My story is about helping others to protect their personal boundaries.
It should not and shall not be necessary to intervene when others are trying to set boundaries, but unfortunately it is – even in countries with self-proclaimed equal rights. Not everybody takes a no for what it is, a NO!
Two years ago, I went to a small town for an October festival with three of my girls and a bunch of locals. All ages were represented: young teenagers, college kids, adults and elderlies were participating. Everybody was dressed up in October outfits, except for my friends and me. But that played no difference; we got a warm welcome and were immediately part of all the festivities.
After a couple of beers, the dance floor was lit, and we joined in on the dancing. Some of the teenage boys we were talking to before asked if they could join us and of course they could, why not! But really fast they got close. Really close. I was fast enough to tell them that the deal was to dance and nothing else, the responses from the boys was to call me old and boring and started to ignore me and went on to hoovering around my girlfriends.
We were all very visible uncomfortable with the situation. But nobody did anything; I guess we were trying to ignore them. Then one of the boys lifted his arm to put it around one of the girls and then he just pulled her toward his body. She responded by twirling herself out of his grab, said “no thank you” and kept on dancing. But he did not understand, and he tried again. And again. And then again. It was like we were frozen. I think we all were so shocked of the fact that nobody in this big hall would help us or stand up for us. I started noticing that all of the attention was aimed at four girls and four boys on the dance floor; we were unwillingly center of attention. People that were old enough to be our parents and whom had kids at the festival, just looked at us. I was mortified. Why would nobody step in? One thing was clear, we needed help to get out of this situation.
In the next moment, I did something so out of character, that I almost didn’t believe that I was in control. At that point I had enough, so I grabbed one of the boy’s arms when placed on my very uncomfortable girlfriend’s shoulder, pulled it behind him and asked without wanting a response “Did you not hear her say NO? You know the word and hopefully you know that it’s not okay to keep going when someone says no” I kept my grip on his arm and I walked him away from the dance floor. While everybody was looking. Then I told him to stay away from us until he was grown enough to respect women and their boundaries. He looked shocked. I don’t think that any girl or woman has ever been so confrontational towards him. He walked away, and I returned to the dance floor.
But after 15 minutes I noticed some boys walking up to the dance floor. And they were looking at us and they whispered with each other. My friends started noticing as well and we decided to leave the dance floor. We went outside where a lot of people were talking and smoking. And suddenly we hear: “It’s her! The tall, blonde one! She dragged me off the floor”. We turn around and a group of ten boys or so is staring at us. One of my friends’ whispers, “Let’s go inside. They won’t do anything inside”. Nobody else outside did anything or said anything. So, I couldn’t help myself and I asked the group of boys if the one boy had told them why I dragged him of the floor. One of them yelled back in response “Oh, come on! Don’t be that girl. You were drinking, and dancing AND you talked to him. It’s your own fault. You want it, you know you do!” Then I got into an argument with three of the boys about respect. Meanwhile people were just looking, even though they got more and more aggressive and got closer and closer. After a while my girlfriends spoke to me, but I did not hear what they said, so I turned my head around to look at them and then one of them pulled my arm almost so hard that I fell. Why? Because one of the boys were throwing a fist at me, at the same time as I turned my head.
When did a “no” turn into a fistfight? In what world is that okay? Why did nobody step in? Every girl has the right to her own body. Her body does not exist for the purpose of serving boys and their needs when they say so. But apparently in a small town in Denmark all of this is okay. Nobody stepped in. Nobody said anything. But everybody should have: because it’s not okay to ignore another human’s boundaries. We should all help each other to say “NO!”
Simone Strandsbjerg, 24, Student, Denmark