I’ve been trying to get back into writing more – I have this whole list (an entire sticky-note full!) on my desk of topics that I’ve been musing over lately that I’ve been wanting to flesh out on paper when I had more time, but I kept getting distracted by Kitten Coulson or Bob’s Burgers or yet another book that I’ve been meaning to finish but just haven’t gotten around to yet.
However, I’m feeling incredibly unsettled by the UCSB shootings, and one of the best ways for me to calm down is to write it out. Twitter wasn’t giving me enough space, so I turned to this dusty ol’ thang.
So. I’m 25. I’m female. I’m single. I participate in online and real life dating. As most single females who engage in either activity can attest, there are guys who express interest (either politely or not) that you turn down or just don’t respond to. This could be for many reasons – in online dating, you haven’t had the chance to read the message yet, you don’t find anything of interest on the profile, a few messages in and you can tell that you personalities don’t match, they’re asking you out based on characteristics that you don’t want to base a relationship on (“You’re so pretty, please date me,” isn’t really the start of a deeper connection), etc. The list can go on for ages.
But you know what? It shouldn’t have to.
If I say no, for whatever reason, that should be the end of it. Yes, we all have moments where we wonder “Why?” and “What If?” and yearn to beg for the person to give us a second chance. And in some cases, in mature, adult relationships, there is room to discuss this second chance.
But between strangers (on or off the internet), when I have given you no indication that I’m interested in pursuing anything, and I turn you down, that should be the end of it. I shouldn’t have to give any excuse; if I’m not interested, I’m not interested, and I deserve enough respect that my desire to be left alone is all the “reason” you need.
There have been three major manifestations of this recently – once at the Renaissance Faire and twice online.
1) Faire Boy: A female friend and I were practically cornered by a group of guys, one who kept my friend busy while the other desperately tried to get me to go out with him. Every no was met with a, “But why not? Just give me a chance!”; it even went so far that he was getting in my face and physically blocking me in, no matter how many times I politely turned him down. Eventually, I had to lie and say that my friend and I were partners, and that he had no chance because he didn’t have the right bits. Luckily, as an actress, she caught on and went with it. However, I shouldn’t have even had to go there – when I said no, he should have backed off.
2) OkCupid Boy #1 (OKCB1): Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some good dates and great luck on OkCupid. Online dating as a whole is not a complete cesspool (at least not compared to the /generalchat in WoW or even some of the comments sections on articles). However, as you’ll see in a (much more humorous) post to come at a later date, there are a lot of fails in the dating world. Some have good intentions and miss their mark, such as OKCB1. We chatted back and forth a little, before I mentioned that I would be out of town for a few days and thus couldn’t respond. He seems fine with this, tells me to have a good time …. and while I’m non-responsive, sends me several pages worth of messages, stalks me and finds me on Facebook, and starts checking in “just in case I wanted to chat while I was gone.”
It was plain, simple obsession – and it’s freaky. To have someone so focused on you that, on a dating site where you have no mention of your name, they somehow have spent enough time researching you to track you down, you start to realize that there really isn’t much privacy in the online dating world, even without names. This is not sexy, it’s not endearing – you ignored that I hadn’t offered private information, stalked me, and thought that I’d be okay with it. In what world does this come off as okay?
Luckily, with a lack of response to the friend request and subsequent messages, he backed off. However, I wasn’t so lucky with number three.
3) OkCupid Boy #2 (OKCB2): Here’s the creepy one, the one that has caused me to contemplate closing down my OkCupid account. A random guy with no profile information, no picture, no identifiers or personality indicators reached out and couldn’t help but “stop and just say how gorgeous you are!” (which, to you non OKC members, is as generic a first message as you can get). Thinking it was another mass spammer who was sending out copy/paste messages to as many girls as possible in order to get a hit, I ignored him.
He kept messaging, as if we were having this imaginary conversation inside his head that he felt like he needed to respond to. Eventually, I told him that with no picture and no profile information, he was going to have a hard time getting a response, as the people he was messaging had no idea who or what they were responding to.
This was my mistake – I never should have engaged, I should have just blocked him. This was also the only reply I sent him.
He took this as license to start sending me a message every 2-3 days, most of which I missed because I stopped checking OkCupid for days at a time. However, by the time the creepiest message came in, I had decided against blocking him as I needed to have the ability to save screenshots of the messages he was sending, just in case I needed proof of harassment and/or stalking.
The final message, which I’m just going to paraphrase, essentially speculated that it would be sexy to sneak into my apartment at night and do sexual things to me (read: rape), all without me ever engaging him further or exhibiting any indication that these types of behaviors would have been welcomed. He simply assumed that I wanted to hear these things; it never crossed his mind that a lack of response meant that I wanted to be left alone. The behavior was that of obsession, and bordered on that of a stalker. Finally, I decided to risk engaging him and asked that he leave me alone, explaining that a lack of response for over a month should have been a signal that I wasn’t interested. I, luckily, have not heard from him since, and am hoping that my explanation caused him to realize how inappropriate his behavior was.
Until the shooting, and having other women come out of the woodwork, I passed all three off as annoyances of being a somewhat attractive single female – they didn’t ruin my day (though they did bother me enough to mention to friends, and obviously, they stuck with me). But after the events of last weekend, I realized that not only was I scared (as any of these incidents could easily have escalated if the person on the other end was anything like the shooter), I was angry. Angry that I had to put up with this, angry that these people considered this behavior acceptable, angry that I’d been conditioned to accept this behavior as normal (even if I never found it attractive), but above all, angry at myself for thinking that I should just “deal with it.”
I shouldn’t have to deal with it. I should not have to hold my keys in my hand when I walk down the street at night, I should not have to tell a male that I have a partner in order for him to back off when I say no, I should not have to feel like I need to keep weapons near my bed as a security measure, I should not have to question whether or not the person I’m conversing with is only interested in me for sex rather than as a person in my own right. I should not have to, yet I do, because there is a rampant mindset in our culture that men are entitled to women’s bodies and sexuality, even without being given permission.
The world is never going to be a perfect place, no. However, if we could start seeing each other as people to connect with, rather than objects to be acquired, it would go a long way towards fixing a problem that we can’t leave festering any longer. Thus, I charge you with this: next time you’re meeting someone new, treat them like a person, not someone to convince that you’re worth bedding. Look beyond their appearance, dig into their multi-faceted lives, and realize that reducing someone to solely an object of sexual desire will cause you to miss out on so many connections with incredible people who are worth so much more than that behavior.