So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

14 October, 2009

Angles of Approach

Shapely Prose recently hosted a discussion of how to approach women in public, the comments on which had me thinking about a lot of things.

The comment that particularly got me was this one, which included the question: "But, if this is the case, then why don’t more women approach men?"

I wish I knew what good that was supposed to do.

Now, I don't get hassled on the subway or whatever terribly often these days. I don't know if it's the area I live in or that of the people in the vicinity I have sufficient armouring to make me not look like a good mark (between the wedding rings, the leather jacket, the frequent headphones and/or book, and the tendency to pull my hat down over my eyes and nap). But I cannot for the life of me see how more women approaching men will change what hassles I do get.

I mean, I've been over 50% of the initiation effort for every relationship I've been in other than the one that ended in attempted rape. (And that does not make me any the more comfortable with random approaches. It, in fact, makes me more aggressive about pursuing actual interests because I don't want them approaching me lest I go all woobly-minded.)

If I were doing this in the hope of fixing street harassment it would be, you know, a total, dismal failure. Because not only do nitwits on the street not know whether or not I'd tell them if I was interested in them, they do not care. They are expressing less articulate versions of this guy's argument (when they're not just trying to get a response out of a woman):

I think a lot of men will think along this line – “what’s the point of her thinking I’m a trustworthy person if we don’t have that conversation and there’s still at least the possibility of Penis tourism and, possibly, 100 pretty babies.”

If you’re interested in talking to her, but you don’t talk to her because of her assumed boundaries, and you don’t risk to be rejected, you may feel good about yourself, being the trustworthy person that you are, but you don’t get anything else for it.


And that’s where the problem is. In a very real way, I think, for him, the more rational approach would be to politely say hello and see if he’s interested, always being alert about her reactions, and withdrawing if she shows any kind of disinterest. That way, while having been interrupted, she may even get the impression that the guy was able to understand her saying no – to him. A no that was not assumed, but real.

The comments were closed at Shapely Prose before I could reply to this, and it's a hard time to formulate it. But I'm left with ... what a modern-capitalism notion of transactional analysis. Immediate profit potential over long-term gain.

I mean, there's this thousand-comment long thread about how this sort of thing means that women out in public are more likely to be closed down and unwilling to engage with people, which, as a long-term system, doesn't do well for what this guy claims to be wanting to get. But the miniscule chance of that one-in-a-lot shot at getting laid means continuing to degrade the environment such that women feel the need to be on guard in public, thereby keeping those odds nice and low.

Cannot think past end of penis, apparently.

I commented recently on not liking being approached in part because the relationship started that way ended in attempted rape? Got this response, quoted verbatim:

"It's not fair to deprive men of the ability to approach you because one raped you."

Kinda oozes sex appeal, doesn't it? Look at what I'm missing!


Anonymous said...

"It's not fair to deprive..."

Poor entitled dear. What a load of assumption that you not letting men approach you means that they're "deprived" of something, and that they're deprived of it in a way that's "not fair" -- i.e., that they ought to be getting it.

Wendy Blackheart said...

I gotta say, I wish I could hand out a copy of this to every guy who bothers me at the bus stop ever. I send off the most "Fuck off I'm busy" signals possible. I've got on head phones watching X-Men cartoons. I am laughing at them, and enjoying them. I do not want to talk with you.

(and if you do try to talk to me, please don't then make fun of me for watching cartoons 'at your age'. 1) you don't know how old I am and 2) cartoons are fucking awesome.)

The point she made about that email guy was spot on. I've had several of those. If I say 'thanks but no thanks' once, I'm probably not gonna say 'sure, lets go have hotmonkeysex' the thirteenth time.

Though I have to say, it does make me feel a little nicer and a little safer when someone does approach me and backs off when I want them to. Once, while fanning myself waiting for a train, a guy commented on how cool my fan was and how nice my smile was. We chatted for a while, and wound up on the same train. We talked a bit more, and while he was nice, I wasn't interested. When I made my disinterest clear, he backed off, but did make a funny joke (I said I had a boyfriend. He said "Well, maybe you need two! When one acts like an ass, you can go hang out with the other one!"). While I think that's a lovely idea, I still wasn't into it. So I said no thanks, and he actually left me alone after that.

Maybe its kind of fucked up that I'm happy about someone leaving me alone when I tell them to, but it did make my day a little better.

thene said...

I find this an interesting question because I personally flat-out prefer to do the approaching than to be approached, by a very large margin, That might be an attempt to gain control (ie. perceived safety) via being the assertive party, or might be an expression of my queer masculinity, or might just be an emotional kink I have for no particular reason - who knows?

I'm skeeved by the way the subtext of some of these comments seems to be that sex/relationships are The Prize and what we are talking about is how to Get To Them...I'm a make-friends-first kind of gal, and am slightly baffled by people whose romantic cultures don't work that way.

One thing that strikes me is that these public interactions between strangers have vastly different contexts depending on where they take place. In large cities, imlx 'go away' is an easy signal to send - sure it might be ignored, wilfully or accidentally, but women don't tend to be faulted for providing it.

I have tried it in the suburban fringes of Atlanta and oh my god what. That there are people who think it's perfectly okay to touch a woman's arm when you haven't so much as made eye contact with her but then freak out when she turns round and gives you the bird is... Well, I'm not from around here, that's for sure.

Erin C. said...

"It's not fair to deprive men of the ability to approach you because one raped you."

Jesus Christ. That makes my blood run cold.

cheshire said...

Their is so much wrong with the responses here. Just I can't get past the women aren't human, because if they where it wouldn't be about depriving the right, it would be about how to negotiate contact which works for both people. I just. yeah.

belledame222 said...