Too Many Men Can’t Handle Being Told No

Content warning for discussion of mass shootings and domestic violence.

Teen Vogue recently published an article about the link between dating violence and gun violence.

But calling it “dating violence” misses a very significant factor. I dug through a list of school shootings from the past few years and tried to pick out every story that seemed to involve any sort of dating/romantic relationship, either real or desired on the part of the shooter.

Anyone want to guess what I found? In every single case, the shooter was male, and the target was female.

Remember last week when I talked about needing to teach kids to hear and accept “No” for an answer? Let me be more specific. Being able to set and respect boundaries is important for everyone. But we desperately need to teach boys and men to respect “No.” That male sense of entitlement is literally killing people.

The whole “incel” thing is another example where we see a guy committing murder because he feels the world owed him sex. Yet, despite the fact that both men and women can be “involuntarily celibate,” it’s only the men lashing out with violence, killing people because they’re unwilling to accept women telling them no.

As a society, this is exactly what we teach men to do. We teach them to be persistent, to never accept no for an answer. The entertainment industry is flooded with stories of men essentially wearing down the target of their desire until the woman says yes. We teach them that women aren’t people, but things to be won and used.

Again and again, we see where those lessons lead:

Santa Fe High School. Texas. Kole Dixon, 16, a sophomore…said that friends told him that the gunman first entered an art classroom, said “Surprise!” and started shooting. The suspect’s ex-girlfriend was among the people shot in that classroom, he said.* Sadie Rodriguez, the mother of Shana Fisher, 16, told the newspaper that her daughter rejected four months of aggressive advances from accused shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis… Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother as writing in a private message to the Times. “A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”

*Per the second link, it sounds like Fisher wasn’t the killer’s ex-girlfriend, but a girl he’d been aggressively pursuing.

Great Mills High School. Maryland. All indications suggest the shooting was not a random act of violence. Rollins and the female victim had a prior relationship which recently ended.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Florida. Student Victoria Olvera, 17, said that Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend.

Italy High School. Texas. Shook said the girl who was shot had moved to the school district a few months earlier. She said the girl had briefly dated the suspect, but that she did not know much about her.

Rancho Tehama Reserve. California. The wife’s car was still there. Her body, shot several times, was hidden beneath the floor. “We believe that’s what probably started this whole event,” Tehama County Asst. Sheriff Phil Johnston told reporters.

Mattoon High School. Illinois. [T]he teen targeted a female student at Mattoon High School who he said called him gay.

North Lake College. Texas. He had been stalking her for quite a while but she didn’t make anything of it,” her mom said. The family says witnesses told them Torres had approached Janeera in front of an art exhibit and yelled at her saying, “You know who I am and you know why I am here!” The family also says the two never dated and were not even friends.

North Park Elementary School. California. The slain teacher was identified as Karen Smith, 53, who police said was Anderson’s estranged wife.

Antigo High School. Wisconsin. A school administrator said he does not believe Wagner targeted the victims. Instead, interim district administrator Donald Childs told The Associated Press he believes Wagner planned to enter the prom and start shooting randomly. A student who did not want to be identified told FOX6 News Wagner had been depressed following the break-up with his girlfriend.

Rogers State University. Oklahoma. Sources said a woman was studying in a music hall when she spotted her ex-boyfriend, Fees, outside. Fees shot through the window at the woman, but she was able to run to safety and call authorities, reports say.


We see the seeds in the way so many men lash out with threats of violence when a woman dares to tell them no. We see the statistics showing that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she tries to leave.

I know, I know. “Not all men,” and all that. Most men don’t go on killing sprees when a woman turns them down. But the list of men who do is too damned long.

So many guys are so obsessed with being “real men.” Here’s a thought. Maybe a real man should have more emotional stability and maturity than a toddler throwing a tantrum when he doesn’t immediately get everything he wants. Maybe he should be man enough to hear the word “no” without having to whine, curse, threaten, and/or kill. Maybe that’s what we should be teaching boys and men.