How To Make Sure Your No Means N-O
Girls' Life magazine|February/March 2017

No means no, right? The news is filled with reports of women and girls who say their N-O was ignored. Here’s the truth about why guys get aggressive—and what you can do to stop them in their tracks.

Katie Abbondanza

Alexa R.*, 16, was at a party with a bunch of kids from school when a guy she didn’t know started flirting with her. Soon, he was wrapping his arms around her and staring down her shirt. She knew it wasn’t OK and told him to stop, but he didn’t listen. And when she told him she was heading home, he persuaded her to stay.

Alexa felt pressured not to make a big deal out of it to those around her, so she moved to another room in an effort to avoid the guy. He wound up finding her anyway and forced her to touch him in ways that made her really uncomfortable—even though she said no.

As terrible as it sounds, Alexa is not alone. Stories of sexual harassment have dominated the national conversation since fall and drawn attention to a problem that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says affects one in four girls under the age of 18: sexual violence.

What is sexual violence? Many think of a horrific crime like rape, but the scope is broader than that. Sexual violence isn’t just unwanted sexual contact (like someone kissing or touching you without your consent)—sexual violence also is someone saying something sexual you don’t want to hear or sending you or showing you images you don’t want to see. It also can be verbal threats or intimidation: “If you loved me, you would do this…”

Our own study of GL girls revealed that about half of them had been in a situation with a guy in which he wanted to do something physical, but she didn’t want to go along with it.

While most of the guys stopped as soon as they heard no, 32 percent of girls reported having their pleas ignored. And lots of girls have learned the hard way that unwanted touching or attention doesn’t just come from random creepy guys on the dance floor or BFs who want to take the relationship to the next level.

Take Maggie L., 17, who was hanging out with her BGF one night when things started to get weird. She was sharing a chair with him as they played a board game, but she didn’t think much of it—the two spent a ton of time together and were often affectionate.

But the next thing she knew, he was rubbing her inner thigh, and she could tell he wasn’t going to stop there. She felt scared, but took a deep breath and calmly told him no.

“It made me really uncomfortable how fast he was going—we weren’t even dating,” she shares. It didn’t seem like he was going to listen to her, so Maggie decided to leave. It was a tough decision to make, but ultimately it was the right one—even though it made her reconsider their friendship. She thought they were best friends, but “his actions proved that he actually didn’t care about or respect me,” Maggie reveals.

So why are seemingly sweet guys—maybe even the same boys you’ve been friends with for years—suddenly getting pushy with you? Blame a complicated mix of basic human evolution, biology (hello, hormones) and social pressure.

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