Stop Saying “I Have a Boyfriend”


I enjoy “going out.” I like dancing, I like music, I like drinking, I like spending time with friends. And I like meeting new people, chatting with them, making friends. I also understand that many people (men and women) go to bars and clubs in hopes of meeting a romantic/sexual partner, and of course, there is nothing wrong with this, in theory.

That’s why, if someone attempts conversation with me, I try not to immediately write them off as a “creep.” I welcome conversation and believe that the more people in my life with whom I can converse, the better off I’ll be. However (as most women know) there sometimes comes a point in a conversation with a man where it becomes necessary to draw the line and indicate that you are in no way, by any means, at all interested in pursuing anything further. There are also times when it is clear that friendly conversation is not in the cards (i.e., those men who substitute grabbing your hips and attempting to “dance” with you for a polite introduction). This is about those times.

If you do a Google search for “how to avoid being hit on at a bar,” you’ll get several articles with “helpful” tips on skirting conversation with men you are not interested in. The majority of these list pretending to have (or actually having) a boyfriend/fiance/husband as the number one method for avoiding creeps (second to “pretending to be a lesbian” or “pretending to be crazy,” a la Jenna Marbles). In response to my complaints about men creeping on me at dance clubs in college, an ex-boyfriend of mine used to get cranky that I refused to whip out this cure-all excuse (one of many reasons he is an ex).

Yes, this may be the easiest and quickest way to get someone to leave you alone, but the problems associated with using this excuse far outweigh the benefits. There is a quotation that I’ve seen floating around Tumblr recently (reblogged by many of my amazing feminist Tumblr-friends) that goes as follows:

Male privilege is “I have a boyfriend” being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest.

This amazingly puts into one sentence what I have been attempting to explain to ex-boyfriends and friends (male and female) for years, mostly unsuccessfully. The idea that a woman should only be left alone if she is “taken” or “spoken for” (terms that make my brain twitch) completely removes the level of respect that should be expected toward that woman. It completely removes the agency of the woman, her ability to speak for herself and make her own decisions regarding when and where the conversation begins or ends. It is basically a real-life example of feminist theory at work–women (along with women’s choices, desires, etc.) being considered supplemental to or secondary to men, be it the man with whom she is interacting or the man to whom she “belongs” (see the theory of Simone de Beauvoir, the story of Adam and Eve, etc.). And the worst part of the whole situation is that we’re doing this to ourselves.

This tactic also brings up the question of the alternative. If the woman in question was boyfriend-free, would she automatically be swooning in the arms of the creep harassing her? Unlikely. So why do we keep using these excuses? We’re not teaching men anything about the consequences of their behavior (i.e. polite, real conversation warrants a response while unwanted come-ons do not). We’re merely taking the easy exit, and, simultaneously, indicating to men that we agree, single girls are “fair game” for harassment.

So what can we do? I think the solution is simple–we simply stop using excuses. If a man is coming on to you (and you are not interested–if you are, go for it, girl!), respond with something like this: “I’m not interested.” Don’t apologize and don’t excuse yourself. If they question your response (which is likely), persist–”No, I said I’m not interested.”

“Oh, so you have a boyfriend?”

“I said, I’m not interested.”

“So you’re a lesbian, then?”

“Actually, I’m not interested.”

“You seem crazy.”

“Nope, just not interested.”

Et cetera. You could even, if you were feeling particularly outspoken, engage in a bit of debate with the man in question. “Why is it that you think that just because I’m not interested, there must be an excuse? Why is it not an option that I’m simply not looking for a sexual encounter and/or something about the way that you approached me indicated to me that you have very little respect for women and therefore I would never be interested in having a sexual encounter with you regardless of my sexuality or relationship status?” (Or, ya know, switch it up as you see fit.) Questioning them back (if you have the energy) puts you back on an even playing field.

I’m not saying this is easy. I’ve gotten into my fair share of arguments with men during what were supposed to be fun nights out with friends over whether or not I have the “right” to tell them to buzz off, boyfriend notwithstanding. However, there are a few reasons I continue: 1. So that maybe, possibly, the man I’m speaking to, or other men observing the encounter, may learn something about the agency of women, 2. So that maybe, possibly I might be inspiring other women observing to do the same so that one day, we can be a huge kickass collective of ladies standing up for our right to go crazy on the dance floor without being hassled, and 3. So that I can go home that night, sweaty and tired and happy, and know that I gave myself all the respect that I deserve.

Alecia is a logophile and a library bandit wanted in several states. In addition to feminist rants, she also writes essays, short stories, bad poetry, recipes and very detailed to-do lists. She currently resides in a little blue cabin in Woodstock with one fiance, one Dachshund and one pleasantly plump cat. Find her tweeting @alecialynn.

About Alecia Lynn Eberhardt

Alecia is a logophile and a library bandit wanted in several states. She is currently meandering about the northeast with one fiance, one Dachshund and one pleasantly plump cat. Find her tweeting @alecialynn.

565 Thoughts on “Stop Saying “I Have a Boyfriend”

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  7. Albert on March 30, 2015 at 4:42 am said:

    Hi. Great article. I did however have a question about the response suggested. You explicitly state to not apologize and to not excuse yourself. Why is that? I know the guy may be coming on strong, but it seems like being polite about not being interested will get a better response from the other party even in this situation. I’d assume aggressively dismissing an aggressive persuer would result in even more aggression,as predicted within the article. Seems kind of counterintuitive. It’s clearly not a small detail because you specifically state to not say it. So I’m just wondering the reasoning for it. Thank you.

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  11. Wendy Chad on March 9, 2015 at 2:10 am said:

    I am 26 year old lesbian, i have been in a relationship with my girlfriend right from high school, indeed i never regretted each moment i spend with her and it came a time she wanted to end the relationship and move on with this new guy she met, i felt so confused, i love her so much and had to plead with her to come back to me but all effort to get her back did not work out. I wanted her back at all cost and had to seek for the help of a spell caster but the first one i met did not work,i wasted so much time believing him and at the end nothing work but yet i did no give up as i had to try another one whose name is Priest Ajigar and he was the one that finally brought her back to me in just 4 days after the spell was done, i am a very happy person today as i love lesbianism life and i never could live without her. I would advice if you need a powerful spell caster either to get your boyfriend or girlfriend back, get your husband back, get a new partner? You don’t have to look further for other spell casters, explain your problem by sending email to priest Ajigar (priestajigarspells @ live . com)

  12. sherilyn t. on March 2, 2015 at 6:36 pm said:

    WOW. I never thought about this before. I am that woman who says “I have a boyfriend” at the club and actually enjoys saying it because #1)98% of the time, the guy leaves me alone and #2)i like to show off the fact that i have a hot boyfriend (who is usually “standing right over there”) but this article makes me rethink that. I love this school of thought and can’t wait to start saying “I’m not interested.” Now… if I could only get my hard headed boyfriend to not be upset when when I don’t tell other guys “i have a boyfriend”… thank you for this article!

  13. If women made their equal share of approaching, all these things would not happen, but, as usual, women avoid responsibility and accountability. Typical feminist writing. Equality only when it suits them.

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  15. “Male privilege is “I have a boyfriend” being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest.”

    This is just another example of how feminists are severely misinformed and delusional about their beliefs. It’s literally cult psychosis 101. Or…we don’t even bother to REALLY clue ourselves in on what people outside our walls actually think and feel. This is it, if you don’t like it, you’re a misogynist!

    Guys do not stop hitting on a girl when she says I have a boyfriend because he respects other males. Most guys would sleep with any guy’s girl if given half a chance no question about it. How do I know this? I’m a guy. I know guys. We talk to each other.

    Guys stop hitting on girls when they say I have a boyfriend because they have been conditioned by society to think that girls who have a boyfriend will never want anybody else and/or they are unattainable / the only thing that exists is a monogamous relationship.. Keep adding to this.

    They usually walk away, head down, saddened because they really liked the girl and live in a mindset where they think “the one” is hard to find and thus if they feel something for a girl it’s a rare commodity. Another societal mind fuck.

    Now it is also highly likely the guy is NOT interested in her like that, and when she says I have a boyfriend he is highly annoyed by it because he was not actually hitting on her, she just thinks it because he said something ranging from completely neutral to a full blown compliment. The place at which the needle drops on that scale depending on how often the girl gets hit on, how cynical she is about men, how likely she is to just jump to conclusions.

    But forget about explaining all this to a feminist because it will fall on deaf ears.

    Now.. When a girl tells me she’s not interested, that actually may lead to something happening only because I’m like WOW. Mad respect.

    You want to impress me, tell me you’re not interested instead of making a BS excuse and I will be extremely impressed and that girl will have my respect. Of course, at that point the ball is in her court as to whether show that she is NOW interested based on my response, or if she is still not interested it will be obvious. Because anyone can turn around a woman’s disinterest, because after all she does not know the person, and at any time anything could strike her interest.

    I totally agree with this article by the way I just had to put that in there. I would keep it if I were you even though I am hating on feminists because it will serve as a shield from any vile comments or death threats from feminists who are angered by this. :)

  16. Tokyo Mommy on February 11, 2015 at 5:45 am said:

    What do you do when to tell them you are married or have a boyfriend and they still don’t take “no” for an answer and harass you even more? Grrrr! I hate that!

  17. Dan 13732 on February 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm said:

    Awesome, thoughtful article. I will certainly suggest that my teen aged daughter read it… and probably my teen aged sons, too!

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  19. women need to become honest, women obfuscate continually, this is the biggest problem men have with them

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  21. Luis J. Quinones on November 23, 2014 at 7:38 pm said:

    If a woman approached me looking for something I would come out and tell her that I have a girlfriend. Why??? Out of respect for my significant other. She would do the same for me. That category of men you are describing is only a small part of the population and you are correct. they are creeps. They are unteachable creeps. They won’t respect you regardless of what you say or do. Nothing but a bunch of feminists are reading this post. Those creeper men are out there being creepers. They don’t care about this article. Stop acting like a victim and get over it. Feminism is just another form of sexism.

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  23. Whenever I go to shows/clubs I always converse with them because they might just be guys who like talking but usually they want to dance so I say “I only dance by myself, but thank you though!” and include a sweet smile when it comes to the point of them wanting to get to the root of their interest. Guys aren’t always assholes, sometimes there’s just guys being guys. I always get positive response because I’m pretty much saying “you’re a cool dude but I’m doing my own thang.”

  24. Anonymous on November 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm said:

    Every guy also has freedom of speech. He is free to continue to talk to you after you’ve blown him off. You saying anything that you may have to say does not take away his right. Saying “I am not interested.” Or even “just leave.” or pointing at the man in question, making a turn around gesture with one’s fingertips, and pointing in the other direction, is not obligating the man to leave. The only thing that obligates a man to leave, is his will. That’s it. He can stay and talk to you as long as he wants to.

    What can you do, if you don’t like it? Easy. Ignore him. Completely. That’s my advice, as a man. Don’t give him anything to go off of at all, or if he’s good at what he does, he’ll make you laugh, you’ll find him charming, and you’ll find his perseverance an attractive quality, and you may end up dating him by mistake.

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  33. Just a random guy on November 1, 2014 at 11:56 pm said:

    Me and my girl both say “I have a gf/bf” because its probably the most polite way to say you arent interested while simultaneously giving a reason. Stop digging so deep into phases that are usually used out of politeness. Your encouraging rudeness…

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  35. If a girl has a boyfriend, she is off limits, because of respect for the relationship. If she would break up with him to be with me, I wouldn’t trust her to stay with me. Likewise, I won’t respect a guy who breaks up with one girl for another. Respecting another man more has nothing to do with it.
    With that said, if you say you’re just not interested, I’m probably going to want some sort of answer “you’re really just not my type”, “I’m not looking for a relationship right now”, etc. If I took the effort to talk with you, please take the effort to not just leave me standing clueless

    • Honestly, a girl with a boyfriend isn’t “off limits.” Marriage is a different story, but to say that just because a person may have found a likable person before me so I can’t attempt anything (read various ways) is ridiculous. Dating is a tentative state where we are feeling out the people we are with, we are not in a bubble, and if a person comes along that is more compatible/nicer/better/etc then there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to attempt to pursue that person. That says nothing to the ability of the person in the relationship to deny them.

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  43. Toni on July 7, 2014 at 11:10 pm said:

    Hi, so I read this article a while back and was actually fascinated by it’s idea. Last thursday I went out with a long time friend (who is a guy) I am recently single again and my friend says im an attractive woman (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) and he told me that if a guy hits on me tonight I should tell them I have a boyfriend. I went on to explain to my friend I won’t be doing that tonight. Now mind you I am going to a bar with a lot of young military soldiers (who tend to be very touchy feely when durnk and have little boundaries, but in this small town there aren’t many bars to choose from) Most the night I was left alone while I sat at the table with my friend, at some point in the night he ended up going to the bathroom (I was DD and he was getting pretty drunk, which is why his platter was sending him away more) At this point a gentlemen came up and asked if I would like to ask and I told him thank you but no. He proceeded to ask if I had a husband and I replied no, I am just not interested. He smiled gave me a thumbs up and went to ask another lady (I was actually surprised how well it worked and how good it made me feel about myself.) so naturally when another guy came and asked if I wanted to dance I did the same thing I smiled said thank you but I’m not interested again he also just smiled and said enjoy the rest of your night and went back to where he had been sitting. Then my friend returned and I told him what had happened he didn’t seem to happy that I didn’t take his advice but when i went on to explain to my friend that woman should have the right to stand up for themselves because even though we are single doesnt mean we are on the market for any man and being in a relationship doesnt mean that man owns me his jaw actually dropped he didnt realize its something he has done with woman in his life he was actually ashamed and said wow i never thought of it that way you are right. All in all I felt great about myself that night I may not had danced with anyone or gotten shit face drunk but i had a fun time and respected myself as a woman. Thank you for opening my eyes and also allowing me to open my friends eyes. I will continue to do this and also to teach my daughter this life lesson. you are a wonderful person :)

    Keep on being you and keep on being strong and beautiful <3 you are truly amazing.

    • Toni on July 7, 2014 at 11:14 pm said:

      I apologize for my typos (bladder not platter and the gentleman asked me to dance)

    • “..doesnt mean that man owns me his jaw actually dropped he didnt realize its something he has done with woman in his life he was actually ashamed and said wow i never thought of it that way you are right.”

      It is so over the top not sure anything needs to be said. TJ

    • So let me see if I understand this…
      You are told women should say “I have a boyfriend” because men won’t go away otherwise, and thus respect the woman’s right to say no. So you must claim to be “another man’s property” by stating you have a boyfriend. So, you decide to put it to the the test and instead of saying “i have a boyfriend” you simply say no. Not only do the two guys respect the woman’s right to say no and not be interested, but this somehow confirms the myth that men only respect a woman who is “owned” by another man….O_O

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