Dating nowadays has become a field filled with landmines. That’s what it seems like anyways, but the fact is it’s become one for men, whereas it’s always been a treacherous traverse for women.
But women are starting to really speak out against what’s been happening all along – the problem of women not feeling like they can voice their true feelings, and men feeling like they’re entitled to what they want when they want it. I see this every day when I talk to women about not kissing for three months. “What?!” they say. “Nobody will wait three months for a kiss!”
Oh yeah? Who told you that?
There is this pervasive, collective conscious (or unconscious) mentality that men have to get what they want on demand, otherwise women are shit out of luck. Out of luck when it comes to finding love, out of luck when it comes to pursuing a relationship, or out of luck when it comes to advancing their career goals.
We need to change this mentality in both sexes. Like, today.
Women are suffering. And so are men. Not guys though. They’re perfectly happy with the status quo.
Women experience so much regret, shame, and anger over feeling like their wishes are steamrolled. Men are confused and exasperated over accusations that missed non-verbal cues lead to them being a perpetrator of sexual assault. And guys, well, they’re hoping that this movement dies down and they can keep their willful ignorance towards what behaviours women actually want from them.
“Well, she never actually said no, sooooooo…..”
If this era of highlingting male-to-female interaction is to actually turn into something useful we need to teach both men and women how to behave. Women need to understand just how quantitative men’s thinking is, and men need to understand that until they ask, assume it’s no.
So with that in mind, let me lay out the rules of conduct each gender needs to adhere to going forward. Ladies, let’s stop allowing #MeToo moments because we weren’t crystal clear. Men, let’s stop allowing #MeToo moments by being massively respectful. Ready? Let’s do this.
When we first started dating my husband took nothing for granted. Before every kiss and every touch he’d ask, “can I kiss you?” Did I have moments when I found this a tad annoying? Yes. Did I sometimes wish he’d just grab me and kiss me? Yes. What did I learn? That I had a voice, and I could use it to not only give a smidge of permission, but also use it to give complete permission. “You can stop asking now” I finally said, when I realized he really could stop asking. Forever.
My husband empowered me, even when I didn’t know I needed to be empowered. I mean, this was 2006, long before the term “non-verbal cues” was part of our common dating dialect. But that’s what a man really is; someone who is loathe to hurt the ones he cares for.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution. But there are plenty of negative emotions to live through if you find out your assumptions and guesstimations were off base.
So when it comes to touch, like hugs and holding hands, reciprocate. When it comes to kissing and any sexualized touch beyond kissing, ask ask ask. Until she says you don’t have to anymore. Trust me, in today’s environment she’ll know exactly why.
Ladies, you have more rules than men. Do you know why? Because your body and emotions are your responsibility, and you must (I seriously can’t stress that word enough) learn how to be your own agent.
Don’t assume all these articles and news stories will be read by every single man out there. There’s plenty of ignorance, willful or otherwise, to be found in males. Even the good ones might not know better. So you need to be in charge of your moments and how they unfold. Here are the rules you need to remember so you avoid having #MeToo moments going forward.
I wrote a bunch of self-help books for women, teaching them how to have the sort of relationship that feels right in every way. And do you know what I do in those books? I give “the script”. When it comes to dealing with men, women need to understand that a female brain and a male brain do not operate on the same programming.
What happens when men and women don’t understand each other’s programming? Women say men never listen, and men call women crazy because they’re pissed off. All. The. Time.
Those words coming out of someone’s mouth is a side effect, stemming from a lack of understanding about our fundamental differences.
Men are extremely quantitative creatures. If you want him to say or do something specific, then you have to be specific.
“My husband says the wrong thing when our friend with dementia talks about playing golf. Instead of playing along, he’ll be honest and it upsets our friend! I’m angry and I keep telling him to lie instead, but he doesn’t.”
“Did you give him the script? Did you tell him “When George says he wants to play golf say ‘Why yes, it would be a great day to play golf!’?”
“That’s why he’s not giving the answer you want him to. You haven’t told him what to say.”
I used to get upset at my husband when his answer to the question “Did you miss me today” was “I was too busy.” Until I gave him the script. Now, he says “Oh yes baby! I missed you so much!”
I also used to get upset at my husband because he didn’t know how to comfort me. Till I gave him the script. Now, he puts his arms around me and says “Everything is going to be okay” when I go to him for some venting, followed by a comforting hug and soothing words. He now knows how because I taught him how.
My point is, when you want a man to adhere to the specific rules inside your head you need to verbalize them. Not get upset because your cues and hints aren’t being followed. Get literal. Once you do you’ll be crystal clear about whether or not you’re being disrespected.
Are you leaving a bar (or restaurant) with a guy you met that’s really cool, to go to his place (or your place or a hotel because one of you is an out-of-towner) and spend more time with him because you’re having such a great time together? Then the first sentence after you agree to this is, “But I’m not going to have sex with you.” Not with a smile. In a firm way. In a “I’m not joking, and I’m not afraid to be assertive” way. Straight faced, no embarrassment, looking him straight in the eye and waiting for him to not only acknowledge what you’ve just said, but agree to that too.
Think that’s too bold? Too forward? That he’ll turn on his heel and walk away feeling insulted? So what? What’s important is your safety, first and foremost. If you’re going behind closed doors with someone always tell them what’s on your mind beforehand. Expectations are a huge flaw in our culture, where males expect women will give them what they want, when they want it. Especially if she agrees to go somewhere private with him.
So change his expectation before you even leave that public space. Before you go to his place to meet up. Or yours. If you’re going to be anywhere private and you have no intention of having sex, then state that fact. “Okay, but I’m not going to have sex with you.” If you don’t let him know what’s happening inside your head he’s clueless, trust me. Nothing you do will have as much “avoidance impact” as what you say.
Use your words. If your words don’t work, use your hands. If your hands don’t work, use your feet. These three rules should be followed in order, because they basically lay out clarity in an ascending order. “You think I’m joking? Or maybe not completely serious? Here, let me be absolutely clear.”
You owe it to yourself to own your personal space. Period. If you don’t want a guy jamming his fingers in your mouth while you’re making out then remove them and say, “I don’t like that.”
If you don’t want to hug that guy coming at your with outstretched arms then raise your own arm, parallel to the ground and open your hand in a “stop” gesture to claim the space between you and him. “No, I don’t want to hug you.”
“Awwww, why not?!” he might cry. “Because I don’t want to.” is your answer. You owe him nothing; you owe yourself peace of mind.
“What do you mean you don’t want to?”
“I don’t have to explain myself. I think I’m pretty clear. Sorry, this isn’t my thing.”
Does he keep pushing to get his way? Then get walking. Clearly this guy isn’t respecting you. Leave the scene now, or forever tell the story about that bad date or lecherous co-worker.
There’s something I like to say. “I have a vagina, which means I have the right to change my mind at any time.” I mean, that’s not a right that’s exclusive to owning a vagina, and I don’t know if either gender is more pre-disposed to changing their mind over another. But I say it anyways. What I want today might change tomorrow, and you should know that.
Going to a guy’s place to make out doesn’t mean you have to make out. You have every right to turn on a dime and decide this isn’t right for you after all. At any time.
Are your clothes off and you’re about to get into bed, and suddenly feel like this isn’t what you want to do? Then say so. Put your clothes back on, and go back to your comfort zone.
Is he going to protest? Maybe. Is he going to guilt trip you? Maybe. Which brings me to the next rule.
Men don’t always get our feelings and reactions. I literally had to fight for my right to feel and react in my relationship with my husband. “I don’t want to be in a relationship where I’m not allowed to have feelings” and “I’m going to have reactions. You don’t have to like them.” are two things I had to say to drive my point home.
We are human beings with emotions, and we have every right to them. You have a right to feel how you feel, and so does he. You have a right to your reactions, and so does he. The thing is, we need to respect each other’s feelings and reactions. You might feel negatively about his behaviours, and he might feel negatively towards you clearly communicating that what’s happening isn’t okay, and you’re putting a stop to it. So be it. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable. It’s not okay to avoid a smaller discomfort only to endure a larger one.
Just like I’ve been saying you own your experience, I want you to let him own his. Better for him to feel embarrassed or dissed that you didn’t like how he was kissing and grabbing you, than for you to feel violated because you wanted to avoid an uncomfortable exchange. Better for you to create an opportunity for him to understand exactly what you want, than for him to ultimately get a text saying “I feel like I was sexually assaulted by you”.
Don’t be afraid to confront bad behaviour. I had a guy I shot down get angry and say to me “You shouldn’t be such a bitch, it’s going to get you in trouble one day.” “Are you threatening me?” I immediately asked him. Instantly his demeanor changed from angry and confrontational to backpedalling. “Oh no no no. I’m just saying” he said, his body language switching from aggressive to wincing.
“Are you saying you’re not going to respect what I want?” I asked a guy who was arguing that kissing me his way was more fun. “No! Sorry, I just thought girls liked it this way.” he said, then made an effort to listen to what I was saying I’d enjoy.
“Should I come back another time, or give you five minutes to get dressed?” is what the nanny showing up for an interview should have said when Harvey Weinstein answered the door in his underwear.
Calling out behaviour you don’t like isn’t something you should be afraid of. NOT teaching men what is acceptable means they’ll take their bad behaviours and not only spew them on you, but on the next woman after you, and the next one after that. Be an agent of change for yourself today and you just might be helping other women avoid nasty situations down the road, too.
In other words help yourself, and you’ll be helping us all have a better experience in this world.
Ready for one of my “isms”?
Fear is the most expensive emotion you’ll ever have.
Fear is not a precursor to action, or inaction. Fear is a precursor to choice. “Do I give in to my fear? Or do I speak up, stand up, and take care of myself?”
Will you fear rejection? Sure. Will you fear looking stupid? Sure. Will you fear repercussions in the moment? Sure. But do the right thing anyway. It pays off much better down the road.
If you don’t like what’s going on have the courage (or find the courage) to put a stop to it. This way, we’ll change this #MeToo movement into a #MeToo memory.
Chantal Heide is an Author and Motivational Speaker, focusing on dating and relationships. Her books Dating 101, Comeback Queen, Fake Love Need Not Apply, No More Assholes, After The First Kiss, Fix That Shit, and Say Yes To Goodness are available on Amazon. View her BOOKS page for more information. Be sure to sign up for her mailing list to be eligible for giveaways.
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