It’s no surprise that women often have to turn down unwelcome advances from men. It’s also no surprise that men don’t always take the hint. But it might surprise you to hear just how far women have to go. Because there is now a trend of wearing a fake engagement ring at work. Really. Because nothing says unavailable like belonging to another man. Or at least, nothing does it so effectively.

It seems like this trend has been happening for a while— there are posts all the way back to 2010 with women talking about it. But a post that went viral this year shows just how prevalent it is. Mackenzi Guptill is a hotel receptionist, so she naturally encounters a lot of people. But so many of the male customers harass her and the other female employees that she has started wearing a fake engagement ring at work. When she shared this in a post on Facebook, the outpouring was huge. It was shared over 12,000 times and hundreds of women came forward to say that had had they same problem with customers— and even with coworkers.

The Lengths We Go To

“My point is more so the ridiculous lengths women must go to for protection,” Guptill wrote. “I am not preaching the fake ring tactic. I am trying to raise awareness that women have to go out of their way in their day to day life to ensure safety.” And it’s true, the lengths women have to go to because they fear for their safety are far two extreme. “I should not have to carry a gun, knife, mace, learn hand-to-hand combat to go to work and check people in and out of a hotel. I should not have to do any of those things. Period.” 

For some people, it’s a fake engagement ring. But a lot of us have fibbed and claimed we had a boyfriend on a night out. Why? Because many men don’t listen when you say no. They only listen when they think another man has a claim on you. It’s horrifying and worrying— but it happens all the time. And when it does happen, it’s frustrating— and a little scary— to see. Some men respect the fact that another man has said he can’t have you. But they don’t respect the fact that you have said he can’t have you.

The Real Solution

It would be easy to say that the solution is for women to stand up for themselves and to keep saying no on their own accord. But when you’re safety is at risk, when you feel threatened by the simmering anger of a rejected man, you’re going to try and protect yourself. The real solution— and the much harder one— is teaching those men to change. It’s removing this intractable and virulent idea that men have a right to women. That the only thing that can stand in the way of that right is another man. That’s the root of the problem. And we have a long way to go before we solve it. We need to get back to basics.