TW: rape/discussions of violence against women/mentions of sexual content
With the resurgence of the Me Too movement, discussions of rape culture, and the discourse as a whole over women’s experiences in the world and how everything from the way we dress to how we breathe revolves around men. The internalized male gaze and compulsive heterosexuality Are two examples of the deep and lasting damage living in a patriarchy has inflicted upon them. But as we started to talk more specifically and openly about consent in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, and Chris Pratt, among others, more and more toxic ideas about consent came out of the woodwork.
One of the most ignorant examples is “just say no”, or “why didn’t you just say no”. As you read this poem, you might have thought the same thing. Why won’t she just reject him outright? Why does she lead him on by making him believe she is just shy? In my opinion, this ‘Coy mistress’ knows very well of the consequences that come with rejecting a desperate man. Many wonder why women give out their numbers and social media only to block them or never respond. Well, I can explain. 1,000 women are killed annually for saying no or rejecting an intimate partner (Men). And that is not including random assaults and murders from a man on the street or a neighbor who wanted more. 74% of murder suicides in the United States are between intimate partners, and in that 74%, 96% are women killed by their partner (Men). There’s even a name for it: rejection killings. Saying no is often not an option. 22 year old Tiara Poyau pushed a man off of her as he forced her to dance with him. He shot her in the face. Mollie Tibbet’s was killed when she told a man to leave her alone while she was jogging. A woman in New York had her throat slit for denying a date(Rejection) . As the coy mistress hints, a women’s disinterest isn’t enough to save her from a pursuer. A common phrase “I have a boyfriend” even perpetuates the idea that unless a man has spoken for us, we are free for the taking. There is a quote that I’ve seen many a time that I think suits this discussion. “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
Now, turning the discussion of the suitor in To His Coy Mistress into a discussion about misogyny and rape culture may seem to be a far reach. But it all starts out as a small pining, a trying to convince a woman that you are owed a reward for your kindness, or hers. Being in the ‘friend zone’. It then devolves into an obsession, leading to a stalker sneaking into his neighbor’s apartment and waiting for her to get home to attack. The suitor focuses on her body parts, accuses her of being selfish and playing hard to get, as if she is something to get, and threatening her with other men if she decides to reject him. He compares her to a vault, barren without him, selfishly locked, and effectively calls her an object her is entitled to the key for. These small micro aggressions that are seen as harmless and “just a guy in love” are dangerous. Men need to hold themselves and their friends accountable for the harm they have committed against women, and find it in themselves to protect women not because they might receive something in return, but because they respect women as people, not objects. In the poem coyness is seen as desirable and alluring. If the mistress had been eager to accept him and engage in sexual activities, she would be labeled as raunchy, clingy, and immoral. We as women are not objects. We are not 2d waifs who yearn to serve a man. We are multifaceted human beings who can be interested in as many things as we want, and it is unfair to label us as if we are cartoon characters with the inability to have independent thoughts. The suitor is a “nice” guy. He’s just the worst kind of “nice”.
“Men Are Killing Thousands of Women a Year for Saying No | Dame Magazine.” Google, Google, www.google.com/amp/s/www.damemagazine.com/2017/10/24/men-are-killing-thousands-women-year-saying-no/amp/.
“’Rejection Killings’ Need to Be Tracked.” Google, Google, www.google.com/amp/s/gen.medium.com/amp/p/37e78a1cf6ce.