“…learning to say no is probably one of the most priceless gifts I have to share.”
“I was a prime candidate for date rape. Prime.
I would move his hand when I felt it was going somewhere I wasn’t ready for it to go, and I realized a pattern. A few minutes later, or maybe the next day, he was putting his hand in that same place I’d moved it from again. Message received, my “no” was being ignored, and the only option was to go through with his once, because obviously, my response of “no” wasn’t acceptable.
I was a good girl. I was polite, I was compromising, I was accommodating. But these are the exact qualities that set you up for losing your “good girl” status.
The first time I ever said “no”, it was so difficult. I’d been fending off but not really fending off advances for awhile, and when he went for my belt buckle, I was like “hold up”, and he went off on me. I thought I was going to cry. He ranted about me being a “cocktease”, me leading him on, me not being grown. I was so unprepared. I was extremely proud of myself for saying no, but I have never felt so shitty in my life.
That really needed to be in the “no means no” disclaimer. Saying “no” can be some hard, fucking shit.
Talking to other women, I realized that my experience was not isolated, but something so many women go through everyday. The taboo of it all had prevented me, had prevented us from being candid about our experiences.
I’ve used my experience to talk about sex in my work with young people. We work on knowing and naming what we want out of a sexual experience, we work on negotiating what feels good for us. We work on what to do when we feel compromised. We work on how not to compromise others. It’s not groundbreaking, but learning to say no is probably one of the most priceless gifts I have to share.”
Zahra is a member of Catchafyah Feminist Network, FRIDA’s grantee partner in the Caribbean advocating for social, political and economic justice and empowerment, particularly gender justice, gender equity and gender equality.