I grew up hearing women complain that they don’t understand men. What they didn’t realize is that men seem to understand men even less.
Tesia Blake wrote a great narrative representing the ways women use subtle (but not that subtle) signals to let guys know they’re not interested because they don’t want to appear rude by being blunt.
They’ll pull away from attempts at physical contact. They’ll bring up their relationship status to make it clear they’re not available. They’ll give some gentle excuse for why she can’t go on a date or why she’s just not ready to date anyone at the moment.
Anything, really, to avoid having to politely but firmly say no.
Men, as most women surely know, aren’t very good at reading these signals.
Their reading is unusually optimistic. They’ll notice her pull back and think she just needs a bit of convincing. They’ll hear “I have a boyfriend” and think she must have room for a sidepiece. She’ll say she’s not looking to date and in that they’ll hear “I’m not ready to date anyone… Yet.”
I mean, it’s that or they’re really paying zero attention to the woman they’re hitting on so they don’t even notice her behavior or hear her words. Or maybe they notice she’s trying to find an oblique way to say no but they just don’t care.
The article was great. The responses, though, were a little depressing.
The theme to them is that women just need to take more responsibility and bluntly say what they want to the men who are flirting with or pursuing them.
Just tell him you’re not interested. Just say you’re not into him. Just say no. Just be more honest.
What these responses seem to misunderstand, though, is what kind of situation women are placed in.
Because any individual man might be a good guy. But men, collectively, are dangerous.
What Goes Through Her Mind Before Saying No
When women want to say no to men, there’s always a little moment of hesitation.
We’re aware of the notable power imbalance between us and most men. When we interact with them, we’re the ones at risk of being assaulted, abused, or murdered.
Sometimes, we think through the possible reactions and then we tone down our rejection.
Often, though, we just feel it in our bones. It’s a reflex we’ve accumulated from years spent watching men lash out after being rejected.
For most of us, it doesn’t even occur to us to say no, because no isn’t a word that feels safe.
We try to deflect men’s advances. Sometimes, we play coy. We make sure we’re still smiling, no matter how uncomfortable we are.
And when we do have to reject a man more explicitly, we usually bundle it with tons of compliments — anything so he won’t feel the need to hurt us.
It’s a situation that colors even mundane situations when we meet a man. For a lot of us, there’s a constant worry that by simply being friendly, we’re giving the wrong impression. If we’re honest about our feelings up front, we’re often mocked defensively by being told not to flatter ourselves and that we must be so full of ourselves for thinking he was interested in us, when he was “just being nice.”
But if we don’t, it’s worse. If a man takes rejection poorly, then you sure as hell don’t want to see how he reacts when you reject him after he spent a long time thinking he had a chance with you.
Even When Women Don’t Get Killed…
It’s true, most of us won’t get killed for rejecting someone’s advances, even though it’s not out of the realm of responsibility.
But most women have multiple stories of men reacting aggressively to being rejected.
Most commonly, there’s the insults and verbal aggression.
Being too honest and straightforward when turning down a guy usually earns you a few insults. Even when done politely. The most common ones seem to be calling her ugly or fat (which they imply is synonymous with ugly), but any kind of gendered insult will do (bitch, slut, etc.)
When that happens online, these guys will sometimes pepper their verbal abuse with “lol” — either out of habit or because they’d like a bit of plausible deniability if the texts come to light.
(“Hey, I was only joking, see, I wrote ‘LOL’ before ‘you’re fat and ugly’.”)
Offline, of course, you don’t get the benefit of a “lol.” You often get an aggressive tone, a raised voice, or shouting.
That’s why women think twice about being direct with a man, even if he seems like a nice or decent guy at first.
Because even being perfectly gentle and polite can get you a whole lot of shit.
When Will Women Start Being Honest?
I know there are a lot of men who hate hearing these things. They wish women would just stop beating around the bush and just say what they want to say.
But the onus really isn’t on women for this one.
Women will change when their honesty isn’t met with abuse.
Trust me when I say this is not a situation any of us want. Every woman handling a guy with kid gloves wishes she could just say no and move on with her life. She’s just worried he won’t let her.
It takes a lot of mental energy and it’s emotionally taxing to constantly have to put up a front and manage someone else’s feelings and reactions. We’d gladly get rid of that burden if we could.
Women aren’t playing games. We’re behaving rationally in the face of a potentially dangerous situation.
And we all know there are men who react to rejection properly and maturely. They will go back to just being your friend without making things weird or bitching that they’ve been friendzoned, they’ll leave you alone to read your book for the rest of the bus ride, or they’ll thank you for your honesty and stop trying to hit you up.
Maybe you’re one of those guys. But we can’t know that about you — not until we turn you down and see how you react. We’ve all seen perfectly fine gentlemen turn mean or demure nice guys turn aggressive. So, most of the time, we don’t risk it.
As frustrating as that is to you, it’s ten times worse for us.
Until things change, men will just have to get better at taking our not-so-subtle signals seriously. And while you’re at it, maybe you could have a talk with your buddy the next time he’s angry because a woman turned him down.
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