By the time I was 18, I accepted I had to be careful around men after reading stories about women being hurt by them. I knew how unsafe the world was for women, and I listened to my parents’ warnings about trusting my closest guy friends.
I analyzed every interaction I had with men and imagined the worst outcomes. Being alone with men made me feel weak and vulnerable. I knew if they wanted to hurt me, they’d take advantage of the situation.
When preparing for college, I needed to decide if I wanted to live on a coed floor. I was scared of being on the same floor as men because I thought I’d be a target for them to hurt me.
I felt guilty for being scared of people I hadn’t met; I didn’t know them but was already judging them. I needed an explanation of my fear to validate my feelings and stop the guilt.
Before I selected my residence hall, I needed to consider if I was willing to sacrifice the opportunity to meet interesting people who could teach me a lot just because I was scared of living on the same floor as men.
I thought that I could learn from people with similar interests by dorming in a Living Learning Community and decided to live in the Klein College of Media and Communication LLC in Johnson and Hardwick Hall, despite it being a coed floor.
When I met the guys living on my floor, their jokes made me laugh, they came up with spontaneous plans and they respected every boundary I had. I told myself I had nothing to worry about and I was overreacting, but a voice in my head insisted I should be afraid.
I gradually became closer to the guys on my floor, we went to Welcome Week events and hung out in my dorm, but I could still hear my parents’ voices in my head saying I was in danger. I felt nervous when we walked around campus or ate alone, I was constantly on alert and expecting the worst.
Although they were nice to me, I couldn’t fully trust my new guy friends. I was convinced any man would eventually do something to hurt me.
I felt guilty about being scared because I had no logical explanation to fear the guys on my floor. I thought I was a bad person and there was something wrong with me.
I talked to my friends from home in Colombia and told them how I felt; they assured me I wasn’t alone in feeling nervous around men.
Knowing I wasn’t the only person thinking this made me feel better, but I was looking for a clear reason why I distrusted men and why I felt guilty.
“I Hate Men” by Pauline Harmange caught my attention while I was purchasing it for a friend because I thought I’d relate to the controversial title. I didn’t know what the book was about, but I purchased a copy for myself to understand my relationship with men. The book helped me accept my feelings by exploring the concept of inherently distrusting men, and the validity behind it.
Harmange, the feminist writer, helped me understand that navigating the world as a woman has made me aware of the dangers around me and influenced how I interact with men.
My relationship with men changed after reading the book, not because I trust them, but because I don’t feel guilty for not doing so immediately. My experiences as a woman — constantly hearing about abuse and feeling fear while walking the streets — have shaped how I interact with men and I should never apologize for looking after myself.
Moving into an uncomfortable environment taught me it’s important to talk about confusing feelings and learn it’s not wrong to experience them. Living on a coed floor helped me face my fears because interacting with men on a daily basis showed I can be careful around men and also be friends with them.
It’s completely valid to mistrust men; the world is not a safe place for women. Talking about my feelings helped me see I wasn’t alone and knowing that gave me the validation I needed. Talking is important and uncomfortable feelings are valid.