No Means No

Commonly used as a reference for sexual violence prevention, "no means no" covers more territory than rape awareness. Street harassment, any violation of one's personal space, or persistence beyond reason also ventures into this territory.

Last month, I gained a new understanding of "rape culture".  The incident itself was minor.  But the a-ha moment that followed will not be easily forgotten.  I was at a social gathering when a guy that I knew approached me.  He was a bit flirty.  I had other priorities to attend to, and didn't respond to his advances.  He persisted - even bringing his face close to mine with a "you know you want me" air about him.

His behavior didn't bother me immediately.  It wasn't until the next day that I became uncomfortable with the situation.  My body language expressed displeasure.  Failure to respond to those cues appropriately disrespected my rights as a person.  I tried to shake it off by telling myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing.  He's my friend, and probably didn't mean anything by it.  The sobering reality, though, is 2/3 of rapes are committed by people who know the victim. 

You might be wondering how I got to rape from a guy annoying me with his persistence.  Admittedly, I would have thought the same thing about a year ago. What bothered me was the lack of respect for my personal space after I made it clear that I did not want to engage him.  As I deliberated on the topic further, I recognized "won't take no for an answer" is part of rape culture.  Furthermore, I reflected on my own previous assertions on the topic.  In a previous post on singer Robin Thicke's music video for "Blurred Lines", I lambasted feminists for being too darned sensitive.  Yet Thicke's line "you know you want it" taunted me as I sorted through my emotions.  I was wrong.  And I get it now.

Another incident occurred last week that resurrected my desire to write this piece.  Walking from my building at work to the parking lot is a bit of a trek.  I was heading to my car when a gentleman walked past me and said, "You're beautiful."  I responded with a customary "thank you", and continued walking.  He asked for my name, to which I shook my head "no" and waved my hands back and forth (to give him a visual cue) letting him know that I wasn't interested.  He proceeded to walk toward me, and ask if I was married.

Leave.Me.Alone.Dammit.  I could not have been more clear. Again, I found myself annoyed at the lack of respect for me.  For all women.  Now, I don't mind receiving compliments from strangers.  Sometimes it serves as a confidence booster.  Compliments followed up by blatant harassment when I am obviously disinterested is problematic.  I challenge anyone reading this article to research and educate others on rape culture.  We all play a part in ensuring women are respected, and seen as equals in society.  Let's start the conversation with the basics: NO MEANS NO.

S/N: I talked to my friend about the incident, and how it made me feel.  He was very receptive to the feedback. 

For more statistics on rape in the United States, click here.

Christian Mingle

A little over a year ago, a friend of mine met someone special online.  She was absolutely giddy over her new romance.  They were engaged two months later.  As it turned out, she met him on Christian Mingle.

I had seen the commercials with couples blissfully recanting how they met online.  Even better, they knew ahead of time that they were equally yoked.  Because, well, they were Christian.  I had already sworn off online dating.  But online dating in the name of the lord was different, right?

Immediately I took a liking to Christian Mingle.  They closely monitored profile essays and photo submissions for appropriateness.  Some find that level of scrutiny stifling and overbearing. I liked it.  Being a Catholic schoolgirl, I could appreciate over-the-top structure (not while I was there, of course). 

A few weeks in, I noticed a category that I had not seen on other dating sites.  Users could display their preferences for the ethnicity of their ideal mate.  How DARE THEY call themselves a Christian website while promoting division amongst people who SHOULD be unified in their love for Christ.  My bible thumping finger might have been a little rusty, but that didn't seem right.  With race relations escalating all over the country, I am seeing many of my peers denouncing Christianity because of claims that it was used as an aid to oppress us for many years.  Could it be???

On the other hand, I saw the silver lining in their ignorance.  These guys were putting their prejudice on front street.  Seeing it out in the open like that prevented me from wasting my time.  Even so, it still disturbed me.

I needed to do some deep soul searching.  And searching of the soul I did.  Pain and confusion consumed me as I considered the possibility that the religion I grew up believing in wasn't meant for me at all.  It didn't help that I came across a forum where a "christian" woman was concerned that her daughter wanted to marry an "ethnic".  REALLY LADY??? What the hell is an ethnic?  Anyway, the commenters were just as stupid as she was.  One even suggesting that she forbid it because he knew of ethnics who preyed on young white women for the purpose of impregnating them and making light babies and if the babies' features weren't caucasian enough, they would beat the woman.  I couldn't. I can't. I won't.

As discouraging as the experience was, I came to a solid conclusion about my faith.  For all intents and purposes, the bible does not state any one race is above others.  In fact, Jesus teaches people to exercise love and kindness to all. Period.  I also recognized that with any religion, you have folks who will twist the teachings to fit their own selfish beliefs (jihad ring a bell).

I stopped using Christian Mingle after about a month, but had purchased a six month subscription (I was going to find my husband...okay).  When the subscription period ended, I contacted them via phone to cancel, and provide some feedback hoping they would take heed to what I had to say.  Unfortunately the woman who answered the phone had the personality of an overworked DMV clerk, and couldn't have cared less about my opinion. 

In the end, it all worked out the way it was supposed to.  Those weren't the kind of Christians I wanted to mingle with anyway.

Plenty of Fish in the Sea...

Yet none of them were for me!

Ahhh, Plenty of Fish (POF).  Many a laugh begins with just a mention of its name.  One lesson that using this site taught me was free is NOT always better.

Remember Taylor?  No?  Click his name to find out more.  He was only one of many that I met on POF.  Another memorable story was my bff's ex-boyfriend hitting on me.  Initially she and I thought he didn't remember me, and once we gently reminded him he would back off.  Wrong!  To add insult to injury, his brother also attempted to court me.  While I try not to make a habit of pinning doucebaggery on a whole clan of people, I couldn't help but imagine a few awkward holiday dinners in our future.  So I passed.

Pervs.  I cannot mention POF without giving pervs the honorable mention they deserve.  There were lots of them. LOTS.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand how someone can solicit sex from a total stranger online.  It shouldn't surprise me.  People have been soliciting sex from strangers since the beginning of time.  It is called the oldest profession, after all.  That doesn't stop me from shaking my head in disgust when I see it either on a profile or in my inbox.

Another gripe I had about POF were the profiles themselves.  Spelling and grammar are very important to me.  The misuse of homophones should be punishable by flogging in my opinion.  Okay, maybe it's not that bad.  But I really hate it.  POF was riddled with poorly written profiles.  Many of which espoused misogynistic views.  Oh, and a profile picture with money, drugs, or people making obscene gestures is an automatic "no".

On a positive note, Plenty of Fish gave me fodder for my blog as well as some great stories to tell over drinks with the girls.  Unfortunately, it didn't offer much more than that.  I've heard about other people becoming friends with men they met on the site. While I'm glad it yielded a level of success for them, I won't be logging in again anytime soon (read: never).