“But to clarify, I don’t want to be just friends,” he laughed as he stroked my arm. “Your body isn’t made for friendship.”

 

It was the second date. I had just spent five minutes discussing who I am as a person. Explaining how I asked for some space from his constant texting this past week because I take a long time to really care about someone as a friend or as a significant other. How I suffer from anxiety if I don’t have enough space as I’m getting to know someone. How once I do care about someone—I’m committed.

 

What he got out of it? That I said the word “friend.” And that he needed to clarify he wasn’t trying to be “just” my friend. And that, apparently, my body “isn’t made” to be just friends with anyone.

 

He wasn’t trying to insult me. Or insult the female gender at large. In fact, he meant this as a compliment. (Or as he later tried to justify, as a joke.)

 

However, it was incredibly insulting, demeaning, and sexist.

 

Let’s start with the fact that I, like most people I know, work hard for my body. I work out, I eat healthy, I make goals to run half-marathons. I do it to feel healthy, to feel confident, to love myself. And I do it for me. His comment implies that my body exists to serve the male gender. And as a male, he has a say in what I do with it. He implied that because of how my body looks, it’s reserved solely for sex. 

 

He’s saying it doesn’t matter what my personality is like. Or who I am as a person. Because my body determines when someone wants to be my friend or my more than friend. In one sentence, he discounted everything I have to offer as a human and objectified me as a body.

 

It’s been several days since this happened and I’m still dwelling on it. And to be honest, I’ve stopped to question myself several times. I know he meant it lightly but is it right I also feel insulted? Should I ignore the fact that I feel really uncomfortable? Am I being dramatic? I texted multiple friends to gauge their reactions and all of them confirmed how I feel, the strongest reaction coming from one of my best guy friends (weird how I manage to have those). 

 

A few days later, the guy asked me on another date and I politely declined. I let him know we were on different pages, but it was nice getting to know him and I wished him the best. I then told him his comment about my body not "being made" for friendship made me feel uncomfortable. And while I knew he probably meant it as a compliment, it came across as sexist and demeaning and I hope he won't say it to another girl. 

 

And you know what he said? He told me “don’t be so sensitive.” That he's "not going to stop telling that joke but thanks for the tip." He said he doesn't "think it’s sexist or demeaning.” And on top of that, “anyone who is offended by it is too thin-skinned” to be in a relationship with him anyway. After those lovely words, he ended his message saying he hopes we can “be friendly.” And proceeded to text me an hour later when I hadn’t responded: “So, friends?”

 

I think this interaction—my delayed reaction and his defensiveness—speaks volumes about issues we face with sexism. Our society fosters men who are ignorant enough to make objectifying comments without understanding the implications. And it fosters women who either don’t understand the implications or who question if they’re right to stand up for themselves. 

 

As women, we apologize for being feminists. We question if we’re being dramatic when we’re offended by an objectifying comment. We are told we’re too sensitive when we call someone out on a sexist joke. We worry if standing up for ourselves makes us less attractive. We wonder if each new guy wants to date us or just our bodies. We distrust the genuine guys because of crap we’ve dealt with all our lives.

 

So let’s hope one day we can better articulate why we’re bothered by objectifying comments and feel empowered to speak out against them. Let’s hope more people can understand why certain comments are insulting. And let’s hope more of us are intelligent enough and thoughtful enough to compliment someone respectfully. Let’s remember our bodies should never determine the relationship we have with someone. Let’s remember that we should always stand up for ourselves. And lastly, let’s remember that someone who will insult us for demanding respect probably isn’t made for our friendship anyway.

Published by Jacqueline Miller