“an oppressive perception that’s still insidious in our culture: We interpret friendliness in women of reproductive age as seduction.”
I believe that is quite true. But I don’t believe it is an evil conspiracy: men simply have a difficult time interpreting a woman’s true intentions. Kindly bear with me as I don’t wish to turn this into a “it’s your fault” thing at all, not at all. I perceive that a woman who is interested sexually conceals her intention because an open admission too early ‘shows her hand’, it gives the power to the other and makes her vulnerable. Men think the same thing, but somebody has to make the first move, and our culture places that responsibility on the man. The price a man pays is rejection, never a fun thing. The price a woman pays is guys misinterpreting her intentions, and checking her out just to make sure where her head is. I shouldn’t throw into the mix the observation that women are famous for mixed signals, because that suggests again that women are at fault and I do not believe that they are, but we’re being honest here, and both sides share some responsibility for this situation. Frankly I wish there was a better way to do this but a simple “I’m only interested in you as a friend” from her does clear the muddy waters marvelously. Can you think of a more effective means, short of men acting like eunuchs in social and business situations? I’d love to hear it!
And the guy suggesting you were an escort, well, IMHO he was bluntly and rather crudely trying to clear the waters, or test you. Or maybe just jerk your chain. Men are better equipped to laugh off that kind of testing from other men, but it takes a lot of training for a woman to become adept at that kind of social ju jitsu.