When I was younger, I absolutely lost my shit and laid a verbal smackdown on a boy in a crowded cafeteria. I’m a pretty chill person, and it takes a lot to get me to snap like that. Something like a boy who badgered me for weeks after I’d made it clear I wasn’t interested.
And that was after a middle-aged man had threatened to murder me when I didn’t respond positively to him.
Because I didn’t have the right to say “no” to any man.
We shake our heads and say a prayer for those women out there in those other, dangerous places. In those other places, they force their daughters into marriages they don’t want. They kill their women.
But we kill our women too.
And when we kill our women, it’s usually because a man was trying to force a relationship. Most female murder victims in the US are murdered by their current or former partners.
What are we supposed to do?
A clear “no” could get us killed.
An unclear “no” means we were “asking for it.” Leading him on. Playing games.
We read opinion pieces that tell us if we were just nicer and more accommodating, men wouldn’t want to murder us.
Look. I’ve had unrequited crushes before. I know it hurts. I know it stings your pride, but I’ve never wanted to kill a boy who didn’t want me. I’ve never wanted to punish someone because they didn’t want to be with me.
You can’t have it both ways, either. You can’t say women are more emotional and reactive, and men are more level-headed and logical, when we’re not the ones murdering people who don’t want to sleep with us.
We can’t stop this violence until men, as a group, understand they are not entitled to women.
Some people think we can stop these shootings by putting the burden onto women. We should be nicer. We should be willing to date or have sex with, well, literally anyone who wants us. We’re supposed to pacify the men who want to kill us by objectifying ourselves. We’re supposed to become enablers of violent men just because nobody ever taught them they don’t deserve to get everything they want just because they exist.
This violence will stop when men like this learn to take “no” as an answer. It will stop when other men call out their friends when they don’t take “no” for an answer. It will stop when we quit seeing women as participation trophies each man deserves just for running the race.
It’s not romantic to continue to pursue a woman who isn’t interested. You don’t get points for effort. You don’t just keep at it until you wear her down.
I don’t know what that boy did after I embarrassed him in the cafeteria.
I’m positive he didn’t learn his lesson that day. When I reported him to our Dean of Students, it was shrugged off as a harmless crush. But it’s not harmless when you don’t respect another person’s right to exist without you.
That boy probably just moved onto a new girl after I left the school. I don’t know what he did to the next girl who said “no.”
Image credit: Erwin Morales (Creative Commons)