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#287: If you don’t want people to find out you are a ‘sex pest’, don’t pester them for sex.

Privilege Denying Dude Meme: "Joins feminist society only to pick apart everything said."

There’s always one.

Dear Captain,

Long time reader, occasional commenter and seriously in need of reassurance, or clarity over what has just happened. My experience with men is limited, although in the current academic year I have had three men throw themselves at me – only one of which was appreciated. Have had many unpleasant experiences with men and relationships, have only just started to come out of a shell and was doing well at my current university as a post-grad until the following incidents occurred. Now feeling the urge to go and hide in a corner/walk away from my degrees.

In brief: my supervisor introduced me to a friend of his – another PG student at the university who has the same political leanings, socio-economic background and on the surface a lot in common with me. A couple of friendly e-mails were exchanged. Then we went for a coffee. All very pleasant – the guy was genuinely funny and seemingly good company.

A couple of weeks later I add him on facebook, since a friend of mine was being harassed by someone he apparently knew, and since he was older and seemed to be wiser, I wanted his opinion of the harasser to help my friend.

Within an hour of online chatting, he’s telling me that he’d like to meet up again, but that he’s in the middle of separating from his wife and has feelings for me which he knows he can’t act on because I’m in a relationship. My relationship is also in its death throes, so I empathised with his situation and said as much after his story matched mine almost verbatim (had I shared it with him). He asks for sex, I decline. I make it abundantly clear that that’s not going to happen, “I am not going to have sex with you, (insert name here)”. He asks me to entertain the idea of eventually falling in love with him. I tell him to slow down, that I only entertained friendly thoughts towards him, because of the supervisor connection, the fact he’s got a wife and child and oh yeah – we barely know each other. The conversation continues in this manner for a few hours, I didn’t walk away because I genuinely thought we could be friends.

He eventually backs off, when I start to obviously panic online after he lists all my many admirable qualities and tells me I shouldn’t be surprised to attract attention – his or others’. I blurt out that I was molested and that his attentions in this manner are making the conversation difficult to follow and actually – are just too much for me to handle well. He was happy to have a coffee with me the following day, until I pointed out that I was already going to be at the venue in the first instance, surrounded by people who know me and I feel safe around who may or may not be dropping by to talk to me at the same time. He gets angry, and tells me he doesn’t do rejection and that he won’t bother me again. But he also leaves the ball in my court, and says I should get in touch with him again in the future if I want to.

So, I can’t sleep. Rejection? I said I’d happily entertain a pleasant platonic friendship with him and I genuinely empathised with his situation because I was in his position earlier in the academic year. If he’s going through what he says he is, it’s crap and my own experiences have led me to believe that having stable folk around who will be supportive and actually do understand what it’s like, makes it a lot easier to deal with and to think rationally and calmly about stuff. After a fitful night, I eventually awake to find that he’s unfriended me on facebook without explanation – and I’m even more confused.

Then at a barbecue held by the political group we both belong to, I end up blurting some, but not all of this out to people that know him, when they ask why I’m asking them about his character and the story he told me about his role in party stuff. Turns out that at least one of them didn’t think very much of him and was flabbergasted by the exaggeration of the story on his part. However, it also turns out that one/some of them passed this onto him and he gets in touch over facebook last night threatening me and trying to bully me into never mentioning him to anyone in the political group, or at university. He claims that I’m getting him labelled as a sex pest, demands to know who I told and tries to make out that I’m a “dangerous” nut job who blew his (many!) remarks out of context and couldn’t keep my gob shut. He tells me repeatedly that he has a wife and child, and that he thought I was smarter than this. The only way I manage to get him to agree to leave me alone (and I asked him to do so repeatedly throughout last night’s series of messages) is if I promise not to speak of this again – to anyone. He will not mention me, if I do not mention him – a stance he repeated frequently and in a very threatening manner, which he eventually acknowledges. I don’t trust him at all by this stage, have blocked him on facebook and I have shared details with my close friends (and now you) about this. I have been strongly urged to talk to the welfare officer about it, by a friend that read the conversations in their entirity, and have sent the welfare officer a very brief e-mail outlining the basics and expressing just how terrified I am. I cancelled all my shifts at work this week, just to avoid being on campus and at risk of this guy finding me.

What the hell does “smarter than this” actually mean? Am I right not to accept his “How could you do this to my wife?” as being aimed at me, but rather as a projection of his stuff onto me?

The other thing that really worries me about this situation, is that he was telling me about a girl I know whom he felt was making his life awkward and making unwanted advances towards him from her desk. Our university work space is open plan and she happens to sit opposite his desk. Across the room. Whilst I don’t think I know the girl well enough to say that she definitely would not do this, I think it is highly unlikely she would, and more likely that this bloke has a tendency to want to see things that don’t exist with women, and tends to exaggerate.

So, did I do anything to lead him on? Was my reaction to his feelings dump followed persistent requests for more an over-reaction? Was he possibly trying to get me isolated as I feared with the coffee with me alone or not at all scenario? Was I actually in the wrong as he insisted for blurting out (in panic) what he’d done to people that knew him and his wife? Is my relationship with my supervisor in the proverbial crapper, since the supervisor frequently goes round for tea/coffee/beer? Have I done the right thing by getting in touch with the welfare officer and telling him briefly what happened, avoiding my supervisor completely and stating that I wanted to keep the supervisor out of it? Can I continue to be involved in this organisation – when he is clearly closely involved personally with people higher up in it than me – even if he has little to do with it anymore? And lastly, are my friends right in their assessment of me as being “too nice” and with rotten self-esteem that means I allow myself to get into situations like this in the first place? If so, how do I begin to modify my behaviour so as to not attract people like the student into my life?

Apologies for the length – I was trying to be brief.

Would-like-to-stop-feeling-so-incredibly-sick-now-and-for-all-the-men-in-my-life-just-to-bugger-off-and-leave-me-the-heck-alone.

Dear Sick:

Thank you for introducing me to the phrase “sex pest.” It is my new favorite.

Welcome to the uncomfortable knowledge that people who agree with you on a variety of political topics can also be misogynist, manipulative dickbags. For one, they tend to be the biggest mansplainers ever, because having read one or two books about “the cause” totally trumps your lived experience. There’s at least one of these guys in almost every scene. They are smart enough that they get away with it a lot of the time. They are usually fairly outgoing, good-looking, charming, charismatic in some way. They keep things just on this side of plausible deniability and then silence their victims with threats like the ones he made against you – basically “I’ll make you seem crazy in front of everyone and there will be a big stink and you’ll LOSE because I KNOW THESE PEOPLE BETTER and I’m on the INSIDE and you’ll forever be on the OUTSIDE, you stupid lady temptress with your tempting lady parts, it’s your fault anyway.” 

It’s not a seductive cologne and you were perceptive to smell its stench.

I’m trying to find the thing you did “wrong” here:

You sincerely engaged his friendship when it was offered and tried to get to know him.

You let him know directly when he was pushing past your boundaries and asked him not to do that. He got angry at you and kept pushing. And then he did the “I won’t BOTHER you again *flounce*” which, have you noticed that people never do that unless they’ve already been bothering you?

You took steps to check out this behavior within the shared community – “Is he normally like this? Can I be safe around him?” Which yes, does have the risk of being carried back to him on the winds of gossip, but it’s still not a terrible thing to do.

And he responded with threats. AWESOME JOB OF NOT BEING CREEPY, DUDE. This is textbook sexual harassment, by the way. Threatening someone’s professional reputation (which is what he’s doing) because they turned you down for sex is not okay. It only works when privilege and power are on the side of the harasser.

Never, never, NEVER, never, never, never, never be alone with this person. His vibe, it is angry and rapey, and you correctly sussed it out while keeping yourself safe. “I don’t DO rejection.” That is a scary statement, my friend. A very scary statement.

You did the right thing by going to the authorities at your school. Print out, screencap, and document EVERYTHING you chatted about. His “I won’t mention you if you don’t mention me” threat is a pretty empty one, all considered. And go find that girl, the one he says harassed him. I bet she didn’t. I bet he harassed her. I bet he’s harassed a lot of people and then gone to hide behind “MY WIFE AND CHILD, HOW DARE YOU?” when it went wrong. The whole “I thought you were smarter than this” comment is fucking laughable. Telling people about his behavior is the smartest thing you could do after saying “No” and “Stop talking about this, please.” He only gets to keep acting like this if people stay quiet about it.

Right now, I would see how the welfare officer responds to your emails. And I would think about talking directly to your supervisor about what happened – seek the advice and support of the welfare officer and see what their initial response is first. One possible script:

I have an uncomfortable topic to bring up with you. After you introduced _____ and me, we went for coffee one time and I thought we were going to be friends. You were correct that we had a lot in common, and we had some pretty serious/good conversations. Then he asked me for sex. I said no. Then he asked me for a romantic relationship. I said no. He badgered me about it in a way that made me really uncomfortable, so, without going into details, I asked some mutual friends if this was usual behavior – I wanted to know whether I could feel safe around him.

Then he sent me threatening messages about how I must not “mention him” or he would “mention me.” I don’t really know what that means, but I’m mentioning him now so I guess we’ll find out?  I don’t want to put you in an awkward position, but he has been very threatening to me (here are documents of messages) and I want to be able to work here without being treated this way by a colleague.”

Keep the storytelling very clean and brief. If someone is going to paint you as The Crazy Obsessed One it helps to do whatever you can to look like the calm-but-concerned one. He’s trying to make the potential hit to his reputation your fault, when his reputation as a “sex pest” is obviously totally deserved.

Oh yeah, the guy will try to use the “intimate details” or whatever you revealed about your own relationship as a way to ensnare you in the idea that you’re just as bad. Here’s a badass move to take if he does throw that before your supervisor. “Of course I trusted him with personal details. You introduced us and he seemed so kind and friendly at first. I thought we were really bonding and was so happy to have made a real friend. I didn’t know he’d take it as an invitation to badger me for sex.” He’s also going to really play up the fact that you were trying to “destroy his reputation” by telling mutual acquaintances. Your response to that is “He made me feel really unsafe. I didn’t want to bring the conflict to work, so I ran the story by a few mutual friends to see if this is usual behavior. My intent was not to punish him or embarrass him but actually to seek reassurance that it wasn’t that bad. His threatening reaction showed me that it IS that bad.

In the meantime, I would studiously avoid him at all costs, and if he approaches you, tell him to leave immediately. If he threatens you in any way, call authorities – campus police, welfare officer, ACTUAL COPS. Document everything.

You do not deserve any of this behavior or treatment. You did not bring it on yourself by being friendly with someone you thought might become a true friend. Your friends are wrong and they are victim-blaming. We talk a lot about “no” here and how saying it can be powerful and helpful in your life, but it’s not magic proof against someone who doesn’t want to hear it and punishes you for it. As you found out. When you told him “no” and he showed his true colors. A safe, cool person doesn’t threaten women who reject his sexual advances; he says “I am sorry I made you so uncomfortable” and leaves you alone.

As for the organization, I don’t know what to tell you. He’s their missing stair. You should walk out of rooms that he is in for the time being, I’m pretty sure, which is unfair, because this is not your fault. This is going to be an exercise in figuring out who you can trust. I would focus on resolving things at your place of study & employment first, but commenters may have other ideas and experiences on how things have worked out in political & social groups. There’s some stuff in here about how to handle this in a university setting.

Commenters, what else can we say to help the LW feel safer?

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100 comments
  1. This guy is a lying skeevy gas-lighting bagge of dickes. I think the LW needs to get out in front of the false narrative that this d00d is going to try to create and preempt it by explaining ASAP to key respected people in the various communities that they share exactly what happened. Because just like this d00d did in relation to the woman he claims was making unwanted advances on him, he will likely attempt exactly the same thing here.

    • Erika said:

      Oh my gosh, I was just sitting here, nursing a post 4th of July hangover with a glass of juice and dreading my (very active) morning, and along comes the phrase “lying skeevy gas-lighting bagge of dickes.” Oh, thank you for this. Although, I do have to add “clean juice off desk” to my list of morning chores. Well done, my friend.

  2. Rosa said:

    You did the exact right thing asking about him inside the group. And his freakout over this says he’s a creep – people who AREN’T creeps and HAVEN’T done things wrong, if they hear you got creep vibes from a conversation with them, they may say to their wife/close people “OMG this crazy person is telling people I hit on her and was creepy to her, I can’t believe it” but what they do in wider circles of acquaintances is 1) ignore because it’s obviously untrue or 2) say “Oh no, I can’t believe I freaked her out like that, I will have to change how I approach new people.”

    Now other people in the group he gives that same feeling to have a little more data to support their instincts.

    • Britt said:

      Now other people in the group he gives that same feeling to have a little more data to support their instincts.

      This exactly. This kind of shit relies on darkness and secrecy, and a lot of time there may be several or even many people who are already creeped out by this guy, but because we’re socialized not to say anything until it gets to a ridiculous degree of creepitude, everyone thinks it’s just them until someone finally says out loud that they are creeped out. Getting this into the light and telling all the relevant people is absolutely the right move.

  3. This asshole is threatening your work and your schooling because you won’t have sex with him, and that’s just about the exact definition of “hostile work environment”. I know the Captain already said it, but that bears repeating. If you are in the US, and your university does not fix this problem, they are in violation of federal law.

    Carry that knowledge around with you like a cudgel, and use it to beat on anyone who doesn’t think this is a big deal. You feel UNSAFE. You feel like you can’t go to work or to school. You canceled shifts at work. Anyone who tries to downplay this as not a big deal is not only a creep but a person who is setting the university up for liability.

    Also, you asked whether there something about you that’s making you attract the creepy? The answer is no. You are not too nice or suffering from too little self-esteem. You are just suffering from assholes practicing asshattery in your general area.

    • Copcher said:

      I completely agree with that last paragraph. Telling someone that they’re too nice does absolutely nothing to stop other people from being assholes towards them.

      Also, regarding your cudgel of being in a hostile work environment, people might still try to convince you that this isn’t a big deal (“You didn’t have to cancel shifts at work!” “You don’t feel safe because you’re overreacting!” “He’s just an awkward guy who doesn’t know how to express his feelings!”), but those people are wrong. Even if they are otherwise really nice people. This guy is definitely a bad missing stair, and you are doing the right thing by making his behaviour visible.

    • petunia17 said:

      I got the sense from your letter that you are a woman, but if I misinterpreted that, please ignore this comment.

      Everyone is right; there is nothing you could have done to deserve this kind of creepy behavior raining down on you. You are of course not the cause of his gross behavior. As Starling said so well, “You are not too nice or suffering from too little self-esteem. You are suffering from assholes practicing asshattery in your general area”.

      But I think it’s important, to me anyway, to say that this is happening partially because you are a woman. Or rather, because I don’t know much about the experiences of gender queer people in the workplace, I guess I should say because you are not a man. While certainly men sometimes have to face creepy shit too, and that’s not okay either, I think everyone here can agree that women face more of this than men do. I say all this not because I think people don’t know this — I’m sure you all do — but just because sometimes it bothers me that this fact often goes un-said. And sometimes, when we don’t explicitly say it, I think that it’s kind of culturally condoning that shit? Like we just fall into thinking that “of course it happens to women,” and doling out the standard advice about documenting abuse and the like. And I know that you wrote for advice, and not an amateur feminist rant, so I’m glad all the people on this site are willing and able to give you great practical steps. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be like that. Men do not have to be creeps. And I wish workplaces, schools, social groups, and just society as a whole would not take for granted that women should have to deal with it. You’ve gotten great advice, and I’m sure you’ll get more, and you seem completely capable of handling the situation. You even have the law on your side, assuming you live in the US. But it’s taking time out of your day, taking you away from work. And I just wish that as a society, and maybe even legally, we could start being more preemptive about this shit. Because all the best advice in the world doesn’t change the fact that you’ve already been inconvenienced and frightened.

  4. case-in-point said:

    I can assure you, LW, that you aren’t giving off some strange pheromone that causes perfectly ordinary men to turn into creeps. There’s no sign on your forehead, and no one has put up a poster of you in the local creepy villain base. This isn’t happening because you’re too nice or not nice enough or you have low self esteem or you don’t own an abacus– this is happening because you’ve had the misfortune to encounter multiple creeps. It’s an act of misfortune, and also likely because you’re just starting out in your career and are at the bottom of the totem pole. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, but it’s also not fate or something wrong with you as a person.

    Also, I want to assure you that you are doing everything right. These creeps can only thrive in silence. The moment someone speaks up directly about what is happening to them, the creep’s ability to behave in his favorite manner is done. The fact that there is something afoot with creep’s interactions with women is probably already in the wind, it’s already in the office gossip mill. Your supervisor has likely heard something to that effect, but only second or third hand and nothing that he has to pay attention to or act upon. So talk about it with your University and with your supervisor, and take whatever steps you feel necessary in order to feel safe at work.

    • staranise said:

      Dammit! I was certain abacus ownership would make my life smoother.

  5. Tosca said:

    You are not “too nice”. You are simply a kind, regular person. This is a good thing! Regular people conduct social business with the assumption that certain unspoken social rules are in place, 99% of the time things go fine, until you meet someone like this. These creeps don’t operate with the same rules, and when a kind, regular person gets hit with it, it can be so shocking that you freeze up. Your brain looks for “logical reasons”, or thinks maybe it was you, because behavior that bad just doesn’t make sense.

    HE is at fault. I had the creeping mimis just reading your letter. He also sounds like he’s run this particular power game before. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has other unfortunate victims.

  6. Elle said:

    So, CA, you don’t think that people can be too nice and attract people to them who are manipulators and users? I’m just surprised that you would call this victim blaming because you spend so much time on the site encouraging people to create proper boundaries.

    • case-in-point said:

      Can it happen, sure. And there are certainly people out there who are willing to turn themselves inside out in order to avoid ever having to say the word, “no.” But I don’t feel that that’s the case here, and even if it were, pointing it out to the victim during the immediate damage control is the opposite of helping. During immediate damage control, we should be encouraging the victim and trying to help them find the courage to advocate for themselves. If a person is victimized and wants to analyze the occurrence and learn what steps they could take to avoid it in the future, that’s certainly useful and I imagine that there are plenty of trained professionals out there willing and able to help. But that should be done in a controlled environment by someone who can support the victim through the process in a way that minimizes the damage and makes the victim feel empowered, not small.

      What really happens is due to a power imbalance. If someone is in a position of power over you, then it’s possible that they may try to exploit that power imbalance– whether that’s for sex or other favors or just to make you feel low. And, while people who are given to exploiting others tend to target those that are shy or less given to speaking up for themselves, it can happen to anyone. Hell, it happened to me and the “helpful” advice I was given was that I should have been nicer to the creep when I turned him down– because, you know, if I had troubled to spare his ego then he wouldn’t have decided to threaten and harass me. But I think the truth of the matter is that he behaved so far outside the acceptable rules for behavior that no one could believe that he would behave that way unless I somehow made him do it.

    • JenniferP said:

      In The Gift of Fear Gavin De Becker says “Men who can’t let go choose women who can’t say no” and I think there is something to that. Predators test their victims in small, innocuous ways before they spring the trap. The Sex Pest did that here – oversharing a bit and seeing where it got him, and when it got him listened to he sprung his sexual request.

      But if you are interacting with a creepy person, it’s not your niceness that’s making him creepy. It’s his creepiness. Boundaries can HELP you foist people off and recognize the dynamic sooner, but they’re not magic (against someone with evil intent), and if you fail to set them “correctly” you’re certainly not to blame for your own victimization.

      • piny said:

        Predators don’t just exploit individual power imbalances. They exploit demographic power imbalances. Women are generally vulnerable: they face more social pressure to put up with abuse and manage other people’s feelings and desires. They face social penalties for defending themselves. Predatory men don’t seek women out because they act weak, but because we have a culture of impunity around abuse and sexual violence. And boundaries are valuable, but no level of forewarning on this woman’s part would have made this man a different kind of man–or changed her status relative to an entitled, misogynist asshole who knows that most sexual harassment is consequence-free.

        • belle said:

          I think it’s silly to say predators don’t exploit individual power imbalances. But just because predators exploit them doesn’t mean individual victims are at fault. The difference between predators and friends (or respectful acquaintances) is that friends don’t use power imbalances against you. Put another way, we all experience situations where power is imbalanced. What characterizes scary situations is the presence of a predator — someone who decides to use those imbalances against you.

        • belle said:

          Sorry, I just realized I missed the “just” in your (piny’s) first sentence. I don’t want to argue with what you actually said. Carry on.

      • Shaenon said:

        What I find awesome about this letter is that Mr. Sex Pest clearly thought he was going after someone who can’t say no. He twigged that the LW was a friendly, good-hearted, somewhat shy person going through some personal hardships, and he mistakenly thought that would make her easily to bully.

        Instead, she was clear about her desires and boundaries, refused to make the logical leap from “I’m willing to lend a friendly ear” to “therefore I must also lend a friendly vagina,” responded to his weird behavior by getting the hell away, and talked to other people to confirm that he was acting inappropriately (an EXTREMELY RIGHT THING TO DO). Of course he blew up. She ruined his entire script.

        I bet there are a bunch of women in that social circle high-fiving her with their minds.

    • alphakitty said:

      It’s victim blaming because women are damned no matter what they do. If they are open and friendly, then whatever crap happens to them is supposedly their fault because they were inviting their victimization. If they are noticeably guarded *before* anything definitive happens they are uptight man-hating Feminazi bitches who won’t give a guy a chance (thereby practically inciting men to violence to punish them for their Feminazi bitchiness).

      There’s this teeny weeny, constantly shifting zone of just the right amount of friendliness to have a rich and interesting life involving other human beings but not so friendly that people feel entitled to take advantage of you and other people will then blame you for whatever happens to you — and the boundaries of that zone can often be identified only in hindsight, in part because it depends on the fucked-up perceptions of the other person in the dynamic, and people do not, unfortunately, come with little warning labels imprinted on their foreheads to tell you which type of fucked up they are.

      Yes, CA advocates boundary-setting — but she never claimed they were magic, and that if you just follow her handy-dandy rules no crap will ever happen to you.

    • belle said:

      The Captain has also said many times that you can’t change other people’s behavior. I see that as a basis for the kind of boundary setting this blog advises — it’s about what you, with the understanding that it won’t change anyone else.

      “Setting boundaries” doesn’t mean, for example, that there’s a magic rule about how much personal information is the correct amount to share with anyone. That obviously wouldn’t work, because of course you share more with some people than with others! Setting boundaries, in this example case, is more like when you share personal information with someone and they use it against you (THEIR CHOICE, THEIR RESPONSIBILITY), you don’t do it again.

      Setting boundaries is how you deal with douchebags, not a magical way of preventing people from being douchebags.

    • aliaras said:

      The letter writer *did* set boundaries. “No” and “please stop” means exactly that, and the only acceptable response to those things is some combination of “sure” and “I’m sorry”. Occasionally, a clarifying question like “Do you mean stop x, or stop y?” is in order, but very rarely.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Establishing boundaries is something that is helpful to everyone in all situations because it a) makes you acknowledge what you want/can and can not put up with and b) helps you to assert this. It is also something that is useful in everyday situations, where understandable miscommunications can happen. When dealing with people of good faith, they also appreciate these boundaries because they don’t want to overstep or make someone feel uncomfortable. So someone saying, “I’d love to hang out with you but you’ll have to leave at 4:00 because I have things to do,” is setting a boundary. Or “Please don’t call me by [nickname] as that is something only my sister calls me. I actually go by [real name].”

      You can be exceptionally good at setting boundaries and still be shocked into numb silence when someone speeds over the line with a jet-assisted engine. Which is what creepy dude did.

      Even if the LW did have a huge problem with setting boundaries it doesn’t make what he did okay at all, ever.

  7. Chris said:

    Respectfully, people can and should do their best to create good boundaries, but you can never control another person’s actions.

  8. “I don’t do rejection” WTF! The point of rejection is that you do not DO anything! Someone else rejects you, you have no say about it, nor is there anything for you TO do. What a fuckhead. LW, you’re fine. This dude is a douchecanoe. Trust your instincts that are telling you your behavior was fine, and just hold that line within yourself. Even if someone else tries to tell you you were unfair, they’re doing it for their own reasons (need to justify their own behavior/their own reaction to a similar situation/etc). Believe in your gut instincts, and stay away from this creepy dude. And in the future, when someone else acts this way? DO NOT TRY TO BE FRIENDS!

    • Nicole said:

      “I don’t do rejection” is one of the most chilling phrases I’ve read here. I would try to avoid this man if at all possible — someone who would say something like that is probably capable of all sorts of creepy and/or violent behavior.

      • Clio said:

        “Chilling” is exactly the word I thought, too. Run, don’t walk, from this person. He will almost certainly hurt you if he can.

        • Clio said:

          (for varying values of “hurt” – could be professionally, reputation-wise, physically, emotionally, whatevskis).

      • Lyla D. said:

        Agreed. When I read that line it sounded like the sort of dialogue you hear from a movie antagonist. We’re talking grade A supervillian type stuff, here. Just… ugh. *shudder*

        • piny said:

          Or like a very special Law & Order: SVU episode guest-starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar as a charismatic Occupy Wall Street organizer with a shady personal life and degenerate facial hair. This would be a good moment for Olivia to twist his arm behind his back and grit out, “Well, isn’t that funny, because I don’t take no for an answer, EITHER.”

          • Lyla D. said:

            EXACTLY that sort of guy.

  9. Carmilla said:

    LW, it sounds to me like you might be from the UK. If so, as far as I’m aware there’s no specific legal protection for you as a student (other UK commenters please correct me if I’m wrong here!), but since you’re a postgrad you’re probably covered by laws about sexual harassment in the workplace. There’s a pdf here with some information you might find helpful:

    http://www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/pdfs/Legal/sexual_harassment_2010.pdf

    The other thing that’s probably worth doing is contacting your student’s union – increasing numbers of them have their own anti-harassment policies and will be able to back you up. If yours doesn’t, you can contact the NUS for advice on how to proceed

    • GirlInAGreenDress said:

      The normal situation for a postgrad in the UK is that you get funding or support from an external agency. This means that you are not an employee of the University and so have no resort to employment law (this is awful and results in so much exploitation of graduate students). However your University will be obliged to have a sexual harassment or safety in the workplace policy, and this does cover you, so your University should be able to act to protect you.

    • MissPrism said:

      AIUI there are some annoying ways in which “workplace” protections don’t always apply to graduate students in the UK (because technically, you’re not working, you’re studying).

      However, a lot of universities have harrassment advisors available via Student Support, and in addition to a supervisor most students will have a panel of advisors and the department will have a Director of Postgraduate Studies – I’d probably say pick the most promising person out of those and have a word. Go with written notes, evidence, and a clear outline of what specific things you would like to happen as a result (e.g. he is warned to leave you alone; he will have no access to your working areas, whatever stipulations will make you feel safe). That way your meeting will be less awkward and FEELINGSY, and more of an “I want to do good work here, and for that I need this to happen”.

  10. FlyBy said:

    I’m pretty sure “I thought you were smarter than this” means “I thought I could harass you and get away with it.” And “How could you do this to my wife and child” means “crap, I’ve got to find an emotional bludgeon to shut you up.” It’s a great example of gaslighting.

    Good job documenting everything and taking it to campus authorities. If I were in your shoes, I’d explain the situation briefly to my supervisor so he’s not caught off guard when he hears the story from someone else, but that’s a personal preference and there could be things in this situation that make it inapplicable.

    • Adelene said:

      I think it means “I can’t fathom that other people could possibly have any perspective other than my own, and since I think that any risk of my wife finding out about this is bad, you must too, and therefore you wouldn’t’ve taken the risk of that happening if you’d been thinking properly”.

      I’m not sure it fits the strict definition of gaslighting, that way, but it sure hits a lot of the same ‘my perspective is reality and anything that conflicts with that is wrong’ notes.

      • FlyBy said:

        I dunno, I thought trying to enforce a view of reality that doesn’t match what everyone else sees is the definition of gaslighting. I doubt he’s consciously thinking what I provided as a translation – it’s amazing how much assholes can delude themselves about their own behavior, his thought process is probably closer to your suggestion – but it’s one way of framing what’s actually happening here. Blegh. This guy gives me the shivers.

        • Adelene said:

          I don’t think it’s gaslighting because he doesn’t actually seem to be trying to convince her of anything beyond ‘if I perceive you of messing with me, I’ll retaliate’ – not the traditional-definition convincing her that she’s crazy or incompetent, and not really the expanded-definition convincing her that his perspective is right, either – he’s skipped straight to assuming that she doesn’t even need to be convinced because it’s *obvious* that his perspective is right, and she must be intentionally attacking him if she doesn’t go along with it.

          Which, yes, is very squicky.

        • I agree with the diagnosis of gaslighting, because what he’s basically trying to convince her is “If we both tell our mutual acquaintances our stories, everyone will believe me and no one will believe you.”

          The fact that he says this, and yet wants them to both keep quiet, shows how little he believes himself.

          I think he has a sense of the obvious: If she comes out with the story of “I turned this guy down for sex and now he’s threatening me and bullying me”, and he comes out with the story of “she’s slandering me and she was molested and she’s a dangerous nut job,” most people aren’t that stupid. They can tell who the hell makes sense here.

          • piny said:

            Weeeeeellll, but gaslighting isn’t telling other people you’re crazy. It’s treating you as though you’re crazy–with the hope that you’ll eventually stop listening to your brain when it tells you to get out now. It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish from actual bigotry, which tends to see people from the Other group as irrational, delusional, and erratic.

  11. I think “I thought you were smarter than this” is his attempt to make you feel like you’re partners in crime, like you both did something wrong and so you ought to collude to hide it.

    Even though the thing you “both” did wrong was him pestering you for sex, him lying to you, and him threatening you.

    The whole “I’ll mention you” thing–he’ll mention what? That you had coffee with him? That you, upon hearing he had a wife and child, didn’t sleep with him? That you talked about him to other people? What the hell can he “mention” about you? (He can make things up, of course. And unfortunately he probably will. But that’s just his decision as an asshole. “If you tell the truth about me, I’ll lie about you” is not the square deal he’s trying to sell it as.)

    I agree with the Captain’s advice, but I’ll also add: gather some allies. Single out a couple of people in your workplace and in the political group who you feel most comfortable with and tell them the whole story one-on-one and get their support. Having just a couple people you know for sure are on your side will be a huge help if shit hits the fan.

    • Clio said:

      I had an even more negative initial reading of that comment, which was “I thought you were smart enough to know that I’m in a position to destroy your academic and professional reputation if you don’t do what I want.” Obviously we can’t know exactly what was in the dude’s head, but this is one of those situations where I recommend assuming/expecting the absolute worst and preparing accordingly.

      This whole account gives me the heebs.

      • ks said:

        That is how I read it too. Guy is obviously a creep and a giant flaming asshole.

      • MissPrism said:

        That’s how I read it too. Either way, it is certainly meant as a threat.

      • It may be that. I was just drawing on some experiences I’ve had where people have tried to get all “this is our little secret” about something that was, in fact, their little secret. But they tried to make me feel like I had a stake in helping them hide it. It was a forced teaming thing.

        It could also be a plain old threat. Either way it’s horrible.

        • Clio said:

          Oh, man, the forced teaming thing is just such vile behavior. I don’t know for sure if she had her own experiences as a child that influenced how she raised me, but I can specifically remember my mom telling me when I was young that if any grownup ever told me “this is our little secret,” then I should probably just go tell her right away.

          • You’ve got a wise mother.

    • I think the “I’ll mention you” thing may be referring to disclosure of her molestation — “Of course she’s got fucked-up ideas about sexual predation, she was molested and now she sees threats everywhere!”

      • Ugh, yeah.

        I suspect, though, that the coworkers and people in the organization are mostly rational people, and that when they hear this guy saying she was molested, their first thought isn’t “oh no, one of those terrible molestation survivors, they’re the worst” but “holy shit, he has no respect for privacy and no goddamn decency if he’s trying to slander her by saying this.”

        It’s the sort of thing that ought to make it pretty clear who’s the asshole here.

        • Letter Writer said:

          Shit – that stuff hadn’t even occurred to me.

  12. Letter Writer said:

    Dear all,

    Firstly, thank you all so very much for your thoughts, opinions and support. Friends are obliged to be supportive, whereas as we’ve seen with a number of the posts on CA’s site, commenters at a distance tend to be more objective. I really appreciate it all and am hugely reassured that my telling others and documenting this stuff has been the right thing to do. I am especially grateful for the script for approaching the supervisor. He’ll be away until the end of the month, but I’m due to have a meeting with him when he returns. Is it better to deal with this by e-mail now, or do wait until I see him about my dissertation?

    I just wanted to confirm that my friends, university representatives, bosses and political colleagues that I have shared this information and his messages with are all being utterly fantastic. As far as I can tell, officials are following the right policy procedures where the they exist, and I have referred me to all the right policies so I can look through them myself too. Friends’ comments about being too nice were not aimed at this specific situation but a more general occasionally find-it-difficult-to-assert-myself-and-say-no-to-extra-work/being-too-accommodating-and-non-judgemental-about-other-folk’s-behaviour, and were intended more to help me feel comfortable with saying “no”, than on establishing the idea of laying out a welcome mat for trouble. All have helped me put strategies in place so that come the weekend, I will be back to business as normal, as it were, albeit with several teams (in the different areas) who know exactly what’s happened and have my back.

    I think that my boundaries are pretty strong, and they are certainly being reinforced by the reactions of everyone I’ve told about this. The idea that it is me, and not him was one that I’ve since started to feel was put in place by him, at the end of the first set of messages with that idea of rejection, because I did then approach him trying to soothe his hurt feelings. That is a perfectly normal normal-person reaction, isn’t it? I’ve also started to feel that he was trying to force-team the situation, with the implication that I, not him, had somehow done something to hurt his wife and child.

    Fortunately, the sex pest (the term he actually used to describe himself) has very little directly to do with the political organisation any more, and even then belongs to a part of it on the other side of town to me. My lot, just like the girl who was supposedly paying him unwanted attention, hadn’t a clue who he was. He should also be leaving the university shortly too. He does however have personal relationships with influential people in each, and it would appear that he has cemented them by involving the wife and child and religion (god parents, dines with etc). I find myself getting near faint with panic whenever I receive an e-mail from someone who knows him like this. If one of them mentions anything, I should be using much the same script for the party members as the supervisor, shouldn’t I?

    Unfortunately, the links between the two parts of the political organisation are getting stronger, and I myself was invited out to an evening event by one of the influential women over there, just before the second set of messages. My instinct is to withdraw and I have put measures in place to be able to do that legitimately. However, am I missing an opportunity to demonstrate my own character and gain a valuable networking contact as a result? What do you guys think is the best thing to do?

    LW

    • Jinian said:

      I don’t know for sure, but it’s almost certainly worth it to backpedal with the organization the creep’s involved in at least until he leaves university. He seems really scary.

      I’m so glad all the official people are being good about this. Please also make sure to talk with the previous woman he claimed was harassing him; I bet you’ll find he’s been pulling this crap on other people, which will give you validation, support, and another person to back you up with the supervisor and administration.

      • She said the woman didn’t even know him, if I am correct.

    • FlyBy said:

      Yay, I’m so glad to hear everyone is being supportive and that the sex pest is leaving shortly. You’re handling this really well.

      If I were in your shoes, I’d probably wait to talk to your supervisor until you can do so face-to-face. For that kind of conversation, tone matters a lot, and it easily gets lost over email. It may be helpful if he can see that you’re being calm and reasonable, but can also see via body language that you are genuinely upset by the situation. That’s a personal preference, though. For dealing with the higher-ups that are close friends of his, I honestly don’t know. In a reasonable world, being close friends with him wouldn’t keep them from working professionally with you, and I’d tend to assume that’s the case until proven otherwise, but sadly that’s not always how it happens.

    • alphakitty said:

      I can’t say whether or not to withdraw from the contexts in which you would have to deal with him.. that has to be left to your own instincts. The only suggestion I would make is not to cede territory too readily, on the assumption that because he knows people socially (“dines with them”) they would be on Team Pest.

      While he wants to make you feel like it is something about *you* that brought out his inner sex pest, that’s clearly not true. There is a good chance that enough other women have, merely by breathing and being moderately polite to him, brought it out before, and the people in his circles are well aware of what a creep he is — that he is tolerated for the sake of his poor wife, or just because in professional organizations (and families) one does occasionally wind up having to tolerate people one thinks are skeezy.

      Perhaps you could have a friend scout how well received he really seems to be?

      • Or have some Team You people (people who had no idea who he was who are part of the same political group) go with you? If he acknowledges you at all in ways that make you uncomfortable, they can be a Wall of You Shall Not Pass, and you can always leave. It might be good to see how he handles crossing spaces as long as you have backup.

        • Letter Writer said:

          Sorted – I have manoeuvred so that I am almost certainly not going to be left alone with him, in the unlikely event of that happening.

    • Lyla D. said:

      I agree with FlyBy that speaking to the supervisor in person is probably best for establishing tone and context. Though, it might be a good idea to send him a quick email letting him know “I would like to talk to you about a matter that is unrelated to my dissertation, but important nonetheless.” Just to give him a heads up and also to establish that you DO mean to talk to him about it. It could be helpful should find out about this before the chat, in that he’ll probably think, “so this is what she wants to talk about” rather than, “why did she never mention anything?”

      This may be a bit of paranoia on my part, but I figure it’s a tactic that couldn’t hurt.

      • JenniferP said:

        Any cryptic email I got like that would have me wanting to know IMMEDIATELY what it is about. Either email the story, or wait. Hinting probably doesn’t help.

        • Lyla D. said:

          That’s a very good point. I was thinking of things from the scared student standpoint and not the potentially concerned instructor standpoint, but this makes a lot of sense.

          • Adelene said:

            Maybe go with a hybrid email? Something along the lines of “Just FYI, there’s some non-work-related drama going on right now that I’m going to want to talk to you about – it’s not urgent, and I don’t want you to worry about it over your vacation, but I don’t want you thinking I’m keeping something from you if you hear a rumor in the meantime.” might go over well.

          • JenniferP said:

            I’d still advise against. Either spill it or hold onto it until a face-to-face or phone conversation can happen.

    • VoIP said:

      Is it better to deal with this by e-mail now, or do wait until I see him about my dissertation?

      I’d email him right now, so that your advisor gets your story before this guy has a chance to lie about you to him.

      • JenniferP said:

        Maaaaaaaaybe email and request a phone conversation. But in-person is better.

        If the pest emails a bunch of lies the Advisor is going to be “What’s all this then?” and he’ll seek the LW for the story. The pest is going to offer something baroque and made of lies. The LW is going to say “yeah, he propositioned me and I turned him down and then he acted like a big weirdo.”

        Pre-empting him with emails isn’t going to help. It will weaken the LW’s position. Don’t email vague hints of a problem. It will come off as passive-aggressive and drama creating.

        Sit tight, LW. Wait for the welfare officer to get back to you. The story will keep. I know you guys are all “DO SOMETHING NOW TO FIX IT” but a lot of this is a waiting game.

        • Lilly said:

          I think this is spot on.

          You will come off best if you are calm and clear. The story is actually simple. You made this man’s acquaintance. He propositioned you for sex. You said no. He behaved in a threatening way. You are concerned and want to raise your concerns.

          • Letter Writer said:

            Welfare officer was wonderful, stating that I had done all the right things at the right moments and encouraging me to document EVERYTHING. My one slight problem with this is that the e-mails and messages are easy and dealt with. The coffee conversation was actually very unremarkable however, and only one or two remarks stand out in my head about how he behaved as a child and his former house mates. Lesson learnt – dear diary about every little detail of my life from this point forw… uh, no.

            Thanks so much for the advice regarding e-mails to supervisor. I will hold off until he gets back and wait for him to bring it up first. All the lovely reassurance I’ve received has helped me to stop feeling like an evil lady temptress and I realise and almost believe that I am not in the wrong, and Lilly’s simplification has really helped to drive that point home. Forgive me – I’m slow!

            Any tips on how to stop this bleeding into my relationships with other non-threatening men? As it stands they’re all seeming pretty darn scary…

          • JenniferP said:

            Comment-nesting is weird. This is specifically for the LW who feels unsafe right now and not a general rules for dealing with dudes thing.

            In meeting men (work colleagues, dating partners, friends) that you might want to spend a lot of time with, consider this in the near future:

            -Keeping in initial meetings short – no more than 1-2 hours.
            -In those initial meetings/conversations, let them reveal more about themselves than you do about yourself. Keep it light and don’t get sucked into very intense, revealing conversations. “That sounds like an interesting story! You should totally tell me sometime. But right now I want to talk about (change of subject).”
            -Turn off the chat function on FB and/or your email and don’t engage with them there at first.
            -Do a reputation check with other trusted people around you. Doesn’t have to be suspicious. “I had coffee with ____ the other day, it was nice. Do you know him?” Watch their faces and listen for what people don’t say.
            -Give yourself a week or 2 and process how you feel. Is the person coming on too strong? Are there red flags? If not, hang out with them again/chat with them more.
            -If they say anything sexual or overly complimentary of your appearance (and it’s not that kind of conversation or something you want), change the subject. “Oh man, that sounds hilarious, but I don’t really feel comfortable talking about that with you.” If they persist down that route, end the conversation. In my experience you can still be friends or work with with people who express sexual interest if they can take the hint and change the subject, but it’s usually good to give it a bit of time where you can pretend it never happened before you talk with them again. And sometimes be explicit: “I like you, but not that way, so I will gladly pretend we never said that if you will.”

            Predatory types will try to rush intimacy. That’s written all over how this guy behaved. He wanted to charm you and share confidences to get you to share yours and move VERY fast to lock down some kind of sexual or “Is it ok if I fall in love with you?” scenario.

            You’re not stupid for not recognizing it in the moment – it looked indistinguishable from “I want to make a very good friend!” until it wasn’t about that. But you might feel more confident and safer if you can find ways to slow things way down a bit and give yourself time to think.

            It’s totally unfair that you would have to think and act like this to protect yourself, by the way. But maybe these tools will help you feel more confident. Have you read The Gift of Fear? de Becker doesn’t want people to be nervous and suspicious of everyone, but he does want you to pay attention to your own instincts and get good at reading certain kinds of manipulative behaviors. You might feel more confident after a read.

    • Maria said:

      As a female academician… I would strongly recommend that you do attend the “evening event with an influential woman.” It’s almost certainly got nothing to do with Sex Pest, but even if she does bring it up it’s important to go.

      Here’s the reasoning. Women in academia are at a disadvantage already, and abusers in academia rely on us feeling (and acting!) marginalized and isolated. The best thing you can do to get it to All Go Away is act exactly like you would have if nothing was wrong. Because nothing IS wrong – with you.

      The outing gives you the potential chance to make a valuable contact; strengthening ties with the other group you describe can only help you professionally. More globally, it’s important to be in the habit of defending your professional ground. In the unlikely event she wants to talk about it, go with a bland, “Yes, it’s been awkward, I’m so glad it’s in the past. How are you finding [your soup|the lead actress|the first talk]?” This isn’t a “why you should defend feminism” argument; I think it’s your best route to making it clear you are the sane person who is in the right, and thus causing it to die down.*

      This reasoning is mostly professional; from a personal perspective, just reading your story makes me want to hide under a desk, and you have to balance those things in your own way. I know (I really do) how terrifying it is to carry on in the face of this kind of nastiness, and it shouldn’t be your problem. You shouldn’t be in this situation. Since you are (ugh), it honestly sounds like you’ve got it under control. Carry on rocking.

      * Inevitable caveat: if you feel in any way that your safety is threatened – if you find yourself alone with him, or with him + a few people who are clearly on his side, or ANYTHING makes your lizard brain shriek “DANGER” (as opposed to “OH NOES SOCIAL RUINATION”) – get clear physically, and sort it out later. Everyone who’s said it is right, this guy’s vibe is scary.

      • Letter Writer said:

        Thank you, Maria. I haven’t started to think of myself as a women in academia just yet, as I’ve not made up my mind about staying on quite yet, should an opportunity arise. We’ll see.

        The advice on a script for the influential woman is hugely appreciated – I’ve been really stressed about how to approach her, especially as there was talk of me moving to her area to progress up the ladder. Now significantly less stressed. *rock on*

        • Maria said:

          Carry on rocking. If you choose academia, we’d love to have you. If you don’t go that route, someone else will be lucky. Remember there’s a community of academic women who will always be delighted to provide scripts, calming manatees, and Jedi hugs (no matter where you go).

  13. grcalgary said:

    LW, if the proper authorities fail to discourage the sex pest, what you need to do BEFORE you have to change your life to avoid him, is fight fire with fire. Think about the men who love you and feel protective about you, i.e. friends and relatives. Which of them would you most want to be with you if you had to walk through the scariest part of your city after the bars had closed? Which of them most resembles Dog the Bounty Hunter? Which of them works on a crew or in a shop rather than in an office with a degree on the wall behind him? Which of them GETS THE JOB DONE? Tell HIM exactly what has happened and ask him to discourage the sex pest, preferably in a way that makes him wet his pants.

    My wife used to walk our kids to school, and over time started to be innocently friendly with a married man who was new to our country who walked his daughter to school. I should let you know that my wife NEVER acts flirtatious to other men, and I have 100% trust in her faithfulness. Well, this man thought it might be nice if he came over to our house for a visit (not overtly saying so, but at a time when I wasn’t home). My wife, of course, didn’t agree with this. The last straw was when he asked my wife if it would be okay if he kissed her, which freaked her out, making it so she didn’t even want to walk down the street when he was on it. Maybe the next day (I can’t remember) I put on my camo pants, combat boots, and biker jacket, and went with my wife to pick up the kids. Another mother that my wife was friendly with and her husband were there, and they were brought up to speed with what was going on. With the other husband behind my shoulder with his arms crossed and feet apart, I had a very pointed discussion with the dirtbag. I was told afterwards that I was loud enough for all the other waiting parents to hear me. I didn’t threaten anything illegal, but made it clear that it was HIS job to cross the street to avoid my wife. On the way home, my wife had tears of relief and love in her eyes as she held my arm. I don’t think she saw him again, and he has since returned to his home country (he was here on a temporary visa).

    Take advantage of the fact that men in general are not only wired to be predators, e.g. the sex pest, but are also wired to be warriors and protectors.

    • JenniferP said:

      Rescued from the moderation queue. As a reminder, I am not at my computer 24-7 and stuff from first time commenters does sometimes sit for a bit.

      I’m glad you were able to solve your wife’s problem for her.

      I encourage you to read The Gift of Fear. Escalating a situation with threats in return is NOT always even close to the correct solution, and someone who might have gone away after being ignored for a bit might double down on their engagement with a situation and/or escalate in turn. De Becker has several case studies where the victim of stalking could have ignored the stalker or made some small meaningless gesture but chose to threaten and “solve the problem like a man” in a way that made the ultimate outcome 1,000 times more dangerous and violent.

      Big strong boyfriends are useful for getting things down from high places and opening difficult jar lids, and they (or the idea of them) can be useful to send the “This vagina is already owned, sorry” message to quickly dispatch someone who can’t or won’t hear a “no” from a woman seriously. I’d love to live in a world where “Yeah, go away, not interested” is enough. I think it is smart to tell as many close friends as possible about someone who is bothering you, because people like this thrive on the idea that it is more shameful to BE stalked than it is to be a stalker (something that’s unfortunately backed up by popular culture at large), and shining sunlight on the situation robs the perpetrator of the ability to isolate and shame the victim into accepting advances or “keeping quiet.”

      Finally, I’d ask you to treat the assumption that men are “wired” to be a certain way (warriors, protectors, predators) with extreme skepticism.

      • Finally, I’d ask you to treat the assumption that men are “wired” to be a certain way (warriors, protectors, predators) with extreme skepticism.

        Oh Captain, my Captain! <3

        Just to work out my BioRage again, because I feel like it:

        1. We do not know how much "male" or "female" behavior is due to the development of the brain, because brains are plastic and develop according to your needs and experiences.

        2. Because of that, we do not know how much behavior is due to nurture (socialization of gender expectations) or nature (male and female brains being inherently different since embyronic development… and third-genders and androgynes and trans+ and others … not really being in the equation?)

        3. We cannot experiment on this, because to do so would mean raising a child with no socialization of gender expectations, which would mean isolating it from birth from large portions of society in a controlled lab environment, which would be unethical, or convincing parents to raise a child without telling it its gender, which is controversial.

        4. Without experiments, we can only say “Well, grown adult men are OFTEN, but not ALWAYS, like THIS… but a lot of that is probably due to the fact that they all watched The Avengers before taking our survey, and we did this survey in Washington DC, where most people are like THAT. And grown adult women at Berkeley all solved Rubik’s cubes faster than men from Washington DC, so women are better at colors, maybe?”

        OR we could note that babies seem to have certain patterns of neuronal development based on gender, which could imply biological brain-differences at the cell level, but as we know, the entire brain changes with behavior, so you’d have to identify what makes a brain really manly, isolate a fetus that is developing the perfect male brain, request that the parents do not raise it to be particularly masculine, ensure that everyone the baby contacts refrains from encouraging masculinity in it and then see if it turns out to be super masculine anyway. Or any other number of really mean experiments that wouldn’t really be fair to the baby. So it isn’t hardwiring, it’s programming.

        • So it isn’t hardwiring, it’s programming.

          I am loving this comment SO HARD right now. I want to BAKE ALL THE COOKIES for it. (Does that mean that, if I were a man, I’d be offering to GRILL ALL THE STEAKS?) I’m in the genetics area, not the neuro area (although neuroplasticity is one of the coolest things in the world and I’m so glad my therapist [for serious] got me reading about it), and I get so sick of the “[gender] is genetically hardwired to [do something]” crap. I have been known to explain the Sry gene cluster as the sole significant genetic difference between most people with a Y chromosome and most people without a Y chromosome in brain-numbingly boring and exact detail to people who pull this crap more than once or twice. I hate, hate, hate it.

          You know what I’m hardwired to do? Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Circulate blood throughout my body. Nothing in there about nurturing, cleaning, cooking, etc. Grrr.

          • VoIP said:

            Yeah, I’m getting a PhD in history, focus early modern Europe, and different cultures, even different “Western cultures,” are really different in the way that the genders are supposed to act.

        • geekintheglasses said:

          Thank you so much for this comment. You get all the cookies and kitty snuggles (if you want, you might not be a cat person and that is totally okay). I am so tired, SO tired, of hearing “Well you know how women are!” or “That’s just how men are!” from my mom (and the rest of the world). Seeing it broken down so wonderfully makes me want to print it out, frame it and hang it on my wall. Cause it’s that fucking awesome.

    • VoIP said:

      Buh? NO.

      Take advantage of the fact that men in general are not only wired to be predators, e.g. the sex pest, but are also wired to be warriors and protectors.

      what is this i don’t even.

      • VoIP said:

        I am also raising my eyebrows REALLY HARD at the narrative in which you have your big ol’ combat boots on while your wife clings to your arm with “tears of relief and love in her eyes.”

        Also the part where the offending dude is…ahem…”new to our country.”

        You for real, man?

        • Lilly said:

          I always have tears of relief and love in my eyes when my man protects me, or when he drags home the carcass of a mastodon that he hunted and killed to feed me and our 15 children. Then, I cling to his arm before resuming my womanly duties. I guess I’m just wired that way.

          • Sarah in Tokyo said:

            Personally, I cry like a baby when my man comes home every single night. What with the explosions going off in the background, the joyous singing of neighborhood children, and the bald eagle crying a single, perfect tear as he ambles by, it’s a pretty moving scenario.

          • I find that my husband is at his most effective and attractive when he opens his mouth as widely as his body, extends his neck ruff and gapes ferociously at a rival male, making it clear that he is larger and fitter. This usually establishes dominance right away. Sometimes he even presses his mouth against the rival male’s, as if kissing, to really drive the point home that this female is currently his possession. I watch with fins clasped to my breast as it magically makes all of my work- and stalker-related problems melt away, and when he returns to guard our clutch of eggs… well!

            Oh no wait, we aren’t a pair of Sarcastic Fringeheads? Balls.

          • Letter Writer said:

            *chuckles* Thanks – the imagery suggested here has made me smile.

        • grcalgary said:

          Whether you believe me or not, that’s what happened. The truth is, I was surprised to get that reaction from my wife; I was expecting her to be angry with the way I handled it. Perhaps the “new to our country” description requires some explanation. Him being a newcomer is a big part of why my wife reached out in friendship to him. Also, when I was speaking to him, he used cultural differences as an excuse for the way he behaved. My response was to the effect of, “Is it okay, where you come from, for a man to ask to kiss another man’s wife? Would it be okay for me to ask your wife for a kiss?” He didn’t have a response to this.

          • JenniferP said:

            No one’s saying that the dude wasn’t sketchy, and I’m glad he’s not pestering your wife anymore.

            I am not sure your “Get A Big Strong Manly Man” to solve it for you approach extrapolates well to other situations. Sometimes it makes situations worse.

          • VoIP said:

            My response was to the effect of, “Is it okay, where you come from, for a man to ask to kiss another man’s wife? Would it be okay for me to ask your wife for a kiss?”

            So your response…is that women are property. That’s the same problem as the Sex Pest, it’s just beneficent instead of malevolent! Your wife doesn’t belong to you, her harasser was in the wrong because it’s wrong to hurt others, period.

      • grcalgary said:

        VoIP, are you saying you don’t believe men and women instinctively think and behave differently?

        • JenniferP said:

          Yup, we’re all saying that!

          • piny said:

            See, if you were a man, you would be rational enough to embrace sexism.

        • VoIP said:

          I do not believe that at all, no. Thanks for asking!!

    • Sarah in Tokyo said:

      …Seriously?

      No really. Seriously?

      SexPest has close ties to her political organization and university, and he’s already making noises about blackmailing her. Tell me, at what point is getting a Big Strong Man to stomp up to him (with or without Big Strong Man posse) and almost-but-not-quite-threaten him going to work in her favour?

      Also, great job minimizing the LW’s ability to deal with her own problems.

      • liyyspoon said:

        Your previous comment – I couldn’t directly reply to it – but oh my God, best thing I’ve read on the internets today. Thank you. Punctured the windbag indeed.

        • Sarah in Tokyo said:

          Oh! Why, thank you. :)

          • grcalgary said:

            I related another circumstance where a woman (my wife) was getting unwanted sexual attention, I took action in a way that the offender could understand, and it worked. Is it because I bring a different perspective from what is typically found on this forum that I am a “windbag”? When I was composing my initial comment, I knew I would get some negative feedback. Sorry, the “windbag” is still inflated.

      • grcalgary said:

        You’re talking as if being a Big Strong Man is a bad thing. Perhaps a little misantry there? If the sex pest (SP) responds appropriately to intervention by the proper authorities (if they actually do something about it), terrific! Problem solved. If they say they can only respond when a crime has been committed, or they can’t do anything because LW and SP are considered equals and this is happening outside the workplace, then other actions need to be taken so LW doesn’t feel the need to leave a room whenever SP shows up. As far as minimizing her ability to deal with her own problems goes, didn’t she ask for input? If I have a plumbing problem in my house, I do the research to see if this is something I can do myself. Most of the time it is, but sometimes I have to call in the plumber who has the knowledge, experience, and equipment to fix the problem quickly and properly.

        • JenniferP said:

          LOL “Misandry.”

          I know you mean to be helpful, but it is time for you to take your thoughts to all of the other blogs on the internet. We’ve read enough of them and you’ve hijacked this thread to a ridiculous place where now everyone must deal with you.

          • Letter Writer said:

            To add to the Captain’s remarks, every time I see a comment from you or related to yours pop up in my inbox my anxiety rockets because your stance takes away my power to deal with the situation myself, calmly and rationally. You are not being helpful by advocating an out-harass-the-harasser approach. Please go.

          • JenniferP said:

            LW, he’s banned permanently. Sorry he stressed you out.

          • JetGirl said:

            To be fair, Captain, I have engaged in some “misantry” recently. There was a line of ants in my tub, and instead of listening to their important ant opinions about why I was being hysterical and oversensitive about their presence, I just got out the Raid. I am a misantrist. Oh, and as I sprayed, I used “shaming language,” as in “Die, ants! Die!!!”
            *Hangs head in regret at being a bad feminist*

    • Letter Writer said:

      Thank you very much for the suggestion, but I think I would prefer not to involve my male friends quite like that. I would be worried about the potential repercussions, such as being accused of harassing the harasser, or worse, one of the safe men in my life being pulled up on charges in a worse-case-scenario event. I also feel that SP’s behaviour is unacceptable generally in any context and will not put a male friend in an awful bind by asking him to imitate it.

      • piny said:

        You seem to know exactly what you’re doing, but…yes, this. It’s an objectively stupid idea, but also, you should trust your instincts towards this guy. If it seems like something would be unnecessary provocation, or just kind of like a rejected Liam Neeson script (Taken 2: This Time, It’s Domestic), find some other, more appealing way of protecting yourself. You’re uncomfortable enough, and you shouldn’t have to deal with anxiety around the solution as well as the problem.

  14. Fiona said:

    With a few hundred comments I don’t know if it’s worth leaving this, but I want to say – this rings bells for me. This guy is a serial abuser – run like the wind. Captain Awkward, you gave some very good advice. It’s not the writer’s fault that she has attracted his unwanted advances or those of the men before her. As she said, she was molested. It seems common that those of us with an abuse history seem to attract predators almost as though we wore a sign saying ‘kick me’. I hope the letter writer is getting some therapy – she needs to. Only when she is comfortable and strong in her own skin with good boundaries, will she not attract an endless stream of loser-abusers. I think it’s the “I’m damaged goods” subconscious/conscious belief that draws the pond scum to us, and the desire to please others. I hope she is reading.

  15. I love that the goal is help this writer feel safer. Sick, I hope you have some solidarity and love behind you after reading this!

    I wanted to suggest the writer consider looking into IMPACT Self-Defense and Assertiveness training. It is the only self-defense I know of that is highly trauma informed and focuses on helping survivors of trauma rebuild their boundaries and learn to protect themselves. And it combines verbal and physical self-defense. I know they do scholarships and sometimes private lessons. You might look them up to see if they’re in your area.

    The part of this story that upset me the most was where the guy started making what I read as thinly veiled threats of rape or other violence. He is a commonplace abuser, using his privilege and intelligent manipulation to try and coerce others. And he has it in the back of his mind that he could easily overpower and harm you physically and you know it, so you will keep things verbal and not physical, go along nicely or else get hurt. I had a huge guy well over six feet try that with me once, but it triggered a sort of hillbilly anarchy my Vietnam veteran father instilled into me. He backed off instantly and kept some distance after that. Most men aren’t ready to be resisted, they’re so used to getting what they want easily. I bet you a HUGE sum that this guy targets people after testing their boundaries, and he is a coward through and through. Sick, you CAN learn to defend yourself. I promise you. You do not have to always have a cop or some other authority figure around to scare this guy off. I saw the tiniest, most frightened people learn to throw giant, cursing, threatening men around and get themselves out. And IMPACT can’t be the only excellent self-defense out there either, though I know most are not so great.

    These days, after two IMPACT courses, if the person didn’t play their cards just right… like keep out of arms reach the whole with their pistol pointed right at me… I could take over the situation. Even if it was sudden, even if they were huge, even if they yelled and scared the hell out of me, even if I started out pinned down, even if they were armed. That in and of itself, knowing you could handle yourself in a worst-case scenario, makes everything else more doable. The rest is just tolerating discomfort in verbal conflict, and practice makes it easier.

    I also really loved the books Yes Means Yes and Healing Sex by Staci Haines. They really helped me get perspective and heal from abusive situations.

    I wish you the best and lots of support! That guy would trigger me to no end. Be kind to yourself!

    ~Claire Fuller

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