We stopped at Charlie Murdoch’s for Stephanie’s bachelorette party, a dueling piano bar. I loved it, by the way–the heckling is foul but hilarious without being mean, and the bands are awesome. I could’ve stayed and watched the bands all night, probably, but alas, we went downstairs for dancing.
Bar culture often gets weird. Usually, I have a good time and love it, but men have this tendency to cross the line and think they’re allowed to or they’re entitled to a woman. We’ve been through this–you’re not.
For privacy’s sake, even though this is by far not the worst male encounter I’ve ever witnessed, experienced, or heard tell of, I won’t say who was involved.
But she was dancing. She looked hot, I have to say, in tight, bright leggings and studded heels. Men like these things, understandably. And one such man decided to come right up behind her, right up against her, grinding and pretty intensely groping her legs. I mean, as I recall, hands running all up and down thighs. The kind of touching I prefer only Paul to do. The kind of touching Steve tried to a lesser extent that contributed significantly to our severed friendship.
She looked uncomfortable. To be fair, he couldn’t see her face, so he had no way of knowing this. But he could hear her repeatedly saying, “I don’t like this.” I know he could hear her because I could hear her, and I was farther away.
He obviously didn’t care. And this is the main problem–dudes, when a girl is obviously uncomfortable with the way you’re interacting with her, you need to stop. She’s not playing hard to get. She’s not being a tease. She’s not secretly asking for it. She may freeze up and be unsure of what to do, but if she’s saying she doesn’t like what’s happening, you respect that. That’s Gentleman 101.
He wasn’t listening and she obviously was uncomfortable but didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to bitch him out for disrespecting people and boundaries, so I did the passive-aggressive thing–I grabbed her arm and forcibly pulled her away from him. Fortunately and somewhat miraculously, he got that hint and left.
Some other guy a few hours later in a different bar didn’t.
He started a little more innocently, at least, telling Tessa how gorgeous she is (this is an accepted consensus among every human that has seen Tessa). And then he gradually got more belligerent, rude, and a bit odd, honestly. He goes from complimenting her to telling us he’s gay but thinks she’s gorgeous to trying to convince her to make out, no matter how many times she denied him, and insisting it was totally okay because he was gay.
Men using homosexuality as justification for the way they treat women is increasingly common, both in stories of gay men inappropriately touching women and saying they didn’t think the women would mind because they were gay or, what I suspect this gay was doing, pretending to be gay in the hopes that women will for some reason feel more inclined to get sexual. If a woman doesn’t want to do something with a guy, she doesn’t want to do something with a guy. Sexual orientation isn’t gonna change that.
Every time we thought we’d lost him, he’d show back up again. This peaked when we went to leave and he followed us out of the bar.
I’m not sure if men understand how terrifying it is to be followed like that. When I was about 12 or 13, my mom noticed a man watching me closely and following me in a Walmart. It was scary then and even in a group on a busy street with cops everywhere, being followed out of a bar is scary now. Men can be threatened, harassed, assaulted, and raped, but these things are rare. Men don’t live with these threats quite the same way that women do. How many times have you been lectured by a parent about staying in a group, being aware of your surroundings, not leaving a drink unattended, or making sure someone knows where you are?
He followed us out of the bar, down the street, and held us up, moving from complimenting Tessa to addressing each of the rest of us, complimenting us or trying to sort of pin us down, telling us all about how he perceived us.
He didn’t leave until Stephanie yelled at him to leave. He got a little huffy and stormed off, but at least he left. In the end he may have been harmless, but we had no way of knowing that. Again, boundaries. He’d been turned down and ignored, and when we ready to leave for the night, we couldn’t. We were followed, and we had no idea what he might do to get what he wanted.
That’s the key there, dudes, even for you lovely well-behaved gentlemen (you do exist, I know, just keep fighting the good fight!)–maybe sometimes, you think the flirting or the persistence is harmless or effective or attractive or whatever. Maybe you think women overreact and freak out easily, and maybe sometimes we do, but you have to consider why. It’s because most of us have already experienced that refusals can be ignored. Most of us have already experienced some physical, sexual contact against our will. Most of us have already dealt with a man who feels he’s entitled to our bodies by virtue of having a penis. Most of us have been followed out of bars. Most of us just don’t know how far you’ll go to get what you want.