When 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…
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.
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.
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.
The 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