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 LitErotica.com 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.