What does a non-coercive sexual encounter look like?
Simple: It is two people saying yes to each other.
Let’s be clear about something: sex isn’t the end game here. Dating, sex, and relationships happen on a continuum. Sure, one-night stands happen; sometimes they are even the desired outcome.
One should still get consent. I would venture to say, even, that women and men can be clear about their intentions of having a one-night stand. “I’m not looking for a relationship, but you’re cute and I’m feeling frisky.” This way, no one’s waiting for a phone call.
We don’t need signed affidavits for consensual sex. The #MeToo movement isn’t going to ruin dating, flirting, or sex.
What a lot of men are just starting to realize is that the sexual interactions they are used to having aren’t necessarily fun for women. Outside of the troubling power dynamics of sexual harassment at the office, and outside outright assault and rape, there are still troubling interactions, messaging, and treatment that needs to be parsed.
We shouldn’t be afraid of this.
I once heard it said, “Sex is like pizza. Guys never have bad pizza.”
This isn’t true for women. Women get bad pizza sometimes. We are more vulnerable, and we’ve been conditioned from the youngest ages to go along to get along. It isn’t until we are in unpleasant sexual situations that we realize that it’s not going to work to our advantage.
Expanding on a point I made the other day:
“Traditional ideas about seduction rely on tropes of women withholding sex and men working hard to get it. It’s a narrow notion of heterosexuality — one that does a good job excusing abusive behavior…. [W]hen it’s considered ‘natural’ for men to doggedly pursue women — even those have made it clear they’re not interested — we make it easier for a predator to claim he was just following a normal romantic script.” (source)
Having this conversation about affirmative consent isn’t going to kill dating and romance. It doesn’t mean that men have to sit back until women make the first move, either.
It means take no for an answer, the first time, every time.
It means when she starts saying yes, make sure she still is saying yes minutes, and hours, and days later. Maybe even years!
“But some women like playing hard to get.”
Okay, I hear what you are saying. But the idea that she’s just playing hard to get cannot be the default position. As someone who never played hard to get, this argument falls flat with me.
If you are dating a woman, or a woman has decided to take you home/go home with you, now is time not to push ahead at all costs. If you don’t know if she’s having second thoughts, just ask. Open it up! “Is this okay? What do you want to do?” Check in.
Frankly, many women would benefit from learning more about their own bodies and their own desire. Sexual education, whether in the classroom or in pop culture, centers on boys. Boys have orgasms and pleasure; girls get pregnant. Sexual education for girls is about our period, and how not to be mortified by our body.
I have many more thoughts about this, so if you’re still interested, stay tuned. But this is the takeaway from this post, for men AND women, boys AND girls: Let us learn the language of desire, and learn what “yes means yes” looks like in action. The agonizing going on now by people who don’t want anything to change is worthless. Let’s see some change.