I quit a 20 year career in advertising, to become a writer and dating coach, specifically in feminist dating. So, what’s my story?
It all started in June 2016. I came across an open letter written by Brock Turner’s victim in the notorious Stanford case. If you don’t remember it, he was a student athlete caught red-handed assaulting a girl while she was unconscious outside a college party. He only got a 6-month slap-on-the-wrist-sentence, so that “his life won’t be ruined”.
In the letter, the young woman spoke about what had happened during the court trial. How they blamed her, how they slut shamed her, asking her what she was wearing, why she had consumed alcohol and why she had gone to a party alone, without her boyfriend.
I read it and I was triggered, although in 2016, I don’t think I even knew what “trigger” meant. I felt I needed to say something, to write something. Up until then, for years I used to write my own dating stories on Facebook and on my blog. They were funny and lighthearted, because dating does offer a lot of opportunities for laughter, especially when you tell your friends all about it later on, even if it’s mortifying while it’s going on. I had lots and lots of funny stories, enough to have been offered a book deal.
The thing is, there were a few stories I’d never told. There was nothing humorous about them, although they too had begun with a meet-cute or felt romantic at the start. I tried to forget about them, never fathomed sharing them, the whole point was to make people laugh, right? They won’t find me clever or funny if I start talking about sexual assault and rape, I thought, so why put myself on the spot?
But in June of 2016, almost a year before MeToo went viral, I felt I had to say something. I decided to write about rape culture in a way that made it real and part of everyday life. I knew it didn’t just happen in Greece, where I’m from. It was ubiquitous.
I told the story of the Brock Turner case and explained the concepts of slut shaming and victim blaming. And to really drive the point home, I told the stories I’d never told before. My MeToo stories, before MeToo was known. It was a ten-page Word document, and I posted the text on Facebook.
I thought ok, it’s done now, I don’t have to think about it anymore, I did my duty, I can relax. I was wrong. What happened after, was what changed my life. It was gradual, but I couldn’t go back. Because in Greece, back in 2016, no one had talked about those things publically before.
I started receiving messages from hundreds of women and girls telling me what had happened to them. Hundreds of stories of assault, sexual abuse and rape, by women who asked me to tell them what their story was, because they couldn’t even face the fact they had been raped. Hundreds of stories by women who needed to talk to someone who would believe them and tell them it wasn’t their fault. And they all begged me to keep writing. So I had no choice.
Later that year I was invited to do a TEDx and then interviews, articles, documentaries and so on. I did it all as a hobby, because I had a “real job”.
For seven years, I have been writing about rape culture and everyday rape, educating people on all these foreign concepts, including consent. Because sex without consent is rape, so if people don’t know exactly what consent means, they don’t know whether what’s happening is sex or rape. 90% of the stories I receive, stories that would never stand a chance in court, just like mine, are in the context of dating. And I know that it starts way before the actual date, from the very first message they sent on an app.
Dating as we know it is entwined with rape culture. From the beginning, I knew it was important to not just speak to women, because this isn’t a “women’s issue”. It’s men who need to listen because men are the ones who can actually stop perpetuating that culture and solve the problem. My book, “Who women want: a feminist dating guide for men”, was published in Greece in early 2023.
I knew it was time to make my passion a full time job. I did a number of courses including Personal Coaching by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Counselling by the Achology Institute, Working with Men, by Terry Real & the Relational Life Institute and Compassionate Inquiry in Action: An Experiential Course for the Healing of Deep Traumatic Wounds, by Gabor Maté, in order to call myself a Coach. And I won’t stop learning.
I want to put all my newly acquired skills, all my experience in Communication and all the experiential knowledge I’ve gained into practice, to help men be better. My dream is to help redefine dating, leaving problematic stereotypes and restrictive gender expectations in the past and creating a new mentality around romantic relationships, where romance has nothing to do with rose petals, sunsets, moonlight and poetry (even though they’re fine if they’re your jam), but everything to do with genuine connections, equality, openness and vulnerability, authenticity, mutuality, fun, laughter and pleasure. This is the dating we want and we deserve.