By Suzy Gilbert
Ever been on that date that just isn’t going well? Maybe the person is kind of aggressive, or creepy. Maybe they’re not as cute as their pictures looked on Tinder. Maybe they’re rude to the server. Maybe they just talk weird and are looking at you funny and you have that weird “no feeling” inside you.
Ever had a boss or co-worker be a little too touchy? Maybe trying to give unwanted hugs, or putting a hand a little too low on your back? Giving unsolicited “stress relief” shoulder massages? Offers for drinks or dinner that you feel obligated to say yes to?
Ever have a stranger, relative, acquaintance been a little too pushy with conversation or physical contact? Asking something of you that you don’t want to give?
The instinct is to want to be polite, to come up with some sort of excuse not to, to actively avoid these situations instead of saying what we really think and to say no.
I’m completely guilty of acting this way. If I’m on a date and I don’t like the person and want to leave, I often make up some excuse, my favourite being, “my stomach is bothering me, I think I should go home.” This is my favourite excuse because it could mean anything, and I also really do often have stomach problems. But, ironically, never when I actually need to get out of something.
So, you’re wondering, what’s the perfect way of saying no? Of being polite and nice while letting someone down?
Let me fill you in on a secret.
There is no art of saying no. You just say no. You say, “sorry, I don’t want to hug/touch/kiss/have sex with you.” You just let them know that you’re not interested.
The “no feeling” you get inside when someone tries to talk to you is there for a reason. It’s your instincts telling you something isn’t right. Maybe nothing will happen if you ignore that feeling, but it’s there to help you. It’s telling you that you’re not comfortable and that you don’t feel totally safe. Listen to this feeling and leave the situation by saying or doing whatever you need to.
It is so simple! But it is also so hard to do. It’s hard to become more direct in communicating what we want, but it is so, so necessary. Of course, on the other end of things, the other person needs to be receptive to what you are saying and respect your wishes. But the first step is in communicating how we feel and what we want.
As women, we are conditioned as children to always be polite, to smile sweetly, to be agreeable, to avoid conflict, to do what’s asked of us, and that our bodies are symbols of sex.
The patriarchy pushes these “values” on us as girls and as young women coming into our own. This is wrong and we need to challenge this. We do not owe anything to anyone.
You’re not being rude or impolite to tell someone no. You’re setting boundaries for yourself, respecting yourself and listening to your instincts.
So, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for sticking up for yourself. And for the love of all that is good in this world, say no if you’re uncomfortable!
If someone has forced you into something you don’t want to do, please talk to a loved one or councillor about the situation and figure a way out to keep yourself safe. The together website (togetherwpg.com) has a list of resources if you need help.
Also, please remember that no matter what, it is NEVER someone’s fault if they are sexually harassed or assaulted.
Suzy Gilbert is finishing her last term at Red River College in the Creative Communications program and is the founder of Together, an awareness campaign promoting consensual sexual experiences through respect, communication and sex positivity. Together strives to support and educate young people about safe and healthy sexual relationships and consent culture. You can find Together on Instagram at @togetherwpg, on Facebook at Together Winnipeg and on its website at togetherwpg.ca.