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love out loud: males do not a meat market make (either)

When I tell people I’m a feminist, I actually don’t usually get a very averse response. This is probably because I wear a bra, readily engage in body hair removal and can often be seen fawning over my boyfriend rather than asserting my status as an independent woman who doesn’t need the love of one of the oppressive man-demons who will eventually and undoubtedly want me to stay home juggling our crib midgets with one hand and baking him pies with the other.

(Feel free to insert your own boring and inaccurate stereotypes here).

My point is, the feminism thing isn’t a thing that tends to come up in preliminary pleasantries. It’s usually embedded within a friendly conversation (often about lip), or occasionally within heated discussions prompted by ignorant comments made in university tutorials about prostitution. For example.

Anyway, my being a feminist rarely comes across as very scary (I don’t think) and this is probably also because I’m rather quick to point out that I’ll protest where I think men are at a disadvantage as well. I’m more of a person-ist really.

One such circumstance came to light a few weeks ago when a male friend, Percy, was approached by a girl in a bar with a twinkle in her eye. He was flattered, but politely told her he had a girlfriend and believed, not unreasonably, that the attention would end there.

Instead, the girl persisted with her compliments and come-ons, to the point where Percy began to feel uncomfortable with the unwanted intrusion on his personal space. Moreover, he pointed out later that if it had been a guy who had been keeping at sleazy efforts towards a female, most people would think that she’d be well within her rights to tell him to back off as ineloquently as she saw fit.

It’s rather poor form to chat someone up who has a partner, but Percy’s sheer expression of disinterest should’ve been more than enough. Too often, rejection is seen as a mere obstacle to securing someone’s affection, and the widely held perception that men are always ‘up for it’ makes any reason other than having a partner (although in this case even that wasn’t sufficient) inadequate cause not to take up sex when it’s offered. And though we should all exercise a bit of courtesy in our interactions, it also seems that it’s more acceptable for females to tell someone to get lost if their boundaries are crossed, while social conventions that insist upon males acting like gentlemen mean that they can’t respond to persistent unwanted attention in the same way without being seen as inappropriate or aggressive.

Gender inequalities are still very much in existence, but there are certain situations in which men do not have the upper hand. Of course, the instances where a female hitting on a man in a bar who isn’t interested in her do not escalate to sexual violence nearly as often as when the roles are reversed, but that doesn’t mean we should discount these experiences.

Everyone has the right to put forth their boundaries with the expectation that they will be respected, and everyone has the right to say no, irrespective of their gender, whether it’s no to sex, a drink or just batted eyelashes.

(Image credit: 1.)

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