Explanations! Let’s start with that. Occasionally a man asks me for my number, and it annoys me all the way to Hell that it always goes down like this:
“Can I have your number?”
“Why, do you have a boyfriend? I mean, it’s okay if you have a boyfriend.”
Yes, that’s it. A boyfriend. Because that’s the only “acceptable” reason I would ever turn you down: if there’s a man involved, because I as a woman, am not enough to determine the status of my availability. Any other reason is I give is to be immediately negotiated!
“It’s okay if I have a boyfriend, and it’s okay if I don’t,” I snap, “It’s okay if there’s no reason at all. I said no! and I don’t owe you an explanation.”
I have gotten bitchier over the years, I’ll admit. And I’m glad I have. I used to answer, “I really don’t give my number to strangers,” and had to sit through something like, “Well everyone’s a stranger at first…” I was too polite to tell him that he is Schrödinger’s Rapist. And then, if you are a rapist, whose fault is it? That’s right. MINE. Because, you stupid bitch, you should have been more assertive in saying no! You should have enforced your boundaries! But of course if you do say no, you are still a stupid bitch.
I was too polite to tell him he was probably a sexist douchecanoe. After all, now he’s claiming he just wanted to be friends. Does he ask guys he just met for their numbers so he could be friends with them? Does he walk up to men and say, “You seem pretty cool, want to get together sometime?” or straight up, “Can I have your number?”
That must be how men make friends! I mean, guys have friends, so that’s probably how they get them, right? No? But I thought it was perfectly normal to ask random strangers for their numbers!
Oh, right. It’s only normal to treat women–to whose time and bodies you should have every right, and whose only explanation for rejecting you should be that they already “belong” to a man or else you will continue to convince them that every reason they give is invalid–like all-access property. You would never treat each other like that. Because if a man thinks you’re creepy, he may or may not punch you in the face. Because if you antagonize him, he will be dangerous. Because you respect him, and you would never do that to someone you whose discomfort actually mattered to you.
So I hinted. And he pushed. And I hinted. And he pushed. And I hinted. And he pushed. And I faked having to leave.
Not anymore. I will not hesitate to abandon polite-society hinting and use my feminist manners. I will make sure that no man thinks women are harmless and easy to take advantage of. I will make sure every jerk who has the audacity to ask for a strange woman’s number will be nervous as fuck–because she is a whole person, not a fluffy cuddly stuffed animal, who is just as dangerous and unpredictable as a man.
We are socially conditioned to avoid hurting feelings, even at the cost of our own safety, wishes, and well-being. It’s not okay to hurt a man’s feelings by bluntly rejecting him, but it’s perfectly okay for him to hurt yours by disrespecting your space, your time, and your wishes to be left alone.
Men are soooo oppressed!
If I notice an attractive man in a bookstore, a library, a coffee shop, a restaurant–or anywhere–and he is engrossed in his book or his laptop or with friends, I respect the fact that he is there to work or hang out with people close to him or be alone. I don’t approach him because he is not there to be approached, and there is nothing to tell me that we would have any compatibility. Nope, not even if he’s reading a book I love. Especially not if he’s reading at all, because he clearly does not wish to be disturbed. Additionally, he does not owe me a conversation as a means of discovering compatibility–nor does he owe me an explanation as to why he does not wish to converse with me.
We need to learn to say NO–clearly, forcefully, without reason, without explanation, without remorse, and with a sense of entitlement. Because, regardless of what that random asshole believes, we are entitled to ourselves. And that is justification enough.