Today our Love and Relationships contributing writer Pooks is back! Can you relate to the current dating scene or relationship situations? If so, comment below and let her know. XoCandace
I started writing this post over a month ago in the middle of all the swirl around this country’s newest supreme court justice. At the time, it was a no brainer to write a post about how to identify predatory behavior you may encounter while dating. But before we get into it, there’s one brief piece of dating advice I’d like to give you, which is this:
With November upon us, I wanted to give you guys an AWESOME date idea if you have one on the calendar for this Tuesday, November 6th: VOTE.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to it. To be honest, I’ve really struggled with writing this post. In fact, I have kind of been avoiding it over the last few weeks. It has felt like such a draining topic about which to think, let alone write. I’ve had a lot of self doubt - will it be helpful? Will people think I’m stupid? For the first time since I started writing for YBC®, I’m feeling pretty nervous about the reactions to this post… But enough of my kvetching and lets get on with it, shall we?
I’ve met some good dudes during my online dating journey.
THERE, I SAID IT.
Good people and good connections exist. They’re out there. It’s possible.
YEAH I SAID THAT TOO. OKAY?!
I have to believe there is more good than bad in the world. Your search for your shit-blocking unicorn will bring you face-to-face with the good, the bad, and the ugly. While my hope is that you come in contact with the GOOD more frequently than the BAD, I’m here to give you some advice on how to recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing… just in case. Ready?? GO!
I am glad to report that I haven’t gone out on a date with anyone that was an asshole up front. In fact, most of the guys I’ve planned dates with (that either happened or ultimately didn’t materialize) have seemed super nice upon first impression. But nice doesn’t always mean honest. Or respectful. Or someone that will treat you with care, even as two strangers getting to know one another. Nice doesn’t mean any of these things and neither does a good education, professional accomplishments, a handsome face, a sharp sense of humor, or anything else that might make you think someone is a good fit.
This summer, I went on a date with a guy who initially seemed like a total catch. He was handsome, smart, very accomplished professionally (had just left a rather prestigious job with the US government for a consulting gig), witty, well-traveled, and flirty. I mean, he was literally a former spy (I swear I’m not bullshitting with this one, take my word for it). His Bumble profile detailed the importance of guacamole in his life, and a curiosity for what your favorite Disney song was. He even CALLED me to chat on the PHONE before we met up (who says romance is dead?!). Our date was at a well-patronized and well-lit restaurant/bar in a trendy Boston neighborhood. We were in public the entire time.
I left the date with bruises on my legs.
Looking back, I feel pretty lucky that bruises were all I got. Though I had trouble doing so in the moment, I can now see the entire picture of who this man is with great clarity. He is a man that that will reel you in with a lot of effort and charm up front. Once he has you hooked, the next phase will begin. For me, it was him showing up to our date and casually mentioning that he had been drinking. I know this to be his way of managing my expectations that he couldn’t be held accountable for his actions, and conditioning me for the inappropriate behavior that followed. Within minutes of sitting down, he was asking to hold my hand and to kiss me, which he qualified by saying affection was very important to him. Now don’t get me wrong, I love affection and am quite comfortable with PDA, but COME ON DUDE, I JUST MET YOU 3 MINUTES AGO. He spoke passionately and extensively about how appalled he was to learn about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, as he moved his hands up my leg without my consent. When I took his hand and moved it to a place with which I was more comfortable, he backed off initially and then pushed my limits again after a few more minutes. This time, I was verbally direct about the fact that his behavior was making me uncomfortable. And then, shortly after that, he squeezed my legs so hard that he bruised me.
I told him he was hurting me and to stop touching me like that. He then spent several minutes trying to derail me and the boundary I was setting by attempting to run semantic circles around me while I continued to explain that he needed to cut it out. The date continued on in this manner for longer than it probably should have (please go gentle on me here, I am feeling some shame for not ditching earlier than I did, which in itself is not straightforward and would totally derail this blog post… but I digress). The next morning, I reported this man to Bumble:
Predatory behavior exists on a spectrum, both in severity and the nature of the predation. Luckily for me, the Spy Who Bruised Me is the worst I’ve come across in my dating journey so far, but I know there’s both much more egregious and also more nuanced predatory behavior that one could experience.
It goes without saying that teaching people dating etiquette, and in some cases, how to simply respect people as human beings on a most basic level, is very important. In the meantime, however, it’s also worth considering how we can stay safe and avoid finding ourselves in a sticky situation with a potential or current date. So, in that spirit, I wanted to write about some patterns I’ve noticed that were correlative with predatory behavior. I hope you find them useful. Keep your wits about you if:
There’s very little conversation before they ask for a date
The Spy Who Bruised Me and I went from matching on Bumble to an in-person date in 24 hours. In some cases, this may be okay. But in this case, not so much. Consider why the person in question is so eager to meet you that they don’t even want to get to know you a little bit first - it could be because they don’t actually care to do so. Ever.
They try to meet you in a secluded/private place
While the Spy Who Bruised Me didn’t exactly try to do this to me, other dates have. “Oh, my parents have a house on a lake! We should go. It’s so beautiful, nestled into the forest right next to this conveniently placed shovel and a giant hole I’ve dug in the ground….” Okay so maybe I made the second half of that up, but humor me. It’s safe to say that with those people, things never progressed beyond texting.
They push physical contact very early on
Keep this one at the forefront of your mind, especially if your date does this without any indication, whether verbal or nonverbal (YES NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION IS IMPORTANT, PEOPLE!), that you’re interested in physical touch/affection.
The Spy Who Bruised Me was basically a poster child for this move - veiling his predatory ways with all sorts of flowery bullshit about how physical affection is one of his “love languages”. While there is certainly merit to the love languages framework, if the principle is being used to manipulate someone it becomes just that - FLOWERY BULLSHIT.
If they don’t respect boundaries.
This one is important, and can manifest itself in countless ways - whether emotional or physical (see above, #3). One way I have repeatedly experienced this is with dates that know (and acknowledge!) that I am not just looking for sex, but have tried to take me home without hesitation on the first date.
There was one guy I had an AWESOME date with, but at the end of the night he repeatedly tried to come back to my apartment with me (despite my clearly saying “no” several times), insisting he would “sleep on the couch.” NOPE, BYE. And another one, who made a great first impression until he, in spite of my polite but direct decline of his invitation, kept trying to get me to go “see the gym” at his new condo at 1:00 A.M FOR SHIT’S SAKE. BISH I DON’T NEED YOUR GYM, FAREWELL. (Side note, saw him in Whole Foods a couple of weeks later when I was looking like an absolute SNACK until, that is, I slipped on some water and almost ate shit in the floral department right in front of his face).
At face value, these anecdotes may seem like more of an annoyance than anything, but one valuable piece of context is that I had made it abundantly clear on my dating profile that I was NOT looking for a hookup (#shitblockingunicorn). I even included a call-and-response in my bio so when I started chatting with a match I could tell if they had read my profile or not. BOTH of these men answered my call-and-response, AND acknowledged explicitly that they both understood I wasn’t just looking for a hookup, nor were THEY only looking for sex. And yet, BOTH of these men tried to put me in a position I wasn’t ready for or interested in.
Here’s the thing - all these dates had something in common: they seemed like nice guys up front. They seemed like sheep. They were dudes I was really enjoying my time with…. until I wasn’t. Now, I can’t know what these men would have done if I hadn’t pushed back, or said “no”. Perhaps nothing more than they had already done - because they HAD done something, to be clear. What I do know, however, is that they understood that I wasn’t on Bumble looking for sex. What I do know, is that despite saying “no” they either tried to come home with me, or take me home. What I do know, is that they tried to manipulate me. What I do know, is that they made physical contact with me before I showed them I was ready. What I do know, is that they touched me in a way with which I wasn’t comfortable, despite my saying so. What I do know, is that they hurt me. What I do know is that they didn’t turn out to be so nice after all. They weren’t sheep, they were wolves.
My point is this: Date with your eyes wide open. Don’t be blinded by a dazzling smile, a flashy career, or a great sense of humor when the rest doesn’t line up. Pay attention to ALL the information someone is giving you from the get go. If you’re not sure you can trust what you’re seeing, trust your gut instead. Like I said, good people are out there. Go find them, my loves! And please, stay safe while you do.
Have you had something similar happen? Or noticed patterns of behavior that seemed to be correlative to predatory behavior? Hit up my inbox or leave a comment below, I want to hear about your experience. Maybe together, we can all help keep each other safe out in the shit swamp :)
Until next time, YBCers®!
(the blogger formerly know as Pooks)