“Do you wanna dance?”

It’s a fairly innocuous question I’m sure most of you grrls have asked or been asked before.  If you’re anything like me, it’s a request you’ve declined time and time again.  I never really have a good answer as to why I said no, and there’s no reason I need a good answer.  I just don’t want to dance.

Now, forgive me grrls.  I’m going to call the person who asked to dance a guy, not to stereotype the gender of someone who asks to dance, but to reflect my own experiences.  If you’ve had a different experience, please know I have no intention of disregarding that, but allow me to present this hypothetical.

Let’s say you’re out on a Saturday night, at a bar, a club or a party.  There’s music, drinking and dancing, all the makings of a swell night.  You’re sitting with your friends, talking, laughing and having a genuinely good time, when a guy approaches.

“Hey, you look bored.  Do you wanna dance?” he asks.  You politely decline, saying you’re having a great time, that you’re not much of a dancer, that you’re a little tired.

“Oh, come on! It’ll be fun!” he assures you, but again you decline, slightly annoyed but still relatively unphased at this point.  So the back and forth begins.  You say you’re tired, and he says dancing will wake you up.  You say you’re not a good dancer, and he says no one is watching.  You just flat out say no, and he grabs your hands and drags you from your seat.  You tell him not to touch you, but this time he grabs you by the waist.  You go to sit back down, and he just presses his ass against you.  You push him, saying you will not dance, saying he can’t make you dance.

“You’re playing a dangerous game, madame,” he says somewhat creepily, grabbing you one more time.  You decide it’s time to go home, that you’ve had all the fun you’re going to have, so you pull away and tell him you’re leaving.

“You can’t go home yet.  It’s too early, and you’re too serious.  You don’t know how to have fun.  Come back to the apartment, and I’ll show you how to have fun,” he says, grabbing you by the wrist.  It’s 2 o’clock in the morning, and you were having plenty of fun until he showed up.  So you yank your wrist from his grip and go home.

It’s an oddly specific scenario, but that’s because it’s exactly what happened to me.  It was a pleasant Saturday night, until I was made uncomfortable.  At the time, I thought it was just one of those things, one of the occupational hazards of going out, but after some consideration, I realized I didn’t just feel uncomfortable.  I felt harassed.

I brought it up to my friends, some who were there and some who were not.  To my relief, they all agreed that this qualified as harassment, but what came next truly surprised me.

“Was he drunk?” one friend asked.

“That’s just how that guy is.  He does shit like that all the time,” another added.

To me, it sounded like everyone was excusing his behavior.  Supposedly, his actions don’t really matter, as long as nothing becomes of them.  Well, something did become of them; I felt uncomfortable and harassed.  Honestly, that should be more than enough to make his actions inexcusable.

I can concede my story is pretty mild compared to others.  I got home safely, and that’s really what matters in the end.  However, this is the same forceful, predatory attitude that turns mild stories into horrific stories, that turns good nights into ones that feel like nightmares.  Some may disregard this behavior as one of the risks girls run by going out or say that’s just something guys do when they’re really into someone.  No matter what happens or what a victim might say, someone will always find a way to excuse predatory and sexually exploitative behavior.

This is why I am afraid: afraid to go out with my friends or go on dates or do a lot of the things a college-aged girl should be able to do.  This is why I won’t let anyone, not even my friends, touch me or drive me or come over to my house.  This is why I go to the gym to lift heavy weights.  This is why I stay in on Friday nights to do my homework.  This is why, on the rare occasion I am interested in someone, I’m impossible to read, flaky and sporadic.  I am genuinely afraid, and I (thankfully!) haven’t even experienced the worst.  The true myth of modern romance isn’t the lack of happy endings or meet-cutes.  The myth is the safety of modern romance.

So, in case you were wondering, no, I do NOT wanna dance.  And this time, I fucking mean it.