No means no means no means no, still means no.
“Not right now,” is not a yes.
“I don’t feel like it,” is not a challenge.
“I’m not sure,” still means no.
“Can we wait?” Is not a promise.
“I don’t know,” is a no.
I recently dated someone who told me, “No doesn’t always mean no.” In the same breath, they said, “No can turn into a yes.” At this time, I yelled at them because I’m a confrontational person, but when it came down to it in the end: he was right.
I didn’t always say yes. Sometimes I said ‘not now’, which was protested, and they won. Sometimes I said ‘I don’t think we should’, which was overpowered. I don’t think I ever said no, but I don’t think I was ever in a position where I thought I could.
Consent is a tricky thing nowadays. Well, consent isn’t tricky, but it is often misconstrued. I can’t sit here and say there aren’t women who lie about consent to get a man in trouble; that happens all the time. But, I think there are also a lot of women that don’t know how to say no, especially when manipulation is involved. They aren’t lying when they say they didn’t want to, but didn’t know how to say it. It’s hard to say no when there’s a man on top of you that weighs twice your size, especially if you’re disabled.
As a woman, self-worth plays into almost everything, for me personally. For someone who has the history I do, it’s true that there have been times in the past I’ve thought I had to sleep with people for them to like me. It’s not hard to see; it’s not hard to prey on. Is it right? No. Was it rape? Also, no.
There is a definitely a gray area, and I still don’t know where that line is, or if you can walk it. I’m learning that I don’t want to be around people who make me.
Manipulation has made me make a lot of decisions I’m not okay with. I’m not saying I didn’t consent—I’m not saying this person committed a crime—I’m saying they put me in a position time and time again that ate away at my willpower. I’m saying that anything that isn’t a yes, should be a no in the eyes of any decent person. I’m saying that no woman should have to question if they even can say no.
There are still good people out there. The first time I was with someone after the one aforementioned, they always asked me straightforward, and made me say “yes” before anything would happen—even a hug. It blew my mind, but I’ve slowly realized that this is how it should be.
For disabled women, it’s that much harder. If I’m out of my wheelchair, I can’t move at all. All of my trust is on the other person, whether I like it or not. I have to be more careful than the average woman, and I’ve been lucky in the grand scheme of things. I’ve met some shitty people. I’ve been in relationships that tore away at me, but it was never because of my physical vulnerability. I’ve been lucky.
So, maybe he was right. Maybe a “no” can turn into a “yes,” but anyone who wants to turn your decisions into theirs shouldn’t be making any decisions in your life at all.
No still means no. As hard as it can be—stand firm, friends. We’re worth more respect than we can even imagine, and you deserve to be able to say no.
And so do I, and I do.