The Problem With Focusing Solely on the Men Who Might Be Falsely Accused

I am aware that the issue of sexual assault and harassment is still being discussed to some degree.

It’s still a hot-button issue within feminist circles, and the Time’s Up movement was still present at the 2018 Oscars (although it’s worth noting that Ava DuVernay, one of the leaders of Time’s Up, told the press that they would be “standing down” on the red carpet so as to not “overshadow the main event”).

And maybe it’s just my personal experience, but from the conversations that I have had lately, between people at work, people in my personal life, people on social media, it really feels as though the general public has decided to drop what was so recently a greatly-discussed issue.

And why? Sexual assault and harassment hasn’t gone away. We haven’t fixed the problem in the few weeks that #metoo was trending. One in four North American women will still be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, including 56 percent of Native American and Alaskan Native women, 44 percent of lesbians, 47 percent of transgender women, and 61 percent of bisexual women. And if you want to ignore statistics, then at the very least, the amount of women who wrote ‘me too’ on social media when the movement first began should be staggering.

So, if we’re abandoning the #metoo movement, then there has to be a good reason, doesn’t there? It can’t simply be because we as a society don’t see sexual assault and harassment as that big of an issue, right?

And before I get too much farther into this, I want to make this clear: men are raped too. In fact, men account for one out of every ten rape survivors. However, I want to focus on women as the survivors and men as the assaulters in this article for two reasons: first of all, it is the most common narrative in our society, and secondly, it is the narrative that many people are speaking to when they dismiss the #metoo movement. Moreover, I will be discussing the role of women’s voices here, which does change the issue a little bit. Cases of male rape often feature very unique issues that differentiate them from cases of female rape, and if you want to learn more about these issues, I recommend checking out this article here. But, for now, let’s move on.

The main reason that I have heard cited, from both men and women, for why #metoo is harmful is a very male-centric reason: it is because we as a society are concerned about the men who might be falsely accused. Which is a possibility: unfortunately, there is always a possibility for error, in everything. That’s just the way the world works. We cannot count on every single person to be totally honest and accountable at every single moment.

Now, that being said, sexual assault and harassment seems to be the only issue wherein this argument is even remotely entertained.

False accusations are possible when it comes to any crime. In fact, they’re just as likely – if not more likely. It is difficult to state the exact statistic of false accusations, because this is not an issue that is always caught in the legal system, but it is estimated that false accusations of sexual assault rests somewhere between 2 and 6 percent, whereas false convictions of all crimes – including murder, burglary, and drug possession – rests somewhere around 4.1 percent. We know this. Heck, roughly three years ago, all of our social media platforms exploded over the Netflix show “Making a Murderer”, wherein we saw how easy it would be for a potentially innocent man to be convicted for murder. And yet, despite this, we do not see hordes of people saying that we should not seek justice for murder cases, because someone might be falsely accused.

Perhaps this is because we know that murder is a serious offence, and that in those cases where innocent people are punished, they are unfortunate side effects of an imperfect system that needs to be in place anyway. We do not have the same beliefs when it comes to sexual assault and harassment.

The fact of the matter is, men are falsely accused much less frequently than women are actually assaulted. The latter is a much more prevalent problem, and it’s the problem that we are not doing anything about.

Because, more than mere numbers – men who are falsely accused are much more protected, even now, than women who are actually assaulted. If a woman reports a rape, then the man has a 57 out of 1000 chance of being arrested. From there, he has an 11 out of 1000 chance of getting referred to a prosecutor, a 7 out of 1000 chance of conviction, and a 6 out of 1000 chance of actually going to jail. Sure, it might change the way that (some) people see him, and it might put a hold on his career, but if Donald Trump, Woody Allen, and Ryan Seacrest have proven anything, it’s that you can still have a long and successful career even despite sexual assault accusations.

In other words, a woman has a much higher chance of being raped, than a rapist has of being prosecuted.

We have effectively normalized sexual assault and harassment, and we have learned methods of shutting women down when they want to talk about it. I think we’re all familiar with the typical methods – the old “well, what were you wearing?” “what were you drinking?” “are you sure you didn’t lead him on or anything?” Telling women to think of the poor men who might be falsely accused feels very similar to me. Because, yes, men might be falsely accused – especially if we someday build up a culture where women are not shamed for speaking out (but, trust me, that day is far from today).

And the thing is, right now, at this very moment, women are being assaulted and harassed. Not might – are. And we have to decide how much that matters to us. We have to decide who is more worthy of protecting – a small handful of men, or every single woman in our society.

Yes, it is a shame that some innocent men might be falsely accused of a crime that they did not commit. But we are currently privileging that shame over the very real experience of women who never receive justice, and are in fact shamed and re-victimized by the legal system and their community. When we tell women to be silent, it is much more likely that the people we are protecting are the actual rapists and predators. And, personally, that is a community that I am tired of protecting.

Advertisements

How The Media Normalizes Sexual Harassment

Particularly as a teenager, I had a bit of an obsession with cheesy, bad horror and sci-fi movies. I ate them up, but perhaps my favourite entries into this genre was the Evil Dead series.

To this day, I will still cite “Evil Dead 2” as one of my absolute favourite movies. It just offered the exact right combination of camp and passion, of scares and humour, all at once. And, as is the case with many fans of the Evil Dead series, I positively loved leading actor Bruce Campbell. I thought he was the epitome of cool. He was to me what Batman or James Bond is to many. I would seek him out in any role – from “My Name is Bruce” to “Xena: Warrior Princess” (okay, my love for Lucy Lawless was also a big motivator for that last one).

So when I heard that Bruce Campbell was not only taking on a leading role in a major television series, but that that series was going to continue on the story of the Evil Dead series, I was thrilled.

That is, until I watched the first episode of the TV series “Ash Vs. Evil Dead”.

Now, I’m not writing a review for the series. I’ve watched the first season, and I have my own opinions, but they’re beside the point right now. What I want to talk about instead is a single scene in the first episode.

This scene begins with Bruce Campbell’s character, at work in a department store. Moments before, it has been established that Campbell’s character has enough seniority at his workplace that he cannot be let go. A male character points out to Campbell’s character that a new girl has joined them in their workplace, and the pair of them look her over for a while, commenting on her beauty. Campbell’s character then approaches her and makes several overt sexual comments, to which she responds with eye rolls and clear rejection. When Campbell’s character pushes the matter to the point that he actually begins touching her, the woman physically assaults him, at which point he finally accepts the rejection and walks away.

Watching this scene, I was slightly horrified. Horrified enough, at least, that it made me question my respect for Bruce Campbell and the character that he has built up in his movies. Because what was happening in this scene was sexual harassment. And not only that, this whole scene almost serves to excuse and normalize sexual harassment in our culture.

Because let’s start with the beginning: who Bruce Campbell’s character is. He’s an older man with seniority in this company. He has clearly worked here a long time. He’s the main character, so he’s endeared to the audience. He’s the only character on this show that has appeared in previous movies, and in those movies, he was always the hero, so we know that we’re supposed to look up to him. He’s funny and endearing and a little pathetic, but heroic at the end of the day.

And let’s take a moment to look at the female character, played by Dana DeLorenzo. This is her introduction to the audience. All that we know about her at this point is that she is new to this workplace, and she turns down the advances of Campbell’s character.

The way this scene plays out in the show, it’s all relatively harmless. He makes comments to her, she assaults him in return, he stalks off and they go about their day. But the problem is, this isn’t even remotely how this scene would play in real life. In reality, there are multiple potential scenarios that could have ended up happening.

For example, A) she doesn’t assault him. She responds the way that most women would, and she just laughs it off or ignores him. She hears her co-workers talking about how he’s kind of pathetic, but at the end of the day, he’s harmless and a nice guy, so just cut him some slack, would you? So she does. She continues ignoring him. And he keeps making comments at her. He gets steadily more and more aggressive with his comments, and whether he means to make the threat or not, they’re both aware of the fact that he has seniority over her. He’s been here longer – he has connections within the company. If he isn’t her boss, he’s at least friends with her boss. And if she wants to move ahead in the company, or even just keep her job, then maybe she shouldn’t be so “frigid” and “uptight”, right?

Or, there’s example B) she does assault him, because he crossed her boundaries and touched her when she said no. And he now has two things: a wounded ego, and a valid complaint against her, that he can take right to her boss.

Either way, she loses in real life.

But in fiction, it’s alright. It’s not a big deal. In fiction, she can assault him and end the harassment right then and there while simultaneously proving to the audience that she’s a strong, independent woman who can take care of herself. In fiction, we don’t have to think about this all that much.

And this affects the way that we see these scenarios in real life. This deludes us into thinking – maybe it isn’t a big deal. I mean, if she really wasn’t interested, she could have just assaulted him, right?

Watching this one scene was extremely disappointing to me. Not only was I watching one of my childhood heroes engage in predatory behaviour that has intense, real-world consequences, it also sort of made me think about the media that I grew up watching, and the media that we’re all aware of. It made me realize just how prevalent it is to normalize sexual harassment in our movies and our TV.

Because when I was a teenager, I watched “Army of Darkness” hundreds of times without ever really clueing in to the fact that when Bruce Campbell’s character says “give me some sugar, baby”, what he is actually doing is forcing a kiss on a woman who, until now, has shown nothing but disdain for him.

And as much as I wish I could say that media starring Bruce Campbell is the only media that normalizes this – it isn’t. I only focused on it because it’s what I’m most familiar with. The truth is, it’s in all of our media.

It’s in every movie or TV show where man is rejected by a woman, and he responds by pressing the matter (ie. Han and Leia in “Star Wars”) or manipulating her (ie. Noah and Allie in “The Notebook”) or continuing to harass her until he finally gets a ‘yes’ (ie. Leonard and Penny in “The Big Bang Theory”). It is so prevalent in our society that it’s not only normal – it’s actually kind of a joke.

And when we laugh at it in the media, we don’t think of the real-world consequences that these scenarios could actually have. We don’t think that they’re a big deal, because our media tells us that it isn’t a big deal. It’s just funny.

And I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t enjoy the movies or TV that we grew up with. I understand why that would be a hard argument to sell, and I know that I, for one, won’t stop enjoying the Evil Dead series anytime soon. But that being said, I do think that we need to talk about these issues. Because talking about them makes us realize how prevalent they actually are – and just how engrained into our society.

When we talk about sexual assault and harassment in the #metoo movement, we aren’t just talking about a few isolated incidents. We’re talking about an entire culture that needs to be confronted and changed. This might be part of the reason why the #metoo movement has been met with some resistance – it’s a lot of change to be made. It’s overwhelming, but it’s definitely worthwhile. Because once we become aware of it and once we start talking about it, then we can start making things better for the people who have actually faced this in real life. We no longer just shrug these scenarios off as jokes – we understand them on a deeper, more compassionate level. We began to see these scenes for what they are, and they aren’t really funny at all.

An Open Letter to Rose McGowan About Discussion in the #MeToo Movement

I have been a fan of Rose McGowan for a long time. Even before the #metoo movement began.

From Scream to Charmed, I considered her to be an actress who typically played strong characters who weren’t afraid to own their voice and their sexuality. Heck, to this day, I still have a poster of her in Planet Terror on my wall!

And when the #metoo movement began, and McGowan stepped forward to be a leading voice for it, I was proud of her. I was watching someone who I admired become the character that I had always perceived her to be – the strong, outspoken woman who demanded to be heard. I loved it. And I still firmly and unabashedly respect what she is trying to do, so I mean absolutely no offence to her or to her message when I write this.

But, lately, I’ve been noticing a few points worthy of criticism about the way that McGowan is presenting her message.

The first time I noticed this, it was in an interview McGowan did with Nightline, where she describes her sexual assault in great detail (and, yes, consider this a trigger warning: watch the interview at your own discretion). In the interview, the point was raised that some people have been asking why victims of sexual assault didn’t just fight their attacker off, and McGowan was asked what she thought about that. “A lot of people are also stupid. That would be my response,” McGowan said.

As a feminist who writes about feminism on the internet, I… cringed. I mean, I completely and fully understand why McGowan would say this – 100 percent. If you watch the video, you can tell that McGowan is extremely hurt by the sexual assault, and has been for years. And, not only that, she has had to deal with frustrating comments from hundreds of inconsiderate people who are incapable of understanding what happened to her, and as McGowan continues on to say, “it’s not [her] fault you can’t put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s been terrorized repeatedly”. I understand that, and I’m not saying that McGowan should feel any differently than she does.

But this is an emotional response, first and foremost. And she has presented this emotional response in a public forum, in connection to an issue that many people have strong feelings about. And from my personal experience, I know that you need to be downright strategic to do that properly.

You cannot start a discussion with, “yeah, well, you’re stupid”. That closes people with different opinions off from your argument. They won’t care what you say next, because they’ll be so lost in their own insult that they won’t understand the rest. And that’s a problem when your purpose is to try to change the world. People won’t hear what you have to say if they’re so busy being offended by it.

But, like I said, I understood McGowan’s feelings, and I understood why she said what she did. So I was willing to shrug it off.

Until I heard something else that bothered me so much more.

In a recent book event that McGowan did at a Barnes & Noble in New York City, McGowan entered into a screaming match with a transgender woman who didn’t approve of McGowan’s focus when it came to this issue. Specifically, she wanted to know how transgender women fit into McGowan’s take on the #metoo movement.

This is not the first time that McGowan has been criticized for her views on transgender women. In an episode of RuPaul’s podcast “What’s the Tee”, McGowan made a few comments that many perceived to be transphobic, and McGowan has also made several transphobic comments toward Caitlyn Jenner. And this, naturally, concerned the transgender woman at McGowan’s book event – because, as I stated before, McGowan is a leading figure in the #metoo movement right now.

“I have a suggestion. Talk about what you said on RuPaul. Trans women are dying and you said that we, as trans women, are not like regular women. We get raped more often. We go through domestic violence more often. There was a trans woman killed here a few blocks [away],” the woman said.

And this is true. Trans women do get raped at an alarming rate. One in two transgender women are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their life, compared to one in four women in the general population.

So, yes, transgender women do deserve a voice in this movement. McGowan, however, denied this woman her voice. The two women screamed at one another for some time until the transgender woman was forced out of the building by security. McGowan then continued to rage about what happened on stage for a long while, getting her final word in that, “I might have information you want. I might know shit that you don’t. So f*cking shut up. Please systemically. For once. In the world.”

But the problem, Rose McGowan, is that transgender women are forced to ‘shut up’ all the time in our society. That’s part of the problem.

And that’s part of what I’m beginning to take issue with when it comes to Rose McGowan’s approach to the #metoo movement: she isn’t willing to create a discussion. Not when the discussion is difficult and frustrating and seemingly endless, and not when the discussion makes sense either. She’s just too hurt and too defensive to do it.

And I get it – I do, I understand and respect her pain. But cutting off discussion could have massive negative implications for the #metoo movement as a whole.

If you aren’t willing to answer the tedious questions, then those who ask them will never receive the answer, and they’ll never be forced to consider the question. They’ll just stalk off, angry at being called ‘stupid’, and they’ll cut themselves off from the movement altogether. They won’t help. They won’t contribute. That’s a whole demographic that has simply been lost, because a discussion wasn’t allowed.

And if you aren’t willing to consider the possibility that there might be more sides to this issue than the one you have experienced, then you cut out even more people from the movement – people who would be guaranteed allies if you’d just let them. But if you won’t talk to them, or see things from their perspective, then you alienate them. You cast them out. You make this movement smaller than it needs to be, while simultaneously allowing trans women to continue to be abused.

And, Rose McGowan, please hear me when I say: just because transgender women are, statistically, sexually abused more often than cis gendered women are, that doesn’t invalidate what happened to you. What happened to you remains atrocious and unacceptable, and I applaud you for fighting against it. But you can’t just fight for yourself, not when you’ve taken on the mantle of leading the #metoo movement. You need to fight for all women – regardless of the genitalia they were born with. You need to help us create a world where all women are safe from this.

And part of creating that world is through discussion. Tedious, difficult, and sometimes humbling discussion. I understand that you are hurting, and I’m sorry for that, but this can’t be a black-and-white, us-versus-them issue. You can’t just silence and disregard everyone who doesn’t agree with you. You need to hear them out, and if you still stand by what you believe, then you need to explain to them why you believe that.

Imagine how different the Barnes & Noble event would have gone if, instead of screaming at the woman in question, you listened to what she had to say, and then you spoke to her as an equal? You tried to understand her. You tried to be understood. No one right and no one wrong – just two women who had both been hurt by an unfair society that needs to be challenged.

That’s what needs to happen. That’s how the #metoo movement is going to begin doing some real, lasting good in the world. Because I still believe it can. But not if we don’t allow discussion.

Why You Can’t Give Up On the #MeToo Movement

Dear women and men everywhere: please, please, please do not give up on the #metoo movement.

I think that most of us can at least agree that the #metoo movement started out with great intentions: to discuss and challenge sexual harassment and sexual assault. Something that a shocking and, quite frankly, disgusting amount of women deal with in their everyday life, if the amount of women who shared their story with the hashtag says anything.

But since the #metoo movement’s formation, it has gone on to challenge other, more abstract ideas, like, for example, rape culture. The first time that this was brought up was in an allegation about Aziz Ansari, wherein a woman by the name of Grace accused him of pushing for sex well passed her comfort zone and taking no heed of her attempts to dissuade him.

This seemed to be the beginning of the breaking point for many people who previously supported the #metoo movement.

Because what Aziz Ansari did is not illegal. It’s just creepy, and entitled, and generally not okay. But not illegal.

This prompted some to take the opinion that the #metoo movement is turning into a ‘witch hunt’, wherein any innocent man at any moment can be accused of sexual assault, and his entire life will immediately be ruined because of it.

I have seen some bring up the question of whether or not accusations like this should even be allowed to enter into the #metoo movement, or if it cheapens the whole discussion.

I have even seen some who once agreed with the #metoo movement try to distance themselves from it, even call it disgusting. Heck, Wendy Williams recently went on television to say that she was “sick of it”.

But I still think that the #metoo movement is very important. And not just because of what it started out as (although that is a crucial part of it). I think that the later discussions surrounding rape culture are also hugely important.

Please. Hear me out.

Because what Aziz Ansari did is not illegal. He should not go to jail for it. He should not be persecuted or fired or whatever else people are worried will happen to him because Grace dared to speak out. But what Aziz Ansari did does speak to a larger issue that exists in our society, one that I have mentioned twice now: rape culture.

This accusation that Grace put forth fits perfectly into our society’s idea that men are supposed to pursue sex, at all costs, while women are supposed to withhold it. Men are told, essentially before puberty, that their masculinity is connected with how many women they manage to sleep with. And if a woman says that she doesn’t want to – well then, that’s all part of the script, isn’t it? The script that’s been put forth by every romantic comedy and love story that’s ever been written. Men chase. Women ‘protect their virtue’. It’s a tale as old as time.

But the problem with this tale is that it isn’t romantic. It’s sexual harassment. It normalizes something that’s actually really disturbing, and we just accept it as the common, everyday narrative. Because it is that engrained in our society.

Do I think that Aziz Ansari is a garbage human being who deserves to be crucified? No, of course not. But I do think that he has become an example of something that is shockingly prevalent in our society – so prevalent that it has happened to literally every women. And this is something that we need to talk about. We need to challenge the script and write a new one. There’s a better love story to be told, and it’s dependant on mutual consent and enthusiasm.

But I’ve also heard many people worry about what will happen to these men who are told that their behaviour is creepy and needs to be challenged. Isn’t it scary to think that any well-meaning man can, at any moment, be told that he’s making a woman feel uncomfortable and he needs to stop?

Well, no. No, it isn’t. Because voicing discomfort is something that’s normal in most other facets of society. In fact, it’s important, so that the other party can then correct their behaviour and no longer be creepy.

Let’s give an example: if I were having a conversation with a man, and he was standing too close to me, then I would not hesitate at all to say, “hey, man, you’re standing too close to me”, and hopefully his response would be to say, “oh, sorry” and take a step back. If the man’s response was to say, “oh my god, I can’t believe you think I’m standing too close to you, I’m just trying to talk to you, jeeze, men can’t even talk to women anymore, can they?” then that is weird. That is not fair to me. That is forcing me to endure discomfort for the simple reason that he doesn’t like being told to correct his behaviour.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect analogy, because standing too close to someone is not the same thing as sexual harassment. So maybe let’s try something a little more direct.

I am a queer woman. I occasionally flirt with and check out women. And if I were to do this, and make the woman that I am checking out or flirting with feel uncomfortable, then I sincerely, genuinely hope that she would tell me. Seriously. I’m not just saying this for the point of my argument. Because, end of day, when I am flirting with a woman, my purpose is not to make her feel uncomfortable. Quite the opposite, in fact. And if she tells me that she doesn’t like what I’m doing, then I like to think that I will stop doing it immediately, because I know she doesn’t like it. And maybe I will be a little bit disappointed if this means flat-out rejection, but you know what? My disappointment doesn’t matter more than her autonomy.

So, personally, I like the direction that the #metoo movement is going in. I think that it has the potential to, quite literally, change the entire world if we let it. Because rape culture is a disease that has infected literally every aspect of our society. It’s in our movies. It’s in the way that we speak to our children. It’s in the way that we dismiss victims of sexual assault when they come forward. So, as much as it saddens me that this seems to be the breaking point for many supporters of the #metoo movement, it also doesn’t surprise me: rape culture is so engrained into our culture that it’s deemed normal at this point.

But, even after everything I’ve said, you still might not agree with me. You might still think that the #metoo movement is moving into dangerous, vigilante territory. And if that’s the case, then I still beg you not to give up on the movement as a whole. Because the movement still has incredible value, even if the only thing you want to focus on is the cases where actual laws are broken.

And if you don’t like the way the movement is going – then change it. Add your voice to the discussion, supporting the things that you believe in. Movements like these change all the time. They shift and they mutate, all depending on the issues that the majority want to focus on at the time. Feminism is a good example of this; if it hadn’t changed over time, we’d still be fighting for the rights of white, straight, cisgender women alone (I mean, there are still sections of feminism that do this, but you get my point). A lot of voices mean a lot of different opinions. And we are going to need a lot of voices in a movement like this.

And while you stand up for what you believe in, I’ll stand up for my own beliefs. We all need to keep talking, and keep fighting for this, because as I said, so long as we do, we quite literally have the chance to change the world.

“Why Didn’t She Just Say No?”

“Why didn’t she just say no?”

I’ve heard this question come up, again and again, especially in the wake of the #metoo movement.

I’ve heard this question come up in response to the allegations against Aziz Ansari. A woman going by the name of Grace explained going on a date and engaging in a sexual encounter with him, which left her feeling ignored and violated. This story was quickly picked up by the #metoo movement as an example of rape culture, and has since faced plenty of criticism by people who think that this story devalues the #metoo movement.

After all, why didn’t she just say no?

And when this question is asked, I find myself going back to all those stories that I’ve heard about the women who did say no.

I think of Raelynn Vincent, who did not respond to a man when he began catcalling her. At this point, the man got out of his car and punched her in the face, breaking her jaw and her teeth.

I think of Lisa and Anna Trubnikova, who were both shot by Adrian Loya, Lisa’s coworker who became obsessed with her and began pursuing her romantically. When Lisa showed no interest in him, he murdered her and seriously wounded her wife, Anna.

I think of Mary Spears, who was shot and killed when she refused to give a man her phone number.

And, yes, I know that not all men will respond with violence to the word “no”, but that doesn’t erase the fact that we have all heard these stories. That doesn’t erase the fact that women are socialized to not say no to men, especially if they don’t know him all that well. Because it is an all-too common narrative for men to respond with violence, and no woman wants to be the one who says “no” to the wrong man.

But maybe that’s sexist of me, right? I mean, not all men beat women, and some would argue that it’s misandry for me to assume that he might. “Stop assuming that every man is a rapist,” they say, in the same breath that they blame my sisters for being raped because they should have taken precautions against it.

So let’s forget the threat of violence for a second. Let’s talk about the role of women.

“Why didn’t she just say no?”

Could she? Is that allowed? I honestly don’t know anymore.

Because if she says no, then she’s a friend-zoning bitch, isn’t she? She’s a tease who led him on. And, I mean, come on, he’s such a nice guy. But I guess women don’t like nice guys. They like bad boys, the ones who treat them poorly, the ones who ignore them when they say “no”, the ones who put them in their place. Those are the guys that really get the ladies, aren’t they? Or, at least, that’s what I hear.

When I was in elementary school, girls would be scolded by the teachers if she let the boys touch her, because what sort of message was she sending to him? Obviously, she wanted to be treated badly. But if she didn’t let the boys touch her, then, come on, it’s just a joke, don’t be so stuck-up, you need to relax a little bit!

When I was in high school, a girl friend of mine told me that if a boy spent any money on me while we were on a date, then I was obligated to sleep with him, whether I wanted it or not, because he expected it.

I guess what he expects is more important than what I want. I guess sex really isn’t about me at all, is it?

“Why didn’t she just say no?”

She couldn’t. Society has taken that word away from her. Society has made ‘no’ a dirty word, so we’ve invented other ways of saying it. Instead, we say, “I have a boyfriend”, because a man will respect another man before he’ll respect our freedom of choice. Instead, we say, “I have a headache,” because physical illness is the only appropriate reason to not want sex right now. Instead, we give out fake phone numbers and fake smiles and fake interest until we’re far enough away to be safe. Safe from violence. Safe from judgement. Safe from expectation.

“Why didn’t she just say no?”

Well, the thing is, she did. She said no with her body language, with her subtle little hints. She said no in all the ways that society has allowed her to say no – she said, “next time.” She said, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” She tried to physically remove herself from the room, and she stopped moving when he touched her. But apparently, one would need to be a mind reader to notice all of that.

“Why didn’t she say no?”

But that isn’t quite the right question, is it? Instead of blaming her for not saying the word “no” precisely, we should ask why she didn’t feel comfortable saying no. We should ask how we can change our society so that women can say no directly, so that they don’t have to dance around the subject.

And we begin by listening for the word “no”, presented in all the forms that it comes. Because the absence of a direct “no” does not mean “yes”.