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.