I'll "hit that"... with my car!
August 3, 2013 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Lately (very suddenly!) I've been experiencing what I can only describe as sexual harassment in my day-to-day life. The most recent incident has left me feeling very unsettled and I'm not sure how to handle these kinds of situations in the future.

I'm a female in my early twenties, petite and decent-looking (I also happen to look much younger than my age to a lot of people). I don't dress provocatively and typically am in a hurry when I'm in public so I try not to appear too approachable. If someone does approach me I am friendly but I don't see myself as being flirtatious in any way. I feel incredibly awkward when someone makes derogatory sexual comments towards me so I can never think of a response that is firm but won't escalate the situation. I also am coping with fairly significant anxiety so this is a factor in my difficulty dealing with this.

A good example of the type of situation I need help handling is what happened last night. I was at my local Subway restaurant grabbing some dinner before heading into work (I work a night shift desk clerk position at a hotel). I walked in and was waiting in line when I heard a man trying to get my attention using terms of endearment ("sweetheart", "darlin'"). I turned around and he told me I left my lights on. I thanked him, he told me I had a "nice ride", I thanked him again (briskly) and went about ordering my food. As I was leaving, he was leaving as well and began asking me about my car (I drive a noticeable car and I'm used to questions and comments). I was pleasant but not overly friendly as I was in a hurry to get to work. As I pulled out to leave, he did as well and sped up to get directly behind me. I pulled into the right turning lane of the parking lot, and he pulled into the left, far enough up to completely block me from seeing oncoming traffic. He began yelling out his window at me, asking me to follow him somewhere so he could "hit that". He repeated himself a few times, telling me that he would pay me my losses from work if I wouldn't go and would follow him (I tried to use work as an excuse after a "no thank you" didn't work). I finally had to pull blindly into traffic to get away from him.

This type of situation happens to me fairly frequently both in person and online and I really just need some type of phrase to remember to politely deal with men like this. I've tried everything I can think of from a simple "no thanks" to telling them I'm married. I deal with this at work as well (I've been asked to visit hotel rooms, etc) so I need something that is customer-service appropriate. I know that this is just a thing that happens but it always leaves me feeling like worthless trash, especially when I just end up smiling and being as nice as I can be because I don't know what else to do. Thanks in advance for any and all advice!
posted by sarahgrace to Human Relations (71 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, you are not the one who is worthless trash in this situation.

I think you are being too nice, though. Who cares about offending these people? Say, "Please leave me alone," and if they don't, get out your cell phone and say, "You are freaking me out and if you don't leave me alone I will call 911 right now." This behavior is intimidating and scary and you don't have to act otherwise.
posted by something something at 7:59 AM on August 3, 2013 [34 favorites]

Don't say no thanks. You aren't thanking them. You shouldn't give any impression that you are thanking them. That's all I got.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:00 AM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Stop engaging them. You do not owe polite discourse to anyone. Yeah, the world would be a better place if everyone was polite to strangers on the street, but right now your personal safety is way more important than making sure some skeezebag doesn't get his feelings hurt.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:02 AM on August 3, 2013 [32 favorites]

Here's what's not significant: how you look, how you dress, how old you are, how you act. He's an asshole. (Does he really think anyone is going respond positively to this offensive come-on? Delusional.)

Drop the Please--"Leave me alone!" "I'm calling the police." And so on.

Comments about your car aren't in themselves all that bad, but that's up to you as to how much you want to engage.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:02 AM on August 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

Oh, and to answer your question about work-stating a customer is being inappropriate is customer service approved, and gets the point across. If someone propositions you, give them a hard, blank stare and simply state "That's inappropriate" and then continue on about your business that doesn't involve them.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

You might look like you're in a hurry, but I've found that cultivating a "street face" is the best way to avoid these encounters. Just walk around looking mean, and if someone yells something at you, show no reaction. It's exhausting having to keep the possibility of harassment in your mind all the time, and it's unfair that you are the one who has to adjust your behavior when they're the ones who suck, but it can help to look completely unapproachable.

In a situation like the one you were in with that guy, who was actually putting you in danger by following you with his car, I would have picked up my phone and told him I was calling the cops. That would be a reasonable thing to do--but getting away as fast as possible was very smart, too.

I'm sorry this happens to you. I've found it to be one of the things that gets less frequent as you get older, if that helps!
posted by chaiminda at 8:08 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your fear of escalating is allowing these creeps to walk all over you. I live in a city where guys feel it's their god-given right to talk up any girl that walks by.

The first thing I do is ignore. If it's someone you have to interact with, a brief icy glare is a good substitute. You can get across to people that you won't tolerate their BS without being rude about it. Icy glare, comment that shuts them down. "That's inappropriate" is good for starters. If it doesn't work, "You have the wrong idea. I'm not that kind of girl."

In my daily life, there are sometimes guys who I can't ignore (maybe I'm waiting for a light to change before crossing the street)... my script is like this:

him: "hey, sweetheart, hey darling, come on princess, you just gonna ignore me..."
me: "I'm not your sweetheart and I don't appreciate being talked to like that."
him: "Well I don't know your name, so I have to call you sweetheart."
me: "You don't know my name because we're strangers. I'd like more respect from a stranger."

This has worked a few times when I'm in a public place and judge that the guy is rude, but not aggressive. It gets my point across and helps me feel like I'm not silently allowing the harassment to continue. I would never, ever, ever confront someone who seemed the slightest bit like they'd have the opportunity and impulse to actually follow me or harm me in any way.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yes, when not at work, just don't engage- you don't need to acknowledge these men and it will just prolong the interaction or potentially escalate it.

When you're at work, I second FirstMateKate's suggestion. Say- no that's inappropriate- no smile, with eye contact, then quickly shift back to concluding the transaction with the customer in your normal customer service demeanor.
posted by abirdinthehand at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I really just need some type of phrase to remember to politely deal with men like this.

Agreeing with the others above - despite the fact that many of us are raised to be polite and not make a scene, you have no obligation to do so, especially in situations like these.

Start by ignoring anything that goes beyond very basic chit chat. You might get called a bitch but what does it matter that someone you'll never see again doesn't like you?

In the situation you described, you really should have told him you were calling the police, and then done so (although I also recognize that things may have unfolded too fast).

Let go of the fear of being judged by these jerks, and respond in-kind. Tell them forcefully to get lost or go away - people like this target those women who they think will let them get away with it in order not to make a scene.
posted by scrute at 8:14 AM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

This used to happen to me pretty often when I lived in New York and was on public transit all the time. I remember once this dude propositioned me at 7 in the morning, after telling me about how he was on the way home from the hospital after getting a concussion in a fight.

My approach was just to ignore, unless it got actively dangerous. On public transit, I would suddenly become VERY interested in my book. If this happened to me today in a driving context or while waiting in line for food or somewhere like that, I would probably become VERY fixated on some other thing.

Just yesterday a much milder version of this happened to me in a bookstore, when some dude tried to hit on me with the worst/weirdest/most nonsensical pickup line ever. I just looked at him in a bewildered manner and went back to the book I was looking at.

As for at work, with work being the front desk of a hotel at night, that's way above my pay grade. Though I think advice upthread is good.
posted by Sara C. at 8:19 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wear headphones at all times in the city. I can still hear everything, but it allows me to simply ignore comments without escalating the situation.
But I agree that any politeness in this situation is counter productive. Harassers are already breaking the social contract, and if you respond to their boundary pushing with anything that is a tiny bit polite you will get additional harassment. It's like dealing with a surprise short-term stalker. I find that flipping off people on the street works well, as it is impersonal and a low level engagement on my part.
posted by velebita at 8:21 AM on August 3, 2013

Don't respond, at all, if you're not at work. If they keep pestering you, be mean. "Leave me alone!" Threaten to scream or call the police. Go into a store or to a security guard and say "there's a strange man following me, please help me". Be rude.

If you're at work, "excuse me?", sounding completely unimpressed and unafraid. Then just carry on with whatever you were saying or doing. If they don't drop it, "don't talk to me like that". If you are being sexually harassed by a customer, you are not obligated to be nice to them.

Don't smile at these creeps. They see it as acceptance, not politeness.
posted by windykites at 8:21 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

To be honest, a wedding ring cuts way down on this stuff-- especially for your work situation. For a night shift in a hotel I would seriously consider picking up a fake one to cut down on the aggro, they're not too expensive. For a lot of these sorts of guys only 'proof' you're already taken by some other man counts as dissuasion, I guarantee you many of them are glancing at your ring hand before engaging. If customers persist, FirstMateKate's script is great, complete blank non-engagement, "Have a nice stay with us, gby". I hope you have the police on speed-dial. :(

With the strangers situation, seconding do not engage-- the 'hard blank stare' and "leave me alone", repeated until "I'm calling the police" seems needed. Inventing excuses will only turn it into a game for these creeps. Don't feel any more need to be polite than you would be with a pickpocket or a con artist.

Very sorry you have to go through this. It does fade with time, you're probably in your peak jerk-magnet stage.
posted by Erasmouse at 8:22 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

These are my go-to phrases when I'm feeling charitable:

"Not interested."
"Knock it off."
"Be cool, or I'm calling the cops."

(When I'm feeling less charitable, I'm much tougher and funnier, and throw a lot of body English into the mix, but I'm a verbal streetfighter by nature, so I don't necessarily recommend that approach.)

For the on-the-job situations, I agree with the "That's not appropriate" approach. You should also feel free to discuss this with your supervisor. I would want to know if my staff were experiencing this type of problem so I could help them and have their back.

And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but: learning to handle and deflect this type of over-the-top aggressive attention is probably a skill you'll need for many years to come. I'm long past my 20s, and it's still a frequent occurrence. It's not you -- it's the culture we live in. Try not to internalize it.
posted by nacho fries at 8:26 AM on August 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yeah, this sucks and it's not your fault. Most young women have to figure out some way to negotiate their way through this minefield - lucky us!- and there is no one right answer. I'm with all the people who suggest doing your damnedest not to talk instead of memorizing a phrase, but I will say that - as opposed to an icy, angry glare, I find it easier to adopt a vague, faraway expression, and to refuse to make eye contact whatever the cost. I just cultivate the mindset that this kind of harassment is the background noise of the city, and has nothing to do with me, so it's not on me to respond in any way. At the very, very most, I will sort of vaguely shake my head, as though a bee is buzzing around my ear. Headphones help.

If I were a very different person, I might adopt the strategy of my close friend, who, when bothered by a group of rowdy twenty-something men on the subway, stood up, went over to them, and said, loudly but kindly, "Listen. As a woman, when you surround me and talk to me like that, it scares me. I know you're probably good people and it's not what you intend, so I just want to let you know: what you are doing is upsetting and scary. Please stop." And they all apologized and she got off the train.

There is also this website: stop street harassment which, in addition for offering more strategies for dealing with this problem, and also includes a 'report' function, which in some ways I have mixed feelings about, but which might work for you.

As far as the work issue, my only thought is that you ought to have management on your side in this, and that getting the pre-arranged okay to respond to anything appropriate with a frosty, "Please, speak to my supervisor," might help with that.

Good luck!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:29 AM on August 3, 2013

You don't need to be polite.

And I don't know if this will be helpful or not, but in my experience, there's nothing you can do to keep things from escalating if the guy wants to escalate it. Being nice when telling him to leave you alone is not the silver bullet. Neither is telling him to fuck off. Neither is "I'm married." Etc. Some things will work sometimes with some guys and won't work at other times.

Try to keep in mind that none of this is actually about you as a person. They don't even necessarily see you as a real person; they are acting out and projecting their own dysfunction. Who you are is irrelevant to them.

When I was in my early/mid 20s and this kind of shit happened to me a lot, I mostly used Stone Face No Eye Contact, but if they guy was persistent I usually went with Fuck Off. A couple times a kind of steely smile and "My mother taught me to never talk to strangers," sort of worked.

Please remember that you are not the bad person here. You are not trash or wrong. They are wrong for doing this. And you don't owe anyone who acts like that your time or politeness or niceness. It's okay to be angry, and it's okay to let that show, and it's okay to manage these encounters in whatever way you can that keeps you safe and sane.
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on August 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Agree with everything that's been stated. Would like to add that after you've given someone a firm reply that cuts off further conversation, you should be prepared to hear something nasty back.

In response to your, "Leave me alone," "I'm not interested in talking to you," "Go away now, before I call the police," "Stop bothering me," "Don't harass me," "I don't talk to rude and disrespectful people," etc..., you're likely to hear things like "bitch," "twat," "cunt," etc...

You don't have to respond, but you do mention feeling a lot of anxiety about such situations, so should start mentally preparing yourself to tune that kind of garbage out and develop a thick skin.
posted by brookeb at 8:30 AM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

None of this is your fault, and people can be crazy. This specific encounter is pretty scary, but that's not to say a majority of women haven't encountered similar at some time. I once had a man try to physically pull me off the subway train at his stop.

I think a couple things would help you out, however, in lowering the frequency of these encounters and in dealing with this type of inappropriate behavior in the future.

First - is there a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class or something similar offered in your area? I strongly suggest you make the time to go. They teach physical defense skills which will make you more confident in terms of holding your ground (which actually ends up making physical confrontations less likely) and also cover some verbal defense skills (which not only teaches you those skills, but also gives you permission to verbally defend yourself). They are usually subsidized classes that don't cost much at all ($20 for five classes was the cost of mine, and I saw the register lady give a couple women a discount when it became clear that the cost was burdensome to them).

Second - practice not smiling and not pretending the crazy is being a polite citizen. Seriously, it will take practice. It isn't something that you can probably pull out in a stressful situation unless you try it out a lot both by yourself and with a role-playing friend. Women are typically socialized their entire lives to smile and be nice and allow others to invade their boundaries for the others' pleasure, and it takes some practice to enforce your boundaries.

Third - at work, I would stop giving any justification, and just go with a "no" or "won't be possible." Not cheerfully, not angrily, not "I've got a husband" obstacles that they need to try to get around - just one short set response that isn't rude but isn't "nice" either and that you just repeat looking gradually more annoyed if the questions continue. If they ask more than three times, I'd probably ask in a kind of concerned way if they wanted to discuss their question with a manager (as long as I had a manager who wouldn't mind the very tiny possibility they'd take me up on it). Because anyone who would actually say yes to that question would be so crazy I'd want another person on backup dealing with them anyway.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:31 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Thank you for all the responses! Not to threadsit, but I just wanted to clear up that the reason I would like to try to be polite or at least non-confrontational is that I live alone in a very, very small town (population ~2000) in a rural area in the south. Most everyone knows each other in some indirect way and people talk and I know people who have had their lives and reputations ruined by gossip. My car is the only one like it for miles around so if I make someone mad it would be incredibly easy to find me at work or at home (I live on a heavily travelled local road - some workers who were staying at the hotel actually yelled to me across the parking lot to tell me they saw me in my yard) and harass me further or worse. I've talked to my boss about all this and he really has no advice except to start carrying a weapon. I'll probably try to not engage in the future.
posted by sarahgrace at 8:34 AM on August 3, 2013

A silent, steely stare just past them works wonders. Don't engage, don't smile.
posted by shazzam! at 8:36 AM on August 3, 2013

With regard to that awful person who followed you from Subway ...

He repeated himself a few times, telling me that he would pay me my losses from work if I wouldn't go and would follow him (I tried to use work as an excuse after a "no thank you" didn't work). I finally had to pull blindly into traffic to get away from him.

I think it's a huge mistake when dealing with cretins making requests like that to use ANY "excuse." To say "no you can't hit this because I've got to get back to work" is implying that if it were your day off, he could hit it. I really think steeling yourself to make unconditional, no-excuse refusals -- or flat-out ignoring these people -- is your best bet.

A lot of human beings, the types who are doing these things to you, are little better than wild animals in my view and to the extent that you have to deal with them, they need to be viewed as predators and not people. Your goal is to get away no matter what ... Not to reason or bargain with them.
posted by Unified Theory at 8:45 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know if this would work for you but I am a Christian and back in the day I found that starting to talk about Jesus worked really really well. ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:46 AM on August 3, 2013 [48 favorites]

Nthing everything I favorited above, also take their picture and send it to hollaback.
No headphones; I've read of cretins who yank them off in order to get attention.
posted by brujita at 8:53 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most everyone knows each other in some indirect way and people talk and I know people who have had their lives and reputations ruined by gossip.

I grew up in a small town, though not quite as small as what you mention, and the ignore/freezeout advice still totally works for this.

Look, a dude telling you to blow off work and follow him home for sex knows he's being a dick. He knows no reasonable person does that. If he holds a grudge and spreads shit about you all over town, there's really nothing you can do to control that. I mean, what, are you going to sleep with every guy who propositions you out of fear that they'll make life harder for you if you don't?

You can be firm and clear without being an asshole. Ignoring or playing dumb is probably the best policy for this. I developed that tactic after growing up in a small conservative town, myself. If it escalates to the point that you can't ignore it, a civil yet firm "no" or "that won't be possible" is absolutely within bounds for small conservative southern town etiquette.

If you feel truly threatened, please keep in mind that, even as a young single woman who is a relative outsider around town, law enforcement is always an option.
posted by Sara C. at 8:55 AM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I took a self-defense class a few years ago, and the most challenging (and valuable) thing I practiced in that class was how to firmly, verbally communicate, "Back off. Go away. Leave me alone," in a context where the aggressive guy hadn't said anything offensive but I just didn't want to talk to him.

Our culture (generally) sets the expectation that women will be docile, accepting, friendly, and accommodating right up until someone threatens their physical safety. Then, but no sooner, it's socially acceptable to be confrontational and direct ("Get your hands off me!"). It is hard to think of verbally defending yourself against verbal harassment as appropriate and not overreacting.

I get that you want to be strategic because of where you live and what will keep you feeling safe. I'm not going to point to any specific moment in the interaction you described where you did the "wrong" thing. You should be able to have a casual conversation with someone in line at Subway without that person following your car and asking you for sex. However, a good strategy might be to be wary of anyone who calls you "Sweetheart," etc. and to follow this type of script:

Dude: Hey, sweetheart--darlin? darlin?
You: (no smile) Me?
Dude: Yeah, hey honey--your lights are on.
You: Thanks. I'll take care of it.
Dude: Nice ride, by the way.
You: Thanks.
Dude: What year is it?
You: (disinterested but stuck standing next to him) '65.
Dude: Where'd you get it?
You: (disinterested) It was my dad's/Craigslist/[whatever]. (turn) 6-inch turkey on white, please. (finish ordering)
Dude: (follows you out) So, is this a custom paint job?
You: (no smile) Gotta go.
Dude: (follows you in his car) Why don't you follow me somewhere I can hit that?
You: (loudly) You're making me uncomfortable. (roll up your window and look away)
Dude: Oh come on, don't be such a bitch.
You: (ignore, lock your doors, and wait until it's safe to go in terms of traffic, call the police if the guy does anything more aggressive either with his car, his body, or his language)

It would be perfectly fine, at any point in this interaction to say, "I'm not interested in talking." But since you asked for options that aren't quite so direct, this would be my suggestion. Respond briskly and unsmilingly to questions (and it's always fine to say, "That's a bit personal," or "I don't feel like talking about that," if someone takes the conversation in a direction you don't want to go, but which is not overtly inappropriate, such as "Where do you go to school?" or "Do you live near here?"). If someone says something overtly inappropriate, or even just persists in talking to you after you've said you're leaving or that you're not interesting in chatting, then it's absolutely fine to say, "You're making me uncomfortable, so back off" in a loud, firm voice. You're not accusing him of anything, you're not threatening him, and you're not freaking out. Someone who would follow that up with finding out where you live and further bothering you is dangerous, and you should involve the police at that point.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:01 AM on August 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Stop being polite to them out of work. In the situation you mentioned I'd have said thanks for telling me my lights were on and then one word answers after that. "Sweet Ride." "Hmmhmm",don't make eye contact, study the menu board like it holds the meaning of life and refuse to make any sort of connection. Ignore, Ignore, Ignore. If they start hassling you for not responding, then a "I know you aren't talking to me like that." can work wonders. My very pretty SIL uses that one a lot and it works.

Now the situation at the traffic light would have made me yell "Fuck Off douche." and flip them the bird, and I used to live in a small town. Of course that's not exactly a witty comeback. The more sensible suggestion would be to just take out your phone there on the corner and let them know you are calling the cops. Don't threaten or cajole, just say I'm calling the police and start dialing.

At work I'd just buy a wedding ring and wear it during my shifts. You can get them for like $50 at Walmart. If someone hits on you, just hold up your hand point to the ring without looking up from what you are doing, and then keep going on as if nothing happened.
posted by wwax at 9:04 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A really good non-confrontational, but firm, approach I heard once - I was waiting on a subway platform along with a couple of tourists (the couple spoke with a heavy Texas accent, and they later confirmed that they were tourists when I chatted with them on the subway later). The woman asked a scruffy-looking guy whether they were on the right subway, and he said yes, and he kept making a little small talk with them, and she responded. But then at some point he said something she didn't like, and she just said, politely, but loudly and firmly, "you know what, this conversation is over." (That's actually what got my attention in the first place - I asked if everything was okay, and she told me yeah, what happened was that he'd actually started hitting her up and that was how she shut him down.)

So try "you know, this conversation is over". But whatever you say, a firm tone seems to do the trick.

And agreeing that everyone that someone being really persistent, like that guy who is offering to pay off your job so you can go home with him, means you can stop being polite and start telling him to fuck off or you'll call the cops.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:05 AM on August 3, 2013 [15 favorites]

Indeed, women are all but universally socialized to be unfailingly pleasant, to smile even when we are insulted, and to graciously accept utterly atrocious behavior and encroachment on our personal space, particularly from men -- but as hard as it is to learn, we do not EVER need to be polite when someone is treating us like garbage! I'm so sorry this is making you feel so awful. It breaks my heart to see a woman forced to harden her heart and demeanor just to combat harassment.

With that said, I'm single, never married, and instances of point-blank range street harassment dropped precipitously as soon as I started wearing a nice silver band on the third finger of my left hand. This has the undesirable side effect of making me appear totally unapproachable to single men I would truly love to meet, but them's the breaks. I can't deny how effective it is or how quickly it worked.
Occasionally the ring will inspire a man will step it up a notch and say something even more vile like, "Does your man make you happy in bed? Because girl, I can," or "What kind of husband lets a woman like you out in a dress like that?" (both of which will result in an instant "Fuck off!") but generally, displaying a shiny bauble that is generally understood as an indication that I am already another man's property has made many of them back off. In addition, I've started shaving my head, which helps a lot unless I'm wearing anything that could be construed as "feminine," although it is obviously not an approach for everyone!

If a faux wedding ring isn't an option, you can out with either an incredulous "Excuse me?"/"Beg your pardon?"/"What did you just say?" repeated as necessary or a totally stone-faced and silent glare. The former phrases are technically polite, totally appropriate in a workplace setting, and will get them to repeat what they've said until they start feeling ridiculous, uncomfortable, or embarrassed. The silent glare will also work a treat, but probably not before you get called a bitch/frigid/slut/etc. The first few hundred times feel like a slap in the face but eventually, psychological scar tissue will grow to mostly cover the wounds inflicted by this constant parade of slights. I wish I had something more encouraging to offer other than "it will probably hurt less eventually," but that's been my experience.

I've also feigned not speaking a word of English, and I know enough ASL to indicate that I am hard of hearing (I'm not). In instances where your personal safety appears to be at risk, like a man following you out of a restaurant and into traffic, call the police or even 911 and tell the man you are doing so. Seriously, yell it: "I'm on the phone with the police! They know where we are!" Men who do things like this tend to be frightened by the prospect of being held accountable for it by other men. I'm not saying the authorities will necessarily help you themselves, but wielding their imminent presence as a threat can give you a lift.

If you're feeling strong enough to plow through a fair amount of mansplaining and repeated denial of lived experiences, this epic thread may help you feel buoyed by a sense of kinship with other women who experience this sort of thing on a regular basis. If it would make you feel more safe in the immediate term, you could start carrying a cute but defensive keychain. Good luck out there!
posted by divined by radio at 9:12 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

What they want from you is a response, and if you respond, they will want another response. So don't respond.
posted by Dansaman at 9:17 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

You really sound like the perfect candidate for self-defense classes. Unfortunately small towns can often be lacking in these. But there's a benefit to small towns, and that is that your local librarian, your local church administrator, and your local high school administrator will all be very tapped into what resources there are for people in need of many different things. These extremely knowledgeable folks will be able to guide you to the nearest self defense classes, or other resources for you, including information like numbers and preferred procedure for emergency response, community support hotlines, and more. Even if you're not religious (or maybe the "wrong" religion) try a church administrator - they tend to be rather all-knowing, and super helpful.
posted by Mizu at 9:23 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Living in a small town is no reason to accept this kind of behavior from strangers --- or from acquaintances either, for that matter. Who cares if these jerks think you're rude because you aren't polite and friendly when they sexually harass you?!? These aren't people whose opinions matter!

Tell them bluntly:
Go Away.
I'm not interested.
Do not bother me.
Leave me alone.
I'm calling the police.

Don't worry about adding 'please' or 'no, thank you' or other terms of politeness: they're counting on you being polite to enable their harassment.

And I hate to say it, but you'd better learn to handle this crap now: sure, you're a female in your early twenties, but speaking as a short fat female in my late fifties, it never ends. Jerks will be jerks, at any age and to any age.
posted by easily confused at 9:24 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

My girlfriend is a small, feminine woman who looks pretty young. Until recently she lived in an apartment building also occupied by a bunch of unemployed older men whose particular cultural norm was to loiter outside the building at all hours and be aggressively friendly and catcall virtually every woman who walked by. The interactions would often start with the men making some loud "friendly" comment like "HOW YA DOING THIS MORNING."

Her strategy was really quite simple. Ignore the initial "friendly" comment and "fuck off" to any followup comments they made after she had initially ignored them. It worked.
posted by Unified Theory at 9:33 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of good info on here but I'd also suggest minding your body language. These lowlifes are going to look for easy targets. Stand up straight, move with a purpose, act like you own the place, talk clearly, take up space, don't hunch your shoulders.

And excellent advice from brookeb - be prepared for them to get extremely nasty in return. (But honestly, who cares what a dirtbag like that thinks of you?) Keep your phone charged and easily accessible. Call the police if you feel threatened. Seriously. They get paid to keep you safe. (My husband is a retired police officer and I work with cops every day. I guarantee they'd rather you call when someone is being a jerk rather than after something terrible has happened.)

Take care of yourself - you can do it!
posted by Beti at 9:33 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a small town, and reputation spreads -- fine. Let it be known that you aren't a push over and don't put up with bullshit. You're going to have a reputation either way.
posted by empath at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

Small town, rural, South...that changes the approach I'd take. I hear your concerns loud and clear. There can be a particular undercurrent of menace in those types of encounters (not specific to the South, but specific to cultures where a lot of dark stuff goes on under a veneer of gentility, and everyone knows everyone). It's one thing to mouth-off in the anonymity of a big city like mine; a smaller, closed-system town probably merits a different approach.

For situations where short-and-sharp seems like it might backfire, I would try to work the reputation dynamic to my advantage, and wouldn't hesitate to pull the "Southern gentleman" card on them. If you are church-going, feel free to work that angle, too. "That's not a very godly thing to say." "I'm surprised you said that -- that's not gentlemanly at all." "Say hi to your Aunt for me. I haven't seen her at church recently. "
posted by nacho fries at 9:59 AM on August 3, 2013 [23 favorites]

I read several weeks ago about a woman who forwarded a dick pic she had been sent to the guy's mother. I would let these assholes' female relatives know how they've been acting.
posted by brujita at 10:16 AM on August 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

Her strategy was really quite simple. Ignore the initial "friendly" comment and "fuck off" to any followup comments they made after she had initially ignored them. It worked.

I think you can accomplish this without being quite so aggressive, actually.

"HOW YA DOIN THIS MORNING?" Gets a "Fine, thanks." And then you avert your eyes and walk directly to your car without stopping for further conversation.

I walk my dog a lot in my neighborhood, which is full of friendly people whose culture is to be neighborly and say hi and make small talk. There are a lot of men, and it's hard for me to tell who is just being kind and who is potentially going in for the "I'd Hit That" approach. (If anything I'm probably being too vigilant.) It's a relatively insular neighborhood, and I'm visible as one of the few white people and also as someone who walks a very distinctive dog at the same times every day.

So I make the initial veneer of small talk. "Hot enough for ya?" "What kind of dog is that?" etc. Those get ONE RESPONSE. Always polite but with a cold edge that doesn't invite extended conversation. I keep walking as I answer the question or greeting. I don't make a ton of eye contact. My body language is that of someone who is in the middle of a chore, not someone who is strolling the neighborhood looking for new friends.

I deliberately try to keep things friendly because I don't want to be "that bitch who lives over on X street", but I try to stay away from being too friendly, because I also don't want to live in a neighborhood where I'm a constant mark for creepy dudes and their bullshit.
posted by Sara C. at 10:16 AM on August 3, 2013

I tend to go for psycho bitch and start screaming at them, but that's the sort of person I am. It doesn't sound like that would work for you given your personality and locale.

My born-again Christian friend does something she calls "going church crazy" in situations like this--she asks them about their relationship with Jesus, invites them to church, tells them she'll pray for them, etc. But that might only work in places where church is a threat, not a part of life.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:19 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Call the cops advice is ridiculous. You live in a very very small rural town. Calling the cops in a place like that may invite more harassment.

Cops can't perform magic, and can't show up fast as you need them to. You are not safe after having dialed 911. Safety comes first from not putting yourself in that situation. If you find yourself in that situation, then... you need to figure out how to use Average Citizen to help you. That could mean waking into a store, staying in the Subway, going back into the Subway, yelling across the street to a passerby. If your car is a source of such unwanted attention (from men), and the car marks and identifies you - get a different car. You're not making your life easier right now.

If working as a night shift front desk clerk at a hotel is opening yourself to horrible sexual comments and harassment, change your job to one that does not have such inherent pitfalls for a young, polite, petite woman on the front line.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:43 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a guy follow me in his car while I was on foot for a few blocks because, in the course of my walk around my neighborhood, I had given him the friendly-hello-head-nod. He was cruising down the street at 2 miles an hour, keeping pace with me, and yelling the most disgusting things. Fortunately someone came up behind him and honked so he had to speed up.

Now I never walk without the pretense of "I can't hear you"/"I'm busy". I walk with headphones, or while talking on the phone (or even "talking on the phone"), and people bother me much less because they know I am not paying attention to them and will not give them a reaction.

At work especially you should figure out a way to get on the phone when these skeezy guys bother you. Make it a long conversation and they will go away eventually.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:45 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You live in a very very small rural town. Calling the cops in a place like that may invite more harassment.

Calling the cops is what you do when someone gets in their car and follows you.

I mean, it's not what you do when someone says "Is that a custom paint job?" or "Working in a hotel all night must be boring, huh?" But if you're genuinely in fear for your safety, yeah, that's what the police are for.
posted by Sara C. at 10:46 AM on August 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

But that might only work in places where church is a threat, not a part of life.

Speaking as someone who grew up in small-town Christian surroundings and who lived 6 months in the South (Alabama), it actually works wonders, just as St. Alia suggested. Here's why: when it's a part of life, showing you're part of it also says you're part of a community where everyone knows everyone. It subtly reminds them that their shit is not going to go unnoticed. Plus, it has the added benefit of upping your reputation: if people see you as someone who cares about Jesus, they'll be a helluva lot more likely to take your side with a man who's behaving ungentlemanly/ungodly.

Yes, I dislike this approach because it's essentially reinforcing the virgin/whore dichotomy, but well, sometimes you're in a position where doing anything else would put you at risk. There is a very strong, disgusting undercurrent of classifying women who do NOT openly mention church, godly behavior, etc. as fair game in these sorts of cultures. I wish I didn't know of what I speak.
posted by fraula at 10:49 AM on August 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

I second the fake wedding ring comment. I find that displaying my real wedding ring works most of the time! Good luck.
posted by ragtimepiano at 10:50 AM on August 3, 2013

Calling the cops is what you do when someone gets in their car and follows you.

Calling the cops in such a situation distracts you more than help you. It is a logistical nightmare to be driving and shout to a 911 operator you are "on main Street heading east, now on broad st, wait just made a left on Brewster Blvd..." while hoping the cops find the right intersection you're on. If you just stay in your car and don't drive, you suddenly become a sitting duck for a serious harasser - don't do that.

Safety comes from not relying on cops.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:51 AM on August 3, 2013

If working as a night shift front desk clerk at a hotel is opening yourself to horrible sexual comments and harassment, change your job to one that does not have such inherent pitfalls for a young, polite, petite woman on the front line.

It is not up to women to accommodate harassment. It is up to men to stop harassing.
posted by scody at 10:58 AM on August 3, 2013 [61 favorites]

Safety comes from not relying on cops.

I call bullshit, as this is such a flat generalization as to be useless.

Also? Advice about "not putting yourself in that situation" does not and should not apply when that situation is "Ordering a sandwich" or "Being at work" or - dare I say - walking around being female.

I really do love the idea of saying "Have you accepted Jesus into your heart?" when someone is not leaving you alone.
posted by rtha at 11:03 AM on August 3, 2013 [32 favorites]

Unified Theory: Her strategy was really quite simple. Ignore the initial "friendly" comment and "fuck off" to any followup comments they made after she had initially ignored them. It worked.

Sara C.: I think you can accomplish this without being quite so aggressive, actually.

At least in the particular cultural norms that my girlfriend is confronting, your strategy does not work, your strategy would just be postponing the moment when you have to get ugly. The guys will escalate if she responds at all to the HOW YA DOIN?

When you flat-out ignore someone, you have firmly but civilly maintained the boundary that exists between strangers. When the person persists in making contact after you ignore them, hostility is warranted and effective.
posted by Unified Theory at 11:10 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

[Comment removed, enough with the back and forth about cops in here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:18 AM on August 3, 2013

At least in the particular cultural norms that my girlfriend is confronting, your strategy does not work, your strategy would just be postponing the moment when you have to get ugly.

Yeah, but that's not what OP is likely to be facing in her small southern town. Where a lot of people are genuinely being neighborly, and by freezing everyone out 100% of the time, she's just going to find herself more isolated within the community. Which is going to make situations like the car thing much more dangerous.

People who are seen as standoffish or rude are the absolute most reviled people in a small southern community. So you have to be polite enough, but not actually open or inviting. It's a fine line, but it's definitely possible to do.

Ignoring is good, and even vital, but another prong in this defense is to reiterate that you're part of the community. If you go from zero to FUCK OFF at a polite greeting, you're never going to be part of the community.
posted by Sara C. at 11:19 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Safety comes first from not putting yourself in that situation. If you find yourself in that situation, then... you need to figure out how to use Average Citizen to help you. That could mean waking into a store, staying in the Subway, going back into the Subway, yelling across the street to a passerby. If your car is a source of such unwanted attention (from men), and the car marks and identifies you - get a different car. You're not making your life easier right now.


OP, please do not think you are somehow responsible for the harassment you're experiencing. Your expectations of not being harassed when you work, drive, walk somewhere, or get takeout food are entirely reasonable. You do not need to get a different car (!!) because men think it's OK to harass you when you are in it. Or a different job.

There are lots of good suggestions of things you can do and say to respond to the harassment in a way that is likely to shut it down more quickly. I would recommend you let your supervisor(s) know about the harassment you are experiencing from customers and ask them what they recommend. If their response to you is anything other than supportive when you tell them about the harassment, then you know they are not good employers.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:19 AM on August 3, 2013 [17 favorites]

One other thing: if some idiot follows you in his car, like this one did, do not ever lead them to your home or workplace: drive to the nearest police station or firehouse, drive in circles if you must, but never, ever lead them to your regular locations.
posted by easily confused at 11:31 AM on August 3, 2013 [12 favorites]

I really just need some type of phrase to remember to politely deal with men like this.

"Never with you, loser" is more than sufficiently polite for the situation you described.

PUAs play the numbers. They work on the theory that if they don't ask they won't get, and given that they don't actually see you as a person they're not going to take anything you say personally.
posted by flabdablet at 11:48 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do not engage. No conversation whatsoever. The problem with saying 'no' is that often creeps like this don't take no for an answer. The best thing you can do in a public place is very loudly say, 'STOP HARASSING ME' and leave it at that. I agree with going to the police if you can. If you're expected at work, you have two options, call your boss and loudly explain in public what is going on and that you'll be late, or drive to the front of the police station and then call and explain why you'll be late. You're boss should be understanding the first time. If not, then call 911 on the way to work and explain what's going on. Try to get the creep's license plate number.

I agree that wearing a wedding band can stop some of this, but not all.

While bringing up Jesus might work, again you're engaging, and that's not a good thing to do. Sometimes creeps think it's funny to harass the religious lady. I've heard creeps say they're better at f**ing than Jesus is to one poor girl. He left when I loudly said, 'Stop harassing her or I'll call 911.' His buddy (who hadn't heard the exchange) took care of the rest of the humiliation by asserting he was a jerk. Not the usual, but nice in the circumstances.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:53 AM on August 3, 2013

I have stopped trying to deter or retaliate against street harassers. My strategy? Fuck with them!

For example:
- whipping out my phone and talking loudly about my horrible yeast infection/herpes/Valtrex prescription/etc
- flossing my teeth
- blowing a snot rocket
- sticking my hand down my pants and scratching deep into my butt

I have been compiling a list and am looking forward to using "vigorously picking my nose and eating it while making direct eye contact" the next time I meet a particularly noisome candidate.

So far these actions have been followed by visible discomfort on the part of the harasser and usually immediate cessation of all harassment.
posted by schroedinger at 12:04 PM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Miss Manners:
posted by bunderful at 12:09 PM on August 3, 2013

OP, you should never ever feel responsible for what these creeps do. The responsibility lies with the harasser, not the harassee, to stop it.

You've gotten some great advice on how to handle things in the future. I just want to add - you sound rather isolated. You mention that you live alone - do you also work alone on your shift? If not, are there any co-workers you are on good enough terms with to have a "buddy system" going to and from the parking lot and so forth? Do you have friends you could vent to? I doubt there's a young woman on this planet who hasn't been through the street-harassment mill at one time or another. Just having someone to talk to might make you feel less alone and down on yourself. And feeling like you're friendless and alone and no-one is there if you call for help is a scary feeling. Be sure you are taking care of yourself in regards to building up a support system.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:10 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

These men are not being polite to you, quite the opposite in fact, so I'd discourage you from worrying about maintaining politeness yourself. My MO in these situations is one short, neutral response if it's possible the person addressing me is making polite small talk. I completely ignore any other approach for the most part. Escalation can be tricky to deal with; cold stares, curt "I don't want to talk," and removing myself from the situation are all things I've employed. I'm sorry, harassment is an unfortunate fact of life for many woman and you just have to develop some techniques that work for you. None of this is your fault.
posted by JenMarie at 12:11 PM on August 3, 2013

"Keep it to yourself," with or without a cold "please," is a phrase that has often worked well for me. It's apt to be more effective than no response at all -- totally ignoring these guys can just make them more persistent.
posted by Corvid at 1:22 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have actually found that A LOT of these creeps will use anything, including religion/god/jesus, to try and further harass you. I've had a man tell me (shout at me, actually), that it "wasn't godly" that I refused his attentions and walked away. So be careful, if you choose to engage- anything you say can be used against you.

Also, if you're not already attending a church in your small town, you might want to. Regular church attendance at an accepted church will give you reputation power in the community. It's political, but effective. You might also/instead want to help out or volunteer with stuff in the community. Having a chance to gossip/complain about these creeps to women who have some clout or a large network gives you the chance to preemptively defend yourself against a guy's malicious gossip.

But really, reputations are tricky things, no matter how carefully you try to cultivate it you can't guarantee the results. I really think you should be careful about engaging with these guys at all.
posted by windykites at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

OP, you are going to have to stop caring about your reputation more than your safety. You have to. It doesn't have to involve anything other than silence and a willingness to call 911. You don't have to argue, plead, or ask permission to shut it down; you can just refuse to respond, and call 911 if necessary.

If just refusing to allow harassment gives you such a "bad reputation" that you can't keep your job (if that's your fear) then you are already in jeopardy just by being there and may need to leave. It's not a safe town for you to be in. A woman who can't refuse harassment is a woman in danger already. I hope that is not really the case, but of course, I have no idea what you're facing.

The only other thing I can offer you is that in a small town, your best bet is to make allies. Church if that works for you, other organizations if not--volunteering, fundraisers, whatever you can. If people know you as SarahGrace from the food pantry committee, then they are going to care when you mention Jim Bob Whatsit saying stuff to you at your job. They might even know his momma, and be inclined to tell him to knock it off. If your random harassers are local boys, then they might be less willing to harass a women who is now a Local Girl and knows their wife or sister.

And if they are NOT local boys, then you definitely can drop the worry about "reputation" and just do what you think is right to feel safe.
posted by emjaybee at 3:20 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I haven't read all of the responses, but I'll jump in with what is probably a similar one:

Just say, "Leave me alone". Clearly, simply and directly. These people thrive on unclear messages and intimidation. Don't let them save face.
posted by 3491again at 3:33 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the "do not engage and get somewhere safe" technique is usually best but once, when it was broad daylight, walking to the dentist on a populated street, I responded with, "Would you want someone to talk to your mother or sister like that?" In that case, it shut it down.
posted by Morrigan at 4:51 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not at work: "Get lost, creep."
At work, could you just silently hand them one of those free weekly newspapers, turned over to the back page with all the "escort" ads, with a dismissive, "have a nice night, Mr. ____."?
posted by ctmf at 5:01 PM on August 3, 2013

I have quite a good "resting bitchface" which I resort to at times like this. I am not brave enough to engage by saying "Leave me alone" or "I'll call the police" although I wish I were, so when people come up to me and start saying weird stuff I just go into my resting bitch face and do not engage at all, in any way. If feasible I walk away, but when I have been in enclosed situations (e.g. the bus) with some creep who keeps coming onto me I just don't respond and stay absolutely impassive (as though I can't hear or can't understand them) until they get bored. Till now this has worked in dissuading creeps from spending too much time bothering me.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:11 PM on August 3, 2013

Completely ignore. If they persist, say 'don't talk to me.' Don't even look at them.
posted by curtains at 6:22 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

At work, could you just silently hand them one of those free weekly newspapers, turned over to the back page with all the "escort" ads, with a dismissive, "have a nice night, Mr. ____."?

Ewwww ewww ewwwwwww ewwww ewwww. No. Don't do that. Ewwww.

posted by flabdablet at 9:44 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Y'know, one of the things I love about being 40, instead of 23, is that along the way I learned that most bullies really are cowards.

And these men are basically bullies. They're enjoying putting someone younger and physically weaker in an uncomfortable position. Sure, they think you're hot, but it's not about that, really: it's a power play.

Take away their power by disengaging. 'Please leave me alone'. Rinse and repeat (minus the 'please', after the first time.) Walk away.

If they physically follow you? Shout it. Time to make a scene.
posted by Salamander at 10:32 PM on August 3, 2013

There is clearly a difference between being friendly, and making derogatory comments. Unless you live in a place like Georgia where it's common to call everyone "hunny".

My advice .... it all comes down to focus. When you're going to the store for example, remain 100% aware of your surroundings, but also 100% focused on doing what it is you came to do. Don't stop or slow down for anyone. At work focus on handing business, doing it as friendly and professional as possible, and move on. Anytime a conversation shifts away from that end, shift the conversation right back to the business at hand. Why are you talking to them again? OK. Here is your towel sir. Can I help you with anything else? (Goodbye Creep)

Last,it could be that you're just a very friendly and social person, maybe men mistake that for interest. As a specie men have been widely known to completely miss and misinterpret subtle social cues :) I wish you the best of luck!
posted by Nicholas Geary at 3:08 AM on August 4, 2013

I grew up in a small Southern town, so to me this behavior from men, especially older men, is surprising.

The few occasions it happened, I had some success telling them:

"Aw, thanks. You know, you remind me so much of my grandfather."
"Thanks. How's your wife / kids doing?" -- this one makes them panic a little bit because they think you know them from somewhere, but they can't place you because you're all grown up now.

It's also OK to make a scene, to shout and swear and turn the crazy tables on them. Twice in larger (much, much larger cities), I surprised myself by unleashing profanity-laced tirades on men who thought the presence of my butt cheeks on the public street was an invitation to touch. Both times I got apologies.

In a smaller town, where everyone knows everyone's business, what's going to happen? Creepo tells his version of events where you were a total bitch. Everyone who knows you seems surprised because that doesn't seem like sarahgrace at all. Then they hear sarahgrace's version of events -- which you relate factually because you have NO REASON to protect these assholes and you have many reasons to shame them and call them out on their bullshit -- and nod knowingly -- because a Creepo is a creep to everyone, it's just not talked about.
posted by mibo at 8:11 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found that narrowing my eyes and asking, "Are we about to have a problem here?" works well in situations where I have to be polite (e.g. on the job.) It implies that there is someone nearby who will jump in if things get ugly (or that I have the means to defend myself should it come to that), and also that I am the one who will determine whether the situation escalates, not him.

Harassers harass because they're trying to exert control. When I don't cede that control, their scripts don't work anymore. Acting like they're boring me -- yawning, rolling my eyes, looking at my watch, tapping my foot -- also disarms them, because it's not a response they're used to. Harassers know how to deal with fear and anger, because these are the normal responses to harassment. They have responses at the ready for fear and anger, not direct eye contact with squared shoulders, or boredom.

These situations are so variable that it's hard to assign best practices to street harassment in general. Whether there are other people around and who they are, how threatening the predator's approach is, ease of removing oneself from the situation, etc., all have to be taken into account. It pains me to tell you that you're going to get a lot of practice figuring out what works and what doesn't in your particular community.

Your post coincides with Sociological Images posting a short film where women who have been publicly sexually harassed tell their stories. There's no prevention advice in the movie, but it might help to know that this is something horribly common and there's nothing you're doing wrong that's bringing it upon you. You should drive the car you want to drive and work the job you want to work.
posted by cirocco at 10:06 AM on August 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

Please read "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker, specifically the chapter "I was trying to let him down easy".
I don't have my copy on me at the moment, but here are some relevant quotes (borrowed from here:http://cosmicastaway.livejournal.com/710365.html):

"When a woman rejects someone who has a crush on her, and she says, "It's just that I don't want to be in a relationship right now," he hears only the words "right now." To him, this means she will want to be in a relationship later. The rejection should be "I don't want to be in a relationship with you." Unless it's just that clear, and sometimes even when it is, he doesn't hear it[...]
I suggest that women never explain why they don't want a relationship but simply make clear that they have thought it over, that this is their decision, and that they expect the man to respect it. Why would a woman explain intimate aspects of her life, plans, and romantic choices to someone she doesn't want a relationship with? A rejection based on any condition... just gives him something to challenge. Conditional rejections are not rejections--they are discussions."

"Let's imagine a woman has let pass several opportunities to pursue a relationship with a suitor. Every hint, response, action, and inaction has communicated that she is not interested. If the man still pursues at this point, though it will doubtless appear harsh to some, it is time for an unconditional and explicit rejection. Because I know that few American men have heard it, and few women have spoken it, here is what an unconditional and explicit rejection sounds like:

No matter what you may have assumed till now, and no matter for what reason you assumed it, I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever. I am certain I never will. I expect that knowing this, you'll put your attention elsewhere, which I understand, because that's what I intend to do."

Better to be thought of as a bitch than be forced into an even worse situation you don't want to be in. There is no rule that you have to be "nice" or give your time to anyone you don't want to.
posted by koakuma at 7:28 PM on August 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

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