I'm going to recount a tale from one of my friends on Wednesday evening. Let's call her Mary. She's in her late twenties and would be considered attractive by most observers.
Mary and one of her friends go out for the evening. They encounter a group of dudes led by, well, let's call him Tool. Tool tells the ladies that they are out drinking wildly because one of their friends (in the Dude Group) lost his job. No problem, right? Tool asks Mary to hug said friend to cheer him up. The ladies politely decline and leave. Incident over, right? Tool tried his little pickup line (creepy, albeit essentially harmless) and it didn't work; on with the evening.
Nope. Tool follows them into the bar asking them to hug his friend. They decline again. He leaves to re-join his group. Surely we're done now, right?
Not so. He comes back with his posse and Mary noticed his return when she feels Tool's hand grasping her arm. She yanks the arm away, subtly transmitting the social cue, "Do not touch me." He continues to linger and ask them to hug his friend. Mary's friend informs him that he's starting to get annoying (starting!) and he should leave. Tool then grabs Mary's forearm and tries to pull her toward him. She rips her arm away and explicitly tells him what he has failed to pick up on thus far: That's it. Leave us alone.
He tells them that he is sorry if they think hugs are rude. Her friend says, "No, you are rude. We find YOU rude," and he responds, "I think you're a bitch," as they walk away.
I have more female friends than male ones, and I hear stories like this all the time. And I never cease to be astounded at how tone deaf, clueless, and aggressive the men in these stories are. OK, granted, this is not to say women are incapable of rude behavior or that these men are representative of all men. But good god, the absolute inability to read very basic non-verbal cues, followed up by the absolute refusal to follow verbal ones, is beyond comprehension. I'm more surprised when I reflect and realize that, at age 34, I've never once been in a group of men who behaved this way. And that's not to pat myself and my friends on the back for being Great People. We're not. It's not an act of kindness and nobility to leave someone alone when they say "Please leave me alone." It's just…a basic part of human interaction? I don't even know how to state this effectively. It would be like saying "My friends are awesome because when a waiter brings us a check, we always pay it." You don't get to applaud yourself, or anyone else, for doing the bare minimum expected of you.
Granted, my friends could tell you that I am particularly easy to dissuade; if I meet a stranger at a bar, I usually break off conversation after about two minutes because I just assume that the person wants to be left alone, or I think they look bored (I'm extremely boring). If someone did something as explicit as turning their back or walking away, I…I would not hesitate to get the message. Would you? And then to think that the situation would progress (because I followed someone who was trying to avoid me) to the point that an explicit "Please go away" was necessary is beyond my experience. Again, this doesn't make me a good person. It merely makes me a person who can read basic social cues and…not act all rapey? That doesn't seem like Good. That seems like the absolute bare minimum that we can expect of the other people in the world.
I don't get it. I don't understand how some people can charge right through so many red lights. I've seen women do it too, but somehow it's just not the same – it comes off more as, I guess, "desperate" rather than scary-aggressive. Because when it happens to me I don't end up thinking "Gosh I hope I don't get raped" whereas a woman experiencing this probably thinks exactly that. I don't have to worry, "If this person grabs me, can I break their grip? How can I get out of here as quickly as possible? Can anyone here help me?" I don't feel threatened, I just feel moderately annoyed (OK, this only happened to me, like, once. But you get it.)
Clearly, social situations between single people are a sort of game, and sometimes people play games to get one another's attention. Everyone has their own little conversation starters, ice breakers, and so on. And I can't blame anyone for trying. If I'm in the mood to be left alone, or focusing on a conversation with one of my friends, it would not be reasonable to shout, "OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU FUCKING SPOKE TO ME!" if someone makes an attempt. But neither is it reasonable to refuse to give up in the attempt. Sometimes people aren't interested in talking to you. To me. To anyone. Is that so hard to accept? My self-confidence is not high, granted, but I have enough to withstand the minor rejection of someone saying "Ha. No thanks." to an effort to start a conversation. We live in a society, though, in which it would apparently be socially acceptable for me to ignore that and persist until I'm maced or escorted out of the bar.
And then, of course, I get to call the woman a bitch. For resisting my charms.