Once upon a time, a guy told me I “didn’t say no” to his advances and then proceeded to cross boundaries I thought we would never get near that night. I felt powerless. I felt like I wasn’t heard.
I froze up. Fear took over and I lost my will and capability to fight because I had been saying no, over and over again, nearly the entire time we were together. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention. Maybe he didn’t care. Sure I never uttered the word “no,” but I said it with my body language and with plenty of other polite denials.
Women are conditioned to be “yes girls” and give men what they want. Men are conditioned to keep trying and trying until she gives in because if you want it, you deserve it. For girls, saying “No” can be terrifying.
Women get harassed, abused, and killed for it every day. Surely not every case is life or death, but there are enough life or death cases to make every girl think twice about how she responds to unwanted advances.
From what I can tell, a lot of people had sexual consent explained to them in simple terms via a popular video comparing having sex, to drinking tea. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend checking it out here.)
This video is brilliant and does an incredible job of explaining the basics of consent. If someone doesn’t want tea, don’t make them tea. If someone is unconscious, don’t make them tea. Never force anyone to drink your tea.
The video makes consent seem black and white, and it is, but apparently, it’s a little more gray to some people than it should be, so to help you out. In honor of April being sexual assault awareness month, I’m going to set the record straight: There are plenty more ways to say “No” than just saying it.
1. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
If your partner doesn’t think it’s a good idea, you need to stop.
This one should be obvious, but you’d be surprised.
3. Repetitive hesitation
If your partner seems really unsure about everything and hesitates over and over when you’re kissing or going further, you need to check in, slow down, and probably stop.
4. Pulling away
If they’re pushing your hands away, moving to put distance between you, and turning their head when you try to kiss them, the answer is no.
5. “I changed my mind.”
This is about as straightforward as it gets. They were into it, and now they’re not. That means you stop.
6. Changing the subject
If your partner starts commenting on the color of the bedspread or the pattern of the curtains while you’re making out, that means something is wrong. Stop.
7. Clear, visual discomfort
Avoiding eye contact, tense muscles, being jumpy, pulling away, expression of fear, uncertainty, or distress, etc. These all mean “no.”
8. “I don’t think I’m ready.”
If they’re not ready to go any farther, don’t go any farther.
9. “Not right now.”
Maybe later, maybe tomorrow, maybe never, but definitely not now.
10. “I don’t know.”
Your partner is shutting down. They don’t know how to respond or what to do. Stop until they can sort out everything they’re feeling.
No response means no.
12. Not responding
If kissing your partner starts to feel like kissing a brick wall, it’s time to stop.
13. “I don’t think I like that.”
This means stop.
14. “This is moving really fast.”
This means things have already gone farther than they expected and they want to stop.
15. “I’m tired.”
They may not be tired at all, but they don’t want to do anything physical, so the answer is no.
Basically, you should never have to convince someone to drink your tea. If you have to talk up your tea, tell someone how great it is and convince them that they want some, it’s highly likely that they do not want your tea.