This week has been another harsh reminder of why women are afraid to say ‘no’ to men
Rejecting a man could cost you your life
“Sorry I have a boyfriend,” has long been the knee-jerk response to unwanted attention: A guy chatting to you in a bar, a stranger propositioning you on the street, a man who wants your number and won’t stop trying. It’s safer, less uncomfortable, to lie and save their ego than say “no”. A consent full sentence – but one which could get us killed.
Yesterday morning, 15-year-old Elianne Andam was stabbed to death on her way to school allegedly for being an active bystander. Elianne’s best friend had refused to take flowers from a man claimed to be her ex-boyfriend and when things got heated, Elianne stepped in, eye-witnesses have claimed. According to reports, she lost her life for protecting her best friend. Blood stained roses littered the pavement, witnesses said.
A 17-year-old boy, known to Elianne was arrested quickly after the stabbing with a foot-long “zombie knife” took place. Police have been given an extra 24 hours to question him about the incident.
“My 15-year-old is asking me if she is supposed to accept flowers that she doesn’t want in order to stay alive? How do you answer that question?” asked one mother on Twitter. “How do you tell a girl that saying ‘No’ can often leave you in serious danger but simultaneously it is your right to say NO!”
Fundamentally, no girl should be afraid she might die for rejecting a man in any capacity. No woman should be scared of being killed for protecting her friend. But young women have a lot to be afraid of. For the first time in October last year, the Department of Education explicitly warned of male radicalisation. Incels, “involuntary celibates who direct their anger mainly at women”, were finally treated as an actual terror threat.
Extreme misogyny is rife. In the wake of Elianne’s death, footage of influencer Andrew Tate, who is currently awaiting trial in Romania for charges of human trafficking, resurfaced: “Girls come to me and go ‘yeah beat me up! No I mean it’. No bitch, I mean it,” he said in a video titled: What to do when a girl challenges you.
“I guarantee, I change the way you look at sex. Forever,” he went on. ” You’re saying ‘I wouldn’t cry’. You’re challenging me to a fight. You’re saying I can’t hurt you…I don’t even have to fuck you. Forget the sex part. That’s a distraction. My dick can stay in my pants. I’ll just start beating the shit out of you. How about that? We walk in the bedroom, I start kicking your ass. No sex. No sex involved. Bet you cry then.”
110 women were killed by men in the UK in 2020 – half of whom were killed by their partner or ex, according to the Femicide Census. Violence against women was declared an “urgent national priority” two years ago after Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa were killed in the space of six months. Little has changed societally since then.
We’ve long taught women and girls how to modify their behaviour to stay safe. Don’t say “no” without reason. Instead, apologise and say you belong to somebody else. But what’s the point in preaching about consent if you can’t put it into practise for fear of being killed? We’re scared of saying no. So, often we don’t. Fundamentally, women don’t have full freedom as long as rejecting a man could cost us our lives.