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When you are asked a question, it warrants a response. Sounds pretty straightforward right? But the way that we choose to answer isn’t actually all that random. Your opinion, sadly, isn’t just your opinion. The things that we say as men and women in this imperfect world of gender binaries, norms and expectations translate to the way we are taught to answer questions. That’s right, our answers are not solely based on a personal feeling, but also by the expectation of our genders.
We are taught in grade school the structure of “the hamburger.” The introduction bun, the concrete details lettuce, tomato, the meat of our story and the concluding bottom bun. We are taught to include these details, trim the extra, get the grade, learn something in the process, feel triumphant (or embarrassed) and throw it away.
This is a basic process that has proven helpful with things like college essays. But here is where it falls short– somehow, somewhere down the line, some teacher forgot to highlight the point of the story. And by the time sex ed classes rolled around, it was too late.
In the efforts to disclose information, answer a question or give an opinion, the crucial lesson of the simplicity and power of “NO” was lost.
When answering “No,” a logical follow up question is often “Why?” Unfortunately for many young girls, “Because I said so” equates to bossy, bratty and poorly behaved. Meanwhile, as the stereotypical male builds towers of legos and tears them down with an angry “arrrghh!!” he is applauded for being creative.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Throw sex into the equation of gender discrepancies and it gets a lot more complicated.
Here are some common excuses that women exercise when they don’t feel like having sex and don’t feel like “no” is enough:
1. I don’t know you well enough
You mean “I met you today???” It’s okay, we’ve all been there. And guess what– not wanting to shake hands with your genitals is nothing to be ashamed of.
This excuse is totally valid, but also really subject to scrutiny. Why? Because this sentence still doesn’t say “no.” “Ohh come on. I thought we were having fun,” “Fine, I’ll take you to breakfast,” “You seemed into it at the party.” Your partner doesn’t get it, and you don’t have to turn the other cheek.
2. I’m on my period.
This one makes me so sad. Your period is a sign that your body is healthy and functioning in its womanly rite. This is not your faux “no.” Plus, it gets really awkward when you actually do get your period and your partner thinks he’s just popped your cherry.
The period excuse is definitely the most accessible and it works. It’s personal, they’ll never understand and most likely won’t be willing to check for confirmation. This response can provide an end to the conversation that “no” on its own doesn’t.
But I need you to consider what you’re covering up here. You can’t trust your partner to accept that you simply don’t want to engage in sex right now, so instead you are willing to apologize for your menstrual cycle. That just doesn’t seem like a fair enough trade.
3. Too drunk or too tired
Or too bloated or too sad or too hairy? Right right. If your partner is also “too” whatever, they don’t care. This reply is not stern and it’s not fair to you.
Playing the drunk girl is not your selling point for self respect. I know, harsh. I’m totally down for you to make your own choices and if being drunk and having sex is your way, more power to you. But selling yourself short, belittling your worth and using this persona to avoid something that you can’t say “no” to doesn’t cut it.
Pushing it off. Classic. Hoping they’ll forget and it never happens. Maybe this calms your momentary woes, but for him it inspires a challenge.
Later is inspiring. What more can they do to convince you? Where else can they touch you, what more can they say, and how far can they push you in efforts of a yes?
What gets lost in translation is what has been left unsaid, and that’s the “no.” They don’t know that you don’t require convincing, you require respect. The demand for respect doesn’t come across with your shy “later.”
5. Why don’t I just go down on you instead?
Ahhh! Okay– no. Just, no. Your happiness, satisfaction and pleasure does not get pushed aside because you weren’t conditioned to say “no.” You do not need to suffer through this other very intimate sexual act to satisfy your partner and distract from the fact that you’re not really into penetration (or any intimacy) at this moment. I know, that was really uncomfortable.
But you’re not the first or last to use this as an excuse to abstain. What this line neglects to address is that you don’t owe them anything. This is about you and your body. Not about satisfying anyone else out of embarrassment.
And what are you actually worried about? If there’s no sex, will that mean it’s over with this person? If they don’t know how to accept the answer “no,” they also don’t deserve an opportunity with you in the future.
Women seeking men- I know I know, these guys we’re sleeping with have really delicate masculinities and can’t handle a flat “NO” when we’re simply not down.
Just kidding, that’s not the case. And I really hate that imaginary “empowerment” when you think you’ve regained the strength to be on top in your relationship. As though you’ve “beat the system” by coming up with something better than “no” to distract from your partner being a douche bag. We both know that’s not right either.
Here is the worst part– the feeling that men were taught and trained to say “no” indefinitely in a way that women cannot. Ugh. “Nope, not feeling it,” “Not right now,” “I don’t feel like it”– how do they make it sound so poetic?!
It’s not their fault. Many men won’t even realize this privilege– of saying “no” and not needing a follow-up–or why you can’t exercise it the same way.
The binaries under which boys and girls are raised, taught and molded in stand uniquely apart from each other. But as society continues to warm up to the idea of equality, the sexes have to ask each other to play a bit of catch up.
Ladies, this asks a bit more of you.
Please think about this. Please consider what you mean to say when you tell the person you’re with that you’re not into the meet and greet. That being a woman is your excuse. That you would rather assert your drunk persona. That you don’t have an answer so you’ll avoid the question. Or that you’re willing to compromise your self respect for their sexual benefit.
These excuses all lead to the same conclusion, and that’s the word “no.” Your kindergarten teacher left it out during the lesson about boys being mean and pulling your hair when they like you, so I am reminding you now. “No” is a sentence on its own. “No” is a valid and perfect answer. “No” is a demand. “No” is your right. “No” is your privilege.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Columnist Dani Pinkus at firstname.lastname@example.org.