No Means Yes

I’ve been seeing a lot floating around Facebook lately about what it means when a woman says “no” and why we seem to struggle with that simple word. A friend posted this article from the Onion:,36129/

Hilarious. For those unaware, the Onion is a satirical newspaper. Not real.

So why is it that we have this problem of college women uncertain about whether or not they were raped? If it seems like a ridiculous issue, it’s only because it is.

What it is NOT is an issue of gender inequality or misogyny. What it IS is an issue of severe entitlement– and that too, on both ends. This is setting aside any issues of alcohol use or choice of clothing. It gets even more ridiculous when you factor those in.

It’s pretty easy to understand how entitlement affects the men in these circumstances. We grow up absolutely believing that if we want something badly enough, ask for it loudly and insistently enough, it’s ours for the taking.

Well, turns out that people actually get to choose for themselves, regardless of our insistence.

The women in these situations are equally encumbered with entitlement. In this case we feel entitled to have people read our minds. I came across an article that asserted, “When men say no it is the end of the discussion. When a woman says no it is the beginning of a negotiation.” Maybe. But that’s primarily because men say “no” as if it IS the end of the discussion whereas when women hesitate and practically invite a negotiation. You might as well say, “I haven’t yet made up my mind, so this would be a really great time for you to make your case.”

The gender of the person speaking doesn’t even enter into it. I’ve seen many a man say “no” as if it’s a maybe and it’s equally ineffective for them (come over to my house for dinner on a bad night and you’ll see me unintentionally steamroll over my husband’s “no”). This doesn’t excuse anyone else’s behavior, but if we want to be happy it’s imperative for us to learn to say no confidently, without missing a beat.

To be fair, people are only ever unclear about what they want for one of two reasons: 1) they really don’t know what it is they want or 2) they’re afraid of upsetting someone. In the first case, we don’t take enough responsibility for our happiness in refusing to commit to a decision. In the second we take up too much by assuming responsibility for the other person’s happiness.

So we have entitlement to take what we want on the one hand and entitlement to have our minds read on the other. If we want to pause for a moment and cast around some blame just for kicks, which is worse?

Violating another person’s right to choose is ALWAYS worse. Free agency is the most sacred principle on the planet. It is the one thing that enables us to evolve and grow.

Before we go around smugly pointing fingers, however, it is worth noting that this is the same principle we womenfolk violate when we absolutely insist that our partners wear the tie that matches our eye color or attend Sunday brunch. There’s nothing particular harmful about sex itself. It’s all simply a matter of degrees.

In any case the solution is the same; take responsibility for ourselves and lose the entitlement. Learn that no really does mean no, whether it’s sex or Sunday brunch.


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