#1090: “Emotional labor and my roommate’s love life”

Behind a cut for this dude’s gross, racist opinions.

Situation: I’m a white lesbian who’s roommates with a white straight guy who is also a friend and coworker.

Problem: He keeps talking about his penis.

You see, his penis has likes and dislikes, and its preferences have a LOT to say about western civilization and human nature. He will tell me at length he does not like overweight women or black women or “dominant” women, and he also has a lot of theories about men and masculinity and “dominance” he enjoys expounding on. You know what they are. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his (thin white “traditional”
girlfriend) dumped him because he kept sexting “BBBW” asking for “punishment.”

He’s on a business trip. When he returns, I anticipate more theorizing about the supremacy of the white male, lying about what he did to get dumped and posturing based on that, and more than a little pressure on me to be her friend and convince her to take him back. Once he accepts she won’t, he’ll foray back into dating and have MORE theories about women and men to share.

I don’t want to listen to or deal with any of that. I don’t want to have to think of things to say. I’m not interested in being friends with his ex, and I’m certainly not going to woo her back for him. I don’t want to call him out for being a sexist, racist douche or educate him on how not to be a racist, sexist douche. I hate arguments and loathe “debating.” I don’t want to therapy him through how his worldview doesn’t gel with his true sexual preferences, or deal with his embarrassment should he realize I’ve seen the texts. I don’t want to piss him off or deal with drunk tears. I want him to shhh and move along to things like bitching about work and eating wings and being snobby about beer and watching trashy tv.

I’m looking for neutral conversation-enders or ways to change the subject back to the things that made us friends to begin with. I’ve been using things like “huh” + subject change; some of the other scripts I’ve found on your website like “why would you say that” and “wow, you really said that” and “i don’t get it, explain” [+ make him
repeat himself until he’s embarrassed] do not work. Phrases like that just make him think he’s having a real conversation and I just end up hearing more. Unfortunately, “huh” + subject change isn’t going to work for this, because in this case it’s important enough to him and he’s upset enough that he’ll keep dragging the topic back around.

So far, I have a dozen variations on “get a real therapist.” I also have “be out of the apartment on the weekends” and “forget to turn my phone ringer volume up” and “be asleep when he comes home.” There are mobility and financial reasons “moving out immediately” is not on that list.


Not Cesario (she/hers)

Dear Not Cesario:

You asked for “neutral” conversation enders but I think your best strategy (in addition to being home less and other evasive actions) is to get less neutral and more direct, like, “Hey, sorry you’re upset, but I’m not at home for feelingstalk today. 

When he brings up the topic of his broken heart, change the subject:

“Huh, that’s upsetting. I’m gonna order some food, do you want anything?” 

“Weird. Don’t forget, it’s trash day tomorrow.” 

“That’s racist, and gross. Why are you telling me this? No, don’t answer that. Let’s just get the kitchen clean.” 

And if (when) that doesn’t work, say: “Hey, did you notice me changing the subject? I’m not really here for conversations about WOMEN and DOMINANCE today.” 

Him: “Well, why didn’t you tell me in the first place?” 

You: “I’m telling you now?” 

See also: “I can’t be the patient listening friend right now, sorry, but let me know if you need a ‘watch trash TV/drink beer/distracting you friend.'” 

“Your sex and love life are your own business, man.” 

See also: When you’re happily watching trash TV later and he brings up the topic again, use it as time to go do laundry or go to bed or otherwise leave the room.  “Oops, I know it’s still on your mind, but I’m still not up for talking about this.” And if you need to, it’s okay to interrupt him. We’re taught that interrupting people is rude and we should never do it, but there are honestly so many times in life that we should do it. “Hey, let me stop you there – I really don’t have the focus/bandwidth/interest/attention span/emotional resilience/headspace/patience to have deep conversations tonight. Maybe write it all down and get it out of your system some other way?” 

The thing where he wants you to help him woo his ex back? Try: “Nope, you should talk to her directly, I want nothing to do with it.”

And if he says “But you listened to me talk about this stuff before!!!!” you can say “I did, and now I’ve decided I don’t want to.” Or “Yep, and then I reached my limit, so, I’m letting you know so you can talk that stuff over with someone who will give you their full attention.” 

Hints don’t work. Just tell him, “Hey, my sympathies bro, but I’m not up to be a sounding board today.” He won’t like it, and he’ll probably sulk a bit, but eventually he will calm down the “Ugh, why would you tell me that” chat if he wants your company.

184 thoughts on “#1090: “Emotional labor and my roommate’s love life”

  1. “I don’t want to call him out for being a sexist, racist douche or educate him on how not to be a racist, sexist douche.”

    As a woman, LW, it’s not your job to educate men not to be sexist (though it’s certainly to your benefit, ideally that’s the job of the men in your social circle). As a *white* woman, it *IS* your job to—to the best of your capacity—educate other white people out of being racist, and especially out of being anti-Black.

    Yeah, it sucks. Yeah, it’s awkward. Know who it sucks for even more? All the people of color your “friend” is dumping his racist shit on.

    Whitewashing over his terrible opinions so you can be friends again is just enabling his racism by ensuring he doesn’t point it at you—i.e., also being racist.

    1. And in this case it can be as simple as saying “Whoa, racist much?” or “Gross, why would you say that.”

    2. I don’t think the LW is under ANY obligation to educate this guy about anything at all, if she doesn’t want to. And I don’t think she’s any more obligated to call out the racism than the sexism. Living with him elevated this to a whole different level if he chooses to get nasty with this.

      1. Yeah. She is his coworker and can’t escape. Her obligations are to her. All else is gravy. Yes ideally it’s nice to imagine our words can magically turn a racist into a non-racist but the outcome you will be most likely to get is that he will edit in future. It won’t give him a radical new perspective. Bc recall this guy has a fetish for being dominated by heavy set (not sure how to phrase inoffensively) black women. While professing to hate them. This is a little bigger than racism. It’s five to have fetishes no shame there but LW indicated he would likely have done Shane around it. Sooooo, no… I would not try and change his worldview. He’s weird to be secretly loving what he says he hates and I wouldn’t for the world expose him or tell him you know bc the anger will turn on you potentially. New roommate… One who doesn’t suck up your energy.

        1. The fact that he has a fetish for being dominated by black women that he harasses black women about is EXTREMELY racist. There’s no confusion here. People can absolutely fetishise a group of people they also despise or profess to find unnattractive. (Also I think you are conflating a fetish for an object or action, which is fine morally, to a fetish for a margilinised group, which is absolutely not morally fine. Another example is fetishisation of trans women.) This guy is sexually harassing black women via text. I don’t think we can in any way assume these sexts are consensual although the LW may have assumed that. Does this man seem like he would be able to have a respectful, kinky relationship with dominant black women?

          The LW does not need to change this guy’s mind because none of us have the power to do that, but given this guy is actively harming black women sexually what she does need to do is shut it down as soon as it happens. Key words are ‘thats racist’. Deadpan it. Make it absolutely not negotiable. Everyone realises the LW will not get anywhere with social justice essays but that does not mean she should just ignore his disgusting behaviour that he apparently wants everyone to know about. Maybe one day, if enough people don’t ignore his shit, he will stop.

          1. I’m going to push back here and say that it is okay to have whatever fetishes you have, even if they involve problematic things. What’s wrong is acting on them in ways that harm other people. Having a fetish, which is about private sexual feelings, is not fetishization, which is about how you treat others. Having sexual fantasies that center on a group of people isn’t morally wrong, because having sexual fantasies is never morally wrong. Fantasies don’t harm others.

            But. When you move into the real world, and start talking to other people, then it is 100% on you to make sure that you are treating other people as people, not fetish objects. This may require extra work to accomplish if your fantasies stem from racist, transphobic, etc. beliefs that you need to actively work to change. Your sexual feelings are never an excuse for behaving in racist/transphobic/etc. ways toward others.

      2. Yep bc he’s already got the weird secret fetish with the very groups he says he hates. He’s a bit mixed up. Fetishes are great but not like this.

    3. I completely agree with this, and had the same thought. Caveat: speak up per the Captain’s advice: “Wow, that was racist.” I don’t think she’s obligated to turn her entire home life into a series of “debates” with a guy who will just argue argue argue ad nauseum about why he’s “not really racist,” especially since it seems a lot of his arguments come down to his sex life and sexual preferences. She doesn’t need to be held hostage to listening to this guy talk about his dick when she just wants to eat dinner after work.

    4. I dunno, I’m with candakate I think. A woman who’s financially and mobility-wise stuck in a hostile living situation with a bigot isn’t obligated to in any way risk her safety or sacrifice the small amount of psychological self-care she can get to call out racism.

      Calling out racism is good, but protecting herself is also good, and figuring out what is the greater good at any time is her call.

      1. Maybe there is a line between keeping your living environment safe and having your friend back, though? If the LW just wants to be able to endure the situation until she can leave, it’s one thing, but I do get a bit of nostalgia for the way things used to be. I don’t know if it’s okay to really go back to the trashy TV and beer parts of the friendship once you’ve learned that someone is a racist piece of crap. This guy is a bad person, and there’s a point at which I don’t think it’s cool to look away from your friends’ being bad people without calling them out.

      2. On the one hand, you’re not at all obligated to put yourself at risk to educate anyone about anything. On the other hand if you only advocate/educate when it’s safe for you to do so, that’s not allyship. Or maybe it’s allyship & what folx living in bodies marginalized by the state need is *accomplices*.
        Again LW is under no obligation to risk their safety because they literally have “no skin in the game” as a white person. But let’s not pretend that choosing not to risk their safety isn’t a marker of their privilege.

        1. I would say the very fact that she isn’t safe to speak up means she’s not privileged in this situation.

          1. This. The whole point of having privileged allies speak up is that the privliege is presumed to have an insulating effect, but that insulation is NOT PRESENT here. When someone is being -ist in multiple intersecting ways, we can’t seriously expect that they will listen to only one of those callouts on the axis in which we happen to have privilege.
            -Ist assholes WILL attack on whichever axis we are vulnerable.
            No one is obligated to make themselves a target.

          2. Let’s not conflate safety and comfort. LW has in no way indicated that she is not safe. It sucks to make your home uncomfortable. To be totally honest, I’m not exactly sure how I would handle roomie’s racism in LW’s shoes. I do know how I would *aspire* to handle it, but I have chosen the route of allyship many times and that of cowardice many others. I am still very much working on this shit, so I am not gonna preach.

            But I think if we are being real here, we know the difference between choosing silence because speaking up would be awkward, anxiety-provoking, no fun or unpleasant and choosing silence because speaking up would be actually unsafe. There is every indication that this is the former type of situation.

            If you believe that being an ally as a white person means remarking on racist speech when we encounter it, then you believe that LW should speak up here.

          3. “LW has in no way indicated that she is not safe.”

            imho, a straight white dude who has a verbal manifesto about the superiority of white men (which he repeatedly delivers to a lesbian), and a growing antipathy towards “dominant women,” coupled with a ~secret shame~ type fetish and the wound of being recently dumped is NOT a safe person. He is a powder keg waiting for a spark.

            I would advise LW to start looking for other living options, if at all possible. Ideally she could call out his racism, but I wouldn’t blame her for not doing it in this case.

          4. Replying to thatthat: Exactly! This is definitely a safety over comfort issue in my opinion.

          5. @: Nopetopus Cowgirl

            Re: Let’s not conflate safety and comfort.

            The racist, bigoted, possibly violent man in this situation doesn’t just know where she lives– [i]he has a key to her home[/i]. Your idea of comfort vs safety is not right in this situation.

    5. And I highly doubt he’d be swayed by anything the LW would say, anyway. He just wants an audience and encouragement for his pity party.

      1. Very fair point. There is a point when you realise nothing you say is going to have any impact and it’s time to disengage for the sake of your own sanity.

        And the dick thing is spot on. She really doesn’t need to listen to his litany of reasons on why he doesn’t find Black women attractive. Gross.

    6. I would bet money that calling out the racism will just have Dude turn everything back to his all-important dick, which is SO not LW’s problem.

      LW has zero obligation to educate this dude. Or any dude.

    7. As much as I agree with you in general about it being white people’s responsibility to call out racist behavior/talk, I think limiting it to “Woah, THAT was a racist comment,” or not even speaking up at all is okay in this scenario if the LW is concerned for her safety/security. Thisfuckingguy isn’t going to be amenable to the feedback, and it doesn’t sound like their relationship is one of love and trust where LW can call him out and still feel safe. So I think she gets a pass here, for now.

      1. Eggzactly. Advocating/educating doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as “woah that was racist” & not engaging further. It’s not even about education, it’s about dispelling the illusion that you as a white person agree with another white person’s racist worldview.

        1. Or “I’m not okay with your statements about Black women and I don’t want to hear that from you again.”

          1. I’d stick to “black people” because I have a gross feeling Dick Dude shares his views on women because LW is a lesbian, so he assumes she ~obviously~ wants to talk about women constantly and hear all his opinions on how date-able/fuckable different kinds of women are. In other words, LW defending black women specifically might get turned around into a weird argument in which her own dating history and perceived preferences becomes the focus. (Like Dick Dude might derail with “YOU’VE never dated a black woman*, so how am I the racist one?” and other lame, tired counter-attacks that a dude like him is probably very fond of using to put people on the defensive.)

            *hypothetical example! I ‘m not making assumptions about LW’s dating history, only the assumption that this asshole will turn that history back on her in any way possible if it gets women-specific.

        2. it’s about dispelling the illusion that you as a white person agree with another white person’s racist worldview.

          This right here.

    8. Man, I have mixed feelings about this. I agree that the burden of educating white people should fall with other white people, but this is a serious question: what has your experience doing this work been like? Mine has been primarily with my spouse, so obviously that’s a specific relationship dynamic. But I struck with the time (SO MUCH TIME) and energy and trust expended to actually shift someone’s thoughts. And I was in a position of relative financial and housing security that let me feel pretty safe challenging both him and I in a really painful way. I don’t regret it at all, I just have a hard time imaging a roommate+co-worker relationship coming out the other side at all functional.

      All of that said, as I typed all that out it occurs to me that perhaps I’m reading too much into the specific word “educate”. It’s critical to not fall into the existential guilt trap of thinking that if we can’t Do The Biggest Work than nothing else matters, and refusing to be someone’s passive dumping ground for how black women make their boner sad might not be the Biggest Work, but it is A Work. Maybe it’s what you can do at this time and within this relationship. And that’s okay.

      1. Educate can mean: To persuade through explanation. Or it can mean: To set a standard/demonstrate that a thing is unacceptable. You can tell your kid why they aren’t getting a toy at the store, or you can remove them from the store when they start pitching a fit. Both are teaching the child something.

        Maybe she doesn’t have the security, or the spoons to educate RM out of thinking racist things, or the influence to change his opinions entirely. But I’d say it’s far more likely that she can, with relative ease, educate him into an understanding that his racist thoughts are inappropriate enough that they should not be freely roaming around in the realm of conversation, putting their sticky hands all over everything, and mucking up the place. That level of teaching doesn’t involve him trusting her as an educator. It just involves her drawing the line making it clear she won’t be a willing participant in these conversations, and saying she finds this talk repulsive. “I’ve got to stop you right there, Chad. I’m done. I’m just not up for racist BS today – or ever,” + *goes to her room and shuts the door* is educating. “I’m done listening to all your justifications and rationalizations for racism, Chad. It is making me nauseated and I need to go lie down,” is still educating. “Cut the crap, Chad. Nobody wants to hear it,” is educational as well.

        A large part of a teacher’s job, especially in the early years of education, is explaining what is/isn’t socially acceptable, and what will/won’t be tolerated in a given environment. I’m sure ‘Chad’ understand just fine that this talk isn’t appropriate in plenty of other places. The more times and places that he finds this kind of talk being shut sown, the quicker he learns that it isn’t appropriate anywhere, at all, ever, and is (hopefully) compelled to find a way out of this mindset. He’s doing this because he thinks it’s ok in this situation, because he assumes other white people obviously agree with him, and correcting him about that IS necessary. She doesn’t have to get into a big explanation about why. Even just withdrawing the presumed approval is teaching a lesson. Throw his soapbox in the trash. Don’t give him the chance to feel validated by participation. Refusing to be an audience is still educating.

      2. Your last paragraph pretty much sums up how I feel. It is absolutely within the LW’s rights to determine that for her safety, sanity, and security, educating this straight white man who has already made it pretty clear that he values his own opinion above all else is not her priority, especially given that she both lives and works with him. And honestly, even taking the step of refusing to be a passive audience for his manifestos is doing work, because it sounds like he’s unlikely to take that well, and it will make it more apparent that she is not in agreement with his gross and terrible opinions.

        I agree that in areas where we have privilege, we should use that privilege to educate our peers, but I also think how we do that is going to vary based on circumstances and individual abilities. Each time it’s a bit of a risk/reward calculation, where we have to balance the likelihood of our words making an impact with the possibility that we will put our careers, living situations, or even ourselves at risk of harm, and I trust the LW’s assessment that it isn’t the right option for her in this situation.

    9. Given that she’s stuck living with him indefinitely, and also working with him, I think it’s reasonable for her to avoid the entire conversation.

    10. As a white woman who does not shy away from confronting other white people on these issues, I have to say that, while I agree with the spirit of this remark, it’s not quite so cut-and-dried in practice. Trying to educate people about social justice issues is often exhausting, sometimes dangerous, and not always worth it. This guy sounds like a real piece of work; I highly doubt that he would be receptive to lectures on social justice. (Also, not for nothing, but the ultimate responsibility for educating individual white people about racial justice lies with the individuals themselves. This guy–this fucking guy–is a grown-ass man. The fact that he’s such an ignorant, racist piece of shit is not his roommate’s fault, but his own.)

      That said, the LW might consider Frown Power. It’s worked before. It might work again.


    11. YES. I agree. As a queer woman of color, I am OVER white “allies” saying that it’s not their job to educate fellow white folks about their racist comments! When you don’t feel like doing emotional labor, people of color have to, because our lives our on the line. That is the definition of privilege: you don’t feel like engaging, so you don’t have to.

      You all got Trump elected. You don’t want to listen or deal with “any of that?” Neither do we. And trust me when I say it sucks way more for us to hear racist comments than it does for you. Please do not come here saying your feminism is intersectional if you can’t even bothered to say a simple, “Wow that’s racist” in response to an obviously racist statement. And let’s be real–if your feminism isn’t intersectional, who the hell is it for?

      No one is asking for a Nelson Mandela moment. The point isn’t to “turn a racist into a non-racist” per se, it’s to show that you aren’t okay with racism, point blank. As mentioned, you can do that simply by calling out racism for what it is, when your roommate makes racist comments.

      As for being “safe”: you are a white woman, living with someone who thinks that white people are the cream of the crop. Trust me, you’re gonna be okay.

      1. Sis, THANK YOU! I was wondering what rarefied conditions would be be optimal for White women to do an ounce of sj work on our Black ass behalf for a goddamn change!

        1. Hi Witchsistah and Annabelle,

          You 100% have a point and I should have handled that aspect of the letter with more attention and care. I’m sorry. I’ve tagged the post more carefully and put the letter behind a cut.

      2. I also see how the White gals ain’t got shit to say to you. But hey, 53%,right?

      3. Speaking of being “safe,” notice no one gave a damn about whether or not our Black woman asses may be triggered by the surprise misogynoire of the letter. But we culluds gals are all just rhino-hided, unwanted, undesirable she-beasts who don’t feel pain, physical or psychological.

      4. “The point isn’t to “turn a racist into a non-racist” per se, it’s to show that you aren’t okay with racism, point blank.”

        White folks, let’s re-read that several times, please.

        “As for being “safe”: you are a white woman, living with someone who thinks that white people are the cream of the crop. Trust me, you’re gonna be okay.”

        I’m all about choosing your moments to maintain your safety, but here’s the other thing: almost any effective allyship includes some elements of risk. Could be a risk of social alienation, job loss, and yes, physical safety. We get to decide how that factors into our allyship.

        I can’t evaluate the LW’s safety situation, but my gut feeling is to agree with Annabelle here. The risk seems minimal for the LW to respond with a statement that at the VERY least suggests that she is not ok with racism (and anti-Blackness, which is a very specific element running through this guy’s bullshit).

        Annabelle and witchsistah, thanks for being willing to call this out. I’m sorry you had to.

  2. Yeah, I think being more direct is the only answer here. I think using the same phrase to emphasize that this is a category objection might help. You’re not interested in talking about “his love life” or “his breakup,” rather than just not up for talking right now. You’re available to talk about other subjects, but not those ones.

    This part is a bit rough, but I also think you may need to accept that this guy may never be the same kind of friend to you that he was before you moved in together and he dumped all this shit on you. I think you can wrangle this into being an okay living situation for awhile longer, but he may never be the same kind of relaxed beer and trashy TV buddy that he was before you learned that he was kind of gross.

    1. Very true! Also, if LW chooses directness over neutrality and refuses to be his peen’s audience anymore, and doesn’t give the illusion of tacit approval or neutrality toward sexism and racism, he may choose to unfriend her. After all, she isn’t going to be the same type of friend to him again, either.

  3. That sounds exhausting to live with, LW. I’m seconding the Captain. It’s okay to be blunt with someone like this. He will keep stepping all over your neutral attempts and that’s not something you should have to put up with.

  4. This might not be easy/possible right now, but I would probably be on the lookout for a new place to live or a new roommate if he won’t respect your desire not to be hounded with his weird speeches. He sounds pretty exhausting.

    1. And they work together! I agree, if its at all feasible maybe find a new living situation.

      1. The recs to move are all on point, but the LW said it’s not possible right now, so let’s focus on how to endure for at least a while longer.

  5. “Perhaps unsurprisingly, his (thin white ‘traditional’ girlfriend) dumped him because he kept sexting ‘BBBW’ asking for ‘punishment.'”

    I lost my shit at that. Is this guy a senator?? 🤣

  6. LW, keep in mind that taking this advice (which I totally agree with) WILL cause his behavior to temporarily get worse. When training animals this is called an extinction burst. If he’s come to you in the past for his emotional reward pellets and is surprised to find no pellet forthcoming, he will try to see if he can shake some loose outta you. Because to him, his problem is YOU are not functioning properly. Especially, (with his super-emotionally-stunted worldview) if he starts thinking of you as….uppity. Be ready for that escalation and hold tight!

      1. I betcha that guy is FULL of reasons the LW will be behaving *~*irrationally*~* the very SECOND she disagrees with him!

        1. Yup, he will.

          People above twinged on safety — it’s true LW didn’t express any safety concerns in her letter, but so many of us have seen the “female appliance not performing correctly” behavior go straight to percussive maintenance.

          1. Aw! Percussive maintenance is my favorite phrase! I hate to see it used to describe evil. 😦
            I think you are exactly right though.

          2. This is also why I give man-identified humans who I observe liberally employing percussive maintenance to the non-women appliances a very wide berth.

    1. Yes, this. This is pretty much what got me kicked out of a house once. And I am seeing a lot of very similar themes in LW’s letter to the situation I was in. Tread with caution.

  7. My take… First off – congratulations on not taking the co-dependent (I’ll fix him!), or passive aggressive (I’ll get him!) approach.

    Right now you have three relationships with this person, (roommate, friend, and co-worker). This makes how you handle things a LOT more complicated than it would otherwise be. Since you can’t change him (even IF you wanted to), you will need to take steps for yourself to address each of these relationships.

    It sucks, but IMO the best way to avoid his ongoing BS and drama is to stop being his roommate. I think that a person’s home needs to be their safe and “happy” place, and dreading and deflecting an annoying roommate is SO stressful in any situation. In my experience, very few roommate situations end without a big relief that it’s over.

    Once you have moved out – then it’s easier to redefine your friendship. Obviously there is SOME connection there, although from your letter it’s not obvious what that is since you have very different world views. Either way, it’s easier to avoid and deflect when not sharing living space and you can focus on the things that bring you together while avoiding a lot of the dysfunction.

    Work is hard to assess since you didn’t provide any details about how much you interact or what the environment is. But you get the idea. If this person is really stressful and dysfunctional – you need to distance yourself to a level that’s acceptable to you. VERY hard to do within the confines of a shared living environment.

  8. Marginalised people are often told/taught that it’s their job to educate men like this, and it’s really not. It’s okay to be burnt out or to simply not want your home life dominated by trying to convince some straight white guy to stop being a racist, sexist jerk. Men like this, as LW states, will turn everything into a “debate”—and there are few things I dislike more in life than such “debates” with such people. Don’t feel guilty or rude for abruptly shutting this whole thing down and repeating/removing yourself from the room when necessary.

    1. Yeah, the FURTHEST I would go is an emotionally flat bro-style shutdown. “Bro. NO.” or “That’s racist, dude”, and withdraw attention. Also “Not going to talk about your penis today, friend.” Observe what straight cis men who don’t want to talk about it do in these situations, if available, and imitate. Women are trained to do this attunement thing where we seem super available for talking about feelings and wow is it sometimes not great. Don’t be cute (“no”, not “nope”). Don’t open with interjections. Occupy the persona of a stereotype of a straight cis man playing foosball who’s just heard something boring and has no qualms about shutting it down.

      I absolutely can’t promise you that this guy won’t be shitty or even retaliate somehow, but it’s the only script I can think of for potentially getting out of this without increasing the emotional intensity of the situation. Traditionally when I’ve seen these shutdowns used what also matters is that the shutter-downer doesn’t care of the shutdowned sulks about it for a while. In my experience men usually do have more power to make women suffer from their sulks, so you’ve got to use your own judgement about whether this is worth it.

      Alternatively, as a queer woman I give you one vote worth of permission to cite a mysterious Woman/Lesbian Code for not getting involved. I’ve never had luck with this kind of thing but some people *actually* seem to. “I can’t, as a lesbian it’s against my code of honor. Lesbian Law says get a therapist and handle it directly. That is the final word from your Lesbian Roommate.” and then if he protests “Lesbian Law can’t be appealed without a written waiver from Ellen or Cameron Esposito. HOW ARE THESE VIDEO GAMES.”. …?

      This is not the first time I’ve heard “straight white man latches onto lesbian bestie who has to hear all about what evopsych says about his penis”. I think it’s the flipside of the “sassy gay friend” stereotype, frankly – LIKE a straight friend of your own gender, but DIFFERENT and FUN and you can PROJECT CERTAIN STRAIGHT DYNAMICS ONTO THEM and have a pseudorelationship pal! Urgh.

      Anyway, as someone winningly said last post, “he sounds fun”.

          1. THIS: “Observe what straight cis men who don’t want to talk about it do in these situations, if available, and imitate.”

            I’ll never forget the time my husband was invited to visit a friend who was staying nearby in a very expensive rehab. He came back from Visiting Day with this air of exasperation.

            I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “Randy’s rehab place lets you go rent kayaks, so we got kayaks, paddled all the way out into the middle of the water…and then Randy wanted to tell me about his childhood!”

            I said, “What’s wrong with Randy talking about his childhood? Maybe he needed to, I’m sure lots of things have come up for him in rehab.”
            My husband: “We were supposed to be KAYAKING!”

          2. Oh my god thinking about this in terms of male friend group dynamics changes everything.

            I spend far too much time in group chats with only men between the ages of 18 and 35. They pretty much regularly give each other shit for every percieved weirdness. One guy is the “Racist” guy and we relentlessly give him crap for it.

            (They also take turns being “the meg” where everyone just gives them a ration of shit no matter what they do. And yet, THEY ALL LIKE EACH OTHER it makes NO sense.)

      1. I might, as another lesbian, try “So, one nice thing about being a lesbian is not having to care what dudes find attractive. I don’t care what you find attractive. Stop telling me about it.” Also, “We are not the kind of friends who talk about this stuff. Tell someone else.”

        1. I, a genderqueer dyke, tend to go right for the jugular with my bro pals. If this were my straight dude friend, I would have one (1) real conversation with him about this where I ask him what he’s so afraid of that he can’t allow himself to pursue relationships with people he’s attracted to and/or the kind of sex he clearly wants. Highlights would include: 1) lots of people are bottoms; 2) lots of people are submissive; 3) lots of people are attracted to BBW; 4) does he think he’s somehow so special that this would uniquely wreck his life?; 5) I when I was a TEENAGER, so is he seriously looking for sympathy?

          After that one (1) conversation, any further attempts to bring this up would mean I remind him that I (and a gajillion queer kids) had more courage at 17 than he does as a grown-ass adult, and that I don’t respect — and won’t indulge — his cowardice.

          I’m not recommending this to the OP, as this is confrontational as all get-out and might explode the friendship, but it’s how I handle my straight dude friends when they start trying to extract this kind of emotional labour from me. They really don’t expect this kind of blunt refusal-to-coddle, and usually never try the you-are-my-unpaid-therapist thing ever again. As a bonus, watching their faces as they process a hard reset to their heteronormative assumptions? *kisses fingers* MUAH!

          1. The more I’ve thought about this question the more I’ve liked this reply, too, because it addresses something mine didn’t: if LW suddenly shuts down on Roommate where she was previously emotionally available, she kind of risks the Ziegarnik Effect (where people just can’t let unfinished business goooo and will hang onto it forever). By providing one (1) realtalk explanation – even if it’s only the part of the truth she feels comfortable issuing – she’s put the ball firmly back in Roommate’s court. It won’t be a mystery why she’s suddenly shutting him down, whether he likes it or not.

      2. Yeeeeeeeeep, I’ve been that friend like 1000x by now. Bonus pts if the guy accidentally starts having romantic feelings for me and then starts trying to process THAT w me as well

      3. Throwing out my support for the Bro Shutdown, I’ve used it myself to great effect. There was only one guy that tried to argue with it (Creepy Coworker), and when I shut him down the second time, he finally left me alone. Forever. It was glorious. He did indeed sulk to the high heavens – moped around the office, asked people if I was mad at him, asked ME if I was mad at him – and I just continued to use the Bro Shutdown. Creepy Coworker, like the LW’s roommate, did not take hints, subject changes did not work, and he saw every interaction as a chance to “debate” and attempt to change my mind about EVERYTHING.

      4. See also: “Don’t care, bro”, “Trying to watch tv here, man”, “Dude, not interested”, and “Give it a rest, will ya?”. If at all possible, in the most bored and matter-of-fact tone you can muster. Take advantage of the communication style he’s been socialised to pay attention to!

        1. I feel like the phrase “Cool story bro” was made for this exact situation.

      5. +1 for learning men’s confrontation style and imitating it. I have had tremendous luck interacting with some very sexist guys when I started interrupting and talking over them. Old dynamic: they interrupted me, I stopped talking, they went on for five minutes without a break for me to cut in. New dynamic: they interrupted me, I kept talking but increased volume a bit. This is really hard to do, but after a sentence or so, they would realize they couldn’t talk over me like that and fall silent to let me finish. It’s like playing chicken. But it’s how men decide who has the floor. They don’t take turns, they have a dominance fight for it.

  9. I’ve been that person who’d sometimes vent a little too much to friends about breakups and relationship woes, and in hindsight I was asking a crazy amount of emotional labor from them, without any of the sexist, racist garbage LW’s roommate is dumping on her. It’s best to be direct here, “I care about you and I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I’ve heard about all I can for now, let’s talk about something else.” You could, if you want, remind him that the best way to get over someone is just to do other fun stuff to get your mind off them.

    When it comes to the more offensive stuff he’s spouting, say “look, I don’t agree with what you’re saying and I don’t really have the energy to debate with you on those subjects.”

    1. Yes, I’ve had friends be like “hey, I get that you’re hurting but I need a break from hearing about it right now.” It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say and reasonable people will accept it.

  10. So one of my good friends has a lot of theories he likes to talk about for hours and hours. At one point we were in his car and he was talking and we’d been parked for an hour and I was so very close to my bed but so very trapped in the car that I just interrupted him.

    “Hey, have you noticed I haven’t talked at all since you brought this up?”
    “Have you noticed that this isn’t so much a conversation as a lecture for your social theory course I don’t remember signing up for?”
    “Oh…uh…no. Well, uh, what do you think?”
    “I think I’m tired and I think you talk about this all the time and I think I don’t care. And I’ve never cared. And you have your opinions and I have mine but we reach those differently so you’re never going to convince me and I’m never going to convince you and I’m just really, really bored by all of this.”

    Reader, I have never had to listen to another one of those speeches again and we are still good friends and I very much enjoy his company. We generally agree as much as we disagree, but he just White Males all over my opinions when I do offer them up and I’m bored of hearing the same opinions over and over and now I don’t! It’s wonderful and freeing and I do recommend being as forthright as you can about this.

          1. You just have to shake up the bottle vigorously before you open it…

    1. I like that, and I think something like this could work here. “Look, Friend, I think you can agree that I’ve heard you out on these subjects, and now I am at the point where I know we will never agree on this. Let’s talk about anything else but dating theory so we can stay friends.” There will probably need to be a follow up along the lines of “Hey, we have X, Y, and Z we can talk about, but you’re bringing up the one subject that makes me want to flee. Should I leave the room or can we talk about something else?”

      1. “Hey, we have X, Y, and Z we can talk about, but you’re bringing up the one subject that makes me want to flee. Should I leave the room or can we talk about something else?”

        Brilliant. Thank you.

      1. This was definitely a big sign that no matter how attracted I am to him, there is no point acting on it. It would not work well at all.

    2. I quite like debating social theory. Doing it with somebody who wouldn’t notice if I didn’t say anything for an hour? Nope. It’s hard to get a word in edgewise with that kind of person even when you try.

      1. Me! Too! But someone who talks for an hour about it doesn’t like DEBATE. They like PONTIFICATING. They imagine themselves dispensing their unique Wisdom to the Unenlighted, while their disciples gaze up in admiration. Debates on the other hand require defending positions, grappling with uncertainty, and admitting when you were wrong. It requires WAY more humility, and the freedom to do it is what makes society advance.


        1. This is excellent! “Debates on the other hand require defending positions, grappling with uncertainty, and admitting when you were wrong. It requires way more humility,”

    3. I’ve had variants of this work on a couple of dudes -and to a man, every guy it worked on was 1) already aware that he was awkward/prone to monologuing and 2) not actually wanting to make me uncomfortable. “Hey, Steve, I know you like football, but I am NOT football friend. I can’t follow this conversation, and it’s not one I care enough about to have an interest in learning. Can we talk about *list of common interests* instead?” “Dave, that thing you are saying about Warhammer is genuinely fascinating, but it is WAY too involved for me right now, and while I like learning, I would also like to be able to contribute something to the conversation and this is a subject where I can’t. Can we table it for now and come back to it at some other point?” “Bob, I think of you like a brother, but you are arguing a position that I find so viscerally repellent that I am neither willing nor able to expend the emotional energy to address your presupposition because I’m so far into into fight-or-flight mode. We’re agreeing to disagree and NEVER TALKING ABOUT THIS AGAIN.”

      Actually spelling out “I like you, but I can’t THIS now/for a week/ever/until I tell you I can; time for talking about OTHER THING” works surprisingly well -as long as the dude is a decent sort. There are guys I’ve tried this with who either take that as an opportunity to lecture me, some who then talk over me (occasionally about my own preferences/emotional availability), and some who say the right words and just go right on doing the thing -usually with a bit of gaslighting. And frankly, I’m glad of it, because it sucks, but considering how toxic some of those people turned out to be down the line, it gave me one HELL of an early check for people. A friend who’s bothered by you standing up for yourself or holding your ground about something entirely personal that doesn’t hurt or impact anyone else is not the sort of friend you need.

  11. Sweet zombie Jesus, I’m leaning so far back from the screen reading this I’m hanging out the window. What an epic douchecanoe. He sounds like a nightmare to live with, LW, you have my sympathies.

    And oh, hey, here’s our old friend It’s The Lady’s Job To Process My Emotions For Me! I love how even though you’re a gay lady (I presume he knows this?), he’s still trying to make your world revolve around making his penis feel good. Can’t imagine why he can’t keep a girlfriend.

    I don’t really have much to add to CA’s scripts, though I am wondering what would happen if instead of saying “I’m not here for this right now” you said some version of “I’m not here for this FOREVER.” It sounds awfully bridge-burny, doesn’t it? I get you don’t want to burn too many bridges because you still have to live with this rolling dumpster fire for the foreseeable future. But it occurs to me that if he’s in a similar financial position to you, if HE wants to stay in YOUR good graces he’ll just have to learn to save the penis-centered talk for his blog or something. Either that or he’ll pull himself up by his bootstraps and move out himself to get away from the Mean Female Who Is Just So Mean, and you can find a roommate with a minimum of human decency. Or at least a less boring set of flaws.

    You’ve clearly got the right idea not trying to change/save him, because people like him never. ever. change and oh god so many female-identified folks fall into the trap of trying, so good for you tbh.

  12. There is something I’m a bit concerned about and I have no idea what the LW should do in case it happens. What happens when the roommates crappy opinions start to spread into his work environment? Usually it’s hard to prove discrimination in a work space but the LW knows this guy is supper rascist, sexist, ableist, etc etc. It seems more than likely that one day he’ll come home and say something a long the lines of “oh I didn’t invite Sansa to the meeting today (but “because she’s a black woman” is left unsaid)” or something similar. What should the LW do then?

    1. That is a big fat case of “not my circus, not my monkeys”

      If the LW does not want to engage the roommate on a personal level about his various -isms, why would she police his workplace etiquette? Especially since the organization he works for has people who do that job already. They are called managers and HR. They get paid to police him and she does not.

    2. I don’t think it’s nearly so likely that this will happen. The sad truth is that people like this can police themselves and choose not to with certain listeners. But if he does violate workplace policy, I don’t think that’s really LW’s problem to solve.

      1. I’ve offered to make complaints on other peoples’ behalves before because they have dual relationships with coworkers, where all I know about is the specific offensive thing that the coworker said or did at the office. HR does not exactly have infinite power, and its scope is almost always “things that happen in and directly affect the office” – muddying the line between “at work” and “not at work” is often ineffective. (And frankly I’m going to call it a slippery slope – working in an office with no line between ‘private behavior’ and ‘workplace behavior’ can backfire in all kinds of bizarre directions).

        This guy sounds sketchy as hell, but I’d especially be really hesitant to take “His ex-girlfriend accessed and showed me salacious texts that he sent from his personal number to a third party” to HR unless it was something as urgent as “children or patients are in danger from the contents of those texts”. ESPECIALLY if the texts are to a consenting third party – then it sounds like LW is trying to commit relationship vengeance on behalf of the ex-girlfriend and boundaries are getting crossed in every single direction.

    3. Yeah agree with the others. This is a matter for his manager and maybe HR, but IMHO it’s a giant IF (it happens at all), so don’t worry about it, LW.

    4. Ehhhh tbh this guy sounds like he’s only racist in a really slippery way – “I’ve got nothing against black women, I just don’t find them attractive, I can’t help that, am I supposed to date them because of political correctness” etc.

      1. I mean, that’s still hella racist and it’s ok to say “whoa, tell it to your diary” when it comes up.

        I still get the occasional inbox harasser who really really needs to tell me how he just can’t make himself be attracted to fat women and why am I making him feel bad about that. It’s like, leave fat women the fuck alone but also stfu forever about what you’re into, nobody cares.

        1. Oh absolutely. I just mean that he probably isn’t overt in his racism anywhere else in his life and likely thinks he isn’t racist at all because Attraction.

        2. Seriously, tho. “Well, fat ladies all over the world are thrilled that you won’t be hitting on them, but also we don’t give a shit about what makes your Mr. Happy happy. Not interesting, not relevant, don’t care, fuck off forever, bye.”

  13. “Huh, that’s upsetting. I’m gonna order some food, do you want anything?”

    I’m not sure I’d recommend this as a subject change. It’s too easy for him, or anyone else, to interpret as “Let’s talk about this over a joint meal.”

  14. As a person who sometimes has trouble noticing subtleties, I recommend against “huh+change the subject”. Just straight out say: “I’m not interested in discussing your personal relations with women, whether it’s with specific women or women in general. Just stop. Now if you want to talk about something else, don’t you think local coffee shop has really gone down hill ever since Y left, and at work client X has really been getting on my case, do you have any advice?” This is a lot like what Sarah writes about her parked car experience; just cut out the intermediates, say exactly where your line is and stick to it. Otherwise I guarantee you’ll get to the same point, but only after half an hour or more of “hasn’t he realized I don’t want to talk about this?” No, he won’t realize. Body language isn’t actually a language. Say it straight out.

    1. All this, plus people with certain privilege/power advantages have every incentive not to pay attention to such cues from those “below”.

    2. Body language is absolutely a language. There are tons of bloviating jerkwads who somehow miss the subtle signals of hands clutching hopefully at door handles and drooping eyelids while they blather on, but they notice in a second if you roll your eyes at them.

      1. Oh, they don’t miss them… they just rationalize them away. Humans are remarkably good at that. This is why it’s so important to understand that their “no” is as important as your “yes” and that a relationship/convo/whatever only happens with two “yeses”.

        And any signals you get of “uncomfortable” mean STOP doing that thing. The end.

        1. But he’s not reading this discussion, so giving him advice isn’t going to help.

  15. You describe him as a friend and a co-worker, but… he doesn’t sound like much of a friend. Start looking for a new place to live if it’s his place, or a new room-mate if it’s yours. This sounds incredibly tedious and I don’t know how you’ve put up with it this long. At least at work you can change the subject to talk about work, but in your own home you’re kind of trapped.

    1. Seconding this! If he’s a small doses friend (and it sounds like he is), a long-term solution is simply not being a situation where you can’t escape him.

  16. Here are some scripts that I use on my Family Member Who Won’t Stop Spouting Politics and Wants to Engage in Soul-Sucking Debates That Go Nowhere:

    -First time he brings up the Unwelcome Topic:
    “Buddy, you and I are never going to agree on what you just said, and frankly it just ruins my day to argue with you, so I’m going to stop you right there. Let’s change the subject.”
    While you say this, hold up your hand in a “stop” gesture.

    -When he pushes back with, “Whyyyyyyy?”:
    “Great! Glad we had this chat. How about that [sports team, video game, generic subject change]?”

    -At any other time he brings up the Topic:
    “Aaaaand that’s my cue for a subject change!” or “All right, then. Have a great day!”
    Or just groan really loud and say, “SERIOUSLY?” …and then leave the room.

  17. Dear LW

    I get that you can’t leave the apartment yet. Maybe you can leave the room though if he won’t accept subject changes.

    Aside from that – what a frustrating man.

    1. Seconding this. I think it’s important to set things up so he can’t continue the conversation against your will. He gets weird once, you tell him to stop. He gets weird again, you physically leave the room. He will hate it, and he will whine about it a lot at first, but it will at least save you from rules lawyering about what exactly you’re obliged to put up with from him.

      1. I get where you’re coming from, but I worry this would end up, over time, making her feel like the only safe space for her to occupy would be her room. She pays half the rent (or whatever their arrangement), she deserves not to be run out of the common areas by this dude bro.

        1. I don’t think it will work out that way in practice, particularly if LW calls out what she’s doing and then comes back later:
          “Yo, Roomie ! That was my third attempt to not talk about your boner. I’m going to read now.”

          “Yeah, no. We’re done with that topic.”

          “I’m back. Let’s watch ‘Occupied’.”

  18. My one quibble with the Captain’s typically-awsome advice is that I would delete the “today” from her suggested responses. Saying “I’m not interested in that today,” implies that you might be interested tomorrow, which I doubt is the case.

  19. A possible alternate/additional strategy, IF you feel it is a safe and potentially productive option:

    Have one (1) conversation with him wherein you say something to the effect of “hey, buddy, listen, you’ve been talking a lot about your feelings about women and men and How Things Should Be lately. I’ve heard you, and you probably know I don’t agree. I’m not trying to talk you out of your worldview, just, I’m really tired of hearing about it. Can you find someone else to talk to about this?”

    Then every time he tries to bring it up in future, you can say, “hey, you know I don’t wanna hear about that any more”, “dude, you know I think that’s bullshit”, “we’re never going to agree, why did you think this would be a fun conversation for either of us?”

    It’s not precisely neutral but it might still shut the conversation down with minimal conflict since you’re not giving him anything to work with. If he tries to turn it into an argument, let it slide off you. “I know how you feel about this, I’d rather talk about something else.” “I’m not trying to change your mind, will you do me the same favor?” And enforced by leaving the room if he won’t let you change the subject.

    The reason I’m offering this possibility is that sometimes speaking your mind without really engaging can be enormously freeing. Hearing a bunch of terrible opinions and bottling up your reaction can really wear you down. It might be the only safe option, or it might be your strong preference in order to keep the peace, but if that’s not the case, this is worth considering. Sometimes just making your real feelings known (even when you’re fully aware there’s no way to change the other person’s mind) can make things a little more tolerable.

    I had a dorm neighbor for a while who, in her very first conversation with me, managed to work in a comment about how gross she thought gay people were. I sent that awkward right back to sender by very pleasantly saying, “well, actually I’m gay so obviously I don’t agree.” It suuuucked in that I was so scared to say that to her, but she got horribly embarrassed and that was pretty funny. Anyway, somehow we ended up with a weird friendship-of-proximity-and-convenience (until it blew up fairly spectacularly about a year later, but that’s another story). There were a lot of times during our acquaintance where I let the vile nonsense she spewed go, but when I was really tired of that shit I used some of the scripts above and it helped. “Why are you saying this to me? You know I don’t agree.” was really useful. In her case, “hmm, I don’t think that’s true” or “that hasn’t been my experience” also worked wonders, because she was equally invested in keeping the peace (while it suited her). Not sure how well they’d work for your roommate, but sometimes bigots can be shamed into shutting up via the social contact even when they can’t actually be reasoned with.

    1. The only teeny-tiny caveat I would offer is that “can you talk to someone else about this?” should probably be “you need to talk to someone else about this”; otherwise, you’re leaving the door open for him to say “no.” But by the same token, if he’s comfortable attempting to override your clearly and respectfully expressed feelings about ending the conversation, then you don’t need to be quite so concerned about not bruising his when you say “Nope, not here for this” in future.

      1. I tried to reply to this a few days ago but I guess it didn’t come through:

        You are probably right that this guy won’t respect the soft no implied in the “can you?” form and your phrasing is much firmer, a+ suggestion.

        For anyone who does say something like “can you talk to someone else?” and is met with “no”, I want to emphasize that it’s totally ok to respond, “ok, but you still can’t talk to me”. Whether or not the other person has other outlets is not your problem (in this case, let’s hope he doesn’t, because no one should have to listen to that nonsense).

  20. So, has your roommate been spending much time on reddit? I ask because…. uhhh… he sounds like he might have taken the red pill or is at least considering that.

    I don’t think it’s your job to educate him in any way, in part because I don’t think it will work.

    But, you could try being a little sneaky. Dr. NerdLove has some books on dating, that it might be cool to amazon, and say, leave in the bathroom, or on the coffee table. They might be a good alternative world view to the one he is formulating on his own. (And there is solid communiti online that he could get involved in. )

    Maybe some art from adipositivity?(if you like it) Or similar size positive representations? You could also think about movies, or TV that’s more socially conscious that you could watch when he is present?

    You are 110% NEVER obligated to discuss any of this with him, and I wouldn’t engage even if he tried. But showing him that you disagree in quiet ways may help him realize that you aren’t a “safe” person to be all racist/sexist/sizeist with as well as remind him that not everyone agrees with his wackadoo theories.

    1. If you don’t think educating the roommate will work, why suggest that the LW do so?

      I didn’t get a red pill vibe. Instead, he reads as a man whose sexual desires don’t match the ones he thinks he should have.

      1. I guess I tend to think of educating in terms of emotional labor and discussions, which the letter writer does not want to have. (And don’t work.) But I think providing a reminder that there are other ways of thinking might be helpful to him, since, as you say it seems like a lot of his issue comes from denial of his own desires. Perhaps if he realizes that it’s OK to like something maybe he can stop obsessing about how he doesn’t like it.

        The red pill thing to me comes through on the stuff about human nature and dominance and race. A lot of those guys have that exact problem, they don’t want who they think they should want, and they can’t get or keep any of them anyway. But perhaps I am overly sensitive to that, because I read too much internets.

    2. But S, why should the LW invest her time and money in showing this asshole there are other points of view in this world? Waste of both, in my opinion, especially since she wants to disengage from the topic.

  21. I have found very deliberately putting earphones in after telling someone you dont really want to discuss and issue works really well
    My brother sounds like this guy and i have similar issues getting him to stfu (You cant educate people who don’t think they are ignorant)
    I tried changing the subject and have tried straight up telling him I am in no way interested in pursuing the conversation/debate. I have had to learn to walk away, hangup and or make it essentially impossible for him to continue whatever his latest offensive rant/debate subject. It is really hard at first but gets easier

    1. Do dudebros ever ‘shut it down’? I thought they just fanned the flames.

      But I would love to know what it is if they do, I could use it on my horrifyingly bigoted coworker. Currently I use headphones and I practice my poker face a LOT.

      1. “No one cares, man”, “Get over it, bro”, “Give it a rest already, dude”, “Seriously, man, shut up”, etc. etc.

        If cishet dudes wanna try casting their Lesbian friends in the role of “one of the boys” for objectifying women, they can damn well deal when said Lesbians return the favour.

      2. They say, “Move on!” in an irritated voice. Or “Ugh, just let it go!” and then they go back to watching TV.

      3. OMG dudebros are THE BEST at not dealing with stuff they don’t want in front of their face! It’s like their secret superpower is Enforced Obliviousness.
        “Dude.” (Pair with facial expression of contempt)
        “You want a nipple for that beer? Cause you are being a BABY”
        Or my personal favorite: “STFU already. The best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody else. Go handle it, and when you come back, don’t leave your balls in her purse this time around.”

        Polite? No. Misogynistic? Oh yeah. Shame-y? Yep! But no one ever heard another word. And that was glorious.

    2. Not recommended, but in one set of male friends I knew, you could get a full can of beer thrown at your head if you annoyed everyone by being a broken record. This allegedly resulted in one (1) broken television set at least once. I’m not sure a lesson was learned.

    3. I highly recommend “Hey man, I don’t give a shit about any of this”.

      This advice applies even if the statement is not true.

      If LW lets on that his dickbrained “philosophy” is something she sees as offensive and horrible then he’ll likely continue to poke at her about it.

      It she instead says it’s boring as hell and sticks to that he doesn’t have much to work with.

  22. Oh, and can I also say, to echo some other comments here….I have a ‘close family member’ who has always talked politics to me but it didn’t bother me until this election (go figure). After *years* of politic talk, I thought I would have to work really hard to break that habit but it’s been pretty easy actually. ‘Sorry, I don’t really want to get into that’ and ‘I wasn’t even thinking of it that way. Oops, better get the dishes done!’ Less than a year (and this is a 20 year relationship) and guess what? We don’t talk politics anymore. Wahoo. I should have done this years ago! ♥

    1. I have been this person before! I am someone who deeply, DEEPLY loves arguing politics. I try to start every conversation now with the caveat that we do not have to talk politics if you don’t want to. Because arguing politics and religion is rude with people you just met, knowing you can look forward to somebody to spar with is part of the fun of seeing family! But I wouldn’t want to walk up a family member and start a political argument any more than an actual boxing match if I knew they wouldn’t enjoy it. Please tell us if you don’t want to argue anymore!! Many of us just don’t know you aren’t having fun anymore. (YMMV depending on how terrible your relations are)

    2. YMMV, the biggest fight I ever had with my father was after I told him I didn’t want to discuss politics anymore. He always ends up insulting my intelligence when I win the argument…. But he still needles me, CONSTANTLY to try to get me to engage.

      I’m jealous this worked so well for you.

  23. This letter is a great example of why “mixing the streams” is a bad idea. There is so much linkage between these people (friend, coworker, roommate) that any problem becomes more complicated than if their relationship was only a single link. It’s not easy to deal with a roommate OR a coworker OR a friend who is behaving badly, but when someone you have a three-way connection to acts like a dick in one sphere, it’s even harder to filter them out or push back without stressing the other areas.

    LW, probably the place of least resistance for change for you is your living situation, as others have pointed out already. Look for housing ASAP, then you can control your exposure to this guy far more easily. Setting hard boundaries about discussing work at home (along with the boundaries others have suggested) may help you withdraw. As for the friend moniker… wellll, he really does not seem like a good friend. Meanwhile, be ready for pushback when you use the Captain’s excellent scripts. Good luck navigating this!

    1. I just want to point out that if you have a job where you are required to live in staff accommodation, you don’t get a choice of not mixing ‘coworker’ and ‘room mate’ streams; and if you’re part of a small team and see each other most of the day, the alternative to treating the other person as a friend is… well, in that case you’re out of a job AND a home very soon. (Unless his harassment goes beyond penis talk/rude jokes/constant belittling/whatever else the employer is willing to overlook, it’s much more likely that the person who complains (and who feels unsafe, and who cannot continue in that situation for long) is either asked to leave or leaves ‘voluntarily’. Which sucks.)

      I, too, don’t feel that Mr. PenisTalk sounds like a friend, because friends don’t repeatedly make friends uncomfortable, but it may be safer to remain friendly with him until the LW can put some distance between them.

  24. I don’t have any advice to offer, I’d just like to take a moment to laugh at this:

    He will tell me at length he does not like overweight women or black women or “dominant” women, and he also has a lot of theories about men and masculinity and “dominance” he enjoys expounding on. You know what they are. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his (thin white “traditional”
    girlfriend) dumped him because he kept sexting “BBBW” asking for “punishment.”


  25. I think this man is doing this deliberately because he knows it makes you uncomfortable. He is sexually harassing you. Does he do this to other women in his life, or just to you? It’s a Male Thing to describe their genitalia and attractions and interactions to lesbians because they know we find it repulsive and they get off on it.
    I know you’ve said you can’t leave, but please do take good care around this man.
    “I don’t need to hear about your disgusting phallus”+exiting the room is a good phrase.

    1. “It’s a Male Thing to describe their genitalia and attractions and interactions to lesbians because they know we find it repulsive and they get off on it.”
      I want to push back against this bit, #notallmen and #notalllesbians. Also, some lesbians got penises, please check that cissexism.
      Otherwise, I agree that repeatedly discussing your genitalia with someone who is not interested is sexual harassment.

          1. I said “genitalia”. Wasn’t it you who assumed that that meant dicks? Wasn’t it you who assumed I was referring to cis men? Wouldn’t that actually make you the transphobe?
            Were you assuming that I was referring only to cis lesbians?
            Careful, I smell a TERF.

          2. @adgisga

            “I said “genitalia”. Wasn’t it you who assumed that that meant dicks? ”

            There. Right there is where you said dicks:

            ““I don’t need to hear about your disgusting phallus”+exiting the room is a good phrase.”

            I have on multiple occasions observed you being an bnoxious, self-righteous transphobe so for the love of cats can you at least keep your bigotry to yourself on here?

            @Captain A can you tell Sister Gender Essentialism patron saint of BUT ATTRAAAAAAAACTION to cool it? I doubt hearing it from the commentariat is going to change anything.

          3. Thanks, Nope octopus! Hopefully someday soon the harmful, outdated ideas that genitalia equals gender and that anyone in possesion of a penis is a harbringer of doom will die out. It’s 20 fucking 18, for God’s sake.

    2. “It’s a Male Thing to describe their genitalia and attractions and interactions to lesbians because they know we find it repulsive and they get off on it.”

      Yep, this is 100% a thing that cis dudes absolutely do (the genitalia part) and men in general absolutely do. They want a reaction. They want the gross-out factor. They want the uncomfortable factor. Refusing to show any reaction other than dudebro-style irritation and refusal to engage means they get off on it.

      (Please note that in general not all lesbians are transphobic and find all non-cis-women genitalia gross.)

  26. Did anyone else take the beginning of the letter way too literally, and then expect to read about a guy giving his penis a persona? Like, “my dick thinks that…” or “my penis doesn’t like it when…”? Like a character… or something… Or is it just me and I need more sleep? 🙂

    1. I TOTALLY thought that’s where this letter was gonna go! I am a bit disappointed, honestly. Really wanted some details on living with the phallic Bob Dole.

  27. “I’m to gay for this nonsense” and/or “This is too straight for me” have been good conversation stoppers/ changers for me in long conversations about/with insufferable men and their penises. I am also an advocate for more elsewhere with elseone as soon as you can because this guy shouldn’t be anything more than maybe a causal work buddy and he is taking up way more emotional energy than he should.

  28. Saying this with great caution, as I’m not queer. But could you say (happily, joyously, humorously), “One of the great things about being a lesbian, is that I don’t need to give a **** about what guys’ dick’s think! Let’s talk about something we both care about + topic change”

    For what it’s worth, I think that maybe persistently shutting down a conversation whenever it becomes racist (or what-ever-ist) can be a form of gentle education. Effectively just modelling good behaviour and shutting down any positive reinforcement they might be getting to the bad behaviour. The person can eventually learn that they get no traction from you on that topic. It’s not as confronting as addressing the issue directly -but can be quite effective because of its gentleness – and by not provoking a reaction from them, it makes reduces the “need” for face-saving on the issue in later conversations. Also, gentleness is probably really needed in a situation where you need to continue living with them afterward.

  29. Is there any chance he would get a clue if you said, “Why do you think it’s okay to run women down in front of me, a woman?”

      1. EXACTLY. You can say that and then count down from 5 in your head. When you reach 0 you will hear: “but you’re one of the GOOD ones!”

      2. Suggestion revision:

        “Why do you think I, a woman, would enjoy listening to you talking shit about women?”

        Or even just:

        “I’m not going to sit here listening to you talking shit about women.”

        On reflection, it’s probably best not to use question rhetoric with dudebros like that. It won’t shame them, and it won’t inspire them to self-reflection. Most of the time all they hear is that the woman wants to know what the dudebro thinks. Which, to their way of thinking, is right and proper: a dudebro’s thoughts are always the most important thing in the room. And it seems like the whole problem with LW’s dudebro roomate is, he has an inflated idea of how important his thoughts are. A response that disabuses him of that notion, even a little bit, is probably better than a response that supports it.

        1. Yep! Rhetorical questions are collaborative, meaning the person asking is hoping the recipient will be moved to think the same thing as the asker. They are part of a back-and-forth. That is not what the LW wants. The LW needs to put a big ol’ period at the end of every sentence, possibly while physically leaving the space to ensure roommate doesn’t get any opening to blather.

  30. LW, if this guy is otherwise okay when he’s not going on about how certain types of women make his winkie feel sad (and I’m assuming he doesn’t literally talk about his dick, just his preferences), it’s probably worth telling him one time how his carry-on is affecting your friendship.

    E.g. “Guy, women don’t like listening to men running other women down. Okay? I don’t know, maybe you think because I’m a lesbian I’m basically a guy and I’m gonna commiserate with you, but I’m not. You sound like a jerk and I’m losing a lot of respect for you. Take your woe to Doctor Nerdlove. No, don’t answer me – I want you to think about it.”

  31. I think this calls for a very bored tone and forceful language.
    “Look, I’m tired of listening to all this dominance bullshit. Want to watch a movie?”
    “Ugh, if you need to talk about your penis, go find someone who cares about them. I’m done. Going to grab a beer.”
    “Let me cut you off there. I don’t fucking care. What are your thoughts on low sodium crackers?”

    You don’t have to educate at all, but you also can just be bored, rude and basically ignore the conversations you want.

  32. No idea whether it would work, but I’d probably get really sarcastically melodramatic. “Oh no! Black women make your boner sad! How devastating for them! How will they ever recover from this (swooning)… cruel (wobbling)… blow?!” Then keel over and lie there with your tongue sticking out. If he keeps talking, crack one eye and mutter from the side of your mouth, “Take the hint, man!

    1. I agree nobody needs this one particular guy’s attention, and certainly Black women don’t need the attention of a racist guy, but I am wondering if your suggestion would also imply that it doesn’t matter at all what he thinks of Black women ie kind of excusing the racism in a way. That’s how it might come across to me if I heard this irl, other people’s mileage may vary. 🙂

  33. I wouldn’t say “I’m not up to talking about it TODAY” because the truth is you don’t want to talk about it ever. I’d say, “I’m starting to feel less and less comfortable talking about relationships and sex with you. We work together, we live together, and I feel like there are some spheres that I’d like to be more separate. Can you talk to a guy friend about this stuff? I just want to be your trashytv/whineaboutwork friend. That’s where I shine.”

  34. Late to the party, but some things that struck me while reading through the letter and comments:

    – Your specific request from the letter seemed to be ‘how do I shut down his moaning/strategizing about Ex’. Possible script:
    ‘I don’t get involved other people’s relationships. It never ends well.’
    ThatGuy: But she –
    ‘I don’t get involved other people’s relationships. It never ends well.’
    ThatGuy: But if you could befriend her and –
    ‘I don’t get involved other people’s relationships. It never ends well.’

    Ad nauseum.

    A similar broken record might work when he starts ‘dating’ again and pontificates about that.

    ‘I don’t want to talk about relationships with you.’
    But why?
    ‘I don’t want to talk about relationships with you.’
    That’s not answering my question.
    ‘I don’t want to talk about relationships with you.’
    Why do you keep repeating that?
    ‘I don’t want to talk about relationships with you.’
    But I have Things To Say About These Kinds Of Women!
    ‘I don’t want to talk about relationships with you.’

    (Substitute ‘this’ for ‘relationships’ if his blathering is more about politics or society, etc.)

    As little alteration in tone, phrasing and expression as you can muster. Grey-rocking can be your friend.


    Regarding the living situation: the Captain has answered many letters in the past from young people and others stuck living in a toxic home environment for financial/etc reasons. Common themes suggested to such LWs:

    – Spend as much time Not There as possible; cultivate friendships with people who don’t suck. Sounds like you’re already doing this (not being in the apartment on weekends, etc).

    – Take whatever measures you need to to insulate your physical and mental health from this guy. Don’t give him personal information he can later use against you, don’t friend him on social media, keep important documents out of his reach, etc.

    – As he’s also a co-worker, insulate yourself professionally. Don’t work on projects with him if you can help it, don’t confide in him about problems, keep documentation of your work-related interactions with him. Keep your resume in shape and your ear to the ground for other opportunities; hopefully leaving a job over him is a step you won’t ever have to take, but it might be reassuring to know you have options if he ever makes the situation untenable.

    – Build a Fuck-It Fund.


    And regarding the friendship – this: “I want him to shhh and move along to things like bitching about work and eating wings and being snobby about beer and watching trashy tv.”

    Is a fine and sensible thing to want. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can have it. Setting aside the deeply problematic things he likes to discuss, ‘Friend wants our relationship to be about X while I want it to be about Y’ is not a demand that can always be enforced. You can try making those conversations boring for him (see grey-rocking above), or you can try more aggressive shutdowns (lot of good suggestions in the comments), and see if he eventually fills in the vacuum with the kind of interactions you *want* to have, but that’s about it.

  35. Am I confused or has LW basically stated that her roommate has revealed himself to be appalling and offensive and she’s looking for advice on how to get him to pretend be the person she thought he was – at least in her company?

    He has shown you who is actually is – and you’re telling us why that’s not a person you want to drink beer with and binge watch TV with. Please come to terms with the idea that you don’t actually like this guy well enough to share living quarters with him.

    Make other living arrangements as soon as possible. I realize that for many reasons this may not be immediately achievable but this will not work out long term. Maybe he’s tolerable in small doses as an aquaintance or co-worker but he’s not roommate material for you.

    1. Yeah, the more I think about it the more I realise this isn’t one little thing, it’s an integral part of his personality. LW, unless this guy has a road to Damascus awakening or swears off all women forever, he’s going to keep treating you to his Very Important Opinions About Women. Do you really wanna put up with that? I’d be looking for a new place and maybe a white dudebro to take over your spot on the lease.

    2. This. Why live with someone who makes you so uncomfortable and seems to enjoy doing so?

    3. As the LW has stated she cannot currently move, I want to add that while continuing living with this man and being civil but not friendly and not sharing beers and TV time and stuff may be shit, it is better than making nice with a racist just to keep him as a friend. (Obligatory disclaimer: this is different than making nice with a racist to avoid being hurt.)

  36. Captain, I’m sorry but I think the part about him sexting ‘BBBW’ was a bit glossed over in your response. I could understand it if he was sexting white women, or it wasn’t specified. But what are the odds that this clear racist, black woman fetishising, fat woman fetishising man is only sexting consensually with black women who are professional Dommes and that he is paying for their services? No. This is very likely sexual harassment.

    I understand that the sexting is not necessarily what he’s going to talk about after the business trip, but the LW knows about it. I think she should not only shut down EVERYTHING he says to do with dominance in relation to black women with a cold ‘thats racist, I have to go to my room bye’, she may want to reconsider quiet friendly TV time with this man or similar. To be frank, he sounds dangerous to black women, and I don’t see this as very different from the ‘my friend hits women’ letter or from sending a dick pick (which we don’t know he is doing but I sure don’t think we can rule it out).

    I know the LW is a lesbian and should not have to council this man through his sexism. But.. I’m a white bi woman, and I have seen a disturbing number of accounts online from black women about getting messages from white WLW/NB people that say things related to wanting the black woman to violently dominate them. They see a black woman existing online and SOMEHOW assume she will be ok with this. The dominance and black people fetish is A Thing and not just white men do it.

    Please, LW, reconsider a cordial friendship with this man. I’m not saying you should do anything to put yourself in danger, and no one is saying you should be sitting this man down for lectures on social justice and institutional power dynamics because it won’t work. The cold shut down and avoid as far as possible is the best method. Do you really want a friend like this?

    1. Thanks, I didn’t initially view this in terms of unsolicited harassment (though, yep, depressingly common and gross) but more like him interacting with someone he met on a dating site.

      It can always get more gross and more creepy, can’t it.

      1. It was the term ‘BBBW’ itself that made me think this. That’s a porn genre. It’s definitly not a term you should be using as a descriptor for a person, because doing so reduces the facts of their existance (fat, black, and woman) into something to be sexually consumed. I’m giving the LW the benefit of the doubt about her use of the term because it was in quotes, so I’m guessing it was something the roommate said and she’s just quoting it. But honestly, I STILL would not have used this term, even to quote, if I was the LW telling the story, I would just described his actions. BBBW is such an ugly, ugly term to refer to someone.

        The use of the porn term is another reason why in this comment and my other one about this I keep mentioning the possibility that he’s messaging sex workers who cater to his fetish. That is literally the only context where the roommate’s behaviour would be ok, and even then as I have said the chances of him being a respectful client given his racism are about 0.01%.

  37. It might help to take the subject out of the discussion altogether, even though it’s his penis. Treat it like any other subject you are bored by, and that will deny him the extra emotional charge of upsetting you, if that is his ulterior motive.

    If there’s persistence: “You seem really determined to force me to listen to you talk about your penis and I have already told you I am not interested. What will it take to get you to understand that I’m not joking about this, and that you need to find someone else to talk to about your dick? I am not the one. I will never, ever be the one. Move on.”

Comments are closed.