Boys need to be taught how to accept a girl’s “no” the first time
As more details emerge in the aftermath of our nation’s latest school shooting that left 10 dead and 13 injured, one thing’s abundantly clear — we’re not teaching our sons how to handle a girl’s rejection in a healthy way. Some boys are feeling entitled to love to the point where being told “no” sends them to a violent place, ending lives because they were denied a thing they felt they were owed — the attention and affection of a girl.
Santa Fe High School shooting victim Shana Fisher repeatedly rejected the advances of the teen boy who ultimately ended her life along with the lives of seven of her peers and two teachers. Her mother, Sadie Rodriguez, explained to The Los Angeles Times that Fisher had told shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis she wasn’t interested in him for a period of several months prior to the massacre. Rodriguez says her daughter “had 4 months of problems from this boy.”
“He kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no,” she said.
Rodriguez says the months of Pagourtzis’ harassment wore on Fisher to the point where she finally stood up to him in class and embarrassed him. “A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” Rodriguez tells the Times. “Shana being the first one.”
Rodriguez’s story prompted Twitter user @adigoesswimming to share an exchange she had with her nephew that might shed some light on how boys are socialized to be persistent in going after a girl, even when she rejects him.
My teenage nephew told me he asked a girl out and she turned him down. I said, "You know what to do now, right?" He said, "I know I know keep trying" and I said "NO. LEAVE HER ALONE. She gave you an answer." He was shocked. NO ONE had told him that before. TEACH. YOUR. BOYS. https://t.co/yrxjNRnfk5
— 🌹 Witch, Hunting 💀 (@adigoesswimming) May 20, 2018
She writes, “My teenage nephew told me he asked a girl out and she turned him down. I said, ‘You know what to do now, right?’ He said, ‘I know I know keep trying’ and I said ‘NO. LEAVE HER ALONE. She gave you an answer.’ He was shocked. NO ONE had told him that before. TEACH. YOUR. BOYS.”
How many women and girls can say they’ve been on the receiving end of a man or boy’s repeated advances? I have. I went on a date with a high school junior when I was a freshmen after I’d turned him down a number of times. My own mother told me to say yes because he came from a “nice” family and he was a “nice” boy — that I should give him a chance if he was making a point to keep asking me. Never mind the fact that being near him made my skin crawl. I made it through that one date, at one point crying in the movie theater bathroom stall because all I wanted to do was go home. He dropped me off at the end of the night and we never spoke again. At least he didn’t keep trying after an entire evening of my silence and obvious discomfort.
But that’s not nearly the case with every rejected teen boy, as we’ve seen play out in horrible news stories recently. Our culture teaches both boys and girls that persistence in the face of loud rejection is somehow romantic and desired. That a girl saying “no” over and over might not actually mean no, it just means you have to try harder. After all, little girls are told as young as preschool that the boys chasing them on the playground and tugging their pigtails only do it because they like them, right? That the chasing is all part of the game of love.
It’s not only the playground — our entertainment culture has been teaching boys from the dawn of time that dogged persistence is the way to a girl’s heart, regardless of her response. How many episodes of our childhood favorite, Saved by the Bell, involved Zack going after Kelly again and again, or Screech chasing poor Lisa, who continually made her feelings about him known? But didn’t we cheer on the boys? Keep trying, she’ll give in eventually, right?
In a series of movie clips compiled for the YouTube channel Pop Culture Detective, Jonathan McIntosh examines and highlights the idea of “stalking for love” in movies and TV shows. He tells The Mary Sue, “Stalking for love isn’t framed as something worthy of genuine concern. It’s depicted as just a temporary lapse in judgment, fueled by passionate feelings. In some instances, the romantic stalker might confess or apologize once he’s caught, but rarely are there any lasting negative impacts of meaningful forms of atonement.”
Bottom line, a boy’s persistent chasing of a girl is often not seen for the concerning and frightening behavior it truly is, and it’s killing young women. We need to teach our sons to gracefully accept a girl’s “no” the very first time.
Pagourtzis’ family issued a statement about their son obtained by the Times. “We are gratified by the public comments made by other Santa Fe High School students that show Dimitri as we know him: a smart, quiet, sweet boy,” it reads.
This one quote sums up the problem with how we look at young men who refuse to accept a girl’s rejection. A “sweet” boy doesn’t carry a gun to school and massacre nearly a dozen people. A “sweet” boy accepts a girl’s “no” the first time and moves on with his life instead of taking the lives of others. End of story.