Not too long ago, we wrote up a viral Reddit thread where women shared the behaviors they've had to change around men so they don't get accused of "leading them on." And, because society is a nightmare, there were even more upsetting responses from women in the BuzzFeed Community. Here are their stories:
Warning: This post discusses verbal harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and mentions of stalking that may be disturbing to some readers.
1."When I was very pregnant, I had a guy block my car because he was 'into pregnant women.' So, apparently, being pregnant is an invite for harassment."
2."I was once told that I was acting provocatively by just smiling at a man. There are so many things I'm afraid to do. I'm just afraid to be around them in general, TBH. I think I've earned that right as a trauma survivor."
3."I had to change my running route around my own neighborhood three times to avoid being followed, harassed, and actually stalked (three different men, one on each different route). It got so bad that I bought myself a treadmill so I could exercise in peace. Now that I've started venturing out again, I wear a fake engagement ring and have a story ready about my imaginary super-jealous, 6'4", 200 pounds of pure muscle Navy Seal fiancé."
4."I legitimately change my posture when walking around men so my boobs look smaller and droopier. It hurts my back, but it's way better than harassment."
5."I've stopped asking to pet their dog. I’m not flirting! I just want your dog’s attention! I feel like I can only talk to dog owners if they’re a woman or a couple."
6."Saying that you're single. Well, that MUST mean you need physical attention from some guy you literally just met. No. No, it doesn't."
7."Laughing at men's jokes. I was having a really bad day once, to the point where I just wanted to cry nonstop, but I picked myself up and went to work anyway. A male coworker asked how I was, and I couldn't even bring myself to lie and say that I was good, because I really just wasn't. Anyway, he spent the entire shift telling me jokes and making me laugh. After work he not only propositioned me for sex, but said I was more than welcome to have a threesome with him and his wife."
"I feel like even if I wasn't asexual, I would've been mortified by the suggestion. I politely shut him down and asked him why he thought that I was interested. He replied that it was because I laughed at his jokes. Ever since then, I've been extremely wary of laughing at a man's jokes just in case he gets the wrong idea."
8."I tone down my outgoing, bubbly personality. Every guy thinks I'm flirting just because I'm a very talkative and energetic person. Even my husband thought I was flirting with a random guy once. I was asking said guy about his farmer's market booth and got excited about his awesome garden. Like, a literal garden."
9."I had a man grab my ass in a club the other day because he thought he got a 'vibe' from me. Bruh, I literally exchanged two words and smiled a couple of times."
10."I don’t help men anymore. Once, I fixed a guy’s bike because I saw he was struggling on the side of the road. He then cycled behind me and next to me and kept pushing a date. When I ignored him, he told me I was 'such a slut' for leading him on."
11."Touching my hair in any way. One of my self-soothing techniques is playing with my hair. The amount of times I’ve had guys take that as flirting is ridiculous."
12."Just looking at men. I have been followed for BLOCKS because I dared to look up from the ground. Any time I can sense a strange man in my periphery, I keep my eyes glued to the pavement. I’d rather walk into a wall or a light post. At least the light pole won’t try to grope me or call me a 'stuck-up bitch.'"
13."I make no references to anything sexual. I won't joke about it, mention it, or do any more than smile politely when a guy makes a sexual joke. Otherwise, some view it as an invitation to flirt, or whatever they think will take it to the next level. Cue the tiresome business of clearing up this misunderstanding without upsetting them."
14."If I'm on public transport, I avoid eye contact when people get on. So many times, men would sit next to me, and I'd be trapped. One guy made me look myself up on Facebook on his phone, and despite me saying that I had a girlfriend I lived with, he just completely dismissed that because he didn't see that as a romantic relationship and kept trying."
"I spent almost three hours trapped on the inside seat, having to be polite to some creep because I didn't want a scene. Thankfully, my girlfriend at the time met me at the bus stop, and he lived a few stops over, but that wasn't the first or last time that stuff happened. It's so sad we literally feel we have to pacify these creeps just to be safe."
15."I don't eat an ice cream cone in public. Too many looks or suggestive comments by some men."
16."Answering men's questions in public places, particularly if you look up and make eye contact. Even when it's something as simple as asking the time, if you look up, make eye contact, and actually answer them, it’s an invitation for conversation, which becomes an invitation for them to aggressively hit on you."
17."When I worked a tech support job that dealt with customers face-to-face, I wore a plain silver band on my right hand just because I liked it. But it quickly became a necessary part of my work gear, as some men would not give it a rest unless I quietly moved it to my left hand to look like a wedding ring. Do better, men. Be better than this."
18.And finally, "I 'grey bomb' myself at work. It's when you make yourself seem boring so creepy people lose interest in you, or at least denies them material to harass you over — like, if a creepy coworker asks how my weekend was, I’ll say, 'Oh, it was fine; the weather was so nice on Sunday,' and leave it at that. If I went into more detail, like say I did karaoke, it’ll never end. They'll hint they want to be invited next time. They’ll ask me to sing something on the spot. They’ll ask me which songs I sang and then judge me for not having obscure enough music taste, and so on."
To all the men who STILL can't differentiate between general friendliness — or literally just existing — and "flirting," I'd like to say: If you can't make that simple distinction and don't understand why this kind of behavior makes us feel unsafe, you're the problem. Caio for now!
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.