Let me count the ways:
“I’m not okay with that.”
“I don’t want our relationship to be just about sex.”
“This isn’t what I had in mind.”
“I’m waiting for the one.”
“Not right now.”
Have you ever found yourself in a “romantic” situation where you feel that saying “no” just doesn’t cut it or no matter how many times or ways you say no they just don’t get it? Sometimes you may feel that you might as well be speaking another language. At some point, you may have decided to just give in out of exhaustion rather than continue to fight. Other times you may feel confident and strong enough to say no and stick to your guns. Most women that end up being classified as victims of sexual assault probably found themselves in the former situation rather than the latter. More than a few of us have had our share of uncomfortable moments that seem to careen of your control. Sometimes, we narrowly escape with our pride intact; other times we are stuck with the emotional scars of a moment gone terribly wrong.
“When a man says no in this culture, it’s the end of the discussion. When a woman says no, it’s the beginning of a negotiation.” – Gavin De Becker (The Gift of Fear) – as seen on Oprah’s episode Trusting Your Intuition.”
Just to give an anecdote of the type of occurrence I’m referring to, consider the following mad lib/multiple choice scenario:
You’ve been talking to (insert name here) for a little while now. You’ve made plans to hang out and watch (insert recent DVD/ Blue Ray release you’ve been looking forward to seeing here) and you’ve finally agreed on this Friday at 9PM.
You’re excited because…
a. You haven’t had an intimate chance to get to know (him/her/them)
b. You finally got up the courage to ask them to hang out.
c. You’ve crushed on (him/her/them) a while now and you’re finally getting your moment!
d. Insert other reasons here.
While you find (name) attractive…
a. you’re not ready to take it to the next level
b. you’re holding out for the one
c. you just see them as a friend
d. or other feelings you may have about them.
You settle in for the movie on the couch/bed/futon/floor and start the movie. You nibble and munch on the perfect combination of popcorn and beer/hot cocoa and cookies/crackers and cheese with wine. An hour in, it’s a little chilly, so you find yourself snuggling closer for warmth. You notice (name) getting a little more touchy feely and affectionate.
At first you’re okay with it, but suddenly for some reason you begin to feel uncomfortable. You…
a. push their hand away/shrug them off
b. politely ask them to stop
c. tell them you’re not interested in them like “that”
d. insert other completely valid statement here.
Now let’s pause here.
This is the moment I’m talking to you about. The moment where it feels like anything other than no is not a choice or an option. Perhaps they’re not hearing you, or you just can’t find the words to say what you really feel. This is usually the moment where most women have trouble determining whether or not they deserve to be in the shitty situation they’re in, or if the guy is just a jerk.
(Haven’t been a similar situation or not sure how you feel about the scenario I brought up? Check out this online forum discussion about the same topic. Would you respond to george1965 the same way lovethelake17 does?)
Recently, I’ve been thinking about what role women play or don’t play in romantic situations that are less than ideal and sometimes downright traumatic. Is it our fault that we end up in challenging circumstances? Is there a point where saying no just isn’t enough? Why do I feel like the jerk or crappy about myself if it’s not my fault? How do I get out of this situation and if so, what are some next steps can we take to empower ourselves?
Consider the following ladies:
“The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network defines sexual assault as “unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime states that:
“Sexual assault takes many forms including attacks such as rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person’s body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person’s consent.”
Also, according to the good book of Wikipedia, “rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent.”
And more “credible” sources like the Department of Justice defines rape as, “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Basically, all this is to say that it’s not your fault for feeling uncomfortable.
Did you know:
“One in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape.”
(2004 National Crime Victimization Survey)
“Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.”
(RAINN calculation based on 2000 National Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice)
So what can we, as a group of conscious people and individuals, do about it?
First, know the facts – if you don’t know what injustices you’re being subjected to how are you going to know you’re being treated unfairly? Use this opportunity to explore the links below and do a little more research on your own. Similar to defensive driving, be a “defensive lady.”
Second – unfortunately, sometimes it’s someone you trust who puts you in this situation. As incomprehensible as it may seem, date rape does happen.
Third, be true to yourself. Don’t do something that you wouldn’t normally do or that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Fourth, speak up or ask for help. Fuck the shame and the pride and all the other reasons you could come up with to retreat. Find a bathroom or private place to call to a trusted friend or a hotline support person, or call the cops and report the asshole. Whatever you do, never be silenced!
Remember you have a right to say no.
Lastly, have an arsenal of ways to say no. Hopefully something sticks.
My heart goes out to those of you that are forced into silence and even immobility. To come out of such a traumatic circumstance and continue to power through each day is a tremendous accomplishment. To those of you who are able to advocate for your needs and desires your strength through the overwhelming circumstances is admirable. I’m sure many of you may have additional advice. Share it with us in the comment section below!
Sources & Resources:
For more information on how to prevent sexual assaults:
Sexual Assault Prevention
This post was written by guest blogger Akiko. You can find more of her writing at her blog Peep This Peeps, a blog dedicated to cheap things to see and do in Boston and local graffiti.