Originally posted on tumblr here on July 21, 2014.
When the #yesallwomen hashtag was going around, I 100% agreed with everything women were saying…but I also had a sense of feeling left out, because although I have been taken advantage of emotionally by men, I haven’t been treated like a sexual being all that much. My friends are always shocked to learn that I’ve never been cat called – to that I say to them that I have the body of a 12 year old boy.
But this past weekend it was like everything about #yesallwomen coming true at once. I don’t feel left out any more. It’s true – yes. ALL women. Even me.
Some of my friends and I went out to a bar/club (I seriously don’t even know what it was trying to be), and of course, these never attract the best guys. Nearly every single guy in a club suddenly transforms into a douchebag, even if they’re sweet and loving the rest of the time. There’s always at least one dude grabbing at me. This dude usually gets elbowed in the face. I am sorry about that, it’s just a reflex. Why is it a reflex?
Because I feel threatened when strange men touch me. I feel threatened when strange PEOPLE touch me, let alone men. I usually don’t see them coming, either. I know that most girls don’t have this reflex – I don’t know why, maybe I’m more sensitive or less used to it. But it shouldn’t matter. Some girls might be okay with being touched, and in fact lots are, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask first.
I’m trying to tone down my rage in general (again) and suppress this instinct, so on Friday, the first time a guy put his arm around me, I said calmly, “Please don’t touch me.” He immediately got offended and proceeded to ask me why about 5 times, becoming increasingly angry, wondering what my problem with him was. I kept repeating myself until finally I snapped, “I don’t need a reason. Don’t touch me.” He backed away slightly, muttering something about how bitches be trippin or whatever. Obviously, if I’m not all over him I must be crazy.
Since that didn’t go well, for the rest of the night I resumed my non-strategy of nearly elbowing dudes in the face. At least they get away from me faster.
Over the course of the night one guy came up to me about 3 different times. The first time he asked me to dance, which I appreciated, but I said no. I had to say it a few times, because for some reason, guys assume that you’ve like, made a mistake the first time? I don’t get it. A while later, someone grabbed me around the waist from behind and dragged me a few feet away on the dance floor. Yes, dragged. This isn’t that hard to accomplish because I’m 100 pounds and I was in heels, but even so. I turned around and it was the same guy. This time I didn’t hesitate to struggle until he let me go and my roommate pulled me away. “Did you just get manhandled?” she said. Yes, that would be an understatement. I was literally dragged around like an object, as if someone was moving a chair or something.
Finally, it was last call, the lights came on, and I was waiting with two of my friends near the bar for the rest of the group. The same guy came up to me. “Yo, why are you so shy?” he said, putting his arm around me again.
Exasperated, I shrugged him off and said, “I’m not, and I don’t need to justify my behaviour to you.”
He continued to say something to me, but I don’t remember what it was. This got my friends’ attention, and they told him to move along because I wasn’t interested. Just to clarify, they asked me: “Are you interested?”
I scoffed a little. “No, how is that not clear by now?”
“Aw come on, why you being like this? I’m a nice guy!” he said.
Oh, honey. Bad move. I couldn’t keep myself from laughing just a little as he said that.
“You’re a nice guy? You’re a NICE GUY?”
“Oh, I’m a nice girl! I’m such a nice girl, why aren’t you interested?”
Both of my friends chimed in, gently mocking him but also trying to make a point. Being nice doesn’t entitle you to anything, and that line sure wouldn’t work on you.
He then proceeded to start yelling at them – I’m not even sure what, because as soon as someone starts yelling I kind of tune them out and go into my own little world. Myself, I can be pretty verbally aggressive in conflicts but I rarely yell. Not on purpose, I just don’t like it.
Way to prove our point – any guy who yells at women is not a nice guy. One could argue that they provoked him, but he should have walked away already. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I said no already, multiple times. And really, all it takes is one little comment for you to lose your shit, with people you only just met? I shudder to think how he would act in an actual relationship with much larger problems.
They were forced to apologize in order to get him to calm down and leave, because they felt threatened. I did too, but I also know that I’m capable of injuring and escaping from angry men, thanks to having a relatively angry brother who is also a black belt in taekwando. (Side note – my parents said that it was for self defense. The only time he’s ever used those skills is on me. Thanks, parents.)
I very much wish that my lone male friend was there to protect me. Not physically – like I said, I felt relatively confident in that area, and there was still security around. But if he was present and near enough to me, I wouldn’t be touched. Guys generally respect other guys’ “territory”.
But although it wasn’t a great night, we left, and everything was fine. We were approached by some heavily intoxicated guys outside, but aside from that we peacefully carried on our way and then had a nice gossip session in McDonalds. (There is nothing better than 3am McDonalds. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.)
Everything is fine, and now it’s just a good story, but it shouldn’t have happened. The good story that I tell should be one about me having fun with my friends, which is what I wanted to be doing. Even the story about the first time I went clubbing, when my friend dropped her glass on my foot and then I looked down and there was suddenly blood everywhere, is better than this story.
It’s not “harmless”. I may be fine but you can bet that I’m never going back to that bar again, and I’m going to be a lot more cautious the next time I go out. I’m probably going to bring a guy with me, or at least mandate that at least one of my friends stay by my side the entire time.
Like I said, lots of girls in these situations love it when guys come up to them. For many, that’s the reason they go. But I am not one of them, and I’m not the only one. You never know who you’re dealing with. Things like that are triggering to some people. It’s triggering for me; I can only imagine how a person who’s been abused might feel.
I’m not saying to never approach women (or men). I do find it flattering when someone asks me to dance, and I actually came with the intention of doing so, at least once just to try it. There was someone who I thought might be a good candidate – he chatted with me for a bit about Beyonce, which I appreciated. But by that point in the evening I was so nervous that I was nearly shaking. So I’m not saying don’t try. Even I won’t always say no, now that I’m unattached. Please just ask. Ask, and don’t get upset if they say no. Just because a girl is at a club and in front of you doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to anything. And don’t take it personally. Sometimes it’s not even you – maybe you’re doing everything right, but I’m not in the mood for whatever reason.
I found out later that someone had asked one of my friends what was wrong with us. When she asked him to clarify, he said that we were sending mixed signals – we were so beautiful, but yet so unapproachable. He was mostly talking about me. If I was there, I would have told him that we’re not unapproachable, we’re just being approached in the wrong way. And being beautiful isn’t actually sending ANY signals. Even if we were unapproachable, it’s not our job to be. There is nothing wrong with us. There is nothing wrong with me.
I’m not shy.
I’m not sending mixed signals.
I’m not unapproachable.
I’m just not interested in you.
I’m not comfortable.
And that’s okay. You’d better be okay with it, because I am, and if you’re not, well. You’re probably going to get elbowed in the face. And I’m not all that sorry any more.
Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 22 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate.