In sex ed, we were taught about a variety of things, one of the biggest being: don’t have sex until you’re older. Sex meaning actual intercourse. Other kinds of sex and “heavy petting” were barely addressed. We weren’t supposed to have sex because we might get pregnant, infected with an STI, or maybe just regret it. None of it was about saying no because we simply didn’t want to participate. And furthermore, none of it was about saying no to anything physical we didn’t want to do besides intercourse.
And, to be honest? I’m not so sure I knew it was okay to say no. I was naïve with boys, and I wanted my first boyfriend (and all the ones after that) to like me. Ladies, raise your hands if you’ve heard the following crap from your significant others: “You love me, right? People who love each other do [what I'm pushing you to participate in].” “Come on, you’ll like it.” “My last girlfriend did that with me.” “I have to lie to my friends and say we’re having sex or they’ll make fun of me.”
Coercion, making you doubt what you do and don’t want to do, guilting you into going along with things, and straight up LYING are not okay. Maybe you did say no, but your partner kept asking and asking until you finally gave in because it seemed easier than continuing to protest, even though saying No once should have been enough.
I once went on a date because my friend practically forced me to. The guy was nice, but I wasn’t particularly interested. I decided I’d let him kiss me, not because I wanted him to, but just because, well, I’d let him. Kissing seemed expected. Looking back at it: why did I go along with it? Maybe it was “just” kissing, but the bottom line was: I didn’t actually want to do it.
There are other, bigger instances in my life where I wish I’d had the sense (or courage) at the time to slap the boyfriend and never speak to him again (“Ow!” should never be followed with, “You’ll get used to it,” or “You like it.” The correct response is: “Do you want to stop?”), but then I’m not sure it was that I lacked sense so much as I felt somehow duty-bound to go along with the boyfriend’s wants. Where was this sense of duty from? From my desperation to be a good girlfriend, which somehow meant sacrificing my own needs, wishes, and basic sense of safety? I ended up depressed, never felt good enough, and tried to make myself conform to what my boyfriend wanted, not who I wanted to be. And I stopped saying “No” because what I wanted or needed never seemed to matter.
It took me a while after that one guy and I broke up to figure out what happened, at which point, I was beyond furious. I vowed that I would never ever let anything remotely like that happen again, that I would only date people who respected me and my decisions, and with whom I felt secure. It was sad that I didn’t realize this until partway through college. I wish I’d known I could say no to ANYTHING, and to be alert for manipulation; learning the hard way is never fun. I’m worth enough to put myself first, and to be with someone who respects that. So are you, girl.
Have you ever worried that it wasn’t okay to say no? Have you ever said no and had a guy try to talk you into something anyway? Tell me about it in the comments.