When I Realized Men Kind Of Suck

I don’t remember who it was, but I was in my early 20s when one of my close friends told me a story about someone following her home the night before. I kind of chuckled, shifted in my seat a little. Said something like “man, people are weird, huh?” in order to move the conversation along to something more comfortable. You want another drink? What shall we do after this?

But this time it had hit me. This time it resonated. Finally. I asked myself: what if they’re not exaggerating?

What seems more likely, that all these women who I’m close to are lying to me? Or that men are, by and large, scumbags?

Suddenly every story I’d heard my female friends talk about where they’d been followed home by a stranger, or had teachers stare at them, or had our friends make suggestive comments to them — those stories flooded back to me. A hand on a buttock, a crotch pressed against a thigh, a blatant glance at an unbuttoned shirt — each time I was skeptical.

Each time I’d mentally dismissed it as being overly-sensitive or overly-dramatic or simply mistaken. I couldn’t accept that random men would decide it was appropriate to follow a woman home, or touch them without consent. That would be fucking absurd. Right? Right?

Of course what was more absurd was that I had failed to link all these stories together. I’d chosen to not believe all these women. I’d given my fellow men the benefit of the doubt when my best friends were straight up telling me they’d had to go into a shop to avoid being followed. I was a fucking idiot.

But why did I react that way? And why, now, do men still struggle to accept that their sisters actually have to deal with this all the time? Why do we place our trust in our fellow men rather than accept that this shit is happening all around us?

I guess in some way it’s a self-defense mechanism. If you admit that men do this then you’re implicating yourself in this behavior. Even if you don’t do it yourself, you are part of the group that does, and that makes you obligated to try and change it.

For many, I expect, it’s also because to admit that men do this stuff would also be to admit that you’ve done it too. I read a comment on Facebook today asking if the poster should stop their “non-creepy” whistles at women. Newsflash, man! There are no non-creepy whistles.

Ultimately, though, I think it’s laziness (with a not-inconsiderable dose of sexism, but we’ll leave that to one side for now). It’s because if we accept it’s happening we have to look around us, at our friends, at each man we encounter, and we have to question them. We can’t just high-five them when they tell us to “check the rack on that”. We have to lose faith in our “bros” (ugh). We have to drop this idea that “it’s just guys being guys”. We have to actually make an effort to *gasp* not get everything our own way, and start to be considerate of how our actions might impact upon others.

We lose our own get-out-of-jail free card and we see how difficult we make life for everyone else in so many ways just by virtue of not having to question ourselves.

Could we just try being better than this?

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