Are you playing hard to get?
No, assface, I’m setting my boundaries and you’re disrespecting them.
My date who made some disparaging comments about overweight women, thoughtlessly called his bipolar friend crazy (“You know how selfish bipolar people are, it’s all about them all the time”), and attributed some personality traits to a certain ethnicity (“a white person would already be fired for such behavior”), leaned in for a kiss. I pulled back. He planted a kiss on my lips anyway.
“You’re playing hard to get,” he says.
Let’s stop a second and actually deconstruct this situation. I am not enthusiastic about this kiss, I’m pulling away, I’m not giving enthusiastic consent. [Read Rosie's article about consent for further discussion] My body language is a loud and clear “no.” You clearly recognize that. Yet, you decide to interpret my “no” as a hesitant yes. You see no need to respect my boundaries because to you they do not really exist. To you, they are holograms that you can just walk through (the only way to get to Platform 9 ¾ ). A wizard you are not, however, and perseverance in this matter will not grant you access to a magical wonderland (magical wonderland is me, btw).
The idea of “playing hard to get” has poisoned relationships between men and women for ages. Dating advice magazines and websites are full ill-informed recommendations on how to “play.” It is so much a part of our culture that we often take the assumptions behind the this game for granted.
- Men don’t like women who are too “easy.” Variations on this include: men look for “pure” women; men love the chase; men will sleep with promiscuous girls, but only date girls that are hard to get.
- Men are initiators, women are responders.
- Men are hunters, women are prey
- Women are less interested in sex than men are.
- Women want relationships, men want sex.
- Women say “no” when they really mean “yes,” to increase their value (as a sex object).
All of these assumptions are incredibly problematic, and suspect at best. They are based on traditional gender roles steeped in patriarchy. Under the model of “playing hard to get,” women are given the role of passive victims with no agency or sexuality. Their only power comes from withholding sex (and that “power” can be taken away so easily). “Hard to get” also robs women of their “no.” It weakens the strength of that word, leaving room for the kind of ambiguity characteristic of rape culture (It’s my fault my “no” wasn’t convincing enough. How was he to know that this time “no” really meant “no”?) This idea allows rapists to claim “it’s not rape – it’s miscommunication,” and continue a long chain of willful “miscommunications.”
[Why I Never Play Hard To Get: read for a great discussion of "Playing Hard to Get"]
Ladies and gents, take a look at the assumptions listed above. Do you actually believe those statements are accurate? Men, next time you’re tempted to think a woman is playing hard to get, think. What gave you that impression? Does she not respond to your physical affection? Does she seem to freeze when you touch her? Does she avoid eye contact? Does she turn away when you try to kiss her? Does she have clear boundaries concerning her body/personal space? Guess what? She’s giving you clear signals about her boundaries and ignoring those signals doesn’t only make you a giant douchewad, but also a potential rapist.
Ladies, next time you’re tempted to play the game, think. Do you want to play by those rules? Do you really want to give up your power and agency? Most of all, do you really want to attract the assholes that fall for the passive naïve disempowered type?
I know I don’t. Mr. Assface is not getting another date.