Why Are There Consequences to a Woman's Refusal?

No means no and that shouldn't be a bad thing.

isla vista
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This past Friday the world saw the deadly actions of one man when he claimed the lives of six University of California, Santa Barbara students. The supposed reasons for his rampage (self-dubbed the "Day of Retribution") were outlined in a super long, super graphic 137-page document in which he states that he will "punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex. They have starved me of sex for my entire youth, and gave that pleasure to other men." These chilling words not only led to horrendous actions, but point to a sentiment that has led to similar incidents in the past.

This shooting wasn't the first time a man violently lashed out against women for not reciprocating his romantic (or lustful) intentions. While not all as deadly, The Tumblr account When Women Refuse chronicles other acts of vengeful violence that are just as concern-inducing. Deanna Zandt, co-founder of Lux Digital and avid Tumblr user, began the Tumblr as a way to showcase stories of sexual assault and harassment following the refusal of sexual or romantic advancements. In less than 24 hours, a team of four—Lainna Fader, Kate Tull, Kathryn Peters and Shauna Gordon-McKeon—joined her. The Tumblr was born in response to the discussion that followed the Isla Vista shootings. "A lot of guys were doing this kind of othering exercise, saying that this guy was mentally ill and that this was an isolated incident, and it doesn't happen all the time." Zandt said. "To which many of us, who work in feminism and media said, 'Um, it actually does happen all the time.'"

Cringe-worthy stories featuring unbelievable forms of abuse fill the blog's page—a man who attacked a woman with acid when she refused sex. A man who threw his ex-fiancee's daughter's car seat into a creek after she broke off their engagement. House fires, thrown punches, and yes, even murder. The wide variety of stories on the site speaks to the severity of the problem—and the stories that go unheard. The site publishes both personal experiences and published accounts of these types of incidents. It was important to Zandt to include reports and links to pieces from reputable news outlets on the site, in order to offer solid, undeniable proof to those with doubts. "It literally says: 'she refused his advances, and was killed for it,' Zandt says. "Nobody can say 'Well, is that really what happened?'" Through sharing these horrific stories, people have been able to connect, Zandt says. In its short run, the site already has gained lots of attention. Zandt says that within their first day, the Tumblr hit 65,000 unique visitors.

Men aren't alone in experiencing rejection, but no matter the person or circumstance, no should mean no—and there's nothing wrong or "punishable" about saying so. Zandt hopes that women who have been victims of abuse can look to this Tumblr and know that "You are not alone," she says. The sad truth: #YesAllWomen will experience harassment at some point in their life, and that's just not acceptable.

Diana Pearl

I'm an Associate Editor at the Business of Fashion, where I edit and write stories about the fashion and beauty industries. Previously, I was the brand editor at Adweek, where I was the lead editor for Adweek's brand and retail coverage. Before my switch to business journalism, I was a writer/reporter at PEOPLE.com, where I wrote news posts, galleries and articles for PEOPLE magazine's website. My work has been published on TheAtlantic.com, ELLE.com, MarieClaire.com, PEOPLE.com, GoodHousekeeping.com and in Every Day with Rachael Ray. It has been syndicated by Cosmopolitan.com, TIME.com, TravelandLeisure.com and GoodHousekeeping.com, among other publications. Previously, I've worked at VOGUE.com, ELLE.com, and MarieClaire.com.