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

96 thoughts on “No Means No!

  1. As always Suzie your perspective on a hot button topic is delivered sensitively and spot on. At the risk of sound like the Dos Equis commercials, I rarely read blogs over 1000 words, but for you I always gladly make the exception. Maybe you’re The Most Interesting Woman in the World. There’s a new blog title for you!

  2. A timely message. A few years back (May 7, 2011) I lost a friend who was murdered by her ex-partner, another almost lost at the same time – he was “just” shot in the foot, then the ex- killed himself as well. (Happened in California). Every time I hear of these “incidents”, bad memories come flooding back. A group started a face book page “It’s About Power” to raise awareness about this issue. This afternoon (Sunday, NZ time), my manager phoned me to advise that one of my colleagues had been named in the news services as a lady who had gone missing on Saturday night. We are hoping and praying for the least worst outcome. Again, No Means No!
    Let us shout this around the world! No one should ever have to put up with the way you were treated – ever – or worse.
    Thank you, Suzie, for you words.

  3. Hi, thanks for reading and for your comment.

    This post was excellent – I like that you addressed the #notallmen in the wake of the #yesallwomen. The comparatively few dangerous mysogynists mean that we find ourselves assuming the worst about most situations and most men in streets because that’s the ‘safe’ thing to do. Unfortunately it’s very difficult, especially in the face of today’s anger, to find a balance between pointing that out and not sounding dismissive of everyday harassment and misogyny. I think many of the people kicking off at anyone who points out that it’s not all and not just men feel as though their experience is being questioned or that the existence of rape culture is being denied – you’ve trodden that difficult line very well.

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  5. I haven’t heard about Santa Barbara, so I’m gonna hafta look it up. The rest of what you said is spot on. It amazes me how many things people seem to think they’re entitled to simply because they want them. I can’t imagine being so heinous as to force anything upon anyone simply because of an uncontrolled desire. And those comments on Twitter are repulsive. Ugh, I fear for humanity.

  6. This is a very interesting post and it strikes a nerve in me. May I share it and get the word out that NO MEANS NO?!

  7. Friend zoned? I’ve liked some guys, but wasn’t interested in a relationship with them. Choice? Cut them off completely or give them the option of remaining friends. Most chose the later? Is that teasing? Using? I don’t think so. Out of all the men I ever dated, fewer than a handful evolved into relationships of any kind beyond a snack and a movie. Some of those friend zone guys, when they found their own relationships, have been great friends — and still are. Wives and kids, too. I don’t believe in throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Now about those assholes on the street, THAT is a different story. You have to wonder why they do that. Does it ever actually get them anything but rejection? Why do they keep doing it when it obviously is hateful to women? You have to wonder what’s going on in their little pea-brains.

    • I see where you’re coming from about the friend zone – I think the point I was trying to make is that some women don’t want a relationship but will allow a man to think that she does and that he stands a chance as someone to fall back on. If you’re honest and upfront then that’s definitely the best way to be! Thanks so much for your comment!

    • I totally agree with the “friend zone” B.S.
      It goes with the whole “men and women can’t be friends” because technically due to the “friend-zone” he only wants one thing and the female is just leading him on.
      I’ve been accused of “friend-zoning” in which I’ve replied that if he had wanted a relationship I would have set him straight right from the beginning. I thought hanging out was just friend thing to do, nothing more.

      I read a great quote on twitter, “Men are scared that women will reject them. Women are scared that men will kill them”

      But aside from that, Suzie you were spot on. Brilliant post. 🙂

  8. Nail on the head, Suzie. I’ve long since given up walking anywhere alone for the risk of being accosted verbally or physically. I worry for my children too – male and female – that there are those who get their kicks from stupid and potentially dangerous attacks.
    I hadn’t heard about Santa Barbara until now. It’s sickening that some are using it to preach more of the types of vitriolic messages that perpetuate fear and lack of understanding.
    Well said, Suzie.x

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  13. We live in a sad world. Sex is devalued so that it’s used for recreation and so are people. This world needs to change before things get worse.
    Btw, are you Canadian? I think that Canadians call college “university” whereas we just call it “college”. Jw 🙂
    Aul

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  15. This post lays it out clear and simple, there have been several occasions where I’ve been subjected to unpleasantness in clubs and out and about and like you said, I shouldn’t have to feel scared walking down a street at night. Those tweets you included were chilling emphasising the Santa Barbara Killer isn’t a minority and it scares me of the amount of men who would act upon this incident. This post made me think a lot, thank you!

  16. Suzie, I really appreciate your post and unequivocal “no means no” stance. It’s of course true, all the time, no matter what. Yet we often find ourselves making careful distinctions… You mention the time of day, your dress and behavior, for example. And you go on to say that things could have been different (3am, bikini, makeup) and no still means no. Yet these distinctions get me down sometimes. I know you’re saying either way no means no, but I wonder if this inclination to differentiate good/bad girls (us/them) and their choices reflects our internalized culture’s prescriptions for women.

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  19. Good for you. This is definitely a message worth reinforcing. And yes, there are lots of sources of blame and dissent and excuse.

    But no still means no.

  20. Brilliant. I know too many women, including myself, who’ve been harassed. I fear for my daughter, and will empower her with knowledge, and many classes in tae kwon do.

  21. You are writing about respect. Pure and simple, “no” means “no” because there is no other interpretation that needs to be considered, and every human being deserves to be treated with respect.
    But what happened in Santa Barbara is a tragedy because a very sick man got hold of weapons he should never have been able to stockpile. His family tried desperately to get in touch with him and alerted police, to no avail.
    I agree that anyone should be able to wear what they choose – as long as they own it and as long as circumstances are appropriate. You can’t wear a bathing suit to school or work out clothes to the office. You might be required to wear a uniform for your employment, and the weather will demand certain practical application of what one wears.
    So here’s another true story for you to consider:
    A beautiful woman visited her grandmother in the assisted living residence where the older woman lived. The beautiful woman chose to wear a long dress that was slit from the hem up to her hips and gathered just above her bust, her shoulders completely exposed. Sexy would be the first word one might think. Beach wear, party wear, perhaps, at a home for ill old folks. Gorgeous and sexy is how she presented.
    Nothing is in working order for any of the male residents, if you know what I mean. But they are men and they can see and they can feel. So when the men looked at the young woman in her sexy outfit, they lo-o-o-o-oked. Damn, she was pretty, and her outfit seemed inviting, provocative. None of the men made any kind of move – most no longer had the memory of what action might be possible, and as I said, nothing is in working order. But the young woman was in a public area and the old men looked.
    So here is the part where I get a bit annoyed. The young woman, dressed as she was, got furious at the old men looking at her. She was offended and said a few nasty things about them, “They were ugly and old and crazy.” Most of those comments might me true, though she was talking about men who had once been doctors, lawyers, professors, inventors, engineers, business owners, ranchers, athletes, coaches, and military men. One had been a rocket scientist and another an astronaut. Old men, for sure, and old men who were looking, maybe even ogling, but old men who had made something of themselves before illness and age took away their dignity and independence.
    But my problem is that the young woman chose to visit her grandmother in a residence where she knew the population. She chose her outfit, but she didn’t want to own it. Somehow she thought she was entitled to wear a very sexy outfit in a public place but that she was permitted to choose who could look long and hard and maybe even longingly at her.
    No means no. Hands down, no means no.
    But own what you choose to do, how you choose to dress. If you choose to provoke, be prepared to deal with that. If you wear a bathing suit to school, you will probably be suspended. If you wear work out clothes to the office, you will probably be put on probation. If you are out of uniform in the military, you will lose rank. If you wear flip flops in the snow, you may suffer gangrene. If you dress sexy, someone will probably whistle – because it looks like an invitation.
    Your experience with walking down the street and getting unwelcome come-ons was awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you, to any woman. Public streets belong to all of us and everyone should be allowed to traverse without incident or unwelcome comment.
    Perhaps some kind of intervention could have prevented the awful tragedy in Santa Barbara, but it had little to do with what the women who were murdered wore or how they behaved or what they said. It was horror perpetrated at the instigation of a sick man who should not have had access to weapons, who probably should not have been allowed to “be free.” IMHO, those are actually different issues that we need to resolve in the US: easy access to weapons and inadequate care for the mentally ill.
    My heart goes out to all the families of the people who were murdered, to all the families and friends of anyone murdered or injured by madmen, to any woman who is raped or molested, whether or not she says no. Because rape and molestation are by definition attacks on one’s body and invasions of privacy and of personal space and rights. They are violent acts and no one – no one – should impose on any other human being anything that other person does not want.
    And yes, I agree: No means no.
    Thank you, Suzie, for providing a forum where difficult topics can be discussed.

  22. Suzie, this story breaks my heart… Doublely so because of the comments of those cretins on Twitter. I hope they are both banned and charged with a hate crime. Perhaps they are all talk, but that is not what the Freedom of Speech is intended to protect. At least I hope it’s not!

    Excellent post though, and I will be reblogging it. 🙂

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  25. Deeply ingrained attitudes of the wrong kind need a sustained drive to be set right. The training starts at the dining table and the kitchen, within a household.

  26. You know what’s also sad about when women are assaulted? Men are taught that they can get away with things like this. Think about it: If a woman gets raped or sexually harassed or assaulted by a man, the first thing people will think is “Well, she was wearing —, or she said this, or was doing that at 3am.” When it comes to the man’s part in it, people are like “Well, he couldn’t control himself. It was her.” In a way, you’re looking at men like they’re animals with primal urges. This isn’t true, and it can lead men to believe that they can do what they want “because they’re men”. We (as a society) make men sound like animals, and that’s just a shame. It hurts everyone all around. I do agree that women are not respected in society, but we mustn’t respect men either if we think they’re all testosterone and that they act “from instinct”.

    We as people need to rethink some things. People are getting messed up and messed over, and it has to stop.

  27. What an awful thing to happen to you. I’m glad you did stand up for youself. This is a brilliantly balanced piece with so many truths in it regarding both men and women. So true that all of those things mean “no”. I got to the end of this and it had touched so many nerves, while being so supportive I was in tears. So thank you :0) xx

  28. I agree with you absolutely, no means no.
    As someone who uses the services of sex workers I always respect their limits. Some women will offer erotic massage but not full intercourse and, of course this must be respected because no means no.
    I was struck by your mention of your rich friend who purchases the affections of ladies by spending his money on them. This is to my mind similar to the man who buys sexual services from a working lady, accept in the case of the prostitute the transaction is more direct and (arguably) more honest than the man who spends money on a woman in the hope of getting her into bed without being explicit about his intentions.

  29. Suzie– this news has been shaking the Internet right down to its roots– I swear, everyone must be talking about it, but your post, right here, is the first one I’ve seen that acknowledged how I’ve felt. I’ve been harrassed, bullied, and stalked– sometimes by men, but quite often by women.

    Thank you. No one else has seemed terribly willing to listen to me about that, at least, not at first.

    No means no if you’re a man or woman.

    Yes indeed.

  30. Sometimes I wish computers had love buttons. Alas I shall have to contend with Like. What a great contribution to this discussion. Glad I stopped by.

  31. Hey Suzie,
    Great read and you made a very important point. No means no. It has nothing to do with gender. It is respect: pure and simple. I have had people whistle at me (and when you’re 15, as I was at the time it happened, it is super creepy) and found it unpleasant. Fortunately, I have never experienced anything worse personally, but I know people who have and I have seen the effects. It is terrible, frightening and all-together difficult to handle.

    I didn’t know about the incident you discuss until I read this blog post, but my heart goes out to the families of the victims. Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking blog post.

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