Content Warning: Many Horrible Things. 

“No.”

It’s a complete sentence, not the beginning of a negotiation process.

Merriam Webster: “used as a function word to express the negative.”

Was watching a movie with a friend. He tried to kiss me, I told him “No, we’re just friends.”  He started trying to push my sweater off while repeating, “Let me have you. Let me have you.” – Hannah

Oxford: “used to give a negative response.”

I was eighteen, when my boyfriend raped me, while I was laying on my stomach, crying, being held down. He later said, he couldn’t hear a clear no. –Kate

And perhaps the most telling for this piece is the top voted definition on Urban Dictionary: “The word that makes sex rape.”

I was 17 years old, alone in a car with a guy I barely knew. He asked if I wanted to have sex and I said no. He was military and much stronger than me. He stated groping me and made it clear I wasn’t getting away. I don’t remember my clothes coming off, but I remember him on top of me and the way I just went mentally numb and prayed for him to finish. –Carol

The problem with the word no is that it’s not equally applied. There is the male no, and there is also the female no, and they’re not even close to being treated the same.

I was about 8 years old. My dad was having a BBQ with a friend/co-worker and their family. There was drinking. His friend got drunk and asked me to dance. I said no, but he insisted. He grabbed my hands and forced me to dance with him on the deck. He was bigger and stronger. My dad was right there and didn’t seem to care. I felt helpless. Trapped. –R

The male no is authoritative, respected. It IS a complete sentence that most take literally.

The female no is different.

I used to be goth. Was cornered in a bathroom by a creep who told me to take off my makeup, because I would be prettier “for” him that way … When I said no, he grabbed my face and wiped down some of my face with his hand. –Lynda

In some circles, like a fraternity at Yale University, or a Texas Tech fraternity, they assert that, “No means yes, yes means anal.”

A boyfriend wouldn’t let me go to sleep until my “no” turned into a “fine, I’ll have sex with you.” That went on for months. –Estelle

Men are taught to not take no for an answer. Women are taught to not give  no as an answer. Throughout history, men were encouraged to lead, to take, to conquer. Women have been encouraged to be submissive, to give, to support.

When younger I said nothing. I didn’t know it was an option. –Anon

Because of this, when women do say no, men often don’t listen. And a man’s reaction to hearing no from a woman can be extreme.

I was in an abusive relationship several years ago. No is never a real option in that situation, just means a beating before the rape. –N

In my piece about Jordan Peterson I wrote:

“The Los Angeles Times reported the recent school shooter in Texas had been harassing a girl at school for months, not taking no for an answer, and specifically targeted her for rejecting him. It goes beyond his feelings of rejection; he used a gun to claim her for himself. He took her life like it was a trophy to ensure she would never belong to anyone else, including herself. That is the true horror of the crime he committed. He treated her like a commodity to be consumed.”

Blackout drunk in college (pretty certain I was drugged), woke up to a guy assaulting me. Found out he’d done it six times while I was out of it. When I told him he’d raped me, he threatened to kill me if I told anybody. Lost my virginity that night. – Jennifer

When a woman says no to a man, he often takes it personally. If his masculinity is fragile, he cannot help but feel the need to defend it.

In the 15 years I have been in the dating pool, at least a hundred men have tried to either buy me a drink, hit on me, or directly ask me out. Upon politely declining and thanking them for their offer, not a SINGLE one has ever taken it graciously and simply walked away. Even split between badgering repeatedly to just give in and being called a bitch/whore/slut and ugly. –Jo

A football player in Knoxville shot and killed his ex-girlfriend while she slept after she broke up with him.

A man in Philadelphia snapped a woman’s neck for saying no to a marriage proposal.

Junko Furuta, a 16-year-old girl in Japan, was raped and tortured for 44 days before being murdered for having dared to say no to the advances of the high school bully.

I said no to condom-less sex. He stood in front of the door and made it clear I wasn’t leaving until he got what he wanted. I said no to giving him a blow job. He pulled his penis out and pressed it against my lips until I opened my mouth. I said no to sex after an argument. He said I owed it to him for being such a bitch earlier. I gave in. I turned down a drink at a bar. He grabbed my crotch and called me a slut. I said no to a hug. He slapped me. These are five different men. –Nicole

How often do we hear stories of men murdering women because they said no? A site called When Women Refuse has more stories than any decent person could possibly stomach. Or, just google “man kills woman for saying no.” You can also read my piece “Incels are a Hate Group Promoting Rape and Murder.”

Propositioned by a “friend” at a house party. I said no. He punched me in the face and threw champagne in my eyes … He’s now a police officer. –Jessica

In some form or another, men have been conditioned to believe they should be obeyed by women. With societal changes toward greater equality, a lot of men can’t handle it. They wish for the alleged “good old days,” when women “knew their place.”

I was attending a high school party when he sat down and started to come on to me. I told him I had a boyfriend and wasn’t interested. He pushed me down, shoved one hand up my shirt and the other between my thighs. Kneeing him in the groin had no effect, but telling him my father was a cop did. He got up and screamed “Fucking cunt!” as he stormed off. –Anon

 

What’s more, they see that ignoring the word no can often be rewarded.

“Grab them by the pussy” = elected to the presidency. And a popular “pickup artist” who goes by Roosh sells the equivalent of “how to get away with rape” guides online.

I agreed to meet a man I’d only spoken with via phone and FaceTime at his apartment to hang out … I told him multiple times I wasn’t going to have sex until we got to know each other better … This was something we both had agreed on when we’d been speaking for the past few months before we met in person. Within 30 minutes of being in his place, I was being used as a sex doll for the next 4 hours, afraid I was never going to leave the apartment alive. –Sara

It’s not all rape and murder. There are varying degrees of violation. Every single day a woman says no, and a man doesn’t accept it. He wheedles. He pushes. He buys her another drink. He pesters. He whines. He begs. He puts his hands where she doesn’t want him to, and she pushes those hands away, and he puts them right back. She says no again and again and again, and he just doesn’t listen. Eventually, she might give in.

He suggested going back to my place and having sex. I said no. We left, he followed me to my place, continuously asking to be my first. I said no. He worked his way into my apartment with me, then stuck his tongue in my mouth. I said no. He picked out the music he liked, tested out the bounce of the bed. I said no. He took his pants off. I said no. This went on for an hour. Me saying no, him escalating his approach. Finally, I said, “Ok, fine, just do it and leave.” He did, and he did. I never saw him or spoke to him again. –Amy

Not because he was charming. Not because he convinced her that she really did want him. She gave in to make it stop, to get it over with.

It’s still a violation.

I’m speaking directly to men now, the ones who don’t respect a woman’s use of the word no.

What the fuck is wrong with you?

I was at a guy’s house just to watch a movie. He started tugging at my clothes and trying to kiss me. I repeatedly told him to stop. Then he pulled out a knife. I cried the entire time. The people I told insisted I should have still fought back. –Caity

If she says no, why can’t you just accept that?

Part of the reason is that men don’t trust women. We often consider them to be irrational, that they don’t know what’s best, so how could she possibly be correct in her assertion that she doesn’t want your dick? The reality of how we constantly question how women perceive reality is prevalent in how frequently men engage in mansplaining.

He kind of mildly hit on me on a city bus. I deflected, then pulled the cord for my regular stop. He asked why I would get off the bus just to ignore him, then followed me down the street and into my office building yelling at me about my rejection of his advances. –Beth

There is another reason why you can’t accept a woman saying no to you. It is because you are weak. If you possessed true strength and real confidence, you would realize that this word is not a challenge to your masculinity. You would accept that rejection is part of life, and you would move on.

You: Can I buy you a drink?

Her: No thank you.

You: Okay. Have a nice evening.

See how easy that is?

You: I have feelings for you.

Her: I’m sorry, but I don’t feel the same way.

You: Okay. Thanks for being honest.

Admittedly more challenging, but what is the alternative? You can be dignified and decent and accept the reality of her truthful answer, or you can be a douche.

Too often, men choose the path of the douche.

He guilted me into letting him kiss me and that was a big mistake. That caught me into the trap of if I didn’t let him do what he wanted, I would be a dick tease. I repeatedly put him off FOR HOURS, and each time I told him no, he took things a step farther. Eventually we are laying in bed together with my roommate in the room and he’s trying to take my pants off … I ended up getting him to at least go to a deserted common room, let him have sex with me, and thankfully he never came back to visit. I told him no verbally probably 50 times. –Leah

When she says no, and you push, and she keeps saying no, and you keep pushing, and eventually you get what you want, this is not an accomplishment to be proud of. This is not something you should feel good about. You took something from her that she didn’t want to give. She wasn’t enjoying the experience. She was disgusted. She finally gave in to make you go away because she came to fear that if she didn’t you’d do something even worse.

I am 17. I’m kissing a boy and he wants to have sex. I say no, and no again, but he wheedles and begs and stops me from leaving the room and I’m tired and drunk and all my friends left me alone at this party, so I say yes just so it will be over. It’s not rape but it scars. Later my friends tell me I took his virginity, like I was the one that took anything. –Ali

You need to realize that when a woman says no, it has meaning!

I drank too much, and when he drove us back to our suite I was nearly passed out. He was trying, I said “no, not when I’m drunk” but I was in and out of consciousness. I remember seeing him out, but it wasn’t until the morning after that I realized he stole my virginity. I said no, he did anyway. –Leyanne

In fact, when you consider how history has conditioned women to acquiesce, you should give extra weight to a woman’s no than to a man’s. If she is saying no, it’s because she really, honestly, means NO!

Take no for an answer. Take it like a decent human being.

I was 18 and at a bonfire with friends. I started flirting with a guy and we ended up having sex. About 5 minutes into it, I decided I was way too drunk and wanted to stop. He then covered my head with a pillow, held me down, removed the condom, and finished inside of me. –Amber

BE a decent human being. Be strong and confident enough to accept that some women will say no to you. Work on being a better man, and you will find women who will give you an enthusiastic yes.

 

This piece contains only a sample of the hundreds of messages I received when I asked women for stories about when they said no and weren’t listened to. More are appended below. I would ask that you endeavor to read as many as you can to gain a better understanding of the problem. A link to comments and to a companion piece I wrote are at the end.

I was 18 and went to my boyfriend’s house after lunch to get ready for work. His family wasn’t home. I was in the bathroom, putting on makeup when he came in suddenly and locked the door behind him. He pushed me against the sink, running his hands and rubbing his body all over me. I said “No, wait!” Becoming panicky. But he didn’t stop. I said, “I have to go to work!” Nearly crying. And he raped me on the bathroom floor before taking me to work. That was my first time. –Mandy

It wasn’t even anything I wanted to do. It happened because he had finally worn me down after months of begging and guilting me … It hurt, and I asked him to stop, but he told me that wasn’t how it worked. He said it stopped when he was finished. –Anon

When I came to, he was raping me in front of his friends. I started to cry and say no, while trying to push him off. He just laughed and kept going. –Merrie  

I was 8 months pregnant with our 3rd child, working a 12-hour job on my feet 7 days a week plus another 4 hours at home on the phone 6 days a week. I finally went to bed at midnight, with the alarm set for 5 AM. My then husband rolled on top of me and proceeded to rape me. I said, “No.” I said, “No, PLEASE.” I said, “Not tonight, I’m SO tired …” I said, “You’re hurting me.” I said, “I can’t breathe.” I said, “Please, please, please stop.” The bedroom door was open and my 3 and 5-year olds were asleep in the next room. I didn’t scream or fight because I couldn’t bear for them to come in. He ignored me, finished, and rolled off me, and snarled “What the fuck are you crying for?” That was the night I started planning my escape. –Grace

Propositioned by a stranger in a bar. I said I wasn’t interested. He grabbed my shoulder and threatened to take me out the back and rape me. I fled to a taxi without even saying goodbye to my friends. –Jessica

My partner came home drunk. I was 8 months pregnant and didn’t want to have sex. I said stop repeatedly. He pushed me onto my stomach and said, “Do as you’re told.” I just gave up and let it happen while I cried in pain. –Katie

I went to a party with a date and everyone except myself and two guys passed out drunk. They flirted, and I flirted back. Then one got aggressive and pushed me against the wall. I said no and asked the other for help, but instead he told the other one to “hold me down.” – Bethany

It was my husband. Raped me three weeks after our daughter was born and I was still healing. I didn’t get a chance to say no then. But said it repeatedly thereafter, and the guilt trips would begin. It was better to do it and get it over with otherwise he’d keep me up all night, fighting/blaming/hating. I finally left, but had many years of having my “no” ignored. –Crystal

My ex-husband raped me. He was bigger and stronger and didn’t care I said no because I was his wife and I’d better act like it. –Lori

I was having a going away party before I deployed to Afghanistan. A guy from my friend group came; he had always made me a bit uncomfortable due to his misogynist views on women and relationships, and I had told him I wasn’t interested in dating him for that reason. He seemed to take it well, and I invited him because I didn’t want to be rude by including everyone but him. Long story short, he roofied my drink and once I was incapacitated he took me back to a nearby hotel room he had arranged beforehand. He spent the next seven hours violently raping and sodomizing me. I woke up the next morning covered in blood and bruises and vomit, and he acted like nothing was wrong. –Zoe

I wasn’t into him, so I declined politely. He slipped something in my 2nd beer and I woke up to him raping me in his bed. –Holly

I got a great job at a well-known ad agency. My boss used to hit on me and I told him “no” several times. One night he locked me in his office and kissed/groped me and tore my shirt off. I said “no” many times and eventually managed to escape. I was very scared. Two weeks later I got fired. –Anon

One time I declined a dance and this dude, I shit you not, stomped on my foot. Then he pushed me, and my fellow sailors beat the shit out of him. Broke my foot though. –Lena

I was fooling around with a guy at my place but didn’t want to have sex. I told him no repeatedly, but he kept going for my pants and didn’t listen until I grabbed his wrist. I gave him a handjob so he’d leave. –Anon

My college boyfriend repeatedly tried to convince me to try anal sex, but I refused. One night as we were having sex “doggie style,” he suddenly pulled out and plunged into my rectum to full depth. I had to beg him, crying, to stop. I bled. He shrugged and said, “I thought you’d like it once you tried it.” –Leslie

When I was a freshman in high school, a junior or senior kept asking me out. I resolutely told him no thank you. He started following me home. On several occasions when I was home babysitting my siblings, he would call and describe in detail where I was in my house, what I was doing, what I was wearing. It was horrifying. –Joy

Had a brief relationship with a man. Things were moving a little fast, and he wanted to spend the night. I told him no, and he flat out refused to leave. He raped me in my own bed that night. –Jenny

I was flattered to get attention from one of the football players who lived on my floor who got me to go back to his room (where I thought other people were going). He fed me booze and when I said no to having sex with him he held me down with a hand over my mouth because I was trying to scream and raped me. –Shannon

I was at a male friend’s house watching his pets. He came home drunk and shoved me up against a wall. I said no. He was stronger than me, but I fought the whole time. When it was all over his cum mingled with my blood from where he’d ripped me in his roughness. –Leslie

I have lost count of the times I have clearly, audibly, and physically said “no” to unwanted sexual contact, only to be ignored completely and sexually assaulted/raped anyway. By multiple men … I’ve spent 10 years in psychiatric care, including ER visits and inpatient programs. My dangerous encounters with men have completely changed and shaped my personality and who I am. –Anon

Was working in a cake factory. Dude wouldn’t take no for an answer. Waited until I was at the water cooler (in a corner) and pushed me into the wall, grabbed my breast, and wanted to know why I wasn’t agreeing. Management told me not to involve the police because he was “such a good worker.” –Gwynne

16 yrs old, blackout drunk, woke up to someone having sex with me … when I said stop, his response was “I have to finish.” The worst part was being labeled a slut at school. –Margaret

Told a boy in high school I didn’t want to go out with him, so he assaulted me in an empty classroom. –Melissa

Decided to hang out with a friend from work one day. He drove me to a secluded area and assaulted me. He had a fiancé (his now wife). I told him to get off of me. He replies, “Why say no when it feels so right?” and told me to be quiet before someone heard him. He’s now a police officer in that town. –Jules

A guy I just met for coffee asked if we could go back to his place for sex. I said no. He called me prude. He asked for oral. I said no. He called me a whore and tried to grab my crotch. –Danielle

I said no to a guy when I was 15 years old. His response was to throw me onto the living room floor and straddle me so he could kneel on my arms. He then hit me in the face a number of times, taking turns with his right and left hands. I was able to get away after a few minutes, but he never understood why I wouldn’t let him within 50 feet of me again. –Vicki

Went on one bad date with a guy and when I turned him down for a second date, he was waiting at my car every day after work for about a week … He brought little gifts like notes or drawings or candy. When the security guards in the lot banned him, he found out where I lived and was waiting in my garage for me with flowers. That’s when I called the cops. –Jen

A male friend punched me in the thigh really hard for no reason without warning. I said something like Don’t hit me like that, it seriously hurt!” He responded by immediately hitting me again, harder, and laughing at me. –Jo 

I used to cater for films. An extra asked me out and I said no. He took a business card, called the shop, cajoled an employee into giving him my home number, and proceeded to call me several times a day for 18 months. –Cheri

Jobbing in a bar, customer kept flirting. When I told him I wasn’t interested, he started yelling and throwing everything in his reach at me. –Christina

Told a male coworker I wasn’t interested in dating him. His response was to constantly email me, Facebook me, text me, call me, until I was forced to change my number and block him. Management’s response? To make jokes about him being my boyfriend. –Bryce

A bunch of us were crammed into the backseat of my friend’s car, and this guy kept pawing at me. When we stopped & I got out of the car and he realized I wouldn’t be going home with him he called me a bitch and said I was “chunkier than chicken soup”. –Jennifer

This is a companion piece to an earlier article I wrote titled “She Doesn’t Owe You Shit.” Check it out for similar stories of how men feel entitled to women’s bodies. I wish to express my sincerest gratitude to all the brave women who told me their stories for these two pieces.

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James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first bookwas published by Random House Canada in 2014. His next book, which is about life-changing moments, will be published in January 2019.  

 

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