Accept it and stop making those gestures or asks. That's the right answer every single time: just accept someone's no and then back right off.
Asking or otherwise pressing over and over isn't the right answer. "Not giving up" (which often looks a whole lot like harassment) isn't the right answer. Trying to get them to change their mind isn't the right answer. Trying to get them to change their mind through their friends or family also isn't the right answer. And while it should be obvious, we so sadly know that it isn't: no kind of violence is ever the right answer.
So much of mutually shared and wanted love or sex is just about timing and other likely random and not very flowery things: it generally happens because everyone involved just happens to want the same or very similar things at the same time, and just happens to be in some proximity and want them with one another. It's not about what anyone involved is owed or deserves, or even more, what their value as a person is or isn't; it's not about anyone running -- and then winning or losing -- a campaign to win someone over. Love or sex being that way may seem banal: that doesn't fit all the tropes about love and sex so many of us learn so early, but then, neither do a lot of things. Healthy interpersonal dynamics don't match much of what's in those tropes, period. Those tropes are often useless and unrealistic, but more importantly, they also often hold up harassment, abuse and other kinds of violence or harm as ideal. Those tropes suck, and when paired with dangerous things like toxic constructs of masculinity and weapons, those tropes can kill (CN: link is to a discussion about the Santa Fe High School shooting and other similar incidents of violence).
Refusing to accept someone's no -- and in a bigger way, refusing to accept that you can't get what you want from someone else -- can result in everything from annoyance to the deepest, worst kinds of horror and tragedy, as we know from most of the mass violence that men or boys keep committing. We strongly agree with -- and are so glad to see -- conversations like this moment on Twitter.
In the two decades I've run Scarleteen, myself and other staff and volunteers have had many conversations with users about what to do and how to deal when someone a person is into isn't into them back, or when someone wants something sexually or otherwise from someone who doesn't want that same something. It's been very unfortunately common for us to be the first people to have that kind of conversation with someone. Our users are most typically in their late teens or early twenties: this time of life should not be the first time anyone is having this conversation. That's way, way too late.
We hope this is something far more people will get on board talking to more young people about, ideally well before they are in their teens, and ideally far more than once. We also hope it's something more young people, especially young men, will just inform themselves about and really take in: we know so many young men who understand, accept and support healthy ways to respond to a no or rejection just fine. We know that more can.
Our hearts go out to all of the young people, their families and friends who are or have been grieving, who have directly or indirectly experienced profound loss and violence; who are validly fearful, and who shouldn't have to be, especially in places or areas of life -- like at school, at home, in or around love relationships -- where they should instead be and feel the most safe.
Here are a few links to some of out static content about a few kinds of no, from a few different perspectives and social contexts, whether you're reading it for yourself or you want to share it with the young people in your life. Some of them are sadly revealing about the toxic nature of some of our most common cultural beliefs, feelings and power structures when it comes to saying or hearing no.
- What’s In A No?
- I know consent is awesome, but rejection is not!
- Double Feature: Harassment and Flirting
- He said he'd wait, but he won't stop asking.
- Should I feel guilty (for being afraid to say no)?
- He's Pressuring Me: How Do I Tell Him?
- I'm into my friend and want to fool around with her, but will she do it?
- How can I keep from getting upset when he ignores my no?
- She just won't stop pressuring me for sex and babies.
- I want to have sex. He doesn't. Why not? And what do I do now?
- I worry that because I'm a man, I am going to sexually abuse someone.
- Driver's Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent