A few months ago, I had just moved to London from sunny Australia to pursue a more creative career path. The shock of transposing myself from the warm wading pool that was Brisbane – my beloved hometown in which most of my family and close friends reside – into the immense and choppy ocean that is London had me feeling a bit lonely. I was in a particularly low mood one Friday evening when I was the only person I knew in town for the weekend, and thus, for the first time in months, at a loose end with no one to hang out with.
I felt invisible – the only people who knew of my existence were myself and my otherwise-occupied flatmates, who I’d only just met a week before.
As I lugged my bag of groceries back towards the flat, a fresh-faced lad approached me.
“Hi… I’m sorry if this is a bit forward, but you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen… what’s your name?”
“Oh, thank you,” I said, blushing and caught utterly off-guard. “I’m Sally.”
“Hi, I’m Cameron.”
We exchanged pleasantries, gave each other a couple of sentences worth of information about ourselves and what we do, then he asked if he could have my number to ask me out on a date.
I know what you’re thinking, and of course I was too. This is weird. I don’t know this person. But, let’s be honest – I didn’t know anyone, and I was literally just thinking I was invisible and have no one to hang out with. So… I might as well make one friend (or something), and what’s the worst that could happen? I could always say no later down the track.
I sheepishly gave Cameron my number and we parted ways.
Back at the flat, I was sitting outside on my balcony, enjoying a thoroughly uplifted demeanour by having a glass of wine and cooking dinner.
All of an hour later down the track, I got a text from Cameron. Hey Sally, any plans for tonight and the weekend? Not overly compelled to talk to this stranger again already, I ignored it and went back to what I was doing.
An hour after that, my phone rang. It was Cameron.
Cameron wanted me to go and see him at his professional weightlifting group training tomorrow morning. Already put off by his slightly tactless impatience, I politely declined his offer. To be honest, I wasn’t interested in watching a complete stranger lift weights and had some freelance work to do over the weekend, so the decision wasn’t difficult. He reluctantly accepted ‘no’ for an answer and promised to message me to arrange another date.
More or less certain that things would not work out between me and Cameron, I didn’t think about it again until he messaged me again a month later.
Not sure of what I would say even if that was worthy of a response, I ignored it again.
I thought it was over when Cameron didn’t message me again until a month later – yesterday – with this charming meme to give me a piece of his mind.
Discomforted and rightfully pissed off, I showed my colleague with whom I was enjoying a beer in the sun at the time and asked if it was reasonable to respond harshly. I was urged to just ignore it and block him. A good option, I’m sure, but I wasn’t satisfied with that. I was pissed.
I’ve been flashed, wanked at, harassed and upskirted many times since my early adolescence, and I’ve never bit back at the perpetrator. I’ve been too shocked or reserved to stand up for myself – passivity is ingrained in the female psyche, but equally, I prefer to take the high road. But this time, I was fed up.
Look mate, I’m not interested. Stop messaging me. Also, f*ck you, that’s disgusting.
I blocked him on WhatsApp and thought I was done with it.
Ten minutes later (ever the model of patience) Cameron sent me a regular text message.
Right then. Making the obvious decision to block him immediately, I spent the rest of the day thinking about exactly what this says about Cameron, about the society and culture in which we live, and – if anything – about me.
This is what I could discern.
- Cameron’s ego had been wounded, and – being extremely insecure – he lashed out at the girl who rejected him.
He ascertained some catharsis from insulting me, putting me down because I had slighted him and hurt his feelings.
Never mind that he doesn’t know me at all – after all, we had met for all of two minutes – he felt that I was now deserving of the titles fat, ugly and whore.
- My beauty – previously exceptional to him – and respectability – previously intact – were disqualified by my non-reciprocation of his romantic interest.
To Cameron, women – or at least, this woman – are only attractive and worthy of respect if they do as he pleases. If, however, they are not interested in him and reject his advances – however politely – they should no longer be told they are beautiful, but should be cut down and insulted, degraded for the promiscuous, mean-spirited whores that they are.
- In Cameron’s eyes, women to whom men express romantic interest owe those men the same in return, and that any failure to do so is a rude transgression of social codes.
Cameron believes that I owe him something because he wants me, and that I am a bitch for not electing to spend time with him, flirt with him and watch him lift weights. For the small ego boost he gave me all those months ago, I was indebted to him. When I failed to feed his fragile ego by watching him flex his muscles at training, Cameron wanted to take that boost back and punish me for not giving him what was rightfully his. He meditated on all that he knew about Sally, the girl he met for two minutes, to generate a highly original and factual insult with which he would put me back in my place.
Fuck you, you fat ugly whore ;).
Yep, you really made me look stupid.
This kind of exchange is an outrageous example of the kind of cultural problem that women still face today with the small demographic of men who share Cameron’s beliefs.
To those men, I deliver a response on behalf of women everywhere who have been antagonised for declining a man’s advances:
- You are not entitled to speak to women – or anyone – that way just because they rejected you. I am entitled to say no;
- My beauty and worthiness of respect are in no way qualified by my romantic interest, or lack thereof, in you; and
- I don’t owe you anything.
From the bottom of our hearts, f*ck you.