Eleanor Doward

Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

Rejecting unwanted advances can be tricky. It’s usually awkward, often difficult, and never particularly pleasant. I’ve known both men and women to make up a rainbow of excuses to get some unwanted admirer to leave them alone: ‘I’m engaged’; ‘I’m gay’; ‘I’m really, really religious’. Youtube celebrity Jenna Marbels even advises her viewers to pull that face when ‘ew, go away’ doesn’t work because, according to Jenna, most guys ‘don’t care, they hear stuff like that all the time’. You’ll find these excuses in nightclubs just as sure as you’ll find dodgy Sambuca shots. But then I stopped to think – why must we constantly excuse and explain ourselves? Why are so many women made to feel the need to apologise?

Most of the excuses I’ve ever pulled out have begun with the textbook ‘I’m sorry, but…’ …I’m sorry? Why must we spend half our time apologising? Plenty of us apologise to our partners when we’re on our period. My ex-boyfriend ‘liked’ a page on Facebook entitled: ‘a girl’s period should be known as national blow job week’. …Really? I’m so sorry to ruin your sex life for a week with this thing I didn’t ask for; I can’t apologise enough that my womb lining has inconvenienced you in this way. I don’t think so.

Similarly, we apologise when rejecting the advances of someone we’re not interested in. No one has any right to demand or even expect that you return their advances.

Instead of using these excuses, we might be better saying ‘I’m not interested’. It doesn’t need to be aggressive. Say it with a smile, say it politely, say it however you want; it’s assertive, it’s firm and it’s unapologetic. No one can question that statement. Yet they’ll question a girl about the identity of her made up boyfriend. The ones I’ve made up are all loosely based on Benedict Cumberbatch and I can get a bit carried away describing them; the whole situation only ever ends up being incredibly awkward. Simply saying ‘I’m not interested’ leaves little room for leeway.

We live in a society in which a man is told that he can expect sex from a woman, particularly when she dresses or acts a certain way. Apologising when you’re on your period, or when rejecting someone’s advances, or when making up a fake boyfriend all feed into this culture. And in nightclubs, misogynistic tunes that tell us ‘we know we want it’ provide a nice backing track to our excuses and apologies for why, god forbid, we actually DON’T want it at that particular moment.

Making up these excuses removes the autonomy from the situation. Of course a girl is free to choose who she kisses, dances with, sleeps with. It sounds simple enough. A lot of pushy admirers could do with learning this. In saying that she is engaged, or that she has a boyfriend, a woman places the situation in the hands of men. Why should a man respect another man’s claim to you more than he respects your freedom to be, or not to be, interested? It’s time to stop apologising and start asserting. ‘Come on, I know you want it’ might be better met not with ‘I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend’ but with ‘Nope, I’m not interested’. In saying this, we assert that we are people with choices and freedom to make them, not objects to be groped and grabbed by whomever until claimed by a man.

If we all stop apologising, perhaps we can begin to assert the importance of a woman’s choice when it comes to sexuality. Although these situations can be tricky and clearly, I’m not blaming gals for somehow inviting this unwanted attention by being unassertive, perhaps when certain situations call for it saying ‘I’m not interested’ helps to further the radical idea that a woman has some say in her sexuality and might even make that unwanted admirer stop and think. It’ll be one small step for a woman, and hopefully one giant leap for womankind.

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