How Many Ways Can I Tell You No?

Let me count the ways:

“I’m not okay with that.”
“I don’t want our relationship to be just about sex.”
“I’m celibate.”
“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

Other ways to say no:
111 Ways to Say No to Sex
Five Surefire Ways To Say No

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.


Navigating New Landscapes & Being Queer in China

gaychinaAs a I sit at my desk in a Chinese University dormitory listening to the Bulgarian State Female Vocal Choir sing a capella, I’m instantly sent back to a Tuesday night one week and a half ago when I lay next to a Chinese lesbian after sex while listening to the same song. Bet you want to hear more, huh? Let’s suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the, um, activities. Whatever your sexual orientation is, we all experience new environments whether we like it or not, and perhaps you’ll enjoy my encounters with a completely contrasting culture.

Despite the exciting and very lesbian circumstance I just described myself to have engaged in, I discovered the depths of my sexuality just last year in the States when I started living with a wonderful and loving gay couple. The questions they asked about my assumptions and unwillingness to even consider different walks of life shocked me, but as you’ve probably already guessed, they turned out to be pretty catalytic. Thank goodness too, because if you knew me, you’d know that I’m a ball of sexual energy, and my love for women was curled up so tightly that it’s no wonder I felt repressed despite my colorful sexual history. So I came out, happy ending right? No, not quite. I found myself a cute and sensitive girlfriend who was about to graduate and I thought “She’s a girl, I like girls, perfect.” But really it was more complicated than I’d originally thought because when she emailed me saying that we were too busy to see each other, a week before classes ended, I glared at the message for so long that I nearly bore a hole into the screen. I learned a lot (alert: cliche!) of course but I was nonetheless hella nervous about navigating the queer scene in China. I nearly decided that there couldn’t be queer culture in China because we all know the government’s influences are large and extensive.

Alas, I diverted my shyness and went to a famous lesbian bar, sang along with a rap song ‘I like girls, I like girls’ with a 60 year old Chinese lesbian and drank beer with a cute, Asian, butch tennis coach who slept next to me two weeks later. What you must know is that I have quite literally 8 months of Chinese under my belt. Luckily I’m getting along quite well linguistically!

No matter the circumstances, relationships fill me up with as much joy as confusion. My several friendships with Chinese people worry me because there is the possibility they only want to be my friend because I’m an American/foreigner. What is it that we seek from one another? I do believe that each and every one of us, yes even Gandhi, forms relationships with others for our own benefit. Sometimes we use others, sometimes we respect others, most times we learn from others, but it comes down to receiving something from another person. And because everyone does it, it must be mutual.

Well then why can’t our world recognize that we all have needs, many needs, and that other people can provide us with what we’re lacking. Race, sexual orientation, gender, economic status etc. It sure sounds like what I’m saying is common sense, but does our society reflect it? Does Prop 8 ring a bell?

Before I close my eyes to listen to the Bulgarian women again to relive that magical night, I want to ask you what you want from people. Do you ever fear that someone is befriending you for your material, mental or bodily characteristics? Do you feel like you have to make friends in order to feel rooted? What does it mean to be alone in this world? Enlighten me!


Unpacking My White Male Privilege

This is going to be about privilege, how I figured out mine, and the role porn played in all of it. It’s going to be anecdotal and non-scientific, but I think it’s an important subject.

Privilege is designed to be invisible, it’s designed to seem natural, and it’s one of the major challenges that anyone trying to end inequality has to face. It is the way societies reward the dominant group, just because they are dominant. It’s an exclusive club with all the best toys.

I was confronted by the invisibility of it all at work a bit ago. I work at a call center for a web-hosting company helping people maintain their sites and dealing with any problems they have with our servers. One of the major rules we have is no adult content, which basically means no sexualized nudity…otherwise known as ‘porn.’ When we find some on the servers, we give them 24 hours to remove it or find a new host. This happened today when I received a call from a woman angry because we had shut her down for hosting a pornographic chat site. Throughout the call I pepper in the phrase “naked men and women,” which sets her off. For some reason she got upset, and shouted “what the hell are you talking about, there are no naked men online.” I told you this to make you think about it. The internet is full of porn, and almost all of it is of college-age girls. There are other markets of course, but this is the main one. It’s just an element of male privilege to know that your fetish is there for you to find, no matter what.

Porn is a touchy subject in feminism. It’s something that has created a great debate and neither side can seem to come to an agreement. I personally came to the conclusion that I needed to remove it from my life, but I avoid criticizing others for not doing the same. I realized that while I don’t have a problem with pornographic materials in and of themselves I have a problem with the submissive and objectified nature of most of it. Even supposed ‘positive porn’ such as the Naughty America series (which claims to be a female positive company.) In almost all of the porn I have ever seen, the woman was nothing more than a cum dumpster or sex doll whose sole purpose was to get the male star off. There is no concern for the woman and she is just there to do the servicing. It just helps reinforce the idea that a woman gets fucked and that her value is that of a sexual object, not a sexual partner. This is just something I don’t wish to consume anymore, out of respect for my beliefs and for the women that I know. It’s a part of the privilege system and I think most of us can agree that is a problem.


In order to get away from this system you have to acknowledge your role and try to get past it. Here are a few examples that I have put together from my list of my privilege:

* If I lost my job, there would likely be another. If it took me a while to find one and I had to partake in government assistance, I wouldn't be considered a stereotype of my race or gender.

* I can go almost where ever I want, as long as I can afford it, with little fear for my safety and with no one questioning my right to be there.

* I am almost guaranteed a fair trial in almost everything but custody cases.

* If I look through a history book, it's completely filled with examples of people that look like me acting bravely and selflessly.

* If I were to be profiled it would almost always be in my favor.

* Someone who looks like me, with my genitalia, is almost always in charge.

So please make your list; it helps, I promise. Together we can work on unpacking our privilege and overcoming inequality.

– Ian

For more information on privilege, check out this article.

Note: I’ve added Ian’s name to the sidebar; be sure to check out his other posts by clicking his name! – Dollface