We’d had a great night. He picked me up at my dorm and we went out for a late dinner—Mexican, because we both cited our favourite foods as burritos on our online dating profiles.
Afterwards, we went for a walk in the cool July air, flirting with holding hands; we’d bump into each other, grinning those shy and awkward smiles of first-dates, our fingers grazing but not quite latching. We walked for over an hour, getting to know one another. When we reached his car again, he looked at me sideways.
“Want to come over?” he asked and happily, I said sure.
If you’ve ever been a single woman out on a date, you might know the next part of the story. He opened some Quail’s Gate. We made out on his couch to the tunes of Angus & Julia Stone and The Wonder Years and some old Blink 182. It was fun and exciting and sexy. Then he pulled out a condom.
I held my hand up. “No, thanks,” I said, and did something I don’t normally do. I offered a, true, justification: “I’m on my period.”
He let out an audible groan. I was a little tipsy at this point—I thought maybe he was joking. Or maybe I just wanted him to be joking. I mean, he was really cute up until that point, and the dark button-down he was wearing brought out the olive in his eyes.
“I don’t care,” he insisted. “Let’s just do it.”
At that point, I was a little offended. I’d just told him no—and politely too! I told him again that I wasn’t interested in that, at least not tonight. He asked me at least twice more before I sat up straight, re-adjusted my bra, and coolly asked him to pass me my purse.
He looked at me grumpily, threw me my purse, and called me a “bitch.”
No, I didn’t key his car. I didn’t even send him an angry text afterwards. What I did do was take a cab back home and lay in bed, slightly intoxicated, feeling guilty. It makes me cringe to think this now, but I thought maybe he was right. Was I a bitch? Did I lead him on? Was it wrong to kiss him and take off my top and then deny him sex?
Of course not. When I woke up the next morning, my mind clear and stomach a little queasy from that overstuffed burrito and too much wine, I felt electrically alive with anger. Who was he not to accept my “no”?
Now, if this had been a one-time thing, I would have been able to shake it off easier. But as I went about my day, sloppily cleaning my room and procrastinating essays, I realized how often I had been chastised for speaking my opinion—even when it was about my own body.
As the mental list grew longer, I became more horrified. What is it about our culture that teaches men not to accept women’s answers, and simultaneously instructs women to be shy about their convictions?
If you haven’t already seen it, Jennifer Lawrence released a poignant letter on LennyLetter.com, Lena Dunham’s wonderful new brain child, about being paid less than her male co-stars. In her letter, she says the following: “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion.”
This doesn’t just go for wages. This goes for bodily autonomy, for classroom-related disputes, for domestic decisions. It goes for everything. As women, we need to stop internalizing this idea that we need to frame our “no”s with smiles and blushes. We can just say “no”—and guess what? That doesn’t make you a bitch.
This article by Brie Campbell was originally published in The Phoenix News (UBC Okanagan)