A tale of male entitlement.

A tale of male entitlement.

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.

So.

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.

Photo of a page from my sketchbook. It's a brush-tip marker illustration of a black woman with natural hair in an afro, looking down and smirking.

I kin­da sus­pect the fact that I was draw­ing a black woman made him feel more enti­tled to be brazen­ly curi­ous.

Before I could process this, he abrupt­ly demand­ed, “Are you drink­ing?”

I frowned. “No.”

WHY NOT?!!”

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.

And then.

AND THEN.

As I was tak­ing my pen­cil back from him, I felt…something.

His hand.

Rub­bing.

My.

Back.

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.

Posted in Fat Girl,