By Anna Lopez ’19
An Open Letter to People Who Think No Means Yes,
Every time I walk alone in the dark, I’m afraid someone like you will think I’m “asking for it.” It doesn’t matter if I’m in Lawrence or Andover. I still live in fear that one day someone will think my consent is insignificant.
My parents instilled in me that I should not trust men. Maybe not consciously, but with the things they repeatedly told me, or the precautions they took. Whenever a man visited our house, my parents made sure my sister and I were properly covered even if it was a family member or a friend from church. They were afraid the man might enjoy what he saw. My parents refused to let me hang out at a friend’s house if their mother wasn’t home because they didn’t feel comfortable leaving me alone with just the father. My parents never liked the idea of me sleeping over my friends houses. They had enough trust in me not to do anything inappropriate, but they didn’t trust the men. They were scared someone like you, someone who doesn’t believe my consent is important, would take advantage of me.
One time, my youth leader at church invited some of the youth over to watch The Notebook. Only my sister and I showed up, and when my dad found out it was only us three, he became upset. He said that it wasn’t okay for two girls to be left alone with a man. I grew up with the thought embedded in me that I should fear men; I should be careful around them. If I let my guard down, they would take advantage of me.
In the middle of freshman year, Mr. Palfrey sent us articles that recounted events in which teachers thought it was okay to put their sexual needs over the well-being of the students, and sexually harassed them. My dad read the articles and he called me that afternoon. He told me that if anyone ever decided that my consent didn’t matter, that no meant yes, I needed to report it. He made me promise that I would tell someone. I should never let someone silence my voice. I should never let someone like you get the best of me.
We have come to a time where people usually relate victims of women’s issues by saying, “What if that was your mom, sister, aunt, or daughter?” However, that does not matter. No matter who they are, they don’t deserve to be shamed. Every woman deserves respect because she is human, not because she’s related to you. My value as a person should not be determined by my relationship to others. I am human. She is human. We deserve respect.
An absence of a no does not mean yes. I live in fear that one day I’ll meet someone who disregards this and thinks they can do whatever they want with my body.
A Sincere Fuck You From,
Someone who respects consent