This piece originally appeared on Femsplain.com. Femsplain is a community for everyone, powered by personal stories from anyone female-identified.
He walks up to me with beads of sweat lingering on his forehead. I note in my tipsy haze that his eyes seem soulless; he's liquored up past his limits. His wobbly legs have somehow taken him from his side of the bar to mine, and in his vast travels, his semi-conscious mind has convinced himself that I must be his for the evening. He approaches me, grabs my hips and plummets himself into me without warning.
I take a few steps away, but he follows. I'm being clear: I don't want to be touched. He approaches me again, this time from behind and puts his hands on my hips. Flustered and violated, I whip around and the lie flies from my mouth with ease: "Sorry, I have a boyfriend."
He looks at me quizzically for a few seconds - his mind only half-digesting the idea that I am unavailable - but it's enough for him to finally turn away and pursue someone else.
I don't have a boyfriend, but the lie is convincing because I'm good at telling it. It's like a recipe: a pinch of sympathy, a dash of sweet, a cup of compassion. At my best, I subtly allude that I am bummed to have a boyfriend - so distraught to miss out on such an opportunity!
"Sorry, I have a boyfriend" is a far easier scapegoat than:
1. Do not touch me without my permission.
2. I do not want to dance with you because you are drunk and aggressive.
3. Your behavior is unappealing enough to send me in a full sprint in the other direction.
4. I'm just not interested.
Why was it so difficult to be honest and speak my mind? I know I am not alone in this; I know that women in bars around the world use this line far more often than not. Are we too timid to simply refuse men without an invisible shield of protection?
This lie is common for a reason. Telling another man that you have a boyfriend is the most peaceful and effective method of rejection. "Sorry, I have a boyfriend" lessens the blow to their ego and it stops them from responding with awkward statements like: "Are you not into me?" or "That's cruel" (both of which make me cower in fear at the mere thought).
"Sorry, I have a boyfriend" even extends beyond the first person. Males employ it on behalf of their female friends, turning it into "She's my girlfriend." I've seen it done before, and it's been done to me: a male friend will step in if he senses a female's discomfort. He'll put his arms around her (a clear power move) and declare that he is "the boyfriend." The presence of said boyfriend, if all goes well, sends the suitor away.
When reflecting on my choice to blame an invisible or fake boyfriend, I know that I am contributing to a much larger issue. By declaring myself as someone else's, I am indirectly saying that singledom warrants harassment. By all means, grab my hips - I'm solo!
My invisible shield - a made up boyfriend - establishes that I am off-limits solely because I belong to someone else. The archaic notion of declaring myself as "taken" is entirely anti-productive. How do we expect males to respect our opinions and our views if we have to mask our truths with a lie? We are not vacant land to be colonized, fire hydrants to be peed on or flowers to be picked.
By perpetuating this cycle, we're saying that we're empty slates to be carved; we're fair game if we're not claimed. We are not property, and by establishing ourselves as such, we're saying that our feelings, notions and perceptions are irrelevant unless complemented by a male's.
If you have used this lie before, let's make a pact together to stop. It'll be hard; the response we get from drunken suitor with a hurt ego may ruin our nights, but it'll be worth it. Let's demand respect by leaving others out of it and standing up for how we feel. Let's turn "Sorry, I have a boyfriend" into "I'm just not interested."