I constantly had to rescue one of my friends in high school from being cruelly teased by some of the guys. She could spend hours saying, “Shut up! Stop it!” but they would not stop until I looked at them and said, “Leave her alone.” They always obeyed me promptly…for the moment at least. Once she actually asked them, “Why do you always listen to her and not to me?” They laughed, shrugged, and walked away. For me, it was obvious that she asked for it. “If you keep giggling, they are never going to take you seriously,” I insisted. Once, I spoke to her seriously about the issue, because what had started as innocent teasing had become rather vulgar and offensive. She broke down into tears and explained that she wanted command their respect, but didn’t know how.
I think a lot of things were going on in her soul at the time. Although on a deeper level she wanted to be respected, on the surface all she asked for was attention, any type of attention, even if it was degrading. Since my own attitude of demanding respect was so natural to me, I didn’t know how to help her at the time. Since then, I’ve seen it happen again and again…and I’ve been able to reflect on the issue.
First, we have to start by making sure we have some criteria clear. Then we can look into ways to overcome insecurities, which often become an unconscious cry for attention. Finally, we can consider some concrete ways to demand respect.
No one has the right to harass you, to make vulgar comments about your body or about your intentions, or to hug, tickle, or touch you if you do not so wish. Don’t think, “Guys are just like that these days.” Guys are only like that if you ask for it or let them. Don’t assume, “It’s just a joke and I shouldn’t take it seriously.” It is not funny at all if it degrades you. Don’t say, “If I don’t let them, I’ll never get a boyfriend.” You will attract decent young men if you demand to be treated with decency (more about this below). You are not a toy; don’t let people play with you.
Is this being mean? No. You have not only the right but the obligation to stand up for yourself in these matters. Jesus teaches us to be meek and humble, but he also threw over the money-changing tables in the temple. Why did he do so? Because the temple of God is holy. When what is at stake is your pride alone, be humble and don’t return the offense. Admit it when you are wrong and put no limits to your love and mercy. However, when what is at stake is your dignity as a woman, you can and should defend yourself as vehemently as Jesus defended the temple. Why? Because you are God’s temple. Turn over the tables of vulgarity! Take up a whip against indecency! No one can accuse you of being a bitch. You are simply being an authentic Christian woman.
Yes, you are God’s temple. His Spirit dwells in you, moves you, transforms you, and loves you just as you are. Let His love be your security. Many young women unconsciously desire any kind of attention from men precisely because of their hidden insecurities. Go before the Lord with sincerity and open your heart to Him. Let Him love you and give you an experience of His love for you. If your trust in His love for you grows, your ability to demand respect will also grow. His love for you is abundant, constant, and eternal. You do not need the shallow and superficial attention offered by the world.
Now for the practical advice. Don’t be afraid to be serious. If you want to demand respect, just stop giggling! Often that alone is enough. If guys start making offensive statements, call them out personally. A simple question like, “What did you say?” or even, “Excuse me?” with a serious expression and a steady gaze is more effective than shrieking “Stop it!” a thousand times with an embarrassed smirk. A firm, “What are you doing?” or even, “Don’t touch me,” will stop their hands from going where you don’t want them to. If that doesn’t work, talk to an adult or superior about it. Don’t just give up and say it’s inevitable, for the reasons I’ve already addressed.
It may sound like I’ve been excessively rough on men in general, but that is not my intention. In reality, I think a lot of young men begin to treat their classmates and co-workers so awfully because they really think it’s what women want. Since that kind of behavior is so widespread, many think it’s the only way to “flirt.” It’s also a lot easier. A man has to muster up a lot of bravery to offer sincere compliments and pure affection. If you demand respect and reject vulgarity, you will motivate men to be courageous and frank when they want to express their attraction towards you. And sincerity and respect are much better foundations for a lasting relationship than vulgarity.