When I was younger, I had close to zero personal boundaries with guys and struggled with saying no. Maybe I was just excusing their behavior so I didn’t have to go out of my comfort zone and stand up for myself, or maybe I was conditioned by society to accept their manipulative ways. Either way, looking back, I can’t believe I let guys do these things to me regularly:
Insult me to my face or behind my back When a guy said that I was ugly, dumb, or anything else, I usually just laughed it off as if I was somehow in on the joke even though it really hurt. For some reason, I believed it would be empowering just to put on a smile, ignore them, and continue being friends. However, by never giving them a piece of my mind, they got the false message that being a jerk was totally fine.
Pick me up, pin me down, and other physical displays of male dominance I’m a petite woman and therefore an easy target for guys that wanted to feel strong and manly. Approaching me from behind to pick me up, pulling me onto his lap, or pinning me down onto the ground are just a few circus tricks I thought were OK from male “friends.”
Laugh at my expense There are these funny things that happen in life called mistakes. We all make them, but what I didn’t know until I was older was that it’s highly inappropriate to make a joke out of someone just for making one because this is exactly what my guy friends and boyfriends often did to me when my mishap made me feel terrible enough on its own.
Scare me so that I jump It was like I had paid to walk through a house of horrors, nervously tiptoe around, and anticipate when the next zombie would pop out at me. Actually no, it was my own apartment, and a male friend thought it was funny to see the fear in my eyes that he felt responsible for. How sick is that?
Call me by insulting pet names Now we’re getting into more subtle expressions of abuse. I’ve had more than one boyfriend that insisted on calling me by a name that was insulting, particularly about my body, in an endearing and sweet tone of voice. As if I was supposed to get the warm fuzzies by being called “bubble butt” instead of “my love.”
Tell me that my feelings or actions were wrong At the time I had no idea there was an actual term for this called “gaslighting,” and that it was a manipulative tool to gain power over another in a relationship. Whenever something I did made a boyfriend uncomfortable, he insisted that I was wrong and that he was right, but that he would always be there for me anyway. Thankfully, I finally got the nerve to tell him I didn’t want him there for me ever again.
Have his way with me even when I said no Sometimes I wasn’t in the mood and other times I was just exhausted. For whatever reason, there were times I didn’t agree to have sex with a guy and he would keep insisting until the whole ordeal got so exhausting that I finally mumbled an OK just to be done with it. At the time I didn’t know that this wasn’t really my consent and nowadays could be categorized as rape.
Have his way with me when I wasn’t his girlfriend Tragically, I used to have such low self-worth that I thought it was perfectly acceptable to sleep with a guy even though it was clear that he didn’t want me to be his girlfriend and never had any intention of that happening. I used to think it was prudish to insist on such a visible sign of respect, but now I wonder if society has conditioned women to believe they aren’t worthy of love so just do it anyway.
Tell me how to live my life If a boyfriend wanted me to live my life on his terms, I believed it was a reasonable sacrifice for me, as a woman, to make. Don’t talk to that friend, don’t take that class, don’t become a vegetarian, and don’t go out with the girls are just a few examples when I doubted my wisdom and intuition to make my own life choices, though there were more. I’m incredibly grateful that I have the self-love and confidence now to live life as I intend it and be in a loving partnership.
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