“Hey, I know about the minimum, but I only have my card and I want to get a coffee, is that okay?” He asks with a shy smile.

He’s a young businessman from one of the neighbouring offices, dresses well, and seems to be aware that he is very attractive.

Damn it, I have to tell him no.

Where I work we have an Eftpos minimum of $5, and coffee is only $4.

I apologise and say no, his smile fades a little and he walks off.

At first, I felt bad because he comes in all the time, but a few days later a co-worker told me that he regularly tries to forgo the minimum.

He knows it exists, so why doesn’t he come prepared? Or why does he think he is special? How many times do we have to say no before he listens? I thought about this for a while and it made me think of guys who will do anything to get their way.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to become better acquainted with the word “no”. Why is it that I am so afraid of disappointing people, and do not even want to utter the negative response? This is a part of me that I would definitely like to destroy, as it would save me from a few bad situations. This fear of saying “no” combined with some boys’ incessant need to get what they want can be quite problematic.

I’m 22, but the amount of times I have let people do things when I didn’t want them to is far too many. I don’t even want to try to count because I will just end up feeling regretful.

From my experiences with boys in the boudoir, they nearly always try to push me to do things I don’t want to do, and when I say “no” their response is normally a laugh, or a smile; a great sign that I have been taken seriously. It makes me angry just thinking about it because I can picture the exact type of smile and imagine the same kind of laugh.

You might be reading this and thinking, “Why don’t you just say no?”

That’s the issue. I could have said it several times before, or pushed their hand away more than twice, yet they’ll still try. Persistence can be an admirable quality; with your career, striving towards your goals, or with life in general, but definitely not in the context of consent.

I’m not playing shy or hard-to-get, I simply do not want to. Sometimes, I want to throw my arms up in the air and shout from the rooftops, “No means no!”

The thing is, when I was learning about boys to watch out for it was always a stranger in a dark alley, an older man lurking in an empty parking lot, or a hooded figure following you home. It was never a cute boy who I invited into my house, a boy who took care of his appearance and smelled of fresh cologne, a partner wanting to try new things, someone I would laugh and have fun with, someone who held me tightly as we slept, or a boy who caressed my skin as if he gave a damn.

I always imagined if someone was going to try to take advantage of me that it would be forceful, that I would have no escape, that I would kick and scream.

I never thought that they would ask nicely, and make me feel guilty when I declined. My naive-self didn’t know that they would butter me up with kind words in preparation. I didn’t know that my fear of disappointing someone would override my own wants. I didn’t know that my “no” was a wall to be chipped away at. I didn’t know my reluctance was apparently a challenge to be conquered.

I think if I could go back in time and tell my younger self something, it would go a little like this;

Please, learn how to say no, and say it confidently. Don’t let people get away with things you’re uncomfortable with. Stick to your guns, don’t let them shake you. Don’t give in just because he is persistent. Please believe that there are a million other boys out there who are willing to respect you. Don’t let a crusty boy have more right to your body than you do because you’re scared of disappointing him, I promise you, he is nobody.

You’re the one who has to live with it at the end of the day, so please, look after yourself.

Jade Richards