Saying no has been something that has scared me since I was very young. It didn’t seem like something you did without a good reason. It was mean and would provoke a negative reaction from not only the person who asked something of you but everyone else. Unfortunately, that mindset seeped into adulthood even when I had every right to. I think it does for a lot of people but particularly women who are approached by men who are attracted to them. Let me know if you agree.
This was my very unhealthy mindset. I felt indebted to the guys who found me attractive. I had these ideas that I should feel flattered that they found me attractive and had been brave enough to approach me. If I said no, that implied there was something wrong with them. It was cruel to let them down. If I said no now, that didn’t stop them from continuing to try to be with me. It would lead to repeated instances of awkwardness and humiliation. Every time I was more indebted to them because they had bounced back from rejection and been even more brave approaching me again.
There was fear underlying this thought process too. There was the possibility that things could turn nasty. They could be rude about my response, say horrible things to me or spread rumours about me. They could get aggressive, possibly physically aggressive. Each time they tried again they could get more and more aggressive until they weren’t asking. They were demanding. It felt like by rejecting the easy way, they could just hit me with the hard way. Did my response really matter or were they going to get what they wanted by any means?
This isn’t my imagination going wild. Yes, society implanted the idea that saying no to men was wrong but then my experiences and the experiences of other women proved the point. Very few women haven’t been sexually harassed in some capacity. Our responses don’t seem to matter. All that matters is men are dangerous when you reject them. That’s why so many women feel better lying about having a boyfriend instead of just being honest about not being attracted to someone. It’s wrong that being someone else’s property is more likely to stop a pursuer. That doesn’t even always work.
I have more confidence in saying no but it has been a journey to get to this point. I have told myself I’ll never use the excuse I have a boyfriend because I want my choice to be respected. I don’t want my boyfriend’s boundaries to be respected more than mine. But I know deep down, if things got difficult, I would use everything I could think of to get away.
Now, this is when men complain about how they are scared to talk to women. They are villainised for being attracted to women. My response to that is don’t villainise women for not being attracted to you. Talk to women, express your attraction if it is appropriate. But if they don’t seem keen or clearly state that they are not, leave it at that. No one owes you attraction, no matter what. Pushing is too far is when women feel unsafe and the need to report.
I know it is complicated. But I want everyone reading this to remember: You don’t owe anything to the people that are attracted to you.