THE BLOG

Refusing To Take 'No' For An Answer Is Never Romantic

11/09/2017 10:45 BST | Updated 11/09/2017 10:45 BST
Bristol Post

From Disney princes trying to "win" the girl to Dior asking the public "what would you do for love?" in its latest campaign, we're constantly told that grand gestures are the way to a person's heart, particularly a woman's.

But women are not prizes to be won, nor do we owe you anything if you choose to buy us dinner or even shower us with endless music.

This weekend, pianist Luke Howard pledged to play the piano non-stop on Bristol's College Green until his ex-girlfriend got in touch, with the ultimate aim of winning her back.

While some news outlets praised Luke for his #dedication, some on Twitter said the stunt was an example of "controlling behaviour" - and I'm not all that surprised.

Luke's act is symptomatic of a culture that tells men "no doesn't mean 'no', it means try harder".

At best this line of thinking is patronising, suggesting that a woman couldn't possibly be expected to know her own mind in the first instance. If she doesn't want you she must be confused, poor thing. Better persist and she'll soon realise the error of her ways!

At worst refusing to take "no" for an answer is predatory and contributes to the harassment women experience day-in, day-out. This ideology is to blame for why some men think it's okay to repeatedly grope women in nightclubs, refusing to back off until said woman declares she's "already taken", either by a real or fictional boyfriend.

As much as we've made advances in gender equality in the past 50 years - with more career opportunities for women and greater awareness of #everydaysexism - there's still a portion of men in society that feel women are simply put on this Earth for their enjoyment, and that they are somehow entitled to their affections (and their bodies). Personally, I blame porn and the constant objectification of women in the media for allowing this outdated, toxic culture to continue to dominate, but that's probably a separate blog post altogether.

Perhaps the scariest thing about #PianoGate is that Luke, and men like Luke, genuinely think their motives are pure. These men are not necessarily villains and chances are, they genuinely believe their actions are romantic. After all, isn't that what every romcom has ever taught them?

Luke has now deleted the Facebook page he set up in order to win back his ex following the backlash, suggesting he may have learnt the error of his ways. So instead of blaming him as an individual, I'd like to call on the media to do a better job in how it represents men, women and the power dynamic between them.

Playing the piano in a park for a woman is not the greatest crime, but it is undoubtedly part of a bigger issue. By calling it "romantic", you're perpetuating the problem. "No" never means "try harder", it just means "no".