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Dear Editor,

I was so pleased by Lauren Blunt’s thoughtful edi­torial last week, “How to win a Hills­dalian woman in 30 days or less.” I have a per­spective to share that I hope will add some important context to the dis­cussion of rela­tion­ships, rejection, and pursuit.
Blunt opened by pointing out that Hillsdale’s “future-driven men­tality” drives men to aggres­sively pursue a lifelong romantic partner. Unfor­tu­nately, as she out­lines, this men­tality often leads to a kind of romantic per­sis­tence that com­pletely ignores a woman’s wishes — such as repeatedly asking her on dates and making other romantic ges­tures — even after she has expressed her dis­in­terest. This kind of behavior, while innocent, bears a dis­turbing sim­i­larity to the problem under­lying one of the biggest crises faced by col­leges nationwide.
We should all be very grateful that we live on an extremely safe campus, where the inci­dence of reported sexual assault has been approx­i­mately 0 in the past decade or so. Trag­i­cally, other cam­puses are not so lucky. According to the National Sexual Vio­lence Resource Center, one in five women are sex­ually assaulted while in college. Eight out of ten victims knew the person who assaulted them.
Maybe these sta­tistics sound a little ludi­crous. Twenty percent of female stu­dents get raped? Well, under­stand that this sta­tistic defines sexual assault as any sexual encounter that happens without the enthu­si­astic and informed consent of both parties. Too often, sexual assault is not the result of a stranger in the alley, or of mali­cious inten­tions at all — it is the result of a man failing to listen when a woman says, “I don’t want to.”  
Whether we are trying to prevent assault or awk­wardness, we would all do well to remember that women are fully autonomous human beings who should be trusted to know what they want. And when a woman says “no,” whether it’s to sex or to coffee in AJ’s, men need to trust her ability to make her own deci­sions — and to respect those deci­sions, imme­di­ately and com­pletely. Con­tinuing to pursue a woman after she has rejected your advances does not prove romantic for­titude: It demon­strates that you are thinking more of your own interests than hers.
I fully agree with Blunt that it’s won­derful that Hills­dalian men do ask women on dates, and pursue their romantic interests openly and hon­estly. The problem occurs when men, in an attempt to win over women, stop lis­tening to them. Women are not prizes to be won — they are people to be loved. And part of loving someone is respecting their deci­sions, whether or not they benefit you.   

Sin­cerely,

Mary Blen­dermann