When No Means No: It’s not just with Rape culture

When does a woman’s No mean No?

When she says it with force?

When she screams it?

When she whispers it, mutters,  laughs it off. When she’s had far too much alcohol or even taken some drugs?

When it’s backed up with an argument? Or when it’s said alone.

When does a woman’s no get taken seriously?

There has been a lot of talk surrounding the meaning and importance of consent when it comes to sex for the past year. With such high profile cases as the Brock Turner one keeping the conversation alive, the importance of consent when it comes to a sexual assault is becoming a major talking point finally, one that cannot be ignored any longer. With this evaluation of our traditional belief systems which held dangerous and oppressive ideas about a women’s body, other debates have surfaced related to the word No.  And as a result we have finally come to the conclusion that whenever anyone says no it must be taken seriously.  That includes not being able to say yes, which quite impressively (for our patriarchal society) we also have come to understand as a direct No!

The female body has for a long time been under the control of the patriarchy, under the guise of democracy. This is particularly evident with abortion laws, blatantly controlling what a woman can do with her body. And this law which is being brought up year after year, with women everywhere crying out for the need for bodily freedom, to not be controlled by another’s persons beliefs or bias, to be trusted, is still controlling the female reproductive body and being kept regardless of what these women want.  While keeping up to date with this pro-life versus pro-freedom/choice debate I made a startling connection with my own bodily freedoms and choices related to my reproductive ability.

Having had my first child in this past year, becoming a mother was certainly a strange change. After a birth that was traumatic and a subsequent period of stress, tears, finding motherhood extremely challenging and being utterly exhausted, I decided after a lot of thought and debate with myself that I don’t want any more children. It is rewarding and special in so many ways, which I am delighted to be experiencing with my son, however I need my body to be mine again and I am hesitant to lose control over it for another child. Motherhood is a lot of sacrifice and I am still unsure whether or not I was ready for it in the first place. So my decision is final. It might change in the future. It might not. But it’s still my choice to make.

My partner though wants many more children but would be content with just one more knowing that I am not keen on the idea and simply don’t see the need.  The more he tried to convince me to think about the possibility of another one I started to wonder why he thought this was up for debate? I don’t want to do this again. I am done having children. So why does he think this is a democracy? This is my body, my sacrifice, my reproductive ability. Not ours.

And yet, when I think back over the traditional home/family dynamic, it makes sense. Of course my partner thinks he has a say in how many children we will have. Men, fathers, husbands have always been the authority on the matter of family. They have always been the dominant in the relationship. The fact that we have begun to move past this, and re-evaluate the home situation doesn’t mean those old ideas are gone completely. Women, wives and mothers are no longer property, they have voices, authority, respect. In some cases complete equality.

But still, husbands assume they have a right to help make a decision with their partners body, her reproductive ability. They are inclined to think that it’s a dual decision, when I’m sorry but it simply is not. As a mother and partner I will listen to my partners feelings and opinions on the subject. Each are valid and he is entitled to them.  He worries about our child not being socialised. Being a spoilt only child. Being unable to have the idyllic childhood my partner supposedly had growing up surrounded by family his age. He doesn’t want our baby growing up lonely.

Yes, these are valid reasons for wanting another child. Thank you for sharing them. I will listen to them, but I won’t be changing my mind, my physical and emotional wellbeing to fit your emotional needs. My body, unlike the female body in general within society, is not up for discussion. You do not get a say.

I’m sorry my love, but this is not a democracy.

So my partner is coming to terms with the authority I have when it comes to my body. He is struggling.  But trying. At the same time, I notice that when my partner says no to something pretty unimportant, his no is heard loud and clear. For something as mundane as wanting to redecorate a room. How much will this affect his life? Not very. Will it impact his body in any way? No. Will it change his mental state? No. And still when he said no, it was end of discussion. He didn’t want the room redecorated. That’s that.

But when my no which I have stated over and over, with regard to my body and not being willing to sacrifice it along with my emotional state, is not being taken as an absolute No! it undermines the authority that I have over my own body. It’s being heard as “well I don’t really want to but if your really passionate about this then I guess il consider it”.  My no isn’t being taken seriously and it’s starting to really piss me off. Because his  “no” to redecorating, or getting a cat, or anything mundane and not at all life changing is taken on board.  So why isn’t mine?

I blame patriarchy, and society at large for creating a space that suggests a women’s body is up for discussion. And much like the 8th amendment, we all think it’s a democracy and that the debate is a fair way of understanding each others views and needs. It is not. It is control. A women’s body and reproductive ability doesn’t give anyone the right to make a decision, because it is hers and hers alone. Not the majorities. It is the individual woman’s choice.

And if it sounds like my partner is the only one who assumes this, your wrong. Everyone I meet, man or woman, asks when the next baby will be on the way. I answer honestly and say I don’t want more children. I am content and happy with just the one thank you. My honesty is ignored and taken up as something else, as  confusion or uncertainly for my own feelings. They tell me that of course I will have more, sure aren’t I a natural? Won’t he want a brother or sister. You can’t have just the 1.

Yes, I can.

Your opinion doesn’t matter, you actually are not entitled to one when it comes to my reproduction. Society may lead you to believe it is.

But I promise, you don’t have a say in what I do with my body.

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