The following is something that happened to me on Saturday at a bar. It’s a huge step away from my normal silliness, but I’m sharing it because I think it’s important for us to talk about these things, especially because stuff like this happens ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Here goes:
I was at a bar with my friend and her boyfriend and some others. We were standing around talking, and someone my friend knew came over to say hi. He hugged her, and then immediately put his arm around me to pull me into a hug. He didn’t introduce himself, didn’t ask my name, barely even looked me in the eye at all. This made me really uncomfortable, so I gave him an awkward sideways hug and pulled away from him. Then he looked at me and said, “What was that?” I told him I’m not really a hug person. He started telling me and the rest of the group that it’s important to be open to other people, that when people approach you it’s an opportunity to make a connection and people shouldn’t be so closed off. Then he made this grandiose scene about opening up to other people by taking my friend’s hand and asking her to meditate with him or something like that. He was speaking generally, mostly addressing my friend, but he was basically using this public display to imply that my hug wasn’t good enough.
I rolled my eyes and went to the bathroom in the middle of his speech. When I came back he was gone. Throughout the night I saw him taking the hands of other girls in the bar and doing the same mediation stuff with them.
Much later, people in our group were talking about going somewhere else to keep hanging out. I was talking to my friend’s boyfriend when this guy came back. He started to ask the boyfriend what we were going to do next. He gave the boyfriend a high-five, and then turned to me with his hand raised. I gave him a very quick high-five and said, “BYE!” hoping he would get the message. He kept his hand raised and I was scared that he was going to put his arm around me again.
Inwardly I sighed. He either didn’t get it, or didn’t care.
Time to go to work.
I looked him directly in the eye and said, “I’m not going to hug you.”
This pissed him off.
He gave me this horrible look of disgust and said, “You weren’t listening to me. I didn’t say good-bye and I didn’t ask you for a hug. I came here to ask what you guys are gonna do now and you’re assuming that I want something from you that I actually don’t.” He went on this long rant about how I need to listen, that I’m accusing him of something that isn’t true, that I didn’t even give him a chance, that I’m a cold, closed-minded person and he wants to help me connect to people. At some point I cut him off and said, “If you can’t understand why a woman in a bar doesn’t want a strange man to touch her, then you’re obviously not as open as you claim to be.”
He sputtered, as if I had thrown cold water in his face, and then he went on another rant about how he “just wants me to speak the truth” (those were his exact words, the pompous prick) and that I was completely wrong and he was trying to help me understand what was really happening. I cut him off again and said, “I don’t care what you think of me and you’re obviously not gonna change your mind either, so we should just stop.”
At first it didn’t seem to register what I had said. He stuttered, repeated himself a little, and then kinda trailed off under my blank stare. Finally he looked between me and my friend’s boyfriend (who was uncomfortably watching the whole scene), then gave me another disgusted look and walked away.
He stayed away after that.
I’m really glad for a couple things: that I stood up for myself instead of letting a creepy guy touch me, that I hadn’t drunk any alcohol so I was able to react quickly (not that drinking alcohol itself is bad), and that my friends walked me to the train station and waited with me on the platform when I decided to go home. As soon as the creep walked away, my friend’s boyfriend apologized and tried to comfort me. I was really rattled, but being there with friends helped.
I wasn’t upset because the guy tried to hug me. I hug lots of people after I meet them with no problem (which is a huge achievement, considering how I used to be). It was the fact that he did it in a really obnoxious way, and then reacted with anger and tried to publicly shame me when I pulled away. Of the two of us, shouldn’t I have been the angry one? Him being angry at all was psychotic.
I keep wondering if there was anything I could have done differently, but I think this was a no-win situation. If I hadn’t stood up for myself, I would have spent the whole night with a creepy guy coming onto me and who knows how far he would have gone. But does that mean that an open confrontation was the best possible outcome? That’s really shitty.
If I had been there alone, I would have called a taxi. Or asked the bartender to call one for me, and told them that some guy was bothering me. I think asking the bartender could be good, because it means letting someone else know that there’s a problem, but it could also be bad if the creep is actually friends with the bartender.
I wish the boyfriend had stepped in during the last part. I was perfectly capable of defending myself, but the creep will probably just write me off as a Difficult Bitch and go on his merry way. If my friend’s boyfriend had said something, even as simple as “Dude, leave her alone,” or “What are you talking about?” it would have carried so much more weight. The creep might have felt ashamed because it wouldn’t have been just some crazy bitch at a bar, it would have been another man telling him that this isn’t ok.
This is the unfortunate reality of what it’s like to present as female. Lots of men assume you owe them your time and attention and body just because they want it, and nothing you say really matters unless you have another man to back you up.
If you made it to the end of this really long post, thank you so much for reading it. I’d like to know if you have ideas for how else to react in situations like this or about safety for women in general. And if you’re a man and you see something like this happening, please say something. You don’t have to punch anyone in the face. Just let these creeps know that their is behavior is wrong and support the women you care about. We need your help.
In light of this super serious topic, here’s a doodle I made earlier today:
Stay safe out there, everyone!