It frustrates me that women are often chided for being less trusting of men. We’re told “not all men are like that! Why are you so closed off to men? Why do you ignore messages from male strangers but not female strangers? Why would you consider playing with a female you met online but not a man?”
Because countless men have proven themselves to be threatening to me, and women have not.
If someone gets bitten by a dog, no one is surprised if they are a bit more wary of other dogs afterwards. If you’re bitten by multiple dogs, the fear is even more understandable. But this is what it’s like to be a woman:
We grow up around dogs that like to chase us, even when we are very young. Sometimes it’s just playful, but often it’s scary even if they don’t actually bite us because they are bigger and stronger. Then at some point we do get bit- sometimes very badly, sometimes more than once. We start to become more wary of dogs in general. We notice every time that one of them looks at us with an aggressive snarl, or follows us down the street. We hear every time they bark at us in a non-friendly way; and they do it a lot. After a while, we learn that even the nicest looking dogs can become very mean if you don’t give them what they want. A year ago I was chased by a very large black dog that was aggressive and territorial. That was a first for me. I’m not generally scared of dogs, I love dogs, but after that I learned to be less trusting around dogs I don’t know.
Fear grows- a fear founded in tragic reality. We start viewing most dogs with suspicion and even fear until we know for sure that they are safe. Then our friend gets a new dog and is annoyed when we are wary of him. “What’s wrong with you? Not all dogs are bad! You’re being paranoid and judgmental. You don’t even know this dog yet. He’s so nice.”
(Note: This is not meant to demean men by comparing them to dogs. It’s just the best analogy I could think of that most people can relate to.)
We are judged for not trusting men, even though we have learned that so many of them cannot be trusted and we can’t always tell which ones are which. We are called bitches or cunts when we refuse a man’s advances, and we are also judged for being snappy and “rude” when we call out yet another man who assumes he has a right to our body, our attention, or our trust and comfort. Why do I snap at men who are pushy or act entitled? It’s equal parts pent-up frustration and self-preservation. If I don’t put them in their place, I have learned that they will not leave me alone. And if they comment publicly and I don’t call them out publicly, then other men learn that it’s ok to treat me that way too.
But when a woman says no or is blunt, she is labeled rude or a bitch. We are supposed to be sweet and accommodating to any man’s desires, whether we want it or not. If we must turn him down, we are expected to do it in such a way that we don’t bruise his ego. “I can’t do that for you, I’m dating someone else.” Or, “I’m not playing with anyone right now, it’s not just you.” Or, “You’re a nice guy but I’ve got too much going on in my personal life right now.” While these things may often be true, sometimes they’re not but we feel pressured to say them anyways. To tell a man no because we don’t like him or don’t trust him can result in a verbal tirade or guilt trips or, in some in-person cases, even violence. We are expected to take the blame for their desired interaction not working out so they don’t have to feel personally rejected. Many men do not handle personal rejection very well, and we often bear the brunt of their displeasure.
Most good men never see the extent of what we deal with because these asshole men often don’t act this way when we have male friends or partners with us. They respect other men and see us as your “property”, so they usually leave us alone when we’re with you. This is why I’ll wear more revealing clothing if I’m with a group of friends, but I wear leggings under my mini skirt and cover up my cleavage when I’m alone at night or in sketchier parts of town. This is not done out of modesty, but out of concern for my safety and to avoid unwanted attention.
This is also why many women will wear a fake wedding ring or say they have a boyfriend- often the easiest way to get a man to stop making unwanted advances is to say that we already “belong” to another man. They won’t respect us, but they don’t want to deal with another man. The man who assaulted me wouldn’t stop texting me afterwards, wanting to do it again. I was too scared to tell him I didn’t have a good time, he knew where I lived and I was in a very rural area alone most nights, so I felt safest telling him that I’d started dating someone and wasn’t looking for casual sex anymore. But even that didn’t stop him indefinitely. I blocked him and made a new OkCupid profile, but he found it a month after and assumed I was no longer dating the guy, and he texted me again. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I got rude with him, and I only felt safe doing that because I was moving to Vancouver and he didn’t know where I’d be living. I literally had to move to another country and change my phone number before I felt safe from him.
The men in my life also didn’t see the creepy advances I received online from middle aged men when I was barely 14, or the way older guys looked at me when I was even younger. We are prey to them- and not in a fun BDSM primal play kind of way. They want to possess us whether we’re willing or not, whether we’re adults or children. Women learn to watch for dangerous men from a very early age.
I love men, don’t get me wrong. I trust certain men very deeply. There are countless wonderful men who are unfortunately negatively impacted by the actions of other unscrupulous men. But I can’t help how I’ve been treated, or how society currently treats women. Good men and mistreated women are both affected by this patriarchal rape culture fuckery. If you’re a good man, you’ll have a lot of extra hurdles to overcome when seeking a woman. It’s not your fault how women are treated by other men, but please don’t blame us for how we have learned to protect ourselves. As frustrating as this is for you, it’s far worse for us. I don’t like being mistrusting of people, but I also have to be safe. For me to trust you, I have to see that you are safe. A random message on the internet or a brief conversation in person doesn’t even come close to proving that you are a good guy and not a bad guy.