Living in a gender-neutral suite has, for the most part, the same perks and drawbacks as living in any other suite. But as a girl, there are some unique benefits to living with guys, including the option to have a fake boyfriend while out. I don’t mean that I’m parading my friends around to my family so that they’ll finally stop asking about my nonexistent boyfriend. I mean that when I’m out in Boston—or anywhere really—I have even the tiniest defense against creepy men that stare at me.
If you’re a girl, you probably know this feeling all too well, but men are generally clueless, even if they would otherwise help. Somehow, when a man is near you, cat-callers and other types of creeps become less active. And when I say “somehow,” I say it with the knowledge that men tend to respect other men and not women. If you say you’re uncomfortable or make it clear that you aren’t interested, unfortunately that sometimes only matters when another man is affected. Men won’t mess with another man’s woman out on the street, so pretending you’re in a relationship is often all you can do. This is terrible, but I think most girls can relate to putting safety above rationality while out, particularly at night.
It’s crazy to me that I’ve actually heard my male friends tell me that I’m being sexist when I say that I’m wary of strange men when I’m alone at night, even if I’m on or near campus. If I have my keys with me at night, even when I’m with friends, I usually have them between my fingers, hands in a fist and ready. Am I likely to be attacked? Not at all. But when I’ve had strangers staring at me for longer-than-appropriate intervals and have seen men hovering near me suspiciously, I worry and I become afraid. I am trained in kickboxing, and I am afraid because there are still clear differences in height and strength.
Rather than have this just be a rant about how women need to worry more, I also wanted to write this as a “thank you” to my suite-mate and friend, who recognized someone following and hovering too close, and put his arm around my waist, pretending to be my boyfriend, until the guy had passed. Living with guys that I am so close with, I would feel comfortable asking them to do the same if I were ever uncomfortable. I’d like to think most of them would go along with it without me having to say anything explicitly. While it’s a sad thing, for now, it’s an important thing to just help girls and women of all ages regardless of their sexuality, race/ethnicity, culture, or be they trans or cis. Because this is something that all women go through, unfortunately, and while it isn’t a permanent solution to use men to solve the problems of other men, it’s helpful as a short-term solution.