We’re going to take today’s post piece by piece.
Here’s the situation:
A few weeks ago, I noticed a new guy at my normal Thursday night salsa place. He didn’t dance with anyone that I saw, and the only reason I noticed him was because I was dancing with a friend and my friend spun me. Mid-spin, I made eye contact with this guy and thought, “He is going to be a problem. He is going to read into the fact that I made eye contact with him while I was spinning.” Sure enough, he approached me at the end of the night and asked if I wanted to come home with him. I declined, he promised he could make it worth my while, I declined again, etc.
The following week he was there again, and he did approach me once to ask me to dance. I declined that as well, for two reasons: 1) I was chatting with friends and didn’t want to dance, and 2) I did not think we would be dancing in a way I enjoy; I thought he’d be feeling me up.
At the end of that night he was standing by the stairs where we exit, and as I walked by he grabbed my hand, pulled me close to him, and said, “Seriously, how much would you want?”
I removed my hand and flew down the stairs to join other people.
Ok. There’s a lot of stuff there. And everyone is going to take different parts from that story, many of you may even have your own variations on this story.
But I was very upset, really. Way more upset than I expected to be.
This kind of objectification hits a core wound for me.
There is a part of me that internalized the idea that I do not get to be a real human with my own preferences, I only get to be here if I’m of value to other people. So whether I’m providing a service, making money, providing prestige, making someone proud, or being a sex object, this reduction of myself down to what I can offer other people gets to me.
This guy didn’t know that, of course. I don’t quite know what he was thinking, but I’m guessing his objective was not to upset me so much that I wouldn’t sleep with him.
I can (and did) get mad about this from a lot of different perspectives, but mostly I felt like Lorena from Lonesome Dove when she wants to leave for a better life and the saloon owner where she was working as a whore wants her to stay:
Then Xavier began to pull money out of his pocket. It was hard to say how much he held out to her, but it was a good deal more than fifty dollars. It might have even been a hundred dollars. The sight of it made her feel tired. No matter what plans she made or how she tried to live, some man would always be looking at her and holding out money.
I was sad and tired. And that covered my anger for a little while, but it didn’t take away the sting.
At the end of the day it’s my job to work on my stuff. And honestly, I get more fulfillment from working on my stuff than I get from conflict with others.
But part of working on my stuff is getting clear about how I’m willing to be treated. As Sugar says,
Her decision to do this is her problem. Your willingness to go along with it is yours.
It’s not enough for me to simply understand why I got so upset. At the end of the day, and especially in this venue, my consent matters. When it comes to sex, my enthusiasm matters. It’s up to me to help create the environment.
Now, if you are a fledgling boundary-setter like I am, I have two pieces of advice for you.
Truth time: when this guy asked my price, I flew down the stairs and got my salsa buddy immediately. I said, “I have stuff I need to say” and she (god bless her) cut everyone else off with an “Ok! We’ll see you next time!” and walked with me.
I further texted the two girls I had been chatting with when he asked me to dance and told them.
Then I sent an email to my BFFs titled (I’m not kidding you) “Explain my feelings, please.” I was so upset, I needed someone outside the situation to help me.
The following day I had therapy and I told my therapist.
The following week I had business coaching and I told my business coach (by then, something else had happened that was triggering the same pattern).
I needed help working through my stuff. And I’m very fortunate to have people in my life who are willing to help me, by listening, by getting mad for me, by getting mad with me, and by making helpful suggestions
Not only that, but the following Thursday I told the bouncer what happened. I told him I didn’t know what the procedure was, but I at least wanted this guy on his radar. Both the bouncer and the security guard that work at the club were outraged and told me to always come to them if a guy is making me feel uncomfortable.
This time around, I didn’t need to confront that guy. It is ok to let other people help you.
I didn’t notice that a big piece of this story was about how, mid-spin, my intuition told me this guy was going to be an issue. I knew.
Whenever women ask me about traveling solo, my biggest piece of advice is to trust your intuition. I’ve never been in a sticky spot where my intuition didn’t tell me I was at risk or should be on alert.
You’re right. I promise.
If you’re the kind of person that reads this blog, your intuition is strong and spot-on. That includes your intuition about individuals, about places, about situations, and it also includes your reactions to situations. If it bothers you, you’re allowed to be bothered. Some things are bullshit. Don’t dismiss what’s going on for you, even if it’s not 100% clear.
Lastly, it doesn’t matter if the thing that bothers you wouldn’t bother anyone else. If it bothers you, that’s enough. You can investigate your stuff and tell people how you do and don’t want to be treated.
For most of us, our evolution into adult humans is giving ourselves what we didn’t get before.
This is the first time I’ve even been asked my price (which is surprising, actually, considering all the other stuff that’s been said to me), but it’s not the first time my preferences have been bulldozed over, or the first time I’ve kept quiet because I didn’t know what to say or didn’t want to stir the pot.
Even if I know objectively that I want to be treated a certain way, life makes you live it out. Sometimes you need more explicit examples.
But if you’re a newbie, keep these two things in mind: your intuition is right and you are not alone.