It’s complex, but young women grow up believing that they need male validation. We are also socialized to always be polite and grateful for male attention. So even when we’re not interested, this coercive behavior is meant to make us feel guilty for turning it down.
If she were to tell you “I actually am uncomfortable” when you asked, who knows what he could’ve done next. There’s always that looming threat of the “rejected man” because they are known for taking their rage out on women. He seemed to have extremely poor understanding of physical boundaries, so I’d say she most likely was fearful of his reaction to blunt rejection. She had to “be polite” about it.
While it’s great that you checked in, in these situations, talking to the men about their inappropriate behavior is the best thing you can do. It holds them accountable. Women may hesitate to do this, and even when we do, the men tend not to listen to us.
Thought provoking piece! Thanks for sharing.