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Don’t Feed The Online Bullies

I am an asexual aromantic woman, which basically adds up to “I don’t date.”

But when a polite “No thank you.” to a guy asking me out doesn’t work, I get rather pointed questions, “Oh, you have a boyfriend?” “No, I am just not interested, can you please drop it?” This tends to lead to homophobic ranting and/or accusations of being a stuck up bitch.

If I make the mistake of thinking the individual will listen to me and explain I am not sexually attracted to either gender and do not date anyone, the response, depending on if this is online or in person, will escalate to rape jokes or outright threats. In person doesn’t happen anymore, because I no longer socialize due to phobias this sort of thing made significantly worse.

But online, the amount of times I have received this response is beyond counting. I have left entire websites to avoid it. I do not join dating sites, I do not advertise my single status. As far as I can tell I do nothing to encourage the idea I am looking for a relationship. But somehow, some person I have never spoken to gets it into their head that “you just haven’t met me yet” is what I need to hear. No. Thank you.

Short of lying, what am I supposed to do? If they don’t listen to the first “no thank you”they get a, “No, leave me alone”, and then a block, but that only stops the individual. Do I just have to cut all the sites where those messages come from? Or is there something in my attitude I could change to prevent the first message from even being sent?  1007-13

Have you tried joining the Ehell forum?   I’ve made it pretty clear that I and the moderators have no interest in knowing the sexual preferences or exploits of the members so that subject isn’t even on the radar. Plus the members are far more civil and polite than most online communities.

I’ve been online for 20 years or more, been a participant in many online forums and one thing I do know is this.   The only way people know anything about you is what you yourself offer for public consumption.   If you are being harassed and bullied online for your personal preferences, it seems to me that somehow you are putting this information about yourself out into the public domain.   If you have to repeatedly leave web sites due to people harassing you, my question is what exactly are you telling them about yourself that gives them that amount of information?   If someone you’ve never spoken to solicits you, why are you even responding to that?  Hit the delete key and ignore.  You don’t owe people any explanations.

Years ago a woman from an online community sought my help against several bullies who were harassing her.   I think she expected me to get in the middle of the fray and kick some bully butt.  Instead I advised her to stop splatting her personal information and family dirty laundry to complete strangers who were then exploiting it.   An effective way to stop online bullying is to stop feeding them information they can use to stalk, twist and manipulate. I have been aghast over the years at what people will reveal about themselves online to total strangers who have basically done nothing to deserve that level of trust and confidentiality.   Don’t feed the trolls, don’t feed the bullies.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sylviatexas August 4, 2014, 6:59 am

    Explaining yourself, I think, just adds fuel to the fire for some people.

    Just decline & don’t respond to any further comments; disengage.

    (This applies to any situation, not just dating.)

    • kingsrings August 4, 2014, 12:59 pm

      Not explaining yourself can also add fuel to the fire. This happened frequently on the EHell forum for a while when it was going through a bullying phrase. If you refused to answer a question to avoid a confrontation or bullying, you would be pestered and put down to answer the questions. But what can you do, except control your actions and continue to ignore anyone trying to be inciteful. That goes for any forum.

  • The Elf August 4, 2014, 7:05 am

    I’ve learned a few things about life online over the years and I hope this can help you. Ultimately, the problem lies with the guys who aren’t taking “no” for an answer and somehow think harrassment will lead to sex. (Really, has that ever worked?) But since you – and I – go online, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by sticking to some basics.
    1) Stick to moderated forums or social media where you can control what people see.
    2) Ignore functions are awesome. Use them early, use them often.
    3) Since you’ve gotten a lot of sexual hits, use a male or gender nuetral userid or login and never refer to yourself as female. I do this on Xbox Live (and don’t use the mic) since male gamers sometimes think that female gamer = must want them badly (along with a laundry list of other worthless and inaccurate assumptions). No, what I want is to play a multiplayer game. That’s why I’m on a console game! If I wanted sex at that time, I wouldn’t be playing a game! Similar thing with MMORPGs, though female avatars/character names are used by both male and female players so you’re risking less by using them. (And I’ve noticed that the female characters acting the sluttiest tend to be male players.)
    4) Lastly, follow the admin’s advice about not putting yourself out there. While there are always idiots who randomly hit on anyone they think might be female, most bullies look for reasons to harrass people. Don’t give them ammunition, such as putting “please, no sexual requests” or something in your profile.
    5) Lurk at a site for a while before posting. Get a feel of the place, see if this sort of harrassment is going on.
    6) I like your technique of saying no, politely, once and if they persist throw up a block. Yes, it only works on an individual but that’s what the online world is – a bunch of individuals.

    • The Elf August 4, 2014, 12:37 pm

      Heh, “Lastly” at number 4 out of 6. I reordered them at the last minute and didn’t edit. Oops! Sorry!

    • JO August 4, 2014, 3:36 pm

      Great advice!

  • JO August 4, 2014, 7:25 am

    I’m so sorry you have been treated that way. I agree with admin that you should just ignore date requests, and you owe nobody an explanation. Especially if these are not people you actually know offline.

  • Abby August 4, 2014, 7:26 am

    I find this submission rather baffling. I can certainly understand that there are some obtuse people who don’t take rejection well, and if this happened occasionally this would make sense, but the OP makes it sound like she is turning down invitations left and right, and every person who is declined becomes aggressive and hostile. I find that a little hard to believe.

    As far as online sites, I agree with admin- where are you going where this kind of bullying takes place? I frequently post on message boards regarding a multitude of topics- fitness, parenting, manners, TV shows, news, advice columns, etc- and never once has anyone’s dating life ever been brought up. Sure, things get heated sometimes when people have conflicting opinions, but I have never seen, in all my time online, someone get hassled about his or her dating preferences.

    • The Elf August 4, 2014, 12:42 pm

      Sadly, I have encountered this, mostly in gaming. The harassment of female gamers is a sadly common and well-documented phenomena. Sometimes it is requests for sex or implications that the player is sexually promiscious, other times it is assumptions that the female player isn’t skilled, or shouldn’t be there at all (“go make me a sammich”), and pushback sometimes does lead to aggressive responses. Hence my eventual assumption of a gender nuetral gaming tag for Xbox Live. I do this for fun, to relax. I don’t want to deal with this kind of BS when I’m just trying to unwind.

      • Mya August 5, 2014, 3:25 am

        Strangely, as a female WoW gamer I’ve never encountered this. In fact I met my Fiancé on a guild run.

        • The Elf August 5, 2014, 6:48 am

          I think you should count your lucky stars! (And I’ve never had it happen in guild either, because I only join guilds that don’t put up with that.)

        • SherlockSara August 5, 2014, 2:43 pm

          Another WoW gamer here! /wave

          I haven’t encountered it personally but know a lot of girls who have, one of my friends won’t even join vent because of being verbally harassed multiple times by different people.

        • Lexi August 8, 2014, 5:28 pm

          I love playing on XboxLive and I have a female gamertag.
          If I spend about 8 hours playing online (not consecutively, of course) I will have AT LEAST one harassment message or picture. One person kept it up for two months. Every message I reported and account I blocked, he’d make a new one until Microsoft finally banned his Xbox. I’m guessing that’s what they did because it finally stopped.
          I’ve developed a sort of post traumatic stress disorder because of it and have mini panic attacks at the thought of playing without my husband or my brother with me. It’s terrible what some of us go through.

  • Hollanda August 4, 2014, 7:51 am

    Off topic but I read “aromantic” as “aromatic”. I am sure she does smell particularly appetising, however I do wish my brain wouldn’t do that.

    On topic, I disagree mildly with admin. People read into things what they wish to read into them. Whether we tell them anything or not does not automatically mean that people will either not ask questions, or ask the correct questions. Whether or not we choose to answer questions does not automatically mean people will believe the answers we choose to give. We cannot take responsibility for what others think and do, more the way we react to the way people respond to us. In the way of EHell, this means without rudeness and with all due respect and courtesy, whilst still having a polite spine.

    • RC August 4, 2014, 4:11 pm

      Same here with the aromatic comment! I’m sure you smell lovely too, OP 🙂

  • Kiara August 4, 2014, 7:56 am

    I’d have to agree with admin here – look at your first line, OP. There was honestly no reason we needed to know that for your post. That has little to nothing to do with getting someone in an online forum to “drop it.” What people don’t know, they can’t be jerks about.

    • Kirst August 5, 2014, 12:11 pm

      I disagree. The OP is telling us that she doesn’t date, and she’s explaining why she doesn’t date, so that she doesn’t face 50 people speculating about why she doesn’t date. Now of course she’s got 60 people telling her she was wrong to try to avoid that speculation by being upfront about her reasons to start with.

      It’s always fascinating to see how many people choose to focus on what they think the woman did wrong to cause the abusive behaviour, rather than condemning the perpetrators of the abuse.

      • Livvy17 August 5, 2014, 3:43 pm

        I agree with Kiara – in that OP has revealed more information than is necessary, and information that somewhat naturally incites curiosity. While that doesn’t mean that people should harass her about it, the less the OP shares, the less people have to be curious about.

        For example, the OP states that if someone asks her if she has a boyfriend, she says, “No, I just don’t date.” That’s a rather unusual statement, whereas it might be a better conversation-killer to say, “That’s not your business” or simply not respond at all. In an online forum, that’s even easier to do than it is in the real world.

  • Mya August 4, 2014, 8:00 am

    It isn’t clear from your post what sort of sites you’re talking about – discussion forums? Chat rooms?

    The internet is as much a place to hide as it is a place to be the outgoing person you’re not in real life and your ‘Online Persona’ is as detailed or sparse as you make it.

    I don’t know how you end up in a position where people are asking you out unless you permit yourself to end up there. When I was actively LOOKING for someone, I didn’t meet anyone who was interested in asking me out on a date. I was once approached by a guy on a forum and he asked for a meet up, friended me on Facebook etc and I got totally the wrong end of the stick – he was just looking for friends with similar interests as he’d just moved to the area. It was awkward. Is this what is happening here? Are you looking for friends and only encountering people who want dates? In which case is there any harm in referring to a ‘partner’? Unless you feel strongly about the idea that a person doesn’t need a ‘significant other’ to be validated.

    As the admin points out, YOU are in charge of the information you give away about yourself and in the anonymous world of the internet this can be very liberating to introverted people (like me). You mention that you explain to those who will listen about your preferences and choices. Why is that? You don’t owe them an explanation and whilst I’m sure you’re doing it to avoid losing a ‘friend’ you need to realise they were never intending to be a friend in the first place so you have nothing to lose.

    On the flipside, it can take a bit of courage for an introvert to ask someone to meet them for a date/drink/coffee whatever and perhaps the ‘backlash’ you experience is a defensive move from someone who has been harshly rejected. Many people who are embarrassed or ashamed will ‘lash out’.

    Perhaps it might help you to review the conversations and topics you’ve discussed with these potential suitors and avoid them in future?

    I would be interested to know what circumstances put you in this awkward position because I can’t say I’ve ever been part of any web community that has generated the number and frequency of date invitations that you seem to be subject to – clearly I’ve been looking in the wrong place.

    I think the bottom line here though is that you are giving away too much personal information. Don’t feel like you have to just to ‘fit in’.

  • Jinx August 4, 2014, 8:13 am

    Online can be difficult. It’s easy for even the most logical person to make a snap decision about one thing someone says and make assumptions about character, turning that logical person into an angry verbal barb-throwing bully. But also, sometimes people are just jerkholes.

    I agree, don’t give out more info than you need to. It can be hard with persistent whining “but whhyyyyy won’t you date me?”, but that’s why the ehellers seem pretty fond of bean dipping. Dip, and dip again. Only true jerks will ignore you, though I imagine whatever sites you’re going to seems to be full of them, as homophobic rants and rape jokes are not typically considered civilized. Though, talk like that is pretty rampant in the gamer world, which you may be experiencing. In which case, as horrible as it sounds, pick a gender-neutral name/gamer tag, which has helped me avoid a fair amount of ignorant interactions.

  • Miss-E August 4, 2014, 8:14 am

    This story is a little weird. I’m surprised that you seem to suffer from constant harassment. I’ve been on the internet so long as there was one (Gen Y) and I’ve never really encountered endless solicitation from people. It seems odd to experience that on sites that aren’t for dating, especially considering that there is no way anyone could possibly know where you live and so why would they be pestering you for a date? I suppose that is a compliment to your personality, that even in all the anonymity of the internet you are still in high demand…or you are frequenting sites that you ought to avoid and sharing information that you shouldn’t, as the Admin suggested.

    As far as these encounters happening in real life: I would say try telling people you are in a relationship or deeply religious and choose to be celibate or buy a cheap ring, wear it on your finger and tell everyone you are married to yourself. If a guy keeps pushing you launch into a wild rant about why you’ve chosen any of these things. These are the kinds of things that would totally scare off a creepy guy.* I know that lying isn’t ideal but sometimes it is easier than explaining a truth that is complicated. I have a friend who is MTF transgender and she never shares this fact with anyone unless they are becoming seriously close because she doesn’t want to be stuck with the label of “tranny” forever.

    *I have no personal objection to being religious/marrying yourself/anything, I’m only jokingly suggesting this because the kind of guy who would endlessly bother a woman who is clearly uninterested in him is the kind of guy who be turned off by a woman yelling “I have married myself because I am stronger than any man and I don’t need his patriarchal ways holding me down!” etc, etc.

  • JacklynHyde August 4, 2014, 8:32 am

    One thing that might help keep these problems from happening in the first place might be to keep somewhat gender neutral online. Do these website discussion boards have avatars or pictures? Instead of posting a picture of yourself, post one of your pet or of something that signifies your inner self. Nobody has tried to hit on the picture of my cat, no matter how adorable she may be.

  • Kamatari August 4, 2014, 8:40 am

    In this instance, I don’t see why it would be a bad thing to lie about having a boyfriend. I see it the same way I see young women who wear fake wedding rings to clubs so they can unwind instead of fighting off men. Lying about it probably isn’t E-hell approved, but aside from ignoring the person typing to you at the moment (or lying), there’s not much you can do. You can’t change how other people view you and your situation.

    If you do lie about it, make sure the information you give out is the exact same to each person. The chances of your suitors comparing notes is small, but can be very damaging if they do compare them. You only have to mention him if someone brings him up. Try to sound excited if you make your pretend-boyfriend come over for dinner, but also write down that you did have him over.

    • Kirst August 4, 2014, 12:49 pm

      It’s a bad thing to lie about having a boyfriend because it reinforces in that type of men’s minds that all women are fair game unless they are another man’s property already. “No thank you” should be enough without a justification.

      • JKC August 4, 2014, 5:31 pm

        I hate that lie too, for the exact reason you mention, but I’m not going to blame a woman for reaching for that lie if that’s what she needs to do in order to feel safe. I’ve heard far too many stories where some dude literally would not back off until he thought he was going to anger another man. In some cases, the women involved were convinced that they were about to be assaulted right then and there and were desperately trying to talk their way out of the situation. I think we would do far better to start calling men out for their part in this.

        • The Elf August 5, 2014, 6:49 am

          I agree. I hate that lie too, for the same reason, but if that’s what it takes to call off the dogs I’m not about to tell someone to stick to principle.

          • Enna August 10, 2014, 10:14 am

            I agree too, it’s a shame to have to resort to a lie about a fictional man to put another man off but if a woman felt she had to then so be it.

            I wonder if men every make up a fake gf or wife to feel safe? After all women can be sexual predators too.

  • Jay August 4, 2014, 8:43 am

    Sign up for those websites under a male name, or a neutral name like KickAzz674 that people would typically assume is male. That should cut out 99% of it…

  • Allie August 4, 2014, 8:45 am

    Online, I would definitely just ignore, ignore, ignore. Do not reply or offer any explanation or any personal details. If this happens in person, I see nothing wrong with lying. I don’t hesitate to do it in the face of personal questions. I simply tell people what they want to hear (or sometimes I make up something surprising and odd that stops them in their tracks). Due to my last name, I get a lot of questions about my and my husband’s ethnicity. I love lying about that. I’ve created a whole fake history about my “family” back in the old country : )

    • imc August 4, 2014, 1:47 pm

      This is a perfect example of what Admin was saying about sharing personal information online.
      I don’t even know your last name and now I’m curious!! :p

  • Cat August 4, 2014, 8:46 am

    Somehow we seem to have lost our personal boundaries and are expected to share all aspects of our lives with anyone who asks. Someone once asked me why my parents had only two children. I told him that I did not know as I never thought it was any of my business and did not know why he thought it was any of his.
    You owe no one any explanation for how you choose to live your life. However, many thoughts come to mind. A gay, chaste Christian friend used to say, “I am a eunuch for the Kingdom’s sake”. How about, “My beloved was killed in (WWII, the War in Viet Nam, the Gulf War-depending on your age) and I could never love again! Sob!” Perhaps, “I worship Zeus and am a Vestal Virgin for him.” Or there’s, “Suppose I introduce you to my sister instead? She’s getting out of prison next week. Don’t believe what you hear about her fifth husband and that axe. It was an accident.”
    There are many people on the Internet that you would not want to meet in person. Keep that in mind. Keep you personal information general and watch your back. They can find you.

  • MollyMonster August 4, 2014, 8:51 am

    I don’t really date (no one really asks me out) so I have by default fallen into a category similar to you. No one has ever harassed me because I don’t date. Stop sharing so much or feeling like you have to justify yourself and your sexuality (or lack thereof). In person, if someone asks you out and you decline and they continue to push, well they are jerks or your personality/looks are so out of sight that they just can’t let go. Tell them you are in a committed relationship. Which you are: to yourself. No lies there. You could even put a ring on your finger to help fend them off–it could be a promise ring as in “I promise I am not interested in you.”

    Or if you feel like a free meal, tell them yes but afterwards that the chemistry just wasn’t there for you. (Okay, that is probably pretty shady so don’t do that.)

  • Salamandrix August 4, 2014, 8:54 am

    While I agree with Admin about people generally needing to be more circumspect about what they put online, I disagree that the letter writer should feel responsible for the bullying she receives. A lot of people (especially, I imagine, people who have reason not to socialize a lot in person, like the letter writer) have real online social lives. If you refuse to share any personal information online, then you are not going to make online friends. Being circumspect about what you post online does not mean you *have* to hide who you are online, just that you have to figure out how to deal with the inevitable presence of online bullies.
    So my advice would be: don’t feel you have to hide who you are if online socializing is important to you. But do perhaps set your filters so that you ignore, and then block anyone who crosses your boundaries even a tiny bit. You need to reduce how much emotional energy you are expending on the assholes. Even telling someone “no” after a first proposition may be giving them more of your energy than you can afford to give (and may potentially be encouraging them to continue the interaction with you). A major advantage in socializing online is that you can ignore people whereas in person that is not always an easy option. You don’t owe anonymous “suitors” anything.

    • ALM August 4, 2014, 2:09 pm

      Salamandrix wrote: “I disagree that the letter writer should feel responsible for the bullying she receives.”

      Unfortunately, in this situation, the OP is responsible for the bullying received because she is choosing to put herself in the situation, she controls how she presents herself, and this problem has happened repeatedly with only the OP as the common denominator (unless she has a particularly persistent tech savvy stalker with many different personas).

      This is not a situation where the OP is a poor high school student with no choice but to attend the public school where the bullies ‘can get her’. She is choosing to conduct online conversations for recreational, non-career purposes. One of the risks of online interactions is trolls.

      Secondly, she is attracting trolls and harassers REPEATEDLY. And when she does, she does not seem to be able or willing to disengage from them. Then, when she moves on, the problem repeats itself and she acts surprised. Since she is responsible for her own behavior, and barring the possibility of the single tenacious troll, her behavior is the common denominator, she does have a responsibility for influencing this repeating cycle. I can only theorize that she is feeding the trolls.

      The question of WHY she is feeding the trolls is a separate one. Does she have poor social skills? Clearly. Is she on the autism spectrum? Maybe. Does she perhaps in some unvoiced way get a thrill out of this? Quite possibly. Why? Because she continues to repeat the behavior that instigates this, over and over again.

      If the OP were serious about not attracting romantic attention (she may actually want attention, even without wanting romance), and isn’t otherwise socially disabled in some way, we can trust that she would not be putting up profile pictures, would not have provocative screen names, would not continue to engage interested parties with long explanations for ‘no’ and would find internet boards wherein the focus of discussion is not young people meeting up. Where exactly is she hanging out, ‘strictly platonic’ on Craig’s List? I’ve been on the internet since the 90’s and I haven’t been ‘hit on’ since that decade. Admin is right on in her assessment, because in this sea of 1’s and 0’s, if you are consistently being hit on, and the pick artists are consistently NOT taking no for an answer, you are either actively fishing in the jerk pool or you are leading people on. Considering the OP mentions ‘social phobias’ I have to wonder if her ‘online self’ is considerably less asexual than she thinks it is.

      • Orinoco August 4, 2014, 7:06 pm

        I disagree with this comment rather strongly.

        The only common thing that the OP is “doing wrong” (which is not the right way to put it either) is being female. That’s it.

        Females receive online bullying by males… just because we’re females. And because the males can.

        I don’t know for sure what online areas this bullying is taking place in, but I’d bet its gaming.

        The OP is NOT responsible for the bullying she is receiving. There may be something she is doing (which remember could be as uncontroversial as just existing as female) which attracts the bullies, but she is not responsible for their behaviour. Please do not suggest she is.

        My suggestion would be that OP reduces the amount of info she provides about herself, and most importantly hides her gender.

      • OMJ August 4, 2014, 9:29 pm

        Wow, that is a lot of assumptions you’re making about the letter writer’s behavior based on entirely *no* information. While it’s possible that she is posting provocative pictures, it’s also possible that she is seeking out groups of other asexual/aromantics and encountering trolls, or hanging out on gaming or other forums where harassment is common, or even – shocking as it sounds – simply happening across different people than you have. Internet trolls are not some force of nature with a concrete relationship to cause and effect. They have somewhat predictable patterns, but they really can just pop up at times. I certainly agree that she shouldn’t “feed” the trolls and she should choose her audience carefully, but leaping to the conclusion that she is somehow (even intentionally) inviting harassment is out of line, in my opinion.

        The letter writer can focus on finding better, safer, more moderated online communities and not engaging too much with people who haven’t made an overt display of respect first. If she is looking for personal connections online, though, I don’t think she should have to give up on that and hide.

        • ALM August 5, 2014, 8:59 am

          I didn’t assume she was posting provocative pictures, I was putting it out as an example of what the OP might be doing. It’s obvious she is doing something because this keeps happening. Either she lacks the social skills to avoid doing it, or she is subconciously doing it with intention.

          The idea that she has no responsibility for her situation is absurd. No one is twisting her arm and this reaction to her is consistent over time. I don’t know what she is actually doing, but it’s obvious she is the one doing it.

          IF she wants the trolls to stop, she has to stop feeding them. People tend to have more extreme/daring/free of social phobia personalities online then they do in person. It’s why the trolls dare to harass her. It also might be why the OP is baiting them, even if she never would in person.

          • Schnickelfritz August 5, 2014, 10:31 am

            I agree with both of your posts. The OP is doing something to “repeatedly” attract this unwanted attention. If it happened a couple of times in her on-line life, I could see that. OP describes it as a real problem / dilemma for her. After once or twice, a young woman, or a mature older woman, knows how to shut this activity down, and anyone could pretty quickly look at their own behaviour, and figure out why this is happening to them “repeatedly” – the key word here. She may subconsciously be sending out signals (over the internet – how strange) attracting these types. I have witnessed friends behaving all sexual and flirty to men, at clubs or parties, and then they are surprised when the pestering doesn’t stop. I am very curious as to the OP’s behaviour on-line, to get so much unwanted attention from men. I have a lot of friends, family and colleagues that spend a lot of time on-line. I have never heard of more than a few pests, in all those people combined.

      • The Elf August 5, 2014, 6:52 am

        I agree that it is not OP’s fault she is attracting this kind of attention. People should be able to take no for an answer anywhere! No doesn’t mean “persist in asking”. It means no! How much more obvious can “no, thank you” possibly be? But we can’t control the behavior of others, we can only control our own. And that’s where a lot of the advice to OP to be careful about her online behavior comes in.

        • Enna August 10, 2014, 10:20 am

          It is unfair to blame the OP for “putting herself” in the situation. Yes, of course be careful about what infomration you put about yourself and admin is right. However sometimes being female is the reason for some men to target you. No body asks to be harrased. No thank you means just that. No. Thank. You.

  • Vermin8 August 4, 2014, 9:12 am

    I feel your pain. I went through a period of time when I was not interested in romantic involvement and saw no point in dating.
    Online is easiest to handle: use a generic user name. Make sure it gives no clue as to your identify or your gender, age, etc. Keep your answers as generic as possible, ie, don’t say stuff like “as a 20/30 something woman my perspective…” I actually started this as a bit of an experiment – I wanted to see if people’s response to me online varied without having my demographic info. It certainly does. In hindsight, it also kept the “stalkers” away – they didn’t know I was a 30 something unattached single woman.

    Real life was the difficulty – once I let people know I was not interested in dating, they started bringing “stealth” dates, ie bring the guy along and sit him beside me for the afternoon or evening. That’s a whole other discussion.

  • Magicdomino August 4, 2014, 9:38 am

    First off, don’t explain. No one is going to understand asexualism except other asexuals, and they aren’t going to be bugging you for a date. I like, “I got off that merry-go-round.” or even “Sorry, I hated dating.” Generally speaking, though, it’s best to stick to “No, thank you.” Even heterosexuals don’t date every Tom, Dick or Harry (or Tiffany, Debbie, or Harriet) who asks.

    At the risk of blaming the victim, I wonder what kind of signals you are putting out that make you a creep magnet (Because, let’s be honest, any man or woman who insists on a date to the point of becoming abusive when turned down, is a creep.). Could you be unconsciously flirting when you thought you were being friendly?

    And please feel free to check out the Ehell forum. We are too polite to bite. We do say “Crud monkeys” and call people “bacon-fed knaves” on occasion, though. 🙂

  • Lil August 4, 2014, 9:38 am

    I agree with the admin. I participate in a lot of online games of which men are the majority. Because my avatar and name are definitely feminine and “cute” it might insinuate to other players that I am a young, attractive female. They have no idea I’m a 40+ chubby mom. But I rarely get harassed because I don’t respond to creepy messages or put a lot of personal info out there. That being said, there are MANY websites where seriously creepy men will harass any and all women. The better sites moderate this and will ban the weirdos. The sites I frequent take this pretty seriously. I’m interested in knowing what sites the OP frequents that this harassment is the norm. I know it happens to pretty much every woman on the internet at some point. That it seems to be a huge, ongoing problem for the OP seems odd. I’m in no way blaming the victim but I’m wondering if there may be a bit of bait and switch going on. The OP may have chosen an avatar, name, and has adopted a persona that is being coming off certain way. She may not even realize it. People on the internet are taking cues from the limited way we present ourselves. It doesn’t in any way excuse the men that won’t back off after the initial “no” but watching what she says and how she looks to the online community may prevent unwanted advances from the get go.

  • Sara k-shin August 4, 2014, 9:40 am

    I’ve never commented on ehell before, but just wanted to offer this: you may not even realize you are offering information. Take another look at your profile pictures. Are you clearly alone (as in single?) in all of them? There are also a lot of assumptions people make online, which, however rude or incorrect they may be, could lead to the comments you are getting. I find people tend to associate attractive women who are typically solo in photos as single. Even the way people pose for photos can be read as inviting/un inviting, though some people lack the social etiquette to care about these cues. On the other side of things, you could very easily NOT be offering any information. Some people seem to think it is their right to make advances whether the recipient desired it or not. But never give in and offer personal information when they do this. That gives them the ammo they need.

  • Tracy W August 4, 2014, 9:49 am

    Gender-neutral user name? I don’t get asked out online. (Oddly, I’ve never met a man with my first name in real life. Not even in the USA.)

    And, of course, perhaps just totally ignoring the follow-up questions? Not even saying “No, I’m not interested”?

    • Schnickelfritz August 5, 2014, 10:39 am

      Hello Tracy! Just wanted to tell you, I know of three men named Tracy. They are all around 5o years old. It isn’t very common at all, and I have only known a handful of girls/women named Tracy (funny, they are all around 50ish by now, too!).

      • Tracy W August 7, 2014, 4:01 am

        Oh cool – it wasn’t a madly common name when I was growing up, but there was normally another girl at school, though not in my classes, called “Tracy”.

  • Nikki August 4, 2014, 9:49 am

    When I was about 6 years old, I told a girl in my class that I had a crush on one of the boys. She immediately told everyone and teased me about it. Lesson learned – never tell anybody anything you don’t want widely known unless you trust them. Friends will keep their mouths shut and won’t judge you. People on the internet you barely know are not friends, they don’t need to know such personal information about you. Totally with admin on this one.

  • Shannan August 4, 2014, 10:00 am

    I have a friend I only keep in touch with on Facebook who is constantly over-sharing. He’s the type who falls deeply in love with a different woman every month. He friends them on Facebook on say Friday and then by Monday he’s calling her “my love”. Then the haters come out and he wonders why he has so many. By the end of the month the relationship is over and he’s devestated and the haters are all laughing. His real friends, me included, keep telling him to stop putting out all his business online. He says he knows he shouldn’t do it but keeps on anyway. He’s 44 years old.

    Some people never learn.

  • NostalgicGal August 4, 2014, 10:04 am

    And wear a wolf ring.

    If questioned just say, I’m happy in my present relationship. You don’t have to say there is a lack of one or anything of the sort. A simple band on third finger left hand can shut a lot of stuff down face to face. Go back and rejoin life.

    • Daphne August 4, 2014, 6:30 pm

      Yes. I totally agree with NostalgicGal. Just get yourself a wedding band, and if anyone asks you out face to face you could also just point to it & shake your head no or something like that. You don’t even have to lie. I used to do this when I was single because I didn’t like hurting anyone’s feelings & also when I wanted to avoid awkwardness at work.
      Online just ignore people who try to instigate trouble. Which IMO everyone should do anyway on this or any other subject.

    • Ashley August 5, 2014, 11:34 am

      In my own experiences, the ring doesn’t help as much as some people might like it to. In fact, it’s lead to me getting comments about “I bet I could do ___________ better than your husband.” Fill in the blank with whatever you can think of. It’s unfortunate really. They should back off simply because I’ve already said no, but even the fact that I’m quite obviously in a relationship hasn’t gotten rid of them all

      • NostalgicGal August 7, 2014, 1:43 am

        That is very true, but you’d be surprised how many the wolf ring can fend off without even saying a word. A few it will encourage, but it will stave off more than it pulls in.

        I bet I could do X better than your husband; I can do drop dead with a glance glances; and tell them Yes I’m Auditioning, go to Helen Wait, she’s my booking agent.

        If they don’t get it, I walk off.

  • Yet Another Laura August 4, 2014, 10:56 am

    No matter what you may or may not have mentioned in your posts, no one deserves hatred spewed at them and they certainly don’t deserve to have people assume a no is a maybe.

    As far as I can tell, nothing about your sexuality was mentioned until after the harassment started.

    Since you seem to be looking for advice, here’s my take: Next time you sign up for a message board, use a different user ID for each board.

    As for what to say to people who hit on you and won’t take no for an answer, call them out on their refusal to take a no. Awareness of this kind of harassment is rising, and you’re more likely to have people in your corner than just a few years ago (when I was castigated for not liking being hugged by strangers)

    Unfortunately, victim blaming is still rampant. Try not to let it grind you down.

    • DanaJ August 4, 2014, 2:51 pm

      “No matter what you may or may not have mentioned in your posts, no one deserves hatred spewed at them and they certainly don’t deserve to have people assume a no is a maybe.

      As far as I can tell, nothing about your sexuality was mentioned until after the harassment started. ”

      Yes, but I think that’s Admin’s point. If someone asks you out on a date, and you politely decline, and the guy then gets irriatated and demands: “Why not?” then right there you already know that you don’t want to share anything else with that individual. If the response is “Why not? Are you some kind of snob?!” then you really, really don’t want to be sharing any more information because you already know that you’re dealing with a huge jerk.

      Mr. Hugh Jerk got miffed when he got “no” for an answer. Trying to explain your sexuality to a jerk like that is like trying to discuss the psychology of aggression with a barking dog. A rational discussion is not going to take place, he’s just going to keep barking.

      But with an online bully like Hugh, giving him ANY uniquely personal information is just giving him ammunition to be specifically, personally hurtful. Better to let a jerk like that bark “snob, snob, snob, snob” and not validate all that noise with a single post directed this way. If you throw him a bone, he’ll just stick around even longer because you’ve given him some attention (even negative attention is still attention), and now he knows even more about you that he can use against you.

      Better to just say “no thanks” and then not validate any of his yapping. Eventually he’ll go off looking for antoher butt to sniff.

      • Yet Another Laura August 4, 2014, 4:52 pm

        Sadly, that ship already sailed. I’m sure we all would like a time machine to go back and unsay things we wish we hadn’t.

        Bottom line is: I’d bet that the original poster thought that telling the harassers that she wasn’t interested because she’s not wired that way was the best way to discourage them. She was wrong. Nobody deserves scorn and blame for making a wrong decision. Thing to do is learn what to do in the future.

        • Schnickelfritz August 5, 2014, 10:46 am

          Laura, all the advice here, is for future reference. According to the OP, she has a fleet of these ships out there, still sailing in her direction! This happens to her repeatedly. If it was over, she wouldn’t be asking for advice here.

      • Kendra August 4, 2014, 6:23 pm

        If the response is “Why not? Are you some kind of snob?!”

        My favorite answer to this kind of question is “yes”. I don’t editorialize or get defensive, just those three little letters. This usually has the effect of taking the wind out of their sails. They expect you to get all defensive and JADE and they are ready to keep tweaking your tail, but they don’t seem to know what to do with an agreement. Remember, saying something is so doesn’t make it so (if it did, I would be a very rich person). Also, this person is a stranger, so why care what they think of you? In the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter in your life unless you let them.

        • Enna August 10, 2014, 10:28 am

          My response to that would be “takes a snob to know a snob” or “Men who jump to conculsions are a real turn off for me.”

  • Wendy B. August 4, 2014, 11:07 am

    In addition to what admin said…what websites are you visiting that this even becomes relevant? If you’re single, fine. Why is no one’s business. If you are on websites where people persist, then maybe you need to examine which websites you frequent…

  • Cherry91 August 4, 2014, 11:13 am

    OP, I agree with Admin about joining the EHell forums! Although, as Admin puts it “that subject isn’t even on the radar”, on the rare occasion it pops up, everyone is very warm and accepting.

    Plus, we had an entire thread on how one “prepares for lesbians” after a homophobic guest had a go at her boyfriend for not “warning” her that the hosts were a same sex couple.

    Adding an answer to the original question, I think the best thing to remember is that “No” is a complete sentence. Don’t JADE. And if they won’t accept that know, the block/report buttons are your friend.

  • lakey August 4, 2014, 11:42 am

    “If I make the mistake of thinking the individual will listen to me and explain I am not sexually attracted to either gender and do not date anyone, the response, depending on if this is online or in person, will escalate to rape jokes or outright threats. In person doesn’t happen anymore, because I no longer socialize due to phobias this sort of thing made significantly worse.”

    Sorry quote tool was not available. Anyway, Administrator is right. Online people are brutal. There’s anonymity so the worst of their behavior comes out without any fear of repercussions.
    I’m bothered by the responses you’ve gotten from people in person, and your feeling that you have to isolate yourself because of it. I tend to be a loner and have gone through periods of my life where I didn’t feel like dating. Even when I would date and went out to places where I would meet people, I was extremely selective about who I would want to see. I simply didn’t feel comfortable going out with people I barely knew.

    That being said, I only had one guy ask if I was a lesbian. When I explained that, no I wasn’t, I just didn’t like going out with people I didn’t know, he accepted it. I know that a lot of people may have thought I could be gay, but if they did, they didn’t react negatively. I’m probably a lot older than you and this was back when homosexuality was less acceptable than it is now, and I never got the kind of responses that you have been getting. There is something very wrong with the men who reacted to your not wanting to date, with rape jokes and other inappropriate comments.

    Rather than be alone and not socialize, is there a way that you can get involved with people who have more decency? There are groups who are based on common interests. I used to see people having get togethers at Barnes & Noble. I think they were some type of writing club or book club. In my area there are environmentalism volunteer groups, dog organizations, museum groups, political party organizations, and so on. These are people you can relate to without their being particularly interested in your dating habits. Then again, maybe you prefer to stay home and play around on your computer. Just don’t limit yourself because of some freaks that you had contact with. There are plenty of nice people out there.

  • mark August 4, 2014, 11:45 am

    I’ve got to say the OP’s story is bizarre. I’ve never seen harassment at that level from various web sites and forums I’ve belonged to Or in person either. I would only expect something like that if you are at a dating/hookup style site which you don’t frequent. OP can you tell us what forums/websites you are visiting that give you this response?

    When I was still in the dating scene, I usually only asked a girl out for a date if I was 80-90 % sure she would say yes, and almost 100% sure it wouldn’t end the friendship. I usually had a good idea if she had a boyfriend or not.

    The question about whether or not you have a boyfriend probably isn’t an appropriate question, but it really isn’t a surprising question. Everything else is harassment or outright threats.

  • Puzzled August 4, 2014, 11:46 am

    I have to agree with the admin on this one. You are the one that had to have spilled the beans about this personal information. I am constantly and consistently amazed with the clients I deal with day to day and the amount of personal information they are willing to give out in public, out loud. I do not care to hear it. The only ones interested in this sort of thing are (drum roll) trolls and bullies. Stop giving this information to people if you don’t like what you are hearing.

  • DanaJ August 4, 2014, 12:13 pm

    In some cases, turning down the offer of a date can be met with unwanted (and highly annoying) persistance by the would-be Romeo who takes rejection poorly. That is one particular issue.

    However, I simply do not understand why the OP would volunteer any additional private information to someone she’s not interested in socializing with.

    When I was single, I used to do a lot of travelling alone by car. I would get approached frequently by men, since I would inevitably end up dining alone at a restaurant — and that sent up the “single” sign like a bright Batsignal on the restaurant ceiling above my head. If I was asked out, I would simply take it as a compliment, say “Thank you” along with a friendly version of “I’m afraid that won’t be possible” and then leave it at that. I have never felt the need to volunteer ANY other information such as whether or not I was in a relationship, or that I was just passing through town, or anything.

    I certainly would never offer up details about my sexual preferences/politics. A total stranger does not need to know that anymore than he needs to know I’m lactose intolerant.

    Especially if it’s a man with a fragile ego who is being a big baby about rejection. I don’t owe him an explanation and I definitely do not owe him any additional information about myself.

    • mark August 4, 2014, 2:16 pm

      Approaching a stranger in a restaurant for a date is both creepy and scary. There is a difference between a bar/dance club and a restaurant. I only ever asked out girls that were already in my social circle on dates. (I did get asked to go to a movie once by a girl who called my roommate at college. He wasn’t home and she wanted someone to go with her. We had a lot of fun. )

  • rachel August 4, 2014, 12:21 pm

    Good response admin. It’s a great time to learn an important life lesson: you cannot control what another person thinks or says.

  • The Elf August 4, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Forgot to add: If this happens offline (repeated rejection doesn’t stop the harassment), then contact security, notify the establishment owners, or leave. If it gets really bad and you feel you are in danger, call the police. People should be able to take “no” for an answer.

    I used to get some grief for being childfree, as if it was anyone else’s busines if I had children or not and why I chose not to. Once I stopped making it a topic of discussion (i.e. stopped explaining), the amount of argument I got dropped tremendously.

    • Phitius August 5, 2014, 5:39 pm

      This was the case for me as well. As soon as I stopped letting it be a topic up for debate (and it always was a debate) people stopped trying to convince me I was gonna want kids someday.

  • Brenda August 4, 2014, 12:52 pm

    First, I have to take exception with the admin’s response. Yes, the OP needs to not drop personal info on forums, but at the same time, many men online behave as they do in a public area: women who appear in their domain, i.e., in public, are considered to be fair game for any behavior handed out. Anyone on here who doubts this should read everydaysexism.com. Women tend to get used to this behavior from the daily occurrences of it that we often don’t even register it. I had forgotten how many times I’ve been treated this way just for being in public.

    Second, OP does need to quit handing out personal information. She should simply say she’s not interested, then absolutely do NOT respond to follow up contact. Being polite does not require explanations. I always remember Miss Manners’ response to intrusive questions upon refusing an invitation, “I’m sorry, it’s impossible.”

    Third, it’s ridiculous to tell women not to be on social media just because it’s safer. We have to fight back and gain our rights to be in public, whether online or IRL, without harassment.

    • Margo August 5, 2014, 7:32 am

      Hear, Hear!!

  • JesBelle August 4, 2014, 12:55 pm

    OP —
    If you do want a place where you can safely talk about this aspect of your life, sites like Asexual Visibility and Education Network (http://www.asexuality.org/home/) have moderated forums . Asexuality does tend to make some people uncomfortable and, on the internet, some of those people will lash out at you. In a perfect world, being ace would be no more shocking than being a straight person with a sex drive and a monogamous relationship, but as countless gay, bisexual, transgender, and polyamorous persons would tell you, it ain’t a perfect world. You have a right to be out, and the right to protect yourself. If it is going to be too upsetting to deal with jerks, protect yourself by not giving them the tools to harass you. If you’d rather be open about your status, be prepared to block some trolls.

  • Anonymouse August 4, 2014, 1:25 pm

    Hi OP! I am not aesexual myself, but my best friend is, and I’ve seen a little bit of what you’re going through. Without experiencing it myself, I can tell you a bit of what she does.

    1) Like admin and others have said, keep a gender neutral profile and don’t advertise your aesexuality (unless it’s a forum designed for that sort of thing, like an LBTQA forum).

    2) Watch what you’re saying to these creeps before. My friend, and her (also aesexual) girlfriend, have both unintentionally flirted and led guys on. When it was brought to their attention, they immediately fixed it, but they simply did not realize they were flirting.

    3) Use the Block and Ignore functions to their full capability. That’s what they’re there for.

    4) Try and find a real-life friend who knows about and is ok with your aesexuality and go out with him/her. Usually, when creeps see you out in the “real world” they’ll be less likely to approach you when you’ve got backup. (Note: this works for everyone. I’ve been doing it for years.)

    5) Again, in the “real world,” a simple “No, I’m not interested” is all you need. Keep repeating, and possibly getting louder, as necessary. At a bar or something, bring the harassment to the bartenders attention if you feel threatened. They may or may not do much, but even having other people aware of their actions can sometimes deter creeps.

    Hope some of this helps! Stay strong and try not to let a few jerks keep you away from the rest of the world. I promise, most of us aren’t horrible people. 🙂

    • Lenore August 5, 2014, 4:03 am

      Unfortunately, some people misconstrue “politely friendly” as flirting. When I used to work in retail, the fact that I would smile and be polite made men think it was ok to hit on me. Frankly, I’m not responsible for making sure that you (general you) know how to tell the difference between being nice, being polite and being flirtatious. Heck, some people think being stand-offish and aloof is you playing “hard to get”, so you can’t always win.

      • BellyJean August 5, 2014, 10:39 am

        This, 1000 times this. Thank you!!!

      • Anonymouse August 5, 2014, 1:54 pm

        See, I’ve had the same thing happen to me working fast food, but as soon as I stopped and made it clear there was no interest, they backed off. Yeah, there are some people that are completely unable to read those social cues in the way they were intended, but they’re not nearly as common as people think.

        No, you are not responsible for the way others interpret your signals, but you are responsible for the signals you send out.

  • Rebecca August 4, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Whether or not you are asexual has nothing to do with it. I am heterosexual and single, and potentially interested in men, but not EVERY man that asks. The answer is the same, no matter what the reason: “No.” “I’m not interested.” You don’t owe them an explanation. And if someone gets creepy, block, ignore, don’t engage.

  • Rap541 August 4, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Off hand OP, my first suggestion would be to try this link.


    This is a great resource for asexuals.

    I will say, while I find it unusual to fend of multiple constant offers, I also think people are underestimating how awkward this sort of conversation is *if* you choose to be honest about why you’re turning someone down. The OP appears to want to be honest, and in a perfect world she shouldn’t have to lie about having a boyfriend in order to get someone to leave you alone. And, a running problem asexuals have is the idea that there’s got to be something wrong with you if you aren’t interested in sex, then something is medically wrong with you and or you must be gay, and or you must have been molested.

    I personally don’t fit any of those catagories but it is frustrating to know my sexual preferences are pretty much open to debate and I can’t possibly really know and more often than not am forced to explain that yes, it is a completely acceptable thing and no, there’s no medical reason for it. So OP, believe me, there are people who understand your anxiety. I do wonder if the OP has some anxiety issues though, because I’ve been on line for 20+ years and it doesn’t happen that much. This seems a little exaggerated in that most people do take no for an answer.

  • ketchup August 4, 2014, 1:54 pm

    Yes, I agree the OP should be more careful with her information. No one owes the world an explanation for such life choices or for their identity. There’s really no need to tell people you don’t know (well.)
    No, I don’t agree with the posters that suggest she use a fake ring to scare off suitors. It’s a bad thing that some men only respect how you’re someone else’s (another man’s ‘property’). We need to stop encouraging this behaviour and stand up for ourselves. If we stop using imaginary men as shields, and start emphasising our own rights, we might win this. I’m a feminist, you see.

    OP, I hope you encounter less bullying in the future. And less grief. Have a good life!

  • Redneck Gravy August 4, 2014, 2:20 pm

    Good gravy, what kind of sites is OP visiting?

    I have never had this issue with someone after I refused a request for a date (or anything similar), where in the world is this kind of bullying going on?

    Ehellions would arrive in droves and immediately offer polite requests for the bullying/intimidating to cease.

    I’m with Admin – someone is giving out too much information for this to happen and to be continuously dogpiled on…something is a bit amiss.

  • Shoebox August 4, 2014, 2:24 pm

    OP, what everyone else is saying. Learn to control your online presence instead of letting it control you. ;carve out a niche based on what you’re comfortable with and stay within it. Understand that you cannot change the established culture of a site merely by explaining why it’s bad, no matter how since you may be. Especially as regards participation in fora, comments sections etc. I used to argue indiscriminately over *everything* online, until I realised the only thing I was getting out of it was personal aggravation . Now I restrict myself to a couple gun, lighthearted sites where I know people will not only behave in a manner I can handle but call trolls out if they try anything.

    Further, realise that to a significant extent ‘netiquette’ differs from mainstream etiquette, because anonymity releases inhibitions in even the best-intentioned. Learn the art of the quick, swift shutdown, just as you (hopefully) might use on anyone who tried such shocking tactics in real life, swithout worrying about their feelings. Do NOT, repeat NOT, demean yourself by offering any kind of responses to the types of trolls you describe-you’re only playing into their game.

    It’s similar in a way to the old advice to ward off RL predators :carry yourself confidently and move with purpose, and you’ll more than likely be left alone.

  • Shoebox August 4, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Gahhh… *fun*, lighthearted sites. Another good rule: don’t try to type lengthy responses on your phone. 🙂

  • AnaMaria August 4, 2014, 2:26 pm

    The OP might sound extreme, but, sadly, I don’t find this hard to believe at all. I’ve found that there are people all over facebook, linkedin, and any other social networking site that believe they are God’s gift to women (or men) and anyone who appears to be their preferred gender WANTS to receive creepy messages or date requests. And, call me crazy, but I think I should be able to set up an account to stay in touch with friends or network with professionals, and put my name and a nice headshot of myself on these sites without being treated like a piece of meat by other viewers. I’m not putting out personal information, I’m not posting hypersexualized pictures or videos of myself, nor am I advertising my single status (not that any of those things make harassment acceptable).

    I’ve found the best method is to block any strangers who try to add me unless they message me a good reason to connect (and if it sounds like they just sifted through my profile to find something about me that they could pretend to be interested in, forget it!) and to block anyone who sends me a date request or anything “romantic”- and, if it sounds threatening or overtly sexual, report the message immediately. If it’s not a dating website, than it’s not a place to be pursuing romance with complete strangers. No apology, explanation, or response is needed.

  • Filiagape August 4, 2014, 2:27 pm

    Do you have a picture that accompanies you online posts? I have never had someone express romantic interest in me on line, nor has my 20-year-old daughter (also asexual-aromantic). If you have a picture of yourself that is particularly attractive accompanying your posts, you might try changing it. My current “Avatar” is a picture of my dearly departed Shih Tzu and Daughters is of her pet. Just a suggestion.

    • NostalgicGal August 7, 2014, 1:49 am

      Another one that will draw is fantasy creatures, do not post things like unicorns as your avatar. If you don’t have a pet, find a generic picture of a critter. Cute small kittens also tend to draw not chase off… I use a critter pic I found, and I don’t have it activated for here; if I MUST use an avatar.

  • TCG August 4, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Ah, the online world. I learned some things along the way as I used to do quite a bit of online dating and chat rooming. My lessons are as follows (and I use them every day in real life as well)

    #1. You and you alone are in charge of your own boundaries. No one else will be looking out for you, and you have to do this for yourself.
    #2. Providing an explanation or allowing speculation after you give an answer to an inappropriate question is the sign that predators and/or creeps are looking for. They are testing boundaries to see if you feel a need to justify yourself.
    #3. You don’t have to explain or justify anything – to anyone. No is a complete sentence. Give them your answer and if they come back again demanding explanations, hit ignore and NEVER RESPOND TO THEM AGAIN. They are often testing you to see who is a doormat and who isn’t.

    I remember I would often find myself in a situation in which I was on a first date and men would ask things like, “So, what happened in your divorce?”. Often, they asked it in a demanding tone, like they had a right to know. Eventually I learned to be vague, brief and shut them down immediately from any thought that was an appropriate conversation on a first date. I would reply with, “Oh, you know. We married young.” and then change the subject. If they came back asking more questions, I would immediately know that they had boundary issues (along with lack of etiquette) and they were “red flagged”. If they asked again, I would give the same answer, verbatim, making the point that it wasn’t up for discussion. A third time asking won them a view of me walking out the door.

    There will ALWAYS be people that will be happy to take advantage of you or to act like you owe them an explanation of your life. Don’t spend one moment on these people. Learn how to have good boundaries and focus on those that respect you.

  • Miss L August 4, 2014, 2:43 pm

    I have the very strange experience of being very female in the internet (since before the Geocities era, mind you) and never receiving sexual harassment online from entitled males. Not even when I didn’t have a significant other and I was less careful with what I posted of myself online. Of course, it may be that I was both in areas with bigger proportion of females, I don’t have many pics of me online and I’m not saying constantly what”s going on on my romantic life, my sexual orientation or my actual relationship status.
    On my experience, on most of the cases when people is in the situation of OP, is because they have provided that information voluntarily and then engage the annoyers in a misguided attempt to “correct” them. Please, don’t.

  • UKHelen August 4, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Kiara: ‘What people don’t know, they can’t be jerks about.’

    Genius. True for everyone.

  • girl_with_all_the_yarn August 4, 2014, 3:55 pm

    So… then what do you do about a guy (or the occasional girl) who seems to think you’re just open for these kinds of comments simply because you exist?

    Case in point: I recently had a huge blowup with a guy I’d never met on a forum because he asked me if I was willing to “hook up” with him. I told him no. The only thing I’d posted on the forum was something about cats. I suspect a funny picture of them, but it was cat related, I do remember that.

    It turned into all-out stalking on his part, to the point where he made four separate accounts simply to harass me. Then he got several other guys to do the same. I cancelled the email account associated with the site and have blocked all of them, sometimes repeatedly.

    So what do you do about that? I didn’t put anything out there, except something cat related.

    • The Elf August 5, 2014, 7:02 am

      You contact the moderator of the forum, if there is one. You put him on ignore, if there is a such a function. If necessary, you take a break from that forum, or even delete the email account (I use a dummy account for my forums for this purpose). If it turns more serious than just that forum, and especially if you are getting that “unsafe” vibe, call the police.

      What he was doing is unquestionably wrong and breaks all netiquette. Plus it’s pointless – exactly what did he think was going to happen? That you would break down and date him? Ha!

  • Jays August 4, 2014, 4:40 pm

    I do get a sort of victim-blaming vibe from many of these responses. 🙁 OP, can I ask how much info you put out there initially that drew this harassment? Just to shut this down (or not?)

    Also count me curious about the type of websites, but since the OP has already said they weren’t dating websites, it really don’t see how it matters?

  • David August 4, 2014, 5:51 pm

    My wife has had a hobby for most of her life that is seen by many as a man’s hobby

    She one time joined a message board/forum using a gender neutral name and was invited to visit a store devoted to the hobby if ever in the area. We were going up that way one day and decided to drop in, the store owner was surprised but they had a great time discussing the hobby.

    Unfortunately, he mentioned that she had visited in a post he made, using the pronoun. Which created a firestorm of people from the forum voting down her posts, sending her pictures of parts of themselves and various other nonsense until she finally had blocked all but three people who posted there.

    It was their loss, but she’s very careful not to allow any information about herself out now.

    • LaSargenta August 5, 2014, 1:58 pm

      Interesting that you saw that.

      Yup. Happens a lot more than people would think. Of course, I probably would have gone on the attack…someone sends me a pic of some body part, I’d post it as an image in the public fora with a photoshopped ruler alongside for scale.

      It really is hard to completely keep any personal information out of a long-lasting forum or other conversational method. Somehow, somewhere, someone’s gonna figure something out. This is especially easy now that lots of sites require a facebook or google plus account for commenting — obviously, all kinds of info can be learned.

    • NostalgicGal August 7, 2014, 1:55 am

      I would have turned pictures and messages forwarded to the moderators. They should have shut that down and started banning people for the harassment. I’ve been a forum mod on a few sites and been IN the chat rooms at times as a mod; ‘yes I have the power to have your stuff reviewed and you banned’ ‘yes if you don’t clean up the attitude and language I will kick you NOW’ and it has been done. Nobody should EVER have to put up with harassment, especially on hobby sites, UNLESS it happens to be “that sort of site” and very few are.

      It’s sad she got a backlash of the stupid kind…

    • rachel August 7, 2014, 9:23 am

      Sounds like the owner orchestrated it. I’ve been interested in many “male” hobbies and never had this happen nor has any other woman I’ve befriended along the way.

    • Library Diva August 7, 2014, 10:38 am

      That’s awful. I would like to think that the backlash stems more from people feeling “tricked” than from the simple fact that your wife is a female engaged in a stereotypically male hobby. I’m probably giving people way too much credit, though.