy, but was disappointed not to get it, and also went through the motions with it.

  • Lesley says:

    I had a very different take on the story. Although I felt somewhat sorry for the man, more so in the begining, I felt even more empathy for the woman. She was trying to see the good in him and make excuses for the weirdo stuff. (like his thing about her running off with an old boyfriend, as if they had a real relationship, he was jealous without having a reason to be , red flag). The sex scene was so cringe worthy, still bothers me to read it. How she felt she had to continue. UG. How he was just replaying a porn scene, no thought for her. She felt she had to go thru with it to avoid hurting his feelings, or possibly making him angry, I think her thinking of how she was going to laugh it off was her way of dealing with this horrible, horrible, memory. She didn’t direct that at him, she didn’t tell him to his face so I don’t think she was mean, that was just a way to deal with it. Women are told they are terrible people if they have sex in general, let alone sex with someone that has no potential to become a relationship. Society tells us we are horrible when we do this. I was raised quite liberal but I still feel this. It’s difficult to put in to words but this sex scene gets that across very well, too well.
    Then at the end, when he called her Whore, that said it all, he was a terrible guy, he was what she feared. Will he stalk her now? or worse?
    I was afraid for her after that…

    (him being disappointed it didn’t work out is understandable and ok but to direct anger at her is not, that’s what showed he was not good).

  • Abi says:

    I agree the story was much about power… Unfortunately in our culture the young sexual prowess is the only power women are given to navigate. It was interesting to me that you hinted at what a mysterious power feminine youth has, even over you. What happens if we exalt the 20 year old character for her ability to use that to her advantage? Or were not afraid at how powerless the male character becomes at the end of the story?

  • Sabrina Carryon says:

    I agree it is a power game and dare to say that is how most relationships usually are, which is quite sad, but that is how we, humans, have evolved to be – very self centered beings and therefore confused and disconnected to each other, seeking an ego stroke on every corner.
    I do love when you compare the relationship to a wrestling session – illustrates very well their disconnected interaction and really resonates with me ad some of the relationships I have been in.

    However as woman, at the very start, I felt sorry for her as she seemed to be more into him than the other way around and how inferior and weak she felt in his presence (by mocking about her living a in a dorm or not being old enough to be allowed in to a bar). I agree though there is a lot of power and manipulation involved but it is also about how women adapt to the men superiority in this patriarcal society we live in. I personally disagree with her overall behavior, looks immature and insensitive, but I have also found myself in similar situations like that, specially since I come from a Latin America country where the whole society is built around the male as a provider a protector, leaving women consistently in a weak position.

    So, I think that could also be interpreted as Margot’s way of compensating that inferiority feeling all women feel somehow. And that is where her curiosity/interest into a much older man comes from also. She did feel powerful seeing him into her at the end and that turned her on. Had he not been so bad in bed…who knows what might have happened instead? Jokes aside, it is a great story and thanks for taking the time to read it for us!! 🙂

  • Reading the comments makes me realize how the genius in the story, is how different people will react to it differently according to their background. Whereas some would go and conclude Margo was just a mean young girl getting high on an older yet inexperienced guy, I’m also seeing the comments siding with Margo and wondering if Robert is now going to stalk and murder her, just like she feared in the first place.
    I guess that’s life. Not being able to perceive “the story” because we’re too busy building “a” story inside our own heads.

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