And I feel I need to say something out loud, in writing, where it cannot be ignored or overlooked and where people cannot tell me it doesn’t exist. And the fact that I feel the need to protect my reality in that way is a symptom of the problem I wish to discuss.
I need to make myself clear about something. I hold certain expectations of the world I participate in, so let me share them via examples of personal experience.
Here’s a generic summary of societal problems that should not be tolerated behaviors and yet for some reason I have learned very much are accepted.
Something that is not okay: a man telling a woman that if she doesn’t sleep with him, he will do something that he knows will hurt her.
Something that is not okay: a man putting a woman in a position where if she doesn’t sleep with him, he will do something that hurts her friends or family.
Something that is not okay: a man telling a woman that because she won’t sleep with him, all other efforts she makes at showing friendship are invalid.
Something that is not okay: a man trying to isolate a woman or keep her friends from her because she insists she is his friend and not interested in dating him. This includes manipulative behaviors, such as getting angry at her for holding a different opinion than him, using other people’s opinions against her as though she said them, telling her friends she did or said things that didn’t happen or taking things that did happen out of context and spinning them so that she looks like an untrustworthy villain. Because she won’t sleep with him.
Something that is not okay: a man pretending to be a woman’s friend, showing real interest in her, and then getting mad at her for believing him and acting as though he is actually her friend.
Something that is not okay: when a women goes to a man in an effort to be treated fairly and not pushed away from her friends because she wants friends and not lovers, and the man participates in the conversation and agrees with her, and then pretends the conversation never happened. Or worse, is mad at her for her having attempted to communicate in the first place.
Something that is not okay: a man physically locking a woman in his house in order to tell her that he is the best thing for her and her friends aren’t really her friends. Because he wants to sleep with her and she doesn’t return that.
Something that is not okay: making a woman feel bad for relying on her friends when she says these things have happened to her and that she wants help figuring out how to stop it.
Something that is not okay: accusing a woman of being the source of “drama” for not wanting to accept being treated as a sexualized object by people she thought were friends. That is a passive effort to belittle and invalidate and silence the impact of her experiences.
Something that is not okay: a woman being trapped in a cycle where these things happen, involving different people, repeatedly, over the course of a single year, with no one putting a stop to it.
Note: Genders are specified here for illustration purposes, but it is the behavior that is the problem and not the gender. These are behaviors that women inflict on men, women inflict these on other women, and men also inflict these behaviors on other men. And it is not okay.
But it has become so normalized that it exists silently in friend groups and is never addressed, the responsible parties are not held to their actions, they don’t admit to them, and they go on to repeat these behaviors as though it is an acceptable personality trait.
In my belief, it is not an acceptable personality trait. It is something I have and will continue to point out and act against when I see it happen to others or when it happens to me. I have learned that these cause damage to people and to friendships.
Communication is important, in friendships or in romantic relationships. When someone communicates intentions or grievances, please listen to them. RESPECT your fellow human, regardless of relationship to them. Not just because you are a “good person,” but because it is vital to community, to the way the human world works; we need functional human beings to function a society and I would argue that disrespect is the key element to all breakdowns in community. Or do it out of simple selfishness: if you are respectful of others then they have no cause to be disrespectful to you and your every interaction with them goes more smoothly and quickly. Save yourself the stress, if nothing else.
Respect others. Call out disrespect. Don’t tolerate it or encourage it. Listen to people when they try to express themselves and be clear on your own messages. If you don’t like someone, if you can’t respect them, then for godssakes be frank about it and don’t waste anyone’s time. Move on with your life and let them move on with theirs. But don’t manipulate, abuse, gaslight, or otherwise harm each other. People are too important to each other to damage ourselves with these kinds of hurtful habits.