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On Learning to Respect Boundaries

by Erica Mones about a month ago in feminism

When a Woman Says No, She Means No

Boundaries. This word is used so often that some might mistake it for a meaningless buzzword--a form of virtue signaling. But boundaries are real, and important to respect.

As a 23-year-old woman, I use social media everyday. One of the pitfalls of social media is having men that I don't know ask me if I'm interested in dating them. I usually decline their offer politely. And then they ask if I have a boyfriend. "No, I don't." I say.

"So why won't you date me?"

To that, I have a two-fold response: "I'm not looking for a relationship" and "I don't know you." When most of these suiters hear that I'm not interested in a relationship, they ask why not, which they follow up with a barrage of intrusive questions like "You have trust issues?" "Are you a lesbian?", and perhaps the question I dread most, "You think I'm ugly?" I don't dread this question because I think the guy is ugly. I dread it because they expect a relationship from me, and when they don't get what they want, they demand answers. The problem with this is that I don't owe anyone answers for my choices, especially not someone I barely know.

This post may garner some responses that I'm "stuck-up" or one of those "annoying feminists" (which are both sexist tropes typically used against women). I am a feminist, some people may find me annoying, and I don't think of myself as stuck-up." I have boundaries and I expect them to be respected. When I tell someone I'm not interested in a relationship, I don't want them to beg, ask intrusive questions, take my response personally (and subsequently try to guilt me into dating them), or be the target of insults. I don't want them to wait around for me. I realize the world doesn't revolve around me, which is why I want them to find someone else.

I'm tired of people believing that I owe them a relationship. I'm tired of having to justify my choices and coddle their ego. Life is not a rom-com where the guy (or person of any gender) has to keep trying to get the person of their dreams. Doing this can be considered stalking. Overflowing inboxes and trying to pursue someone who's turned you down isn't romantic.

Growing up entails learning to respect boundaries and realizing that other people don't exist to please you. People exist in their own right.

I tend to believe that hounding women for answers as to why they won't date you is a product of the patriarchy. Boys are often raised with a sense of entitlement. They are taught, both through subliminal messages and in more overt ways, that if they like a woman, she can be theirs. We see this in movies constantly.

In Disney's Hercules, Meg initially rejects the titular character's advancements. But eventually, Hercules wins her over. This is just one example of a cultural hallmark that teaches boys that if a girl turns them down once, they can still win her over. But what about what the girl wants? She isn't some prize to be won. Women have desires and goals of their own. Men need to learn to respect this, and more importantly, respect women after they reject romantic or sexual advances.

In 2016, a high school student from Connecticut stabbed another student to death after she rejected his invitation to prom. This is an extreme example of a man not knowing how to respect boundaries, but this is in the back of my mind whenever I reject someone's advances. I shouldn't have to fear retaliation for saying no. No woman should have to fear that.

Erica Mones
Erica Mones
Read next: The State
Erica Mones

Bylines in The Progressive, PopSugar, Well + Good, New Mobility, Rooted in Rights, Audacity Magazine, and Cripple Magazine. Disability and mental health advocate.

See all posts by Erica Mones

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