On a recent Friday night, I was at one of my favourite Joburg bars. I was on a date.

Now, if you’re a woman who has ever been in a bar or a club, chances are you’ve encountered guys grabbing your butt or otherwise making themselves unwelcome.

It’s unacceptable, of course, but it’s so common that most women I know just try to ignore it.

If you’re there with a guy, other men will usually leave you alone (can’t muscle in on another dude’s territory!).  Except, I was on a date with a woman.

We both noticed that there were more drunk young guys than usual, and sure enough, Guy A comes up to us as we’re sitting at the bar counter.

He begins talking to us. We’re polite but not friendly. After a couple of minutes, my date, Zan, encourages him to leave. He does – only to return almost immediately, saying we need to give him a reason to leave.

“If I tell you to fuck off, will you go?” I ask.
“Yes.”
“Great. Fuck off.”

He slinks off to his friends in the corner. Shortly after, Guy B bumps into my date and takes this as his cue to start chatting to us. His friend, still sitting next to Zan, keeps leering at us.

“What are you doing?” Guy B asks.
“Drinking,” I say.
“That's my second favourite thing to do!”

There is a moment of quiet, as there was no way either of us was going to ask him what his favourite thing was, but then he keeps talking and starts casually touching me – my thigh, my shoulder, my back.

“Dude. Don’t touch me.” It is the first time this evening that I raise my voice. He lifts his palms in the “sorry” gesture and leaves.
At one point I kiss her, and five minutes later Guy C comes up to us.

“I just want to ask, are you guys lesbians or are you just doing this for fun?”

Zan handled this one, which was good because I was far too astonished to discover that this is something that actually happens in real life.
Eventually we go to another bar, and as we're having a drink in a quiet corner, Guy B comes up to us again, says he knows he's annoying us – and carries on talking. By this point I really have had enough.

“Listen,” I say, putting my hand on Zan’s shoulder. “We're on a date. You're killing my mojo here.”
He apologises profusely and, finally, leaves.

Note, please, that we stayed polite virtually throughout these interactions. Because as a woman, you are taught to always be nice, and you learn to gauge what kind of response will be “safe”, and what will cause a man to call you a fucking bitch.

The problem is that polite disinterest is unlikely to deter someone who feels entitled to your time and attention because you are a woman and he is a man. I had to be rude (say “fuck off”, say “don’t touch me” to a stranger who was touching me without my permission) to get them to leave us alone. And in the latter case it only worked for a while: I had to act like an alpha male, putting my hand on my date’s shoulder to indicate possession, and tell him he was intruding on my territory.

(Let’s not get started on the guy who thought it acceptable to ask complete strangers about their sexual orientation. Don’t do that.)
For the love of all that is holy, stop assuming that every woman you see is interested in your attention. Chances are they’re just too polite to tell you to leave.

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