Does a Man Walk a Woman to Her Car, Even When She Says No?

woman

Many women have learned not to depend on a man. So when she says she doesn’t need you to walk her to her car, at nighttime, on a dark street, do you walk her anyway?

“Can I walk you to your car?” I asked her.

“Oh, don’t worry, I can walk myself,” she responded.

The boy inside me thought, yeah, she can walk herself; she doesn’t need you.

The Man inside me thought, yes, she can walk herself, and I will walk her, anyway.

***

It was dark outside, a bit after 11pm in this quiet Santa Monica neighborhood. Probably safe. But you never know. I had just spoken at an event in a friend’s home about a personal story of transformation and how to step deeper into the challenges Life is calling forth from each of us. I met this delightful woman shortly after my presentation and we laughed most of the rest of the night together.

At one point during the evening, someone convinced us to swap shirts in the middle of my friend’s living room, a challenge we gladly took on while surrounded by amused others (she had an undershirt on and so remained fully covered during the swap, though I did not, and thus I did not). Her dainty white shirt wrapped itself tight around me like a cotton torso Speedo, my forearms bulging out of its elastic sleeve cuffs like sausage being squeezed out of a plastic wrapper. My silver embroidered Japanese koi T-shirt draped her tiny frame like, well, like a petite woman in a man’s T-shirt. She still looked good. I looked like a pirate. Or a flamboyant Bradley Cooper. Depending on who you asked. Whatever, I was enjoying the presence of this playful feminine woman.

The Man in me asked to see her again soon. The boy in me whispered I wasn’t Man enough.

“Where is your car?” I asked as the evening ended and everyone was leaving.

“Oh, just … right around the corner … somewhere over … mmmm … there-ish.”

“Ok, I’ll walk you,” the Man in me told her, sensing her uncertainty in the darkened street.

“No, really, you don’t have to. I’ll be ok. I’m from Jersey!” she said.

The boy inside me eagerly agreed I didn’t have to. He actually thought I shouldn’t, anyway, since she clearly communicated she didn’t need my presence. I’m probably just going to make her more uncomfortable by insisting, and the boy inside me has always been mortified to impose upon a woman. Better to let her walk the dark streets alone than risk imposing my presence upon her. I’m sure her car is close, even if neither of us can see it.

The Man inside me said, Nonsense. I’m here. She’ll be safer if I walk her to her car than if I don’t. She may not know or fully trust me yet. And while that may be wise of her, I know me. She will be safe with me. I’m only walking her to her car. I’m not asking anything of her other than to let me help ensure she gets safely on her way. As a Man, in this moment, that alone is my sacred duty. I want only to keep her safe … even from me.

Where is the line?

She told me at least twice I did not need to walk her. She wasn’t upset about my insistence. We had a good rapport going, and I believed she instinctively trusted me, but should I have let her walk alone?

A lady friend I shared this story with told me that many women in our culture are taught two things:

(1) To be independent and not need men.

(2) To not inconvenience a man.

I don’t know what was at play for this woman. I did notice that as she expressed not to need me, lots of internal programming implored me to back off and let her walk herself into an unnecessarily risky situation.

The boy in me urged me to let her go, mostly from fear of her rejection. The Man in me wouldn’t hear of it, knowing the risk she was taking if I didn’t step up despite her assurances.

Had she really been committed to refusing my presence, I would have backed off and let her go to whatever fate awaited her choice. Which in all likelihood was simply to walk to her car alone at night in the dark, with only her thoughts as company. I would have moved on to wherever my masculine self was being called to serve (which at that moment was to my home, to write and to rest).

Again, where is that line between her resistant assurances and my steadfast presence as a Man?

I do know she got to her car safely. Because I walked her there.

We stood and talked a few minutes in the street, enjoying the full moon while laughing some more about this and that. Finally, we shared a friendly hug and she got in her car.

As I began walking away, she lowered her window and with a grateful, sweet smile sent these delicious words floating towards me on a silver moonbeam:

“Thank you for walking me to my car.”

“Thank you for letting me wear your shirt,” I responded.

We both laughed once more, and she drove off into the night.

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–Photo: jeremylim/Flickr

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About Bryan Reeves

A former US Air Force Captain, Bryan Reeves has survived multiple dark nights of the soul and done really stupid things with women that he deeply regrets and has learned a great deal from. Bryan is a thriving relationship coach and teaches mindfulness to military vets. He has a book on Amazon and is launching an online program called "Understanding Men, Cherishing Women." Connect with Bryan on facebook and his blog, This Wild Waking Journey.

Comments

  1. It was a shit test, nothing more. You failed.

    You should never have swapped shirts earlier. When a woman or the crowd tells you to do something, always decline.

  2. Tom Brechlin says:

    It’s a sad society when we have to second guess an honest good hearted gesture, isn’t it? Wow.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      It is a sad society, but this author and other men (and women) need to understand that a person’s fear or reluctance or discomfort are reason enough not to impose what you think is best on a person. Any person. Unless it’s your child and there’s a good reason.

      A grown woman knows when to say “yes” and “no”. She doesn’t need someone to assume her “no” means “yes” and that they know better than her what needs to happen.

      She was probably grateful for the walk to the car afterward because she realized he was safe and that it was not uncomfortable. But until then, she probably wasn’t 100% comfortable.

      Maybe not THIS woman – Bryan could probably sense it was some sort of game (I HATE GAMES) or test (I ALSO HATE TESTS), but in my mind, no means no. It means it about a drink, it means it about a walk to the car, it means it about help with my kids or my groceries. If I say no, I mean NO. Even if I say, “no thanks”.

      And most of the women I know feel the same way.

      • trey1963 says:

        As a group women need to Kill the idea of playing COY……..publicly embarrass the heck out of the women that practice it.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          I think publicly embarrassing anybody is cruel and reeks of a sadistic nature, but I think that it would be better for men and women if we all understood that NO means NO under every circumstance (unless, of course, you’ve negotiated something else with clear consent in a kink situation)

      • Hi Joanna. I want to clarify that I did not feel she was playing a game with me. What I experienced was an automatic machismo muscle on her part that was simply accustomed to doing everything herself. Had I felt her discomfort, and I was definitely looking for that, I would have left her alone. I even say that had she been committed to me not walking her, I would have honored that immediately.

        This has proven a controversial question. A lot of women since reading this have confessed to me that they often say “no” when they actually do want the man to actually walk them, that they are even let down when the man lets them go alone. However, I do know this is NOT an excuse / reason for men to not listen to a woman’s “no.”

        The way we interact with each other is not a black and white thing. Women especially put themselves in unnecessarily dangerous situations, simply because “nothing ever happened to me before on a dark street, so why should I be concerned now?”

        I think what we’re all learning is how to do this relational dance in a mature, respectful way that empowers us to all give our full unique gifts to each other. I believe an inherent part of the masculine gift is Protection, to serve as Guardian. Just because an adult woman says she doesn’t need protection, doesn’t mean she’s right … especially on a dark street.

        But this isn’t a science. We’re all learning together.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed! been through this too much recently and it is very disheartening.

  3. Sounds more like the Man in you was saying. “let her go, she can take care of herself”, while the Machismo in you was beating your chest and saying, “I’m a Man, I walk ladies to their cars and protect them from the scarey things hiding in the night.”

    It’s not a Boy’s thought to let women take care of themselves, I doubt boys spend much time thinking about women at all.

    Don’t get me wrong, a little chivalry can be sweet (even to a feminist) but the way you worded the article just had me cringing from the get go.

    • ‘I doubt boys spend much time thinking about women at all’

      Sorry, that made me laugh. I don’t think you understand boys very well.

      Ps – Privateman is correct.

    • Agreed. Boy vs. Man…what? “Man” in this case definitely came off as this role of protector and macho man…a definition of manhood I thought GMP was trying to expand from. If I were the woman in this situation, I would have been annoyed at how this man came off. Like, ‘Okay, you said you were fine, but I’m going to walk you anyway because I’m a man and you need me to be 100% safe and I know best.” If he had said something along the lines of “Do you mind if I walk you anyway, because I want to spend more time with you?” that would be completely different than “I want to walk you because it gives me piece of mind that I’m doing the right thing as a man”

    • I think you misunderstood … “the boy” simply didn’t want to be rejected. He didn’t care whether she was safe or not. He cared more about his own fragile existence.

      “The Man” didn’t care about rejection or his own well being. He only cared about making sure she was safe.

      At least that’s how I experienced, and how I chose to tell the story.

  4. Dare I ask what the guy in this story would have felt like if this would have happened?http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Jill_Meagher

  5. Luke Davis says:

    One way to approach it if you are interested in her is to say. “Oh. I was hoping for 5min more conversation.”

    Or there is always the out and out lie. “Cool, that’s sort of where my car is you can keep me company”

    If she really wants you to walk with her she wont call you on the white lie

  6. No mention here of the fact that she may have been scared of you – remember that most sexual assaults are committed by people we know (I myself was raped by a long-term friend and work college who often drove me home from work so I didn’t have to walk alone at night).

    It’s the Schrödingers rapist principle. If it’s someone you don’t know well or know only within certain situations, or if you’ve given her any concerns about you (women are hyper-aware of interactions with men as we have to be, so maybe you were a little too friendly or you were being a bit too pushy about walking her to her car) then it may set-off alarm bells. It’s not just about a woman being self-sufficient or not wanting to inconvenience the man, it’s about her assessing her safety and knowing that walking to her car alone may be safer than being walked by someone who may be a risk to her. It’s her in control verses you being in control – rape is about control.

  7. PursuitAce says:

    I’m just curious why you’re swapping shirts. Is this some ode to the World Cup, or is there some new cultural phenom going on that I’m unaware of?

  8. Some of the comments are… interesting, let’s put it this way.

    I am now 47 years old and have experienced situations like this few times in life, in Europe and Asia. As a woman, we always first say, “No, it’s okay!” for two reasons: because it really is okay (if it is), and because we don’t want to inconvenience the other person.

    And a few times out of these few times the other person wouldn’t take no for an answer and walk me to wherever I was going (car, subway, taxi stand). I hardly felt that he (rarerly she) was being intrusive or anything (only when I would have been bored or annoyed by that person in the first place – but then we usually would not have got to that place in the conversation anyways). I always appreciated it. And not only because there might have been danger. To me, that’s part of how women are to be treated. But maybe I am just old-fashioned.

  9. The boy in me…the man in me…OMG!

    I need a couple of Tylenol after plowing through this little nightmare.

  10. The tone of this article is quite creepy. It really comes across as “haha I totally violated her consent but it’s okay because I’m a big strong man who knows better than her what’s best for her and I didn’t even rape her (yet).”

    I can see the struggle and conversation you’re trying to have, about how she might have been demurring in order not to inconvenience you. So I support you offering a second time, to be sure that’s not the case. But after the second no you back off. Even if she said thanks later, it very well might have been relief after several minutes of fear as you walked with her that motivated her gratitude. That’s fear that you caused, even though I’m sure you were trying to prevent that. Even if you knew your intentions, as you said, she didn’t.

    • I don’t believe she was ever afraid of me. That’s why I continued walking her. There was also no “haha I violated her consent” vibe to sharing this story … unfortunate that this is how you experienced it.

  11. (3) She wants to get away from YOU, and now you’re violating her expressed wishes and following her. Creepy.

    (4) She’s an adult who can damn well make her own choices based on her knowledge of the area and its safety, her knowledge of her ability to flee or fight an attacker, and her knowledge of rape statistics (more likely to be raped by someone known than an unknown assailant).

    I always appreciate an offer to walk me home. Anyone who violates my consent if I decline is no longer someone I feel comfortable with.

    • I don’t think he’s arguing about her “adult” status. He is just a man who isn’t sure what to do and wants to do what’s right.

      I do agree that if she tells him “no” to something he offers, he should listen. But I can understand the confusion he has too.

      Personally, when a man offers to walk me to my car, I’m grateful for it and accept. But it’s a personal choice for each individual.

  12. Violate is such a strong word. I believe I made the right decision in this case. Had I sensed any discomfort from her, I would have backed off immediately.

    I think what scares some women reading this blog is their experience with many men have no sensitivity for a woman’s discomfort, either that or don’t care. That’s not a mechanism that is broken in me. If anything, I’m hyper sensitive to a woman’s discomfort. I usually back off before a woman even wants me too, proactively preventing any possibility of her discomfort.

    These comments are pointing to a great need for men to respond more thoughtfully to women’s discomfort in ways that don’t diminish their masculinity yet completely respect her “no.”

    • Megalodon says:

      Violate is such a strong word.

      Just because it is a strong word does not mean it is inaccurate.

      You are opening a can of worms. You violated the “Schrodinger’s Rapist” rule and are now doubling down. She told you “no” twice. You disregarded her verbal refusals because you believed that you could read her emotions and disposition and that your perception of her emotions and disposition could override her explicit verbal refusals. In other words, you thought “no” did not actually mean “no.”

      When people pointed out this problem, you responded by suggesting that you have some accurate and superior “sensitivity” and ability to read women which makes you different (better) than most men, and so it can be okay for you to disregard a women’s verbal “no” when you think her non-verbal emotional cues say something different. When you choose to disregard a “no,” it is okay, because apparently you can tell when a women means “yes” even though she says “no.”

      Do you think there might be just a slight problem when some man (with a possibly overestimated sense of his ability to “read” women) goes around saying to other people that “no” can really mean “yes”?

      • Wow, I don’t know if you are a man or woman, but I love you! and we need more people in the world like you! Very well written and thought out. Thank you for this.

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