No means no. We’re told this from a very young age, most often by our mothers. It’s usually in response to a repeated request. We want the cookie, or that shiny new toy in the store. As we get older it’s the party we want to go to, or the friends we want to be around. We ask to the point of becoming obnoxious until we finally get that age old line. No means no.
It’s in these early years that we learned that certain words have more power than others. This single syllable, two letter word had the power to bring our entire world crashing down around us. So we did what children often do, and we challenged it with our best efforts. We tried being charming, we tried reasoning, we tried whining, and then we went for the ace. We threw ourselves into inconsolable tantrums. We all did this. It’s part of growing up. No matter what though, we learn that this word is iron clad. Nothing is breaking it. No means no.
I was shocked the day that I realized this word had lost its power. I attempted to wield the word ‘no’ like a sword, with all the authority of a strong warrior, but instead of striking my intended target in his tracks, this weapon crumbled on contact with something I had never experienced before. Rather than being resolute and final, it became little more than a polite request coupled with minor hesitation. It was pushed aside and ignored.
I came to believe that ‘no’ only has power when the audience has respect for the one speaking. I was devastated to realize that I was not respected at all by the man that I loved. The word no meant nothing to him.
I’ve only recently come to understand the full implications of consent, or the lack thereof. We like to look at things through a lens of black and white, but oftentimes this simply can not be the case. The truth is, we live in a fractured reality. Concepts that should be as clear as a pure crystal stream become troubled and muddy waters. It’s impossible to discern what is right and what is true in torrents such as this.
So here is how that happened for me. I had this belief that because I was married, it was my duty to yield to my husband and to submit to every request he made. Because I held that belief, the idea of consent was not something I was familiar with. If he wanted to do something that I was uncomfortable with, I gave in to his request believing that this is what good wives do. After a few months of compromising my morals and doing things that brought me shame, I grew rebellious and turned my back on that belief. Unfortunately for me, it was too late. I had already set a precedent of acquiescence, and a culture was created in my home. What he wants is what he gets. The word ‘no’ lost its power before it was ever used, because it simply did not exist before that time.
It is heartbreaking to look back on those days. More devastating still is the knowledge that this situation happens often, and women feel trapped in their situation. I want to use this platform right now to say something boldly, and proudly.
No means no. It has always meant no. It will always mean no.
Being married to someone does not change that truth. Being related to someone does not change that truth. Being in any kind of relationship with someone does not change that truth. Even being a stranger does not change that truth.
The opposite side of this is equally true. Yes is the ONLY thing that means yes.
It is a shame that these words have to be written, but they must be said. Consent matters. If you are married, consent is still necessary. If you are dating, consent is still necessary. No matter what your situation, CONSENT WILL ALWAYS BE NECESSARY.
Somewhere along the way, this truth is lost to ones like us. It becomes accepted fact that once we’ve had sex with our partner, they have gained unbridled access to our bodies from that moment forward. This is wrong. THIS IS EVIL. We have to put an end to this way of thinking
I pray that women of the church will rise up to shine a light on the darkness that is hiding in our midst. Being a dutiful wife does NOT mean submitting to everything your husband tells you to do, ESPECIALLY IN THE BEDROOM. We have minds, and bodies, and spirits of our own. We are not owned. We have the RIGHT to say no, and we should not be shamed into silence. We know what is right. We know what is true. We know what the spirit of God is whispering to us when we feel conviction that something is amiss. We have to listen to that whisper and stand up for ourselves.
It is my hope that in this generation, and in all generations to follow, there is a clear understanding of consent. I want the word ‘no’ to be redeemed from the abyss. I want women to have right standing in their homes and know that they are not powerless peons.
More than that, I want men to come to a full understanding that wives are a beautiful gift to be cherished. They are a great and wonderful complement, and they are worthy of respect.
Teach your sons, and your brothers and your nephews these truths. Talk about these matters openly and unashamedly. What’s left in the dark has no hope of ever changing. We have to be strong, and we have to be brave enough to say that the lies stop here. Let’s move forward passionately and create a culture that honors all.