The same guy has sexually pursued me for the last seven years. And for the last seven years, he’s had a series of about three girlfriends. He rarely calls during any of the gestation periods between one girl and the next, rarely does he call when he’s causally dating, and he always calls when he’s in a committed monogamous relationship.

He’s called me when he’s heading to pick his girlfriend up from the airport. He’s bored me with stories about how his girlfriend is weighing her career options, and suggestively offered that she and I may be living in the same city, depending on which job offer she takes. “Wouldn’t that be fun?” he said. I know her name, where she’s from, and I’ve even seen her picture. I’m not sure how he figures that any of this is supposed to entice me, but I feel sorry for his girlfriend—because if I were a different type of woman, I could have had three expenses-paid European vacations by now.

What started as a friendship between he and I has recently decomposed into nothing more than a vehicle for sexual conquest. And, like I would do with any other piece of decaying garbage, I’ve thrown it away. The openness, boldness, and audacity of his persistence suggest one thing: This has worked with someone else before.

That’s right. One of us has dropped the ball, ladies. Because nothing this ridiculous would ever seem logical, except when it’s effective. When foolishness prevails, the efforts are duplicated in hopes of garnishing the same end result. For every asinine attempt a man has made to sleep with you, every bottom-of-the-barrel advance that has ever met your presence, rest assured that his game has proven tried, tested, and true with someone else.

For all of the professional advances that women have made in the last century, it seems we have forgotten how powerful we are in our personal relationships and how much authority there is in our personal and sexual choices. A pervasive amount of distrust exists between women, on which some men capitalize for their own self-interests. The game has gotten so twisted that there isn’t even any game anymore. Instead of lies, there are inconvenient truths that you’re expected to step around because “you shouldn’t care; you don’t even know her.”

Aside from the emotional devastation caused by cheating, these types of indiscretions can have life-threatening consequences in the form of HIV/AIDS and STIs. When you entrust someone to remain sexually monogamous, you are maintaining the belief that they are not engaging in sexual acts with other partners. If that confidence is breeched, who’s to say that the third party isn’t infected, or also having another sexual relationship?

As women, we have to stand individually and collectively so as to assure our personal and collective well-being. We must each make conscious choices to act within our best interests, not our self interests, and when we do so, the balance of power will shift.

This message is not confined solely to the matter of fidelity. Take charge of the way men speak to you. For instance, a man 30 years my senior once commented that he liked my boots. I thanked him, and then he and his friend cackled and cat-called like dirty old men as he added, “Now take that dress off, and leave the boots on. I want to see you naked in them.”

I turned on my heels, looked him in the face, and said, “Sir, that’s inappropriate. I could be your daughter.” I turned back around and walked again in the direction of my apartment with the sounds of epiphanic apologies at my back. There have been other times when I’ve challenged how a man has spoken to me, and he’s been less than receptive. Even in those cases, I’ve set my boundaries.

Some women enjoy the idea of classic chivalry more than others, but, in any event, we must maintain basic rules of engagement. Among them: (1) Refraining from knowledgeably engaging with anyone else’s man or engaging with men who persist in this regard; (2) Correcting and/or rejecting a man’s use of the word “bitch” as synonymous, or in tandem, to a description of a woman; (3) Rejecting the notion that one has asked “too many questions,” as it pertains to matters of sexual history or personal lifestyle; and the list goes on.

As with anything, unchallenged behavior goes largely unchanged. But until we decide to work as a collective to stop entertaining disrespectful behavior, the only people we’re playing the game with is ourselves.

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