Haven’t we all heard that phrase, especially as women, plenty in our lives? When a woman says “no” to sexual advances, it means NO, plain and simple. If you cannot get that through your thick skull then expect a well deserved black eye. I have given a few in my 53 years when “NO” was not honored. When I read media coverage of sexual assault cases against women, I still read “well, she really meant yes.” No she didn't, you idiot. We said NO and if you are suddenly deaf that is your only restitution.
This is a charged topic for me because I have friends who were victims of sexual assault and it breaks my heart that any women, or any human being, is not heard or honored when they chose to decline sexual advances. The recent well publicized events in India, against women, are horrifying. What has our society become where still, no matter what part of the world, a man gets to dictate how to treat a woman?
On multiple occasions throughout my professional career and at networking functions I am approached by a male colleague inappropriately. Even though I was very clear about NO, including the fact that I am a lesbian, that still did not seem to be enough for them to courteously go away. Their exit would often be accompanied by a slanderous comment.
There are many women who have graciously said NO to their male bosses’ advances. Sometimes that’s been enough and other times, the woman has been shamed or made to feel uncomfortable because she took a stand for herself. I know women who have left a job because the level of discomfort was unbearable. How unfair!!!
While I could go on about this topic, there is a larger part of me that really has no words because my heart gets so overcome with sadness on how women are treated. We should not be subservient to any person whether it is male or female. We get to have a voice and if the voice is not being heard, then we have to fight back until it is heard.
Advances to another person can also be emotional harmful. When a woman has chosen to leave a harmful relationship, we have to be strong enough to break off contact, not respond to emails/texts/voice-mails. If we left the relationship, there was probably a really good reason. More often than not, if there is physical or emotional abuse, the other person will cover up the behaviors to win you back but eventually, you’ll be right back in the soup.
For all of us, female or male, we can feel in our souls when an interaction is harmful and we have to trust our feelings enough to walk away, to say NO and say YES to honor ourselves.
Betsy Cerulo, CEO