Let Him Down Gently

Familiar phrases such as femme fatale or man-eater pop into my head when I think of how women are described if they have any bit of gumption in their bloodstream.

In June, on a two-hour drive home from upstate New York with my best friend, Rachel, we fervently discussed how men treat women if the woman is disinterested. It was quite a lively, spirited conversation, which was much-needed, since I had stopped drinking at the wedding a couple of hours ago, and we were stuck behind a Wal-Mart truck going below the speed limit on the winding roads of the Berkshires.

My best friend said that sometimes she’ll get called to at a gas station by a man, saying, “Mami, Mami, you’re looking fine today!” Rachel will ignore him, naturally, and then he’ll yell back, “You whore! You’re probably a dumb slut!” All because she didn’t acknowledge his misogynistic comment and slander.

Just how is a woman a slut if she won’t give you the time of day?

A week later, I was having a conversation on my deck with a friend, who told me how if she’s disinterested in a man on this dating site she’s using, she’ll sometimes receive charged comments blatantly calling her a cold bitch who is full of herself.

Again,

Just when did it become okay to manipulate and verbally abuse women for not wanting to have sex with a man? Are men so fragile that they cannot bear the crushing reality that a woman doesn’t want his scummy dick near her?

The answer is clearly and obviously yes.

This isn’t all men. I know many respectful, amazing men. I am referring to those who treat women this way.

Girls have been taught from a young age that boys will tease them on the playground if they like her. We learn that we need to soften the blow for men and “let them down gently” if we are not interested. Like it is our duty to protect their egos.

Aren’t we allowed not to be interested!?

I grew up believing this. I have had guys falling head over heels in love with me ever since high school. All through college it was a theme, and again, in my thirties, I am still “letting men down” who want to pursue me.

Yet, the whole time, I have this latent guilt about it because of the way society raised me.

I’ve always thought to myself that life is much easier when I have a boyfriend. This is simply because then I have a valid excuse to give to all the men who want to date me.

A couple of months ago, I was on a subway in Brooklyn when a fifty-something year old man began hitting on me. I am quite introverted and anxious in social situations as it is, let alone, this was my first subway ride by myself, but I told the man after he asked me for a hug that I had a boyfriend (a lie) instead of telling him to fuck off.

Why did I do that?

Because women know this will generally work. Saying you aren’t interested tends to generate animosity, and even saying you aren’t interested in dating ANYONE dredges up opinions on behalf of the man. In my experiences, a man will keep trying even if I say no but don’t have a “valid reason” (as if not being interested isn’t valid enough).

If I have a boyfriend, then I am a woman who has adhered to the role of society to be scooped up by a man, and therefore, the propositioner is more likely to back off. Also, my imaginary boyfriend has big muscles, so he’ll beat you up!

I recently got into an argument with a friend, who basically followed the exact pattern of things aforementioned. One of the points I made to him was that if he cared about me so much, then why would he want to make me feel uncomfortable by pressuring me?

This is still a question I’d like answered. Do men think this works? It doesn’t.

I no longer want to behave and feel like it’s my responsibility to ensure that men are being “spotted” when I deliver a crushing blow. It’s okay that I don’t want you; I have never owed you anything.

You are not really the type of respectful man I am looking for if I have to catch you when you are knocked over by my rejection and let you down gently.

If a woman says no, then there’s nothing more to discuss. Ever. No really means no. Get outta here. Beat it.

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