This Is For All Women Who Wear Headphones On The Street

Columnist Lucy Vine on why 'no' doesn't mean 'keep trying'

woman wearing headphones

by Grazia |

Is gritted fingers a thing? To be struggling to type through gritted fingers? Because that is how I feel. This week an article teaching men ‘How to talk to a woman who is wearing headphones’ went viral. It’s written by a Total Bro called Dan Bacon, who cheerfully explains how to bother women who just want to be allowed to live their life without being harassed in the street.

Dan, who calls himself a ‘dating and relationship expert’, wants men everywhere to know that women enjoy this. Even when they don’t seem to enjoy it, or when they’re literally saying, ‘I DON’T ENJOY THIS’ – they’re enjoying it. Because Dan knows better what dumb women enjoy more than dumb women saying what they enjoy.

Creepy advice in this feature includes:

‘Wave your hand in her direct line of vision so she can’t ignore it.’

‘Pretend to be taking headphones off your head, so she fully understands.’

‘Some girls are shy and will be hesitant to take the headphones off right away because they are feeling a lot of nervousness and excitement about what is happening.’

Oh hold on, now I see the problem. Dan is a fucking moron.

Women are not walking up and down the street waiting and hoping for a man to notice them. That is not what is happening. We are trying to live our lives without being catcalled or being told to smile by a stranger, and definitely without some gaping idiot standing in our way trying to ruin our day with inane small talk.

But it’s deeper and darker than that, because women also live in a world that rapes and hurts them. We never know if the guy refusing to move out of our way, and bullishly insisting we remove our headphones, is about to force his hand up our skirt. We don’t yet live in a world where an unsolicited conversation with a male stranger feels safe when we’re walking alone. I don’t know any woman who hasn’t experienced that fear and hasn’t felt threatened by this kind of situation. And yet we continue to encourage men to persist, and to hear ‘no’ as a ‘try harder’.

Dan’s advice then actually gets more embarrassing, as he breaks down exactly how this sexy chat is likely to go:

You: [Smile in a friendly, confident manner] Hey – I know it’s not normal for people to talk to someone with headphones in, but I was walking along and saw you and thought – wow, she’s a cutie, I have to say hi. I’m Dan, what’s your name?

Woman: [Usually flattered by the compliment and impressed by your confidence to approach her like that] Jessica.

You: [Add in some humour] Cool…nice to meet you Jessica. I don’t normally talk to girls with headphones, but your big green headphones were just calling out to me.

Woman: [Most likely laughing, smiling and enjoying the interaction].

You: [Let her know that you have something to do/somewhere to go, so she understands that you’re not going to stand there talking to her for 30 minutes] Anyway, so I’m just out doing a bit of shopping at the moment. I’m on my way to a store up the street. How’s your day going so far?

The arrogance and entitlement that goes into this made-up exchange is completely astounding. Let me just fix this for you, Dan mate.

You: [creepy and aggressive] Hey – I know it’s not normal for people to talk to someone with headphones in, but I was walking along and saw you and thought – wow, she’s a cutie, I have to say hi. I’m Dan, what’s your name?

Woman: [Freaked out, annoyed, and also carefully checking her peripheral vision for other people in case this guy is going to touch her. But also trying to be subtle in case the wrong move sets this weird predator off] Jessica.

You: [Add in some shit humour that isn’t actually funny, it’s still just awful] Cool…nice to meet you Jessica. I don’t normally talk to girls with headphones, but your big green headphones were just calling out to me.

Woman: [Wondering how to deal with this, so the creep goes away but doesn’t call her a bitch].

You: [Being boring at best, and – at worst – implying he’s about to follow you around all day] Anyway, so I’m just out doing a bit of shopping at the moment. I’m on my way to a store up the street. How’s your day going so far?

[Jessica is now circling the emergency call button with her thumb and wishing she’d listened to her dad who kept going on about rape whistles last weekend.]

I expect Dan thinks he’s being charming. Romantic, even. But what he’s telling his followers is that forcing their way into a woman’s personal space will get them sex. Jemima Olchawski, Head of Policy and Insight at the Fawcett Society explains it better: ‘What's so worrying here is the idea that when a woman rejects an offer to talk or interact with a man who approaches her, she's really just ‘testing’ him, or looking for him to display his ‘manliness’ by persisting. It really is time that we all got the message that when a woman says ‘no’ she just means ‘no’. Not only does advice like this fuel damaging ideas about appropriate ways to treat women, it also perpetuates harmful and dated ideas about how men should behave, creating further pressures for them to meet unrealistic male stereotypes.’

As an article, it’s a superb bit of stupidity and I hope no man out there ever listens to any of it. But it’s also just the tip of the offensive iceberg on Dan’s website. There are other features, like, ‘Why does being too nice to a woman often lead to rejection?’ and a video of Dan sharing ‘tips’ that he says have got him sex with ‘more than 250’ definitely not made up women (he says he’ll show us photos later to prove that number, but I’m afraid I can’t confirm that because my computer got mysteriously thrown out of a window).

The whole thing is depressing AF, but there is an answer. We all know the world of dating is an increasingly brutal place, but if you want advice on how to speak to women, instead of looking to idiots like Dan, why not ask – oh I don’t know – women? Just please, not when they’re wearing headphones.

SEE MORE: No, women don't choose to earn less than men

SEE MORE: Recruiter says you shouldn't wear an engagement ring to a job interview

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us