Change Your Answer #1: On Men Not Being Entitled to Women

Illustration by Wendell Barton. See more of his work at DesignbyDel

You know how you relive moments? Maybe they’re big, life-changing moments, but just as often, they’re tiny events that the other person involved wouldn’t even remember. Either way, if you were to experience them now, your response would be different. It’s not about regrets, though. It’s about changes in perspective and knowledge, about deeper understanding. Sure, the past is over, but maybe if we had responded differently, someone would have learned something. Change Your Answer features short reflections imagining how we could rewrite those narratives enough so that someone might learn from them. Maybe we can even learn from ourselves.

On Men Not Being Entitled to Women

When I was 17 or 18, a male friend – we’ll call him X – had a crush on me. He asked me out, and I said no. Okay, let’s be honest here; I didn’t say no, I said I was seeing someone. This was a half-truth, but rarely are women able to just say no without some sort of excuse. But he persisted, and I eventually decided to give him a chance. We went on a few dates and started spending more time together, although I told him explicitly that I was not interested in a relationship.

A few weeks after we went on our first date, I was at a party. The guy that I was half-seeing before I went on a date with X – we’ll call him Z – was also there. I liked Z. We left the party together, walked and talked for hours, and spent a fair amount of time making out. When X learned about this, he was hurt, and a lot of our friends felt that I had wronged him. A few people even stopped talking to me. Although I initially didn’t think I had done anything wrong, I felt guilty and questioned it.

Author’s rendition of the car ride.

A month or so later, I was in a car with several friends. We were having a good time, until the girl who was driving told me, “You’re still not on my happy list because of what you did to X.” I felt terrible and said nothing, possibly for the rest of the night.

If I somehow found myself in that situation today, I would first marvel at being at a party in the first place, and probably wish I was home with my cat. But then, I would have taken a deep breath and told her that I did not owe X anything. That I was not obligated to date him because he was interested in me, and that having dated him, I was not obligated to continue dating him. I made it clear to him that I did not want to be in an exclusive relationship, and so any expectation contrary to that was entirely created by him, and therefore not my responsibility to cater to.

I can’t guess how she would have responded. Maybe it would have made things worse. Maybe she would have kicked me out of her car, but I doubt it. But maybe it would have been enough to make her, or even someone else in the car, think about why they felt I should be blamed for “hurting” this poor, defenseless man. Maybe they would even have thought about their own feelings of obligation to the men in their lives, and the ways that men are conditioned to feel entitled to us, and the ways we are conditioned to accommodate their entitlement.

Can you relate? What answers would you change in your own history? Send your stories to dismantlemedia at gmail dot com with the subject header “Change Your Answer Submission.” Stories should be less than 1000 words and pasted into the body of the email.

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