Saturday night, Crack Square on Ben Yehuda Street. It’s the main hub of Jerusalem nightlife, so the alcohol is pouring and the music is blaring. My friend and I sit on a bench on the edge of the Square, waiting for my roommate to leave the bar so we can share a cab back to our dorm at Hebrew University. We don’t mind waiting; the weather is pleasant and we’re catching up with each other, two nice Orthodox girls enjoying each other’s company.
Alas, we are not left to our own devices for very long. Two slightly inebriated Americans come over to our bench and begin to chat us up. I am flattered, but not particularly interested. Despite the fact that I refuse to share my name, where I’m from, or any other personal details, the guy hitting on me won’t give up. I’m getting a little fed up with his lack of respect for my wishes, but don’t want to just get up and leave. So, I pull out the only card I can think of: “I have a boyfriend.”
It works. I turn my head to see how my friend is faring, and by the time I look back, he’s gone.
No, I am not currently seeing anyone; I lied through my teeth. Certainly, I hoped that lying about being in a relationship would make the guy go away, and was relieved when it had the desired effect. However, I didn’t expect him to give up quite so easily, particularly because he had been trying, despite my complete lack of interest, for a solid ten minutes.
Why, then, did he give up so quickly upon learning of my supposed relationship status? Some would say that he just realized that he wouldn’t get anywhere with me, that my clearly articulated disinterest coupled with my existing boyfriend spelled bad news for him, so he left. I don’t doubt that this is why he did choose to get up and try his luck with some other girl. What I want to explore is why he left the moment I said I had a boyfriend, and not a second sooner.
I don’t think it’s far-fetched to postulate that he left because he respected my “boyfriend’s” possession of me more than my own humanity. He did not respect my agency or choice in deciding whether or not I was interested in him. He only respected another man’s possession of me, completely disregarding my own interests in favor of respecting a male’s territory. I have no doubt that he would have pursued me further had I told him I was single, considering he continued to hit on me after I made it completely clear that I was not interested by point-blank refusing to tell him anything about myself.
I keep asking myself, why didn’t I just get up and leave? I don’t want to victim-blame myself, but every time I think about this experience, I keep wondering why I didn’t just excuse myself and walk away. My friend was clearly not terribly comfortable with the guy hitting on her, and I’m sure she would have been happy to get up and walk away as well. Was I afraid that they would start following us? But who cares, the street was full of people and completely safe? Did I maybe think that my friend was enjoying herself and I didn’t want to ruin her fun? (It was obvious that she wasn’t.)
Or maybe I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to make it into a big deal. I didn’t want to raise my voice, didn’t want to seem unfeminine in a strong expression of my own desires, didn’t want people to give us weird looks and wonder what’s wrong with that Orthodox girl who can’t take a compliment.
“So why are you here?” the guy hitting on my friend asked us after a while. Um, maybe I’m here to have a good time, hang out, enjoy myself? My existence at Crack Square, or any in space, does not hinge on male attention. I am a human being who has motives beyond garnering a guy, and men need to start realizing that.