No

WARNING: This article deals with the subject of consent and goes into detail about a situation where consent is violated. 

No.

That’s a pretty powerful word, right? No means that whatever someone’s asking you, you don’t agree with. It means that you can’t do something that’s been asked of you. It means that someone should stop something they’ve been doing to you right away. 

No. 

It’s the word that stops initiation. If someone says, “can I do this?” or “do you want this?” and you say no, that should be an automatic stop signal for the other person. There should be no question.

No. 

It’s the only word that should matter when someone is doing something to your body that is not okay with you. It should be the instantaneous halt to whatever is happening- the moment when the other person should just instinctively back away without needing an explanation. 

No. 

It’s the only word that I have ever been told I should need to say. I have always been taught that I have a right to my body, and no one should ever overwrite my no. I have always had a strong voice and an understanding of myself that meant that I knew when I needed to say no. It always felt like I had complete control over what was entirely mine. 

Until someone took my voice away. 

Consent should be simple- yes or no. No means that nothing should happen or what is happening should not continue happening. It should be an implied “I am not okay with this, you need to stop.” It’s an urgent call to stop whatever you’ve been doing to someone else because, for any reason, it’s not okay anymore. It should be even more evident when you’ve been in a relationship for multiple years. 

When my last relationship started, everything was amazing. My boyfriend understood my boundaries, and understood that, at 17 years old, I did not feel mature enough to take that step with him. I had no interest in having sex with him when I didn’t know him all that well, but I wanted to develop a trusting relationship with this amazing, understanding person. He told me that, despite the fact that he had taken that step with his previous girlfriend, he was okay with waiting as long as I needed him to, and everything was wonderful…

…Until it wasn’t okay to wait anymore. 

I assumed that he would always understand and respect my boundaries. I assumed that he knew when I said “no” or “stop” I meant it. I trusted him completely. But he started to try and break my boundaries down… his favourite phrase was “well it’s been x amount of time I thought we would have slept together by now.” That “x” was 4 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years… etc. Every time he did it, I felt less safe and less comfortable, because what it meant was that he wasn’t respecting my boundaries. It meant he was willing to guilt trip me into getting into bed with him. I am a very strong-willed person who has been manipulated before, so my walls only got higher every time he did that. He was effectively pushing me to not have sex with him and he didn’t even know it. 

2 ½ years after we start dating, we move in together. 

The pressure mounts. Sometimes it felt like every night he was trying to initiate, and frankly I was scared. I wasn’t ready to have sex. I was afraid of the consequences. What if I got pregnant? What if I got sick? What if we don’t stay together like he’s promised? What if he hurts me?

I expressed to him that I just didn’t feel ready, and he lashed out at me- and every time I said no it got worse. It started with him going completely cold and not talking to me for the rest of the night. Then he started guilting me. Then he started yelling. Then he’d walk out of the apartment. 

Then he started hitting things around me. 

I want to be clear, he never laid his hands on me, just everything that was close to me. I was afraid of him. He made me feel like I wasn’t good enough if I wouldn’t have sex with him. He made me feel useless if I didn’t participate in oral sex. He made me feel worthless if I didn’t want to do anything at all. I was manipulated into feeling like I wasn’t anything if he didn’t see me as worth his time. I lost my voice. 

I didn’t know how to say no. 

I didn’t see a point. It seemed like if I said no, he would either get mad, giving the word a negative association for me, or he’d say “you’re just not in the mood” and continue anyway. My voice had no power. My no didn’t mean anything to him. And it continued right up until the relationship ended. Just getting worse and worse. He’d hit more things, he’d yell more. He’d grope me, touch me, try and force himself on me whenever I wasn’t giving in and he wouldn’t stop unless I physically shoved him off of me sometimes. It was a vicious cycle of manipulation and sexual assault and I had no idea. It was perpetual. It never stopped. And I was completely blind because I loved him so deeply. 

I lived in this cycle for 2 more years. 

The relationship ended after 4 ½ years on his terms. He dealt the final blow, leaving without so much as a word. Leaving only a note behind. I was broken…. shattered into a thousand pieces. And the worst part? He took my voice with him. I didn’t know how to say no to people. The strong-willed, vocal, beautiful person who had entered that relationship had died somewhere along the way. He stole her from me because he stole my voice. He stole my ability to say no. And I assumed it was okay. I assumed that I was in a relationship and he just knew what was okay. Maybe I just needed to get into it. Maybe I was worthless. Maybe I should just give in. 

Maybe I can’t say no. 

My resolve held enough that I never slept with him. My no was loud enough that I don’t think that ever happened. But anything and everything else did. I felt disgusting leaving that relationship… Like I had been violated. My trust, my body, and my voice had been violated and I didn’t even know. My consent was entirely disregarded. 

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they can’t say no. Regardless of how long you have been in a relationship, that person doesn’t know what’s best for you. Your body is yours and yours alone- and you don’t owe it to anyone. Your voice should always be enough.

Your no should always be enough. 

Always exercise self-awareness. Ask yourself, am I ready? Do I want to do this? If the answer to any important question you ask is no say no. Scream it if you have to. That should always be enough for your partner and if it isn’t… then you’re not with the right person. Always exercise caution. Make sure that you’re safe and you’re only doing what you want to do. Consent is like anything else in life, if the person doesn’t want it, don’t force them to take it.

If this article can help one person find their voice, then it has done its job. Remember- you ALWAYS have the right to say no. 

 

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