Saying no and meaning it

Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

Elementary and high school taught most of us to expect what is referred to as “peer pressure.” This intimidating type of behavior can be defined as a hijacking of morals and a type of blatant coercion.

As we have grown into the post-secondary world of academia, peer pressure has extended past a simple drag of a cigarette or the idea that one day our friends might convince us to try heroine.

In fact, I’d argue that the biggest, most terrifying type of this pressure has become synonymous with sexuality: sexual coercion.

I’m a feminist, meaning I believe in the equality of gender. However, I don’t wear buttons or rally in my free time; I don’t advocate women’s rights to an extent that shadows the rights of men.

I am cautious when it comes to feminism; perhaps the overzealous feminists of extremist magnitudes have diluted my conceptualization of the relatively new term, “rape culture,” the amalgamation of sexual violence and subsequent cultural outlooks.

Similar to my fear-induced education about drugs and peer pressure, I was warned of the brutality of rape early on. It’s a vague term and means so much more than a woman being attacked then forced into sex by her male counterpart. The reality is, it is messy and difficult to define.

Sometimes women seem consensual, sometimes a yes actually means no and sometimes men are victims, too. It encapsulates a wide range of meanings as well as interpretations.

While I am by no means an expert, I am a woman and a student at a university where sexual coercion propels this notion of rape culture forward. Sexual coercion, in its simplest form, is to propose that men will stop at nothing to overcome a woman’s resistance: no means no, until no turns in a weak yes —a resistant yes.

Alternatively, there are situations where men find themselves in at a woman’s disposal, where a no also warps into consent. For the sake of this article, the action is carried by men while the burden is thrown onto women, as I feel my own womanist behaviours (supposed passivity and probable emotional depth) are what make this type of coercion seamless.

I believe it’s happening at many universities, and whether I share your viewpoint or not, the message is one that cannot be ignored.

Regardless of your gender, it is both perfectly acceptable and okay to tell someone no and to mean it.


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