I’ve been recently really disturbed by some of my dating experiences here in Buenos Aires, and also by the way people react to and talk about them.
I’ve been on six first dates with different men since January (and some second and third dates with a few of them). One was American, one French, one Israeli, one Paraguayan, and two Argentine. I point this out because I believe this is not only a problem of ‘machismo’. (And even saying it’s a “problem of machismo” indicates, I think, some kind of excuse or pardon of that behavior). I’m only using OK Cupid to look for dates (no Bumble or Tinder), partly because I think OK Cupid users are more likely to be looking for something more than sex. Profiles on OKC are more extensive- there is more that users can write that then I can ask about, or they can ask about, etc. Most of the time, when I write to men, I refer to something in their profile, because it interested me. Some of the time, they do this too. More often, men just write ‘hey how are you’- in which case, I don’t often write back.
When we meet, I usually suggest either a drink at a bar or coffee and a walk. I think I have to change my pattern now to just/always coffee and a walk, because I guess meeting for a drink on a first date is sending an incorrect message.
I’ve had two first dates (with two different men) that went surprisingly sexual, abruptly, and not at my initiation or invitation. The first aggressively kissed me when I stood up to leave after our 90 minute conversation (aggressive meaning using teeth, tongue, etc.), and then grabbed my ass, told me he could tell I’d be ‘good’ at a particular sexual act, and complained when I said I needed to go home. Despite repeated negations on my part- no, I didn’t want to go to my place together, nor his, I needed to get up early, we’d only just met- he persisted. Eventually I got in a cab and left. He texted me a few days later and suggested we meet again, whereupon I said I would prefer not to and explained that things had escalated quite quickly and I wasn’t interested in that kind of relationship. He thanked me for the explanation. He’s texted me every 4-6 days since, often late at night, asking what I’m up to or whether I want to meet for a drink. I’ve never replied.
The second abruptly sexual situation was more recently. We met for some beers near my apartment (the first time I’ve done that, and maybe the last). We talked about traveling, work, culture, language, all topics I enjoy talking about. He was wearing cool pants. A couple of hours in, he leaned forward to kiss me, and I found myself in an abrupt make-out session in the middle of the bar. It wasn’t terrible, and not super aggressive, but surprising, sudden, and not altogether wanted. Immediately afterward, he suggested we go to my place. I said no, and he negated my negation:”Yes, we should.” I was again surprised- we had had a good conversation, he seemed like a smart guy- but this followed the pattern of that previous interaction. After I walked him to go get cash from a nearby ATM, the conversation was repeated: the suggestion of sex, and my saying no. Eventually I suggested where he could find a cab and walked home.
No, I didn’t push either of these men away physically. No, I didn’t say I considered their behavior offensive or that I would never see them again. At that moment, in both interactions, I was conscious of being out late at night, of being a single woman, of needing to get home. I don’t think I was in immediate physical danger, but I do believe that with that kind of gendered interaction, there is an implicit possibility of threat. I felt pressure to say yes. I checked in with myself- did I want to say yes? Nope. In both cases, I didn’t want to do anything physically intimate with someone I’d just met, and especially after they refused to listen to my denials.
Many would probably say I’ve been isolated and/or privileged to not really have had to deal with this before. True, but nor have I ever denied others’ similar experiences. This has brought the issue closer to home for me. It’s crazy to me that women have to think about where to meet for a date so they can walk home in peace and protect themselves. It’s crazy that women are taught to watch who pours their drinks and who is in contact with their drink at all times. It’s crazy that some men might only value women for sex. It is absurd that some men don’t hear “no” and persist in suggesting, wheedling, and pressuring a person they’ve just met to have sex. I get that sex is fun, and sex can be intimate and communicative and crazy and fascinating, but it is also dangerous, meaningful, intense, and not something I like to do with someone I’ve just met. And when I say ‘No’, I expect to be heard.