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I will note a pattern I have noticed:

In situations where men make initial inquiries and the woman turns it down, but does not cut all contact with him forevermore, men seem to pretty consistently interpret this as "she actually likes me and is playing hard to get." The problem for women with careers is that walking away entirely from a powerful man would mean walking away from all kinds of professional settings where she is likely to run into him. Cutting him out of her life entirely would be career suicide.

The one message we really need to get powerful men to get is this:

Working women are talking to you at all for the exact same reason working men are talking to you. And it isn't because they think you are hot. They are trying to make a business deal or further a career goal, not fulfill your wildest fantasies.

I think this is why so many men persist in saying things like "I just misread the situation." And we will keep hearing that until it is the cultural norm for men to assume that women they work with are there to work, and that's it.

A good point, but a grossly over-generalized one. Men "not taking no for an answer" after rejection is the exception, not the general norm, even if it's over represented in the VC scandal. That's why it's a scandal.

I think you are misunderstanding my remarks in some way. Nowhere did I use the phrase "not taking no for an answer."

I am not talking about normal situations where it is possible for clear, unambiguous communication to take place. I am talking about a gray zone that makes it inherently challenging. I have written about this before:


And I am saying we need to work at fostering a culture where people in power default to an assumption that if there is any doubt, they need to err on the side of assuming "This is about business, not romance. Period." Because my firsthand experience and pieces like the one under discussion agree that, all too often, a woman just can't seem to adequately signal "romance is NOT on the table here" and also remain on good working terms with a man in power. That is exactly the point I am trying to make. It has nothing to do with asserting that men don't take no for an answer.

I paraphrase, only because the exact quote was pretty long:

In situations where men make initial inquiries and the woman turns it down, but does not cut all contact with him forevermore, men seem to pretty consistently interpret this as "she actually likes me and is playing hard to get."

Perhaps your intent was more nuanced than your literal text. Either way, men in general do not "consistently" keep pursuing after rejection, just because the female doesn't cut them out of their lives altogether.

I chose the phrase "make initial inquiries" very carefully. It is not intended to describe a situation where men are openly and unambiguously hitting on a woman. In my experience, in delicate situations, there is a feeling out process. It isn't a bald question.

If you go back and read the article under discussion, he repeatedly asked her to have wine with him. Sometimes she said no. Other times, she said yes and it went fine. She herself was confused as to whether or not he was hitting on her. It wasn't clear to her until it crossed some incredibly unambiguous line.

If they were not working together, a woman sometimes saying yes to wine and sometimes saying no but remaining on warm friendly terms could be called dating. Studies show that it takes women longer to warm up to sex than it does men. Most men are used to having to work at getting to yes romantically. And the usual way you get there is by repeatedly pursuing social interaction. If the social interaction goes well, your hopes that it might lead to sex are not dead yet.

Given that fact, it isn't crazy for a man to interpret these situations as a potential budding romance -- unless you posit that she was ONLY there to do business and needed contact with him because of his position of power.

I am generally pretty sympathetic to the man's side here, so it aggravates me when I so consistently get accused of BS like this. Because when I try too hard to make it clear I am not accusing men of anything, then I get called a rape apologist.

I keep waiting for my long track record of even-handed remarks on the topic to pay off and get me interpreted as not a man-hating bitch. I am beginning to think that is expecting too much of the world.

I feel strongly this is very much a situational problem. But no one seems to want to hear that. People are too busy lining up on the side of the accusers and planning witch hunts or on the side of the defenders and excusing the behavior. And then everything I say gets interpreted through a lens of "which side of this war are you on?" The answer is "Neither. I would like to broker a peace deal." And that message goes unheard by people whose minds are made up, and don't confuse them with the facts.

Your post and bio give the impression of seeing yourself as an "HN celebrity", frustrated at people purposely ignoring your blog. Are you aware of HN's scale? I've been here for about 5 years, and have never heard of you prior to an hour ago. I'd be astounded if a full 1% of HN's readership has clicked on a single page on your blog, ever.

In reality, we seem to be in near-total alignment. Within a larger comment, you had one statement that seems over-generalized. After agreeing with the gist of your post, I mildly and respectfully challenged that one over-generalized statement.

That's not a big deal. It might catch a downvote or two, because HN is HN. But that's what normal healthy human conversation sounds like, outside of any particular echo chamber. It's not an attack, and not really even a defense.

Somehow you're now in a "witch hunt", or being called a "man-hating bitch", or otherwise under attack from the "other side", etc. I can't even... uhh... just, no... you're not. And if you feel like you have to take it to that level, in order not to be called a "rape apologist", then maybe you run with the wrong circles online.

I wrote a piece recently about the witch hunt atmosphere that is developing.

Just because you have never heard of me before does not mean I do not routinely run into people who clearly know who I am when I have never heard of them. That isn't delusion on my part.

After advising you that you misunderstood and clarifying, you basically doubled down, thus positioning yourself as an adversary. Now you are attacking me and making a lot of derogatory comments. This does not back up your assertion that you were engaging in good faith and I am just overreacting.

If you and I were really on the same page, my clarification would have been the end of the matter, not the start of escalating aggressive remarks on your side.

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