Unwanted Pursuit

Not long ago, a female friend expressed disappointment in the fact that her ex-boyfriend didn’t fight for her to stay. It has always been my understanding that, when a woman says she doesn’t want to be with me, it is my job to respect her desires. The last time a woman told me she didn’t want to see me anymore, she seemed to want me to say something. I had nothing more to say. I was disappointed, but felt as though attempting to persuade her to reconsider would be unfair. She knew what she wanted and I had to give it to her.

There has been a lot of talk recently over what constitutes sexual harassment. I recently heard a woman explain the difference in sexual harassment and welcome flirting is consent. I envision myself talking to woman in whom I’m interested: “May I flirt with you?”. What if this question is unwelcome? Would that be harassment? I know this sort of thing comes naturally to many humans. As an alien, I tend to err on the side of caution.

Surely expressing interest is not the same as engaging in sexual harassment. Then again, whether expressing interest is justifiable would largely seem to depend upon any power dynamic. If I express interest in a subordinate at work, she may feel pressured to reciprocate. But, if she is interested already, expressing interest, may be viewed as romantic. It says “I’m willing to risk my job to at least let you know how I feel.”

It would appear a lot of what differentiates between sexual harassment and romanticness is how the pursuit is received by the pursuee. Earlier today, I found myself watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Why the writers of the Indiana Jones series decided to follow Mary-Ann with Willie is beyond me. They replaced a self-reliant, badass woman with a whiny, needy, damsel in distress. In one of the very last scenes, Willie tells Dr. Jones she is through with him and will find her own way to Deli. As she walks away, Indiana throws his whip around her and drags her back to him. She responds with a passionate kiss. And the village cheers at the man’s victory over his woman’s will! I see feminist favoring the Nazi in The Last Crusade over Willie.

Of course there is a great difference in fiction and reality. Maybe we can accredit this interaction to Willard Huyck or George Lucas and not Gloria Katz. But stories said to be some of the most romantic to have ever been told involve a man’s pursuit of an uninterested woman. And again, how can I gain permission without at least expressing interest? Maybe we just need to be more understanding of each other. If I express interest and you do not reciprocate, I should back off. If I promise to do this, can you promise to not be offended when I express interest without permission to do so?

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