March 7, 2016


I was blogging about a NYT column telling about women leaving the field of science because they’d received email expressing desire for an intimate relationship and couldn’t figure out what to do about it.

These women had never, as far as I could tell, just said no — I’m not interested. The NYT author wrote of the women deciding “[p]erhaps… to ignore the first email,” then getting further efforts at closeness from the man, after which “any objection on her part… would seem heartless.” I said: “Why isn’t it also ‘heartless’ to deprive this man of the basic information that he is not experiencing a successful response to his attempt to go on a date?” The column author spins out a nightmare: “On and on it goes, and slowly she realizes that he’s not going to stop because he doesn’t have to.” I said: “Why is this smart woman so absurdly slow?”

There are, I’m afraid, a lot of people out there who need to be bonked over the head on a regular basis with the stunningly simple advice, “Just say no.” It sounds crushingly stupid, but an awful lot of people — including very smart people — become stupid in social situations.

Well, you know, if smart scientist women can’t tell a guy that they don’t want to go out on a date, then maybe all this “affirmative consent” folderol is the natural consequence. But so is the conclusion that the Victorians were right, and that women need to be chaperoned by wise elders until they’re placed under the authority of a husband, because the silly things just aren’t up to making decisions on their own.

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