In a previous post, I stated that I would love to not be suspicious of men. Honestly, my default setting is to trust people, to believe the best in them. So when situations arise where I am not actually in any real danger, and the person clearly doesn’t intend to hurt me, but still feel deeply uncomfortable, I am reluctant to “be rude” and walk away.
This feeling of discomfort doesn’t arise every time a strange man speaks to me, or even hits on me – not at all. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what exactly it is that does bother me so much about some interactions and not others, and I’ve come up with a few factors.
Say, for example, you are staying in a youth hostel. Hostels are typically a place where you meet people. Where you hang out and chat. You’d think nothing of it when the guy in the bunk bed opposite strikes up a conversation.
Now, say there are a few of you in the room, finding out where everyone is from – the usual traveller’s small talk. Then the man in the bunk opposite asks you a question, and then another and another – questions that somehow isolate you from the general conversation, drawing you into the specific. This still isn’t terrible – not if it happens once.
But maybe it happens every time you run into him. Maybe you let him know your plans for the day (sure, why wouldn’t you?) and he happens to turn up where you said you were going. Maybe he knows you’re planning to watch Netflix in your bed all evening because you’re tired and, lo and behold, he too is spending the evening in. You run into him in the kitchen and the conversation never seems to allow for a gap in which you can leave naturally, and if you manage to include another traveller in the talk, he falls unnervingly quiet. How do you avoid someone you are sharing a room with?
You have to be rude. Or blunt, or honest. However you look at it, you cannot extract yourself from this situation without stepping on some feelings.
And the thing is, you aren’t in any real danger. All he is doing is ensnaring you in intensely intimate conversations which you would rather not be a part of and giving you no choice but to be the one thing women are taught we must not be – disagreeable. Rude.
- Vulnerability (both real and perceived).
Something that happens so often and that makes me so uncomfortable is when a man I have just met puts on his shining armour and claims to be concerned for my safety. “Because there are a lot of strange men out there.”
Now, this is true. And sometimes, concern is appreciated. It’s nice when a male friend offers to walk me home late at night.
But the thing is, I have been protecting myself for a while now. All of us women have. From a young age, we learn to protect ourselves from strange men we just met. If you, as a man, ask to walk me home and I say no, do not insist. The first “no” is me saying I do not require an escort because I really don’t believe there is need for one, or because I plan on getting a bab, but thank you for the offer.
My second “no” will be me saying I just met you and I do not trust you anymore.
And maybe this isn’t fair on men.
But you know what else isn’t fair? That I am not only perceived as vulnerable, but I am vulnerable because there are still men out there who pose a threat to a woman walking by themselves.
This is actually an obvious force behind the first two factors I mentioned.
If you are going to hit on a stranger who is in a place alone, this is something to consider. Who here is in a position of power? Am I standing too close, so they feel they cannot escape?
Am I physically larger? Or older? Or in a position of fiscal or structural advantage compared to this person?
Ask yourself, how can I adjust this interaction so that they feel like we are on more even ground?
I was brought up to be polite. To be kind. To assume the best in people. Women often are taught to be a very particular brand of polite. And many of us are now working on speaking our minds, on figuring out where politeness needs to take a backseat to honesty and safety. But we aren’t there yet. So rather than simply listening to what we say, maybe have a look at our body language. Are we avoiding eye contact? Are we leaning away from you, or searching for excuses to leave? Are we trying to draw someone else into the conversation?
I don’t want strangers to stop talking to me. Hell, I don’t even want strangers to stop hitting on me. But there is a way to do it, and these are just some factors I’ve noticed play a part when it comes to how a pass is received.
This also is based mostly on my experience and those of other girls I know, so please let me know if you have any disagreements / other thoughts on the matter.