I have a disastrously poor metaphors to explain how I view human connections. I think of myself, my private life, my soul, whatever, as a house with a porch, garden, front gate, etc. There are people I speak to at the front gate. I neither need nor want them to actually enter my property. Our connection doesn’t warrant any further intimacy. That doesn’t mean that I have to be awful to them. I can be perfectly polite and pleasant to the guy who delivers my parcels, but I’ll be so at my front gate. No need for him to get further into my property, my life, etc.
[I think that’s one trick we’re missing in the modern world: we don’t have to like or care about someone to be “nice” to them. Manners, for me, are as much about me, my opinion of myself, how I choose to present myself to myself first and then to the world, as about the person they are aimed to. Unless people give me cause to be an asshole, I’ll be (relatively) nice, because that’s what I like. But asshole is absolutely on the menu.]
Access to other areas is by invitation only. There are people I speak to in the garden, on the porch, at the front door, in the hallway. There are people I invite into my living room. There are some I invite into the bedroom.
In different settings, different rules and expectations apply. The nearer anyone gets to my inner sanctum (which is why the metaphor is truly awful – “inner sanctum” and “vagina” are not in fact synonymous), the more rules apply and the more important the expectations are. The more trust I give, the more trustworthy I expect people to be.
Any attempt at barging into a more intimate area – and that doesn’t just mean the bedroom – means an automatic ban from all private areas. If you show me that I can’t trust you, then I won’t trust you. If you don’t respect my consent about the little things, I will take that as a significant data point and never, ever assume that you will respect my consent about the big things. So, out the front gate you go. If we can talk at all, we’ll do so over there.
I absolutely hate how consent got co-opted as into a purely sexual concept, because it is a major underpinning of healthy interpersonal relationships. I will not talk to your mom about you without your consent. I will not reveal private things you’ve said without your consent. If you let me in your house, I will not look through your drawers without your consent. In a very real sense, trusting people who are unwilling or incapable of being invested in your consent is a recipe for a trainwreck.
These days I’m forever seeing people complain of having been “friendzoned,” and it pisses me off mightily, mostly in two ways. It pisses me off when I see people (seems to be mostly women) deliberately leading on other people (seems to be mostly guys) with sexualised behaviour in order to get them to do stuff. Yes, nobody should expect sex in exchange for goods or services unless otherwise specified beforehand; however, that game gets rigged way too often.
It pisses me off even more when I see people (seems to be mostly guys) who are told that sex is clearly entirely, unequivocally, most definitely off the menu, are not happy about that, and neither accept it nor move on. They are not really interested in a platonic friendship, but they choose to hang about just in case the sex ban gets lifted.
Most of them behave harmlessly enough, manifesting their displeasure solely by moaning incessantly about the iniquities of some people and acting all deflated and hard-done-by. The fact that this makes them about as enjoyable as companions as a foot fungus, and about equally as likely to be invited into anyone’s bed, doesn’t seem to register. Some of them are less harmless, though. A lot of them just seem to wait for that opportunity for sex to happen – that sex that they were clearly told wasn’t going to happen. I find this unwholesome, if not downright unsafe. Way too many of them spend way too much time hanging around that metaphorical bedroom door, waiting for the time you forget to lock it behind you, because that means that they now can come in, right? They know that you said “no” in X set of circumstances, but now that the circumstances have changed the “no” doesn’t still have to apply, does it? And if some of them accidentally-on-purpose happen to fall on the doorknob, and the door springs open, and they walk right in, well, how could they know that they shouldn’t?
Anyone who doesn’t want to be your friend cannot be “friendzoned;” because they weren’t friends in the first place. To me, a friend is someone with whom I have a mutually consensual, respectful relationship that encompasses what we both want it to encompass, but doesn’t have a romantic/sexual element. The absence of that element doesn’t make the friendship an inferior connection, because neither of us sees our friendship as some kind of booby prize.