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Megan McArdle

'No' Is a Woman's Most Powerful Word

Women need to embrace "no" in all areas of life, and teach men to expect to hear it from us more often.
Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

Source: STR/AFP/Getty Images

The furor over the Rolling Stone story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia is dying down. But the conversations continue. This weekend, in the New York Times, Susan Dominus related a scenario that will seem familiar to a lot of women, and probably, a number of men: a friendly member of the opposite sex pouring the drinks with a generous hand, and later, a dark room, the continued pleading that follows the murmured nos, and finally, an exhausted capitulation because it's easier than forming the will to keep arguing, or to get up and leave. 

When I was in college, around the same time as Dominus, the slogan of college rape activists was "no means no." I said it myself many times. It had all the virtues of a good social rule: simple, easy to follow, and easy for everyone to agree upon. It is still a very good rule, one that every man and woman should honor. Unfortunately, for many women, it was not enough.