The Power of the Word "No"

 

I didn’t recall inviting him to put his arm around me

Much less for him to slide his hands along my thighs

station his palms over my hips

tease my chin and my neck with the tips of his fingers and lips

 

as I cringed and cowered like a sensitive seismonastic flower

I tried to push him away

With a barrage of livid vernacular as well as a frenzied grip upon those encroaching wrists he simply

Laughed

Told me I was just being 

Innocent

Adorable

Shy

 

And it shocked me how repulsed I was by every single syllable

 

The only possible reason for me to reject him

wasn’t because I didn’t like him

Or because he was coming on too strong

Or because he was at fault in any way at all

 

No

 

The only reason I could possibly ever turn down his advances

Was because I was

Innocent

Adorable

Or shy.

 

At the time I didn’t dare argue with him further

Because I knew all that would elicit is ridicule and slandering instead of apologies and profound regret

For fear of being labeled “over-sensitive”, a freak,

or their favorite,

A bitch

 

When they asked me in elementary school what I wanted to be when I grew up

I didn’t occur to me that I would only have those three unspoken options.

 

As we talked it became more evident that he genuinely saw nothing wrong in commanding physical retribution when it was apparent I did not want to grant it

He truthfully could not fathom the idea of being turned away because his target felt entitled to her own body not because she was simply too bashful

He didn’t understand that women shouldn’t have to feel obligation as if they owe him something for his counterfeit kindness towards them,

that women are more than just creatures fashioned to gratify him

when you pull the right strings

 

And he’s not alone

So many individuals have been raised the same way

With absolutely no comprehension that any girl actually has

the authority

to decide for herself

 

He told me he was disappointed

That he wasn’t going to hurt me

That I was beautiful

That I should trust him

And a wealth of other adages worn thread bare and routine to coax me into satiating his carnal demands

 

He said to relax

He moved his hands to a respectable location on my body

Smiled and said I didn’t have to be so tense

 

The one thing he didn’t do was actually back off.

 

I didn’t realize that at some point in time

My “no”

had stopped meaning “no”

 

There are both men and women reading or listening to this right now

With utterly no conception of the fury and dismay I feel

How appalled I am by the way today’s youths have been cultured to operate

Disgusted by the behavior society condones

And even more so by what it actively preaches

 

Up until personal experiences like this one became commonplace

I would have rolled my eyes upon reading the title of this poem

Just like them

Like him

 

I pray these statements are not interpreted as contemptuous

Or clumped with other feminist “prose” or should I say “whining” and cast aside with vexation

My goal is not to antagonize men or any subgroup of the populace they are not solely to blame

Or force concepts of gender equality upon anyone who chooses to ignore the fact that such a thing still does not exist

 

I was just told that here I could speak my mind

 

Truthfully I had never even considered myself any sort of feminist.

Even now, I’m not entirely sure I do

 

A feminist sounds like someone who would burn lingerie at a women’s rights march

Jab voodoo needles into crudely crafted miniature replicas of men condemning their objectification of other human beings

Retaliate with a bitter diatribe when the word “guys” is used to colloquially address a group that includes females

And blaming them when we know their insolences were learned and when we should be challenging the silence and acceptance of their conduct instead

 

I don’t exactly fit the former picture. 

 

But I do believe in choice

I believe in autonomy

I believe in the power of the word “no”

That’s all

 

I really and truly just believe

that everyone has the right to those ideals

 

 

I guess I’m just disappointed

 

that there seem to be so many others

 

who no longer do.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Grant-Grey Porter Hawk Guda

Powerful expression! 

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