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On Men Who Can’t Take No for an Answer

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is men who can’t take no for an answer. Men who continuously try to pursue women who’ve already rejected them, once or more. Men who continue chasing after women who may not have explicitly told them “no” re: starting a romantic relationship, but who have made it abundantly clear to them that they’re not interested. Those kinds of men.

Why has this subject surfaced to the top of my mind as of late, you might ask? Am I being courted (read: stalked, harassed) by some overly persistent man who won’t leave me the hell alone, no matter how many times I say no or tacitly express disinterest? Not me, per se. But in recent times, I’ve both witnessed and been told by various friends about men who won’t stop trying to win them over (read: wear them down) in response to their longstanding resistance to dating them. And it’s really gotten me thinking about consent, about feminism, about sexual politics, gender norms, social conditioning… About a lot of things.

All you really need to know for context is that two of my female friends had been chased after over the course of a few months by two respective men. In the first case, one of my friends was pursued by a fellow student with whom she happened to share some classes. He added her on social media, which was all fine and well, until he wouldn’t stop DMing her under the pretense of something related to their classes–and by “wouldn’t stop DMing her” I mean he’d send her multiple texts every single day. And then he’d try engaging in conversation with her during every class. She would engage with him during these occasions but very curtly, so as to indicate her lack of interest. Despite the implicit signals she sent him to leave her the f*ck alone, he began sitting next to her in class. She stopped responding to his texts as well; to be more precise, she wouldn’t open the texts, because she didn’t want to leave him on read and be rude, or hurt his feelings. (This is by no means a criticism of her, but a symptom of women’s social conditioning, but I’ll get to this later). He eventually took the hint and stopped talking to her, but only after months of him fruitlessly chasing after her. 

In the second case, my other friend was pursued by a guy who she also met through a shared class. They became friends, hung out often, texted, but it quickly became obvious that he sought a romantic relationship, which she did not want. She’s admitted that she didn’t really even enjoy hanging out with him, but she continued to do so because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He asked her out more than once, and she rejected him every time. She became less responsive to his texts and started hanging out with him less often, but he still continued pining after her.

By the way, this isn’t some kind of call-out or cancel post, if that’s what you were thinking or hoping for. I’m not here to tarnish anyone’s name or ruin their life. And besides, these accounts are probably so general, so universal, they could probably be about anyone, about yourself or someone you’ve met. You probably have your own stories; these probably are your stories. But I have some things to say about these kinds of relentless men who will stop at nothing to get a girl to go out with them, and I also have some things to say about the girls who entertain their advances, engage with them–tersely, hesitatingly–even when they have zero interest, so as to preserve their egos.

What I really wanted to tell my friends was to tell their unrequited lovers to respectfully f*ck off. I wanted them to cut off all contact with these men whose company they did not enjoy, who they did not even want to have as friends, much less as romantic partners. I wanted to tell them to reject them outright, to tell them firmly and boldly in no subtle language: “I am not interested, I will never be interested, you are making me uncomfortable, and I do not want any form of contact or relationship with you. Goodbye.” I wanted them to unashamedly leave these men on read, to block them on social media, to clearly say they didn’t want to hang out, to be rude in conversation with them, to completely ignore them. I didn’t want them to open the door to their lives to them in the first place; I wanted them to firmly shut it in their face at the very first advance.

But they couldn’t bring themselves to do this, and I don’t blame them, because women are conditioned to let men down easy, be gentle in their resistance, forgive the trampling-on of their boundaries and consent (or lack thereof), to be polite even when the circumstances warrant some rudeness. I wanted my friends to be so-called b*tches, because sometimes it’s necessary. But sometimes when you’re a b*tch who firmly rejects a man, you get attacked, beaten, raped, drugged, stabbed, run over, shot, stalked, harassed, or worst of all, killed. And this knowledge floats in the unconscious of every woman. So I understand why my friends acted the way they did. I really do. I’d probably behave the same way in their place.

And these men? I wish I could tell you these were seedy men that hung out on street corners to cat-call and harass women passing by. That they were the type of men who abused their significant others or who believed women had no other use than to birth children. But they weren’t. They were university-educated men who’d probably taken courses that included modules on feminism and women’s studies. I would even say they’re “nice guys.” But if these educated men couldn’t apply what they’d learned in the classroom to their real lives, what hope is there for those who hadn’t received similar lessons on consent and whatnot? These men were surely taught that “no means no,” that anything other than an enthusiastic “yes” means no. And yet, here they were chasing uninterested women, not even realizing they were playing into the patriarchy.

Sure, they’re not part of the tip of the iceberg of patriarchy, where you’ll find things like rape and murder, but surely they were somewhere in the lower levels of this iceberg, where you’ll find things like disregard for women’s boundaries, these sustaining the levels above. Maybe their fathers, and their grandfathers, and their grand-grand-fathers had won over their partners through persistence, and maybe this was once seen as romantic and heroic — classic romantic movies have shown us this! But what we considered persistence not too long ago is really just trespassing on women’s consent (or lack thereof), and it needs to stop. Curt replies mean no, avoiding you means no, and an actual no (or multiple no’s for that matter) means no, and an astounding number of men seem to not understand this.

On some level, I even pity these men, because their image of love is so warped that they think chasing after people who are not interested constitutes love, that love is some kind of challenge to be beat rather than an organic thing that just happens between two people who are right for each other. If there’s a guy out there reading this, I promise you there’s someone out there who is right for you, someone with whom you’ll have natural chemistry and with whom you won’t have to force a relationship. Your masculinity does not depend on whether you succeed or not at convincing someone to love you, and whoever or whatever made you believe that such a thing lied to you. The patriarchy hurts you just as it hurts me, and I hope one day you’ll be able to disentangle your sense of self-worth as a man and as a human being from “the chase,, from your romantic and sexual conquests. 

Originally, I wanted to write an article telling women not to be afraid to be a “b*tch” when a persistent man chases after them. But I can’t do that, because it could be dangerous for them. And anyway, it shouldn’t be up to women to find ways to work around men’s persistence; men should be the ones looking inwards and rooting out the social conditioning that makes them think it’s okay to continuously pursue women who clearly aren’t into them. But I guess all I want to tell women is to at least be inwardly critical of male persistence, to see it as a red flag when it comes up, to not brush it off in your mind like it’s nothing, because it’s not nothing. In fact, it’s everything–it’s the base of the iceberg. I’ve also come to understand that some men are really hurting inside, and because they’re hurting, they hurt others, unconsciously or not. I’ve come to understand that as much as persistent men fill me with a burning rage, maybe some level of empathy is called for, even if they don’t really deserve it. So, to the men reading this, aside from learning to respect women’s boundaries, I need you to learn to love yourselves. And find someone who loves you back, without any degree of forcing, convincing, or chasing.

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UWindsor '22