About these ads

#419: My friend’s jokes are The Worst. Also, why do we talk about ending friendships forever so much on this blog?

Dear Captain Awkward:

I have a friend who makes rape jokes and other sexual jokes that make me uncomfortable. I’ve repeatedly asked him to stop, and he still says this kind of stuff. Also, he touches my arm when we talk and I don’t like it. What I like about our friendship is that he lives across the hall from me, and he’s there to help me when I need stuff, like putting together furniture, or carrying things when I injured my leg. I’m shy, and my social life has been really slow lately because I injured my leg and was stuck at home a lot. I also really enjoy having a friend who is close by and easy to hang out with and see. He works in the same field as me (I’m a programmer) so it’s also nice to be able to discuss work-related things. But he makes these horrible jokes, some of them about rape, that make me really upset and uncomfortable. I’ve tried telling him and he continues. 

To give you an example of jokes he makes, I was telling him about how I had the staff at my gym tell a guy to stop following me around. At first, they said, “oh, it’s just a harmless crush”, but I told them, crush or not, he’s gotta stop following me around the gym, and then they put an end to the problem. My friend joked “you should have put some white liquid on your face and went up to them “just a little crush?” and I was like, wtf? why in the world are you saying something like that, that’s so out of line? 

Should I just ditch this friend? Or is there a way to impress on him that I enjoy his company and a lot of our conversations, but these kinds of jokes have got stop? Or should I even be concerned that he could be dangerous? 

If the “white liquid” joke means what I think it means, GROSS.

The problem here is that you’re probably already communicating what you need just fine! “Don’t make rape jokes or sexual comments around me” is pretty clear, right? It’s not a mysterious cryptogram. So if he’s not hearing or believing you, he’s deliberately deciding that acting like an asshole is more important than complying with a basic request. That’s not a problem that’s solved with a script, though a sharp “Dude. SERIOUSLY. What would get you to stop telling rape jokes? TELL ME WHAT” is not a bad idea.

First, the obvious: You can just decide you don’t like him and don’t want him around anymore if you want. You don’t need an actual reason or our permission. If he’s making you uncomfortable, even if he’s done nice stuff for you before and is conveniently located, you can decide to cool the friendship if it’s not working for you.

We talk about breaking off relationships and friendships that aren’t working here a lot, to the point that people wonder “Does Captain Awkward think we should just never talk to people who aren’t perfectly awesome and emotionally aware all the time? I’m not perfect, so does that mean all my friends should just break it off with me forever?

When someone rejects you, it is PAINFUL AS FUCK. No getting around it. The knowledge that people get to reject you at any time for any reason is not always comfortable knowledge, and if you’re a depressed, anxious sort or have temporarily misplaced your Awesome I understand why that’s a hard message to hear. Love, affection, attraction, friendship, acceptance aren’t really about fairness. Sometimes it’s just fucking unfair and there is nothing you can do to fix it. But it’s not like I’m gleefully cheering on the cavalier rejection of sad or imperfect folks, so let me try to explain a bit where I’m coming from with that.

I think it’s important to be reminded that you don’t have to be friends with someone if you don’t want to. You are allowed to just not like people and not want them in your life. Sometimes the right answer really is “stop trying so hard to make this work” or “This friendship that made you feel good at one time didn’t evolve into something that makes you feel good now, so it’s okay to let it go” or “You need to knock that off forever if you want us to stay friends.” I think that’s an important message because of the way women are socialized to be nice, to smooth things over, to not make waves, and to put up with all kinds of bullshit in the name of preserving relationships as if Relationships in the abstract have a greater inherent value than the feelings or well-being of the individual people in them. How many times in your life has someone told you Boys will be boys” or “That’s just how people are” or “You’re being unrealistic” or “You’re just being too sensitive!” in order to argue you into putting up with bad behavior? Lower your expectations, ladies!  Suck it up, take all the negative interactions inside yourself, agonize forever about what you did wrong and how you could have prevented it, because the smooth running of everyone’s relationships is your job! If you assert yourself, that’s called “being mean” and everyone will hate you! And don’t forget to smile and look pretty! 

The above paragraph contains sarcasm.

It was personally a revelation to me to understand the power of goodbye and the usefulness of the Rageasaurus. “Wait, I can just decide not to hang out with people who make my shoulders go up around my ears, even if my other friends are friends with them?” “Wait, that person can not like me and I can not like them but we can coolly avoid each other at parties and not throw the whole friend-group into dramaville?”  “Wait, I get to just say ‘that hurts my feelings, please don’t do that anymore’ instead of quietly putting up with it and seething?” “Wait, going home for Christmas is bankrupting me and stressing me out, so I get to just not go if I don’t want to and it won’t be the end of the world?” “Wait, my feelings are important and don’t need to be instantly negated or reasoned away? Holy shit!”

When a situation is making you feel dread, but you think of yourself as a nice person so you are on the verge of forcing yourself to, say, meet up with someone you don’t actually want to ever see again or go to the world’s most ill-advised dinner party or sit through another “hilarious” joke that literally makes the world worse for the telling of it, it helps to take a step back and ask “Wait, do I even want to fix things with this person? No? Okay then. That’s more important than ‘nice’.” This culture will try to get a woman to deny, apologize for, second-guess, or override every single one of her desires in the name of a performance of compliance and niceness. We need to fight that; sometimes with methods that feel “mean” and “selfish” because they are subverting a lifetime of training. Sometimes respecting your own desire to NOT be friends (to not engage, to not repair or try, and to not apologize), or respecting your needs enough to advocate fiercely for them lands on some well-intentioned person like a ton of bricks, and it’s painful and unfair. But guilt and the fear of feeling that pain keeps people engaged in relationships that aren’t working for way too long. Life is too short for home Ethan Frome reeactments*.

If you know that you get to bail on relationships that aren’t working for you, it immediately gives you some power back in figuring out how you want to negotiate the relationship so that it can work better. When you ask someone to respect a boundary, like, “please don’t touch me” or “please don’t joke about rape,” you’re not trying to punish the person – the hope is that good fences will make good neighbors and that = (You) – (That Thing You Were Doing That I Hated) = Happiness! But boundaries, once stated, need to be enforced or they become meaningless. One way to enforce them is to preserve the option to limit or end interactions with people if they don’t respect them.

So, I have definitely had to terminate some relationships that were draining and toxic. I have never done so lightly, without at least some attempts to make things better & without guilt, second-guessing, and worry about whether I was being fair and doing the right thing. Sometimes the only way I know I’ve done the right thing comes after the fact, in the form of extreme relief and freedom from guilt, second-guessing, and worry. I have definitely spoken up in other relationships to ask for better treatment, most often receiving the response of “Of course! I’m so glad you said something!” or “Sure, I’ll do my best. Remind me if I mess up, though, ok?” And sometimes, reminding myself that participating in a given relationship ( or social event) is a choice gives me instant clarity about what I’m willing to accept and also helps me put up with the imperfect parts with better grace and patience. “You want to be here, Self, so enjoy the good parts, and let the bad parts go.”

There is a difference between “sometimes annoying & awkward” and “doesn’t get certain things” and “makes me feel unsafe” as a Price of Admission. Letter Writer, I think the question about whether this guy can be converted into a small-doses friend is about UNSAFE vs. ANNOYED. If he’s tickling your “creepy” or “possibly dangerous” spidey-sense, and he laughs off your concerns, the touching escalates or continues when you ask him to stop, you feel like he’s making rape jokes deliberately to provoke and annoy you, or pushing your boundaries to groom you to be compliant, then listen to that instinct and definitely don’t invite him into your space anymore. Does it make you feel unsafe to have him there in your house, especially now when you are injured and vulnerable? Listen to that feeling, even at the risk of being “mean” or “unfair.”

But also, there are plenty of people who are fun to talk to for an hour or two about shared interests who aren’t trusted friends, or where you just know that certain subjects are off-limits or that you’ll end up cutting the conversation short in the hopes of getting out while it’s still fun.  Sometimes you can keep expectations low, enjoy what there is to enjoy (like having work in common, or his kindness to you while you’ve been injured), form a private opinion of “I will limit our conversations to x topic” and move on with the day. Think of it as hiding the Facebook feed of someone before the last election: You’re doing it so that you can choose when and how you engage with people that you’d still like to like despite your differences.

For a possibly-less-loaded example than “Do I seriously have to tolerate rape jokes?“, I have a friend who is deeply religious and who would dearly like to see me accept Jesus** into my profoundly agnostic heart. We can talk about all sorts of stuff, but when Jesus-time happens, I have to end the conversation. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like the other 90% of the time we talk, because I do. But I know that eventually in every conversation it will be Jeez-o’clock and I will need to bail. I could decide that repeatedly bringing up Jesus when s/he knows I’m really not into Him is disrespectful and violates my boundaries and use it as a reason to end the friendship, but I LIKE this person. I want to keep hanging out with them, and I’m looking for reasons to keep the friendship rather for reasons to end it, it’s nothing I can’t handle, so I accept the status quo because it’s worth it to me.

Replace “The Lord” with “shiny New Year’s weight loss regime!” and you’ve got a recipe for even more boundary-crossing evangelism. Diet-talk and body-shaming are so common in our culture that plenty of people engage in it without thinking about it or questioning it or meaning to do any harm, and I am seen as the strident or abnormal one if I want to change the subject. I for sure want to redirect those conversations when they happen to me, but I also for sure don’t want to permanently cut off every nice person in my life who is trying to lose a couple of pounds or turn every conversation where they drone on about Magical! Slimming! Points! into HAES Lecture Time. So sometimes I say “Well, you look really pretty today” and move on.

Some of my own privilege is speaking, for sure – when dealing with “the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck,” if I’m in a position of consciously deciding whether to engage someone on a social justice topic and possibly “ruin the afternoon” vs. just having my afternoon ruined by their comments or jokes and tears or messy feelings that come unbidden, then I’m in a privileged position relative to a survivor or PTSD sufferer who is genuinely triggered by someone’s rape joke. I do my best to say “Wow” or “Whoa, not cool,” or “I do not think that having to wait in a long post office line is like rape” in a flat, Daria-like tone if they say something egregious, and I definitely won’t laugh or give them approval, but sometimes I truly don’t have the energy (or the person is in a position of professional power and I don’t want to antagonize them, or we’re in a group that I don’t know well and I don’t trust that people will necessarily have my back, or I can’t think of a way to explain it that will get the point across, or I’m worried about getting flustered and trying to keep my cool, or I’m a guest and don’t want to make a scene, or, or, or…cowardice wears many costumes!) and I have to forgive myself for not fighting every single battle every single time and do what I can when I can.

“Relationships are a choice” will always be in tension with the other great axiom of being human, “No man is an island.” We are imperfect, and we need other imperfect people, and sometimes our circumstances or our hearts don’t support a desire to optimize every fucking interaction. It’s good to live your principles, for sure, but principles don’t hug you and sometimes really imperfect people (like my extremely racist Yia-Yia, rest her soul) give the best hugs. As soon as you say “I could never be friends with someone who _________” someone you REALLY like will do _______ and you’ll have a terrible choice to make.

We’re known by the company we keep! How will the culture ever change if we just let awful stuff go in the name of friendship or faaaamily or keeping the peace? But are we obligated to always make ourselves lonely in the service of what’s right? I don’t know, you guys. I don’t know. Sometimes the line is really clear, and sometimes it is not clear. Sometimes I am brave and sometimes I am not so brave. Seeing other people be brave helps me to be brave, so sometimes that motivates me to be brave. Maybe by speaking up, I gave the relationship its best chance to change into something that can survive. Maybe by speaking up I helped someone feel less alone, and then they spoke up too and now the racist/sexist person isn’t dominating the conversation anymore and they have to question whether they are really in the majority here and whether it’s worth it to keep saying offensive stuff. Fighting evil is lonely work; it’s better as a group project.

So, Letter Writer, your safety & comfort is the most important thing. It comes ahead of “nice.” But if what you’re feeling about this guy is mostly Occasional Annoyance, and you do want to try to preserve the friendship in some form, there is some stuff you can try.

When he touches you, say “Please don’t touch me, I don’t like it” and physically move awayDon’t qualify that statement or apologize for it or worry about being nice or smooth it over, just say it as bluntly as possible and let the subsequent pause get really awkward. More on that here. If he apologizes and stops touching you, does not touch you anymore, AND asks permission before touching you in any way, then possibly he will get it. If he apologizes but keeps touching you, that’s not okay. If he makes fun of you for being “too sensitive” and overreacting then it’s definitely time to shun.

When he makes a joke you don’t like, say bluntly: “I don’t like jokes like that. I’ve asked you not to make them around me before. Please change the subject now.” If he apologizes, and most importantly, stops making the jokes, maybe there is hope he will get it. If he argues for why he should get to keep making the jokes or keeps “forgetting,” he is pretty much deliberately acting like an asshole. Do you want to be friends with deliberate assholes? Probably not.

Remember, you can’t control how people behave, but you can decide how they get to behave around you. He might not understand why rape jokes are bad, and it’s not necessarily your problem to make sure he does. What you conveyed in your letter is: “You may not realize this, but when you make jokes about rape you make me question whether I am really safe around you” but saying that might derail you guys into “Holy shit, are you saying you think I’m a rapist?/Now I am the real victim here because of your FALSE and UNFAIR ASSUMPTIONS” MRA territory where you REALLY don’t want to spend your precious valuable time on the earth (though such a conversation would be an instant litmus test of whether to remain in contact, right?).

Try “I value your friendship, but I am dead serious that I will not tolerate rape jokes. The fact that you keep making them when I’ve asked you not to is really upsetting to me, and I’d like you to leave now,” or “I don’t need you to agree with me or even understand why, but I definitely need you to stop making sexual jokes around me. Let’s talk about something else, and if you can’t, then I’d like you to go and we’ll try this again another time.

For sure, if you’ve had to ask him to stop doing something that bothers you, I suggest that you cut the hangout short. You can say, “All right then. Let’s cut this short and try again another time” to make it clear that you are reacting to what he did or said, but you don’t have to give a lecture as to why, if you don’t want to – a simple “All rightThanks for stopping by, let’s pick this up sometime next week” or “I need to work on X project, let’s hang out again another time” and then standing up to leave his place or standing up and waiting until he leaves yours can get it done- whatever gets him out of your space or you out of his.

When you’re feeling more able to be out and about, I strongly suggest putting some effort into making other friends, so this guy won’t loom so large in your social whirl. There are cooler people who are handy with an allen wrench! I also suggest that you look into some kind of self-defense and/or assertiveness training. Sometimes it’s hard to stand up to people without getting flustered, and if you’re shy it might help you to practice saying “Nope!” in a bunch of different ways in a structured, safe environment.

*Ethan Frome Home Re-Enactment Kit! Contains: One sled, one cherry-red scarf, one lifetime of unspoken desire and grudging obligation. Chilly New England Winter sold separately, may not be available in all locations.

**Alas, not the Sexy Gay Jesus.

About these ads
141 comments
  1. Nicole said:

    That Ethan Frome Home Re-Enactment Kit should come with a pickle dish!

    That said, this is all very good advice.

    • JenniferP said:

      A pickle dish and some super glue!

      • FemmePrincess said:

        And pickles and donuts (which according to my HS lit teacher were phallic/vulvic symbols.

        • JenniferP said:

          Really puts the b in subtle. :)

        • Yup! In the words of my AP Lit teacher, “The pickle dish represents her hoo-ha!”

          • I’ve blocked out all my memories of reading Ethan Frome in high school, but now I almost want to go reread it so I can get these references, because they sound weird.

            …ALMOST.

          • Emmers said:

            Oh god I had no idea! (And yet, somehow…I am comforted by this previous lack of knowledge.)

          • Revolver said:

            Thank Maud my high school lit teacher didn’t bring this up…I would have never been the same.

  2. Gine said:

    The Captain’s advice is perfect and I have nothing to add, but I had to say that “Jeeze-o’clock” made me snort my tea.

    • caryatid said:

      seconded. i love you, captain.

    • Thirded. Also, how talking about weight and food is totally more invasive than talking about the CONDITION OF YOUR SOUL. It is just a BURGER, people, leave me alone!

    • MHM said:

      Fourthed! So funny I keep giggling repeatedly.

    • marniferous said:

      Fifthed! So awesome!

  3. You are so awesome, Jennifer.

  4. Oh man, I know a guy just like this. He has truly wonderful sides, but sometimes he just squicks me out. When he goes too far for me, I tell him and he apologizes. If I tell him to back off, he does. And then I contact him when my Rageasaurus has eaten a village of tiny humans and calmed down. So, that’s why I’m still friends with him. In your case, LW, there doesn’t seem to exist a friendship to begin with. He lives across the hall from you, so be friendly when you see each other, but that doesn’t make him friend material by default.

    Also: repeated touching against your will + rape jokes = *Psycho theme*

  5. CPALady said:

    So… I hope this is on-topic enough. But I actually had a really good experience calling out my sister-in-law about making a rape joke (it was one of those “that sports team got raped” jokes that are… not funny). So I hope this helps both the letter writer and other readers get brave enough to continue calling out rape jokes.

    I am normally not good at this, we were in a car with a bunch of other people I didn’t know super well and I wasn’t sure how it would go over. So I tried rather jokingly saying “Actually… you know what’s like rape? Actual rape.” I kept my tone light so she didn’t feel attacked, then everyone in the car laughed and joined me in saying things like “yeah, it’s probably not appropriate to compare losing a basketball game to one of the most horrifying things you can ever experience”. then because 3/5 of the car was lawyers we started talking about that awful judge who said that rape victim wasn’t “really” raped because she didn’t fight back and how fucking wack that was.

    It was nice, and I felt good about my decision to say something.

    Keep saying things/speaking up Awkwardeers!

    • That is awesome, good for you!

      Someone in my roleplaying group made a similar remark – “Jeez, those orcs are gonna rape us” – and I was just like “Please don’t say rape.” They all know me and my story a little better, so it was sufficient…. but man, talk about being The Humorless Feminist. Even if no one reacts poorly, you still have this lingering Oh Noes I Did Something Bad Now No One Will Like Me feeling.

      • Plus, honestly, whenever a woman around me says something that is actively anti-rape in a less-than-feminist setting, I kind of assume she’s been raped. I know that’s bad, but statistically, there’s a good chance I’m right, and it squicks me out a bit to think if I am the Humourless Feminist ™ saying “Hey, no rape jokes at the dinner table.” then other people may (correctly) peg me as a rape victim.

        • marykmac said:

          FWIW, I haven’t been raped and I do call out rape “jokes”. I hope that makes things a little safer for those who have.

          • Me too. I haven’t been, so I really don’t care if people think I have. There’s no gossip dirt they can dig out of me, so I really just don’t care what they think happened. But someone else probably does, and since both of us don’t want to hear it and I have nothing to lose, I might as well just say something.

        • manybellsdown said:

          I also have not ever been sexually assaulted, and I call out as well. If I don’t really like the person, I just go with “wow, you’re an idiot” and ignore them. It feels pretty good, actually.

          • Pelusa said:

            I second this. I call people out on this and I almost hope they ask if I have been assaulted so I can say “No, I just have some empathy for other people and statistics say if you are walking around saying crap like that you’ve probably said it to someone who has been assaulted.” I think since it’s such a silenced topic (except in not-funny jokes, of course) sometimes it’s good to remind people that they could be triggering something for someone and that they really don’t know. If that means them thinking that that person was me, that’s okay with me if it makes them realize what they’re doing was not okay. Plus, I think with men often they don’t even understand the basic privilege they have of not being afraid of rape all the time so sometimes it’s good to remind them that even if you haven’t experienced sexual assault yourself, being a woman means it’s just not a joke.

        • I get called a Humourless Feminist (TM) a lot. I usually turn it back on the douchebag by saying “Am I supposed to be insulted?” or “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

          • M Dubz said:

            I wear my Humorless Feminist badge with pride. It has spangles, and is shaped like a cat!

        • ginksarade said:

          Rachel, I have that squick, too. People have often made assumptions about me, based on me calling them out on something. With the things that aren’t true of me, I can handle it, but the rape victim assumption would be true, and in general I don’t want to be pasting that sign on myself around someone who makes rape jokes.

          It makes me feel like a target, I guess. Or at least really really exposed – depends on who I’m with.

          • MK said:

            I second the target thing! For me, someone (a guy especially) who makes a lot of rape jokes seems likely to be or become a rapist someday. So I think when debating speaking up, my mind is saying “Don’t let him know you’re already a victim so he gets interested and might try something later.” But then, my senses are on high alert. Better safe than sorry! At the very best, he is definitely not a guy who would be respectful of that information!

        • MK said:

          I’ve been raped/near-raped multiple times, but I don’t think I’ve ever corrected a person on a rape joke. I guess it’s scary for some of the same reasons you mentioned? So all you guys who do are very awesome and keep it up! :) And I will definitely try to correct it when I can. The more people that do, the less overall it will happen hopefully!

          (And not to be scary, LW, but my first rape was a then close friend who touched me a lot when I didn’t want it and talked a lot about sex with me, but never made rape jokes. So I felt a little nervous reading that, but only you know how this friend really is. If you feel safe and comfortable around him, you probably are. If he gives you creepies, feel free to avoid him!)

          • I actually think the roles are distributed quite well here; people who haven’t been raped call other people out and those who were don’t have to put themself at risk. I mean, everyone deserves to feel as safe as possible at all times. If calling out rape jokes makes you feel like a target, you don’t have to do it at all! There is no obligation, or rather, you aren’t more obligated than anyone else because it hits home.

      • thegirlfrommarz said:

        I totally understand this (and have experienced that same feeling – another person who has not been raped but who calls out rape jokes here). However, it just struck me anew how sad and wrong it is that the person having the “Oh Noes I Did Something Bad Now No One Will Like Me” feeling is STILL the one calling out the rape joke, not the one making it.

        • currently mulling over changing username said:

          Also how totally fucked is it that there is this perception that actually having EXPERIENCED rape somehow makes you less qualified to state whether rape is a joke or not?! Just, what the everloving…?!

        • Yeah, the irony was not lost on me, either =/

          I also…. don’t know how to feel about the whole “I’m worried that calling people out on their crappy jokes will make them assume I’ve been raped” train of thought.

          Not that I would admonish anyone for feeling that way – it is an icky feeling – but…… man, it just highlights for me how fucked-up the whole mess is. Like being an actual or even suspected rape survivor makes you worth less somehow, or tainted in some way, or broken… Just, ugh.

          Again, I totally understand why someone who has not been through that would not want to be tarred with that brush… but, like, ARGH WHY IS THERE EVEN TAR ON THAT BRUSH ANYWAY?

          • ReanaZ said:

            Because people are awkward. And because even well-intentioned, good-hearted people sometimes treat you differently when they find out you’ve been raped. (e.g. “I’m extra careful around you, because, you know…”) And while I do have certain triggers well-intentioned people who are close to me sometimes need to tiptoe around, I communicate those clearly and hate being tiptoed around about everything. So yeah, I’d rather just people not know. Alas.

          • I can totally understand that.

            Although, maybe it’s just me, but… hmm, I don’t know if I’d mind people being extra-careful around me. If nothing else, it’d be a welcome change :p

        • JenniferP said:

          Our culture really sucks sometimes, though you guys give me hope that we will slowly fix it.

          • Amen to that.

    • roramich said:

      you are awesome, CPALady!

  6. GaG said:

    The Captain’s advice is great. I wanted to add some info from my POV as a stuck-at-home person. I don’t know how much or how long your leg injury will keep you stuck at home, but I have a disability that restricts me from doing things outside my house, so that’s definitely been another thing to deal with, social-interactions-wise. The thing that has actually worked really well for me has been online dating sites. I just put in my profile that I’m interested in meeting new friends rather than dating. All of my current local friends are people I met online, who understand that when we hang out in person it has to be at my place. I also have friends I just talk to online. If you decide you don’t want to be friends with your neighbor any more (or if you do stay friends but want to try it to make new friends too), those could be a possibility to try.

    • This is true. Most of my friends are on Twitter since I used it a lot after a local natural disaster for information sharing, I’m another disabled don’t get out mucher, and while some of those friends are local, most of our interaction is still online. Every so often we’ll have a night in or something but it’s the sort of thing that might happen once or twice a year. Which doesn’t mean it can’t be spontaneous – once one of them just wanted to drive around town for a while and asked if anyone wanted to keep her company, another time someone was alone at a bar opening, etc.

  7. Captain, I think this may be one of your best posts yet.

    LW, I actually have a friend a lot like yours. He’s incredibly smart and sharp-witted, ends-of-the-earth generous to his friends, and a classic gentleman when he’s out with me alone. He’s one of the few men on the planet I’ve grown to trust completely with my safety – and he has absolutely earned every last inch of that trust.

    He also makes racist jokes, sexist jokes, homophobic jokes, dead-baby jokes, and probably about every other kind of offensive joke there is. His theory is “I’m an equal-opportunity offensive asshole.”

    As you can imagine, I didn’t get along with him terribly well at first. As a rape survivor, a lot of his jokes made me really uncomfortable or were straight-up triggers. Honestly, had I been reading more of this blog at the time, I might have cut off contact completely. In fact, there was a good long while where I stopped returning his calls and just dropped off the face of the earth.

    Here’s the key difference I see between your friend and the one I described: When I asked my friend to stop making certain jokes, he did. Especially when I explained to him how personal they were to me, and how Those Jokes = Not Fuckin’ Funny.

    A true friend should care about whether their jokes or comments make you feel icky. A true friend should feel bad that they’ve hurt you, and do what they can to stop hurting you. That’s kind of the basic, entry-level requirement for friendship. If a friend doesn’t care that they’ve hurt you… well, I’d really start to wonder what their motives are for hanging around you.

    I hope it works out for you, LW – but remember that you have options if it doesn’t.

    • I for one have trouble separating the racist, sexist, homophobic, rape-ist, dead baby, weight-policing, gender-normative, hick/redneck, class-ist jokes (etc. etc. etc.) from one another. I couldn’t say “ok, well he stopped the rape jokes and that’s the one that directly pertains to me so we can still be pals” because I think they’re all variations of the same awful thing: people privileged to be in the dominant, socially acceptable, fortune-kissed group mocking and dehumanizing people who either by nature or by circumstances of birth are not. Neat-o.

      It’s like they’re saying there’s one acceptable way to be a human being, and isn’t it so fucking funny to act like people who aren’t like that are freaks and losers who deserve to be marginalized by poor-taste “humor” to the point that they feel unsafe openly being who they are? Ha ha ha! Ew. Just ew. I’m a middle aged, educated, middle class white woman living in the rural U.S., so I’m theoretically exempt from a bunch of those jokes, but they are ALL so viscerally offensive to me I could not enjoy myself around someone who made them more than once in a very drunk moon, and/or if the person showed sincere remorse and an inclination to reform when the ickiness of their “joke” was pointed out to them.

      Why can’t people get that the world would be so much less cool if we were all the same?????

      • Alphakitty, that’s pretty much how I feel about folks like that. I feel like when people say “well I’m an equal-opportunity offender!” what they really mean is “I can’t be bothered to treat anyone with respect, or act like a decent human in any way, and I expect everyone around me to accommodate me in this.”

        Maybe I’m just bitter because I had to deal with this in the form of a former boss’s close friend who’d hang out in the back room of our business and ask me too-personal, offensive questions, but I have no patience for this sort of behavior.

        • It’s rare that they’re genuinely “equal opportunity offenders,” either. Their repertoires don’t tend to include jokes at the expense of rich, white, heterosexual, cis, well-built males without mental or physical disabilities, do they? Nope. They just like to mock and dehumanize EVERYONE who isn’t that.

          • Medusa in the Mirror said:

            Hmmm, Did you hear the one about the rich, white, cis gender, well-built, Ivy-league educated, marathon runner (used to be generic next-state-over-guy) who locked his keys in his car (now Porsche)? His (same stats) brother was trapped for hours.

          • Funny how that works, isn’t it?

          • About the only times I can think of jokes against that group is when they’re politicians – and that’s a joke by the disadvantaged against the ridiculously over-advantaged, which says something itself. (Wonder why Mitt Romney came to mind with Medusa in the Mirror’s description? Hmmm.)

          • I once ran across a list of white guy jokes but sadly I can remember only one of them:

            Q: How do you take away a white guy’s freedom of speech?
            A: Disagree with him.

            I remembered this because I felt it might come in handy with the group of nerds I used to hang out with, but then I found better nerds instead.

          • JenniferP said:

            That is hilarious, to be sure.

      • aliaras said:

        Honestly, this gets into the Terrible Bargain area. I am a gamer, and have developed over time a Bullshit Shield which lets me spend some time around people who are not on the same page as me with regards to what jokes are actually funny / what language is appropriate. (Bullshit Shield: wards the user against bullshit, consuming Extrovert Energy while active. Bullshit Shield receives bonuses from all forms of Privilege.)

        It’s a thing that lets me keep doing something I love (video games, especially MMOs), although I recognize that not everyone can do it. But I end up feeling almost rebuked by some of the folks in anti-oppression communities, and I got a bit of that sense from your comment (not so much the tone or content but placement relative to an “oh, I’ve done that thing that was suggested” comment).

        • I didn’t mean to rebuke anyone (though I can see how it could have come off that way). I just have a really low tolerance for that kind of thing, not in a smug, purer-than-thou way as much as a “it really gets to me and ruins my whole mood and makes me want to leave” way. And fortunately, I’ve never had to choose between thing-that-I-love and not-subjecting-myself-to-a-toxic-climate.

          I mean seriously, it’s a lot easier to avoid the toxicity when you’re a profound introvert whose favorite activities are reading and writing and hanging out with your nuclear family and a handful of generally like-minded friends. For the past 15 years I’ve even lived in Vermont, the first state called for Obama both elections (every single county went for Obama this last time), the state that has sent Socialist/ Independent Bernie Sanders to the U.S. Congress/Senate for eons, the state that was in the lead on the whole civil unions and gay marriage issues (though no, I would not claim we got that totally right straight out of the gate). It really isn’t that hard to avoid poison-people here — but I know that’s not true everywhere, and that for folks less fortunate Terrible Bargains come into play.

          You have only my support as you struggle with Intolerable Choices.

      • Wow, I really should check my comments more often. O_O

        alphakitty – I understand where you’re coming from. And yes, many of his jokes are still privileged and tasteless. He’s also not a cis white male – he’s a Chinese immigrant with several replaced parts that cause minor and/or invisible disabilities, and he used to make a living as a member of a transvestite band. None of those things make up for the jokes he makes, but they also don’t justify the assumption that he is as privileged as privileged can be.

        And when he mocks everyone, he mocks EVERYONE. Including cis white men.

        I didn’t put this in my first comment because I didn’t want to self-promote, but I’ve written about him on my blog: http://pennygetslucky.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/friend-zone/. That might give you a better idea of his character.

        In the end, I don’t need to defend my friendship with him. Spending time with him is worth enough to overlook the offensiveness, and I can gauge his intent well enough to know he doesn’t believe the things he says. I realize that is rarely true; you’ll have to take my word for it on this one.

        Do I wish I could change the hearts and minds of everyone I meet and spread feminism and equality as effortlessly as fairy dust wherever I go? Absolutely. But as the Captain says in the post above, sometimes I have to forgive myself for not fighting every single fight.

    • Amy Pond said:

      His theory is “I’m an equal-opportunity offensive asshole.”

      I have a couple of friends who are sometimes kind of like that, who seem to think that because they’re outsiders, that gives them free reign to make those kind of jokes against anyone else who may also be an outsider. I once went out to lunch with both of them at once and my sibling, and sibling and I were absolutely mortified when the two of them somehow created a Synergy of Offensiveness. And most of the time, they’re fine, but they genuinely do not understand that picking on someone for what makes them different (and you know, they don’t even realise that making those kind of jokes is picking on someone for what makes them different), hurts me in the same way that hearing someone using the word ‘freak’ as a perjorative makes me want to punch that person in the face. Personally, I think the fact that they are outsiders themselves makes what they do all the worse. If you have a problem with someone, fine – but to then hit out at them using [membership of minority group] instead of, you know, the thing about them that you actually have a problem with, that’s low.

    • Revolver said:

      It seems pretty wrong that you had to bare your story to him to get him to stop. You shouldn’t have to explain, you shouldn’t have to show how it affects you personally. That’s great that you felt comfortable sharing with him, but not everyone can do the same, so instead of saying “Stop that , because it personally affects me.” a simple “Stop that, it’s offensive.” should be enough.

      • It wasn’t quite like that. I made it clear that those jokes made me uncomfortable, and then once we knew each other better, I told him why.

        Or maybe my husband told him at some point. I’ve known this guy for like six years, I can’t really recall. Anyway – he respected the request to stop the jokes before he knew it was personal.

        Otherwise, though, I agree with you: one should never have to justify why something is offensive to them. The fact that it is offensive is more than enough.

  8. Me, I would be seriously making some sort of private deadline to myself here of the “he gets X chances to show improvement” variety. What bothers me about this is the fact that the problems you’re having are those specific two – rape jokes and ignoring your physical touching boundaries. I’d still be concerned if it was, say, racism jokes and ignoring physical boundaries, or rape jokes and eating your food, or some other combination of bad habits, but those two combined are a definite red flag because he’s minimising sexual assault while touching you more than you’re comfortable with despite being told multiple times that both things are not cool, and so often rape happens after rapists have tested boundaries to see how their target will react. (Which is NOT to blame anyone for not reacting right, because of everything the Captain just said about how women are raised, and because we naturally forgive more from friends anyway, and because we don’t ever expect people we trust to do something that awful.)

    There might be a chance to salvage this relationship. There might not be. Either way whatever you decide to do is right because it’s right for you (unless you slash his tires, that’s not cool) and you are perfectly within your rights to place limits on this friendship for whatever reason you want.

    • emmych said:

      Mm, I thought this, too. My main thinks here are “ABORT ABORT ABORT and oh yeah keep your doors locked at all times and seriously think about moving as soon as you can”

      • Yes! Reading this letter, it really squicked me out that they’re neighbors. Making rape jokes + not respecting boundaries + living across the hall could go wrong in so many kinds of ways. *shudder* I hope it doesn’t, but I do agree that moving would be a good idea if it’s possible for the LW.

    • unagi said:

      Totally agree with Chris that this looks like a slippery slope. Rapists are not just some guy who jumps out of the bushes at you, they are most of the time someone you know. And just from a legal point of view, inviting him into your home to build your furniture can be so easily misconstrued about consent. So think about what it’ll do to your head if he can argue that you let him touch you inappropriately and make rape jokes without breaking his face?

      Whatever you decide to do about this friendship, LW, please take it entirely into public places. No wandering into his apt to see his new curtains, no asking for his help with anything, just meet him at the local cafe and enforce that boundary very strongly. No more crossing of thresholds in your building at all. Your safety is important..

      • Could you cool it with the victim-blameyness, please?

        • unagi said:

          You think a potential rapist is a victim?? I’m confused..

          • Myrin said:

            So am I, since I can’t find any victim-blameyness in your comment.
            Sometrees, advising the LW to better not be anywhere private with this guy isn’t victim blaming. Neither is pointing out that many people have a wretched understanding of consent (I take it by “legal point of view” you mean by police and/or judges?) not in the favour of the victim.

          • Manatee said:

            I don’t think that sometrees is referring to the jerk across the hall as the victim here. Maybe revisit this sentence: ‘So think about what it’ll do to your head if he can argue that you let him touch you inappropriately and make rape jokes without breaking his face?’

            I can see where you’re coming from, and maybe you are warning about the victim blaming of others rather than being victim blamey yourself, but it is getting into an uncomfortably grey area.

  9. CL said:

    This was a timely post for me because I’ve been thinking about my own reaction to all of the discussion about ending friendships & relationships on this blog. I’ve been dealing with a painful rejection in (what I think is) the captain-approved, Right Way — not contacting the person ever again and just trying to heal. But even though this blog has helped me to stick with that plan, sometimes the comments make me feel crappy about it — when everyone is encouraging a letter writer to cut the clingy, unwanted person out of their lives, sometimes all of the “oh my god, what a creepy emotional vampire, block this person forever” comments make me feel worse about being in the rejected position.

    Because even though I’m resisting the strong urge to send tearful feelings mail — I’m 100% leaving this person alone — I relate to the sad people who can’t let go. And when we’re all trying to get someone pumped to set (healthy, appropriate) boundaries with someone they want out of their lives, sometimes it does seem like everyone is “gleefully cheering on the cavalier rejection of sad or imperfect folks.”

    I definitely appreciate, though, that we’ve spent a lifetime hearing that we aren’t allowed to set boundaries — and reminding ourselves that we can, and should, is very valuable. This blog has helped me to set boundaries. It’s important advice. I’ve just found that sometimes I need to look at a thread and say to myself, “You know what, I’m already doing the right thing and leaving her alone, I don’t need to read 100 comments about rejection today — it’s just going to upset me.” And then I take a step back and read something else on the internet.

    • JenniferP said:

      You don’t have to LIKE being rejected. And you can say “Hey, I think that was a shitty thing to do and it really hurts my feelings, but whatever, it’s your funeral” on your way out of the person’s life and go feel as SAD and HURT and FUCKED UP and ANGRY as you want for as long as you need. You 100% don’t have to feel awesome or be nice about it.

      As long as you respect the “we are done now” or the “don’t call me anymore” boundary, you ARE doing the right thing. That’s as much as you can do. And if you run into the person, you get to be cold and rude and think “Whoa, you are a jerkmo and I do not like being around you” and leave and drink too much and cry until your mascara runs.

      As someone who Has Not Gone Gently into that good rejected night more than once, it helped me process rejection better to remind myself that people get to decide not to be with you, and to stop myself from doing the “but whyyyyyyyy” dance or trying to trick them into remaining engaged with me with long FEELINGSMAILS. You’ve seen my blog posts, right? Imagine the length and quality of my FEELINGSMAILS. ;) It seriously is better and faster path to healing to try to find whatever zen you can, even if your hand is in the box of pain. But “better” doesn’t mean “good.”

    • I feel you, CL. In fact, the captain posted the slow fade response the very day I was considering writing a long FEELINGSMAIL to someone I dated briefly, who faded out after we had a long ugly argument (about gender and presentation and safety, in which both of us indulged in some privilege denying). I’m not even sure I want to see him again, but radio silence from him was maddening. It sucks to be rejected, even more so when the rejector isn’t clear that’s what they’re doing: three weeks of no communication; showed up to a party at my house; promised to call; two more weeks of no communication, including no reply to two text messages I sent during that time. It’s possible his three jobs have him completely snowed under, or maybe he got hit by a bus, but I can’t know what’s going on in his head, and can only react to his actions. And no communication at all for weeks at a time says to me “Back off. Way off. Unless you want to become Pushy Angry Girl.” But as the Cap’n has said more than once, no one can give me (you) closure except me (you). It sucks, but hang in there, and know you aren’t alone.

    • heathenbee said:

      “sometimes all of the “oh my god, what a creepy emotional vampire, block this person forever” comments make me feel worse about being in the rejected position.”

      I gravitated to Captain Awkward, and the Pervocracy, and Dr Nerdlove while trying to extricate myself from a horribly manipulative emotionally abusive relationship; and while it’s been so empowering and validating for me to hear what they and their fantastic commentors have to say, I have also had to face a number of Painful Truths about my *own* behaviors in relationships over the years. Yup, it sucks, (and I know in your position it’s triply so, as you’re dealing with the rejection/heartbreak end right now), but it’s how we grow and start doing the right thing more often. I’ve had to realize that *I’ve* often committed Oneitis, But Whyyyyyyyyy?, and possibly even Nice Girling *shudder* among other things, as well as been guilty of *volumes* of FEELINGSMAILS over the years. These are hard things to look in the face. But it means we’re human, it means we can forgive ourselves, learn better behavior models, and move on.

      You’re not alone : )

    • It might be helpful to remember that cutting someone out of your life isn’t always the action of someone who is Completely In The Right Dealing With An Arsehole. Sometimes cutting someone off reflects poorly on the other person – not because they’re not allowed to decide who to be friends with, because they are, but because they’re going about it in an unclear way like the guy in Saira Ali’s comment above or being petty or hypocritical or something. I think there would be much less activity on this blog if people always acted in the most respectful way, after all. Obviously none of us know what your situation is, but being rejected is absolutely not proof positive that you’re a terrible person. Sometimes it means “We’re just not right for each other.” Sometimes it means “I don’t like how your presence makes me have to acknowledge my faults.” Sometimes it means “I imagine we could be friends, but I already have too many friends and don’t have room for more.” And yeah, sometimes it means that you’ve done something to creep someone out – but the great thing about actions is that actions aren’t who you are. They don’t have to define your whole life and the exact same thing can be received terribly by one person but amazingly by another, so even if you’re at fault in one case, it doesn’t have to mean you’re a terrible person.

    • Amy Pond said:

      But even though this blog has helped me to stick with that plan, sometimes the comments make me feel crappy about it — when everyone is encouraging a letter writer to cut the clingy, unwanted person out of their lives, sometimes all of the “oh my god, what a creepy emotional vampire, block this person forever” comments make me feel worse about being in the rejected position.

      I was one of the ‘creepy emotional vampire’ people once. And it’s awful to think about now, and I’m rightfully ashamed of it, but you know what? That experience taught me how not to be a creepy emotional vampire. Getting cut out of the life of the person I was clingy about helped me take a good hard look at myself, and eventually work out some of where I’d gone wrong and why they felt they needed to cut me out of their life. I also learnt how to deal with that rejection, eventually. And the next time someone cut me out of their life, I handled it with grace and dignity, instead of like a crazy emotional stalker. I relate to the sad people who can’t let go, as well, but bear in mind: for someone who genuinely wants to do better, and to be a good friend/partner/etc, being cut out like that is sometimes (counter-intuitive though it seems) a good thing, because it’s a wake-up call to examine why they’re being cut out, and to do something about it.

    • CL said:

      Thanks for the replies and for the support, everyone. In my situation, nobody really behaved badly (I think she would agree) — it was just one of those unfortunate situations where I was in love and she wasn’t. This blog helped me to cut off contact instead of being creepy and sending feelingsmail, and I know it was best for both of us. But even though I’m not doing the creepy things, it’s still hard to read tons of comments where everyone is cheering on the rejector, just because of the rawness of my situation. But that’s okay, because I can take a break when I need to.

      • Manatee said:

        Hey CL, just incase it helps, I wanted you to know that the one person I cut off who actually did respect the boundary in the way you are doing rose tremendously in my esteem for doing that. I still didn’t want to be friends, and didn’t ever tell them, but it meant that I thought of that person in a much more positive light than I ever did people who didn’t respect those boundaries.

  10. emmych said:

    Great post, Cap. It really resonated with me. (Ahahaha, family dinners with racist jokes abound what uuuuup)

    Good luck, LW! I know how tempting it can be to keep shitty friends when you’re really lonely (I’m shy! I was depressed! I’m bad at making friends!), but in the end you are WAY better off cutting people who are gross outta your life, or keeping them at an arm’s length if they still are fun to hang with sometimes.

    You’re worth good friends! Don’t settle for lack-lustre companionship just because you don’t think you can do better.

  11. When I was in college I had a very stereotypically attractive roommate. She was SUCH a genuinely sweet and nice person. She had a lot of frat guy “friends” and long distance boyfriend. These guys came by, and they would be very polite to me in the “I’m trying to nail your roommate” sense. Some of them I actually liked. Once one of them agreed to drive her all the way across Pennsylvania to visit a friend. You guys, this is a long drive. I with my cynical heart pointed out that he was trying to sleep with her and she said no, he was just SUPER nice. Well what do you know, when they got to the other end of PA, he tried to hook up with her and she was shocked, SHOCKED.

    TL DR: Beware of single men doing nice things for a single lady.

    Obviously not all men are like this, some are just helpful. But the touching and the creepy jokes make me wonder if maybe he’s thinking of being helpful as a step closer to the bedroom.

    My spidey sense tells me that somewhere this guy is online complaining about the girl across the hall that he totally helps out like all the time and wants to hook up with but she has put him in the “Friend zone.”

    • JenniferP said:

      Oh, the dreaded friend zone. It’s truly terrible to be in my friend zone! I’ll only make you food and encourage you in your creative work and make you laugh and get drunk with you when you need a friend and sincerely ask how you’re doing and do my best to remember your birthday. IT’S SO GODAWFUL, WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO PUT UP WITH THAT?

      • Shit, I don’t need more FRIENDS! Friends are terrible!
        If I were to put someone in a Friend Zone (BLEARGH), they’d probably love it because I try to give my friends tasty baked goods ALL THE TIME. And now I have a lot of extra homebrewed beer, so they’d probably get some of that too.

        I get that some people might be interested in someone just as a romantic partner (although I have a hard time with the concept of partner-but-not-friend), but this bullshit that someone is “only” a friend like that’s a shitty thing to be is unendingly terrible and ridiculous.

        • I wanted to ask how I go about getting into either one of your Friend Zones… but it ended up sounding like I’m trying to get into your “More Than Friends Zone.” How do I get not into your pants? Sigh….

          • JenniferP said:

            The friend zone is way better than the bone zone.

          • Oh god…. what do you land on when you fall into the bone zone? The horrors.

          • Now I’m wondering what a cheesy pick-up line might look like if your intention was to get friends, not dates.
            Happily, I’m pretty easily convinced to befriend/give tasty food to a new person.

          • “Hey baby, wanna go to a totally neutral public place and get platonic?”

            ‘S the best I could come up with :p

          • My question is, how do I get into the zone where people give me baked goods? :D

          • OMG the bone zone looks several degrees worse than the zombie zone.

            And yeah, how, HOW, does one get into the baked goods zone?

      • Elysia said:

        Sometimes, Captain, you say such awesome things that I feel like I am super creepy for thinking your are the awesomest person evar even though I have never met you. (I laughed super loud at the Ethan Frome line and wanted to cry with gratitude at the HAES/FA bit.) I just LOVE this rejoinder to the “friend zone” crap. Totally stealing that for future usage.

      • M Dubz said:

        But Cap’n! Clearly us ladytypes are only useful in that we are the keepers of le sex! Why on earth would a Real Man want our platonic caring and consideration, like we were people or something?
        /sarcasm

        • currently mulling over changing username said:

          Nice Guy: “She knew I wanted to fuck her and she led me on!”
          Uptight Harpy: “How did she know you wanted to fuck her? Did you ask her out? Tell her you had feelings for her?”
          Nice Guy: “It was obvious! I TALKED to her. I was NICE to her! I would never talk to or be nice to a woman I didn’t want to fuck!”

      • Aaaaaaaagh! Now I will not be able to sleep!!!!!

        • Datdamwuf said:

          I totally looked at all of those last week, it is amazing how stereotypical the “nice guys” are – they made up the term friend zone for a reason…no such zone, you are a friend you you are not.

      • Wow, that is creepy as fuck! Holy Zombie Jeezus!

        And all the little quotes stuck over it are terrifying as well. O_O

      • Ewwwwwwwwwwwwaarghhhhhhh ogodno

        Seriously, what a lowlife. Creepy as all get-out.

    • H.Regalis said:

      Yeah, I’m getting the same vibe as well. The “helping you do things” + “physical contact with him gives you the jibblies” has a strong aura of trying to worm his way into your heart/pants instead of just, you know, asking you out.

    • Tabitha said:

      I don’t think the LW should worry all that much about the possibility he’s trying to get in her (his? I don’t remember the letter being clear about that part) pants. Unless the LW feels unsafe around him already or the thought makes them feel unsafe/uncomfortable their friends pantsfeelings are his problem not theirs.

      Also, not all guys that are nice to girls are trying to sleep with them and avoiding any guy you like being friends with who does nice things for you would make me, at least, a much lonelier person. Case in point, I had a friend at uni who drove me to another city several hours away when I had a personal crisis without the expectation of anything in return (poor guy didn’t even get gas money cause I was a dumb spoiled girl who hadn’t realised that was something people worried about). I know he wasn’t trying to sleep with me because we did eventually sleep together about a year later (something I initiated) and from the things he said to me afterwards I honestly think he hadn’t really registered me as a sexual being before that point.

      What I’m trying to get at is that if someone does nice things for you, it’s probably not worth worrying too much about possible ulterior motives. Just be a good person and the people that aren’t being honest with you will eventually make that known and until then there isn’t anything wrong with assuming the people around you are all decent people.

      • “there isn’t anything wrong with assuming the people around you are all decent people.”

        I suppose this is a personality difference, but I actually find a lot wrong with that.

        Yes, some people are decent, but being a little wary around decent people costs you nothing. Being completely vulnerable around less decent people can potentially cost you a lot.

        I’m not saying she should avoid him. I just think she should know where her boundaries are with him and prepare to enforce them should he try to get into the “bone zone.” Hopefully it will never be an issue and they can be totes platonic BFFs.

        • Tabitha said:

          I’m not exactly advocating for everyone to be their most vulnerable self around everyone they know. I just meant that, unless you have reason to believe someone is trying to manipulate you, them doing nice things for you isn’t indicative in and of itself of anything apart from them doing nice things for you. If they want something extra they’ll make that known eventually and the onus isn’t on you to work that out and stop the niceness before they feel like you owe them.

          I don’t think this guy’s potential attraction to the LW figures into how they should deal with the situation they outlined unless, as I said, they already feel unsafe or the idea he might want sex with them makes them feel unsafe/uncomfortable.

          • JenniferP said:

            I think the important thing is “Do actually want/are you enjoying the favor/niceness/company?” if yes, then fine. Do you not want it, but you feel guilty because the person is being so “nice” so you feel obligated to accept or continue an unwanted interaction? Red flags, they are a-waving.

      • Brynndragon said:

        You know what actually nice people do? They listen to the requests their friends make of them when they’re doing things said friends really don’t like and either change their behavior or decide they can’t be friends with those people and bow out of their lives.

        You know what people who are engaging in the Creepy Mating Dance do? They are excessively touchy-feely and make actually-not-sexy jokes, with bonus points for letting Wishful Thinking prevent them from being actually nice (see previous question).

        Yes, sometimes it’s not so clear. But this is really not one of those times.

        • Medusa in the Mirror said:

          This. Well said. Thank you.

    • rayvn said:

      The guys griping about the friend zone fail to realize that women are not vending machines where you insert niceness tokens until sex pops out.

      • ona555 said:

        +1 To the nth power of awesomeness for this comment.
        With your permission, I may steal?

  12. Wonderful commentary here, Captain.
    I just want to say that I do appreciate the discussion about ending friendships that’s happened on the blog; it’s been really helpful to me to read not only “it’s ok to stop being friends with someone” but also “and it’s ok to stop for reasons other than direct, terrible abuse.” I have done a Slow Fade with people in my life for reasons like “couldn’t get my pronouns right after several years of knowing the right ones but making no real effort to remember,” “didn’t turn out to have much in common with me, and was creepily into a friend’s discussion of being abusive in a 24/7 D/s context” (and yeah, I know D/s relationships are not inherently abusive, but I think this one was), and “insulted my partner’s gender identity.” Those were pretty easy decisions to make!

    But last year I realized that my interactions with an old friend, while infrequent, followed the patterns of our friendship when we were really close (from late elementary school to early high school). And years later, it’s very clear to me that our friendship was, in most ways, very unhealthy for me. So even though we haven’t talked much over the past few years I decided that for my own mental health and personal feelings of safety that it’s better for me not to engage with her because when I do, I can feel myself slipping into “I must please her! My needs are not important! Hopefully she thinks I’m Good and Smart and approves of me!” mode which is really upsetting.
    And I feel genuinely guilty about this, a lot of the time; we haven’t been really close in years, but we went through a lot of shared trauma together of the sort that forges a lasting feeling of closeness and I think that connection will always be there. And while she’s flaked out in a way that’s upsetting in recent years, she hasn’t done any of the things that really messed me up for a long time. I don’t wish her ill, I just think it’s not healthy for me to interact with her any more, no matter what her current behavior is.

    (If anyone has any thoughts, the only thing I’m really stuck in here is potentially telling her about this. We haven’t talked in a while but she followed me on some social media sites and I felt weird not following back or engaging with her, but it seems like this is a case where silence *probably* sends the same message that an awkward email would and is kinder for both of us. I’d like to avoid that if I can, but I do worry that it’s overly rude just not to respond.)

    • Emily said:

      Eh, I feel like a non-response on social media is a response, and one that she can interpret as “I sent a friend request but they never answered – guess they never check their notifications!” if she wants to. Definitely the kinder option.

      and yeah, I totally recognize that “I have to please this person!” dynamic. A good addition to the Captain’s advice – a relationship bringing out bad feelings in you is as good a reason to walk away as the other person doing something annoying/hurtful/etc.

    • tawg said:

      I vote that you stick with silence. I’ve been in a similar situation, and if you have that slide into “must please her!” then engaging her on your fade is not going to be a short and sweet goodbye. She’s probably going to be hurt, and you’re probably going to feel obliged to minimise that hurt, and then passive-aggressive posts on social media and feelingsmail and a whole lot of emotionally draining interaction as a result of your letting her know that you don’t want to interact any more.

      • Yeah, I am pretty sure that despite my best intentions, any discussion with her about my decision would end up with me apologizing to her and trying to make her feel better, because that was usually my role. I’ve actually had several FEELINGSDREAMS where she confronts me and I have no idea what to do.
        I know it’s the right plan, but it’s been hard, although the silent treatment seems to have worked so far and I’m not as stressed out about it as I initially was when I saw those “[x] has started following you!” notices.

    • Obsidian Entropy said:

      I’m in a similar situation with a long-time friend. We live on opposite ends of the country, talk rarely, usually only interact through social media. But I don’t enjoy the interactions I do have with her and I don’t want to be friends anymore.

      My therapist recommended breaking up with her, but I don’t feel that’s very appropriate in this situation and I think it would make the feeling worse. So, I feel you. It’s good to hear that you’re approaching it in a similar way.

      • With my mind I’ll send you a “Get out of Guilt Free” card, redeemable at any time, should you decide to end the friendship (either by officially Breaking Up or by fading things out silently). Don’t hesitate to use it!

        • Obsidian Entropy said:

          Ha! Thank you!

      • Moi said:

        I don’t know if this is helpful, but I was in a similar situation a year ago. My closest friend and I for years interacted only on social media due to distance (separate continents). TL;DR, circs lead to FEELINGSMAIL that instigated rapid fading, mostly by me.

        I felt like the worst person in the world for 2 or 3 months. But when I got an out of the blue FB message 6 months later, I realized that I hadnt felt stressed or upset in a while about managing the relationship. That I’d made new and healthy friendships that WERE fun in the interim.

        I don’t know your circs, of course, but there is the relief of freedom on the far side of feeling worse for fading. Not enjoying a friendship is reason enough.

  13. marykmac said:

    And and and! The flipside of people only hanging around with people they genuinely like and respect and want to spend time with is that you know that the people who spend time with YOU do so because they like you and want to spend time with you!

    It is actually ROTTEN when someone hangs out with you out of a sense of duty or politeness or inability to say no or whatever. Even if you think you want them to, it sucks away at your confidence and you keep finding yourself doing little dances to try and impress then or putting on your false face so they don’t find out what you’re really like or behaving in really awful clinging or passive aggressive ways so they’ll reassure you. It’s absolutely horrible to be on the receiving end of a friend-dump, totally, and I’m not framing this as “I’m doing it for your own good“, but I firmly believe that when a relationship or friendship isn’t working for you – long-term, as opposed to a good friend going through a rough patch – you’re not doing them a favour by treating them as a charity project. It’s ever so much nicer to have the security of knowing your friends are all there because they want to be.

    • Pelusa said:

      Yes, this. I recently stopped being friends with someone because I finally spoke up for myself and told him that it upset me that he always dismissed me when I complained about things he said or videos he sent me that offended me. I probably wouldn’t have even said anything about it (though it had happened before), but once when I was complaining about a video he sent me and he was dismissing me, he tried to change the subject immediately by sending me a video about Empathy, YES, EMPATHY, and how we needed more of it in the world. Of course that just made me feel the need to explain what “empathy” meant and led to several other discussions in which he dismissed my concerns and then apologized in a way that made it obvious he just wanted to smooth things over, but not listen to what I was saying. I kept on bugging him about it and finally he told me he didn’t want to be friends any more. In the break up email he said that my “anger” (re: being offended at sexist/racist stuff he sent me) and “sadness” were too much for him and he didn’t want to deal with them. This was very hurtful considering that I had been a very empathic friend to him always, asking about his life and listening and I had talked about my sadness only when he asked about it, out of what I thought was empathy. I felt somewhat betrayed since I only talked to him about my sadness because I considered him a close friend and I thought he was genuinely interested when he asked about it. I usually try not to talk about being sad with people I am not close with or who do not show an interest in hearing about what is really going on, but he had made me believe he was truly concerned. It made me feel really bad to realize that our friendship was based on me not speaking up about my feelings and that he was only asking about me out of a sense of duty or just being polite and not because he was actually concerned about me. It was a bummer when he ended the friendship, but in the end I was glad he did, because it made me realize that he wasn’t really there because he wanted to be my friend, but just because he wanted some kind of validation or empathy from me without reciprocating.

      • Amy Pond said:

        Aw, that sucks. *offers jedi hugs*

  14. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    LW, have you read The Gift of Fear? I’m asking because your letter sounded really familiar, particularly the part where he keeps giving you help about the house. I have an important question: did you ask him to help? Particularly at first? Because if you did then that’s fine, but if you didn’t, particularly if he didn’t want to take no for an answer, then that’s a BIG red flag.

  15. heathenbee said:

    “as if Relationships in the abstract have a greater inherent value than the feelings or well-being of the individual people in them.”

    Omg, so much this. My Current Ex spent literally hours over days and weeks haranguing me on my selfishness in not putting our relationship before my desperate wish to get out of it. (In fact he’s still doing it, only now he’s replaced “Relationship” with “Basic human needs I am in reality adult enough to provide myself but refuse to because you abandoned me”.) It’s amazing how bad someone can make you feel about yourself even when you totally disagree with them over something that should be so basic and obvious.

  16. Jolly said:

    Yikes! This guy is really not being a friend to you. I am a person who is pretty fond of inappropriate jokes, so I would normally be the last person to jump to “He made a rape joke ?? HE IS AN AWFUL PERSON NEVER SPEAK TO HIM EVER.” But when good people put their foot in it and unintentionally make other people uncomfortable and upset, they apologize and make a damn good effort to never do that again. Even if the person isn’t a friend and is just some acquaintance, that is kind of the minimum level of respect that decent folk show toward their peers. When a friend comes to you and says “you do X and it makes me really unhappy, please don’t do X around me in the future,” you either stop doing X, or you prioritize doing X over being friends with that person and pull back from that relationship. Those are basically the only two options. There is no third option for pretending like you can keep doing X and it won’t mean you are willfully doing something hurtful to a friend. No matter how deep (deeeeep) down there might be a decent guy hiding under this obnoxious idiocy, that isn’t really your problem. Whatever the cause, the effect is the same: this person is not respecting your boundaries, and when you reiterate them to him, is blatantly ignoring it and willfully making you uncomfortable. I am a forgiving person, and I often give people the benefit of the doubt, but honestly? This guy isn’t worth your time. He sounds like a Nice Guy™, and you can waste months of your time and emotional energy in discomfort, trying to manage his shitty expectations (which, honestly? will probably get weirder and pushier as time goes on), or you could tell him that his refusal to respect your boundaries has jeopardized your friendship, fade him out hard, and invest that reclaimed time into Going Out And Meeting Way Better People Who Actually Respect You And Don’t Willfully Make You Unhappy. You can do it! Don’t settle for this guy just because he’s low-effort, because you deserve wwway better than that.

  17. MHM said:

    This is some of the best advice about friendship I’ve read on this site, or anywhere.

  18. thegirlfrommarz said:

    Captain – this is such a fantastic post. The whole awkward team are on fire lately! I’m also really glad that you’ve talked about why it’s important to keep discussing that it’s okay to end friendships, as I was feeling that occasionally the comments were getting a bit trigger happy on the “cut this no-good friend out” front. It’s really helpful to be reminded that women are not socialised to feel that they are allowed to do this and we are force-fed this “you must be a good friend even if it hurts you” everywhere other than Captain Awkward.

    LW – I don’t have much to add to the Captain’s excellent advice, but I hope your friend chooses to be a real friend and respect your boundaries even if he doesn’t get why you’ve set them, rather than choose the Way of the Arsehole.

  19. Stay Excellent said:

    Feed him these links, OP:

    http://tigerbeatdown.com/2012/07/16/so-a-rape-joke-walks-into-a-bar/

    http://kateharding.info/2012/07/13/15-rape-jokes-that-work/

    What worked on me whenever I made the wrong jokes at the wrong time: mild violence. Every time he makes such a joke, just punch him in the shoulder(or an equivalent dopeslap action that is annoying enough to associate a negative impulse with the joke but falls within the perimeter of horseplay-one of few benefits of his sexism will be an aversion to retaliating along the same spectrum because you’re a dudette). You’re friends, you will be able to get away with it, and he will learn not to pull that shit without the hassle of ideological debates.

    Boundary-breaching behaviour framed in the all-in-good-fun paradigm allows for some corrective measures in the same direction. That, or my entire social circle has a screwed-up sense of what’s appropriate.

    • Getting involved in any kind of physical “horseplay” with someone who makes rape jokes and disregards boundaries about touching seems like a REALLY bad idea.

      • Stay Excellent said:

        I’ve only seen one peep who was so dense(or deliberately misreading) that he took such a situation as an invitation to escalate into play-wrestling, and he got served with a knee in the groin. But you’re probably right: a social circle consisting mostly of extroverts, a bar/student association scene and perhaps even cultural trappings make everything past the first paragraph not that applicable to LW’s situation.

        Anyways, another useful link if LW wants to enter the inevitable why-you-shouldn’t-make-those-jokes conversation(because her disliking it is apparently not enough): http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/ This one is probably the most thoroughly underbuild by research and summarizy, in case he’s one of those TL;DR types.

    • Esti said:

      In addition to potentially opening herself up to escalation from the dude, I think it’s just not okay to hit people because they made a rape joke. You have every right to ask them not to tell a joke like that, and to leave/kick them out if they do. You do *not* have the right to respond with even “mild” physical violence unless you actually think you’re in danger. Maybe you and your friends have worked out some mutual boundaries where you’re all cool with that, but I really don’t think it’s a good idea to recommend that the LW hit someone who hasn’t given any indication that *he* would be cool with it.

      • JenniferP said:

        Right. “Don’t hit!” is pretty basic. We learn it in kindergarten.

  20. M Dubz said:

    LW,

    I think the important distinction is not, “does he make these jokes or those jokes or is this objectively horrible” but rather, “does he seem like he cares about hurting me or not?” Different people have different tolerances for off-color or even offensive humor, so there is no objective standard for how you perceive those sorts of comments. I’m the sort of person who has actually had to tone her humor down in recent months, after moving away from a friend group where there was a high level of trust and also a high level of mock-insult and crudeness in our in-jokes.

    However, the objective standard is if you express your boundaries and this individual does not care about them. A true friend will apologize for stepping over your line, and try to modify their behavior to not cross those boundaries. If they don’t, they are effectively saying to you that your discomfort and angst is the price they are willing to pay for not having to examine or modify their own behavior even a little bit. When we truly care about people, we are happy to make accommodations in behavior to make them happier, from cooking gluten-free food, to indulging them and going to see the latest God-awful movie about talking space robots, to refraining from telling jokes that make them uncomfortable. If someone cannot show that level of caring, they are not a true friend.

  21. Me? I’m a lot less concerned about the Nice Guy help-around-the-house than I am about the persistent touching. The *repeated* rape jokes are the cherry on top. (And they’re not even funny by year 9 standards.)

    The Captain mentioned the truism that “Good fences make good neighbours”. Imagine for a moment that you’re not hallway neighbours, but next door neighbours. When you’re talking to someone like this over a real fence, you can back away so the touching is impossible, you can walk away so you don’t have to hear yet another rape joke.

    In your situation, you have to substitute words and some specific actions for the convenience of a real fence – which you could plant prickly shrubs along if you really wanted to make him keep the necessary distance. The other thing that sets off my alarms is the help while your leg was injured. Establishing the tone or the terms of a relationship or his view of you when you’re at your most vulnerable is not the best thing when dealing with some men. This particular man doesn’t deserve your company or any further tolerance from you. You’ve pointed out the boundary often enough, now’s the time to build a fence along that boundary. Strong words cemented together with relentless repetition.

    The Captain’s scripts and strategies are good. Use them. If he doesn’t get the message, which means changing his behaviour around you, then that boundary becomes an insurmountable barrier. Don’t visit him. Don’t invite him in. Don’t accept *any* invitation.

    Get better friends – even if you can only talk to them on-line – regardless of how things go with not nice neighbour.

  22. twomoogles said:

    This post was really great. I absolutely understand how some people could walk away from certain posts thinking ‘anyone who isn’t absolutely perfect doesn’t deserve friends’. But I think that’s because they’re usually geared towards someone who is doing that ‘I really want to not be friends with this person…but I feel guilty!’ dance with themself, and so the comments are tailored to helping with that.

    I think there’s a flipside of ‘you can not be friends with someone for any reason you want’. And that’s ‘you can continue being friends with someone even if they have terrible flaws’. It doesn’t take making rape jokes or being insensitive or boundary-crossing to be able to justify ‘I’m not into this friendship anymore’. And by that standard, I think it’s also fine to keep being friends with someone…the Price of Admission thing. I can see how some extremely socially and politically involved people might start to feel like ‘argh! my friend messed up a pronoun for a trans person, can I still be their friend?’

    It’s definitely true that you’re known by the company you keep, to some extent, and if someone has a ton of friends who are all Creepy Dudes or kinda subtly racist, I’m going to be giving them more than a little side eye. But the opposite side of that involves basically cutting out anyone who maybe isn’t as socially aware and I kind of feel like that’s counterproductive if the non-socially-aware person isn’t actually making you not want to hang out with them. If someone makes nasty jokes but those jokes aren’t making me feel threatened or uncomfortable, then cutting them out on Principle isn’t doing any real good. I think they’re more likely to change if I *stay* friends with them and call them out every so often than if I totally stop talking to them.

    That might be insanely egotistical, though I have had more than one person tell me I’ve helped them change their gender views to one more, hmm, Combo Platter than fixed menu. And I still one hundred percent support not being friends with someone whose views or comments make them unpleasant to be around. I just like the idea that people who have some jerky qualities (maybe socially learned, or taught by family) might become less jerky by hanging around non-jerks.

    Where the line is overall, I’m not sure, though. Sometimes I worry I am a bit too selfish in my friendship-choosing, in that I am more likely to hang out with someone who has maybe done/said crappy things if I enjoy their company, than the boring or aggravating person who has no real things I can point to and say ‘jerk!’ I am really enjoying all the comments and thoughts on this reader question, in any case.

    • currently mulling over changing username said:

      This is not in direct response to the LW or your comment, but one thing re: company you keep: I have been noticing lately how I can enjoy hanging out with someone a bit, er, rough around the edges, but also more and more am keeping serious tabs on the ways our relationships expose my other friends to my quote unquote jerk friends.

      If someone is obnoxious – but maybe it’s in ways that I find intellectually challenging or whatever, and they don’t actually cross my personal “this shit is fucked up” guidelines – I might see them occasionally but I will think twice about inviting them to my parties or introducing them to my other friends. I myself can pay the price of admission, but sometimes I have to take a good hard look at people and decide whether it’s reasonable to ask my other friends to do so too.

      I also think – and again, not a direct response to twomoogles – there is also a question of privilege tied up in this, like how I have friends who are like, “Oh yeah, so and so is SUCH a piece of work but, you know, price of admission!” and it’s like, “Yeah, because you don’t have to bear the brunt of their EYE BLEEDING SEXISM/HOMOPHOBIA/RACISM/WHATEVER.” I’m not going to 100% side-eye someone for being friends with that person, but I will hella side-eye them for thinking it’s okay to bring them around me, especially if part of their friendship dynamic is letting that shit slide in the name of peace.

    • While I get all the complex thinking about the company you keep and all that, at the same time I think, well:

      Friendship-choosing is a place where you *should* be selfish. Where you should really *only* be selfish!

      OMG, it does nobody any good to try to be friends with the ideologically correct person who annoys you! It also is not so good to be friends with someone you click with but who has ideas that you are fundamentally opposed to, if the two of you can’t work it out. The difference is in the first case, there’s nothing to work out! You can’t work out “actually I don’t really like you that much.”

      Please, please be selfish when choosing friends.

  23. Lilly said:

    I really liked this (well, I liked all of it! But this particularly!):

    But I know that eventually in every conversation it will be Jeez-o’clock and I will need to bail. I could decide that repeatedly bringing up Jesus when s/he knows I’m really not into Him is disrespectful and violates my boundaries and use it as a reason to end the friendship, but I LIKE this person.

    I have a friend whom I have known for many years and whom I like! A lot! But last year he got heavily into a Diet Cult thing that I will not name but which involves giving each food a number of points and tediously and obsessively counting up how many you eat, that and and public cult weighings. WHY.

    I don’t actually have a clue how much I weigh (I threw my scales away right after I kicked out Abusive Ex and his ‘you have fat wrists’), and one of my hobbies is patisserie (making it, and then eating all of it, with friends).

    Eventually in every conversation I have with this friend he will start to talk about the cult or POINTS and then I say see ya and bail. But I worked it out with him so that he knows I will not be getting involved in Diet Cult and that, around me, the first rule of Diet Cult is he should not talk about Diet Cult. I support him if that’s what he wants to do but I am going to eat this chocolate brioche now. All of it. AND I LIKE MY WRISTS FAT. Also I will not go to dinner with him anymore, I will not have someone comment on what I eat NO EXCEPTIONS.

    We had some difficult times at first (“But Lilly, you should come to Diet Cult meeting! You will feel so much better!”) and honestly, I considered dumping him. If we had not had the history we have, and if he had not responded OK when I told him about my boundaries, I would have. I still bail when it gets around to Points O’Clock though.

    • Myrin said:

      Fat…wrists? What. The actual. Fuck?!

      • Lilly said:

        Yeah, I know right? The guy had a real thing about wrists and how his ideal woman had “slender wrists” whereas my wrists were fat. WHY I DON’T KNOW.

        What a prize he was.

        • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

          Slender wrists?!? I’ll see you one ‘actual fuck’, and raise you two ‘what-the-everholy-creepy-quasiVictorian-fucking-fuck’. Seriously, what?? Dude earned that trip to the curb, for realz.

        • But what of your ankles? We must know!

          Seriously, *wrists*? haha what even. Good move on NOT being with him anymore.

          • Lilly said:

            Hmmm, no comments on my ankles… ARE THEY FAT I DON’T KNOW.

            But he did say I was “fat on the inside” as well. Whatever that means. Maybe I have fat lungs? Or a zaftig pancreas? That sounds cool, actually.

            This guy is a doctor, folks. A DOCTOR. Some doctors are dicks.

            And it’s funny now but it wasn’t at the time.

          • Ick. I feel like doctors somehow get pushed into an even more socially coercive role than the rest of us. Their job is literally telling people what to do or not do for their own good. Is it any wonder that a huge amount of them turn out to be dickholes?

            Not that I am making any excuse for your ex in the slightest – more just pointing out that, yeah, that profession seems to be chock-full of cockbags.

            Or maybe cock-full of chockbags?

            My husband and I started eating vegan about six months ago (for health and lactose-intolerance reasons) and we’ve already gotten the “Oh nooooo, how will you get your protein and calciuuuummmm??” from our doctor. Uh, the same way cows, horses, elephants, giraffes, hippos and other herbivores do – from plant sources. But thanks for your concern. O_o

    • Pelusa said:

      Go you for navigating that situation and shutting down the points talk! Sounds like a serious bummer that could ruin a brioche!
      While I have trouble having sympathy for your friend in this situation (especially the part where he tried to get you into the diet cult!), I see how sometimes it can be hard to share things that become an important part of your life with friends without being obnoxious. Recently I had a friend ask me to stop sending her articles and stuff after I had sent her a book several months ago when she broke up with a jerk boyfriend (the book was about boundaries, possibly ironically). She told me at the time that she wasn’t really into reading it and maybe she would read it another time, but that wasn’t where she was at and I said “Okay, cool.” I was just trying to be helpful and show her I cared, so if she didn’t find it helpful then of course I didn’t mind if she didn’t read it. More recently I was talking to her and brought up this blog and sent her a link to it. That’s when she said, “Hey, it’s cool that you’re into this, but you keep sending me this stuff and that’s not really where I’m at right now, so I’m probably not going to read it.” Honestly, it really hurt my feelings. Not that she didn’t want to read it, but I guess I felt like she could have just not read it and not said anything about it. I was excited and trying to share stuff I had learned with her and it was disappointing to realize she didn’t want to hear about it. I guess I was hurt because it made me feel like what she was really saying was “I don’t want to hear about what you’re going through or about your process.” Writing this out and reading this blog makes me realize that that’s okay and I should respect her feelings about it, but I can’t help but feel like I will probably be taking some space from her since learning about myself is an important part of my life right now. It sucks when what you see as improving yourself makes other people uncomfortable though. I don’t see the dieting thing this way at all, but I could imagine how it might seem that way to your friend. I’m glad he was able to respect your boundaries. I hope I can do the same with my friend, though right now it seems hard.

      • You’re not alone in this. I went through something similar with unfuckyourhabitat and my mother. While she never came out and said, “Stop this,” the fact that I had been talking about it/telling her to go look for months without her ever clicking on a single link despite the fact that she is able to like/comment on all of my facebook statuses every single day kind of eventually clued me in. I think one of the most important things I have taken away from the Captain’s blog is realizing when I’m being a jerk.

        • Pelusa said:

          Well, now I am looking at unfuckyourhabitat and loving it, so thanks for the tip!

      • griffykate said:

        Yes. Ironically enough, the thing I keep pushing at my friends lately is the Captain Awkard blog and other social justice stuff. I keep put links on Facebook about boundaries and rape culture because that stuff is super-important to me and I’ve been feeling like HEY, THIS SHOULD BE IMPORTANT TO EVERYBODY but nobody ever commented or ‘liked’, and I’m pretty much realising now that most other people just don’t want to be taking lessons on How Not To Be A Douche To Rape Survivors with their tea and weetabix at eight in the morning. Or, you know. At all.

  24. Wow! Thanks a lot for your reply thoughtful and useful reply! I never expected my email to get answered so quickly since I’m sure you get many requests, but I was very happy to see this in my RSS feed! And thank you to everyone for your thoughtful comments as well.

    To clarify a few points that people brought up…these jokes do make me feel unsafe around him. I mean, if you don’t think rape is such a big deal, enough to make lame jokes about it (and I’m not even talking “I got raped by this exam” jokes, although those are bad enough..it’s stuff like telling me the tunnels under his alma mater got shut down because women got sexually assaulted there, then later giving me directions to something that included a tunnel under our building, and joking “don’t worry, almost no one ever gets raped there.” VERY. NOT. FUNNY. ) This hardly makes me want to be alone with you, right? So apart from one time where I got really lazy about putting together my IKEA haul and asked for his help, I have curtailed my hang-outs with him to only public places.

    I can have a really off-color sense of humour myself, but I limit those jokes to friends who I know share it. It also just generally makes me FURIOUS that something that limits my life and is a source of constant concern in everyday life is so NOT a concern to him that he can afford to make jokes about it. I’m pretty sure he’s not writing on a forum somewhere “this girl I hang out with asked me over to put together furniture for her. Should I be worried that she might try to assault me?”

    I’m trying to figure out for myself what reason I’m still hanging out with him. Writing this letter and reading all the useful advice and comments made me realize that if I had a daughter who described the same situation to me, I would absolutely tell her to do a fade on this guy, there’s too many bad warning signs. But there IS a voice in the back of my head telling me that this could be a dangerous situation but I’m having a hard time listening to it. Normally I’m pretty astute, and I’ve travelled by myself in Europe and Asia, and even lived in a country that went through violent political upheavals for a while, and kept myself safe. So I’m not really sure why I’m ignoring some pretty big warning signs in this case. Maybe loneliness? I feel stressed out about lots of stuff happening in my apartment building for some reason and I like having someone to vent to that knows what I’m talking about?

    It’s not guilt, coz I don’t feel like I have to be his friend. I have enjoyed lots of my convos with this guy, but we’re not super close, it’s more a hangout buddy situation than a good friend situation.

    I’m definitely going to make an effort to make more new friends so I don’t feel as dependent on this person’s help. I’m also going to save this advice for other times, as I don’t really have a hard time telling someone off who I never want to see again, but it’s when I have friends doing something that really bothers me and I’d like to bring it up in way that might keep the relationship open that I really struggle.

    Thank you so much again everyone for your insights and help!

    • Yay! It sounds like you’ve got a good handle on the situation, and that’s awesome!

      A couple of hopefully-helpful tidbits:

      Listen to your gut. Your gut knows.

      Also: in my opinion, the Awkward Army assembled here totally count as internet-friends. Maybe we don’t know what’s going on in your apartment building… but we do care. :)

      Good luck!

  25. The only person I have in my life right now that makes inappropriate (not necessarily rape or sexual) jokes is my best friend’s boyfriend. I don’t really care for him, but since they’re living together and we’re neighbors, a certain amount of interaction is bound to happen. When he says bigoted shit, she looks embarrassed. He does that thing where he admits to being racist or whatever and then excuses it by being all proud, that’s just what he’s like, etc. I called him on making anti-gay jokes AT a gay bar one time and it didn’t even phase him.

    I don’t want to antagonize him or force the issue between them because she thinks she needs him. So mostly I just get up and leave when he’s being obnoxious. She gets it, and he probably does too. But he’s *proud* of his bigoted ways, he’s even got a double lightning bolt tattoo, which I’m pretty sure is a white pride thing. I guess I could start explicitly stating I don’t like those kinds of jokes and then just let him talk shit about me being her overly sensitive friend. Which will probably put a strain on their relationship as she tries to straddle the fence in the middle.

    I could talk to her about it, but the last time I expressed my opinions about one of her relationships it resulted in the end of her marriage, which I’ve always felt a bit guilty about, though in that case, she really did need to get him out. This guy isn’t necessarily bad for her, just… yeah.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,231 other followers

%d bloggers like this: