I wrote this a couple of months ago before the hashtag #metoo started trending.
It makes me proud that all these strong women come forward and unite to raise awareness on social media about all the different ways of sexual assault we have to deal with on a daily basis. This proves once again that even if it’s not all men doing it, there are far too many that get away with sexual assault and way too many who stay silent when their friends are reproducing rape culture or even look away from sexual harassment. I would like to encourage all the men who claim #notallmen to support the #metoo movement. Sexual assault isn’t a female but a male issue. Silence is violence.
No Means No.
A sentence I am sure you have heard a lot.
If a person tells you to leave them alone, you must respect that. Yet, there are so many incidents that girls tell me when a boy clearly did not understand what that means. I cannot think of a single female friend of mine who has never encountered a situation where she was either verbally or physically abused. Therefore, this topic clearly calls for conversation. What we have to understand is that not only shouting “NO!!!” while physically defending ourselves means No.
When a man approaches you in a way you don’t want him to, there are lots of thoughts and feelings which might stop you from actually screaming at him. You might feel scared that if you anger him, he will become violent. Thus, after trying to tell him in a “polite way” that you don’t like him talking to/touching you, you stay quiet in order to stay safe. You might feel ashamed, even blame yourself, for his behaviour. “Did I give him a sign?” “Is my skirt too short?” If he tells you “C’mon, I know you want it. You have been flirting with me the whole evening!” the situation can quickly get out of hand, especially if you are intoxicated and don’t understand what is happening. Suddenly, your consent is undermined without you even having had the chance to say No or Yes. Or you may simply be asleep, a vulnerable situation where you only realise what is going on once it is already too late.
People also feel like there are people who they are not supposed to say No to. For example, it is made to seem one’s ‘duty’ as a girlfriend or wife to give your unconditional consent. He has touched you before, so why would you say No now? He might tell you to “Stop being all weird!” and consequently you would sleep with him because you are afraid to hurt or even lose the other person.
It is never okay for anybody to treat or touch us in ways we do not want them to.
No matter what we did before and who we are dealing with, it is never our fault if somebody does not respect us and our body. We have every right to talk about being disrespected and to fight against that, either in the situation itself or after it has happened. We also need to understand that if we let someone get away with disrespecting us, they will continue to treat other people that way.
It is always a No before it turns into a clear Yes.
A clear Yes is the other person kissing you back or even starting the kiss. It is them touching you while smiling. A clear Yes is never having to convince them to do anything because they are showing you that they want this. A clear Yes can also change back into a No. Most importantly, if you are not sure whether or not it is a clear Yes, there is a simple way to figure it out: Just ask. Ask them if you kissing them is fine or if you touching them in certain places is okay with them. Every person prefers to be asked for their consent too many times, instead of being forced to do things we do not want.
Words by Hannah Wolny
Photo by Amuna Wagner