Hello, dear readers of mine. Today, I bring you a story — an illustration, really — fresh from my experience, scant hours old.
It is a tale of male entitlement.
A little background on the past month: between my full-time job and an annual freelance project, I have been working 60 hour weeks. This past week in particular has been a special kind of hell as it was the culmination of the largest project at my work coming to a head (a 4-day annual festival for which my company is the design team and a sponsor) and the final approval of my freelance project. Consequently, in an effort to make deadline, I’ve been up past 2am the past 2 nights. In fact, since Wednesday morning when I woke up for work, until this very moment on Friday night, I have gotten a total of 6 hours of sleep. AND I have a sinus infection.
Today is Day 2 of 4 of my town’s annual festival. Since my company is a sponsor, I received two VIP tickets for the event for tonight and all day tomorrow.
VIP tickets means a few good things:
- Free all you can eat food
- $1 beer and wine
- Seats close to the performers
BUT it also means that you are essentially locked into a gated area with hundreds of other sponsors. And sponsors tends to mean rich people.
In the best of times, this is no problem for me. But given the perfect storm of circumstances, tonight I was a socially anxious not-rich overworked sleep-deprived introvert with a migraine, which means that walking through the gates of the sponsorship area felt like walking through the gates of hell itself.
Feeling as I did, after we got our food, we found a seat under a tent far away from the loud music and settled down. I just needed to find a spot and be there. Forever.
It’s a busy festival. Easily the largest event of the year here. People were milling about, coming and going, until a man and his significant other sat down slightly across from us. Not a problem — I’m an expert at politely ignoring people so I can keep to myself. One of the ways I cope when I’m overstimulated and socially overwhelmed in large crowds is through drawing. Thankfully, I came prepared, so I pulled out my sketchbook and bag of various art supplies and began playing around. I noticed that they kept watching me, but I continued to ignore them since they weren’t really interrupting me.
Life was good. I was focusing on art, I was creating art for the first time in a while, and the crowd around me didn’t feel so suffocating. Everything was fine.
Until he showed up.
The first term to come to mind was Fratboy Douchebag, but I tried to keep an open mind.
After a while, I felt several pairs of eyes on me. I looked up, and the entire group beside me was staring at me as I drew. Fratboy took the opportunity afforded him by my deer-in-the-headlights surprise to ask me who I was drawing.
“No one? Just someone out of my head.”
He shook his head with a wide grin. “Nahhh, I think I know her!” he said, winking and flashing his teeth.
Before I could process this, he abruptly demanded, “Are you drinking?”
I frowned. “No.”
None of your damn business? “I don’t like alcohol.”
“THEN WHYYYYY ARE YOU HEEEERE.”
“…because free tickets, food, and music?”
That was apparently enough to briefly satisfy him, as he had the attention span of a goldfish and quickly became distracted by something else. Once again left in peace, I was able to finish my drawing and move on to more lettering.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed…movement. I glanced over, then did a double take.
Fratboy was reaching for the pencil in my hand.
I gave him my best “what exactly are you trying to pull” warning look, to which he smiled reassuringly and said, “Let me show you something.”
AS HE TOOK THE PENCIL I WAS ACTIVELY DRAWING WITH OUT OF MY HAND.
I was in too much shock to even react. He began sketching in the corner of my sketchbook, then pushed it closer to me. “Look!” he proclaimed expectantly.
I looked. It was a stick figure gone horribly, horribly wrong. It was some kind of abstract art. It was a pathetic attempt at Picaso. It was…wait, was that a word?
“It says ‘skate!’ ” Fratboy explained proudly. “I made it up when I was in fifth grade.”
I blinked stupidly, mutely, looking slowly from his scrawl to MY PENCIL to him as he waited with baited breath for the impact of his genius to sink in.
All I could manage was, “Uhm…o…kay…?”
This was apparently Not the Reaction He Was Looking For. He recoiled, offended that I did not praise his rudimentary scribblings.
Rudimentary scribblings on MY paper. With MY pencil. That he TOOK OUT OF MY HAND.
“Oookay!” he said huffily, handing back my pencil (MY pencil) with an air of offended dignity.
As I was taking my pencil back from him, I felt…something.
One of the great things about my face is how expressive it is, even against my will at times. And even though I was struck speechless by the audacity of what was happening, I pulled away sharply while managing to give him the non-verbal version of the facial expression that once graced the face of Kristen Wiig in the spectacular epic, Bridesmaids:
Far from being dissuaded, Fratboy merely grinned…and rubbed my back for a few seconds more.
“It’s okay,” he cooed soothingly, a smirk across his stupid face. I still can’t decide if “it’s okay” was in reference to my dismissal of his obvious artistic prowess, or if he was trying to convince me that everything that was happening was PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE.
To my eternal relief, my partner returned soon thereafter, and we made a hasty exit from the festival.
As all of this was happening, and even moreso upon further reflection, I just can’t help but be utterly struck by that last exchange. It is simply a picture-perfect example of male entitlement in action.
This complete stranger, in the span of 90 seconds, demonstrated that he felt entitled to a) my attention, b) my possessions, c) my goodwill, and d) my body.
My clear reticence for social interaction didn’t matter. My body language regarding my pencil didn’t matter (considering he literally pried it from my hand). My disinterest in stroking his ego was the highest affront, to which he responded by touching me without my consent (and prolonging his touch when I physically pulled away).
People. Don’t do this. It’s super not okay. Respect personal bubbles. Don’t force people to interact with you when they’re giving every indication that they’d really rather not. And don’t take their stuff while they’re using it — that’s kindergarten level stuff. AND DON’T TOUCH ANYONE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD.
Of course, this particular brand of entitlement is overwhelmingly male, particularly when interacting with anyone who isn’t male. But any gender is capable of unthinkingly acting entitled to the time and attention of complete strangers. Read this primer about how to approach women in public (while keeping in mind that basic rules of decency and politeness apply across all interactions regardless of gender). And for gods’ sake, spend a few
weeks hours reading Captain Awkward and Real Social Skills. You’ll learn lots about how both to respect other people and respect yourself.