After You Say “No”


“All she had to do was say, ‘No.'”

Ah, Elevatorgate, Rebeccapocalypse, Insert-Your-Favorite-Name-Here. It’s only fitting that USA Today writes a story about you well after you are news to any of us. You are timeless, eternal. You are, in fact, iconic. You contain all the elements of every interaction of this type. This is why, almost three months later, so many people are still trying to say you never happened or didn’t happen the way Rebecca claimed or…uh…squirrels! Over there! (Word to the wise, guys: calling “squirrel” months later, when everybody else has gotten back to work is not a distraction.)

Another of these iconic interactions just happened. This time, however, instead of a video, we have screen captures of the whole thing.

It’s an interesting thing, being a lady on the internet. It is a really great, supportive place to find folks to cheer you on, to have great conversations, and to form communities. On the other hand, people sometimes feel really goddamn entitled to your time/attention/sexuality, just ’cause. This is the (hopefully understandable) reason I sometimes ask that conversations stay in the public realm on Twitter, hesitate to give out my email/personal details, and generally give guys (even ones who have not given me any provocation) the side-eye when they ask about taking an internet conversation private. In my experience conversations like the one reproduced below are much rarer when the entire internet can see.

I want to be clear about something: this post isn’t directed at the sort of person you’re going to meet in a minute. If you find yourself in conversations like these, where your conversational partner is reacting like I did, I really hope you take something from this, but you aren’t who I’m talking to here. This post is for everyone who has told me that if I were just clearer about my boundaries that guys would back off or that women just aren’t clear enough about expressing their discomfort.

It’s all there. The blatant, ignored “No.” Taking the conversation out of public eyes. The “interest” in her work that is entirely trumped by the come-on. The idea that a hint of sexuality, once public, trumps a woman’s preference to not be sexual in a particular context, unironically paired with the accusations of prudery. The idea that the unwelcome come-on from a stranger would be welcome from an attractive stranger. The persistence long after any conversation is over. The desperate need to be validated as a non-awful human being. The instant hostility for a woman he claimed to admire. The accusations of unearned pride and manufactured outrage. Identifying a woman with her genitalia as an insult. The claim that it’s all the woman’s fault.

Every. Last. Bit. The entire shit-storm that swirled up because Rebecca dared to make a video encapsulated in one blog post. Right there, captured 140 characters at a time. So how do they claim it never happened that way this time?

Comments

  1. raymoscow says

    I expect most women have had the same experience, many times. At least this time it was just over the web, but the jerk probably pulls the same shit in person.

    Even as a guy, I’ve seen guys act this way. I think the claim that this behaviour is rare, as apparently some claim, is very naive.

  2. Pteryxx says

    The title really says it all. Everything that follows, wouldn’t, if “no” were really taken as acceptable, believeable, respectable… a real option.

  3. jose says

    Sorry but the creeper made me laugh. Hey you read Blake? He was very open sexually. How sexually open are you? Oh and by the way I want to be a father. Are you taken already?

    Yeah man, women fall for that every time.

  4. julian says

    So how do they claim it never happened that way this time?

    Because atheists are never sexist. Ever. And you don’t understand what it’s like to be awkward and stuff.

  5. Bryan says

    The guy failed awkwardly at seduction / flirtation and then became a complete ass after it was clear his persistence wouldn’t pay off.

    I’m not defending his behavior, but is it really misogyny?

    One arena where women have most all the power is mate selection. It’s clear who’s in charge of that decision throughout this conversation.

    He reacted to rejection by showing his true asshole self. But if he’s a consistent asshole across other examples of rejection (a job, e.g.)then I don’t think this exemplifies misogyny.

    He didn’t make any comments about women in general, just this one specifically.

    Perhaps the point’s too subtle, I dunno.

  6. says

    Bryan, you building out of straw again? I could build an argument that this is indeed misogyny, but right now, I’m more interested in why you feel the need to argue that it isn’t and whom you’re arguing against.

  7. athyco says

    You’re the Bryan who asked on the anotherfeministblog post if she’s free for coffee because she “broke up” with the Twitter dude (WordPress quilt design). Ain’t you cute?

    Tell you what. I’ll give you a hint to help out that you “[d]on’t see how it’s straw.” Read this post and comments again. Go back and read the anotherfeministblog post and comments again. Count the number of times you see the word “misogyny.”

  8. Bryan says

    I did re coffee, and I respect her apparent rejection.

    Not trying to win an argument, just making conversation, assuming that’s o.k. (taking breaks from busy work; looking for an internet place to hang out. If I’m not welcome, lemme know).

    I don’t know where I got misogyny from– point taken.

    Is it even sexism, though?

  9. says

    This is, in fact, Dr. Bryan Pesta of Cleveland State University (last I knew, anyway), who is also gung ho about researching links between race and IQ. Bryan, do you also only respect your students’ wishes after repeated “no”s?

  10. Bryan says

    Oh, the misogyny thing came from comments in PZs blog, sorry about that.

    I’ve never harassed– sexually or otherwise– a student.

  11. Bryan says

    Stephanie:

    My coffee comment was harassing?

    Greg:

    I was thinking battle of the sexes / selfish gene. What’s the meaning behind “x blog”?

    Jason:

    How am I trolling?

    Tell me to go away, I will. Seems like you could use readers though.

    B

  12. Nice Ogress says

    Oh, this all looks SO familiar.

    I play World of Warcraft. I was, for several years, ‘out’ as a female player who played a female ‘toon and therefore got to see this sort of appalling social meltdown on a regular basis.

    (Regrettably, a VERY regular basis.)

    What I find fascinating about this and the many, many similar conversations that I’ve seen/endured personally is the mental ‘reset’ button.

    Watch. You can see him doing it.

    To use a gamer analogy, once he gets the first ‘no’, it’s like he’s trying to restore a previous save-game or something. He carefully rewinds the conversation to the last nonoffensive thing he said, apologizes – AND THEN SAYS THE EXACT SAME STUPID THING. AGAIN. As if, magically, you will have forgotten he was a moron 30 seconds ago.

    Over and over. Like you’re a puzzle to be solved, and if he can just mash the right combination of buttons in the time provided, he’ll get the ‘prize’.

    And then, when you shut him down again, he acts all surprised, like he totally doesn’t understand why you are not changing to suit his whim. It’s horrific and hilarious at the same time.

    These guys – They don’t think we’re people. They think we’re goldfish.

    Alternate Hypothesis: perhaps they are assuming that by closing their eyes, mustering their thoughts, and then typing in a ‘lol im sorry u were ofended’, they will have, THROUGH THE POWER OF THEIR MIND ALONE, TRANSFORMED YOU into a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CUTE GIRL, one with whom they have ‘made no mistakes’.

    Now that’s some amazing self-delusion.

    (note that this post has pronoun trouble, for which I apologize. it reads funny if I try to juggle tenses to make it clearer, but I’m speaking generally. My language-fu is weak.)

  13. Daniel Schealler says

    @Bryan

    One arena where women have most all the power is mate selection.

    We shouldn’t be so sure about that.

    For a start, when the men I know go out looking for women, they certainly do exercise ‘selection’ over which women they pursue.

    Additionally, sometimes the women I know do the pursuing themselves. This puts the men in the position to do the ‘selecting’ from the role of the pursued. The men don’t always say yes.

    Men and women getting together sexually is a two-way street. There’s selection happening on both ends.

    I don’t see an easy way of deciding who always has the upper hand in this regard. Particularly when you toss common cultural expectations of sexual behavior into the mix.

  14. julian says

    @Nice Ogress

    I think a big part of it is that to many people, the right to pursue sex anywhere and with anyone is nonnegotiable. Which would generally be fine except many of them also believe everything is inbound when it comes to acquiring the lusted after sex bits and if a method can be argued to have worked for some we have no business criticizing it regardless of how inappropriate, rude or obnoxious it might be.

    Using ‘sexist’ around these people also instantly results in you having to prove the offender hates any and all women and that they were consciously saying to themselves ‘I don’t care how this bitch feels. I want her cunt.’ Failure means you are irrational and should be ignored.

  15. says

    Nice Ogress, you’re coming through loud and clear. Excellent observation.

    Bryan, I asked you whether you treated your students the way you treated this woman. You said you’ve never harassed one. Either you weren’t answering my question, or you understand that your behavior (continuing to pester a woman who has already said she’s not interested) is harassment, even if it isn’t legally actionable when you’re not holding grades over her head. It’s really that simple.

  16. Bryan says

    To Daniel: I modified my statement with the word “most” all the power… I do think there are exceptions, but I submit it’s the lady that typically decides on whether there is a first date.

    To Stephanie: I made one comment on her blog– I thought it was semi funny. Apparently, you think it was harassment.

    I don’t think the human sex drive will ever wane to the point where men stop “harassing” ladies. I do think the proper way to interpret this stuff is the way the courts do for sexual harassment:

    1. It should be objectively offensive to a reasonable person in the same environment as the victim (in this case, the last paste of DWB’s tweets meet the standard).

    2. It should be harassment because of one’s sex (versus some other, non-protected class. In this case, the harassment seems clearly sex based).

    3. It should be so severe or pervasive, it poisons the work (here twitter?) environment. I think the case fails on this prong. She could have blocked him / stopped replying at any point. And going forward, I doubt her twitter experience will suffer because of her experience with this dude.

    So flirtation sometimes becomes harassment and harassment sometimes becomes illegal harassment. But, there are shades of grey.

    With your fixation on how I treat my students, I think you’re talking more about quid pro quo than hostile environment harassment. I do try not to shit where I eat.

  17. julian says

    She could have blocked him / stopped replying at any point.

    Of course.

    An obnoxious man harasses a woman online and she’s the one held responsible for the situation.

    You’re an ass, sir.

    I do try not to shit where I eat.

    So you don’t respect your students because you actually respect them but because you fear legal repercussions. Good to know.

    Actually no it isn’t.

  18. says

    You know, Bryan, I completely get that you think it’s funny to ask a woman who is complaining about being hit on whether she wants to go out. I’m also thoroughly aware that thinking this depends on failing to put yourself in her place for even the tiniest fraction of a second. That you don’t understand this explains why you would say, “flirtation sometimes becomes harassment.” It doesn’t. Flirting is something mutual done for the enjoyment of both parties. If one party doesn’t enjoy it, it isn’t flirtation.

    You decided a woman who didn’t want something actually did want it because you thought it was funny. She’d already said, “No,” and you just kept on because it was what you wanted to do. You took a post complaining about assholes and added one more asshole to it.

  19. Daniel Schealler says

    @Bryan

    I modified my statement with the word “most” all the power… I do think there are exceptions, but I submit it’s the lady that typically decides on whether there is a first date.

    Did… Did you even read my post?

    I went out of my way to not Huge Wall of Text you – but you didn’t address any of my points. You just re-asserted your original position as if I hadn’t said anything.

    I am not quibbling on some distinction between ‘always’ and ‘most’. I’m directly challenging the ‘most’ part.

    It could be true that on average women exercise more selective pressure than men. I’m not invested in the outcome of that question one way or the other, so I’m open to this possibility.

    However, that conclusion isn’t obviously true. At least – it is not obviously true to me.

    There are complicating factors:

    1) When men do the chasing, they ‘select’ which women to chase

    2) Sometimes women do the chasing

    3) Usually, the acts of ‘pursuer’ and ‘pursued’ are contrived constructs – in reality the pursuer and pursued will be giving off subtle cues of encouragement throughout the process

    4) Culturally, men are socially rewarded for promiscuity when women are socially punished – so claiming that women exercise selection simply because they say ‘no’ more often could just be a rehearsal of cultural prejudice

    5) Probably more stuff that I haven’t thought of – I’m sure qualified experts could come up with more problems with the hypothesis

    So… Yeah.

    It might be true. But we shouldn’t be so sure about that.

  20. Daniel Schealler says

    @Bob

    You forgot to modify your statement with the word ‘some’. Some of Rebecca’s supporters try to demonize.

    Also: ‘Those who see through her’? What is it exactly about Rebecca’s position that you feel is so transparent?

    (Look! I’m a Rebecca supporter and didn’t pretend you had horns!)

  21. says

    Bob, demonize? Whom has been demonized in this post and how? Are you saying the behavior I described didn’t happen? Are you saying that people who “see through” Rebecca are justified in treating her this way? What exactly is your objection here, aside from Rebecca’s continued existence?

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