A couple of days ago, I went on a date with this guy and got the impression that he was looking for something long-term, while I had been clear that I was only looking for a fling. And even if I’d been honest in my intentions, I don’t want to go out with someone who is secretly hoping for something more long-term. It feels dishonest, or just unfair. So I sent him a message that said something like “I’m not sure that we’re looking for the same thing in a relationship.”
And the answer that I got back asked, was I really saying that I didn’t want to go out with him and just didn’t want to admit it? (Granted, there was a whole lot more in that message, so in the end I figured that I just hadn’t been clear enough, but…)
Is there an assumption somewhere that girls are going to come up with euphemisms for EVERYTHING, to the extent that you can’t trust what they actually say? I know there is. That’s where you get the idea of “I/She just didn’t say no enough times.” Really? How many times do you have to say “no” for it to be “real?” And who’s going to decide? Is 3 the cutoff? 5? 10? Seriously? Once should be enough. Because we are actually saying what we mean.
Take us at our word and we’ll actually give you our word. Start ignoring what we’re really saying in favor of something else, and we’ll have to come up with reasons that you’ll actually listen to.
But now I’m getting off topic. Because everyone walks into conversations with assumptions — everyone walks into life with assumptions. And I almost wanted to say girls are trained, but really EVERYONE is trained, to let people down easy. To say “I don’t think we have a lot in common” instead of “I think you’re boring,” or “I’m really busy so I don’t think it will work out” instead of “I don’t want to.” We’re trained to be polite in refusals. (Girls are trained more heavily in this, and are also trained not to refuse at all, but show me a guy who says “actually, you’re boring” instead of “I don’t think it will work out” and I’ll show you someone who has few friends, regardless of gender.)
So it’s easy enough to try and read into a conversation, especially if you’re unsure about what they’re trying to say, and assume they’re being opaque rather than simply unclear. That’s why it’s good to ask questions to clarify if you’re unsure.
But does this happen more to girls than to guys?* Do guys assume that we’re being opaque more than we are? Do they try and read into what we’re saying, when really what we’re saying is clear on the surface, if you would only take it as such?
And is this part of the problem of not taking no for an answer? Of saying, she didn’t say no enough times, or she didn’t really mean it?
I think it is.
I read a piece a while ago (that I’m having trouble finding at the moment) about how it is assumed that girls don’t say what they really mean. And how, of course, this is harmful to everyone.
Even if we say that there’s a small number of rapists who rape a lot of people, (I link to a discussion of such a study in my Victim Blaming post), the media still plays a role in how rape is perceived. And implying that a girl didn’t mean what she said, is one way to perpetuate the problem of not believing what a girl says.
But let’s move onto a bigger picture of the problem. If you can’t believe that what a woman says is what she means, how are you going to believe her in a work atmosphere? What if she’s your employee, or your boss? Teacher? Student? Friend? How are you supposed to have any type of a relationship with someone if you are being told that what she says is never what she means?
So while I know that everyone walks into life with assumptions, and sees the world through a different set of eyes, let’s stop assuming that guys always say what they mean and girls never do. Because if you take someone at their word, they’ll learn that they have to stick to their word, and in the end we’ll all be better off. (Ok, yes, I know that’s a bit idealistic and some people could take advantage of that, but I think it’s a good idea for the general population to work with.)
*And by this and the above, I mean, someone who presents as a girl or a guy. I do think that the visual component of gender here is what causes this particular kind of miscommunication, though I would be happy to hear of alternate examples.