When Megan Trainor released her song “NO” back in March of 2016, it quickly became my new favorite song. For those who haven’t heard it, it discusses a man who is attempting to hit on the singer by telling her she’s “beautiful” and “not like other girls”, and while she is flattered, she still wants nothing to do with him. It’s nothing personal, Trainor says, she just isn’t interested in the guy, dancing with him, or being in a relationship with him. However, the guy simply doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “no”, so Trainor begins to explain and empower her fellow ladies to not be afraid to say it, even if a man isn’t taking the hint.
While not every man is guilty of not gracefully taking no for an answer when trying to talk to women, almost every woman has dealt with a man who simply doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word or becomes rude at the sound of it. Whether it’s a random man in the street who calls out to us, a guy out in public who asks for our number after having a 5-minute conversation with us, or a longtime friend who wants more from the relationship, we have all met the “That’s not what I had planned for you” guy who doesn’t seem to respect our no. When Trainor sings “My name is no/My sign is no/My number is no/You need to let it go”, women everywhere sigh and say, we’ve been there.
My own personal experiences with these situations started in elementary school when a boy in my class harassed me relentlessly after I refused to be his girlfriend, stating he would stop if I would just say yes. This was only the beginning of my experiences with certain guys not respecting my "no", or somehow feeling entitled to my time, space and love. In high school and college, I was accused of “friend-zoning” guy friends simply because I didn’t reciprocate their feelings, many of them choosing to drop wonderful friendships because they didn’t understand why I didn’t like “nice guys” like them. At one point my mother helped me file a restraining order against a young man who didn’t understand the word “NO”, after he assaulted me at a football game and proceeded to harass me at school, online and around town for almost a year, convinced we could have some form of a relationship. My most recent experience was with a man I didn't really know who, after having a 20-minute conversation on politics, asked for my phone number. He seemed nice and we shared similar views of the world, so I gave it to him. From the moment I gave him my number my phone buzzed off the hook with calls and texts. He wanted to hang out, and began stating that we were going to go here or there without asking, he just gave a time. When I replied that I couldn’t go out or answer my phone at a late hour, he didn't understand why. He wanted to know why I wasn't answering my phone quickly when he sent an onslaught of texts. On the third day he told me he believed that he had feelings for me. When I answered that I was flattered but didn’t share those feelings because we’d really only had one conversation, the words “Did I just get friend-zoned??” soon appeared on my screen. What made it worse was that during our first conversation, he had portrayed himself as a progressive who stood for the rights of women. Clearly he wasn't as progressive as he believed himself to be since he felt entitled to my time and love after a 20 minute conversation, but because he thought he held these progressive views he may have truly believed himself to be a "nice guy". I guess I should consider myself lucky that he only accused me of friend-zoning him. Women have been severely injured or murdered for rejecting the advances of a man.
So because of these events, (and the events every girl has dealt with at least once in her lifetime) gentlemen, it’s time we had a talk.
First, I would like to state that this discussion is in no way meant to cast aspersions on the male gender as a whole, as I truly believe that men in general are truly decent, kind, and respectful. My grandfathers, father, uncles, brothers, my dearest guy friends and the men that I worked with at my college radio station are all proof of this sentiment. Secondly, this discussion is meant to address a particular group of heterosexual males who may find themselves participating in misogynistic actions, whether it is intended or not, while attempting to engage women that they deem attractive or who they wish to start either romantic or sexual relationships with.
So to this particular group of men, I would like to believe that perhaps you are unaware of this problem, as unfortunately our society, culture and media have all been built on patriarchal value systems that often enforce strict gender roles. These roles encourage males from a young age to believe that they should take what they want, that they should dominate others and garner the attention of women simply because these are signs of masculinity. Women, on the other hand, are portrayed as docile creatures meant to be pursued and protected by these dominant men. We tend to believe this is “normal”.
Media encourages these ideas by making female characters objects of male fantasy instead of nuanced characters with thoughts and feelings unrelated to men. Female characters often find their story-lines moving forward simply because of their romantic link with a male character, as male characters are often portrayed with ambitions outside of romantic interests, allowing many to believe that a woman’s life revolves solely around romantic interaction, while a man’s time is important and split realistically. Have you ever noticed that when a woman doesn't reply to a man it is because she's "blowing him off", but if a man doesn't reply to a woman it's because he "has stuff to do"? These sentiments show that our culture truly believes a woman's time revolves around interaction with others, while men's time does does not. Unrealistic portrayals of women and male/female interactions often cause those who view media to believe this is how all women want to be interacted with, and that it's how men should act if they want to romance a woman, when in reality this is not true. In popular movies a woman's “no” is often meant to be a woman playing coy or not understanding that they have feelings for the protagonist yet. When the lead actor pursues a woman long enough she will eventually concede to her feelings.
Some who I am addressing may stop and say, “This doesn’t apply to me. I care for women! I don't dominate them.” They may be the same men who cried foul when news of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” hit the news, saying that they would never assault women and/or hurt them in any way, that they protect women whenever they can. They may call themselves feminists or view women as sacred, which may honestly be how they feel. However, these same men may not realize that although they are not “assaulting” women or partaking in locker room talk, that they are still partaking in misogyny. These same men may become angry when a woman rebuffs their advances and begin insulting a woman who did not mean to offend them personally. They may be the same men who believe they’ve been friend-zoned simply because someone doesn’t share the same sentiments as they do. They may believe that romance is the relentless pursuit of a woman, believing if they simply pursue her long enough she will fall into their arms. These same men who claim to care or hold women sacred may not even realize that they feel entitled to a woman’s time, space or love. They may believe they are truly “nice guys”. It’s time to realize that believing one is entitled to someone simply because they put effort into speaking, being around or pursuing them does not make one nice. It’s time to shed this sense of entitlement.
So here’s the hard truth guys.
You are not entitled to a relationship with a woman simply because you found her attractive or because you paid her a compliment, paid for her meal or have stuck around her for years. You are not entitled to my time simply because I gave you my number. You are not entitled to anything in this world except basic human respect. When a woman is turning you down, she is not disrespecting you. When you attack her for not wanting you or not being available to you, however, this is extremely disrespectful. Understand, it’s not personal. You are not entitled to anything simply because you wanted it. No woman should have to feel they must make up a boyfriend for you to respect her choice not to be with you. Just as you have feelings, so does that woman. Women are not objects of fantasy for your amusement but flesh and blood humans with thoughts, ideas, feelings and a life all their own. It doesn’t matter what you had built up in your mind, we owe you nothing. Yes, it hurts to be rejected and no one is saying you are not allowed to feel hurt, however, I would rather hurt your feelings upfront than lead you on just to avoid hurting your feelings because you want my time. Just as you know what you want, I know what I want, and I promise you relentless pursuit will not change my mind or the way that I feel.
This is not to say that you should never pursue a woman you're interested in, ask someone you just met on a date, stop being friends with someone or text a girl who gave you her phone number. Please, by all means! Some women enjoy being pursued. Some may not be uncomfortable accepting a date with someone they don't know. Sometimes a friendship just doesn't work out, and if you want to get to know someone it's a great idea to text them. However, the relentless pursuit of someone who has made their feelings clear, asking out a stranger and than insulting them for saying no to you, believing your friend owes you sex or a relationship because you've been there for them or blowing up someone's phone because you believe that woman owes you her time is insane and not "nice guy" behavior. It's misogyny, and if you partake in these actions you don't truly "care" for women, you believe you're entitled to them, and NO ONE is entitled to a woman.
No explanation required. It’s time the word spoke for itself.
Nothing personal, guys.