Daisy Buchanan | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Can You Be Friends With A Guy Who\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s A Dick To Women?

Can You Be Friends With A Guy Who's A Dick To Women?

The Debrief: Clue: No

You discover something odd when you go out with an awful man who has lovely mates. People will forgive their chums almost anything, given the right combination of time and alcohol. ‘It’s bad, we know, he’s really awful, actually,’ they’ll say, sorrowfully shaking their heads.

‘He thinks Entourage is a documentary and he wants to make friends with Ari. He once made me go to Mahiki and then got me thrown out because he put his balls on my shoulder when I was at the bar. But you know, we’ve known each other for 15 years now, and he came for Christmas that time his Dad had to go to Australia for work, and he bought all those Jägerbombs the other day, and paid when we were sick in the taxi.’

I’m not in touch with my ex boyfriend, because I’m still living with his legacy of sexist comments, dismissive put-downs and endless, low level meanness. But I know that some of my best friends are still very close to him, and swear that he’s ‘truly lovely’, despite the fact that I once witnessed him looking at a picture of post-2007 Britney Spears while shaking his head and saying ‘Once upon a time I would have smashed that.’

With my balls out and my cards on the table, I can’t complain because I knew exactly what he was like before we got together, and I still went out with him. At the time, I felt that the fact he deigned to date me was proof positive that I was not like the other girls – because as far as he was concerned, the other girls weren’t human beings.

But looking back I’m ashamed that I let his bad behaviour pass unchallenged for so long. And I couldn’t let a known misogynist into my life any more than I could hang out with a racist or a homophobe.

Susan, 24, a PR account manager says: ‘Some of the guys I hung out with at uni really were the worst. I think back to rugby socials and my “affectionate” nickname, Slaggy Suze, and I feel a bit sick. Some of the guys have grown up a bit since we graduated, but there are some who just haven’t moved on.

‘It took me a while to realise how weird it was, and I thought, “Oh, they’re just being nostalgic.” But now I’ve tried to actively challenge the casual sexism. I think it might be falling on deaf ears, but I’m starting to think I don’t want to be friends with these guys anyway. It’s really sad to lose old friends, but then it’s really sad to think I spent all this time with these sexist boys.’

According to Ellie, 28, an artist, sexism can lie dormant for a long time. ‘When my best mate broke up with his girlfriend, I anticipated a wild, crazy period. I was actually excited about going out drinking with him, being his wing woman and giving him some tips. But he got Tinder and instantly turned into the worst human being imaginable.

‘Obviously he should enjoy his freedom, but he was like a sex addict, regularly trying to sleep with more than one woman in the same day. He got two mobile phones, and showed everyone in the pub a picture of a “pump and dump” – a woman he said was only attractive enough to sleep with once.

‘Eventually I had to tell him that he was making me feel a bit sick, and his behaviour was horrible and depressing. We’re not talking any more. I really hope that he comes back to me and this is just a phase that he has to get out of his system, but it makes me very sad.’

Counsellor Peggy James explains: ‘It’s very hard to be friends with someone whose values are fundamentally different from yours. If they constantly put down and dismiss women, or only see them in a sexual way, and you’re a woman, maintaining a positive relationship is going to be incredibly difficult.

‘However, most young men aren’t fundamentally terrible sexists. They’re surrounded by a culture that presents it as an aspirational thing to be. So as a friend you’re in a brilliant position to call them out on their bad behaviour, and be their human face of womanhood. But if you find them offensive, you’re under no obligation to educate or fix them, either.’

Asha, 26, a design student, has managed it. ‘I have a mate on my course who is so sweet, and like me, a little bit nerdy. So I nearly fell off my chair when he said he’d “do” the waitress when we were having coffee. I just burst out laughing and said, “Why are you talking like that?”

‘It turned out he was surrounded by these very experienced guys, and felt out of his depth. I told him the more a guy brags about women, the less action they’re usually getting, and he got it straight away. I think he’s been a civilising influence on his mates, as well.’

Ultimately, sexism is usually an expression of ignorance, thoughtlessness and unexamined prejudice. If you’re close to a guy who’s awful with women but has other wonderful qualities, there’s a strong chance that they’re repeating words and channelling attitudes that no-one has ever forced them to question.

A bit of sexism isn’t so bad, as long as they’re happy to listen, apologise and learn to know better. A guy who treats women as though they’re pieces of meat doesn’t respect them, or himself – and probably not you, either. 

Liked this? You may also be interested in:

All The Things Women Will Never Understand About Men (And Vice Versa)

The Politics Of Earning More Than Your Boyfriend

The Things People Wish They’d Told Their Younger Selves About Relationships

Follow Daisy on Twitter: @NotRollergirl

Picture: Lukasz Wierzbowski 

Tags: Relationships