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am I naive or putting out the wrong signals or do men take advantage?

(42 Posts)
mamadoc Thu 12-Nov-15 02:41:11

I am a 40 yr old married woman wearing a wedding ring. Tonight I went to a business dinner. I made an effort to wear a dress, make up and heels which is unusual for me. I just felt I should look presentable for a black tie occasion it was in no way a bid to attract male attention. Dress was knee length and high neck.
I attended alone.

No less than 3 men propositioned me fairly overtly for sex!! The 1st it was just getting too close, flirtatious comments, putting his arm over the back of my chair, knee touching at dinner, hand on my back sliding down and I gave him the brush off. The next one after dinner tried to buy me drinks and fairly heavily hinted he had a hotel room available so I left. The last guy on the train offered to share a taxi and then started pawing me and suggesting I go back to his for a 'massage' despite my saying I was going home to my DH and kids.

I utterly despair. This is the 1st time I've been out without DH in ages to what was supposed to be a professional environment and I feel like a piece of meat.

Am I doing something wrong? I am beating myself up about the taxi share guy especially. We had both missed the direct train and it saved us each 20 quid. It never entered my mind he had any other motive. I am such a fool.

Why does it have to be this way? Why can't I go out and network like all the men in the room without getting hit on?

ISaySteadyOn Thu 12-Nov-15 02:48:02

No useful words of advice OP, but flowers.

mamadoc Thu 12-Nov-15 02:49:46

Thank you. Feeling a bit raw, exposed and sad.

VashtaNerada Thu 12-Nov-15 04:04:06

You did nothing wrong, they did flowers

FreshwaterSelkie Thu 12-Nov-15 06:35:22

That completely sucks flowers

You're not doing anything wrong. You should be able to network professionally and not have to fend off sexual advances, of course you should! I don't know what line of work you're in, but to channel that anger into something positive, are there any steps you could take to get more women into your profession, or support and mentor younger women, and try to drive the culture more into the 21st century?

mamadoc Thu 12-Nov-15 07:44:05

I have a main job which is public sector and in which women are well represented. I have not experienced anything like that at events connected to my main job. I think that's why it shocked me so much.

This event was connected to a healthcare business that I have recently got involved in as a sideline so I don't know much about the culture yet. There did appear to be a fair number of women there.

Apart from the propositioning I was also repeatedly asked what my husband does for a living and who was looking after my DC for the night. Not offensive questions as such but ones I doubt a man would be asked at a business event.

NeverEverAnythingEver Thu 12-Nov-15 09:32:18

You did not do anything wrong!

Is there someone at your workplace you can complain to? HR?

I work in a male dominated area and in the (very few) networking stuff I attended it's not unusual that I'm the only woman there. I've not experienced the proposition stuff but certainly get singled out with "ladies first" and glances when somebody used a swear word. (Jesus - do they think I don't swear? I'm an MNer FFS. Note to self: swear more in public to disillusion people.)

I did tell my colleagues (who are all very nice) about it. I want people to know that even nice people are sexist... The more people are aware about such things the less they will go on about how women don't make progress because they choose not to... What a choice!

BuffytheScaryFeministBOO Thu 12-Nov-15 09:51:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

lorelei9 Thu 12-Nov-15 09:56:20

you didn't do anything wrong
it's a nightmare these days, I feel like there was some sort of notice issued saying "hassle women as frequently as possible".

a married colleague recently had an unwanted proposition from a client and when she replied with "i'm married" he said "so?" and she said "I mean, happily married" and he said "so...?"

BubsandMoo Thu 12-Nov-15 10:04:46

The thing is, we shouldn't have to disclose our relationship status to fend off sexual harrasment. So if a woman is single, is innuendo in a professional environment and unwanted touching fair game then? We need to feel comfortable naming harrasment for what it is, to the perpetrators, and not be criticised for being offended by it. We need to stop accepting it as just part of the culture/a bit of harmless banter/just how men are. (By we I mean all of us, not singling anyone out)

OP you did nothing wrong. Have you seen @EverydaySexism? You are not alone.

lorelei9 Thu 12-Nov-15 10:10:28

Bubs, no of course we shoudln't, I'm single too. I don't think that kind of attention is ever acceptable.

I mentioned that story because I felt it was a sign of the times. I wore an engagement ring with one partner and I used to see men look at it and go away. Now it seems that knowing someone is attached makes no difference either. My colleague has been marreid about 17 years and said the same - it used to be her way of getting rid, now it's a mission getting rid of these men.

I would really like it if these men would just naff off.

BubsandMoo Thu 12-Nov-15 10:16:57

I know. Thing is a wedding ring shouldn't make a difference anyway- men shouldn't not harass women because someone else has already staked their claim. They just shouldn't harass women, full stop.

VestalVirgin Thu 12-Nov-15 11:41:36

Apparently men nowadays don't think of women as private property of the husband anymore, but as public property.

Maybe the time is ripe for some suffragist-style action - not only waving signs around, but doing things like going on strike.

tribpot Thu 12-Nov-15 11:54:27

God, the hand on back guy makes me feel ill - as for taxi guy, that must have been pretty scary, OP.

I don't do any evening network events because I prefer to avoid being near alcohol but I've certainly heard of events getting rather - ahem, uninhibited shall we say, but only between enthusiastic participants. That sounds grim enough but your experience sounds far worse, OP.

I hope it won't put you off networking in future, although I would want to plan ahead if I were you - go with allies, for example. I would make no concessions in terms of dress - if you want to dress up, do. If you don't, don't.

BarbarianMum Thu 12-Nov-15 16:08:31


You are not naive. I really doubt that you were unconciously "putting out signals" (flirts tend to know they are doing it ime). You just dared to be attractive and female in public without a male chaperone and all the low life came climbing out of the woodwork. angry

I hate that some men feel entitled to act this way.

IrritableBitchSyndrome Thu 12-Nov-15 16:13:28

Urgh! Totally reminds me why I don't miss work that much! Yes, it sucks. No, it's not you. Sigh.

mamadoc Thu 12-Nov-15 16:15:45

It was an industry event with lots of people from different companies so I don't think there is anyone obvious to complain to.

2/3 of them didn't even have alcohol as an excuse. Dinner table guy had only had one glass of wine when he started and taxi guy was stone cold sober. I am just so staggered they felt entitled to touch me and that they assume I would be interested in a sexual encounter with them on no basis whatsoever.

Taxi guy was quite scary. He let me get in first then sat right next to me in the middle seat instead of the other side so I could not get away. The only reason I wasn't more terrified was knowing the taxi driver was there. I imagine the driver assumed we were together at first but I loudly asked sleaze bag to stop touching me and move away and the driver then asked if I was ok which did cause him to stop. He still tried to give me his number 'in case I changed my mind.'

I do not believe that all men are potential rapists but frankly this kind of stuff makes you realise that you would be safer operating on that assumption.

BarbarianMum Thu 12-Nov-15 16:20:37

Does your industry have a professional body you could raise this with? Not that they could do anything about this particular instance, but I wonder if they could highlight the issue in their journal/on-line magazine. Seems wrong that it is never talked about (except by women to women). Needs to be challenged everywhere.

LurcioAgain Thu 12-Nov-15 16:32:46

Mamadoc flowers

It was definitely not you, it was them being sleaze balls.

Re the wedding ring issue, I wonder if past a certain age this makes it more rather than less likely - the blokes doing it avoid single women like the plague because they are after no-strings attached sex and think (mistakenly) that they are more likely to get that if they can hit on an unhappily married woman - and hit on all married women indiscriminately.

AnyoneButAndre Thu 12-Nov-15 16:50:12

I think there are two very different types of motivation for superficially similar behaviour here.

Lots of people do meet their long-term partners or temporary shags at work or at work functions. Loads of people do get (moderately) pissed and have entirely consensual sex at these kinds of events. So it could be a legitimate advance from someone who thinks there's a reasonable chance that you'll think "what the hell, why not?"

OTOH there are men who do this purely out of a power kick, to put women in their place and remind them that no matter how powerful or successful they may be at work, they are still "only" women, and primarily there for men's sexual pleasure. Men who make advances despite you making it abundantly clear that you are not single and not in the market for a fling are always going to have very dark motives. Other men may or may not be on the level - the phrase "oh I'm really sorry, I thought you were single for some reason. So, can I get you another profiterole? And what did you think of that closing speech?" would be a clue that someone may be legit. But it's often really difficult to prove someone's motives, even if you are personally certain he was getting his kicks from making you uncomfortable.

scallopsrgreat Thu 12-Nov-15 16:54:23

Men do this because they feel entitled to. Whether they think "there's a reasonable chance" (despite no encouragement) or for a power kick.

BarbarianMum Thu 12-Nov-15 16:55:35

But generally with 'legitimate advances' there is an element of reciprocity, no? You get chatting, chat gets more personal, maybe some flirting? You don't just grope someone or randomly proposition them and expect them to be OK with it.

scallopsrgreat Thu 12-Nov-15 16:57:34

Yes, exactly BarbarianMum. thinking there's a reasonable chance would need to involve a level of reciprocity, surely Andre?

scallopsrgreat Thu 12-Nov-15 16:58:34

Or does just talking to a man or sharing a cab with them equal reciprocity?

AnyoneButAndre Thu 12-Nov-15 17:10:38

Yes definitely someone should chat/lightly flirt enough to get a sense of whether a direct proposition would have any chance of a favourable response. Unless it's a full on loud music meat market (yes these do exist in a work context but the OP clearly wasn't at one of those).

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