Buzzfeed writer Grace Spelman publicized Harry Potter fanboy and (more disconcertingly) Feminspire co-founder Benjamin Schoan’s online flirtation-turned-aggression toward her. In response to a series of tweet and a flirtatious Facebook message Schoan sent her way, Spelman told him she had a boyfriend and wished him well. But as many other women online and IRL have experienced firsthand, all was not well.
This prompted Jessica Roy at The Cut to wonder whether a best way to turn down a guy even exists. Regardless of the communication tactic, ultimately saying “no” can lead to a backlash of breakup proportions despite a relationship that never even existed. She writes:
“The whole exchange is pretty emblematic of the inherent difficulties of rejecting men, both online and off. Women are frequently made to toe a line between being polite enough to not set off the suitor, but not so polite that their manners are interpreted as flirting.”
Indeed, empirical evidence supports these anecdotal “inherent difficulties” Roy describes. In 1993, Florida State University psychologist Roy F. Baumeister published a study investigating how unreciprocated attraction affects/afflicts both parties. Whereas the romantic hopefuls experienced a mix of pain and wistfulness at what might’ve been, rejecters were awash in guilt, feelings of intrusion and annoyance. Speaking to The New York Times about the research, Baumeister described the rejecters’ experiences of turning down other people’s romantic prospects as “agony.”
Shifting back to AnecdoteLand, as a straight woman part of that agony is certainly stoked by some straight guys’ inability to handle rejection. Saying you’re simply not interested demands an explanation. Informing him you’re a lesbian arouses a new sexual challenge. The go-to “I have a boyfriend,” can also elicit disbelief and outrage, as exemplified by Schoan’s tirade. And even when emotional investment is as minimal as Tinder messaging, many online dating dudes apparently expect rejection etiquette, as dictated perhaps by Emily Post’s disgruntled brother Rick.
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BY CRISTEN CONGER
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