Today I was with a male co-worker and a male client at lunch. My client asked me, “Why do women have to go to the bathroom in packs when they are at a club or a bar?”
My immediate response: “Because we need to stay together to protect each other.”
I don’t think he liked my answer.
The reality is that nights out on the town can get scary when you’re a woman. I have been quite the party animal from a young age, so I have plenty of experience on the party scene. My most recent experiences have been in the city; at bars, clubs, lounges, happy hours, restaurants, and more. I have been the protector and the protected. I have been forced to fight off men, verbally and even physically, both for myself and for the people I care about. I have been made to feel so uncomfortable that I have left bars where I do not feel safe. I have held my friends as they leave clubs in tears after being grabbed at like a piece of meat. I have seen it all it seems.
Just a quick disclaimer: I don’t mean to sound dramatic. My friends and I have fun. There are plenty of decent establishments out there that don’t tolerate sexual misbehavior of any kind. I have met perfectly decent men that have either approached myself/my friends respectfully and/or actually aided in our rescue from other men. Unfortunately, the frequency at which the social experience becomes dark is so high that I still feel this is worth posting about.
Don’t know what I’m talking about?
When men accuse you of being a lesbian because you are not interested in their advances.
(Because there is no possible way that a straight woman could maybe just NOT BE INTERESTED.)
When you tell an aggressive man to back off so he just moves on to a friend.
(I meant BACK OFF. None of us are interested in your inappropriate behavior.)
When men come up behind you and touch your body without asking.
(In no way is it ever okay to touch someone’s body without consent. Ever. It is not sexy to violate someone, regardless of the setting or whether or not they have been drinking. Who taught you that my body was your property?)
When men become irate because you won’t sleep with them even though they bought you a drink.
(Really? You think my pussy is worth the $8 it cost you to get me that vodka soda that came in a clear plastic solo cup? You could buy me a live fucking tiger and it wouldn’t mean that I owe you sex.)
When men insult you after they hit on you and you reject them.
(Just because I am not interested in you sexually doesn’t mean I deserve to be bullied. Just because I said “I’m sorry, not tonight”, doesn’t mean I am a horrible person that deserves to be called names. Is your ego really that fragile?)
When you straight up say “no” to a man and they just won’t back off.
(Why don’t men know that “no” means “no”?)
About a year ago I was at a bar (that I haven’t been to since) with my current roommate/best friend. We were approached by two men that were somewhat dorky and average looking (not that that is relevant to their behavior). The one that spoke to me was a try hard. He was clearly spitting game at me. He asked me where I went to school, and when I told him he went off about how he has visited that campus so many times and loved partying there. I asked him what his favorite bar was on campus…and he couldn’t name one.
I called him out. I told him not to make things up, that he didn’t need “lines” to impress me, that I would prefer he just talk to me. At first I thought he understood.
He kept saying a lot of aggressive things asserting that I wasn’t interested in him, and challenging me. As if I should tell him now if I’m not going to sleep with him so that he doesn’t have to make small talk with me anymore. The more he said these things, the more and more uncomfortable I felt. But his friend was still talking to my roommate, and I couldn’t tell if she was interested, so I tried to hold out a bit longer. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I told him I was going to run to the restroom, and he was instantly furious.
“So are you actually going to come back, should I even bother waiting for you?”
Dude…I have to pee.
I told him he was freaking me out. I told him I feared he was getting angry at every instance that signaled I may not go home with him tonight. He assured me that he had no expectations. I carried on listening to him peacock-ing, until I couldn’t take it any longer. I grabbed my roomie and we ran to the bathroom. After the bathroom we escaped to a different bar on the strip.
Later in the evening, while we were waiting for an Uber home, we heard a man call out to us. It was him.
“That is the girl who wouldn’t sleep with me! You win some, you lose some, am I right?”
He cackled at me from across the street. It was terrifying.
A lot of these sort of situations have one or both of two parties at fault, just in my opinion. I will explain them in no particular order.
I think women are taught not to say no to men. I think women are taught that we should be grateful for any and all sexual/romantic attention, because our entire self worth should be based on this almost exclusively. What men think of us equals our value.
For the majority of my life, even from my earliest years interacting with boys in my pre-teens, I avoided directly rejecting men at all cost. There are an array of excuses that I’ve developed, and that I’ve witnessed other women use as well.
“I’m not into men.” Yes, I mentioned the “lesbian excuse” earlier. Maybe our use of this excuse has enabled the prescription that men give to women who actually just say “no”.
“I have to go to the bathroom.” Again, another excuse that I was accused of making earlier in my post, even though in that instance it wasn’t just an excuse.
“I have a boyfriend.”
“Tonight is a girls-only night.”
We need to start teaching girls that it is okay to say “no”. We need to empower women to be direct. There is a polite way to turn away a man’s attention, and it doesn’t have to be a watered down excuse. We need women to know that their safety and consent are more important than a man’s fragile ego.
But we also need to teach men that “no” means “no”.
I, and many other women, HAVE said no. We shouldn’t have to say anything else.
This is rape culture.
I would be curious to know, if I really have readers who make it all the way through my lengthy posts, why you think this phenomenon occurs? Do you have any similar horror stories? Do you have any examples of male advocates who HAVE made you feel safe?
I think it is up to all of us, of all genders on the spectrum, to ensure that we no longer enable rape culture to exist. We need to call out the perpetrators, and we need to empower others to do so as well.