Tuesday, December 4, 2012

No Means No, Obviously

That's how language based communication works, words have meanings, and when you say them you evoke that meaning. I read a very interesting article about "playing hard to get," but I disagree with a significant proportion of it. I have to admit I appreciate her extolling people, specifically women but I think it applies to men, not to play hard to get. Although I have yet to meet someone who even remotely seemed to be playing hard to get, that may be because when I am rebuffed romantically I almost always just let the issue lie, and in the couple of cases where I haven't I have more revisited the subject at a later date in hopes that her opinion has changed; in short, when it comes to romance, I try to convince people to change their minds by being awesome, because I am awesome, rather than trying to persuade them to change their minds verbally.

Anyway, while I have yet to meet someone who displays evidence of playing "hard to get," I have to agree that the trope widely exists through our cultural stories. Men are told that to "get the girl" one must put forth some romantic effort. While I disagree with the author that this is inherently undesirable, I do heartily concur with her that it seems to play into rape culture.

However, where I categorically disagree with the author is where she asserts that maybe means no. Of course, I am similarly opposed to the assumption that maybe means yes, for similar reasons, yes, no, and maybe are all separate words with wildly different meanings! Maybe means maybe! And here lies the refuge of people who want to play hard to get, maybe should clearly indicate that one is not acquiescing to the proposed activity, whether it be dancing, dating, or sex, but one is willing to consider it. If one does not wish to consider it further, there is a proper word for that, "no," and it is then the moral obligation of the rebuffed to accept that.

I am not often asked out, and people straight up ask me for sex even less frequently, but people often ask me if I will to go to dance activities. If I want to and am able to go I answer, "yes," because yes I will go. If I have a conflicting obligation or just don't want to go (the latter is rather uncommon) I answer, "no," because no I will not go. If I kind of want to go, but am feeling overwhelmed and kind of don't want to go, then I might answer, "maybe," or, "I don't know... [insert lame excuse here]." At these times I completely welcome people trying to convince me to go, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it helps me make up my mind. I don't think that I am "playing hard to get," per se, but if someone wants to play hard to get, let them use maybe! It is the correct word to use, "maybe" can mean, "maybe, if you work hard enough," which is what someone playing hard to get seems to implicitly mean.

Maybe shouldn't contribute to rape culture. Maybe leaves the door open to be convinced, but the door can still be closed. Maybe doesn't mean you cannot eventually say no (on a side note, that male friend she mentions complaining about people not being willing to agree with him eventually, creepy!!!). But that should be obvious, because you know what, yes doesn't even mean you cannot eventually say no! Let me expound on that, because it is of some importance, even if someone says yes to sex, if they change their mind, or you start hurting them, or they just get creeped out for some reason and change their mind to no, then that is a no! If you have sex with someone expressing a desire not to have sex with you, even if they explicitly expressed a desire to have sex with you at some earlier point, that is rape! If you decide not to have sex with someone who really did want to have sex with you, but felt they had to say "no" due to cultural considerations you missed having sex with someone who can't honestly express themselves and he/she missed out on having sex with an awesome person who is respectful of her/his desires. Guess which way I think you should err... Hint, which I don't think you should need, no means no!

While I don't think it is harmful to err on the side of no if you get a maybe, whereas it is definitely harmful to err on the side of yes, I don't think it is morally required to pretend that maybe doesn't have it's own, unique, and communicatively valuable, meaning. If you want to play hard to get, I invite you to use 'maybe's, or other such non-committal responses. And, most importantly, for this to work we have to realize that non-committal quite literally means without commitment, one way or the other, so if it becomes a no, then it is a no, end of discussion.