Brace yourselves, because I want to make an argument that isn’t made that often. I want to explain why rejection can be a valuable gift. Often, rejection is good for you. I’m not just talking here about sex mistakes you could avoid – get rejected by a hot person who later turns out to be awful, for instance. I’m talking about what ‘no’ actually means, and why often someone’s ‘no’ is far more precious than a ‘yes.’
Saying ‘no’ is sometimes a gift
If I invite you out for a drink, and you’re tired or ill or you just don’t fancy it right now, I want you to be able to say no. I want you to feel comfortable enough with me that ‘no’ isn’t a big deal. I don’t want you to do what I so often do, and tremble as you hit the ‘send’ button wondering if you’re going to offend me.
Saying ‘no’ is a gift because it tells the person you’re speaking to the honest, unvarnished truth. You’re turning them down, which might be disappointing, but you’re also telling them something pretty good: that you know they are the kind of person who can deal with a ‘no.’
If you say ‘no’ to me, I might be mildly disappointed that you don’t want to join me in the pub, but my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude: that you were comfortable being honest with me, and you know I’m not the kind of person who’ll freak out and guilt-trip you.
Sexual rejection can be a gift too
The word ‘rejection’ is a pretty horrible one. You’re offering something, and someone’s turning it down. We’re often taught to feel hurt by this, because the very concept of ‘rejection’ implies that the original offer was a gift. Rejecting a gift is usually tied up in the idea of being rude. A gift is a nice thing, right? So rejecting it seems like a mean or unnecessary thing to do.
On top of this linguistic nudge towards seeing rejection as bad, the fact that it’s often framed as a rejection of a whole person is equally unhelpful.
“She/he rejected me” sounds far harsher than “She/he rejected this particular proposal.”
If I ask my partner to put down the Xbox controller and come fuck me, his ‘not right now, thanks’ isn’t actually a rejection of me as a person. He isn’t saying ‘you aren’t attractive to me’ or even ‘you aren’t attractive to me right now’ – he’s just rejecting this specific proposal, at this specific moment in time. He might respond differently if instead I offered to blow him during his next round of Titanfall.
If we weren’t together, then yeah his rejection might be a broader thing: we haven’t yet built up the kind of relationship where you can casually ask for sex, so if I ask and he says ‘no’ I’d probably take that to mean ‘no I’d rather not have sex with you at any time.’ But it’s still not a rejection of me as a whole person – ‘no I don’t want to fuck you’ does not – by default – equal ‘no I never want to see you again.’
This is really important because I think it feeds into so many of our relationship myths:
- The idea of a ‘friend zone‘ – that women who have rejected you for sex are only ever using you for companionship. As if the only possible value you (or they) could have is sexual pleasure, and companionship/friendship/joking/hanging out in the pub doesn’t count as something good. In this instance, recognising ‘no I don’t want to fuck you’ as a gift makes a hell of a lot of sense – they feel comfortable rejecting you because they respect you enough to think that you won’t kick off or turn it into a seething pile of resentment.
- The idea that when someone’s sex drive takes a battering – because they’re on SSRIs or they’re anxious or their body is changing in ways that mean they’re less keen to bang – that dip in sex drive should be interpreted as a rejection of you personally. Again, in this case ‘no’ is a gift – they’re giving you an honest assessment of what they want, on the understanding that you are the kind of person who will listen and be compassionate about it, rather than layering it with an interpretation that they haven’t intended.
- The myth that men should ‘chase’, because when women say ‘no I don’t want to fuck you’, what that actually means is ‘persuade me.’ If we recognise that ‘no’ is a gift – a useful tool to help you understand where you are with someone – then desperately trying to bully them from ‘no’ into ‘yes’ makes no sense. They’ve given you something precious and worthy of respect, why on earth would you want to coerce them into exchanging it for something different?
I spotted this tweet a while ago, and it made me simultaneously happy (yay for this dude!) and massively frustrated (why the hell should this be so unusual that not only does someone tweet about it, but tens of thousands retweet it too?!).
Woooooowwwwww this dude just asked for my number, I declined and he politely said "I can respect that have a good day beautiful" pic.twitter.com/kRguOauXxz
— brooklyn (@SmileBKLYN) April 24, 2017
Not all ‘no’s are good
It’s hard to reject someone. Just as there are certain overtures (a random dick pic in your inbox with ‘wanna fuck? Lol’) that don’t deserve a particularly gentle answer, there are many to which the person offering the rejection wants to be gentle, but struggles with the right way to say it.
So although no one is ever obliged to say ‘no’ if you’re contacting them out of the blue, if you’ve experienced particularly harsh or frequent rejections, I understand that it hurts – honestly, I do. Plenty of men have said ‘no’ to me, and I suspect many more will in future. The alternatives – ignoring me, flirting but drawing back, deleting messages, and doing the sex-games equivalent of replying ‘maybe’ to a party invite then just dodging facebook on the day so people think you’re ill or busy – are to me far less respectful than a straight up rejection.
When a guy turns me down for sex, far from saying I’m an unfuckable person, in fact he’s saying that I’m the kind of person he feels comfortable saying ‘no’ to. He respects me enough that he can be honest with me. He assumes that I’ll take his ‘no’ with good grace. He feels comfortable with me. He’s turned down my offer of a shag, but offered me respect in return.