This may be one of the best metaphors for harassment I’ve read yet. The premise here is that it’s a lot like being randomly asked if you want coffee by people whenever you’re out, and then they give you the Jesus pitch. Some are more aggressive than others, but ultimately it has an effect on your life.
One of my favorite lines is, “It changes you, and then guys call you bitchy when you don’t feel like playing along and pretending this is just about the coffee.” (Emphasis mine)
That’s really the thing, isn’t it? People get upset when we stop keeping subtext…well, sub. The moment you point out that that person complimenting you is doing so because they want to get into your pants, well then that just makes them look like a jerk, and they can’t have that, so you become a bitch or a cunt or frigid or stuck up or or or…ad infinitum.
I like pretending things. I spend a lot of time doing so in games or other hobbies. But when pretending becomes a tool for manipulation, a way for people to be jackwagons and get away with it, it stops being a positive way to release steam and starts becoming a tool of oppression. No, talking about raping people on principle is not “just a joke.” No, catcalling is not a compliment. No, your pantsfeelings are not a mitigating factor in you acting like an asshole (read the stuff about Xander at the link).
You want to compliment your friends and buy them random coffees? Nobody is stopping you, and you know your friends better than I do. You want to buy a stranger a coffee? Keep in mind that you’re not the first person to offer to do so. Even if she just has a copy of Hitch 22 and a Serenity Valley battle patch on her backpack and you just want to meet another atheist Browncoat, it may not be taken that way. There is nothing you’ve done and there is nothing you can do about this, so drop the issue and move on.
One thing that wasn’t covered in the article is that there may have been some non-evangelical girls who wanted to buy the author coffee because they genuinely did think he was cute, but after so many people offering under false pretenses, there would be no way to weed out them from the evangelical nutjobs in advance.
So just try to keep in mind that you’re not an isolated incident, no matter what your personal goals are. You’re part of a long line of people who may not have had equally pure intentions and probably haven’t, so don’t get upset when the woman in question doesn’t instantly recognize that you’re different. It sucks, yes, but thems the breaks and you can find better ways to make friends and, yes, even find a girlfriend or two without having to bother them into submission.