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Women Share Stories About Their Experiences With Innocent Behaviors That Men Misinterpret

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In a recent thread on Reddit, women were asked to list the innocent behaviors they’ve been accused of “leading men on” for doing. Because the world sucks and nothing good can be allowed to happen, women said that they’d been accused of leading men on for scandalous things like being someone’s friend, being interested in things, eating in public, or having long hair. Here are twenty-five of the best (or worst) stories.

The challenge: can you read the whole way through this list without getting depressed by the state of the world we live in?

1. “My 4 year old son is interested in everything. When we see someone doing a job, he asks me about it. I encourage him to ask the person doing it instead of me explaining while standing next to him/her. I want him to learn to ask people questions and not default to mom, when it’s appropriate of course. It is surprising the number of men who seem to think me encouraging my son to ask them a question (e.g. What is that tool called? Why is it loud?) is my way of flirting. No, I want to teach my child…” (kmtandon)

2. “I’ve stopped rollerblading anywhere. For some reason, a girl rollerblading is some kind of crazy fantasy for a guy, and whenever I’d go rollerblading (especially in a dress) I’d get like minimum 3 comments from guys who wanted to do me. I don’t know why they’d risk antagonizing someone with enough velocity to knock them over, but that’s their funeral, I guess?” (deleted)

3. “I don’t let on to any guys I just met that I’m into gaming, especially if I know they’re gamers too. There’s still this stereotype floating around the gaming community that women who game are a rarity or they’re not really a gamer, just someone trying to get male attention. So if I bring up gaming early on I usually get one of two responses: either the guy keeps hitting on me relentlessly or I get the Gaming Pop Quiz. Any woman who plays games knows exactly what the Gaming Pop Quiz is.” (Aelle1209)

4. “Being too enthusiastic in conversation. At a mate’s dad’s wedding I went to, I was sat next to a pilot over twice my age and we started chatting, and I like learning things and I like planes, so I was quite enthusiastically asking about flying, planes and whatnot. Dude starts pulling up articles on his phone about foods that cause longer erections and shit (apparently popcorn does, there ya go) and making unsubtle suggestions and I just wanted to talk about planes.” (cardiovascularsystem)

4 popkey

5. “Showing any kind of concern for a guy. Like if you have a guy friend that looks sad and you try to be a good friend and comfort them that’s seen as flirting somehow. Do men not understand how friendship works?” (waytobookish)

5Emily Pollock

6. “I’ve found if a guy messages me and I send back so much as a polite ‘hello,’ that guy will never leave me alone. Every couple months he’ll pop up trying to start a conversation, usually being rude or lewd, long after I’ve stopped messaging him. Last time it happened the guy had been trying this for a while and right now I’m 7 months pregnant and in a serious relationship and I just went off on him. It’s so sad that it has to come to that. And I know it’s just a few delusional, ridiculous guys that do this but Jesus…what on Earth makes them think this behavior is ever going to get them anywhere?” (DiscoLemonade0107)

7. “Coworker saw me pushing the cart to my car, offered to help, I tried to politely decline but he insisted. Then he asked me where my favorite bar was but I don’t go to bars. His reply was a very serious, “Well, then where are we going on our date?” Not only did he never actually ask me out, but I’m married and he has met my husband at a number of functions.” (alitathehun)

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8. “Responding to strangers who talk to me on the street. Now I always have headphones in and don’t ever respond. For example, one time a guy said good evening to me while I was standing outside a store, so I said the same greeting back. He then started talking about how the women’s bike he had was great because it left so much room for his … well, you know, to hang down. I was standing outside the store waiting for my boyfriend, watching our bikes, and I couldn’t really leave because my boyfriend was the only one with keys to the apartment.” (catalit)

9. “There was that time when I was eleven and I started needing a training bra and my teacher gave me a weird talk about keeping bra straps hidden at all times, otherwise it was suggestive? I didn’t even know how to properly adjust the straps so they wouldn’t slide and I really didn’t need Mr. N’s bra strap advice as an impressionable eleven-year-old.” (ZePistachio)

10. “I’m a southern girl. I call everyone sweetheart, love, darling and hun. And I mean everyone. Even if I hate you, it’s “oh, bless your heart darling.”
But I’ve learned that with my male friends, I have to be very careful. As a lesbian, they tend to think that if I call them hun … that it must mean that they have the magical powers to turn me straight. But I mean, it’s hard. I don’t even remember half of my friend’s names sometimes because I am used to calling them terms of endearment.” (myhaikudream)

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11. “I can’t eat bananas in public anymore. Or, if I do, I have to chop them up into little pieces so I can eat them without men thinking it’s suggestive. And popsicles! I mean, they’re delicious, but at what cost?” (hewwo)

12. “Eating ice cream/anything with a spoon, bending over/getting on my knees to pick something up, making eye contact/not making eye contact, showing a positive emotion, asking a question, responding to a question, telling them I dislike them, reaching for something taller than my head.” (juniusgirl)

13. “I try to be more careful when I zone out and stare into the distance, consumed by thoughts because if there’s a guy in my line of sight it has happened that they came over to me because they caught me “staring at them.” Also when I’m thinking of something funny and just laughing by myself and someone comes over “hey I saw you smiling at me” and… no?” (fadcat)

14. “Sharing relatable dating experiences with my male coworkers. Somehow, despite serious age differences and the fact that one of them was married, they have all decided that, because I’ve been on dates, I was a sexually viable option for them. It broke my heart when the married man felt that way because I had up till that point considered him very father-like and had thought we had a very healthy working relationship and friendship. I don’t talk relationships or dating with male coworkers, ever.” (kinkyquark)

15. “The worst time was when I walked back to my car alone and in the dark. I’d been out that day and was wearing cute and kind of revealing clothes. A guy followed me from the train station to where I’d parked (about 10 minutes), and when I got in my car he started to yell at me for leading him on. We hadn’t spoken, but we’d made eye contact a couple of times on the hour-long train ride, which seemed to be enough for him. I didn’t think that the phrase “leading someone along” was so literal, but okay.” (darlinglark)

15 Emily Pollock

16. “I can’t accept any favor from a man. No rides. No coffees. I had a male friend rant on Facebook that women get so much “free” stuff: free drinks, free coffees, get out of tickets… I just replied, “it’s NEVER free”. Something’s always expected, whether it’s as small as a conversation or as invasive as sex. I don’t accept anything free from men after a few terrible experiences, it’s just not safe.” (betweensadmad)

17. “I’m a naturally smiley person and smile when I talk to people just to be friendly, but I have to be careful about it if I notice a guy taking it the wrong way. I had one coworker who took it way, way too far and I ended up having to show him a picture of my ex-boyfriend and me together and I had to buy a cheap ring to wear to get him to back off. All because I smiled when I talked.”(what_the_whatever)

17 Emily Pollock

18. “Spending any time alone with them in a social setting. I’ve been accused of leading two separate (former) male friends on by doing normal friend things with them that I’d do all the time with my female friends; I went to a movie with one and the pub with another. At no point did either one indicate in any way that this was a “date” or register any romantic interest in me and yet I ended up as the bad guy. From then on it’s been group socializing or nothing.” (BeeCDN)

18 Emily Pollock

19. “Mentioning that I have a girlfriend, weirdly enough. You know how saying you have a boyfriend is normally pretty good for making guys go away? Well, saying you have a girlfriend just leads to a bunch of gross questions and offers of “if you’re ever looking for a threesome, hit me up” (gag). Like what? Does this guy think I’ll go home and excitedly tell my gal pal, “Guess what? I met a guy at a bar, and, you won’t believe this, he wants to bang BOTH of us!! What a rare and exciting offer, we need to take him up on this!”‘ (strych91)

19 Emily Pollock

20. “Hugging. I don’t hug men fearing that they’ll get the wrong idea, and I don’t hug women because I’m afraid men will see it and think I’m “a hugger” and use it as an opportunity to show me unwanted affection.”(everymarble)

21. “Acknowledging that I recognized any of my male ‘regulars’ back when I worked at retail. Seems like good customer service, right? Yeah, that’s how I got stalked, followed home, and threatened verbally with rape when I explained that I’d only ever been professionally friendly. The cops dismissed the matter because it was he said/she said (Jake said I’d invited him over) and no damage had been done, my coworker/roommate cheerfully told them how friendly I’d been with Jake whenever he came into the store, and my employer refused to ban him.” (HatlyHats)

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22. “Making new guy friends. I have a lot in common with guys, but almost every guy I’ve befriended has asked me out at some point, and after I decline (as nicely as possible) they don’t want to be my friend anymore. So I’ve come to assume that guys don’t want girl friends. They want girlfriends. And so my boyfriend is basically my only friend. Being a pretty, boyish girl is a lonely life.” (stellex16)

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23. “I used to have long hair and then, one day, I cut it off. It was WILD realizing how many men saw long hair/any kind of femininity as a sign that I was interested specifically in them. Now, I just get guys yelling out of cars asking whether I’m a boy or a girl, which I honestly prefer!” (Avocado_Toast)

23 tenor

24. “Something I really hate is having to choose between looking cute or feeling safe. If I get dressed cute and do my hair and makeup there’s a 99% chance someone will harass me. If I dress like a slob I won’t really feel great and I won’t be happy but I will feel safe because I won’t get followed around Walmart by some guy mumbling “happy Valentine’s Day” to me a thousand times and then getting mad when I didn’t react gratefully to his harassment. It really sucks.”(tsim12345)

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