Indeed, the idea of ‘winning the girl’ – of overcoming female objections or resistance through repeated and frequently escalating efforts – is central to most of our modern romantic narratives. (Female persistence, by contrast, is viewed as pathetic.) And the more I think about instances of creepiness, harassment and stalking that culminate in either the threat or actuality of sexual assault, the more I’m convinced that a massive part of the problem is this socially sanctioned idea that men are fundamentally entitled to persist. Because if men are meant to persist, then women who say no must only be rejecting the attempt, not the man himself, so that every separate attempt becomes one of a potentially infinite number of keys which might just fit the lock of the woman’s approval. She’s not the one who’s allowed to say no, not really; she should be silent and passive as a locked door, waiting patiently while the man runs through however many keys he can be bothered trying. And if he gets sick of this lengthy process and just breaks in? Well, frustration under those circumstances is only natural. Either the door shouldn’t have been there to impede him, or it shouldn’t have been locked.
This is one of the reasons that I will never stop pushing back on this idea that narrative drama “ends” when the man “wins” the love of the woman he loves. It’s why it’s not only lazy and shortsighted but actually supporting a cultural history of misogny to insist that the hero and the woman he loves can’t exist as a committee unit because it “kills the drama.”
This is the backbone of what that kind of thinking supports. We have been culturally brainwashed to view women as the prize that the hero wins for his happy ending and it has to stop.