I Do Not Have A Boyfriend

A few days ago I was standing outside at the bus stop minding my own business when a man approached me.“Sorry to bother you, but I was walking by and noticed you are very beautiful. I was wondering if you happen to have a boyfriend,” he asked. “Yea, I do, actually. Sorry,” I replied as I boarded the bus that conveniently arrived just as I’d finished replying to my suitor.

I felt annoyed. I didn’t want to be bothered at the bus stop. I didn’t want to have to strategize how to handle myself in an awkward and intrusive social encounter. But I did have to, and I handled the situation poorly, at best.

In the Luna Luna article, “Stop Saying ‘I Have a Boyfriend’,” Alecia Eberhardt discusses the negative social implications of using this excuse when attempting to dismiss unwanted attention, whether the advances are intrusive or not. She shares the quote:

 “Male privilege is ‘I have a boyfriend’ being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest.”

 As women, we all know that a quick and easy way to get rid of unwanted attention is to tell the pursuing subject that we have a boyfriend. It is efficient, well received, and it spares him his feelings. Not to mention, it works. This method also bolsters the particular nuance of male privilege that Alecia sites in her article, and validates a generation of men who are ill prepared to deal with rejection in an appropriate manner.

Over Labor Day weekend, I was in a crowded bar in East Lansing, Michigan when a group of men came up to my friend and me. They sat right down in our booth with us, invaded our personal and intellectual space, and demanded our attention; with no regard for the fact that we were engrossed in a deep conversation with each other. As an individual, I do not appreciate it when either men or women impose their presence upon me when I am engaged in an intimate situation with a friend. I find it tactless and disrespectful, and on this particular night, I wore my feelings of annoyance and disgust right on my sleeve.

One of these men was clearly very attractive and had been receiving a lot of female attention all night long. He started sitting closer to me, so I moved away. He started touching my face and my arms even though it was clear I did not give him permission to touch me. When I rejected his advances, he described me as the, “human equivalent to NyQuill.” I was verbally insulted and physically invaded and yes, my feelings were hurt, and yes, I probably could have brought the situation to an end much sooner if I had told this gentleman that I had a boyfriend.

But I didn’t. And later that evening, as my friend and I were walking to a new location, we ran into these men in a dark, deserted part of the street. Still enraged by having been rejected, he yelled out, calling me “that boring whore” as he grabbed onto his crotch and advanced toward us. I was scared and I felt threatened, but thankfully his male counterpart pulled him away, and we were safe.

This response to female rejection is way too common in our society, and is much more violent, and much more devastating in other parts of the world. There are over 1,000 acid attacks each year in India, and it is estimated that 80% of these attacks are driven by a man’s response to the rejection of a marriage proposal.

It cannot be ignored or denied that the “I have a boyfriend excuse” is often driven by fear: fear of a violent or aggressive response, fear of awkwardness, or fear of hurting someone’s feelings. And while these fears are certainly valid, we can no longer leverage this tactic. We must take the hard way out.

We must also recognize that when a man approaches us and leads with, “Do you have a boyfriend?” he is not, in fact, doing so out of respect. To respect a person of the opposite sex when attempting to make advances, an individual must view his or her person of interest as an autonomous, gender/orientation-defying individual. THAT is respect.

It is no longer effective to let our pursuers down easy or to leverage the “boyfriend” excuse to get out of an unwanted situation quickly. By doing so, we are perpetuating an inequitably gender-normed society that caters to male-privilege as well as pervasive ineptitude when handling rejection. Instead, we must be FIRM and HONEST. We have to stand our ground and send a message that it is perfectly okay, normal and respectable to simply be uninterested.

So no, man at the bus stop. I do not have a boyfriend, but I am also not interested.


8 thoughts

  1. Ugh. The fact that our culture has effectively conditioned women to respond almost in a Pavlovian manner to the normalized predatory behavior of its male members by teaching females that the social burden is on THEM to deflect and defuse routine instances of flagrant harassment is a fucking atrocity. I say fuck it. From here on out, I propose that as women we take matters into our own hands to combat this right now by taking a pledge: Every single time we witness or experience a situation mirroring what you described, we respond in kind by opening our mouths and spewing out the worst shit that pops into our brains in the direction of the perpetrator of the situation and (perhaps most importantly) to the discomfort of everyone within the immediate social proximity. Maybe collective exposure to that type of behavior will wake our society the fuck up to what it forces half its members to endure in silence on a regular basis.

  2. Can I still say, “I have a girlfriend” when women come on to me? I think men say it to women, and therefore think it’s OK to ask/say to women. It also works on women BTW, but I’ve never thought about it from a gender standpoint.

      1. I am being honest though, I do have a girlfriend lol. Also, 9 times out of 10 I’d probably say “yes” to the girl approaching me if I didn’t have a girlfriend. That’s possibly yet another reason why this approach doesn’t translate well to women, who are usually more selective with who they’re potentially willing to hook up with. Hmmmm the plot thickens. This could be why men assume that if not but for this ONE obstacle you’d be THRILLED to hang out with them. I shall ponder this further.

    1. I think it is fine you say you have a girlfriend and I think it is ok for man to ask a woman if she has a boyfriend. Someday she might wish someone would ask! lol The point being it is better to be kind to someone, it proves nothing by playing the “I am woman hear me roar, I am too big to ignore card.” always think about what someone else it going through. that person may be one suicide attempt away from another reject and by said ” Yes, I do have a boyfriend or a girlfriend doesn’t leave anyone feeling rejected. As for the man in the bar,she could have said she was waiting for someone and pretend to wave to someone coming in the door. Why put yourself in danger to prove a point? Alcohol doesn’t mix well with reject. Kindness goes along way. That dunk in the bar,she was annoyed with might end up being the person giving her a job interview someday! lol or she might have to interview him. You never know.

  3. Sad to see the comments. I think the article is a super profound point of view on a very uncomfortable, common scenario. And I think that it’s a lot more complex because there are a lot of different situations in which layers of these dynamics are outplayed in a variety of ways.

    I will say that in D.C. where I live, we don’t have good social behavior between men and women. Men are culturally encouraged to be rude and vulgar to women in public. We’re a city of single people, clubbers and party drunks, college students, and very tight, short skirts. And this is fuel to the fire of the vulgarity of men. It’s everywhere and constant. The rules of dating are super distorted by these hundreds and hundreds of disrespectful men who absolutely drown out good conduct. The vulgar men are in majority here. In an ideal bar scene, a nice guy would come over and ask if he can buy you a drink and you would say, “no thanks.” In this, his self-esteem should still be in tact. But this is the most infrequent type of interaction I have with men in the dating scene. I often don’t get the opportunity to politely say “no thanks” because the approach is so disgusting and invasive that there was never anything to say thank you to.

    What ends up happening is that as a woman, you feel an almost sadistic pleasure from saying “fuck off” because they so clearly warrant not only rejection, but a sense of “you are the last person I would ever have sex with EVER, you gross, perverted, clearly sexist loser.”

    HOWEVER, I think that this is a very odd quirk of the male gender, the male mind. It’s, perhaps, a self-destructiveness, a need to almost CAUSE rejection on their own terms and even tell themselves that they didn’t want that hot chick anyway because she’s such a bitch… not understanding that they provoked her in the first place. As if they’re in constant sabotage of their own communication from the getgo.

    In D.C., the method men use of hitting on women is ridiculous to a point of absurdity. You look at it objectively and you know that it either clearly was designed to never work or SHOULDN’T work because the women it works on have clear psychological issues.

    This type of cocky, drunk, boyish behavior is then no longer “approaching a woman to get a date” but just purely 100% harassment. It isn’t intended to be the first step in a healthy, respectful relationship. I see this EVERY DAY, that men ESPECIALLY with the excuse of alcohol, have only one aim — to be obnoxious, disrespectful, and harassing towards women they probably feel attracted to.

    I actually think that it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of men being rude to women, women rejecting men harshly OR possibly degrading themselves to flirt in response, and men feeling justified in being rude to women again or degrading them again because of this unhealthy interaction between genders — especially drunk genders — in the bar scene.

    Many men are decent human beings and polite to strangers. Many men want genuine relationships. But the masculine American culture as a whole is atrocious. It encourages drunk men to have and believe that there’s nothing wrong with this hideous behavior towards women. And then it no longer happens only when they’re drunk, it happen regularly.

    For the sake of the male gender, it should stop. Not for the sake of the female gender — it’s the men who really suffer from their own inner unhealthiness towards other human beings.

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