Culture

How To Say No

Authors note: I started writing this piece a few weeks ago just because lock-down has really me looking inwards and assessing things in my life and then the timeline exploded. I wasn't sure if I wanted to publish but these words are true and my experience. This is not meant to trigger anybody but I want to add a warning before you continue reading. Thank you x

If you would prefer to listen to this article, you can do so here


How to say no? The question that has popped into the mind of every girl at least once but I suspect hundreds of times throughout her life.
How to say no and make it sound like a no? How to NOT make a no sound like “try harder” or “convince me”
How do you say no politely enough to not offend? To let a man down without being punched in the face, having a drink thrown at you or called awful names (which I have seen happen way too many times to not think it is the “norm”)
I cringe every-time I smile even though all I want to do is pull my hand away. “You don’t get to touch me” makes way for “ahh, thank you that is so sweet” and I hate myself for it.

Every time I drop the “oh sorry I have a boyfriend” line even though my relationship status has no bearing on the situation at hand, I really get angry at myself for adding to the problem. For allowing and adding to the myth that another man is the only reason I am resisting the attention.
Put simply, not being interested isn’t enough of a NO. But it should be. How do you, as a woman. Say no to a man who doesn’t have the slightest intention of listening to anything you have to say?

How do you say no to a man who doesn’t ask first? Who assumes you are ripe for the picking because of what you are wearing or your friendly smile.

I work in music, I am a broadcaster and I can categorically tell you that nearly all of the men I have interviewed for any radio position I have held, have thought there was something more. Be it a waist grab whilst we take the obligatory selfie, the flirting on and off air which often leaves other people in the room feeling awkward. And yes there are other people in the room, the cameras in tv and radio studios don’t show you the managers, pluggers and mates who don’t say anything when the presenter is being asked for her number and clearly looks uncomfortable. Maybe it isn’t so clear, maybe they don’t see me sweating, wondering how I can get out of this one without offending the rapper or blocking my own career by being labelled as stuck up.

This piece has already been riddled with questions, but I’ll ask you another: how do you protect yourself as a woman. In music, against your colleagues? Because that’s what the musicians are. To me.

I have only ever called out sexual assault twice in my life, being completely transparent I do not know how many times I have been assaulted or harassed but I remember the two times I said something, decided I wasn’t going to shrug it off and I was going to confront the pervert.
The first time I was told that I took it the wrong way, when a DJ grabbed my bum at the afterparty of an awards show when I was saying hello. That he was drunk and obviously didn’t mean it and I shouldn’t be too harsh on him because I did look nice and who could blame him? I even comforted him and told him not to worry, not to drink so much and no. I wouldn’t tell his girlfriend but he needed to do better.

The second time was worse. No one listened. I confronted the person who did it and their friends. I was met with silence, mostly.
I explained that being told that someone “has no control over themselves” when I am around and that I need to leave before he “does something” wasn’t the way you tell a girl you fancy her. That following her around a party, grabbing her repeatedly by the waist & the arm and tracing the scar that runs down their chest with your finger, uninvited. Just isn’t acceptable. And no-one said a word.
Actually sorry, the man who assaulted me told me to never speak to him again and then unfollowed me on twitter.

I haven’t come to tell this fraction of my story for retribution, I’m not here to make any man shake at the thought of me spilling the beans on the inappropriate behaviour that seems to casually happen everyday.
I am here to ask you the question, just one more because this really isn’t an exam: after everything that you have read, on twitter, in the news, maybe even what I have written here in this article.
How exactly am I meant to say no?

11 comments

  1. I know your aim isnt to name and shame and i definitely understand why you wouldnt throw specific accusations out there but it is so horrible to read that even someone as confident and bubbly as you has had to deal with this type of stuff. You seem so happy and together, you would never know that you are made to feel uncomfortable or are groped
    Thank you for sharing and I am sorry this happened to you Yinka

  2. Props for sharing, it can’t have been easy
    Of course we would all love if you names and shamed so that we can identify the abusers but I understand why you aren’t doing that.
    Reading made me recognise times in my life when I have been in situations that were NOT ok but at the time I was just trying to read the room and protect myself from further abuse

    You are a star Yinka

  3. As a mother of a 2 year old girl this makes me sad. I’ve been groped, harassed, follows home and made to feel uncomfortable more times than I can recall. I know women who have been raped, sexual assaulted and abused. We fear what saying no will mean and do what we can to protect ourselves. I remember once having a long argument with a male friend who didn’t understand why women gave out fake numbers and didn’t just say no. It was honestly exhausting realising that even the so called good guys didn’t get it. Brilliant article.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Over the last few weeks I’ve had conversations with Male friends and family. Both young and old. So much needs to be unlearned. A lot of time is spent speaking to young girls and women over the year and now it’s time to switch focus. As a creative I’m now more than ever mindful of how women are portrayed in film/theatre/tv because it shaped the world we accept.

  5. this was hard to read, I have experienced similar things to this and reading it brought back the memories. I think you’re right, how exactly ARE we meant to say no????
    brilliant piece, very well written. Well done

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