Just been mildly hit on by some sleazy old man ...

(196 Posts)
ButThereAgain Thu 28-Nov-13 10:52:46

... which is a ridiculous and stupid thing to happen to a middle-aged woman out walking her dog in the woods, but which gave me this huge dual-carriageway of memory to the sorts of things that used to happen to me (as to almost every young women) when I was very young, when men would seize on my timid politeness as a way of wheedling at me and blaming me for the situations their insistence created.

At the time I was naive and like a million other young women I would blame myself for whatever awkward situation arose. But now, with the perspective of maturity, I can see much more clearly how it works -- how they engineer things so that you start to see their pressuring of you as something you have yourself created.

I'm not talking of anything remotely close to sexual assault -- just a kind of insistent, "flattering" attention. If you are like me, you start off being very polite and kind, and once you realise how pressing and inappropriately demanding they are being, the necessary rudeness (to make them fuck off) seems likes such a reversal that you feel guilty, almost buying in to their perception of you as having somehow "led them on" and then rebuffed them.

And all the "compliments" are structured to try and make you think that your alleged loveliness (I'm not remotely lovely, just an old hag in a muddy waterproof coat) takes agency away from them and makes you yourself to blame.

Even as a mature woman I couldn't bring myself to tell him explicitly to get lost. When I think back to my young self, and to all the current young women, just being polite and suffering the consequences, it makes me furious.

This was just unwelcome pressuring conversation, not assault. Just the ordinary low-level stuff that you forget about when you are old but which is routine when you are a young woman.

Just getting it off my chest, really. I actually do feel guilty about rebuffing this old man so that he doesn't get what he wants from me (namely, I think, the opportunity to talk "flatteringly" to me for ages while he thinks his lecherous thoughts).

whatdoesittake48 Thu 28-Nov-13 11:09:32

it is strange isn't it. I had a similar situation recently. I am 40 and an old man (at least in his seventies) at a bus stop started on me. Pointing out to his friends how lovely I was and how if the bus was full I could sit on his lap...

the bus was full - he announced to the whole bus that he had offered me his lap. I just ignored him and eventually told him that i was fine standing and could he just leave it.

I kept reminding myself that it was his age, his generation - but i still felt demeaned and defiled for the rest of the day.

Why can they not see how uncomfortable this sort of behaviour makes us and change their actions accordingly. it seems ridiculous that we should spare their feelings by being nice in spite of their actions. but they seem to not care less about our feelings.

ButThereAgain Thu 28-Nov-13 11:37:57

Yes, that's just it. Sparing the feelings of people who either don't see or don't care about our own feelings.

enlightenmequick Thu 28-Nov-13 13:20:58

I posted this in a thread that is active now, called learning your place.

It's an article on how rape happens because we are socialised to be polite, ignore, pacify etc.

here

Biggedybiggedybongsoitis Thu 28-Nov-13 13:46:49

Even as a mature woman I couldn't bring myself to tell him explicitly to get lost.

Why not? And that is not being asked in an accusatory way - just curious. You can see the ridiculousness of his behaviour. I assume you think he knows what he is doing. When all is said and done he is being a rude, insensitive prick. It's a form of bullying. And bullies will do it as long as they get away with it.

I am a man and I am trying to understand this, not tell you how I think you should have behaved.

MooncupGoddess Thu 28-Nov-13 13:51:31

Women are socialised into being nice and not making a fuss, Biggedy. it's really hard to get past that conditioning.

The worst is when men behave like this in work situations... so awkward because if you make a stand you know it will probably come back to bite you on the arse.

Biggedybiggedybongsoitis Thu 28-Nov-13 14:20:56

I saw the article about socialisation on the other thread - interesting stuff. What I wonder is, if a confident, seen-it-all-before, articulate middle-aged woman still feels trapped by this socialisation, even though she is aware of it, how do you break the cycle? How do you give her the skills to be able to turn round and say, 'Not today, thanks.. Feeling uncomfortable'.

The reason I ask is someone at work was subjected to bullying behaviour the other day. Apparently, the person on the end of this just turned round and said 'Don't you dare talk to me like that!' And that was it, end of her nasty behaviour and she was as nice as pie after that..

I am not saying that everything is that easy. I am asking how we equip everyone to be able to do this.

ButThereAgain Thu 28-Nov-13 16:52:31

Thanks for the responses, esp for your link enlightenmequick -- but the link isn't working and I missed the thread when it was in active convos. Would you be able to repost the link?

BuffytheElfSquisher Thu 28-Nov-13 17:08:39

I am old enough at 36 to feel confident as a person. What would I do if a man approached me when I was walking my dog, alone, in the woods? I would nod a polite greeting, perhaps exchange a few words and then expect that we would both be on our way.

What would I do if he began to pressure me in the way ButThere describes? A way that is sadly very familiar to many, many women?

I would feel very uncomfortable, but would remain polite because of the chance that he might become violent.

I remember on another thread somewhere somebody posted that they were offended because talking about male violence as if all men were a potential threat was a bad thing. Trouble is, all men are a potential threat.

This is why we don't assert ourselves when strange men make us uncomfortable.

AngelaDaviesHair Thu 28-Nov-13 17:11:46

Not all men are a potential threat, but you can't tell just by looking or a few minutes of conversation which are and which are not. So women are often cautious about offending. It can feel like escalating the situation.

BuffytheElfSquisher Thu 28-Nov-13 17:21:38

you can't tell just by looking or a few minutes of conversation which are and which are not

Exactly, isn't that the same thing as all men being a potential threat? Perhaps I should have said all men I don't know well are a potential threat, but then doesn't most actual violence come from men one knows?

One of those instances of risk perception being way off, perhaps. Similar to the statistician who calculated that 1,000 extra people died in the months following 9/11 because they chose to make their journey by car rather than fly because they thought it was less risky. Only, it wasn't.

Also, society encourages us to view all men as a potential threat, doesn't it? That assumption is the source of most rape myths, for a start.

Anyway, I am answering biggedy's question about why women aren't more assertive with inappropriate strangers: most likely because they fear violence or verbal abuse.

tracypenisbeaker Thu 28-Nov-13 17:23:30

I remember as a young teen an old man approached my friends and I and started to show us school pictures of a Thai girl, supposedly his daughter who he never sees. We nodded politely and were very much like 'Oh that's a shame.' (I can see now he was trying to rope us in by garnering sympathy)

He then asked us if we wanted to see his 'Thai elephant.' hmm Then he was trying to get a seat next to us on the bus- luckily there were four of us so he couldn't. He ended up next to this woman (who was in the window seat) and after about 5 minutes of him talking to her she moved seats, clearly in disgust.

More times than not, it seems that every time an older man has struck up a conversation with me there is always some sort of innuendo thrown in. That isn't to say i think that all men are like that- I think it is because the decent ones are too worried to talk to a young woman for fear of coming across as a lech, which is a shame. And yes to the guilty feeling you have when you make your excuses to get away from the ones who make us uncomfortable. Why are we like this?

scallopsrgreat Thu 28-Nov-13 17:36:10

I think that men who ignore women's boundaries in one way i.e. through inappropriate comments and not caring whether they make the woman uncomfortable are less likely to care about the woman's physical boundaries i.e. have more potential to become angry and violent.

LemonDough Thu 28-Nov-13 17:38:16

Anyway, I am answering biggedy's question about why women aren't more assertive with inappropriate strangers: most likely because they fear violence or verbal abuse

This, yes. Especially in the woods where there is unlikely to be many people who could help if help were needed.

I recently had a similar situation - I am mid 40s and a man of around 80 (?) struck up a conversation with me - I was similarly not very lovely at the time in old anorak with muddy dog in tow. Of course I was polite and friendly towards him because it's not in my nature to tell a stranger to piss off without good reason but the conversation very quickly turned to why I wasn't wearing a wedding ring having just told him that I had two almost grown children, like I was going to tell a complete stranger my somewhat complicated marriage set up at the moment. I began to feel a bit uncomfortable and he was very insistent on carrying on the conversation despite my unease. Was he potential threat? No idea, he managed to make me feel very uncomfortable despite being a bit decrepit and using a zimmer frame lol! Maybe he was just lonely, who knows, but it line of conversation was just inappropriate and too personal.

FloraFox Thu 28-Nov-13 17:47:27

Biggedy why don't men realise they are crossing boundaries and stop doing it? Any attempt to talk about men's behaviour is generally met by a barrage of "not all men are rapists" and general shouting down. It should go without saying that a man should not approach a woman walking alone in the woods or similar situations but most women have had this experience, have felt very uncomfortable, have tried to be polite and not escalate the situation. Most of these situations do not result in rape so the men might be creepy but are not necessarily rapists.

The question should be why these men feel entitled to encroach on complete strangers in this way. God forbid anyone might try to have that discussion on CiF or any other male-dominated forum.

CaptChaos Thu 28-Nov-13 17:56:56

Along with the fact that, as women, we are brought up to be nice, to play nicely, to be polite and above all quiet, you also have the pervading myth that rapists are strangers met in secluded places. This is despite the fact that we, intellectually, know that statistically it is much more likely that it will be someone you know and love who will rape you, the myth is powerful.

Surely men are aware of this myth? If they are aware, and want to not be seen as a potential threat, then surely it is up to the men to make sure that what they are doing doesn't make women fell uncomfortable or threatened?

It's great that people greet one another when out walking their dogs, but I tend not to walk my 2 on my own in the woods, having had a similar experience to OP.

ThingsThatGoBumpInTheNight Thu 28-Nov-13 18:11:07

Men like this (p is like it but in training out of it, and his father is definitely like it, basically he could be the person in the OP) seem to lack social skills needed to work out facial or body language. I'm afraid I'm a bit abrupt with these people after years of being 'too nice' until shit went down and I was forced to be rude or express displeasure clearly, I was brought up to be polite, non confrontational, pacifying ect which IMO led to all sorts of abuse from csa to dv, not something I want repeated with my dd's though struggle to change what I was taught, and have to check myself often before I instil the same in them.

All I say now is 'sorry but this conversation is making me feel xxxx' and walk away. Maybe this is wrong as I always feel some people WANT you to feel 'xxxx' as it empowers them. Any tips for cutting things short would be appreciated x

Ps isn't it wrong that we feel so bad for standing our ground or frightened in case the person reacts badly/violently?

cardamomginger Thu 28-Nov-13 18:16:09

When I was 17 I was hit on by a 70-ish year old on the train from East Croydon to Victoria. He told me the time of the return train he'd be catching and expected me to meet him on it. hmm

Lovecat Thu 28-Nov-13 18:26:10

Interesting - I had a bit of a barney on MN a few years ago and was pretty much accused of being an antisocial freak because I was unhappy with random strangers (always male) getting in DD (then about 4 or 5)'s face and demanding she say "hello" to them or smile, or respond to their conversational advances - I was telling her that if she didn't want to talk to them she didn't have to, and she was under no obligation to smile back at them or engage with them, and I was telling the men in question that they were making her feel uncomfortable - usually to great indignation on their part.

Now I'm not saying any of them were paedos or even in any way particularly dodgy, but there was an expectation that they were somehow entitled to talk to her and by not responding to them she was being 'rude' - she was a shy little girl and was very uncomfortable about these strangers demanding a conversation with her. I upheld her right to be uncomfortable then and still do today.

This is how this sort of socialisation starts, from a very young age, and I do wonder what can be done to make (certain sorts of) men see that not everyone is delighted to have interaction with them, nor that they have the right to initiate such interaction when it's making the other person feel so uncomfortable?

Biggedybiggedybongsoitis Thu 28-Nov-13 19:04:48

Flora, who says that they don't know they are doing it? Do people here who have experienced this feel it is intentional, or blind ignorance?

I'd guess it's a mixture. Maybe old men sometimes mistake a response for a green light to blab on. Maybe they come from an era where they were listened to just because they were men, and women kept quiet. Maybe they are lonely, or confused, or both? Or maybe they are calculating twats who are fully aware of what they are doing, but take pleasure from others' discomfort. I think its some of each.

As for young men, well at the grand old age of cough late forties, I find many younger people lack any sort of social graces whatsoever. They think nothing of starting texting or taking a phone call in the middle of a meeting or conversation. Happens with apprentice lads at work all the time. One was threatened with having his phone taken off him like a naughty child because he kept doing it. And then there's some men who are just entitled pricks who don't care a fig for social boundaries, personal space or other people's feelings. It's all about them and what they want. They lack empathy and social skills. I would say though that blokes like this can be as rude to other men, whether its snideness, bullying or outright aggression.

Lastly, on why men might do this. Sometimes it might just be that they think it is appreciated. They might think, 'I'd love to be chatted up randomly, so I bet she will too.' Idiotic, but not always done with malice.

BuffytheElfSquisher Thu 28-Nov-13 19:21:01

We know all that.

enlightenmequick Thu 28-Nov-13 19:36:53
FloraFox Thu 28-Nov-13 19:43:38

Biggedy we know all that. I know the reasons why men feel entitled to encroach on women's personal space and privacy and the problems with being friendly in response (encouraging them to think they can take it further) or being firm or ignoring in response (provoking an aggressive response). All women know this.

How about instead of asking women to change, ask men to change?

Lovecat I think it's good you are teaching your daughter she doesn't owe men a response and I agree the socialisation starts early. I don't remember your previous thread (was it on FWR?) but I'm not surprised about the indignation (unless it was FWR, then I would be surprised).

enlightenmequick Thu 28-Nov-13 19:46:43

I saw a Ted talk yesterday, where the male speaker asked what things women do, to stop themselves from being molested.

For instance, I've stopped going on an early morning run now because it's so dark.

He gave examples like carrying your keys sticking out in your hand, and crossing the road if a big group of young males are in your way.

He then asked the same question towards the men. (My dh ran at 6am on Tues)

This in my humble opinion is actually why biggedy doesn't get why we don't just say something.

Not a criticism directly biggedy smile

Biggedybiggedybongsoitis Thu 28-Nov-13 19:49:07

Flora, at 1747 you wrote 'Biggedy why don't men realise they are crossing boundaries and stop doing it?'

I was responding to your question. Then I get a double but we know all that! I don't quite know what you or Buffy expected me to say then.

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