Confidence, Consent, food

No Thanks, That Doesn’t Work For Me

I know a man who has a reputation for anger. 

Really? Him?

Yeah. When he goes off he goes off.

I don’t see him often. It’s not usually my problem, I keep out of it. Apparently he’s often buying apology baked-goods though.

The other day he had trouble with a piece of technology and asked for my help. You’re young, aren’t you an expert on this? And when none of my suggestions helped he cursed, loudly, suddenly, and directly in my ear.

I vocalized in shock, nearly spilling my tea, and gave him a look. This is not acceptable behavior in my presence.

Moments later he was ashamed, apologizing for startling me like that, and stalked off to torment someone else. Someone who would let him.

You can decide how you’re treated. If you decide that something is unacceptable and you stick to it then the people around you will notice. Expect a higher level of respect and you’ll either foster that behavior in those around you or lose the people who aren’t willing to give it to you.

Tonight I got dinner with a family member who’s favorite topic is “Oh, I couldn’t possibly eat all that, you’ll have to help me.” If I order dessert it’s, “You should order two! But don’t ask for a spoon for me.” It isn’t about me, it’s about her. And it makes me crazy. And tonight as always she tried to foist her food on me. After years of “Fine, just put a little on my plate,” and “I don’t really love eggplant,” tonight I just looked her in the eye and calmly said “No.” Oh. “I ordered exactly what I wanted and I don’t want anything else, but thank you for the offer.” And for once in her life she dropped it.

So ask for what you want. Say no to things you don’t. You only live once, right? Don’t let anyone make you eat eggplant. Or worse, calamari.

Consent, Dating

Wall, Body, Foot

I keep forgetting to write about this experience I had last week. I keep forgetting that it happened. I keep forgetting about this moment.

I met a guy, I brought him home. This wasn’t the first time I had been with this guy. He’s a sweet guy, nice hair, big nose, remembered facts I had told him the last time we met. Jewish to boot!

And a bit on the rough side. And rougher and rougher as he starts to lose himself.

Which wasn’t doing it for me that night. And which was reaching my brain as pain instead of pleasure.

“That hurts, no harder than that.”

“Ok, I’m sorry.”

And he backed off.

Until he was nearing the finish line and starting losing himself again.

But, no, this is not an excuse I’m going to make for him.

I bucked him off and kicked him into my wall. Literally, pinned him to the wall with my foot.

“Did I hurt you?”

“Yes, I told you not to do that.”

A tumble of very breathless apologies. He’s still against the wall, catching his breath, apologizing.

I hear the words “I’m sorry” rise to the back of my throat and I bite down hard.

Because I’m not sorry. I’m not even sorry I’m not sorry. How do I really feel?

I rise to my feet and join him at the wall to whisper in his ear, “I don’t make a habit of placating men.”

More apologies tumble out, “I don’t want you to placate me.”

I go get two glasses of water.

We drink the water and talk naked for 45 minutes or so, with our heads resting on each others knees like a yin yang. A yin yang of pale jewish skin but nonetheless. There was no resentment, there was no fear, no anger, it was the best conversation we’ve ever had.

And I keep forgetting about it. This could have turned into a moment I played back for the rest of my life. If I hadn’t said something in that moment I would have hated him. I would have hated me. I would have been full on anger and empty on self-esteem.

And instead it’s a moment that I don’t even conjure up unless reminded of how pleased I am with it.

The thing that keeps striking me in the retelling is how easy it was, and how well-received. I know this makes me lucky. These things make me lucky. But also, if every woman could feel how easy it was to react that way then maybe it would be easier to convince ourselves that we’re allowed to be active participants in our sex lives, to convince our partners that we’re active participants in our sex lives. Perhaps it would go some way towards not being treated like chattel. Towards being treated like subjects in our own spaces.

It’s worth a try anyway.


Consent, Media

I Will Protect Your Name And Your Heart

FG favorite, Sociological Images, had an interesting post about a scene from Vampire Diaries and how we can use it as a launching point for discussions of consent.

They’re question was “does him asking ‘do you want to get out of here?’ and her affirmation count as consent?”

I’d say that her saying yes to that was her consent to get out of there with him.

Her grabbing his head and kissing him is her consent to kissing him.

Her helping to take off her dress is her consent to be dress-less.

Her throwing him on the bed and then crawling on top of him is her consent to be there with him. The rest we have to infer.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of verbal consent, but I would say that there are a lot of small consents happening throughout the scene.

That’s how I think of consent in my own sex life. And right now I want to talk about how I use consent in my sex life personally. Because one of the things that people first starting to explore sex are missing is exact how-to information on all the things we politely eupheme.

Three days into our honeymoon we found ourselves in Barnes and Noble trying to find a book to help us figure things out in the bedroom. We’d read a number of Christian books about sex prior to getting married, and they were very helpful in terms of the theological and relational aspect of sex, but not so helpful on the supremely practical “how to” aspect—and more specifically, how to do it well and mutually enjoy it. [x]

When I’m first seeing someone I test their respect for my boundaries a lot. I tell them I don’t like them paying for my food and then see if they respect it. I tell them things they should know and then ditch them if they don’t respond the way I want them to. End of story. It’s a zero tolerance policy.

I don’t stop until I’ve made it clear that my boundaries are solid, they are not going to be pushed, that I am a force to be reckoned with and that I will throw them across the room if they try to remove my shirt before I’m ready.

And then, when they’ve cleared all those hurdles, I let them know that they can push me and I’ll say stop if or when I have to.

This isn’t the right thing for everyone and it doesn’t happen immediately but it works for me. And it works because I know myself and the minute I’m uncomfortable I let the “St” sound out of my mouth and in the blink of an eye I am un-handed. And that is my favorite form of consent. That is what makes me feel safe and sexy and cared for.


Consensual Pain

People can get really squicked at the idea of pain during sex sometimes.  I mean there are all sorts of things that people are into and I’m not but I try not to get visibly squicked about them all (eating cow tongue- I fail, reading Catcher In The Rye- I succeed)

I just think it’s so funny that people can be confused by how someone can continue to consent to pain in bed when that same consent is so obvious and readable outside of bed.

I don’t know what this couple likes in bed and I don’t care but look at how they continue to consent to pain over and over again.  If you were squicked out by BDSM then watch this, notice that you yourself have done it and then realize it’s not so foreign after all.

Advice, Bodies, Confidence, Consent, Intimacy, Sex

Advice – Consent Is Hot

So I have this friend who’s a very sweet dude. We’ve lived together for two non-consecutive years, and over that time we’ve had a fair amount of back-and-forth about feminism in the modern age: he’s very much a novice at feminism, but his heart is in completely the right place. His is exactly the kind of “I don’t know this material, please teach me!” attitude towards learning about rape culture, institutional misogyny, and Treating Ladies Right that we need from dudes all over.

But I’ve been having a bunch of conversations with him lately where he tells me that he doesn’t like to, while mackin’ on a date, ask the lady if she wants to have sex with him.
It’s not what you think; he’s not forcing himself on a lady because he doesn’t want to “ruin the moment” by asking for consent. In fact, he does the exact opposite. He stays so far away from bringing it up that the ladies he goes out with are always the ones to initiate. His reasoning is that if he asks whether she wants to have sex, he joins the culture of men who pressure women into having sex: even asking if she wants to have sex is thrown into the category of manipulative and vile behavior. Women don’t want to be asked if they want to have sex, he says, because they are pure beings who are repulsed by the very thought until somehow convinced that sex is awesome, like, somewhere down the line, and can’t they have a nice time without some douchebag asking politely if they would like to take this into the bedroom?

How can I explain to him that a) putting women on that kind of pedestal is a different kind of sexism, and b) that being asked nicely for consent in the context of a date isn’t, in fact, a form of harassment?

I’m putting ‘consent’ on the list of things that I could talk about forever.

First of all I want to say that this is a great example of how when you teach your children that all sex is evil, they don’t have less sex, just less good sex.

First question first:

I don’t care what Cosmo or Disney or Michael Bay told you.  Women are just as likely or unlikely to want sex as a man.  Want to know the secret reason why men don’t know how much women like sex (and my definition of sex is not strictly PIV btw)?  Because men have made damn sure that if a lady expresses desire for sex then bad stuff is going to happen to her.  If you let anyone know you use contraceptives, Rush Limbaugh and half the country call you a slut.  If you get raped, it’s your fault.  If your boyfriend threatens to release a sex tape you made against your will, suck it up.  So us ladies need to be careful about who we share this information with.  And do you know the easiest way to become someone I want to share that information with?  You guessed it!  Show me you respect my desires and boundaries, ask for my permission, ask me what I want to do/done to me, USE YOUR WORDS!  (seriously, dudes, words.  They are magic.  I freaking love words).

The short answer is that you should explain to your friend that putting women on the ‘pure’ pedestal is sexist because women are people and people have sex drives that range from Asexual to Sasha Grey.  Putting all women on the ‘pure’ pedestal says that you think women are not people, you think they’re something else.  And that is wrong.

Your friend needs to read some blogs written by women.  AFeministSub is great.  Pervocracy is too.  Check out and realize that most of it is written by women because-shocking news- women like sex.  33% of internet porn consumers are women now too.

To your second question:

Being asked nicely for consent in the context of a date is not, in fact, a form of harassment because harassment is when you use your body, your words, or whatever else you have at your disposal to tell me that you put your desire for sex over my desire for whatever the hell I’m desiring be that space, food, sleep, a peaceful work environment, a pleasant jog, or even intimacy.  Asking a gal who agreed to go on a date with you and who is presumably kissing you on the couch Pleasantville style whether she would like to have sex tells her that her desires do indeed matter to you.  That context makes a huge difference.

Plus, a man who asks for explicit consent is extremely sexy.  Have you read me?  And here is why: Knowing that a guy is going to respect my boundaries (and there are many ways to prove you’ll respect my boundaries) makes me trust you.  When I trust you I allow myself to be more vulnerable with you, tell you what I really want because I know that you won’t laugh at me, I’m more comfortable about my body which makes me feel more attractive and more interested in getting down, there are some major pluses in it for this dude.

Also, is that a thing?  Do men think that asking for consent ruins the moment?  Seriously?  I’d accept that as an excuse for sexual assault about as readily as I’d accept ‘I can’t feel anything through it’ as an excuse not to wear a condom.  As Dan Savage likes to say ‘The proof that you can feel through a condom is that they break and you don’t notice.’  Yeah.

Some advice on how to ask that question and how to feel comfortable about asking that question:

Ask permission for every little thing.  It’ll become like a game, and who doesn’t like games?  And it’ll build trust, a rapport, giggles, fun!  ‘May I take your shoes off?  May I take your shirt off?  May I pee?  May I kiss your hem?’  Why the hell not?  If you feel silly asking her if she’d like to go to your room then why not make the mood silly?  It can’t hurt, can it?

Another great thing you can do is tug at clothing but in the ‘on’ direction.  Tug her shirt towards you or down and put your hands on her waist rather than trying to pull her shirt up or moving your hands towards her boobs without permission.  This conveys the feeling of ‘why is this damn piece of clothing in the way of your awesome body but it’s not mine to remove’ instead of ‘I want to see you naked and whether you’re into that or not doesn’t really matter to me’ and will most likely result in her taking it off.

Also, there are very sexy ways to ask someone for permission.  Check that out (VERY NSFW).  Around minute 5 stuff starts heating up and if you watch closely you’ll see them whispering and around 7:20 she says ‘I dunno’ and a few seconds later an enthusiastic ‘ok.’  There are sexy ways to ask questions with your words while in bed and James Deen knows them all.

Always remember though that nothing a woman does (short of either grabbing your penis and putting it in her vagina or saying ‘I want to have sex tonight’) means she wants to have sex with you tonight or ever.  Personally there have been plenty of times when I have ‘moved forward’ with a guy knowing full well that I was not going to have intercourse with him that night or ever.  I’m a pretty brazen lady and I tend to act pretty brazenly.  I have thrown guys into my bed and gotten them naked while having no expectation of having PIV sex.

Also, I want to point out that sometimes if I don’t want to have sex with a guy then in my head I’ll be like ‘I guess I shouldn’t get us all naked and make him think that’s going to happen.’ However- If said guy asks the magic question ‘Do you want to have sex?’ and I’m like ‘no’ and he responds maturely with an ‘ok’ and keeps up with the awesome kissing then I can be like ‘well I didn’t say I didn’t want to have any fun’ and then I can engage in other kinds of  clothingless fun that isn’t all PIV and stuff.

Bottom line- using your words leads to more nakedness than there would have been before.  Using your words means that you’ll get closer to the heart of what each of you is looking to get out of this encounter so you’ll be more likely to get those things.

Confidence, Consent, Guest post, Relationships

Guest Post-Consent Culture Matters

A smart, funny, and did I mention absolutely brilliant friend of mine had an experience/revelation the other day and asked me if she could guest post (!!) it here.  Obviously I said yes and of course she rocked it out.  Without further ado:

I screwed up. Basically, in the simplest terms, I asked someone whom I have power over out. I spent time thinking about it beforehand – but all of that time was devoted to how I could be flirty or come off as confident. He said no, explained that it made him uncomfortable, but said we should hang out as friends.

I apologized. And was utterly mortified. I had put him in a situation where, without knowing much about how I would react or how it would impact his life, he had to make a decision about whether to say yes or no. For all he knew, I could be the type of vindictive asswipe who would make his life miserable for daring to say no to me.

When I asked him, I felt proud of myself for taking the initiative, despite the variety of reasons that it wasn’t a great idea. I was happy I had embraced something I wanted and I hadn’t thought much about how he might feel. I was too busy trying to make myself more comfortable with the situation to explain in advance that he could say no without any consequences.

I fell into the Cosmo mindset of “talking is unsexy.” Me! A feminist! Who cares about consent! Who wants to make sure her partners are happy, who asks, who is GGG. In a situation where I was uncertain of my own attractiveness, I reverted back to tropes that I’d heard in the media over and over – that it wasn’t sexy to lay out the rules ahead of time or to make clear my intentions.

Looking at it now, with the benefit of all of a week of hindsight, I believe it was because I was afraid of being rejected. What makes the Cosmo “giggle and point your belly button at him” idea so attractive is it doesn’t involve being brave. When all you are doing is leaving small hints and acting nonchalant, it’s easy to pretend that you aren’t invested or too interested in what you are doing. You can pretend you were just kidding or that you weren’t even flirting. You don’t open yourself up to the level of rejection that you would if you put your cards on the table.

But this is dangerous. It leads to relationships where people are too afraid to say what they mean, to ask for what they want, and to be who they are. Being rejected hurts, but the pain is transitory. It’s far worse to be stuck in a relationship where you feel like you have to hide what you actually want and feel from a partner than to be rejected at the beginning.

But back to our story. When I finally put myself in his shoes, I could see how I was blinded by a sense of privilege. I didn’t think through the consequences of my behavior beforehand because I’m not used to thinking of myself as predatory. Unconsciously, I assumed that he would be amenable to being asked out by a woman in a position of authority because “hey, what guy isn’t?”

If our positions were reversed, and I was the one who was in a lower position of power relative to him, I wouldn’t have hesitated to call him out as being sketchy. Putting a person in a situation where they can’t fully give consent? Sketchy. Not letting him know what was at stake? Sketchy.

But on the whole, it was a good reminder that enthusiastic consent isn’t just important in the bedroom. As feminists, we should always strive to put people in places where they can react honestly and consent enthusiastically. Not talking doesn’t work. Consent culture matters.

Had I been clear from the beginning that I knew I was in a position of authority, and that I was not in any way going to use that position to his detriment independent of his answer, I probably still would have gotten rejected. I might feel worse for putting myself out there more. But I wouldn’t find myself wondering whether he just agreed to get lunch with me because he couldn’t find a way out of it.

This friend of mine (whether she knows it yet or not) will be in positions of power for the rest of her life.  Women will be in positions of power and if that means we need to retrain ourselves or others how to flirt and interact in that environment then so be it.