To preface this, I want to say I know our parents and leaders have tried their best. I don’t hold anything against them, but I’ve taken my experiences and listened to those of others, and I know we can be better in the future.
As a 14-year-old girl getting ready to attend my first stake dance, I distinctly remember adults telling me, “If a boy asks you to dance, you have to say yes … at least to the first dance.”
This phrase stuck with me, as it has so many other women of faith.
I have just learned now, as a 22-year-old, married woman who’s been away from home for four years, that IT’S OK TO SAY NO.
I know my adult leaders had good intentions when telling me I must say yes — to help boys gain confidence, to make sure the weird or smelly kid got a dance, to be nice. But subconsciously, I, and many other women, learned that you have to say yes to boys. This can lead to negative interactions with men down the road and make women feel like their wants and desires are not as important as men’s.
Saying “no” can be a good thing. We came to this earth to experience agency, which means to choose for ourselves. I recently listened to a podcast episode called “Heaven Came Through a Woman,” where Rosie, the host, and Amber, the guest, discussed how the story of Christ’s conception and birth teaches about agency.
Amber said Mary was visited by an angel before she conceived. “Mary essentially gives her consent — she said, ‘Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord.’ It illustrates that she’s choosing her agency to accept this really, really heavy task.”
God gave everyone on this earth agency — even the teenage girl who became the earthly mother of our Savior. He respects the agency of all. He respects your agency, even if you may be scared or unsure of telling a boy (or girl) no.
In 2018, Benjamin Ogles gave a devotional address about his experience handling sexual misconduct at BYU. He served on advisory councils for the school and did research to better the reporting process and culture surrounding sexual assault and victims/survivors at BYU.
He said, “I wish all people knew how to ask first. Instead of second guessing or assuming, we can rely on direct information.”
Ladies — provide that information. Say “no.” Don’t tip toe around it, don’t offer an explanation, but set boundaries and be firm. You don’t owe a yes to anyone, and you don’t need to be nice just to “give someone a chance.” If you get a bad feeling, listen to yourself.
Men — ask for consent. If you aren’t sure you should kiss a girl, ask. Look at your partner and ask, “May I ______?” “Is this what you want?” “If you want to stop, it’s OK.”
If you’re uncertain of your date’s response, look deeper to pick up on less obvious cues. Is she kissing you back? Is she hesitant or pulling away? Maybe she doesn’t say no, but she instead says, “I don’t know…” “I’m feeling tired.” “I’ve got to get home.”
If you’re doubting a kiss is a good idea, don’t do it. It’s better to get verbal confirmation to protect you both rather than just go for something and have it hurt someone.
These roles can be reversed, but I am speaking to women in this article, as I wished someone would have spoken to me.
Any kind of sexual violence or manipulation is wrong and should be reported to the proper authorities.
Rexburg Police Department (208) 359-3008, 25 E. Main St., Rexburg, ID
Family Crisis Center (208) 356-0065, 16 E. Main St., Rexburg, ID, https://familycrisiscenter.wixsite.com/familycrisiscenter
RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network) 1-800-656-4673, www.rainn.org
Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center (208) 235-2412, https://www.dvsacac.org/
Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence (208) 384-0419, www.idvsa.org