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Women reveal innocent behaviors they had to change for fear of sending men the wrong message

Women said even smiling at a man or showing concern for someone was often read as leading men on.

Women reveal innocent behaviors they had to change for fear of sending men the wrong message
Left: Runner eating a banana - stock photo/Getty Images Right: Young woman shopping for shoes - stock photo/Getty Images

Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 14, 2021. It has since been updated.

Women shouldn't have to check their own behavior to protect themselves because men can't seem to interpret the most basic actions but that's where we are. Women are constantly on guard and changing their gestures and behavior to ensure men don't get the wrong impression. A Reddit user asked, “What innocent behaviors have you changed out of fear you might be mistaken for leading men on?” and replies shine a light on the issue.

Here are some of the comments that we came across:

1. Even hugs

Like general affection, even with hugs and compliments, I'm pretty reserved unless our relationship is clearly drawn out and we both know that nothing is being implied. u/ColorMeCuriosity

2. Eye contact that one time

The worst thing is when I walked back to my car alone and in the dark. I'd been out that day and was wearing cute and kind of revealing clothes. A guy followed me from the train station to where I'd parked (about 10 minutes), and when I got in my car he started to yell at me for leading him on. We hadn't spoken, but we'd made eye contact a couple of times on the hour-long train ride, which seemed to be enough for him. I didn't think that the phrase "leading someone along" was so literal, but okay. -u/darlinglark

Waitress serving beer to man in bar - stock photo/Getty images


3. I just f*cking smiled

I was coming home quite late from a party. In a street, a guy smiled, as people sometimes do. So I smiled back politely but kept walking and forgot about it. I didn't notice straight away that I was being followed but I noticed after 5 minutes that someone was walking very closely behind me (heard food steps and saw their shadow). So I moved to the side and slowed down a bit to let him pass. He didn't. He slowed down too. So I noticed a group of people a bit further on the other side of the street. Without looking behind, I sped up and crossed the street toward the group of people. Then I looked behind and I saw the guy I smiled at 5 minutes before standing there, looking at me, he looked a bit angry. 

No words were exchanged. What kind of creep can you be to do things like that? What was he going to do? Follow me home at the other side of the city before he would actually start asking if I was interested at all. I just f*cking smiled. I always do it when I see a man, a woman, a kid, an old person who smiles at me. That was not a f*cking invitation for sex. - Reddit.

4. Giving a compliment

I remember this guy I knew talking about how much his braces had helped his teeth and I said that they were looking really good. I was complimenting his teeth!! But all his friends freaked out as I had just proposed. So I don't compliment guys anymore. - u/EllieJellyNelly

5. Eating bananas

Let's just say I don't eat bananas in public anymore. - u/erinsuzanne. Another user responded, "Whenever I eat a banana in public, I aggressively tear it apart with my bared teeth."

Happy athletes communicating while eating healthy food on a break in a health club/ Getty Images


6. Picking something from the ground

If I have to pick something off the ground I bend my legs and squat down to do it so it doesn't look like I'm showing off my a$$, even though it'd be a lot easier to just bend down. -u/acontreras1228. Another user added, "Yes! And then you have to be careful with how you come back up. If you stick your a$$ out too much it apparently becomes like a penis fly trap."


7. Carrying a nightstand

Today, apparently, I shouldn't have carried a nightstand down the street. It was a little awkward but not heavy at all, and some dude came up to me and tried to take it from my hands, unasked. I held onto it and told him, "no thanks." He kept pulling on it. I had to ask him to let go. When I said "Jesus Christ" he went on, "Oh, like it was such a bad thing." Yes, dude, that was absolutely a bad way to try to help someone out. You don't take something from someone's hands unbidden if you actually want to help them. Frankly, you pulling a medium-large object from my grasp makes me think you're trying to steal from me or con me. u/stink3rbelle

A woman being stalked - stock photo


8. No thank you.

Not accepting any favor from a man. No rides. No coffees. Avoid. Avoid. It sucks. -u/betweensadmad

9. Having a girlfriend

Mentioning that I have a girlfriend, weirdly enough. Do you know how saying you have a boyfriend is normally pretty good for making guys go away? Well, saying you have a girlfriend just leads to a bunch of gross questions and offers of "If you're ever looking for a threesome, hit me up" (gag). Like what does this guy think I'll go home and excitedly tell my gal pal, "Guess what? I met a guy at a bar, and, you won't believe this, he wants to have SEX with BOTH of us!! What a rare and exciting offer, we need to take him up on this!" -u/strych91

10. Being polite

I used to always greet everyone with a smile and happy eyes. Either a nod or a quick 'hello'. But I got hit on way too often while doing that, to the point where they kept following me. I'm just trying to be polite dammit. - u/Spotgaai

11. Replying to a DM

I've found if a guy messages me and I send back so much as a polite 'hello' that guy will never leave me alone. Every couple of months he'll pop up trying to start a conversation, usually being rude or lewd, long after I've stopped messaging him. I know it's just a few delusional, ridiculous guys that do this but Jesus...what on Earth makes them think this behavior is ever going to get them anywhere? - u/DiscoLemonade0107



12. Asking for directions

I don't ask random men for directions anymore. One time I was taking the greyhound bus for the first time by myself. Asked a random guy where the line for where I wanted to go was. He didn't know but he was also looking for the same line. We agreed to look together (why not?) and ended up sitting next to each other and chatting. 2 hours into the 5-hour bus ride he says he was "tired" and then falls asleep. Wraps his arm around me while he's "asleep" and then starts kissing my neck. I was so uneasy and scared at that moment because I didn't know how he'd react to me pushing him off and I didn't want to make a scene. Also, the seats were all full, half with actual sleeping people so switching wasn't really an option. I was leaning almost fully into the aisle to get away from him. Eventually he "woke up" and THEN asked if I had a boyfriend and wanted to date him. I promptly turned him down and listened to music for the next 3 awkward as hell hours. -u/vestegaard


13. Showing concern 

Showing any kind of concern for a guy. Like if you have a guy friend that looks sad and you try to be a good friend and comfort them that's seen as flirting somehow. - u/waytobookish


14. Being young

Being young. Turning fifty was the best idea I've ever had. - Reddit

15. Being fit

Being in shape. Many men think that women get in shape solely to impress them, so fitness is like an open invitation for unsolicited attention. - Reddit

Confident sportswoman listening to music through in-ear headphones while jogging on a bridge in the city - stock photo/Getty Images

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