I’ve blogged about some of these things before, but a conversation I had with a friend the other day got me thinking some more. My friend mentioned that a man she knows, that she thought she was just friends with, started asking her very personal sexual questions and making sexually harassing comments to her. When she confided in another woman he knew, that other woman found it hard to believe because he had never treated her that way. My friend is not an especially flirty person, and is definitely not the type to lead people on, but she has been treated like a doormat pretty regularly because she is nicer to people than they are to her. So I got to thinking…why did that man treat my friend so disrespectfully while he is always respectful with the other woman they both know?
I have had similar problems in my life. Once when I was pregnant, a much older man who had children my age, told me that he wanted to make love to a pregnant woman his daughter’s age, and continued making gross comments to me. I did not initiate that type of conversation, but for some reason, he thought it was okay to turn the casual conversation that way and say creepy things to me. He would never dream of treating many other women that way. I did not want or deserve his nasty comments. I was appalled.
I’ve asked over time why this has happened to me, and why it has happened to my friend who is also very “mousy” like I have been. Part of it is, predators know how to target specific people who have been victimized before, and part of it is because people learn how to treat us the way we treat ourselves, but there’s more to it. I did not treat myself like a woman who wants to be sexually harassed, and neither did my friend, that’s for sure! But, these creepers saw in us women with poor boundaries, women who seemed unsure about themselves, women who were not very assertive and women who wouldn’t stand up to them. We were easy targets for cowards who wouldn’t dare say the same things to strong, loud women.
When I told one of my other friends about the older man’s yucky comments to me, she noted that men do not speak to her that way. And it’s not because I’m any prettier or younger; it’s because her body language and her personality show that she is NOT going to put up with hearing that crap! So much of this is related to boundaries. A woman with strong boundaries doesn’t let people blur the lines or test and push at the boundaries. She says “NO!” when the creeper even tries to be inappropriate. Me? (And my friend.) We are both very polite and try to joke or squirm our ways out of uncomfortable conversations.
Let me say now, that it is okay to put a stop to those conversations and be “rude” to someone who is sexually harassing us!
These skills aren’t based on being shy or outgoing, introverted or extroverted, or anything else. We can learn and enforce good boundaries no matter what our personality types…and that is what I am doing!