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The Social Contract

Just crawled into bed, it's 6am.

I'm thinking about how people (specifically gay men) interact in party settings and how differently everyone views the social contract. It's interesting how we all adhear to these implicit rules of touching, flirting, or even more benign interactions like dancing too close or invading others' personal space to keep a conversation going.

It's such a strange dichotomy to be at a gay party where we feel liberated and celebrate our sexual expressions, but at the same time play IRL tinder purely based on attraction. Not to say that's why I go out, it's mainly to see friends, but inevitably these situations happen.

My Experience:

I always feel like an asshole when someone I'm not into tries to make a move on me and my non-confrontational side provides social cues to de-escalate the situation. Turning my cheek to avoid a mouth kiss, turning to my side so the face-to-face dancing becomes shoulder-to-shoulder, or switching spots with a friend to gain distance. I feel bad because: Would I have been fine with that interaction if they were hot? What level of attraction would merit someone grabbing my ass per se? Is it judgmental to allow some access but not others based on attractiveness?

My Perspective:

I rarely ever feel compelled to initiate or intrude on others' space, and when I do it's typically in a friendly or flirty way and only to guys I know have given me a signal of interest (gentle shoulder grab, eye-contact, hand on the lower back, smiling, etc.). I've found that many men lack the ability to read social cues and it makes enforcing the social contract much more difficult for the one doing the rejecting.

I pride myself in being able to handle flirting with finesse, and it's often times because I err on the side of caution as to not put myself or the other person in an awkward position. I can read a room.

When it comes to receiving these advances and me rejecting, the outcome is usually them ignoring/missing my subtle attempts to distance myself or they linger for god knows how long, until I have to be explicit that my intentions do not extend beyond being friends.

It feels hypocritical because I genuinely don't intend to hurt feelings, but the longer the implicit signals don't work, the more up-front I have to be about the terrible nucleus of my discomfort, it's because I'm not attracted to them.

The Social Contract:

It's facinating to me that we all view our access to others differently. I've definitely noticed as a relatively attractive person, I'm able to extend my advances quite liberally without it being viewed as a faux pas. I know it's a privilege I have, but one I don't exercise unless I have strong intentions with this person.

On the other hand, I've realized that the same mentality of erring on the side of caution is often not applied to me when men try to make advances. I know this sounds like a pretty person problem to have, but it's actually very distressing to be viewed as the antagonist in a situation that wasn't initiated by me in the first place.

It's frustrating, but also written off as an issue that comes with the territory of being sought after...? I guess. I just don't find it in my nature to be mean or aloof, I can like someone as a person, but my attentiveness can be misconstrued as interest and that's where I'm wondering if I'm the one messing up and not sending out platonic messages to the ones I don't find attractive.


How do you gauge your level of access to someone you find attractive and how do you navigate being rejected?

Have a good morning!

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Just a lurker from IG, but just wanted to drop a compliment about your writing. A little rare to see such nuance and thoughtfulness, so thanks for putting this out into the world. Really liked several turns-of-phrases (e.g., “the terrible nucleus of my discomfort”). @kennoojen

Richard Chao
Richard Chao
09 de jul. de 2022
Respondendo a

Thank you Ken! Appreciate your kind words 🥰 I write these at odd hours and have to really push a semi-coherent thought out as to not ramble endlessly 🤫


It’s a bit of a tricky line. As a late 20-something, I can imagine a little bit of it can come from social media just easily allowing us into the lives of others. Setting up a lot of parasocial relationships.

Rejection of social interactions is a hard thing, but no one is entitled to your time. As you mentioned this is a nice problem, but probably something that hardens the other person.

As someone who sees themselves as “below average“ in the gay world but partnered, it can be quite discouraging to feel that I’m only allowed in spaces because of my more conventional attractive other half. I’ve accepted it, but it is something that shadows my interactions with more…

Richard Chao
Richard Chao
09 de jul. de 2022
Respondendo a

Thanks for your perspective, Bob! The parasocial aspect definitely plays a role in how overly comfortable people can get at times, misinterpreting their knowledge of your social media life as a mutually agreed upon friendship. It's awful that the gay scene has such a powerful superficial bias and I often feel torn. It's draining to reject people while still conveying thoughtfulness when my space is compromised. I think it also has to do with rejection hardening people, so I try my best to tow the line and show them "just because I'm not attracted to you in a sexual way, it doesn't reflect on your character". I'm that person who'll be like "hey, I'll be your wingman! Let's find you a guy!"…

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