The thin line between harassment and wooing: how far is too far?

Daniel McCarthy

Daniel McCarthy

Olivier is a 24-year-old professional on a night out in east London. He goes over to a girl at the club, introduces himself, throws an empty compliment at her, and then slaps his arm around her shoulders like a seatbelt.

And suddenly, she’s gone before he can say, “Can I buy you a drink?”

He’s blown it and now there’s no recovering for him, or (by association) for any of his mates. He may not be a sexual predator in the strictest sense of the word, but he’s certainly no longer a potential romantic interest or someone girls want to be around. Just one wrong move and he’s crossed the line.

That ever-so important line that is there to make sure men don’t make women feel uncomfortable, or, rather so we don’t make ourselves look like creeps who tweak our moustaches.

But the problem with this imaginary line, which, for the record, really shouldn’t be crossed, is that, most of the time, you don’t know where it is.

It’s like trying to navigate a winding staircase in the dark. You think that you’ve got the rhythm down, but one wrong step and you’re going to take a painful and possibly bloody fall.

According to a study published last year, most relationships that start in a pub or a nightclub end up being just a fling. So, is it best to be honest and not hide any intentions? I’m not sure. Approaching a potential romantic interest at a bar and saying something like “Hi, my name is Dan and I’d like to go to bed with you” doesn’t seem like the best idea to me. It seems like the verbal equivalent of an unwanted grope for a bra clip. And that probably wouldn’t work anyway.

But if I don’t make a first move and then get lost in the crowd, I’ll still get the same result: going home alone, and telling myself that it just wasn’t my night.

The traditional gender roles, which many consider outdated, say it’s the man’s job to break the ice, to make an introduction, and to be the pursuer. But at what point does a pursuit become a violation?

If roles were reversed, I’m not sure what point I’d become uncomfortable. Maybe that’s because the percentage of sensitive areas on a male’s body is significantly less than it would be on a woman’s, or maybe it’s that the worst that could really happen from a women overstepping the line is that you walk to the other side of the bar with a story for the lads and swell in confidence.

William S. Burroughs once said that the difference between homosexual and heterosexual sex is that, only in one of those relationships, does each partner know exactly how the other one is feeling. I will never really know what a potential love interest wants during a chance encounter so I tend to play it safe.

But to be fair to Olivier, the next time he pulls a woman close to him on a night out and she doesn’t immediately reject him, he will probably have a higher chance of waking up next to someone the following morning, while I may have a slightly clearer conscience.

One Response

  1. steve March 1, 2014

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