What we mean by male entitlement
Julian Penna, an ex-UKIP candidate in the local elections in Hull was given a non-custodial sentence for punching Abby Wallace in the face. He pled guilty to one charge on common assault and one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and received only 160 hour of community service and an £800 fine.
According to the Hull Daily Mail, Penna was "angry" because Wallace's girlfriend had "rebuffed" his advances. He responded by kicking the woman in the stomach. Wallace challenged Penna and was punched in the face.
This is what we mean when we talk about male entitlement: the idea that a man is entitled to a woman's time. This type of toxic hyper-masculinity is both, as the truism goes, a cause and a consequence of violence against women and girls. It is predicated on the belief that men have the right to approach women and demand their time and attention, but that women do not have the right to say no. This is the same language which is used to minimise and excuse sexual violence.
Penna believed he had the right to approach the two women and demand their attention. He then punished both women for refusing to recognise and acquiesce to his demands.
This situation is not unusual. Women in public spaces who say no to unwanted male attention know that they can expect, at the very least, verbal abuse for being clear about their boundaries. Women also know that the man who screams 'bitch' at them in a night club will be the one who receives sympathy - if only she was kinder to him, he wouldn't have had to publicly abuse and shame her.
To end violence against women and girls, we need to start challenging male entitlement and toxic hyper-masculinity. We need to be clear that the expression "no means no" doesn't just refer to sexual violence. Women have the right to say no to unwanted attention from men - whilst sitting in a cafe, at the gym or in a night club with friends - and men have no right to punish, physically or verbally, women who say no.
The word no is a complete sentence and woman have the right to live their lives without having to defend their decision not to talk, dance, or hang out with men.
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