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A Letter To Proud Men Who Think "No" Means "Yes"

Dear proud men who have taken a woman's "No" to sexual activity, touching, or intercourse as a "Yes" instead of respecting her wishes; to men who have taken advantage of an intoxicated or blacked-out girl instead of putting her in a cab or letting her sleep it off in peace -- you have, or may have, potentially raped a woman.

For the men (or women) who are about to attack this on the grounds that this is a sexist, neurotic feminist agenda, that verbally asking consent for each step you proceed to with a woman is useless and stupid, and that women don't really know what they want -- "No" always means "No," unless it is a "Yes."

I write this in response to a disturbing article (whose author also says that girls with short hair are damaged and that traditional gender roles need to be re-enforced) and how-to piece on how to rape women, or, as the guy puts it nicely, read a woman's body language and sexually attack her even if she says "No."

This got me thinking about all the conversations I've heard between men while walking down the street late at night, or standing in line while getting my morning coffee, or mid-day when I'm headed back home after class. "She wants it, man," or "Just shut her up and bend her over in the bathroom stall," or, "That girl is a bitch, make her take it." I hear this especially by young men who go to a university known for its academic excellence. Men who are supposed to be educated.

I've seen young girls roofied, and hysterical because they were terrified of the loss of control they experienced when the drugs moved through their bodies, and know friends who have seen drugged girls taken by a pimp who is about to sell her for sex. I know dozens of beautiful young women who have been raped or sexually assaulted, including myself, and it is something that will always haunt us.

Experiencing and witnessing these distressing situations, it comes as no surprise that this man's proudness of how he "barrels through women's resistance" (even having the nerve to say that it takes an experienced man to know how to get past a woman's "No") is infuriating to me. And I think it comes down to two things: a desperate need by some men to re-assert their masculinity and machismo, and a belief that women don't really know what they want when it comes to sex.

But I'd like to boil it down to the first issue, because really, this has nothing to do with women; it has to do with what makes a "man."

A real man doesn't need to desperately grasp at a woman's closed legs to feel like he has control. He doesn't try and touch her with different strokes, kiss her neck, or try and blow her up with compliments to make her change her "No" to a "Yes" as if she's naïve and senseless. A real man lets a woman sleep when she says she's tired, and doesn't dare nag or guilt her into unprotected sex. A real man doesn't dare use the "blue balls" excuse, because deep down he knows he can handle that on his own (and he knows that she already knows how to handle the "blue balls" excuse from the advice column in Cosmo or Seventeen Magazine). A real man tucks his drunk woman into bed when he is sober, because he refuses to take advantage of her. A real man isn't greedy or selfish. A real man doesn't sleep with lots of women just to assert himself as masculine, and he certainly doesn't view all his sexual relationships as a "dominant/submissive" song-and-dance.

A real man respects a woman's mind, and knows that when she says "No," it's not up to him to change that.

A real man doesn't need to use force, manipulation, or scare tactics to get a woman to sleep with him.

A real man isn't afraid of not being masculine enough.

A real man doesn't post a how-to on raping women.

I can say this with confidence, because, like many women out there, we have met these real men. They treat us well, and they fight for our honour. Some of them are even feminists. They exist, and they terrify and intimidate the men who have made it their life mission to hate women. They terrify them because these real men don't hate women, and it pays off gloriously. For men who treat women in a disposable manner, what they don't know is that masculinity is a social construction that they seek so badly to re-assert. When real men treat women like queens, they re-shape how we view masculinity, and re-create it. They aren't "masculine" -- they're "men."

While some women do say "No" in a coy, teasing manner (and I think this is what some men use in order to "prove" that women don't know what they want). It is not an excuse to go barreling through her. Ask her if it is really a "No." Yes, it sounds ridiculous. Yes, it may kill the mood. But most intelligent men, along with a verbal, consensual "Yes," can affirm it by a woman's body language and facial expressions. Sometimes women may say "No," or even "Yes," yet their body language may express fear, intimidation, or distress. In this case as well, that "Yes" doesn't always mean "Yes," and neither does silence. You need to ask -- because everybody knows that proceeding on these grounds is wrong. Some men still do it.

I know there will be people arguing back, saying that women can rape men as well. I agree. People will say that women make false accusations of rape -- but I have to say that only some women do, and they make it difficult for the women who have been raped to come forward or be believed. But we should not take these exceptions and apply them to all women.

Overall, we have to consider, that like race, there are certain factors that contribute to how deeply oppressive gender can be, and there is significantly more abuse and rape done to women by men. There are more repressive and illogical histories of violence and rape, as well as the creation of gender hierarchies and assignments of gender roles based on religious creation stories and teachings; forced ways of life the British colonists imposed on the colonized people about gender, sex, and marriage; policies and laws about women's rights and reproductive rights made by male politicians and based on "The Reasonable Man" model, and centuries of positivist scientific and psychiatric research purposely aiming to subordinate and infantilize women, regardless of accuracy.

So my last plea to the proud men out there who think controlling, abusing, objectifying, and raping women is hilarious and acceptable: this does not make you a man. You do not get a gold medal for keeping masculinity alive. Stop what you are doing now. And if you'd rather not stop, and prefer to brag like the individual who thought posting about it would make him look real masculine, I've got news for you: maybe you ought to learn from real men and the women who love them, because these days, masculinity doesn't mean shit.

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