If you’ve been on Twitter today, you’ve probably seen this tweet make the rounds on your timeline:
The replies are full of people lamenting over the teen boy who, allegedly, continues to get curved by his crush. Some were suggesting this kid hook up with their younger sisters who are far nicer than the girl who rejected him. Others are posting supportive memes. One Twitter user jokingly asked, “Where this bitch live?” accompanied by a gif of a gun going off. While I understand the knee jerk reaction to sympathize with young, unrequited love, can we all take a step back for two seconds and think critically: There’s nothing wrong with this girl rejecting this boy’s advances, and demonizing her for setting up boundaries while encouraging him to breach them is incredibly creepy.
We all know some guy who has felt entitled to a female friend’s affection, and/or is encouraged to maintain this entitlement from others. We all know some guy who flirted a little too aggressively with some girl in grade school, to the point that even our limited pre-teen brains knew something about it was weird. We all know some guy who just can’t catch a hint. Do we know many girls who fit this description? Here’s an even better question: How would a girl who approaches a guy who clearly isn’t interested for years be received? Will she get sympathy, or will she be roasted for being some kind of crazy, obsessive bitch.
Something in our socialization makes it really easy for us to see intense romantic gestures from men as endearing. It’s not a coincidence that women are, in turn, encouraged to feel flattered by male attention, even if it is unwanted. It’s also not a coincidence that high school and college students have a very limited understanding of consent and that 44 percent of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18-years-old.
You might be thinking, “whoa, how did you jump from a kid getting curved to sexual assault?” For the record, I’m not saying that this teen boy is a future sexual predator. None of us know enough about him or the situation to come to that conclusion, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable coming to that conclusion. But it is clear that he isn’t taking his crush’s rejection very seriously, and that has a lot to do with a limited understanding of consent. We need to teach people, especially young boys, that “no” doesn’t mean “maybe” or “I’ll think about it.” It means no. It means that it’s not up for debate. It means that it’s time to swallow your pride and move on to someone else.
We need to be honest about the ways in which we’re teaching young boys and girls to respond to romantic and sexual advances and be more thoughtful about the behavior we’re supporting. The fact that young women have to tip toe around rejecting someone outright with vague language to avoid being characterized as a bitch or literally hurt and or killed is absolutely unacceptable. Anyone who is cooing over this young man’s ordeal is part of the problem: If you think his behavior is appropriate and should be encouraged, you support harassment, period. Seriously, imagine if you were put on blast on a very public forum just because you had the audacity to turn down a dude you’re not interested in. Does that seem fair to you?
This teen is still young, he has plenty to learn and a lot of maturing to do. But he and others who engage in this behavior can’t learn any better if they’re surrounded by people who don’t respect boundaries or observe the importance of consent. People–both men and women–need to focus less on sheltering men’s fragile egos and more on making sure they don’t feel entitled to women, no matter how nice they may be.
Should this prompt a discussion about consent? Or are people overreacting? Tell us in the comments!