In a recent subreddit, women commiserated over the all-too-common experience of having to use the excuse of having a boyfriend when telling a guy they are not interested.
"I hate having to turn down a guy by telling him a have a boyfriend. It makes it sound like I'd consider it if I didn't have a boyfriend," the start of the thread reads.
The exchange usually goes something like this: A man will be hitting on a woman or asking her out, and the woman will answer that she is not interested. Instead of respecting her right to act independently and make her own choices, the man will insist and badger her, thinking that this will change her answer. "I have a boyfriend," the woman says, in the hopes that this will serve as a more final answer.
Unfortunately, it usually does. Why? Because some men don't believe in a woman's own agency to say no simply because she isn't interested. Rather, she has to in some way belong to another man in order for him not to be able to have her himself.
This is super messed up and toxic masculinity at its finest.
One woman recounted a time where a neighbor asked her out while at the supermarket. Instead of using the fake boyfriend excuse, she was honest and told him she wasn't interested. "He would NOT take no for an answer," she wrote, going on to say that he even begged at one time. Eventually, he followed her home to her apartment. Not just into the building, but onto her floor.
Another woman shared an experience she had with someone senior to her at her work. After repeatedly failing to get the result he wanted at work and work events, he began showing up at her apartment. It wasn't until her actual boyfriend stepped in (when her co-worker tried to forcibly enter her apartment!) that he finally got the hint. "Creepo," as she called him, "never spoke to me again or made eye contact with me the rest of the short time I worked there," she said.
Many women expressed that they often didn't feel safe to just say no for fear that the man would become angry and retaliate with violence. Some commentors described it as a type of risk management. Sure, not all men will become dangerous or try to follow you home if you reject them, but why take that chance? Some men joined in on the conversation, sharing their stories of when they have been the "fake boyfriend" for friends and even for women they didn't know in order to help them get away from a persistent guy.
College Humor created a poignant and humorous video which was an infommercial for an inflatable, fake boyfriend. "Do men treat you like an object? Let them know that this object is taken with Blow Up Boyfriend," the video begins. "Because the only thing creepy dudes respect is other dudes."
One Reddit user postulated that this behavior comes from the outdated idea that women are "playing hard to get" and that men should try to "win her over" because they see it as a challenge and not another person expressing their right to say no and mean it.
The fact of the matter is, it isn't okay and it never has been or will be. Women shouldn't have to conduct a quick mental risk analysis every time they don't feel like going on a date. Everyone has the right to say no and for their answer to be respected.
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