There are tons of phobias out there: arachnophobia, agoraphobia, and although I have never seen a professional for this, I know androphobia–fear of men–exists. I didn’t grow up with my father, one of my uncles was an alcoholic, one of my aunts married a man who abused her, and one of my cousins married a serial cheater. It didn’t help that the abuser in the family was also a pervert who would sexually harass my mother and I since as long as I could remember.
For many years I wore a shell to protect me from men and after a short-lived, but bad relationship I found myself feeling completely torn to pieces. I had never thought I’d date someone who was verbally abusive toward me or who would disrespect me that much, and when it happened I felt absolutely stupid. It took years for the damage to undo itself. Sure, I went out on dates and had occasional sex but there ways no way in hell I’d ever let a man ever hurt me that badly ever again. I never let anyone in, even if I liked them.
Sometime around November 2015 I realized I was dying inside and felt the need to make myself live again. So before anyone asks, one of my main motivations for this year of yes is to lose my fear of men. I’m afraid of meeting men who are abusive, I used to be terrified of men I met at clubs, bars, or other social situations. Having grown up in a religious household where many women also ended up being nothing punching bags, I was especially afraid of men I met who were extremely religious.
When I came down here, I really only intended to work and had no thoughts of staying and didn’t care if I had fun. I had been processing other issues: financial problems, a broken heart, and extremely low self-esteem. Meeting a guy was just not a priority and even though there have been nice guys here in Buenos Aires despite the constant complaints I’ve heard from women here, I decided that one of my motivations for this project would be to confront this fear. To do this, I would simply trust my gut.
The thing about instincts is that many women and children are socialized to be nice to everyone even if he’s a creep. Granted, I know not every guy is perverted sexual harasser, but the ones who are give us a feeling in our gut that we should follow. Nice guys, as it turns out, also give off a nice vibe.
Buenos Aires men, or my experience with them, anyway
There have been instances here where the frankness of men here has scared me. I’ve had several instances in which men here just literally grab my face and kiss it. Only two of these instances was consensual, and I’m only friends (albeit an aloof friend) of one guy, whom I shall now refer to as The Guy from the Bus Stop.
The Guy from the Bus Stop is someone I met at an American-themed bar here in the Palermo neighborhood sometime around September 2015. Before I continue with this part of the story, let me explain how my life was around September 2015: I had just gotten over two consecutive bouts of bronchitis and for many months now, had barely been making enough to make ends meet. To top it off, I made the mistake of moving down here while still paying off my car and my bank account was consistently in the red. I worked very hard teaching English classes, dealt with many issues, lived in a house that I hated, and was just extremely unhappy.
Back to The Guy from the Bus Stop.
When I spoke to him he was very sweet and we talked for a bit, but I didn’t think much of it. I decided to go home and so did he and he offered to walk me to the bus stop. It was about a 15-20 minute walk and kept talking the whole way. Talking to him was distracting me from all the issues I had to confront when I headed back home.
Somehow as we were waiting for my bus he just kissed me and since I wasn’t prepared and was at a time in my life when men, or finding love (or just plain old getting laid), mattered to me I didn’t think much of it either. But I let him keep doing it. He eventually asked me to go home with him and I refused. The issues I mentioned before were a big factor in my decision, but frankly, my fear of men was an even bigger factor.
I got on the first bus that headed near my house after saying “no” and felt I did the right thing. I didn’t feel I would ever see him again. I felt a little bad, but I was too depressed to even remember his name. Mostly though, he reminded me of the men in the past who had abused my family members. He had asked me to go home with him even though I was a stranger, and I was sure he didn’t see me as a person.
We kept running into each other in group settings and as I would speak to him, I never got the urge to hide and never felt uncomfortable. Slowly, I realized I misjudged him and made a mistake, but it was probably too late to change his mind, so I never tried even though I developed a small crush on him. Although we’re not close, I consider him a friend and someone who is always welcome at my house.
I don’t recommend just randomly making out or hooking up as therapy. You might not be able to befriend someone after you reject them. I feel that I changed my mind about The Guy from the Bus Stop when I started to change my mind about my own circumstances. I started to make a bit more money and be able to socialize.
Around November 2015 I started being able to afford my bills–something I had seldom been able to do before then. Now that I was able to survive, I made the decision to work on my own issues because no one should be rejected solely because of them. I learned this from The Guy from the Bus Stop, and I’m grateful for that lesson and for his kindness to this day. I’m sure I won’t say yes to every guy I meet just because of this experiment but I will never say no to someone ever again from a position of fear. This decision has been a very liberating one for me.
The Guy from the Bus Stop made me realize I had been wrong for so many years. In many ways, it’s a story with a happy ending even if it never became anything else than just one kiss.
Couchsurfing and men
Since beginning my year of yes I’ve gone out with four guys from Couchsurfing and have made it a point to initiate conversations with people who seem nice. I follow my gut. I don’t consider any of these meet-ups to be dates, but they’ve been a good opportunity to meet nice men that I know I won’t be afraid of. Things only ran afoul with one of these people, but by then I was able to see that we just had no chemistry. The one guy ended up liking me for real and I just didn’t feel it even after going out a few times.
I’m not really looking for some end result with any of this, except to lose my fear of men in a healthy way and forming healthy friendships with the opposite sex. We live in a world in which women are taught to be objects of desire. We’re taught to be ashamed when we say yes and no to men and what they want from us, and so I hope to slowly combat those prejudices and challenge those fears in myself–one friendship at a time.