Is This Petty? I Gave Him A Hickey And He Was Pissed

April 21, 2017  |  

Do you remember when you first learned how to leave a hickey on someone?

For me, it was college. And while I wasn’t a hickey version of Banksy, leaving them on folks all around campus, once I figured out how it all worked, I was more than excited. I left them on my boyfriend pretty consistently. But then again, we were like 19 and 20 at the time; not too far out of high school and green when it came to experiences outside of a simple French kiss (and he wasn’t very good at that). So, in a weird, young and twisted way, I was proud. But I can say that I haven’t given or received one since those collegiate days. And now that I’m a bill-paying, job-working, church-going member of society who sees my Pentecostal in-laws every weekend, I can’t say I really want one at this point.


But would I necessarily be mad if I received one? Perhaps a teensy bit annoyed, not mad, though. And knowing my silly behind, the old me might think it’s cute. However, there are plenty of people who don’t see anything cute or funny about having their significant other leave a hickey on them.

While writing for XoJane in 2013 and 32 at the time, Bitch Is the New Black author Helena Andrews shared an account of the time she reprimanded her boyfriend for leaving a hickey on her neck. Despite trying to cover it with concealer, that hickey was spotted by a man on the street who low-key tried to slut-shame her for it, so she took her anger out on her partner.

“Hey baby girl,” he said as I walked past, confident the hickey was camouflaged. “I see that mark on your neck.”

And with that throwaway sentence, he reduced me to something smaller than I was. Immediately I became furious — with my boyfriend. How could he have been so careless? To put me in such a compromising public position. I was wearing my nighttime activities on my neck and instead of feeling proud of that — or in control of it — I felt like I needed to hide it. The tension between my modern enlightenment versus societal brainwashing was more than I could explain via text. So I just typed, “What the f–k?”

Later that night I explain [sic] him how that random man made me feel like an object, how a complete stranger ruined my entire day with a simple (and yes, sexist) observation. And, also, how it was all my boyfriend’s fault.

He took everything in quietly, absorbing my mad ranting like a champ. Once I was out of breath, he looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry.” What he was sorry for I doubt he even knew, but it made me feel better, less invisible, which is ironic since the whole row started because of something someone saw.

It was that same worry mixed with upset about what other people would see and think that caused my sister to get admonished by a guy she was dating a few years ago. She was still in her 20s at the time, and he was an older man. A successful brotha in his 40s. She didn’t tell me whether she intentionally or accidentally left a hickey on his neck, but the fact that she did created a rift in what was looking to be a burgeoning relationship. She said that he told her that her “behavior” was immature and that as a grown a– man, he can’t be seen out and about with love bites on his neck. She didn’t consider the mark to be that deep. Still, that argument pretty much kicked off issues that would arise after that fact with him often questioning her maturity, and my sister feeling like she was dealing with someone who was just a little too stiff and judgmental.

As for where others stand on hickeys, it was also brought up as a mark of possession, which to some is immature. A friend, a man in his mid-30s with kids, said the last hickey he received was probably 15 years ago. Now that he’s older, and a father, he doesn’t like the idea of getting hickeys (though it depends on who they come from). Plus, he says, “You know damn well people do that on purpose,” which, per the possessiveness angle, doesn’t sit well with him.

“If it was a random woman just trying to tat me up to be territorial then I would be upset,” he said, “but if it was a longtime girlfriend or wife, no. But I would feel somewhat uncomfortable because I don’t want my kids seeing my neck and feeling like its okay if they do it.”

In most cases, unless someone is going to town, a hickey is not always that visible to others. And while I could understand not wanting to walk into work with a neck that looks like freshman year all over again, to actually be angered seems over the top to me. A light recommendation to your partner to ease up during heavy “petting” sessions sounds good enough. But to make them feel bad by chiding them about showing affection in that way might make them leery about what they do to and for you in the future. Plus, if it bothers you that much, I’m willing to bet it’s not because of how it looks to you, but because of how it looks to others. And in that case, I would just say, it’s not the business of “others” either way…

But as always, that’s just my opinion. What say you? Is it petty to for someone to get worked up about their partner leaving a hickey on them? How would you react? 


Image via Getty

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