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The last time I was at the bar for one of my boyfriend’s band’s gigs an obnoxious man starts talking to me (yes, obnoxious is a personal judgement, but he was later kicked out of the bar for starting a fight so I stand by my judgement).

He was talking to me about the band (he doesn’t know I know them), offering me drinks, and asking me to tip on his behalf (he said it would “look gay” if he tipped more then once. As I said, he was a jerk.). Anyway, eventually my friend gets to the bar and sits next to me, saving me from having to talk to the man much more. I tell her about him talking to me and she asks why I didn’t tell him I had a boyfriend. This is where my life gets complicated.

I am really oblivious to a lot of things. Flirting is not something I understand or notice. I tend to dislike social situations, and I tend to mimic the way the person I’m talking to behaves (as we all tend to do to some extent). This has led to a few “accidental flirting” incidents. I didn’t realize I was being flirted with.
I was later told that I was being silly and that I should assume that if any man is having a conversation with me then he is flirting with me. Apparently continuing a conversation with the man is leading him on insofar as I am implying that I am not “taken,” so to speak.

I find this whole mindset to be inherently contradictory. By now, most people have accepted that men are not sex-crazed maniacs whose only aim is to find a new woman to get to bed. In fact, some women have succeeded in having members of the opposite sex as friends. I have met plenty of women at the bar who I have become friends with. Why is it so strange that this might occur with a man?
If I am to assume that any man talking to me is hitting on me I am not only assuming that I am someone worth hitting on constantly, I am also assuming that men are only interested in women as sex objects. While there are those who may believe this, I know plenty of men who would disagree.

Another problem with this whole mindset is the heteronormity (I dislike this word, but it is fitting in this situation) it displays. It requires the assumptions that all men and women are heterosexual. A woman talking to me at the bar must only be talking to me because she’s friendly. It wouldn’t be leading her on to talk to her because she must be straight. A man talking to a man at the bar is fine, and there is no flirting there because the men must be straight. A man talking to a woman, though, must mean the man is hitting on the woman because he must be straight.
I’m not saying that this is how people are consciously thinking, but in this bar situation it does seem to be the subconscious belief. Why else is it “allowed” for me to talk to another woman, but “leading on” for me to talk to a man?

I have been told (by men at bars) that I shouldn’t be sitting at the bar by myself unless I’m single. Apparently there is a rule I was unaware of that dictates that only single women are allowed to go out by themselves. If a woman in a relationship is out by herself then she is leading all the men on by even being there.

I really don’t know how to behave in these situations, or what to think. I am guilty of this heteronormative thinking too: if a woman whom I spoke to at the bar asked for my phone number to hang out later I would think nothing of it, but if a man asked I would feel the need to mention I had a boyfriend (although apparently this isn’t enough, I’ve been told that even if I mention a boyfriend, by giving the guy my number I’m implying I’m willing to cheat).
Am I naive in thinking that men and women sometimes talk to each other for reasons other than sex? Should I go to a bar wearing an “I’m taken” sign and refuse to talk to any man who tries to start a conversation with me?