The Safety Team Blog

Navigating Romance in the age of #MeToo

Mar 7, 2020

There have been some truly powerful social media movements over the last few years. From #YesAllWomen to #MeToo and now #TimesUp women are making their voices heard on issues we have talked about for decades.

These are not new concepts. None of these are a surprise to women.

It’s not surprising that the backlash exists. Suddenly, men say, there will be no more flirting, no more dating. There will be no new relationships, birth rates will crash and civilization will die! The horror!

Even still, I am surprised by the number of men on the internet making comments about how they just don’t understand what women want.

They can’t crack the code! How will they find love now in the age of #MeToo?

I recently had a conversation with a man online who said if he had to wait for women to show their interest and consent he would be alone forever. I asked him if he had ever thought of asking women if they were interested in him. He said he had done that before and that “it didn’t work,” and that what did work was to instead be “confident and persistent” and that “despite that I still choose to be respectful.”

Red flags abound. But he’s not alone. I see these comments over and over again. So here I am. I’m going to “crack the code” for you. 

How to tell if a woman is interested:

Let’s say you see a woman you find attractive. Maybe you love her laugh. Maybe you’ve known her for years, maybe you’ve just noticed her across the bar. She’s making eye contact, smiling, and showing a million and one potential body signs of interest or she’s sitting quietly having a drink. Maybe you want a relationship. Maybe you just want to hook-up for the night. It doesn’t matter, the approach is the same. ASK!

Hi, I couldn’t help but notice you, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in going on a date with me?”

“I know we’ve know each other for years, but I find myself wanting more, and I was wondering if you felt the same.”

“Hey, you’re really attractive, and I was wondering if you were interested in hooking up?”

You’ll notice that all of these ask the woman a direct question. Now here’s the tricky part. You have to actually listen to the answer, and respect that it is the final answer.

Navigating Romance

“I would love to!” “I absolutely feel the same way!” “Hell, yes, you’re hot!”

These statements all express enthusiastic consent. If you get any of these, Congratulations! Love is in the air! (However, keep in mind that consent is continuous. You will have to ask again, if you want to do something new. Consent to a date is not consent to sex.)

No.” “I’m not interested.” “No, thanks.

If you get any of these answers, alas, cupid’s arrow has missed. The important part is now how you respond. The correct response goes something like this: “Ok, have a good night.” “I understand.” “Ok, sorry to bother you.

The important part to remember is that the refusal is NOT the starting point of negotiations. We have all had experiences with men who will not accept this answer. If you try to convince the woman to change her mind, it’s not persistence, it’s harassment. Respect her answer and move on.

Navigating Romance

Now, what if you don’t get a clear “yes” or “no?” 

I have a boyfriend.” (Whether you know she does or not) “I’m meeting someone here.” “I just got out of a bad relationship.” “I’m really just struggling to focus on school/work right now.” “I have an early morning tomorrow.” “Now is just not a good time.” Or maybe she doesn’t say anything. Maybe she goes to her phone. Maybe she tries to leave you behind. 

This is the part where men cry foul, that women speak in codes. Why can’t they just give a clear answer?

Here’s the deal: All of those answers are a “No.” Do not proceed, do not pass go. 

Let’s say you think there might be real interest there. Maybe you’ve had fabulous conversation up to this point. Maybe she smiles regretfully. You can say, “Would you like my number in case you change your mind?” Now, she may take the number or not, but you can not ask her for her number, and if she doesn’t call, you leave her alone.

But why? Why can’t these women just give a straight answer. Why must she lead you on with niceness and smiles?

She’s afraid you’re going to kill her.

Yes, seriously.

Navigating Romance

Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. The news is full of stories of women being killed because they rejected or tried to leave a man. We have all experienced (or known someone who has had) an interaction that went from “Hey beautiful!” to “I will kill you, you stuck up bitch!” in 60 seconds flat. At least 1 in 5 women have been raped. 1 in 3 women have experienced emotional or physical abuse from a romantic partner. Statistically domestic violence, assault and rape are the number 1 threats to young women.

Women navigate the world knowing that half the population is bigger, stronger and a threat to their safety.

Now, let’s put you in her shoes. And it is very much not a man being approached by a woman in a bar. You can stay a man, but I want you to imagine the person who has approached you is Bruce Banner. You know that at any moment, he’s capable of becoming the Hulk and well…Hulk Smash.

Navigating Romance

Maybe you’re confident enough to say “No” directly. Maybe you think because you’re friends with Tony Stark and in public, you’re safe so you give a firm, direct answer.

But, maybe you know you need to walk home home after this. Maybe you know that Bruce knows where you work. And you don’t ever want to meet the Hulk.

So instead of saying no, you try to keep Bruce calm. You smile. You say, “Oh man, I have a really early meeting tomorrow.” “I’m just not in the right place for a relationship right now.” You hedge your bets because you know that being nice, that making it sound like it’s not a true rejection, will keep you safe.

That’s what women do. You are Bruce Banner, and we don’t want to meet the Hulk.

I have taught many self-defense classes and the hardest thing to teach women, is not how to strike, it’s to use their voice. The fear that saying the wrong thing is dangerous is one that women know well.

But that’s not fair, you say! I’m a good guy! I have female friends who trust me. I rescue orphans from burning buildings and gently carry spiders outside. Great! But the woman you’ve approached does not know if you are a Good Guy or a Nice Guy™ or a serial killer.

Nice Guys™ tell us loudly how nice they are. And they are nice…until you say no. They talk about friendzones and ungrateful bitches because they saw their niceness as a pay for play. We’ve all experienced the man we thought was our friend, only to find out that he was just trying to get in our pants. And when we turned him down? It didn’t go well.

Trust is based on actions over time.

We can’t know you’re a Good Guy until we have interactions, and until we experience otherwise, we can’t know if the Hulk is going to come out, or if you’re really just a Nice Guy™. So we answer very carefully. If you want to prove you’re a Good Guy, you need to respect her answer. If you truly accept woman as equals you have to respect their decisions. Women know their minds. They know if they are interested or not.

I promise you, that if someone is actually interested, they will say “yes.”


Navigating Romance

#MeToo Consent Flirting Romance Feminism Dating