Ariel is a freshman at a mid-sized religiously affiliated college. For the past few weeks, Bryan has been talking to her—by text and on Facebook. He says that he wants to get to know her better, and she’s started imagining that they’ll be boyfriend and girlfriend soon. Here are some important details: Bryan is a senior and is a superstar on the hockey team. And this is one of those schools where the top athletes get very special treatment. Though they haven’t actually spent any time talking in person, his texts have become increasingly focused on graphic commentary about her body. Ariel’s friends have been warning her about the rumors that he’s gone through many women, and telling her that he’s only trying to get her into bed, but Ariel is sure that it’s different with her and can’t resist the attention and the excitement.
One night, Ariel is at a party with her friends and Bryan shows up with his friends. He starts repeatedly asking her to go home with him and she says no unconvincingly. Her friends decide to leave the party and try to get Ariel to go with them, but his friends pressure her to stay. Did I mention that they’re all drinking? Eventually she leaves with Bryan and several of his friends—partly because she’s flattered by the attention, partly because she doesn’t want to disappoint him, and partly because she doesn’t know what else she could do at that point.
They go to his dorm and he has aggressive impersonal sex with her while a few friends walk in and out of the room. (Though she doesn’t object, there is nothing explicitly consensual about it.) Afterwards, Bryan tells Ariel to go home and makes it clear that the night meant nothing to him. Ariel walks home, upset, alone and confused about how things went so wrong. Bryan never texts her again.Ariel wasn’t too drunk to know what was going on and it’s not an issue of rape. But it certainly is an example of a man treating a woman like crap, and a woman who didn’t use the best judgment. It’s also a common tale of a confusing situation and competing motivations. When I polled a bunch of friends who are at various phases in their lives, the tale sounded all too familiar.
From patients and friends who have learned the hard way—and to keep you from doing the same—I present the top 10 signs that he might be a player:
- He tells you over and over how beautiful you are while simultaneously buying/getting you drink after drink.
- He checks his phone often and holds it so you can’t see any texts that he gets.
- He checks out other women often (that is, more than occasionally).
- He “talks” to you mostly by text or phone and makes no effort to see you in person unless you would be alone together.
- He manages to mention early on what kind of car he drives (expensive) and how much he makes (lots).
- He doesn’t care if you do anything risky (e.g. drunk driving, walking alone through a deserted parking lot).
- He doesn’t care if you’re clearly uncomfortable with the situation and pressures you instead of listening to you.
- If you say you’re not comfortable with something he criticizes or mocks you.
- Your friends don’t trust him (and that’s not something they say all the time).
- He has a reputation for treating women badly, with specific examples to back it up.
While it’s important to let yourself be vulnerable enough to truly connect with someone, when you’re just getting to know someone (especially in higher risk situations like online dating or on a college campus), it may be smart to act on the presumption of guilt: player until proven innocent. Assume the guy is a player and conduct/protect yourself accordingly. Start on high alert and then, after a period of time, you can dial it down. Take care of yourself, and please forward this column on to anyone else who could use a reminder to take care of herself, too.
Visit BluebirdPages.com for more stories, advice and information to help you feel better in your life, in your relationships and in your own skin, from our Self-Image Expert, Heather Quinlan. Topics include relationships, sadness, food, weight, body-image, stress, work, self-esteem, trauma and self-care.