My boundary lines have been stepped on and crushed into oblivion so many times that I have built them into walls. The only way to get across how non-negotiable my boundaries are seems to be to let men run into them. Typically, they ignore my stating my boundaries, my warnings when I feel uncomfortable. They ignore every clear statement that they exist, seeming convinced that they alone hold some magic power that will force my boundaries to crumble before their greatness. They want to hold the key to my heart, so therefore in their addled mind my boundaries don’t apply to them.
Let’s take this example from a Tinder date I went on a while back:
I got home from a Tinder first date that involved watching our mutual childhood favorite musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, at his place, only to find text messages about how turned on he was and how hard his penis was. And I wasn’t happy about it.
Me: I mean, it was fun kissing you. Really fun. But trust me, if I wanted to know the current state of your penis I’d ask.
Him: Oh don’t be like that
Me: What, having boundaries?
Him: No, just don’t be so shy
Me: That’s not being shy
Him: Well sorry I’m so open thought you’d like it
So here he’s positioned the situation not as I have boundaries and he’s broaching them, but rather that he’s open and I’m by comparison closed. Open is deemed superior, and I’m somehow inhibited, and it’s up to him to open me up and get me to not “be like that.”
Let me make this very clear: The least inhibited thing you can do is to respect and name your own boundaries. That is the ultimate way to honor yourself as a sexual being.
When I say I don’t want to hear about your penis, I mean it. That doesn’t mean I’m shy or sexually inhibited. It means I don’t want to hear about your penis. I had had a nice evening. There was some hand holding, a little bit of kissing. I moved his hand a few times when it roved to places I didn’t want it to go. But all in all, a nice time.
However, I wasn’t at a place where I wanted to know about his arousal.
If I’m not at a place where I’m comfortable talking about intimate things with you, then pressing me to do so is only going to make me more uncomfortable. Attempting to manipulate me into doing so shows a total disregard for my feelings and my needs in light of your own desires and priorities. He did this several times, not seeming to realize that it wasn’t complimentary that he felt the need to tell me how turned on I make him but rather threatening that he cared so little about my boundaries in conversation. If he’s this dismissive via text, how bad did this have the potential to get in person if I went on a second date with him?
I should’ve realized this before this first date. When I had asked him if I should dress nicely or more casually, and he said t-shirt and panties.
I replied: You get that I’m not coming over to sleep with you right?
Him: Yes I know you’re not coming to spend the night or sleep with me if that’s what you meant
Him: I’m actually a good dude, you’ll see
Him: You mean seven brides for seven brothers isn’t a hint for sex? Lol
Me: You mean comments about my panties aren’t hints for sex?
Him: Was a joke! Sorry thought you saw it that way
Me: I get that you’re kidding, but when it’s someone you don’t know, it comes across as kind of like you have expectations or particular intentions but are trying to mitigate them with humor
Him: I get that and sorry, promise no expectations or intentions or plans other than watching a musical that I’ve known since I was like 7
I find it intimidating when someone assumes, or even implies, that I’m going to sleep with them. Suddenly a date is less about enjoying getting to know someone and seeing what happens and more about worrying if I’m sending the wrong signals, even if I’ve clearly spelled out my intentions for the evening, or how I’ll respond if and when he makes me uncomfortable again. I stop getting to function as a human being and become a sex object trying to regain her humanity.
If you care more about me as a sex object than you do about me as a person who needs to feel heard, to feel safe, then you’re not a good guy. Too often in my experience, when I call a guy out for objectifying me or making sexual jokes or comments that make me uncomfortable, the default comment is “but I’m a good guy.”
The “Good guy” identifier is an excuse to say whatever and then defend their delusions of what it means to be respectful using a self-applied label of who they think they “actually” are. “Good guy”-ness gets treated like a get out of jail free card. It’s a way of telling women that because I’m a good guy, I can lay claim to your body, objectify you, and make you uncomfortable, because I can’t envision myself as anything otherwise. Anything you confront me with that substantiates the opposite will fall on deaf ears, because I’ve decided I’m a Good Guy.
Being an actual good guy is more than “well, I’m not going to try to rape you. I’m not going to kill you, hit you, or drug you.” It is respecting someone else’s boundaries. It is making the effort to clarify those boundaries if you don’t understand them. It is consensual conversation, not only consensual actions.
I frequently find myself with the burden of deescalating the situation, of convincing someone that sexualizing me isn’t ok. Genuinely good guys don’t do that.
Real good guys don’t need to tell you they’re good. They establish their credibility over time. They build trust and understand that that takes a while. They become good guys in your eyes because they have been good to you, without expecting anything other than respect in turn.
Honestly, this is one of the hardest lessons Tinder has taught me: in my relationships and interactions, no one can advocate for me but me. As much as I can moan to my roommates and friends about frustrating conversations and they may commiserate, it’s up to me to stand up for my boundaries and champion myself. And sometimes, there’s only so much I can do. Sometimes you just have to walk away and know your own happiness and well-being are more important than someone you barely know.
Here’s to the real good guys. I’m glad you’re out there.