I've dated my share of sexist men. One joked that no means yes, and yes means "take me now." I wasted 5 months of my life on a guy who truly believed that every woman secretly has a rape fantasy.
There's a myth that all women want to have sex, and that the only reason they say no is because they aren't supposed to. Men who buy into this think they're doing women a favor, liberating them, by trying to push past the original "no." We live in a society where refusal to have sex is not taken seriously.
Sure, it's praised by some groups. Women who succeed in saying "no" are put on a pedestal, revered for their purity, the sacrifice of their human desires to satisfy a male god, their male religious leaders, their fathers, and future husbands.
But most boyfriends have another view of the word "no." To them, "no" isn't genuine. A woman saying no to sex is like a dieter saying no to desert, she wants it but refuses out of obligation.
To many men, "no" is malleable. Changeable. Getting from no to yes is possible, and all in the sales pitch. Convince her she wants it, assure her there will be no consequences, and when that doesn't work, just keep pushing her boundaries until you're in.
But as long as she said no and resisted, she gets the credit.
When "no" isn't taken seriously, rape becomes a confusing and hotly contested subject. When we disregard the word "no," we instead look to actions to determine whether she "really" wanted it.
And of course, this is part of a greater issue where it's assumed women don't say what they mean. Not surprising when we're told to act a certain way, and not speak our minds, ask for what we want, or confront people directly. Not only does this lead young girls to make assumptions about what people really mean in terms of actions or words aimed at them (as discussed in Rachel Simmons's book The Curse of the Good Girl), men also learn that they must also make assumptions about what women mean, and try to speak the vague, unauthentic, and often passive aggressive language women are trained to speak through adolescence and into adulthood.
In this world where women often say one thing out of obligation when they really mean or want to say something else, it's not surprising that a refusal to have sex isn't taken seriously. It's also not surprising that women are believed to be untrustworthy, therefore reports of rape are often examined as though the victim is the one on trial. The question isn't whether he crashed the gates after being refused entry, but whether her lack of consent was legitimate. She said "no," but did she mean it? In order to investigate this further, we look to nonverbal cues and behavioral patterns to figure out what words often fail to prove.
Because of this, one way to eradicate rape culture is to reform the way women are socially trained to interact with each other. If women are actively encouraged to speak openly and honestly, without fear of losing friends or ruining their relationships with men, their words will have more legitimacy and power. And to further ensure that "no" is always taken to mean "I really don't want to have sex" instead of "I really shouldn't have sex," sexual restraints on women have got to go. Rather than idealizing women who have sex or women who do not, we must create a world where women can make their own choices of whether they do or don't want to have sex, independent of what's expected of them. Only then will "no" be taken seriously.