Why did I feel flattered by "unwanted" attention in my youth?

(24 Posts)
affafantoosh Wed 09-Jul-14 13:09:37

I read the Vanessa Feltz thread and it got me thinking.

I used to have my bra straps pinged in school, my arse groped and my breasts grabbed. Part of me was always flattered - I'd protest but be secretly pleased. Looking back I had a serious desire for male attention and although I have always had female friendships, only now I'm in my 30s do I see their true value and I'm making really strong and close bonds with women.

Maybe this is in the wong place but I wonder why I felt like this about male attention and whether it's common, and it strikes me that if it is common then it is responsible for a lot of harm and how can we change it?

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 15:36:32

I can relate to this - I think the main reason so many young women are like this is because society sends us strong messages that male attention (specifically sexual attention / desire) is the most important thing a woman can get. Girls are sent the message that looking pretty is essential, and what's the yardstick we measure attractiveness by? It's how men respond to you.

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 15:39:36

The above also often seems to be coupled with low self esteem in young women. I think the need for male attention and self esteem are strongly linked.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Wed 09-Jul-14 15:41:37

Girls are taught to value their attractiveness above else from day one.

They are objectified constantly.

Little boys, run fast/ play hard/ are little monsters/ so clever/great builder/so funny.

Girls are pretty. They have on lovely dresses. Beautiful hair.

Next time you are near a little girl listen to what people say to her.. what you catch yourself saying to her. It's hardly a surprise that when you teach a girl that her value lies in her prettiness that they will be pleased when it continues. It may be only when they start to get frightened by the attention that they realise it is wrong.

PetulaGordino Wed 09-Jul-14 15:46:05

you are taught that your self-worth depends on how well you please men, so you respond accordingly

cadno Wed 09-Jul-14 17:26:40

Possibly an inherited trait ?

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 17:38:18

Bullshit.

It may seem to be inherited in as much as a woman who is highly socialised to seek male attention (through appearance, sex etc) is likely to teach those behaviours to her daughters by example.

But saying that seeking validation through male desire / approval is inherited? Are you saying that some women are just born to be 'slappers' or something like that? Have you missed all the messages society sends to girls about what's important (I.e. being pretty, beinh desired)

BillnTedsMostFeministAdventure Wed 09-Jul-14 17:50:31

Save your pixels, Just. Use them for the AS box.

Petitgrain Wed 09-Jul-14 17:53:38

It can be a form of validation for girls who have had bad or non-existent relationships with their fathers.

BriarRainbowshimmer Wed 09-Jul-14 17:55:56

Well OP how much actual respectful positive attention did you and other girls get from your male classmates/men? If it was only negative (groping etc) then perhaps it was appreciated because it was the only interest boys showed you girls.

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 17:57:02

AS box? What's that?

MontyGlee Wed 09-Jul-14 18:12:35

One lad I work with is always boasting about pulling - it's as if attracting a woman is validation - and I mean iro how his friends view him; if you can't attract a mate, you're not man enough.

MontyGlee Wed 09-Jul-14 18:15:32

Sorry, I meant to add that teens in nightclubs aren't much different from kids in playgrounds and - after a certain point - some girls get attention and others less so. I think it's human to want to be the one getting the attention at that stage of life. It's only as we get older that the group changes and matures.

CatKisser Wed 09-Jul-14 18:17:08

It may be only when they start to get frightened by the attention that they realise it is wrong.

Spot on. I posted recently on the heart breaking rape/assault thread recently. When I was a frankly unattractive and clueless 15 year old, my 30 something attacker sent me streams of pornographic texts, including how "sexy" and "hot" I was, what he was going to do to me, etc.
I was thrilled! It was male attention!
When he get me in a situation where we were alone, however, he started doing sexual things, I got a feeling of real terror and "I don't want to do this." Too late. I wonder the fuck at the age of fifteen I had already decided that any male attention is good attention.

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 18:19:56

I think pulling is different to what the op is describing.

She is describing negative attention (groping etc.) and feeling that she feels validated by it, or somehow 'enjoys' it even though it is unwanted.

'Pulling' is something that people (male or female) actively seek,and is very different to the above.

The equivalent would be a man feeling validated by an older woman catcalling or groping him. Does that happen?

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 18:21:39

CatKisser - I think what you describe is very common.

MontyGlee Wed 09-Jul-14 18:32:53

You're right JTRB, but I was saying that's often the other half of the equation. I'm sure I read about differences in boys' classroom behaviour when girls were there (or not). The upshot was that they couldn't concentrate when girls were around because they were showing off etc. So, if there is this whole boy ritual thing going on, it suggests that the highly-aware girls will be alive to the fact that this is to their benefit - and more to some girls' benefit than others. Ok, obviously, the grabbing is way out of line... but that's the thing with kids isn't it: they experiment with 'lines'.

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 19:01:14

Can you explain how it is 'to the girl's benefit', as I'm struggling to see it.

MontyGlee Wed 09-Jul-14 19:03:42

Sorry, wrong choice of words. 'the benefit of' meaning simply for. No actual benefit!

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 19:37:58

I'm not sure why you have restricted it to kids, either. Most girls/women experience what the op describes from adult men as well. Nothing to do with experimenting.

I think the point you're trying to make is that men do seek female validation too. Is that right?

However, they are different. I don't think men are socialised to see all female attention/desire (even unsought or inappropriate attention) as positive, or to see negative/unwanted female attention as a 'compliment'.

(That word - compliment - often crops up in discussions about negative male attention)

SevenZarkSeven Wed 09-Jul-14 21:31:02

I agree with others that is socialised in.

I had this duality thing with it - it was pleased to get attention but simultaneously pissed off about it. I guess I was pleased to get attention but upset by the form it took.

Also the pressure (from everywhere really) to smile / laugh it off / feel flattered is very strong and if you are told to react like that you have to try and make yourself feel like it's all positive / actually feel like it's all positive otherwise your head would explode.

Of course when you get older you realise that it was out of order / creepy / sexual assault / illegal etc etc and many women do not react that way when they get older because of that. Which is the main reason that girls and young women are the targets for this stuff, because the male doing it knows that they are less likely to get told to fuck off and less likely to be reported to anyone if it is a more serious action.

JustTheRightBullets Wed 09-Jul-14 21:32:51

Of course when you get older you realise that it was out of order / creepy / sexual assault / illegal etc etc and many women do not react that way when they get older because of that. Which is the main reason that girls and young women are the targets for this stuff, because the male doing itknowsthat they are less likely to get told to fuck off and less likely to be reported to anyone if it is a more serious action.

YYY

SevenZarkSeven Wed 09-Jul-14 22:08:00

Oh thanks Just smile always nice to hit a chord. Even if the subject matter is less than nice.

ThisIsRicockulous Sat 12-Jul-14 22:03:55

I used to be like this. I used to be absolutely beautiful - literally I stopped traffic. I LOVED the male attention...what a trip! Then I was lucky enough to meet a genuine and utterly fantastic man, got married and had three kids....I wasn't as attractive anymore to the fuckwits but instead of hating that I LOVED it! What refreshing freedom. We get older and wiser.

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