I just had my first real experience with a guy who didn’t understand that “no” meant “no.” Luckily for me, it was all a virtual exchange via the OKCupid website and texting. I didn’t have to physically fight him off, and I wasn’t assaulted. But it was still a scary situation, especially considering (1) how pushy he was being and (2) how hard it was becoming for me to actually say “no.” I’m a timid person by nature, and I never outright said “no” – but I kept saying “I’m not comfortable with…” and “I don’t want to…” which equate to “no!”
Here’s the situation: I had scheduled a date with a guy I met on OKCupid. I do this all the time. It’s never been a big deal before. We had decided to get drinks. We exchanged phone numbers to start texting, because it’s easier than talking on OKC. But then he started being pushy about coming to my place after to “cuddle and watch TV.” I should have cancelled the date then, but I didn’t. I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that and he seemed to back off a bit. So we kept talking. Eventually the subject turned to sex, and our sexual histories. I’m fine with talking about that, honestly, so this didn’t seem like a bad sign to me. Then I told him we weren’t having sex on the first date and he kept trying to bargain with me. What about foreplay? I’m not comfortable with that. What about just using out hands? Probably not. I’m not interested in that. Then we talked about sex again, and I was beginning to get more uncomfortable. Ultimately I asked him if he would be okay with the fact that I didn’t want to do sexy stuff after the date. He tried bargaining again, saying if I didn’t like him and didn’t want to see him again, then that was fair, but if we are interested in each other then, “at the very least we should have some cuddle time and just foreplay without intercourse….Fair enough?” No, not fair enough.
It was at this point that I realized I wanted to cancel the date, but I had no idea how. So I just kept talking to him. I told him I’m not comfortable with that, and that the most I’d be comfortable with on a first date would be making out. He then took that as me saying I’d be comfortable making out if we hit it off. Which…isn’t totally wrong, but I wasn’t comfortable with this guy at this point. I wanted out of this. I tried to use my roommate as an excuse – saying that we couldn’t go back to my place if he would be home. But that didn’t deter this guy. He just wanted to reschedule.
I told him at that point, “I’m honestly quite uncomfortable with how pushy you’re being regarding coming back to my place. Just because I’m theoretically open to something doesn’t mean that I definitely want to do it, and it makes me think that you might not believe that ‘no’ means ‘no.’” Then he told me he wasn’t going to drive all the way to [TOWN REDACTED] to get drinks and that’s it. He reminded me that I messaged him first, not the other way around (as if that makes a difference) and that he didn’t want to waste his Saturday if he didn’t have to. I told him then that I was not comfortable anymore, and we would not be meeting up. He told me I’m way too conservative and that the conversation we had had was an utter waste of time. And that was the end of that.
Now I’m looking for ways to block his number, just in case.
Overall, this exchange was comparatively harmless. Nothing happened to me, except I was uncomfortable and a bit frightened. I’m still a bit shaken up, actually. But friends, this is rape culture at work. I should have directly said “no” – then it would have been clear. But if it’s not a direct “yes,” then it’s a “no.” There’s no reason to believe that he would have backed off if I had said “no” directly, or if we had actually gone on the date, that he would have backed off if I said I was uncomfortable. Not only does “no” mean “no” ALWAYS, “maybe” means “no,” “I don’t know…” means “no,” “I’m not comfortable” means “no!” It doesn’t mean convince me. It doesn’t mean bargain with me to try and get something out of me.
And it was honestly really hard for me to say even what I did. I’m uncomfortable with confrontation, apparently even when my own safety is potentially at risk. It’s hard, because as a woman, I’ve been socialized to compromise, to not say “no.” This is not due to my parents or teachers or anyone directly telling me that, but just growing up in a society where that is true. I used to be better at standing up for myself. My sense of self and confidence took a hit when my depression got worse. And there’s no mistake, this IS a safety issue at this point. I need to know how to say no to people, especially in situations like this.
I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to make of this. I just know that I’m not the only person who has experienced something like this. And we need to start with teaching everyone that only “yes” means “yes,” anything else is not consent, and it means “no!”