Friendly Men, we need to talk about your “friendliness”
Do you know how often I’m approached by self-proclaimed “friendly” men either online or in person with the lines:
“Hey, you’re really cute”
“Wow, you’re sexy”
“You’re so beautiful”
…or some other flirtatious comment?
It happens pretty damn often. While exhausting and annoying to deal with, it’s definitely not something new I have to deal with.
But now, I’m being approached more and more with the lines:
“You’re really smart and cool”
“I really like your views”
“Wow, you’re a brave woman”
“I totally agree with you about ______”
…or something similarly engaging and platonic.
And what’s so bad about that? Those are compliments women like hearing, right? So why shouldn’t I embrace those compliments which seem to look past my looks to my actual human personality?
I’ll tell you why. Because, now, more often those compliments are being used as a Trojan horse to slide into my DMs.
I do have a screening process for accepting friend requests from strangers. However, as the Communication Officer of an International Humanist organization and a mouthy activist, I tend to get a lot of friend requests from Humanists or atheists around the world who do actually need the support of the online Humanist community.
That being said, here are some examples of connections that initially seemed like decent Humanist connections but quickly turned into something else:
I’ve Wised Up
Well fellas, I’ve caught wind of your strategy. You think approaching me in a “friendly” way rather than the oh-so-criticized flirtatious way is the key to making me more receptive to your flirtatious agenda. What you’re forgetting is that many women have developed a sixth sense for sniffing out flirtatious vibes.
So I’ve started calling you men out about it. More often than not, instead of a “sorry” or some other response that indicates some self-reflection, your response is “oh no, I just want to be your friend.”
Yeah. Friend. Right.
So you either deny to me that you were just flirting with me (and gaslight me in the process) or you try to back peddle to the friend zone and play the long game of somehow transcending the friend zone to something more without me noticing.
It’s insulting that you think I don’t know what y’all are doing.
But the Paranoia Deepens
Here’s where I get tripped up and start to question myself: when you use my passions in activism, Humanism, or my business as an opportunity to speak to me. I’m always open to a philosophical or business-minded conversation. But ultimately, many of you end using that as a Trojan horse to hit on me.
Sure, I’m a cool advocate. And yes, I’m hard-working and smart. Also yes, I have great ideas and make a great conversationalist. But no, I do not want to be your friend if you’re going to use my passions to try to get into my pants.
I’m finding that now more than ever, as I simultaneously ramp up my activism and business networking, my passions are being used against me. So every new connection I make— online or in person —with a man becomes a source of paranoia for me as I’m constantly questioning your intentions.
Here’s a phone conversation I had with a man recently who was interested in partnering with my business:
Him: I took a look around your site and you’ve got a lot of great content on there.
Me: Thanks very much!
Him: Yeah, it’s quality content. And sorry if this is unprofessional but I just have to say— you’re really beautiful.
Him: Anyway, I’d love to get some more information on your pricing and maybe we can set up a meeting to talk through working together. I think we’d be a great fit!
Disclaimer: We did actually schedule a meeting and he did apologize for that comment over the phone. But that will forever sully our professional relationship.
My Inner-Dialogue Grapples With Your True Intentions
These are the questions I’m constantly wrestling with:
“Is he really interested in my views or is he just trying to build a foundation upon which to flirt with me?”
“He seems like he’s connected into the Humanist community – but is he just using that connection to get closer to me?”
“Is he actually interested in the services my business provides or is he just trying to get my attention?”
I’m the kind of person who likes to give people the benefit of the doubt. But my doubt has now come back to bite me in the ass more times than I’m able to justify giving the benefit.
But here’s the thing— if I NEVER give the benefit of the doubt, I’ll ruin potential activist or professional relationships. My reputation could turn from “bubbly, personable, and outspoken” to “that cold bitch.”
Constantly questioning whether a guy is playing to my activist or professional passions to “warm me up” to a more sexual relationship or whether his intentions are purely platonic is my new reality.
The Media Sure Don’t Help
I get it – #MeToo and #TimesUp have forced men to rethink their methods of courting women. The old surface-level compliments don’t really work anymore. So many of you have resolved to trudge through the friend zone in hopes of eventually breaking down our cautious sexual barriers.
The movies and media have made the friend zone out to be this negotiable space where people get to know each other then eventually fall in love. Yeah, sure, that happens in real life sometimes. But if you’re pushing that narrative as your agenda, it becomes just as exhausting to deal with, as “Hey, sexy.”
The media need to take responsibility for their part in painting a picture wherein this works. But if you’re a man and you’re dumb enough to take dating/friendship tips from the media then we really don’t need to be speaking to each other.
“So How ARE Men Supposed to Be Your Friend, Anya?”
If you actually want to have a friendly, platonic relationship with me, I recommend treating me like your equal. Or like your best dude friend… or your adult son’s friend… or the Prime Minister… or that cousin that you see only once a year at family functions.
On the other hand, if you want something more with me, then get in line.
If you want more than friendship with me then the feeling has to be mutual for it to work. If *I* show no visible signs of that kind of interest, that means it won’t work. And if you really can’t tell, then ask me. Because I will be upfront about it.
Overall, I genuinely want the majority of humans I interact with to treat me as a non-sexual being. You’d be surprised at how refreshing that behavior actually is.