There’s a fundamental misunderstanding within the community at large I’d like to correct.
Simply put, it’s not up to you whether or not you make someone feel uncomfortable.
It’s up to them.
It’s similar to why “I’m sorry you feel this way” isn’t a real apology — you’re placing the burden on the other person for being offended/hurt, rather than taking responsibility.
“I’m sorry. I fucked up.” That’s an apology.
We judge ourselves on our intentions, and others on their actions. It’s irrelevant to other parties what you meant, all that matters is what you did, and how that made them feel.
It’s natural whenever the topic of sexual assault comes around that, as a man, your first instinct is to be defensive.
You see a headline like “all men are rapists”, or “toxic masculinity is ruining gaming” and think, wait, but I’ve never done anything wrong! This is unfair! I’m being demonized for existing??!
I don’t believe most of you truly understand just how often this happens.
The list of people I personally know that have been physically assaulted is staggering.
The senior that drove me to school my freshman year.
The girl helping with my section at the tavern I worked in when I was 17.
The bartender in Seattle I bonded with at TI5.
On two distinct occasions, someone in my group of friends at the bar had something slipped in their drink (roofied). One occasion led to a hospital trip, the other a 24 hour hangover. Both required carrying to make it home.
For every story you hear or read about, there’s another ten you haven’t.
There is a reason this issue hasn’t just “gone away”.
It is maddening that even the most chivalrous and gentle man can & will be viewed as a potential threat. It is frustrating that what seems a simple misunderstanding could potentially derail your career. It seems unfair that social norms place the responsibility for initiating sexual relations on men while also punishing them harshly if they overstep or make an unwanted advance.
But would you trade places if given the chance?
Constantly stay on guard? Be physically outmatched by your potential partners? Unable to leave a drink unattended at a bar? Sexualized from puberty to post-mortem?
If not, kindly shut the fuck up.
I try to abide by the mantra that one should “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
I also ascribe to the worldview that humans are, generally speaking, good.
Thus, I believe we have significantly more Albert Brennaman’s among us than we do Jeffrey Dahmers.
A common response for anyone accused of impropriety publicly is one of shock and sadness…an “oh fuck… I didn’t realize I made you feel this way. I’m so sorry”. Sometimes that’s bullshit, sometimes it’s genuine. People, especially men (especially me), are pretty fucking dumb, doubly so when it comes to dating & sex.
As I believe there are non-negligible numbers of people who truly just, don’t understand certain concepts, I’ve outlined some.
Don’t touch someone’s face, ass, breasts, or hair unannounced. Honestly just don’t fucking touch people without permission. It’s a no-brainer. Imagine there’s an invisible force-field that extends a full half meter surrounding everyone you see in front of you. Don’t fuck with that space.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t ever hit on someone required by their profession to be friendly and warm. Waiters & waitresses, hosts, bartenders, airline stewards, volunteers, event staff, managers, handlers, etc.
Just don’t do it.
Yes, I understand your waitress is REALLY cute, and keeps giggling at your jokes, but bruh, that’s her job. Someone being friendly or flirty doesn’t mean ANYTHING because they’re in a position that requires friendliness. It’s hospitality.
Actually, just don’t hit on people that are forced to operate in your personal space. Work colleagues, employees, your neighbor on the airplane, person in the elevator…it’s real uncomfortable. Again, to you it might just a little “harmless flirting”, but from their perspective…someone’s speaking with sexual intent to me and I’m unable to escape the situation...That can feel reaallllllly sinister.
There are exceptions. If your bartender slips you a post-it note with “You are hot. Meet me in the freezer and let’s make sweet tender love to one another” you’re good to go.
Since you’re not Ryan Gosling, and this isn’t your imagination, let’s just assume friendly people are friendly and not necessarily DTF.
Every time I leave my house for an evening out, I like to imagine that there’s an infinite number of timelines I may end up experiencing. Maybe I’ll have a threesome with the Olsen twins. Maybe I’ll wake up in a bathtub missing a kidney, perhaps I’ll find the love of my life… or maybe I’ll just get drunk and go home alone. You can probably guess which scenario occurs most often.
The only goal you should have when going out for some fun, is well, that you’re going to have some fun.
Whatever it is you choose to do, you can only control your own actions. What others do is up to them.
You buy someone a drink? Cool, your choice.
Invite someone to a fancy dinner and pick up the tab? Your choice.
Buy a flirty colleague the perfect present? Your choice.
You’re not making a down payment on a car. Nothing is owed here.
I’ve spent altogether way too much time dating. I still don’t really understand what “it” is that makes someone want to sleep with someone else. I’m not sure anyone does. There’s a reason they call it “getting lucky”.
My personal recommendation is to go out into the world with childlike enthusiasm and hope for the best.
You are responsible for the group you choose to associate with.
Out at a bar, a member of your group is too drunk and throwing up in the bathroom. Guess whose problem that is? Yours.
On your way to do some content, one of your teammates says to your handler that he’ll do ALL the interviews if she has sex with him.
Guess whose problem that is? Yours.
While at the party, you notice your friend cornering a girl who seems incredibly uncomfortable.
You guessed it. Your problem.
The people you choose to spend time with are a reflection of your character. Be mindful of what they’re doing.
It’s not what you say, it’s what the other person hears.
This is the fundamental misunderstanding regarding communication, and the source of much woe and suffering for generations. Keep this in mind whenever you find yourself in a situation you don’t understand, or seem to have offended someone without knowing why. What are you missing? What’s the context? Is it possible my intentions are being misconstrued? We can only ever see the world from our perspective, and it’s shocking how radically different the same conversation can be interpreted by different parties.
There is no “great evil”, no Sauron or Shai’tan to fight. Just people trying to make sense of it all. If you want our planet to be a better place, you need to be a force for good. There isn’t any changing the world, just us, trying to be a bit better day by day. Good luck!