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THREAD: When Women Say “No, Thank You” to Our Offer of a Date -- Recently, a woman friend told me about being invited out on a date. It is a story from twenty years ago. She was sharing it as part of a conversation we were having about relationships. /1 --Photo by Glenn Beltz
It’s not a dramatic story. It isn’t a story that was difficult to tell. Which makes it all the more instructive because it is so innocuous. Twenty years ago, a man she didn’t know well, asked my friend out. “Would you like to go out to dinner?” he said to her. /2
They were in the process of closing up at the end of the day at a conference where they and others had been working together. My friend said “Thank you, but no.” The man then came back the next day and said, “Are you sure? I’m only asking for you to go to dinner.” /3
The implication being, “Just take a little time to get to know me. If it’s not right for you, no big deal.” She again said “No, thank you.” For most men, this may seem a very simple exchange. /4
Stories like this can sting a bit for men, reinforcing our personal histories of rejection and the attendant sense of loss. But what if boys and men, early in our dating lives, could learn to consider the vast landscape of reasons why a women might say, “No, thank you.” /5
The incel movement declares openly that boys and men who don’t get selected by women for sex have every right to be angry and violent about it. And to prove they believe this, they commit mass murder.… /6
The rise of incels and other masculinity extremists means it’s well past time to for men to start talking and self reflecting about what happens for us when a woman says, “No, thank you," to our offers of intimacy.

I mean besides, “ouch.” /7
To begin with we could ask ourselves why so many of us view the impact of a women’s “no” primarily through the lens of our own personal wants and needs? I’ve had this response more times than I care to admit. Especially when I was young. /8
Why in that moment do we so often focus on our needs only? What happens if we also consider a larger set of issues? Namely, the lifetime of inflection points that inform a woman’s choice (or a man’s choice, or a non-binary person’s choice) to say no to our offers of intimacy. /9
This is a conversation we need to be having among men. Women’s reasons for saying “No, thank you” may have a lot less to do with us as individuals, and a lot more to do with the culture of masculinity men have collectively created, and collectively sustain. /10
If we can, in good faith, make an effort to learn about the impact our man box culture of masculinity has on women’s lives, we can then dial down our reactivity when we get told “No, thank you.” /11
This is the personal work we need to do if we are to successfully oppose the incendiary rage of Incels and other masculinity extremists who think all women owe them sex. And THAT, we damn well need to be doing. /12
But any conversation about “women’s reasons for saying no” must begin with this: No human being is required to provide a reason for saying no to another’s offer of physical or emotional intimacy. “No” is its own reason. No is the alpha and omega of any human interaction. /13
Learning to respect everyone’s right to say no to an offer of intimacy is a crucial relational benchmark for us as a species. A relational benchmark which we have woefully failed to achieve. /14
That said, let’s return to my friend’s story.
She and I talked about the brief exchange she had with this man. She then talked about why, in those days, she often said “No, thank you” to men seeking a date. /15
In the initial moments, her reasons included:
1) I was moving to a new state to start my internship.

2) Dating had always seemed like a distraction from focusing on my education.

3) I felt no strong attraction.

4) I had been raised to be careful about men. /16
The first three were clear enough reasons for a no; based on the life of a busy women who was focused on her own priorities. This is something some men are never quite able to grasp. Namely, a heterosexual woman with no particular need for a male partner in her life. /17
The fourth reason she gave for saying no is seismic in its scale. It is the issue many women consider in these moments; safety. These four reasons together formed the context from which her answer emerged almost automatically as, “Thank you, but no.” /18
But there were other things specific to this particular man in these moments that she also recalled. These are things men often fail to notice but that many women see right away. Take for example, the circumstances in which he invited her to dinner. /19
They were the last two people in the conference space for the day, doing final clean up, when he made his invitation. Whether he was aware of it on not, he was standing between her and the door. /20
She had already been tracking the exits, because this is what women do when they are alone with a man they don’t know well, but now that he asked the question, she became even more aware of his position between her and the exit. /21
“Thank you, but no,” she said. She sensed that her answer didn’t land well. Perhaps he was disappointed or embarrassed, but they didn’t discuss it further. She made it her goal to finish and get out the door without delay. /22
When a man asks a women (or anyone else) on a date, it is never a simple request. There is no such thing as “just dinner.” When we make such an invitation, we are asking another person to be open to possible emotional or physical intimacy. /23
This activates each persons’ histories, good and bad. These histories can include past lovers, family relationships, friend’s experiences, work relationships, momentary experiences on the street, even what we witness as children; literally every relational moment up to now. /24
Our histories of sexual or relational trauma leap to the forefront immediately. All of this happens in an instant. /25
When a woman answers “No, thank you,” it could be the result of a previous ugly interaction between her and a man we will never meet; a man who created an inflection point in this person’s life that informs how she calculates her response to men seeking intimacy. /26
And while these kinds of previous bad interactions can be huge, up to and including domestic violence or rape, they can also be smaller than that. They can be a single bad interaction, one small ugly moment. /27
And before we say, “But I’m not the guy who did that,” we need to take ownership of something that many of men angrily refuse to accept. On a very real and demonstrable level, *we are that guy.* /28
A lot of the deeply negative inflection points that impact women’s views of intimacy, are born out of our dominance based culture of masculinity, or man box culture. This abusive culture continues to exist because men have not demanded we end it and create something better. /29
That's on us. /30
Every day we collectively fail to stand up to the very public harassment and abuse that the worst among us heap on women; harassment the rest often witness but collectively fail to challenge in any effective way. /31
Things like locker room talk, cat calling, rape jokes; the daily denigrations of women that are so deeply embedded in how we’ve all been taught to perform masculinity. The use of “bitch” and “pussy” as the way to insult other boys and men... /32
...The nasty ways we talk about women behind their backs. The way we encourage each other to have contempt for women even as we seek sexual intimacy with them. “Yeah, I’d hit that,” and so on. /33
Abusive, harassing men do not represent the majority of us, not by a long shot. But because millions of us stay silent, we allow a smaller population of bullying alpha males to define masculinity as a culture of aggressive dominance. /34
We help sustain a world where the worst among us feel empowered to grope women, rage at women, attack women and degrade women publicly. We make a world where our President can feel perfectly comfortable saying “I moved on her like a bitch” in casual conversation. /35
We create a world that is safe for Incels, MRAs and MGTOWs, but not for the women they stalk, troll and assault. In this way, all of us men collectively allow the ongoing ugly inflection points for women that result in “No, thank you” being many women’s default response. /36
Even our very invitations are a source of stress and anxiety for women. Too many women have turned down a request to go on a date and a man who was friendly a moment before, becomes abusive, revealing his reactive response to her decision in a flash. /37
A woman’s “No, thank you,” can instantly result in reactivity and aggression from men, an utter failure of emotional self-regulation. “Why are you so stuck up” he might say. Or maybe he gets insistent. “I’m only asking for dinner.” Or he gets hurt, crest fallen and sad. /38
Or maybe something truly terrible happens. Stalking. Assault. Rape. /39
The price women pay for being asked out and simply saying “No, thank you,” the resulting emotional work required of them by men who react badly, can be an exhausting inflection point that impacts every interaction thereafter, informing women’s future choices. /40
An abusive response to a “No, thank you” need only happen once or twice for a human being to remain forever wary of that question over the course of their lifetime. The joy of connection and discovery is suddenly replaced by being so very careful. /41
A women might start dressing to intentionally deflect attention. She might hide her beauty and her joy. She might avoid eye contact, avoid the gaze of men. Many women are already making these choices. And it’s our fault. /42
The man in my friend’s story approached her again the next day, after she had said “Thanks, but no.” When he added, “I’m only asking you to go to dinner,” the implication was, “Give me a chance. I can change your mind.” /43
For my friend, that "I can change your mind" cemented her choice to say no. This is because it carried the suggestion that perhaps she didn’t know her own mind on the matter of choosing a potential partner, or even wanting one at all. /44
It was a diminution of her agency. In asking a second time, he failed to consider her context, her history, her professional and personal priorities, her position and her hard earned authority in the world. In that moment, he didn’t notice he was again blocking the door. /45
Like so many women, my friend grew up in a world full of warnings. Be very careful around men. Be very careful about how you walk down the street. Be very careful about your supervisors, your professors, your friends and your own way of showing up in the world. /46
She was warned. Get your education. Get your own agency. Don’t leave your future in the hands of a man, or you will be sorry. You will be lost. My friend saw the reasons for these warnings play out over and over again in the casual displays of power by men over women. /47
Which brings me to the growing educational disparity between men and women. So called men’s rights advocates say women graduating from college at higher rates and with higher level degrees is proof that the educational system has a built in bias against boys and men. /48
I would suggest a dramatically different frame. Women are more committed to the hard work of getting an education. And for good reason. They are doing this globally to whatever degree is available to them because it puts them on a path to liberation from controlling men. /49
Education and the economic power that results for women is freedom. They know that education will give them agency in a world where men *still* can not be trusted to treat them as equals. Education is a path to autonomy. It is a path to being able to say, “Thank you, but no.” /50
This speaks to a central crucial metric for heterosexual women when considering a date. Would this guy encourage my professional and personal independence or would he seek to control it? /51
How men view women’s equality in our romantic relationships shows up in big ways, such as are both careers viewed as equally important, and in small ways, such as who gets to finish speaking or gets spoken over. /52
A women who is tracking these issues can make a fairly quick predictive analysis based solely on how we ask her to go on a date, a metric which includes how we accept her answer. /53
Of all the ways men might make women immediately wary, being emotionally reactive to a “No, thank you,” is a big red flag, as is not taking a no, regardless of how polished and charming we are in refusing to do so. /54
Collectively, men have yet to put an end to our archaic domination culture of masculinity. A culture which contributes to our own deep isolation and anxiety as well as harming all the world's women and children. Collectively, men could change any of this tomorrow if we chose. /55
Women are becoming more equal, gaining access to their fair share of power. They and the men who are their allies are creating a world where abusive men are being challenged. This is leading to a crisis in masculinity. /56
Angry retrogressive men are calling for open war against women, LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, and religious minorities and the outcome of this battle is by no means guaranteed to go well. If most men continue to sit on the sidelines, things could go very badly. /57
It’s well past time for the millions of men who remain silent as the battle rages to stand and fight for simple moral imperative that all people are created equal. That all human beings are deserving of autonomy, safely, respect and opportunity, equally. /58
We must break out of man box culture and leave our centuries old domination masculinity behind, creating in its place, a masculinity of connection. We must use our power and our privilege to partner with women to heal our world. /59
And if we continue to fail in this, “Thank you, but no,” is all we will ever deserve. /60
Mark Greene is the author of The Little #MeToo Book for Men. "First, see the culture. Then, change the culture." Want to help someone you care about break out of the man box? Order your copy at Barnes & Noble Online or Amazon.… /61
For those who prefer, this thread is in article form at Medium.… /62
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