by Ria Desai

In the midst of last year’s prom frenzy, as I was pulling my car out of the parking lot and waiting in line to leave, one of my friends popped into my car for a chat. He was irate: “Have you heard about Alex?” Before I got the chance to respond, he was off on a rant about how two guys had asked her to prom and she had said no to both of them, which of course makes her a gigantic bitch. He quickly figured out he was ranting to the wrong person because I set him straight: just because Alex turned both guys down, it didn’t make her any less of a good person. He argued with me about how both guys made such a big effort for her, so she should have at least said yes to one of them.

“Did she say that she even wanted to go to prom in the first place?” I tersely asked. “Maybe she simply doesn’t feel like going. Either that or she was uncomfortable going with guys she probably doesn’t like. Exercising her right to say no doesn’t make her a giant bitch.” At that point I told him to get out my car, and less than subtly hinted that I myself chose not to go to prom with a date, so I guessed I was a raging bitch as well.

I’ve always thought that grandiose public proposals were icky unless the two people involved are dating. There’s a weird element of pressure placed on the girl to say yes if she’s asked in a really public way. Yes, the guy decides to plan a big romantic gesture and puts himself out there in front of everyone, but there shouldn’t be this assumption that his actions will guarantee him a date.

That kind of mentality is steeped in rape culture. Just because a guy tries, it doesn’t mean that he deserves a response. If a guy pays for your date, society dictates that you, at the least, owe him a goodnight kiss. If a random guy starts to chat you up on the subway, society dictates that you, as a female, are required to respond because ignoring him makes you a stone cold bitch. If a guy goes all out to ask you to prom, society dictates that you publically say yes. What everyone needs to realize is that girls “owe” nothing at all to men who “make the effort” or “put themselves out there.” Her decisions are her decisions alone.

Turning him down – or “friendzoning” him – shouldn’t be a big deal. She doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. So what? Friends are exactly that – platonic friends. The mere idea that a girl entered into a friendship just to be friends can’t be THAT foreign. I’ve “friendzoned” many a guy before, and I feel no remorse. End of story. I owe him no explanation.

In the case that the girl doesn’t want to go with the guy to prom, it takes a lot of courage on her part to turn him down in front of everyone. Not to mention that not all girls want to date guys – some girls are gay and would rather go to prom with other girls. Turning him down marks her as a “huge bitch,” a label she doesn’t deserve in any way. Yes, rejecting him will hurt his feelings, but doesn’t every girl deserve the chance to make the decision that she wants to make?

More often than not, the girl feels forced to say, “yes” because she doesn’t want to seem
This brings me back to a conversation I had last year in my Spanish class – I made the point that I thought public proposals, while cute for passing onlookers, place undue pressure on the person asked. A senior girl jumped in to say that she herself had been asked to homecoming earlier that year by a guy whom she barely knew. She had no idea he liked her and felt pressured by everyone watching to say yes. She later had to turn him down in private, which, due to the rumor mill, still had her labeled a “bitch.”

Our culture expects girls to be obliging and apologetic, even if we wants to act in our own best interest. Girls who choose to say no–to prom, to boys, or to anything else–should owe no explanation to anybody but themselves.