Did You Want to be My Friend Because You Thought I Would Sleep with You

This article contains discussion of sexual assault and rape that may be triggering for some readers.

 

"I am here today not because I want to be: I am terrified-"

-Christine Blasey Ford

Men and women. Males and females. Girls and boys. Boyfriends and Girlfriends. Lovers. Couples. Everyone. Friends?

If you’re a young woman at SMU, you’re probably familiar with the battlefield that is the dating world in college. It seems to feel like a game show where each question is a new guy or girl and the answer is always a quick “deal or no deal.” Traversing the world of dating while still trying to grasp who you are can be challenging, but traversing the world of platonic relationships can almost be even more so.

It wasn’t until recently, when I decided to be in a committed monogamous relationship, that I realized the severity of this issue. I’ve always valued having friends of the opposite sex, and friends of the gender I was attracted to, but I came to realize that establishing these relationships after high school was easier said than done. In high school we were still trying to figure ourselves out. We had curfews, were worried about making the soccer team and were busy trying to get someone to ask us to the prom. But now, we live in an environment where everyone seems to have it all figured out. They know what they want to do after college.  They know how many kids they want and, most importantly, they know that dating is easier than everyone makes it out to be… well, sort of. It’s like open season on college campuses for men and women alike, and sometimes we don’t realize the relationship we are destroying in the crossfire.

I am currently in a relationship. After I entered into this relationship I noticed a strange shift, specifically when interacting with other men. I would meet guys around campus or at a party and would run into this strange feeling of, “Wait, should I tell them I have a boyfriend?” I would immediately stop myself for multiple reasons. One, because I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Two, because I don’t want to appear like I’m getting the wrong idea of this guy’s attention with the classic, “Uhm, I’m sorry I have a boyfriend,” line. And three, because something in me is innately screaming that if I tell them they will want nothing to do with me, which seems harsh.  Fast-forward a few months from now when I’m hanging out with one of these guys and I bring up my boyfriend in passing and they say, “Whoa, I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.” Suddenly the entire vibe of friendship shifts, and what was once familiar becomes disjointed and irregular. All because of a false expectation that was built up in his head. The expectation that I wanted something more than friendship.

 

Image Via Tumblr

 

Expectations. We all have them. We want someone to send us flowers, to tell us we look nice, or even just to admire our obscure taste in Netflix shows. We want to be pursued, we want to be respected, we want to be loved. However, why does it seem that there is this strange misconception of romantic interest simply because we are members of the opposite sex? Nowadays we rarely encounter someone who just “wants to be friends.” Which brings me to the big question: “Did you want to be my friend because you thought I would sleep with you?”

It’s extreme, I know, but it holds some validity. It goes back to the discovery I made once I entered a relationship, which was that upon revealing that I was in a relationship the responses were either surprise, defensiveness or anger, as if I had done something wrong in providing them with a disclaimer of my own intentions. But why is this such an issue? Why are labels of dating and a potential romantic relationship immediately thrown into the discussion when an enjoyable conversation is had or a nice word is exchanged?

Expectation and the inability to communicate or see past the societal limitations given to us by gender norms.

This brings me to the bigger issue. There seems to be a communication barrier between men and women. What women believe to be common knowledge and what men believe to be the same are two completely different things. Like I previously mentioned, some girls believe they are just being friendly and some guys take that to mean potential for more. And listen, I’m not trying to demonize men, believe me I have met some incredible men who are some of my greatest friends. But, I have also met men who believe that if a girl is nice to them and interested in their well-being as a human, then that also means she’s insinuating a want for something else entirely. And I believe this strange misunderstanding between men and women has morphed into something much more problematic.

Image Via Tom Williams 

 

For instance, the recent Kavanaugh hearings, and the “Me Too” Movement have occurred within the last year and have started a phenomenon of sexual assault charges and claims. As a country, we were all shocked as women began to come out of the woodwork to “expose” men for crimes they had committed years ago, and the men accused seemed just as shocked. Regardless of your political standing, it’s clear to see there’s a giant gap of miscommunication. We have women who say they were assaulted and men who refuse to admit that it could have possibly happened. And in a strange turn of events, maybe they truly believe it didn’t. Maybe, men don’t believe they could have committed assault because their own expectations of what women want is completely skewed from what the actuality is. Now, are there men who have committed horrible crimes and known full well what they were doing? Yes! However, I am trying to separate and account for the allotment of men who seem to be oblivious of the fact they committed sexual assault.

As I said in regards to something as simple as dating and friendships, there is very little communication. She was nice to me, therefore she likes me. This way of thinking didn’t just begin here.  Think back to when you were in elementary school and of the boy who used to push you on the playground or pull your hair on the swing set. There was this idea that if a boy was “Mean” to you then that meant he liked you. A boy couldn’t be openly sweet or reveal his actual intentions.  No, the lines of communication had to be blurred so no one really knew what anyone was actually trying to say.

And here we are, in 2018, where men and women are still not entirely sure what the other is trying to say. And that is the issue. Men and women have been raised and programed to behave as such. Girls play with Barbies and wear make-up, and boys play football and wear t-shirts. Girls like pink, boys like blue. Women are nice and men think its flirting. Men are rude and women think it’s flirting. Women say no and men think they’re just nervous or uncomfortable. Men say no and women think there must be something wrong with them. When it comes down to it, it’s one big cluster of yes and no.

Like I said, not every man is unable to communicate or unwilling to listen, but some are. Some genuinely don’t see what is in front of them or the signs that are being presented to them.

Women who are reading this, communicate openly with the men in your life, whether they’re friends, family or a significant other. Men, if you’re reading this, don’t take it personally. When a woman tells you any of the following:

“I’m sorry I have a boyfriend.”

“You’re seriously one of my best friends.”

“I love you.”

“I would love to but I’m seeing someone.”

“Thanks for the offer but I’m busy.”

“I would love to be friends.”

“No.”

“No.”

“No.”  

Take it seriously. Don’t be offended, don’t be surprised, don’t let their honestly make you feel insecure. To the men reading this, let honesty and openness from any women be considered a privilege.

Allow women in your life the opportunity to be your friends. And don’t let the fear of the “Friend-zone” distract you from cultivating actual meaningful relationships.

Because despite popular opinion, accepting the reality is much better than pursuing the unattainable expectation.

“I’m here to tell you the truth.” – Christine Blasey Ford