Can you imagine keeping your friendly comments like compliments to yourself so that a person of the opposite gender wouldn’t get the wrong impression? Well, if you’re a woman, you probably know it very well. Because sadly, many women out there have had to change their customs, behaviors, and gestures in such a way that men won’t have a chance to interpret them the way they want.
And this thread on r/AskReddit has given this very common, yet little talked-about practice a much-needed spotlight. “What innocent behaviors have you changed out of fear you might be mistaken for leading men on?” someone asked and the sea of answers came flooding in.
From totally muting any signs of general affection to avoiding eating bananas in public, and making sure you bend your knees and squat down when picking something up from the ground, it’s incredible how women have to put up with men’s egos on a daily basis in order to protect themselves. Or is it all just overthinking? Hit us in the comment section and share what you think of it!
Whenever I’m talking with a guy, I’m always super conscious about not mentioning too soon or too late that I have a significant other. Too soon, and it’s ‘jeez, I was just making conversation!’ Too late, and it’s ‘jeez, way to lead me on!’ Thankfully, since becoming engaged, this is less and less of a problem, as my ring sort of speaks for itself on its own.
Image credits: Cat_Toucher
Mentioning that I have a girlfriend, weirdly enough. You know how saying you have a boyfriend is normally pretty good for making guys go away? Well, saying you have a girlfriend just leads to a bunch of gross questions and offers of “if you’re ever looking for a threesome, hit me up” (gag). Like what, does this guy think I’ll go home and excitedly tell my gal pal, “Guess what? I met a guy at a bar, and, you won’t believe this, he wants to have SEX with BOTH of us!! What a rare and exciting offer, we need to take him up on this!”
Image credits: strych91
Turning fifty was the best idea I’ve ever had.
Image credits: saltshapedpear
Let’s just say I don’t eat bananas in public anymore.
Image credits: erinsuzanne
Being in shape. Many men think that women get in shape solely to impress them, so fitness is like an open invitation for unsolicited attention.
Image credits: EmbodimentOfChaos
If I have to pick something off the ground I bend my legs and squat down to do it so it doesn’t look like I’m showing off my a*s, even though it’d be a lot easier to just bend down.
Image credits: acontreras1228
Trying to politely decline their advances. Sometimes I have to be rude just for them to get the point.
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Not accepting any favor from a man. No rides. No coffees. Avoid avoid. It sucks.
Image credits: betweensadmad
I work retail. So I’ve had to stop wearing makeup, stop smiling, and entirely stop being polite. Because as soon as I smile and say “how are you today?” I get told he’s going to “take me out to dinner and put me in lacy panties,” and then goes to my coworkers to find out what time I clock out.
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Showing any kind of concern for a guy. Like if you have a guy friend that looks sad and you try to be a good friend and comfort them that’s seen as flirting somehow. (plus most of the stuff everyone else posted)
Image credits: waytobookish
Asking a question or giving them a compliment.
But the worst thing is when I’ve walked back to my car alone and in the dark. I’d been out that day and was wearing cute and kind of revealing clothes. A guy followed me from the train station to where I’d parked (about 10 minutes), and when I got in my car he started to yell at me for leading him on. We hadn’t spoken, but we’d made eye contact a couple of times on the hour long train ride, which seemed to be enough for him.
I didn’t think that the phrase “leading someone along” was so literal, but okay.
Image credits: darlinglark
I gradually stopped going to our local board games community after several people hinted that I was doing it to get male attention and find a “nerdy boyfriend.”
That was pretty soulcrushing. I just genuinely loved board games.
Image credits: Mornedhil
there was that time when i was eleven and i started needing a training bra and my teacher gave me a weird talk about keeping bra straps hidden at all times? i didn’t even know how to properly adjust the straps so they wouldnt slide and i really didn’t need Mr. N’s bra strap advice as an impressionable eleven year old
Image credits: ZePistachio
I don’t let on to any guys I just met that I’m into gaming, especially if I know they’re gamers too. There’s still this stereotype floating around the gaming community that women who game are a rarity or they’re not really a gamer, just a slut trying to get male attention. So if I bring up gaming early on I usually get one of two responses: either the guy keeps hitting on me relentlessly or I get the Gaming Pop Quiz. Any woman who plays games knows exactly what the Gaming Pop Quiz is.
There’s also a third option which happens way less often, but I’ve experienced it all the same: guy just outright becomes hostile, like I’ve dared to step foot in the boys only clubhouse or something. In all of my 20+ years of gaming that’s only happened to me twice, though.
And just a disclaimer: most of the guys I meet while I’m actually gaming are cool dudes. For some reason I only get this behavior out in the wild.
Image credits: Aelle1209
Licking or biting my lips. Used to stick my tongue out when I was concentrating on something, that went out the window real quick. Sucks having to be overly-conscious of unconscious facial movements, even chewing on a pen is risky.
Oh yeah and no licking ice cream cones in public. Ever.
Well I’ve taken to dressing like a hobo so men don’t think of me as a sexual being. I get treated like “that guy who wears baggy clothing and has long hair”…. it’s alright
Image credits: SheTroll
Playing with my hair, many things actually, some dudes think every single thing a female does is because she wants him.
In my experience you can’t treat most male friends the same as female friends. I want you to succeed at life because you’re my friend and I care about you. Most dudes would read way too far into it, it’s fucking annoying. I don’t want to have to analyse everything I say to the opposite sex to make sure nothing I say makes them believe I’m leading them on in any way.
I like being a “mother hen” kind of thing, I like feeding people and making sure they are ok, ie I make birthday cakes for any friends who don’t get one. I wish more people saw it that way and not some fucked up version. Just because I am nice does not mean I’m in love you, I am only trying to treat you like a decent human being.
I play with my hair because of general anxiety, constantly doing something with my hands is just something I’ve always done, for job interviews I have to wear my hair back so I’m not messing with it, I’m not fucking flirting.
This got kind of long, but yeah some dudes are just crazy.
Image credits: NewNavySpouse
Like general affection, even with hugs and compliments I’m pretty reserved unless our relationship is clearly drawn out and we both know that nothing is being implied
Image credits: ColorMeCuriosity
Smiling, being alone with men, physical contact of any kind, even just sweeping lint or crumbs off of their sleeves, eye contact, dressing comfortably, wearing even relatively tight shirts, touching my hair when nervous, moistening my lips with my tongue while talking…
Honestly, nearly stopped interacting with men in general, as my bust size is used as an excuse to claim I was flirting.
Image credits: AllHarlowsEve
Today, apparently, I shouldn’t have carried a nightstand down the street. It was a little awkward but not heavy at all, and some dude came up to me and tried to take it from my hands, unasked. I held onto it and told him, “no thanks.” He kept pulling on it. I had to ask him to let go. When I said “Jesus Christ” he went on, “oh, like it was such a bad thing.” Yes, dude, that was absolutely a bad way to try to help someone out. You don’t take something from someone’s hands unbidden if you actually want to help them. Frankly, you pulling a medium-large object from my grasp makes me think you’re trying to steal from me or con me.
I used to always greet everyone with a smile and happy eyes. Either a nod or a quick ‘hello’. But I got hit on way too often while doing that, to the point where they kept following me. I’m just trying to be polite dammit
Image credits: Spotgaai
Acknowledging that I recognized any of my male ‘regulars’ back when I worked at retail.
Seems like good customer service, right? Remembering that Joe always gets 3 packs of reds or Mac gets a six-pack on days [Sports team] is playing away, or asking Jake how his car rebuild is coming.
Yeah, that’s how I got stalked, followed home, and threatened verbally with rape when I explained that I’d only ever been professionally friendly. The cops dismissed the matter because it was he said /she said (Jake said I’d invited him over) and no damage had been done , my coworker/roommate cheerfully told them how friendly I’d been with Jake whenever he came into the store, and my employer refused to ban him.
I’m thinking more in terms of social media, but I’ve found if a guy messages me and I send back so much as a polite ‘hello’ that guy will never leave me alone. Every couple months he’ll pop up trying to start a conversation, usually being rude or lewd, long after I’ve stopped messaging him. Last time it happened the guy had been trying this for a while and right now I’m 7 months pregnant and in a serious relationship and I just went off on him. It’s so sad that it has to come to that. And I know it’s just a few delusional, ridiculous guys that do this but Jesus…what on Earth makes them think this behavior is ever going to get them anywhere?
Smiling. I’m a naturally smiley person and smile when I talk to people just to be friendly, but I have to be careful about it if I notice a guy taking it the wrong way. I had a coworker who took it way, way too far and I ended up having to show him a picture of my ex-boyfriend and I together and buy a cheap ring to wear to get him to back off. All because I smiled when I talked to him.
Just generally being nice and outgoing? Seriously. It would lead to advances and if I wasn’t interested it lead to physical assault.
Now I don’t talk anyone I don’t know. I’m very intentionally cold. I now have friends/coworkers that know me well enough get mad at me for being standoffish and intimidating….at least no one messes with me now
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I don’t ask random men for directions anymore.
One time I was taking the greyhound bus for the first time by myself. Asked a random guy where the line for where I wanted to go was. He didn’t know but he was also looking for the same line. We agreed to look together (why not?) and ended up sitting next to each other and chatting.
2 hours into the 5 hour bus ride he says he’s “tired” and then falls asleep. Wraps his arm around me while he’s “asleep” and then starts kissing my neck. I was so uneasy and scared in that moment bc I didn’t know how he’d react to me pushing him off and I didn’t want to make a scene. Also the seats were all full, half with actual sleeping people so switching wasn’t really an option. I was leaning almost fully into the aisle to get away from him.
Eventually he “woke up” and THEN asked if I had a boyfriend and wanted to date him. I promptly turned him down and listened to music for the next 3 awkward as hell hours
Image credits: vestegaard
During my pre-pubescent years I had a lot of male and female friends and I found it easy to talk to both genders because I treated both the same way–as if they were full people deserving of my interest and attention during a conversation. During the teenage years I realized that more and more of my male friends started dropping off because they assumed that my friendship meant that I was really in love with them. In early adulthood I became apprehensive to even start friendships with men and as a mid-20s adult I am apprehensive to even hold deep conversations with men lest they expect something in return. Sure, I’ll do small talk and am friendly but I won’t ever let you know me or try to get to know you unless I know for SURE that you’re not one of those guys who thinks that women are incapable of holding an engaged conversation unless they crave the D.
Along the same lines of all these–making new guy friends. I have a lot in common with guys, but almost every guy I’ve befriended has asked me out at some point, and after I decline (as nicely as possible) they don’t want to be my friend anymore.
So I’ve come to assume that guys don’t want girl friends. They want girlfriends. And so my boyfriend is basically my only friend. Being a pretty, boyish girl is a lonely life.
I wear sunglasses all the time outside, even when raining. When I’m not wearing them, I look down alot around men. I have very blue eyes and get too many creepy comments from men. It’s easier to hide them
I once offered to do my male friends dishes while at a party at his house. The mother of his 3 week old child was super pissed he invited me and two other friends over, and when I offered to do the dishes bc he kept mentioning how disgusting they were, she almost punched me in the face.
After that I stoned and drunkenly walked to another friends house to sleep. These friends had their band friends from another state coming over to crash, and most of us were sitting on the porch. I commented to the one guy as he was walking inside, “wow! Your pillow looks so comfortable!”. Everyone proceeded to tell me how slutty and awful that sounded. Like what the fuck??? I genuinely just wanted to know where this fluffy pillow came from, and help my friends with a newborn get their house cleaned up.
I just don’t speak to any of these people anymore
Not me, but my little sister started dressing as the stereotypical butch lesbian when she went off to college. Said that it made things a little easier.
I’m still not sure how to respond.
My 4 year old son is interested in everything. When we see someone doing a job, he asks me about it. I encourage him to ask the person doing it instead of me explaining while standing next to him/her. I want him to learn to ask people questions and not default to mom, when it’s appropriate of course. It is surprising the number of men who seem to think me encouraging my son to ask them a question (e.g. What is that tool called? Why is it loud?) is my way of flirting. No, I want to teach my child…
I’ve stopped getting lunch with male coworkers. I go into it thinking, “Yay! I’ve finally found a lunch buddy!”
But they don’t really want to be my lunch buddy… and that hurt. It feels like I’ve lost a potential friend… Like this person doesn’t actually think of me with the respect I thought they did.
And then it’s awkward for a few weeks and I eat alone in my car again.
It happened more than once so I just stopped agreeing to lunches with guys at work unless it’s with a group.
Having men as good friends. Had too many ‘nice guy’ experiences with men, after years of friendship and making it clear that I wasn’t interested in more than friendship, losing their sh*t after finally realising that I meant it.
Just about everything friendly
I’ve had to deliberately force myself to stop squeeing or smiling at puppies being walked by single men who aren’t obviously gay, because of the frequency with which interest in the puppy gets interpreted as interest in the human.
Offer male friends a my couch to crash on if they’re drunk or visiting from out of town. Sorry, dudes, but unless you’re accompanied by a SO you’re out of luck. Similarly, no crashing at a male friend’s place. Taxi it home or avoid drinking.
I have learned not to make eye contact with men in public places or on the street. 89% of the time they think its an invitation to hit on me. No sir. I just looked up for a second. Please keep walking.
I have cut my hair short, acted more boyish, bought longer skirts if I wear them at all and if I do wear shorter skirts you best be sure I’m wearing opaque tights. If I’m at a bar I make sure I go with someone. If I walk to my car at night and I feel slightly uncomfortable I ask if someone would mind walking with me. If I get any slight vibe that some random guy is into me and is somewhat aggressive I immediately reject them and find a buddy. If a guy asks me to come up to his apartment it will absolutely lead to sex unless I shut it down at the beginning.
When I was 13, my dad warned me against talking one-on-one with guys. He said that exclusivity could be interpreted as flirting. So yeah, that I guess.
How about doing something without warning? I made the mistake of saying out loud I was cold, and got a jacket from a complete stranger man almost forcibly put on me. I went the awkward route and practically ran away, saying, ‘No thanks’ to avoid it being put on my body.
Honestly, even making conversation, being kind and genuinely interested in what they have to say can be misunderstood as flirting because so few women do it… For fear that they will look like they’re flirting.
I don’t want to resign myself to ostracising half the human population, so I’m just going to keep being kind and friendly to guys and hopefully it will catch on.
The only inconvenience is that sometimes you have to clarify your intentions, if a guy does (understandably) misinterpret the situation but that gets easy to do after the first couple of times.
I’m a southern girl. I call everyone sweetheart, love, darling and hun. And I mean everyone. Even if I hate you, it’s “oh, bless your heart darling” haha.
But I’ve learned that with my male friends, I have to be very careful. As a lesbian, they tend to think that if I call them hun.. that it must mean that they have the magical powers to turn me straight.
I have a few male friends who don’t hide the fact that they would love to do the dirty with me. I tend to try not to talk to them a lot because I hate to make them feel like I was leading them on. I tend to make sure with them that I really watch what I call them.
But I mean, it’s hard. I don’t even remember half of my friend’s names sometimes because I am used to calling them terms of endearment.
I used to always try and talk to my guy friends and get to know them. I just wanted to be there for them to listen to them vent and genuinely take an interest in what they’re saying and give my best advice. They confided in me and I cared about them. 9 times out of 10 the guy would think I wanted more and would try to and take it to the next level and then we’d end up having to stop being friends and it sucked.
Now I don’t do that and try my hardest to ignore guy friends that want to talk about their feelings or give them a more generic answer instead of going in depth. Which I feel really bad about when they “need someone to talk to” and I’m the one they reach out to, but I feel like it’s better for the both of us.
I try to minimize my interactions with men, and keep my sunglasses on and headphones in. Honestly, I spend a lot of time at home because being in public is exhausting.
Honestly just being a good friend or person and offering to lend an ear to someone who is saying they are going through some sh*t.
Did this just once to a former gaming buddy on ps4. He claimed he was dealing with stuff so I just put out a friendly, “well if you need someone to talk to I’m here”. I was raised to be nice and listen to others. Also had a boyfriend at the time and he was well aware of this.
I find out a few days later he blocked me and started to tell everyone that we new mutually that I was a slut and had been hitting on him since day one. Friend of ours came out to tell me upfront what was being said about me, now him and I are best buds and the other guy can go fuck himself.
But I’m definitely more cautious now with just being nice to people when it comes to online gaming…sucks when you try and just be a good person.
I had a girlfriend who would occasionally feel the texture of her colleagues’ ties. We had to have a talk about how stroking other men’s chests in the office might be misleading.
Not scratching my boob in front of guys, even though it’s really itchy.
When I lost a lot of weight I realized one effect was that I didn’t smile hardly at all any more, and theorized that it had to do with not needing to please people as much… Until someone way smarter than me told me I was doing what sexually attractive women often have to do and muting my social responses for fear of giving men the wrong idea. Ya gotta be safe.
I know this seems sad, and honestly I wish there were a better way, but I will almost always find an excuse to not be alone with someone who I can sense has an interest in me while I have none in them. I’ve just had too many people ‘make their move’ without just telling me how they feel. As a result, I avoid and that sh*t gets really f*cking difficult sometimes.
I’m a cashier. When I get customers that seem like they’re a couple I don’t look at the man at all. When I get a male customer I try to be friendly but not too friendly to prevent accidentally leading them on.
Give out my personal phone number to someone I don’t know, not even for work events. My cards now have my email and a shared work phone number.
Accept gifts. Not even if he’s traveling to some other country and sending you candy, or sending you something as thanks for a favor you did. Postcards and birthday gifts are acceptable, so far.
Hang out with a guy, one-on-one. When inviting a man to something, I make sure to invite his SO, his friends, or make it clear that it is a group event. Even working out together is iffy.
Neutral or positive facial expression when looking in the direction of a man, also conversations in general. I no longer socialize with men at all. And I try not to socialize around men either.
I work at a makeup store. Whenever a couple comes up to my till I make sure I avoid acknowledging the guy because I fear that either the girl is going to think her man is flirting with me or that the man is going to think I’m interested in him. This never used to be a concern until one girl flipped out at her boyfriend for ‘flirting’ with me. He literally just responded “good” to me asking both of them how they were.