"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." - Margaret Atwood
While I have seen this quote previously, I came across it again in the comments of a news article I read recently reporting on the murder of a young Wisconsin woman. Last week, a twenty-four-year-old woman named Caroline Nosal was shot and murdered by her co-worker, Christopher O'Kroley, after she had turned down his advances. Two weeks before Nosal's tragic death she had complained to the store manager that O'Kroley had been harassing her. This led to O'Kroley's suspension and eventual termination. O'Kroley later returned to the store where he fatally shot Nosal in the parking lot. After being apprehended by the police, O'Kroley confessed to the murder and said that "it was easy to kill" Caroline because she had "ruined [his] life." This young woman who loved books and animals, who was "wonderful and sassy" and who had her whole life ahead of her was killed because a man apparently thought that he had more of a right to her time and her body then she had a right to continue living.
As tragic and horrifying as this murder is, it is sadly no longer shocking or unexpected to hear of (largely) women being harassed, abused, or killed when they exercise their freedom to turn down the advances of men they are not interested in. Indeed, a Google search of "men killing women who rejected them" produces a horrific amount of hits. There is even an eye-opening Tumblr page titled "When Women Refuse" which collects the stories of violence inflicted on women who reject someone's sexual advances. It includes many stories, such as that of women who was killed for refusing to talk to a man at a bar, a man throwing a woman's puppy out of a third story window after she rejected his advances, and a man locking a young women in a walk-in freezer until she would talk to him. There are even stories about men targeting all women or specific groups of women for their perceived general rejection of him.
Obviously not all men become violent when they are rejected. Most men in my experience do not. However almost all women have some personal story in which they turned down the advances of a stranger, a friend, a co-worker, or an ex and their "No" was either ignored, mocked, or used as an excuse to threaten or harm. Additionally, you hear the stories of your female friends and family (and obviously the news stories) about what can happen when you reject a man incapable of understanding and accepting a woman's right to not entertain their advances. These are the experiences that I believe are behind the sentiment in Atwood's quote. Even if 99 out of 100 men accept your "No" and calmly move on, you are always aware that there may be one man that will not and you have no idea who to firmly identify him from the others. So, out of a sense learned self-preservation, I believe that women have been taught through their own experiences and the stories of those around them to be inherently wary of rejecting men and sadly I have no idea what to do about that.