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Got me in your sights? Don’t be surprised if I shoot you down.

February 25, 2013

“I played ding-dong-ditch with his mother’s silver,” my long-standing friend told me of her ex-boyfriend. She hoped that he’d come to the door, see her running away, and chase after her in a classic desperate, rom-com gesture. We were discussing how we’d tied up loose ends, with her having to give back his mother’s silver that she was supposed to sell but hadn’t while they were together.

I, in contrast, don’t live in the same state as my ex. I threw the things he’d left in a box, sealed it maliciously with duct tape, and took it down to the post office. Priority Mail and ground shipping cost the same amount. “Send it via Pluto, for all I care,” I sniffed at the poor cashier. She went with Priority Mail.

My friend was disappointed that her ex failed to come to the door, or, if he had made it that far, neglected to run out after her. I was disappointed–actually, that’s the wrong word. Pissed as all hell–when my ex wrote me an email explaining that he got my package and that he had shipped off some of my miscellaneous items that had accidentally made the journey to his new apartment. Innocuous enough, but I had to delete it for fear of overreacting. “I would have figured out that you sent a package when it got to me,” I yelled in my mind. “What the fuck makes you think I want to talk to you by email or any other medium?”

See, I don’t deal too well with pursuit. As far as I was concerned, I’d established no-contact rules with my ex after he moved his stuff out of my apartment without my permission. I’m not interested in any gesture from him, grand or trifling, that would give him grounds to think he was worming his way back into my heart.

I get even crankier with guys who are too pushy. I’ve refused to buy items that I needed from salesmen who were forcing the product down my throat, even if they were preaching to the choir about said product’s awesomeness. I’ve discontinued business relationships with men who were too imperious or demanding. And romantically, men I’ve been involved with who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer tended to wish they had when I either insulted their manhood or spit in their faces.

I understand that in spite of our supposedly post-feminist society, men are supposed to be aggressive, macho, alpha-male hunters, wooing the ladies with a combination of sharp wits and sheer persistence. And given women’s magazines’ advice to not show too much interest in order to make a guy think you’re elusive prey, the hunter-hunted dynamic persists even in our “enlightened” dating and mating rituals.

Unfortunately for me, this also means that men have been conditioned to take “no” as a challenge. All a guy has to do to go from zero to hero in a woman’s eyes is to just keep trying harder and harder, drowning out her objections until she has no choice but to be bowled over, swept up either by an overwhelming sense of lust or defeat–I can’t honestly tell which one.

This is an idea that gets reinforced consistently in popular movies and songs. One irritatingly catchy ditty that seems to get a ton of airplay right now is the Lumineers’ “Stubborn Love“. Of all the lines that get under my skin (and there are plenty. “It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all”? I call bullshit on that one), the dramatic, “Pay attention now, I’m standing on your porch screaming out/ And I won’t leave until you come downstairs,” grates on my nerves no end.

I’ve been in that situation. A man who couldn’t get over his infatuation with me once said he would sit down in my driveway until I came out and talked about his feelings (which were already well known to me) with me. I let it slip to our mutual friend that if he actually did that, I planned to back out of said driveway at 60 miles an hour and willingly take the costs of a new paint job if he couldn’t duck for cover in time.

It’s hard to blame men for the continuation of this attitude. I’ve known more than a few women who would say no to a kiss or a late-night hook-up with enough giggling and batted eyelashes, enough that I’d probably be conditioned to take “no” for “definitely maybe yes, if you keep buttering me up” if I were in their shoes. But it makes it damned hard for women like me who see no as unequivocal and insurmountable. To me, the word is not a tool to make a man work harder for my affections. I don’t want to be desired. I want to be respected.

I’ll work on earning that respect from the general populace after I weigh the pros and cons of an out-of-state road trip to play ding-dong-ditch with my ex. The traditional game that involves flaming dog crap.


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  1. I appreciate your insight on this. It’s too common for “feminists” to claim that “No, means no.” Yet, the don’t tend to understand the conditions in which we men have to operate in the dating word. No, depending on the context, really means “Yes.” How many times has a girl told me “We’re NOT going to do *sexual thing*” and with my smooth talk and persistance, that’s exactly what we are doing a few minutes later. Though, it doesn’t give men the right to act like little bitches. The guy you spoke about who wanted to sit in your driveway, that’s a total bitch move. I have no respect for that. I say try, and maybe try a couple more time, but when you’re not getting anywhere, move on.

    • I think one attempt is enough, personally. Although I can’t totally fault you for pressing forward–the fact that you’ve “convinced” women to do things they claimed they didn’t want to is symptomatic, in my mind, of the fact that society still treats women like sluts if they agree to sexual acts too easily. There does need to be a corollary; I’m starting to think we need to learn to start saying “Yes!” outright so that “no” has more meaning.

  2. We sure did go through a lot of work with our “no means no” campaigning for pretty much absolutely nothing to change.

    • Aggravating, isn’t it? I know there’s still a whole morass of societal crap that would have to be systematically dismantled in order to get to the point where women could flat-out say, “Yes!” without being perceived as sluts (don’t get me started on that one), and until that day comes, men are going to continue to assume that “no” means “yes, after I work really, really hard.” The whole set-up frustrates me no end.

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