Psst…hey guys…it almost ALWAYS starts with non-verbal communication…
Let me tell you a little story. A few years ago I decided to go on my dream trip and spend one glorious month in Italy. As I was going to be spending an entire month there, I decided to save some money on lodging by using Couchsurfing dot com (it’s like AirBnB, but free and, well…couches instead of guest rooms, generally).
I should have taken the severe lack of women using the website as a red flag, but hey, sometimes I can be dense.
There was one particular couchsurfing host in Rome who is the focus of this story. I don’t remember his name. What I do remember are his sexual advances that started all of 30 minutes after I arrived at his apartment. His first advance was a “sympathetic” kiss on the shoulder as he was walking by me (I was nursing an exorbitant amount of mosquito bites). I froze momentarily, and then told myself that it was just him being “Italian” and ignored it.
*****Right here. This was the non-verbal “no”, the fact that I ignored this advance. The fact that I did not reciprocate. The fact that I pretended it hadn’t even happened.*****
He then continued by telling me how beautiful I was multiple times, and then decided to move in for a kiss on the mouth. Mind you, I’d only met this man about 45 minutes prior. I, of course, dodged away and said “Whoa, I’m not kissing you.”
*****Guys, in case you’re unclear, THIS is where the sexual advances definitely should have stopped. I clearly stated that did not want to be sexual with him.*****
I decided to try to convince him to take me somewhere (public) and show me around, like he’d said he would. But he claimed it was still too early in the day, and therefore too hot. So I tried to steer the conversation to the most non-sexual things I could think of. We settled on the topic of music, but the whole time we were talking, he continued to leer at me with a creepy smile on his face.
When it was finally time to venture out, I made the mistake of mentioning how sore my legs were from walking around so much the past few days. He offered to give me a massage when we got back. I tactfully stated that I didn’t really like massages. He saw right through that and called me out, saying I just didn’t want him to touch me. LOL, you think?
Once we were out and walking around, the sexuality of the situation went down. I was actually starting to think that he was going to behave himself for the rest of the day. Except when it got late, and we decided to head back, he made this joke:
“I’m going to bite you when you’re sleeping tonight.”
This could have meant one of two things. Either he was making a joke about following the mosquitoes’ lead (seriously, I had about 25 bites after only 2 days in Italy), or he was flat out joking about sexually biting me. Either way, my response was “And if you do, I’m going to punch you.” Then I figured as long as we were talking about it, I might as well add the caveat, “And there won’t be any cuddling, either.” (I guess now is a good time to mention this: The couchsurfing website has a “shared bed” option for hosts who live in studio apartments and don’t have couches.) He pretended he didn’t know what cuddling was, so I had to “explain” it to him, and ended with the reiteration that that would NOT be happening.
*****Guys, here was my calm and matter-of-fact statement of zero sexual interest. In case that cue was somehow missed.*****
We got back to his place, and got ready for bed. I crammed myself as close to the wall as possible, and he took the outer edge of the bed. The good thing about Italian beds is that they’re extra wide. At a certain point, I thought he was drifting off to sleep, but then he lazily rolled over and put his arm around me. I immediately threw his arm off and said “NO!” He sleepily apologized and rolled back over. Sleep finally came for both of us.
We had agreed to wake up at 9 a.m., and at 9 on the dot, he woke me up. As I was laying there, trying to fully wake up, he rolled over and put his LEG around me. I turned, looked at him in disbelief and said “What are you doing? Go back to your side!” That’s right, I ordered him back to his side of his own bed.
It was at this point that I decided to look for my next host. I got my phone, sat at the foot of the bed and fired up the website. He sat at the head of the bed and stared at me. After about a minute, he said “You’re so beautiful.” I pretended he wasn’t even there. When he stood up, I thought he was going to head to the kitchen, but instead, he inserted his head between my face and my phone, Trying. To Kiss Me. Again.
*****THIS is when I finally lost it and started yelling at him. Do you guys see how long that took? Do you see how many chances I gave him to be a decent human being before I had to become a “bitch” about it?*****
I started yelling “I am not your girlfriend!”, “I said no!” and “What is wrong with you?!”
His responses were “I’m sorry!” and “I was just trying to get closer to you.”
So I asked him “Did you ask me if I wanted to get closer to YOU?” No answer, so I answered for him, “No, you didn’t.”
Now, let’s stop for a moment and understand that I was completely alone in another country. Standing up for myself was such a risky move. Not one person knew where I was. This could have turned violent fast, and also, I hadn’t figured out how Italian doors worked (they’re permanently locked with a big old key sticking out of a keyhole). I couldn’t get out unless he opened the door for me, which he did.
Now, anyone who know me, knows I’m on the less timid end of any personality spectrum, but please, PLEASE realize that not everyone is as strong minded or able-bodied as I am. While my solution would have been to go down fighting (if it came to that), there are so many people out there, women especially, who, after having their non-verbal cues and less assertive no’s ignored, have decide to just let it happen in order to avoid being hurt or killed. It doesn’t make these encounters ANY. LESS. WRONG.