Just Say No? The Use of Conversation Analysis in Developing a Feminist Perspective on Sexual Refusal

You can download the .pdf on researchgate

As feminists, we have allowed men (disingenuously claiming not to understand normative conversational conventions) to set the agenda, such that we have accepted the need to educate women to produce refusals which men cannot claim to have ‘misunderstood’. This, in turn, has led only to an escalation of men’s claims to have 'misunderstood’, to be 'misunderstood’, and, in general, to be 'ignorant’ about women’s (allegedly different and special) ways of communicating. Men’s self interested capacity for 'misunderstanding’ will always outstrip women’s earnest attempts to clarify and explain.

This article is fucking fantastic, and it is absolutely worth reading the entire thing, and linking it to people you’re conversing with who are skeptical about the issues involved.

I have myself occasionally looked askance at claims that men are misunderstanding ‘clear social signals’, simply because neurotypicality is a spectrum, which can leave people unable to read signs that seem obvious to others, even without necessarily being obviously neurodivergent.

Kitzinger and Frith make an exceptionally well structured case that demonstrates just how universal these conversational signals are.

They additionally examine the (in hindsight blindingly obvious!) fact that encouragements to give a “simple, clear, NO” run counter to commonplace etiquette, whereby saying “no” outright to anyone in any social context is discouraged, and produces feelings of discomfort in speakers of all genders.


I’m only partway through reading it now. I agree it’s worthwhile. I’m leaving this comment now just to bump the topic to the top, so more folks might notice it and have a look at it.


Thank you for posting this!

A read of the first page tells me that I’ll be reading the rest of it.

(Maybe make it more clear that your link doesn’t download the PDF itself, but rather goes to a page where one can do that?)

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Hmm, the link did download the pdf for me (automatically, I mean). I didn’t realize it at first, and I clicked the blue button on the page for “Download full-text PDF”, and then looked in my download folder and there were two copies there.

And I now notice that the url of the OP’s link says “download” at the end of it…

Huh. For me it goes to a page that has an abstract and a blue button for downloading the PDF. Maybe it works differently in different countries?? (I’m in the U.S.)

Okay, I tried the link again and did not get an automatic download. I guess I’m not sure exactly how I wound up with two downloads of it the first time, then!

I agree that saying no is difficult in pretty much any social situation and that quite a lot of males choose to ignore established social signals.

I disagree that encouraging females to say no is a strictly feminist perspective or imperitive. Religion and culture made women responsible for resisting sexual advances long before college feminists tried to push back against unwanted solicitations by creating a slogan stating that “No means no”. I think that slogan was less about rape prevention, and more an expression of rage.


I just found this, read the paper, and was struck with this particular conclusion:

This goes back to entitlement.
I’m seething because this is our culture. Most men, especially white cis hetero men, think that anything they do is OK because they’re men, manly men who run the world.

How can we change rape culture when shit like this is so ingrained?
(This is a real question. I’d love to have any input about what we can do.)


No problem downloading the Article here, but I joined researchgate some time ago and still have their cookie.

Interesting reminder that communicating refusal is normally done subtly and that some men refuse to understand. Still, I don’t see any other solution than saying “no” as clearly as can be to the men who pretend not to understand.
Possibly while hitting them on the head with a blunt object where not prohibited by law… :innocent:

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