Dear Dan: I am male. A close female friend was raped by an old acquaintance of mine. I knew this guy when we were tweens, I didn’t really care for him as we got older, so it goes. It turns out that a few years ago, he raped my friend in an alcohol blackout situation. I don’t know more than that. She says she considers the encounter “not strictly consensual” and confided that this guy didn’t react well when she tried to talk to him about it. This isn’t something she’s “out” about. My feelings toward this guy are pretty dark. Now he’s moved back to town and I see him around, and some good friends of mine who stayed in contact with him invite him to stuff. I don’t know what to say or how to act. I know I don’t want to talk to him or be his friend. I would like to tell my other friends about this guy so I don’t have to see him, but I can’t because it’s not my story to tell. I would rather just skip social events he’s at. But without an explanation, I doubt my friends will understand, and it feels like I’m surrendering my friends to someone who assaulted a dear friend. I told someone once to please not invite him to something or I would skip it. They were confused, and it felt like an awkward ask. What should I say to my friends about this guy? What can I do to keep him out of my life?
Dear AC: “I don’t like hanging out with Chuck and would appreciate it if you didn’t invite him to the party/show/bris/whatever.”
“What’s the issue between you guys?”
“Look, we go a long way back, and it’s not something I want to discuss. It’s just awkward for us to be in the same place.”
That’s the best you can do without outing your friend—without telling a story that isn’t yours to tell—and it’s likely your mutual friends will be confused by the ask, AC, but you’ll just have to be at peace with that. You could add something vague that omits identifying details (“He did a shitty thing to a friend”), but any details you share—however vague—could result in questions being put to you that you can’t answer or are tempted to answer. Even worse, questions will be put to “Chuck,” and he’ll be free to lie, minimize, or spin.
My only other piece of advice would be to follow your close female friend’s lead. You describe what transpired between her and Chuck as rape, while your friend describes the encounter as “not strictly consensual.” That’s a little more ambiguous. And just as this isn’t your story to tell, AC, it’s not your experience to label. If your friend doesn’t describe what happened as rape—for whatever reason—you need to respect that. And does your friend want Chuck excluded from social events hosted by mutual friends or is she able to tolerate his presence? If it’s the latter, do the same. If she’s not making an issue of Chuck being at a party, you may not be doing her any favors by making an issue of his presence yourself.
If you’re worried your friend tolerates Chuck’s presence to avoid conflict and that being in the same space with him actually upsets her (or that the prospect of being in the same space with him keeps her from those spaces), discuss that with her one-on-one and then determine—based on her feelings and her ask—what, if anything, you can do to advocate for her effectively without white-knighting her or making this not-strictly-consensual-and-quite-possibly-rapey thing Chuck did to her all about you and your feelings.
It’s really too bad Chuck reacted badly when your friend tried to talk to him about that night. If he’s an otherwise decent person who has a hard time reading people when he’s drunk, he needs to be made aware of that and drink less or not drink at all. If he’s a shitty person who takes advantage of other people when they’re drunk, he needs to know there will be social and potentially legal consequences for his behavior. The feedback your friend offered this guy—the way she tried to hold him accountable—could have prevented him from either fucking up like this again (if he’s a decent but dense guy) or taking advantage like this again (if he’s a shitty and rapey guy). If he was willing to listen, which he wasn’t. And since he wasn’t willing to listen… yeah, my money is on shitty and rapey, not decent but dense.
Dear Dan: I’m a single straight man. A friend recently told me her 20-year marriage hasn’t included sex for the past six years. Kids, stress, etc. I offered to have sex with her, but only if her husband approves. If I were her husband, I would want to know. But I think it’s unlikely her husband would approve our coital encounter. Have I done wrong?
—Married Asshole Refuses Intercourse To Affectionate Lady
Dear MARITAL: If discreetly getting sex outside her marriage allows your friend to stay married and stay sane, and if she doesn’t get caught, and if the sexual connection with her husband should revive after their kids are older — a lot of ifs, I realize—then the condition you set could result in your friend and her husband getting divorced now, which would preclude the possibility of their sexual connection reviving later. (Although we shouldn’t assume that sex has to be part of a marriage for it to be loving and valid. Companionate marriages are valid marriages.) That said, your friend is free to fuck some other guy if she doesn’t like your terms. Finally, MARITAL, unless you’re brainstorming names for a My Chemical Romance cover band, there’s really no reason to use the phrase “our coital encounter.”
Dear Dan: I’m a straight 45-year-old man. Good-looking. Three college degrees and one criminal conviction. Twice divorced. I’ve had some intense relationships with women I met by chance—one knocked on my door looking to borrow an egg—so I know I can impress women. But online dating doesn’t work for me because I’m only five foot seven. Most women online filter me out based on height. The other problem is that I’m extremely depressed. I’m trying to work on the depression (seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist), but the medications don’t seem to do much for me. This is probably due to my alcoholism. I’d love to start my online profile by boldly proclaiming my height and my disdain for shallow women who disregard me for it, but that would come across as bitter, right?
—Serious Heartbreak Over Relationship Travails
Dear SHORT: There are plenty of five-foot-tall women out there, SHORT, women you’d tower over. But there are very few women who would respond positively—or at all—to a man whose online dating profile dripped with contempt for women who don’t want to fuck him. Rejection sucks, I know, but allowing yourself to succumb to bitterness only guarantees more rejection. And first things first: Keep working on your depression with your mental-health team and please consider giving up alcohol. (I’m sure you’ve already considered it. Reconsider it.) No one is looking for perfection in a partner—and no one can offer perfection—but if dating you is likely to make someone’s life harder, SHORT, they aren’t going to want to date you. So get yourself into good working order and then start looking for a partner. And since you know you have better luck when you meet people face-to-face, don’t spend all your time on dating apps. Instead, find things you like to do and go do them. Maybe you can pick a presidential candidate you like—one who supports coverage for mental-health care?—and volunteer on their campaign.
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