No Means No!

imageWhen I was at University I worked at a local bar that was about ten minutes walk away from the apartment that I lived in. One Saturday afternoon I was on my way to a shift that started at 4.00pm. I was wearing a baggy blue checked shirt with the logo of the bar on it, long black trousers and a sturdy pair of black boots. I wasn’t wearing any make-up, my hair was tied up and I was minding my own business. Suddenly, I heard a man shout:

“Oi! Sexy! Where are you going?”

I turned around, thinking it was one of my friends. I didn’t recognise this man or his friend and so I turned around and carried on walking.

“Aww, don’t walk away! Where are you going? Give me your number!”

I ignored him, but the sound of his voice didn’t get any quieter. They were obviously following me.

“Hey baby, have you got a lighter? Come on baby, give me your number!”

I could see my workplace in the distance and I lost my temper, telling them in no uncertain terms to f*ck off in the hope that they would go away. They didn’t. Instead, they sucked their teeth at me and continued to follow, this time shouting abuse and calling me a ‘slag’ and and ‘f*cking stupid b*tch.’ They disappeared when I arrived at work, but it was the scariest experience I’ve had on my own in the street.

It was broad daylight, I wasn’t dressed in a provocative way and I hadn’t prompted any conversation or even looked at them in a way that would suggest I was interested in them. However, it could have been 3.00am and pitch dark, I could have been wearing a bikini and could have applied my make-up on with a shovel, and my thoughts on the matter would still be the same:

No means no.

I’ve been extremely lucky in life. As I write I am sitting next to The Bloke. He towers over me, being 6’3″, he weighs more than me and is considerably stronger than I am, but in the years that I have known him there hasn’t been a single moment where I have felt the least bit intimidated by him. In fact, I haven’t felt physically intimidated by any man that I have dated or had a relationship with (not that there have been many) and I have never engaged in activities that I didn’t want to do.

Unfortunately, some of my friends haven’t been so lucky.

I awoke this morning to the news of the tragedy in Santa Barbara. An obviously mentally ill young man took the lives of six innocent people, before killing himself, an incident that once again leaves everyone in shock. To make matters worse, he created a 141 page manifesto in which he stated that all women should be placed in concentration camps and starved to death, and this has prompted and understandably aggressive stance on the issue of gender equality, assault and abuse across my social media networks. The trolls are out in force – I was horrified to see this conversation posted on Twitter…

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I’m proud to be a woman, and as a woman I believe that I should be treated equally. I should be paid the same wages as a man in the same role and should be offered the same opportunities as my male counterparts. It shouldn’t automatically be assumed that my status as a female means that I will spend my life raising children and/or looking after a home. Above all, I believe that I shouldn’t be harassed or propositioned and should be treated with respect, not just because I am a woman, but because I am a human being.

I’ve seen some really interesting conversations this morning and I seen examples of some of the arguments that were offered in my own life. However, there were a few things that annoyed me slightly – there were some women who seem to be blaming ALL men for this, when most are actually kind, hard-working genuine people, and it isn’t just women who are assaulted. Still, it still doesn’t take away from that fact that no means no, regardless of gender or circumstance.

For example:

Women can easily manipulate men by using sex. An ex-friend of mine is beautiful, but she was highly aware of this and used it to her advantage. During her 18 month relationship with a rich older man she frequently told me that she wasn’t attracted to him, that having sex with him made her skin crawl and that she only did it because he bought her things. However, he didn’t force her at any point to do anything, she did so willingly.

But no means no.

Men can easily manipulate women by using money. A male friend that I haven’t seen in years is rich and he will spend his money on women so they will sleep with him (which he admitted to me when he was drunk).

But no means no.

Women will dress provocatively and are perfectly happy to be chatted up by someone that they find attractive, but they will take offence and refer to them as a ‘pervert’ if they find them unnattractive. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I have seen this happen in nightclubs.

No still means no.

It isn’t just women who are sexually objectified. One of my male friends, who is extremely attractive and has a very defined, muscular body is often groped by drunken women when we go out, particularly if he wears tight T- shirts. His male friends joke about it, but sometimes I can see that he’s really uncomfortable. And male rape is extremely common, it just isn’t talked about.

No means no for men too.

Some women will ‘friend zone’ men without being honest about their feelings and giving the impression that they are romantically interested, keeping them hanging on just enough to give them hope just in case they can’t find anyone that they deem to be better, and this often leaves the men feeling angry and frustrated. The Bloke, being the quintessential ‘nice guy’ has told me many stories of instances where he has been used by his female friends and then promptly friend zoned later, leaving him heartbroken (and obviously, they didn’t know a good thing when they had it – more fool them!)

And again, no means no.

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No means no if you’re a man or woman.

No means no whether you’re in a relationship with a person or whether you’ve just met them.

‘Not now’ means no.

‘I’m in a relationship’ means no.

‘No thanks’ means no.

‘I’m not interested’ means no.

If I have been out in the evening to a local bar, one of my male friends will walk me home or The Bloke will walk down and meet me. If I’m in town my friends will walk me to a taxi station and will insist that I ring them when I am home safely, and I do the same for them. I’m lucky to have great friends, but I shouldn’t have to go through that process. I shouldn’t have to fear walking down the street at night by myself, I shouldn’t have to consider what I wear in case it attracts attention, and I shouldn’t have to avoid eye contact or innocent conversations with people just in case they assume I am hitting on them.

imageThe events in Santa Barbara are horrific, and it has once again brought to light the stigma and taboo that still surrounds the issue of abuse and assault. I hope that instead of feeding the trolls, we can learn from this tragedy and continue to educate each other and our children that no does in fact mean no. And to those of you who have suffered at the hands of another person… You are not alone. Say something. Talk to us. We’re here.

My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

91 thoughts on “No Means No!

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  5. Interesting article; thank you for adding your perspective to this tragedy. In regards to the “women can use sex as a manipulation”, I once read an interesting article that talked about how it makes sense that women have historically (and continue to) use sex as a bargaining chip because – here’s the key point – sex was one of the only “obtainable” goods they had to bargain with. When you have limited access to property, money, and power, except through your relationships with men, you learn to leverage one of the only advantages you have. So, from this perspective, the withholding of sex – which is often viewed by men as manipulation and “unfair” – was a legitimate tool.

    Of course, in modern cultures (especially Western culture), many of these barriers to money and property have dissipated for women. However, Western societies still have an expectation that women “gatekeep” sex and be discriminating in their sexual partners; this is where the “guilt” or victim shaming of sex crimes come in — we say things like “she should have known better”, or she shouldn’t have x or y” because what we’re really asking, on some level, is “doesn’t she know her role? her responsibility?”

    Of course, as you say, “no means no” — and such victim blaming ignores the role of perpetrator. Men are rarely held to the same level of responsibility for their sexual actions on a cultural level – that’s where the misogyny is especially strong.

    Anyway, I’ll stop here. Great post.

  6. The reason all men are often lumped together is because you can’t tell which men are dangerous and which men are not. Another thing: men do nothing to stop what other men are doing. There are no large groups of men trying to stop other men from attacking and hunting women and children. The laws protect men, not women. More than 50 colleges are being investigated because of rape on campus. It’s the lead cover story on Time magazine. There is no place that is safe for women and children. Men are TAUGHT to be violent, taught that women are things to be used and abused. Pornography plays a part. The fact that some women are forced by circumstances to sell their bodies in order to live and feed their kids plays a part. Forced dependency, plays a part in the way women are viewed. If women can’t make equal wages and are forced to depend on men for support, it’s because the system is set up that way. Women are blamed for what they do but they often have no choice. Males write the laws, interpret the laws, pass them and rule on them, handing down their male judgments. They are THE LAW. Women had few real rights and the ones we do have are GIVEN to us and can be taken away at any time. Men are led to believe that all women belong to them. Infants are raped…no one is safe. Women and children live in a war zone. It’s often said that a woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time but every pace can be the wrong place at the wrong time if there is a dangerous male around. I think we need to stop telling ourselves that men who do terrible things, are insane or mentally ill. I think it’s just the way some of them are. We can make all the excuses we want, if that makes anyone feel better, but the truth is…males are dangerous to women and children (to each other as well, but that’s a different issue). They are the reason a lot of women are afraid to go out alone, they are the reason women are afraid to go into elevators, public bathrooms, etc. They create fear, fear that women are forced to live under for their entire lives. It’s a bigger issue in some other countries were girls, just children, are chained to beds as men line up outside their doors, waiting for their turn. MEN choose to do these things. None of this would exist if they said no. They create these circumstances by what they want. I was at an International Women’s Conference in D.C. and was talking with a woman who was trying to get help to stop just this very thing. She said it all started when American soldiers were stationed in her country. Now her country is the playground for that kind of thing and people come from all over to have sex with children and young girls who are stolen and brought to the city and chained to beds. So, think what you like but until men decide not to do things like this…these things will flourish because they are the ones who want it and men usually get what they want. It’s all about power and money. Men have one or both…women usually do not.

  7. Nothing changes. In 18th century France girls were forbidden to go outside alone because they would be hunted down and raped and everyone knew it. It was a part of life, like disease. Just something that could happen. If you got raped, it was your fault for going out. No wonder Islamists keep their women inside and draped like furniture. God forbid men should have to control themselves. And yet religions consistently say women are the ones who will get out of control sexually so must be kept out of public life, and are too close to their animal natures to be spiritual advisers. What a crock. It’s all about control. As any Priest can tell you.

  8. I am always appreciative when you write about issues, since you not only shared a personal situation, which ended up well, but you also included some examples where people were not respectful of women, not hearing the word “no,” makes me mad at men (or wormen) who impose themselves on another person. It can be serious, hurtful and against the law! This was a well thought out post, Suzie! A good service for us to remember and think about consequences which should be appropriate for those who don’t listen! Glad you found a good guy, your Bloke!

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