When Flirtation Becomes Harassment

I have a good friend who is a great coach. I’ve known him for almost 20 years,  but with going to college, moving out of state, getting married, etc, our relationship kind of ebbed and flowed. We would reconnect randomly at a 5k or call each other out of the blue and chat for a few hours. Sometimes we wouldn’t even Email for months. Thanks to Facebook, we’ve “friended” again and have been in fairly regular contact for the past couple of years. The thing I have found with messangers and texts is that you can pretty mucb keep the same conversation going indefinitely.  When you speak with someone on the phone or face to face there is a definite beginning/greeting and end/closing to any conversations.  Sure, they may be picked up again the next time,  but the ritual of greeting and closing is always there. Because my friend (let’s call him A.D.) and I chat through Facebook Messanger (which I hate, loathe, and despise, but that is a different topic), we have an on going, day to day, open ended conversation. This is cool because he’s been virtually coaching me for an upcoming half marathon that I’d really like to do well in.

Even though it is through a series of texts, the conversation meanders a bit and often, and easily gets off the topic of running. We’ve talked about his marriage problems and how to deal with demanding women, and why I thought it was a REALLY SUPER STUPID BAD IDEA to leave an argument and spend the night in a hotel. We’ve talked about his desire to get back into modeling and whether he could pull it off at his age or not. And we’ve talked about sex. Or rather, he has. He’s asked me to see him naked (for modeling purposes, of course) as a trade for coaching. He’s made lots of immature jokes about his own penis and my prudishness. I told him I wasn’t interested and I just didn’t find it funny since I wasn’t 14 anymore. I figured that because he’d been around high schoolers for the past 20 some odd years, he’d become one of them. I’m sure he’s surrounded by immature phallic comments all day long and after awhile they just stick. Whatever.

But then A.D. kept at it. Every couple of days I’d get a message and my heart would sink a little. I began dreading that little ding of the messanger on my tablet. No matter what we talked about or how strongly I would try to stear the conversation,  it would almost always end up talking about sex or his sexual organ. Then I would get a curt comment along the lines of “I’m bothering you because you don’t like that kind of talk, haha”. Usually I would claim I had some motherly duties to attend to and end it before it got too out of hand. It bothered me, a lot, that guys could remain so dumb and immature. I didn’t text him for several days.

A few days ago he started with a hello.  I didn’t want to talk, but I did have some coaching questions. First, my new shoes suck…what can I do about it? Second, I have terrible calf pain, do I need a foam roller? I had heard about them in running forums but knew nothing about them and Amazon had so many options. I just didn’t know what I needed, if I even really needed one. Did I need the thicker roller or the thinner massage stick? And away he ran with penis jokes. And no, he never answered my question.  I tried to pull the conversation back a few times to no avail.  I simply ignored the jokes. He made the comment that clearly he was bothering him and that was up setting him. (Right, the fact that *I* didn’t care for his sexual advances bothered him.) Then he said “so, good luck with the running.” And we haven’t spoken since.

Ugg. I spent the whole rest of that day pissed off. Why was this immature jerk going to get all upset and give ME the cold shoulder just because I didn’t “LOL” at some stupid penis joke. Because hes5an immature jerk, that’s why. Whatever.

That night my husband wanted to get frisky, but his come-ons were lame and juvenile.  Suddenly A.D.’s conversation hit me. Ew. I did NOT want to have sex with my husband because he was being just as lame! And then I got mad again. I realised that this guy’s actions were affecting my relationship with my husband, and that just wasn’t right. Oddly, it didn’t even occure to me until then that he had been sexually harassing me.

I tried to explain it away. “But he’s your friend,” I tried to tell myself. “I’m sure he didn’t mean it like THAT, it was just flirtation” and “It couldn’t be sexual harassment; that would hurt his marriage. He could get fired!”

No.

A.D. is NOT my friend. He knew that the comments and jokes were bothersome and unwanted, but he said them anyway. A real friend would never intentionally make me feel uncomfortable.
Yes. Yes, he DID mean it like that. Why ask to exchange naked pictures for coaching tips? Why ask to meet up? Why mention staying at a hotel? Why talk incessantly about your penis if you aren’t thinking about sex? Why continue to have a conversation about sex with someone who is clearly not interested?
Yes. All of it WAS sexual harassment. I was being too nice about it and giving him too many excuses for it.
Yes. He is now blocked on Facebook.

I used to always wonder how people were perpetually harassed, especially among friends. Why didn’t they shut it down, or say something, or block them? But you know what. Now I get it. There is a very grey area between flirtation and sexual harassment, especially when it comes to friends. I know I don’t want to hurt a friendship,  so I was hesitant to put a label on something and call someone out for bad behavior.  I was already embarrassed by it, so why make a bigger stink if there was a possibility that it could in fact be a non-issue? For months I just hoped that I was wrong.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it is only flirtatious, joking, or complementary if both people are having fun and are ok with it. As soon as one person is uncomfortable or unreceptive of the attention then the flirt, joke, or complement are no longer innocent fun. And yes, even among friends.

Ladies and gentlemen; I know you hear this all the time, but you need to stand up against harassment. It should never be tolerated, even between friends, especially between friends. If you have made it known to the other person that they are making you uncomfortable,  then it should stop right then and there. If it does not, WALK AWAY. That person was never a friend anyway.

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