The "No means no" campaign is a great thing. It's about teaching men that when a woman says "no" it's time to stop. It's about real sexual consent.
But there's a problem with this campaign.
A frightened woman might not say "no". She might not say anything. She might not do anything. But that doesn't mean she's saying "yes".
When I was sexually assaulted it was completely unexpected. I was with a 'friend'. We were alone. We'd been laughing and joking and having a good night.
He told me he was interested in me and wanted to have sex. I was embarrassed and shocked because he'd been talking to me and my fiance (who had gone home) earlier on in the night. I didn't want to be blunt and hurt him by saying I was flat out not interested so I just said 'I love my fiance, I'm not going to cheat on him.'
We laughed it off and carried on our night.
That should have been enough right?
Later on he came on to me. Really came on to me. I thought he was going to give me a hug because I was about to leave. But he started kissing my neck and pulling my hair and rubbing his hands all over me.
I said nothing. I did nothing. I thought LOTS. But said nothing.
Thoughts like; 'is this really happening?' 'is he joking?' 'what's he doing?' 'why is he doing this?' 'what do I do?' surged through my head.
I froze. Panicking for a minute or so while he put his hands up my shorts. Eventually I stepped back and explained I should go.
He acted all embarrassed and apologised and I felt relief thinking 'maybe it was a misunderstanding'.
I'm not sure how it could have been considering the previous conversation!
I prepared to leave, but instead of opening the door for me (it was locked) he did it again! The same groping, kissing and pulling my hair. Again I froze, feeling more scared this time. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to react. 'should I hit him?' 'Do I run? I can't, the door is locked.'
Again I backed away. Saying I should go.
But he came at me again. '3 times?! I already backed off'. Maybe I SHOULD hit him? But what if he gets angry? He's probably stronger than me and I don't know how to fight. I've never hit anyone in my life. Oh my god what if this goes further? Am I in trouble here? I don't want to have sex. I don't want this to happen. I love my fiance, he knows this why is he doing this?'
All this time I'm doing nothing, saying nothing. I'm scared and I don't know what to do. Thankfully (if ever you can be thankful in this situation) it did not go further. I got out unhurt (physically anyway, the damage it did to my self esteem, my relationship and my trust in men lasted a long time but that's another article.)
It's easy to say that in this situation the victim should fight. I always used to think this. But when a man is bigger and stronger than you and has already shown a complete disregard for your bodily integrity, making him angry is the worst thing you could do, it could escalate to more than rape or assault into murder. Women definitely don't want to be raped, but we sure as hell don't want to be killed either. We're stuck between a rock and a hard place. The worst thing is if we don't fight we're often accused of wanting it but changing our minds and crying wolf.
So you see, "no means no" is not enough. Maybe he thought because I wasn't saying "no" that I could be persuaded? Maybe he didn't realise how scared I was. I'm not excusing him in any way. He was wrong. Very wrong. But "no means no" is not a clear message.
To any men reading this, unless she is reciprocating, kissing you back, putting her hands all over YOU, maybe you need to think about whether or not she really wants this?
Is she saying "YES"?! Because only "yes" means "YES".