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Talking About “The Bare Minimum”

TRIGGER WARNING: Mention of non-consensual encounters

“Oh my gosh – my friends were just talking about this!”

My friend Alex, a man, did not realize this concept is commonly referenced on TikTok and other social media. I had made a comment in front of him and several other male friends about what it means to be a woman who celebrates “the bare minimum.”

To clarify, “the bare minimum” is a term that Gen Z often uses when discussing how men act in relationships (typically in heterosexual ones). For example, if I were to say to a friend “I’m so happy that he asked for consent before touching me,” I would be celebrating the bare minimum, because everyone should ask for consent before touching someone. Other examples include texting back within a reasonable time span, respecting boundaries, and not calling me a bitch. It might sound crazy, but I’ve seen so many women celebrate these things as if they are some extraordinary feat. These acts should be the standard, not the exception.

Why is it that we’ve put men on such a high pedestal? When we reward men for the bare minimum, we show how we expect them to treat us. Speaking from experience, I celebrate when a man asks for my consent because not all of them do. On guard, I hope a man respects my boundaries while expecting that he may not do so. I expect this act of misconduct because I’ve experienced it, among countless other people whom I know and don’t know. Similarly, I cringe when I hear my friend’s boyfriend tell her “F*** you!” because she doesn’t realize that NO man should say that to their partner. Period.

Now, there certainly are men who I will refer to as “the good ones:” men whose first priority is respecting the safety, wellbeing, and boundaries of their partners. Men who ask for consent and don’t EVER coerce someone or make them uncomfortable. I wonder what it’s like from their perspective to see someone prepared for the worst in these encounters. What is it like to hear stories of misconduct, abuse, and misogyny, knowing that the perpetrators could be among their close friends?

I think it’s important that women know how to protect themselves in these situations. More necessary, though, is that men learn to protect them. Let’s stop rejoicing the bare minimum and start standing up for what we know we deserve: respect.

Hello! My name is Madalyn. I am a sophomore at DePauw studying Philosophy, Law, and Public Policy. I am an Honor Scholar and a pre-law student. I aspire to be a combination of Taylor Swift and Elle Woods. <3
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