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Too Fast

May 23, 2012

I'm a 17-year-old girl and, in most aspects, I'm confident with myself, my identity, and my body. Earlier this year, I met a girl. She had some serious drama at home and needed to get out of her house, so I let her stay at mine. Things went a LOT further than I was ready for. I had just had my first kiss the month before and I didn't feel like our relationship was ready for sex, but I went along with it because she never gave me a chance to slow things down or say no.

My feelings for her are gone; she is attractive, but we don't connect. But she has feelings for me. How can I get her to understand, or at least respect, how I feel if she doesn't understand why this was a big deal for me?

Growing Older Youth

There's a movement in sex-ed circles to replace the old opt-out consent mantra, "No means no," with a new, improved opt-in consent mantra, "Yes means yes." YMY says it's not good enough to wait for the other person to stop the action with a "no," which many people—particularly young people, particularly young girl people—have a hard time doing. You have to get a "yes."

But the kind of person who doesn't give you a chance to say "no," GOY, is unlikely to solicit a "yes." Which is why we all need to advocate for ourselves in the moment.

And you failed to do that, GOY—you failed to advocate for yourself in the moment.

I don't say that to make you feel bad or to shift the blame onto your shoulders, GOY, I say it because we've all been there. Most confident, sexually active adults can point to an early experience that went too far, too fast, a sexual encounter that left us feeling the way you did after you had sex with this girl. And it's possible to walk away from an experience like that—one that left you feeling shitty and powerless—feeling empowered to advocate for yourself in uncomfortable sexual situations in the future, GOY, provided you learn the right lesson.

Here's the wrong lesson: "I'm a total fuckup who can't speak up for myself when I'm having sex, so I'd better not have sex again. Ever." That's bullshit, GOY, and what's worse, that kind of thinking can make a person more vulnerable the next time she winds up in bed with an insensitive jerk. Here's the right lesson: "I don't have to wait for someone to give me a 'chance' to say no. I can and will say no whenever I want to. I'm not going to let this happen to me again because I never want to feel this way again. Ever."

As for the girl, GOY, tell her straight up that you don't have feelings for her. And tell her why: Things went too far, too fast, and the sex ruined it for you. Don't sugarcoat things to avoid hurting her feelings, GOY, because she's got a lesson to learn, too. Hers goes like this: "I didn't ask the person I was with—someone I really liked—if she was cool with what we were doing, and I totally fucked myself out of what could've been a really great relationship. I'm not going to do that to anyone again. Ever."


I'm a 16-year-old bisexual guy. I have been in a long-distance relationship since September. My girlfriend—let's call her "Selena"—and I have a good relationship, but, both of us being bisexual, we have discussed the possibility of having relationships with same-gender partners on the side. I recently attended my city's LGBTQ prom. There, I met a 17-year-old guy who I found somewhat attractive. I gave him my number, and he has been texting me often, which makes me feel both uncomfortable and enthralled.

Some of the texts that "Dave" has sent me were sexual in nature. He lives very close to where I do. I am a virgin—both genders considered—and the idea of sex right now makes me uneasy. But I am interested. Still, sex scares me at this point, and I don't think I'm ready. As such, this afternoon, I told Dave that I felt we were moving too fast. He agreed.

I suppose I have two questions:

1. I am worried about the outcome should I tell Selena about my "crush." I feel inhibited. How do I bring it up?

2. How can I have a good relationship with Dave in a nonsexual way? I like him a lot, but is friendship too much to ask since he is sexually active and I am not?

Not Agreeable Intervals

P.S. My apologies if this problem is a bit juvenile.

1. Openly, honestly, directly, and without hesitation.

It might help if you remind yourself—again and again—that while the stakes may feel high right now, NAI, they're actually quite low. It sounds like your relationship with Selena has allowed you to explore the emotional and social aspects of dating without any sexual pressures or expectations. And that's been good for you, NAI, and you'll be bummed when your relationship with Selena ends. But you shouldn't be too bummed: There just aren't a lot of adults out there who are still dating—or who are married to—the folks they were dating in high school. (There are some, of course, just as there are some 90-year-old pack-a-day smokers.) So your relationship with Selena is most likely destined to end at some point. And if a conversation about Dave prompts Selena to end things, well, your relationship with Selena was destined to end at some point, right?

Tell her this: "I met this boy, and he's been texting me. I don't want to date him—I'm only somewhat attracted to him—but I'm enjoying the attention. But we should talk about that same-gender-partners-on-the-side arrangement. Not because I'm going to jump into bed with this guy. I'm not ready for sex. But we should talk about this stuff before I meet a boy I do want to have sex with."

If Selena flips and dumps you, then she wasn't open to you exploring your same-sex attractions. Which means your relationship with her wasn't just destined to end, NAI, it needed to end.

2. Don't assume that Dave couldn't possibly be interested in a friendship because he's sexually active. Lots of sexually active people have friends, and most of us are capable of forming new friendships. If a friendship is "too much to ask" of Dave—if he's only interested in your dick—he'll let you know by disappearing on you or by accepting your friendship under false pretenses. If he disappears on you, well, he wasn't a very nice guy and you didn't lose much. If he accepts your friendship only so he can continue pressuring you for sex, well, then he's not a very nice guy and you won't lose much when you disappear on him.

But he might be up for a friendship. Lots of sexually active people are. So ask.


CONFIDENTIAL TO CANADIAN HERITAGE MINISTER JAMES MOORE AND CONSERVATIVE MP DEAN DEL MASTRO: Please shut down that sex-ed exhibit (Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition) at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa! I don't want Canadian kids to get "reliable answers to their [sex] questions" from museums. I want Canadian kids to get drunkenly dashed-off answers to their sex questions from gay sex-advice columnists. And so, it seems, do you two. I sure do appreciate your support, guys. Now go shut that fucker down. Thanks!


Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.

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Comments (321) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
1
Love you, Dan. Can't tell you where my sex life would be without your gay, drunkenly dashed-off advice.
Posted by AKBitches on May 22, 2012 at 5:52 PM · Report this
2
Love you, Dan. Can't tell you where my sex life would be without your gay, drunkenly dashed-off advice.
Posted by AKBitches on May 22, 2012 at 5:55 PM · Report this
3
Time always tells. Ain't it the truth.
Posted by spoon on May 22, 2012 at 6:08 PM · Report this
4
Excellent advice to GOY. (You really are great with the kids, Dan: I type that as a parent.) The 'check for explicit consent the first time' standard is a great idea, and relying on your partners to always follow that and all the other best responsible sex protocols is a very bad idea. Sometimes they're horny or inexperienced or clueless or drunk or just don't care.

Especially if not asking means SEX! Sex might happen right now, Oh boytomefinallyYES! Stopping all that to calmly make sure your partner is as into it as you, as if you figured this special connection between you could be only on your side, is a point where a whole lot of people decide that lust and hope are going to win over theory, if they even know the theory.
Posted by IPJ on May 22, 2012 at 6:10 PM · Report this
Robin8 5
I'm just impressed there is a city somewhere that has an LGBTQ prom.
Posted by Robin8 http://shutyoureverlovingpiehole.wordpress.com on May 22, 2012 at 8:03 PM · Report this
6
Great column as usual, but I've been waiting for Dan's comments on the President's support of gay marriage and (even more so) his comments on rabid homophobe Charles Worley, a North Carolina preacher who's said that gays should be penned up somewhere with an electric fence around them, and that "40 years ago, they would've been hung from a tree."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22…
Posted by Gay Movie Fan on May 22, 2012 at 8:49 PM · Report this
7
Hmmmm...does anyone else think that maybe GOY needs to ask her new "friend" to move out and find some other vulnerable person to take advantage of? Seems like that should have been part of the advice offered (and the hardest part of the situation).

Did I mention that for the first time in my life, I really really want to travel to Ottawa? That exhibit sounds awesome!! And there's no reason that kids can't get edjacated from more than one place. Best. Museum. Ever.
Posted by yo_in_Seattle on May 22, 2012 at 9:07 PM · Report this
Posted by Sea Otter on May 22, 2012 at 9:13 PM · Report this
saxfanatic 9
Re: Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition, the upshot gets even better. Attendance has been many fold greater than for typical exhibits, thanks to the free publicity and the allure of forbidden knowledge. Hell, I may go myself (I'm in Ottawa).
Posted by saxfanatic on May 22, 2012 at 9:23 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 10
Dan, this week's letters make me wish I'd had a friend like you, in high school. (We're not far apart in age.)

I'm glad I have a famous-person-friend like you, now. Thanks for helping people be less hung up, overall.

Posted by Eva Hopkins http://www.lunamusestudios.com on May 22, 2012 at 10:46 PM · Report this
11
Dan, I'm glad I've had the pleasure of meeting you in person, and I second @10, Eva Hopkins' comments!

I wish there could have been amazing guys like you doing their damnedest to end bullying in public schools waaaaaaaay back when I was K-12. If I didn't have two fantastic friends and one outstanding teacher, I would have dropped out long ago. God knows what would have happened next.

I love your column! You ROCK, and keep it up!!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on May 23, 2012 at 12:37 AM · Report this
mydriasis 12
There's a movement in sex-ed circles to replace the old opt-out consent mantra, "No means no," with a new, improved opt-in consent mantra, "Yes means yes." YMY says it's not good enough to wait for the other person to stop the action with a "no," which many people—particularly young people, particularly young girl people—have a hard time doing. You have to get a "yes."

Siiiiigh. Really? Verbal consent for every single move?
Am I the only person who thinks that's super uptight? "May I kiss you, please?" "May I take your shirt off, please?" etc etc etc. Give me a break...
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 6:00 AM · Report this
Tim Horton 13
@12 - I agree with you.

In my experiences, people appreciate sexual confidence. Asking and waiting for explicit permission for every single advance is the antithesis of that. You should be able to get by in life by a combination of body language and non-verbal cues.

Posted by Tim Horton on May 23, 2012 at 6:26 AM · Report this
14
Dan didn't say get a 'Yes' for every single move. Was it Oberlin that had that as a campus policy? At a guess, I would say get a solid Yes before anyone's genitals are touched. #13's right about reading body language--pay attention to whether your partner is enthusiastic, or has kinda checked out a little. If unsure, try saying, "Mmmmm, I like this," and see what they say.
Posted by clashfan on May 23, 2012 at 6:53 AM · Report this
15
"This situation could have been avoided if you had a sassy gay friend." :D
Posted by Dragonrose36 on May 23, 2012 at 6:55 AM · Report this
16
Some thoughts about yes-means-yes here: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/05/a…

Asking (and saying yes) would be sexy if we hadn't learned from movies that it's not or that you shouldn't have to.

TL/DR: "Do you want me to fuck you?" "Yes!" What's not sexy about that?
Posted by Lily79 on May 23, 2012 at 6:58 AM · Report this
17
Regarding the sex exhibit: Why is generally men who get all uppity about these things? From defunding Planned Parenthood to legislating the contents of a uterus to deciding who has the right to love who to providing useful sex education, it seems to be men who are all uptight about this.

For a gender so interested in porn, Viagra and trying to get laid they sure want to ensure that no one has any idea what sex is or what to do about the results of it.
Posted by someonecanadian on May 23, 2012 at 7:02 AM · Report this
18
Thoughts about yes-means-yes here: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/05/a…

It wouldn't seem un-sexy if we hadn't learned from movies or whatever that you shouldn't have to ask.

"Do you want me to fuck you?" "Yes!" What's not sexy about that?
Posted by Lily5415 on May 23, 2012 at 7:02 AM · Report this
19
The previous unregistered comment totally beat me to adding that Pervocracy post! It is perfect, though.

"Yes means yes" doesn't mean, "You have to be absolutely desperately horny or your consent isn't real", it means, "all parties involved should be absolutely certain that what is going on is at the very least mutually agreeable". Where your certainty comes from is between you and your partner(s).
Posted by waterbear on May 23, 2012 at 7:04 AM · Report this
20
@12, 13, confidence doesn't necessarily mean leaving the consent behind. And it doesn't mean a failure to read body language and non-verbal cues. Also, "yes means yes" doesn't necessarily mean checking in every two seconds for every single touch. It can be made very hot: 'I really want to go down on you. Would you like that? Yeah?' All this while kissing, touching, etc. It can serve dual purposes, too. You can both receive consent and use it as an opportunity to figure out what your partner wants, likes, is uncomfortable with. It makes sex with a new partner an exercise in communication which, in turn, makes for better sex.
Posted by moosefan on May 23, 2012 at 7:05 AM · Report this
21
The previous unregistered comment totally beat me to adding that Pervocracy post! It is perfect, though.

"Yes means yes" doesn't mean, "You have to be absolutely desperately horny or your consent isn't real", it means, "all parties involved should be absolutely certain that what is going on is at the very least mutually agreeable". Where your certainty comes from is between you and your partner(s).
Posted by waterbear on May 23, 2012 at 7:06 AM · Report this
22
Gah, sorry about the double comment... :(
Posted by waterbear on May 23, 2012 at 7:06 AM · Report this
23
@7 - you should visit Korea! They have whole theme parks dedicated to sex and sex education called Love Land: http://curiousphotos.blogspot.com/2007/1…
Posted by Jina on May 23, 2012 at 7:17 AM · Report this
24
I do have very hot memories of the first time with one of my exes who was a virgin at the time. We had a long session of intense foreplay, I stopped to put on a condom, got above her, then paused, looked her in the eyes and asked "yes?". She looked back up at me and replied "yes!".

At the right moment and done well, getting explicit consent can be fun and very sexy.
Posted by big MrE on May 23, 2012 at 7:26 AM · Report this
25
@20, that sounds like it would be hot, the first or second time. Wouldn't it get to be kind of a drag after that, though?
Posted by Howlin' Jed on May 23, 2012 at 7:29 AM · Report this
26
I liked Dan's focus on what the unhappy person should do next time:
"I don't have to wait for someone to give me a 'chance' to say no. I can and will say no whenever I want to."

Won't solve all problems, but it sure helps the next day if you know you weren't sending mixed signals. Listen to your own feelings, put them into words in your head, and if you want your partner to know, say them out loud.
Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 7:42 AM · Report this
27
@25 (Howlin' Jed)--

Why would it be a drag to find out what your partner's in the mood for today? I mean, unless your partner only ever likes to do one thing, sexually, in exactly the same way-- exactly the same position, speed, amount of pressure, etc, etc, etc. Otherwise, they're going to be in the mood for different things on different days, and how are you going to know what it is today if you don't ask? (I mean, they can and should tell you if they have something particular in mind, but in that case, they're asking you for consent for that particular activity, you know?)
Posted by Gaudior on May 23, 2012 at 7:42 AM · Report this
28
Regarding the whole yes-means-yes vs. no-means-no ... thing, here is my disjointed and incoherent perspective:

I am a heterosexual, cisgendered male. I was raised in a progressive, liberal household, and the unspoken refrain that I heard every single day during puberty, high school, and sex education was, "If anything goes wrong in a relationship or in sex, it is ALWAYS the man's fault, even when it isn't, because men have it easier than women." Trouble communicating? It's because men aren't cultured to communicate. Either partner not wholly satisfied with sex? It's the man's fault. Woman decides she was t entirely okay with sex? The man raped her, and even if she doesn't press charges or he is acquitted, he is still scum and only got off because society hates women. And so on. The only way yo avoid being scum as a man is to defer to everything the woman says and ask for explicit verbal consent before initiating anything, and even that is no guarantee because society has conditioned women to prefer decisive, assertive alpha-males who simply take what they want and damn the consequences.

I recognize, intellectually at least, that these sentiments do not reflect what most people think. However, I also have MASSIVE self-esteem issues AND have trouble reading people AND was very nearly arrested and charged with pedophilia by one of the first women I dated long-term after I revealed to her that I have rape fantasies of being an underage teen getting assaulted by adult women.

It's hard for me to trust people, is what I'm saying.

As a result of it being so difficult for me to trust people, I require explicit, repeated, VERBAL consent before I initiate anything sexual, even kissing or hugging. And whenever anything goes less-than-perfect, my first thought is usually, "Well, she didn't consent to me pulling at her hair when I rolled over, so I'm going to jail for rape."

So yeah. That's where I stand on the consent issue.
More...
Posted by Bundleofnerves on May 23, 2012 at 8:14 AM · Report this
29
@6 A friend of mine posted another pastor's response to that hateful preacher on Facebook. I'm not a religious person but I think it's a great idea.
http://www.thegodarticle.com/15/post/201…
Posted by Nom de Plume on May 23, 2012 at 8:24 AM · Report this
30
Re 12, 13, etc: I agree that the extreme version (I want to put my noun on your noun, I want to verb your noun) doesn't have much connection to the way actual people have actual sex. However, if it would be your first time together, breathing "How far do you want this to go" mid-foreplay is perfectly sexy. The idea is that the first time with a new partner, or the first time trying a new act with an existing partner, you try to build in a little discussion. It can be very little, like 24's "Yes? Yes."

Body language is great, but how many 16 year olds are great at reading it? There's a very human temptation to put the best possible gloss on things, especially when you feel you and this person must have a special connection or this wouldn't be happening.

Dan gets at the big problem with Best Sexual Practice Theory, which is that it's a good thing to practice oneself, a blessing in a partner, but ridiculous to assume that everyone around you knows about it, cares to use it, and practices it the same way you do.
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 8:25 AM · Report this
John Horstman 31
@12, 13: And sometimes you'll wind up coercing (which, depending on the specific situation and reader, may or may not be "rape") someone who isn't secure or assertive enough to define and enforce hir boundaries. Confidence is not antithetical to consent. The fact that people find determining consent itself to be unsexy is a huge part of the problem - it's why many of us feel the term "rape culture" is an appropriate description of the contemporary climate around sex.

Yes, asking before acting (in unfamiliar situations i.e. with new partners with whom one does not have a mutually-established framework of implicit consent) is such a heavy burden; how could anyone be expected to undertake it in order to combat something as trivial as the normalization of rape? /sarcasm (in case it wasn't fucking obvious - I can't be sure, since you seem to actually be advocating that position)

Home run answer... er, sports metaphor, sorry; Tony-caliber answer to the first letter, Dan!
Posted by John Horstman on May 23, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
32
@28: For an unspoken refrain that was really, really detailed.

You say you realize most people don't think this way. Rather than having terrified sex with women you dislike and feel incapable of trusting, certain you are always one elbow bump from a rape charge, please consider getting some counseling so you can shift toward a less fraught view of women and men and how they interact.
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 8:47 AM · Report this
33
Re nonverbal cues and body language: Every person who ever claimed something to the effect of "Her lips said no no but her eyes said yes yes" believed he or she was an expert at reading body language.

And how are young, sexually inexperienced people (the subject of this column) supposed to be expert at reading sexual body language in all its subtlety?
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 8:54 AM · Report this
34
@7 Wouldn't be so fast to assume GOY's friend is an uncaring clod taking advantage of her. She's a young girl, too, and there's a lot of unsure ground here for both of them.

I frankly don't understand "She never gave me a chance to say no." Saying no takes 1 second. If you're not confident enough to just say it when you feel it, you're probably not confident enough to stop things even if you're asked.

The asking before acting is a great idea, by why assume her partner is any better at this than she is?

She needs to talk to her in a private place far away from the bedroom, be honest about her feelings, and assert herself in the future. Which, yeah, is pretty much Dan's advice.
Posted by Dan, Too on May 23, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
35
@32: Therapy would be nice if I could afford it, or if I were in any position emotionally or financially to date right now (I have zero interest in casual sex because That Is Something That Scumbag Men Who Are Scumbags Do), or if I had any faith left in therapists. The therapist I saw in middle school broke confidentiality to tell my dad everything I told him, and to tell my mom to call the cops on my dad because he thought my dad was a pedophile because he is gay. The therapist I saw throughout high school didn't even TRY to help, but was perfectly happy to bill my dad for four years. The most recent therapist I saw gave me a book on low self-esteem to read, and after reading eight chapters of "You Are a Bad Person for Putting Other People Before Yourself and Not Thinking You're the Pope of Chili Town," I tried to kill myself.

And this was after I started on antidepressants.

For now I'm simply working on getting myself in better physical and financial shape and trying to disavow myself of the notion that anyone ever deserves sex or a relationship. My thinking is, by doing the latter, I can both learn to respect women's consent/capacity to consent AND give myself a self-esteem boost, because any relationships I enter from that point on will be freely and willingly give rather than deserved or obligated.
Posted by Bundleofnerves on May 23, 2012 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Tim Horton 36
@31 - I would rather fly to Yemen in the middle seat between Michelle Bachmann and Snooki than turn this board into a debate whether tacit acceptance of sexual advances without verbal consent = rape. But anyway....

Dan's advice was solid. You can and will say "no" any time you want. That should end things, and will end things with the vast majority of the population. The rest are rapists.

Scenario #1 - Kissing going well, move hand to thigh. Hand goes inside panties. Peel down panties. Kiss down stomach. Oral Sex. Which steps do we check in with?

I will grant you that there are pushy, persuasive and downright aggressive people out there. I have dated plenty of them. One of them even sold me a car the other day. Part of being a responsible person is enforcing your own limits. Financially, personally, sexually. To escape that makes a person a perpetual victim.

Posted by Tim Horton on May 23, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
37
wait a minute...

yes means yes?

I am on board with establishing consent (yw ladies) but this imo goes to far.

anyone involved at anytime in the act has the right to put a stop to the procedings - but yes means yes treads dangerously close to i wanted it this last night but this morning i felt differently get campus security on the phone its time to ruin some lives.

Posted by stormcrow on May 23, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Report this
38
@35 my (non-expert) understanding is that starting antidepressants leads some depressed people to attempt suicide, perhaps because they finally have the energy. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/Info…

Have you tried Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns? It helped me a lot. (Or was that the "...Pope of Chili Town" book you mentioned? Your description got a chuckle out of me, so thank you for that :-)
Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 10:29 AM · Report this
39
Explicit consent, with a verbal "yes" fosters communication; and helps young people just navigating the non-verbal sexual communication learn. There are also people who do not read or use non-verbal communication well; my daughter is one, and she could easily misunderstand or be misunderstood once she gets old enough for sex. Best to be sure, even if it's not sexy for some people. Just like it's best to use a condom with a new male partner, even if it's not sexy.
Posted by Eh, me on May 23, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
40
Re "yes means yes" --
Don't think of it as asking permission, think of it as communicating about what you each want. Are you interested in your partner's pleasure and happiness? If yes, then this thread already has lots of advice for how to help a less experienced partner express desire (@14, 16, 20, 24, 27, 30).
Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 10:41 AM · Report this
41
@EricaP (#38):

You're welcome, I'm glad I could make you laugh.

As for the book, it was actually "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem," by Nathaniel Branden, who, it turns out, was one of the founders of the Objectivist Movement and cheated on his wife with Ayn Rand and blamed his affair on his low self-esteem. Beyond the inspiring-me-to-attempt-suicide thing, that was one of my other major complaints about the book: the author created a whole theory of psychology to justify the fact that he was a cheating asshole. (The third big complaint was that his "examples" from "patients" he'd "treated" over the years were all so vague and devoid of any specifics--plus, were only about people who were already rich and successful, and thus who I have no sympathy for their Rich People Problems of "But I never WANTED to be a wealthy businessman, I just wanted to be a painter and now I am sad because for the first time in my life of being a wealthy businessman I'm not getting what I want"--that I'm sure he just made them up.)

But anyway.
Posted by Bundleofnerves on May 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Report this
42
@stormcrow, @mydriasis, I agree, "yes means yes" (what a logically fallacious term for "opt-in", b.t.w.) goes too far. Apart from retroactively makes rapists out of almost all of us and imbuing sex with an Orwellian 1984-like quality, it fails to take into account the simple fact that anyone so eager to please that they cannot bring themselves to say no, will likewise not be able to bring themselves to NOT say yes.
Posted by cockyballsup on May 23, 2012 at 11:04 AM · Report this
43
Hey bundleofnerves, hang in there.

I can vouch for EricaP's testimony for "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by David Burns.

It helped me immensely. (Along with Savage's words)

Now, while the book does grant you the responsibility of your feelings, it does not blame you for them.

The book just lets you know how to train your feelings to treat yourself better. It also lets you know how to deal with other folks.

Good luck!
Posted by wastedalotoftime on May 23, 2012 at 11:20 AM · Report this
44
If it is done playfully, it can be very sexy to ask for permission for every move.

"May I suck your cock?"
Posted by migrationist on May 23, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Report this
shurenka 45
I don't know if the point has been made, but to me it seems like "yes means yes" is not a huge improvement over the former mantra. If a person is too acquiescent/intimidated/hesitant to say "no", I somewhat doubt they'll be assertive enough to say "no" even if their partner asks permission.

I also don't think it makes to replace "no means no" with "yes means yes". They both have their place. A person's "no" should be inviolable -- not open to more cajoling and wheedling. But it is also very important to have good communication skills and to remember to check on your partner, since an absence of "no" does not mean that a person is mentally ready.
Posted by shurenka on May 23, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
mydriasis 46
A lot of people responded to my post with variations of the same things, so I'll sort of blanketly respond to the two main points made.

1. "It can be sexy if you do it right!"
None of the versions anyone here gave seemed sexy in my book. Again, we all have your preferences. If a guy verbally checking for your consent gets you wet, that's fine. But that's not how I like to do things.

2. @ John Hortsman

As a woman I find it offensive that people think I'm unable to assert myself enough to say one fucking syllable, and have to work on the assumption that I can't say no. I care a great deal about other women who do have a hard time with these things, and I'm concerned about their wellbeing, but there has to be a better way.
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Report this
47
Yes means yes is also referred to as enthusiastic consent. The idea is not to get bogged down in the details of exactly how many times and in what ways one has to ask and receive permission...the idea is to actually communicate (!!!) about your sexual desires and ideas with your partner. Do you like X? Do you wanna try Y? Gosh, I'd really like to Z tonight, what do you think?

It's all about increasing communication and ownership of your own sexual desires.

"No" still has its place! If we all practiced enthusiastic consent, felt free to say no, and respected other people's nos, the world would be a better place.
Posted by sessie on May 23, 2012 at 12:25 PM · Report this
48
Yes means yes is also referred to as enthusiastic consent. The idea is not to get bogged down in the details of exactly how many times and in what ways one has to ask and receive permission...the idea is to actually communicate (!!!) about your sexual desires and ideas with your partner. Do you like X? Do you wanna try Y? Gosh, I'd really like to Z tonight, what do you think?

It's all about increasing communication and ownership of your own sexual desires.

"No" still has its place! If we all practiced enthusiastic consent, felt free to say no, and respected other people's nos, the world would be a better place.

Best ever cartoon about enthusiastic consent: http://campus.feministing.com/2010/10/27…
Posted by sessie on May 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
49
Um, sorry that posted twice. Newbie in the commenting (not the reading).
Posted by sessie on May 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
50
There is a whole lot of space between the model that posits that any sex about which one party feels some reservations should be retroactively defined as rape, and the model that posits that no one excels at reading body language like a horny inexperienced nervous virgin desperate to establish a connection. We can come up with something reasonable in between here.

No means no makes sense as the base standard, because it puts the responsibility for what is happening on you, where it belongs. But that can be expanded with the suggestion that a considerate partner makes sure their newbie partner has an opening to say "here's the line I want tonight."

@36: "Kissing going well" implies that you have done no more than kissed before this scenario unfolds, and that you do not know each other terribly well. Is she a virgin? Has she done this before? How far is she comfortable going? Do you know the answers to none of these because the two of you aren't that closely acquainted? So, yes, somewhere between kissing and oral sex you could check in with your partner. Breathing "should I take these off?" or "how far do you want this to go?" around the panty removing stage is not going to harsh anyone's mellow. It's a reasonable standard of behavior for you to exhibit, not to require in your partners. But by modeling it hopefully you'd help them get better with future, perhaps inexperienced, partners.
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 12:29 PM · Report this
51
My@46: Okay, words don't work for you. But this is a column about kids, sexually inexperienced, not sure they're ready for sex, not sure how to indicate what they do and don't want. Can you at least allow that, maybe, for 16 and 17 year olds experimenting with partners the same age, a few words might be a good idea? The way you get good at reading body language is practice, and these kids, even Dave in the second letter, don't have that much of it.

(Btw, I agree with you on the by-definition-lacking-agency thing being demeaning to women. It always seems purdah would be the logical next step, for our own safety.)
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
mydriasis 52
@sessie

You think that comic is.... good... and a good and realistic way to do things?
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 12:49 PM · Report this
mydriasis 53
@51

16/17 was a short enough time ago for me that I remember it quite well (the sober parts, anyway). Personally, I'm of the opinion that even teenage girls can be taught to be assertive enough to stop something when they don't like it.

In fact, the ability to say no, isn't "learned" at all. It's unlearned. Especially in girls. This is the real problem, and one we should be addressing.

I feel that "yes means yes" tacitly assumes that it's an unrealistic goal to hope that women and girls can learn assertivenes so we'd better teach men that women need to be monitored. They can learn to be assertive. Before I turned 18 I had many many many experiences where I said no, even in very frightening situations, even with drugs/alcohol in my system.

But to answer your question, I guess in the limited context of young/inexperienced sexual activity, a policy like that might help? But as many people mentioned, most of the forces that stop her from saying no would still be at play to make her say yes. You can ask for consent in a very domineering or pressure-laden way, and it's just as bad as - maybe even worse than - saying nothing at all. I don't think any amount of slogans or rules can make up for the core problem that causes women engage in sex acts they aren't comfortable with. We need to address why they do them in the first place.
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
54
@my:
what's not to like about "Ok. Can we roleplay abstinent vampires?"?

Maybe talking isn't doing anything for you, or maybe you hear all this communication (the comic and suggestions above) said in a very serious voice. For me it sounds cheeky and sexy.
Posted by migrationist on May 23, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
55
One more thought, and then I need to do other things:

I strongly believe that anyone who thinks they're mature enough to have sex needs to be willing to do so with the emotional responsibility of a grown-up. No treating your partner like crap and then whining about how you couldn't help it what with being so young.

That said, if one's partner is young, inexperienced, a virgin, unsure they're ready for sex, thinks they are but isn't sure what they're comfortable with and how to discover and explain that, is having sex but it's still pretty new, etc, then one should take a little extra care in establishing consent. Allow for a spot things could stop. Check that heavy breathing doesn't mean anal is good to go. Maybe your partner is these things because you are yourself, and maybe your partner is these things because you met an awesome 20-something formerly supershy geek who could never quite bring her or himself to figure out how this worked with another person but with you they suddenly understand why sex is supposed to be such a fabulous idea. (If you have no idea if your potential partner is these things because you haven't gotten to know them that well yet, again, a little caution is kind.)

The letter writers in this week's column are 16 and 17. We're talking about sex ed, which in this context is something one is teaching to kids not yet having sex, who are figuring out how to responsibly navigate those negotiations.
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
56
@my at 53:
I agree that no amount of slogans or rules will make women be more assertive - nor men.

But I think for young people to learn to incorporate playful communication to ask for or give consent is important.

And not only women are the "victims" of the lack of communication. A friend once told me about his horror when a sex partner inserted her finger in his ass without asking before. She had read in Cosmo that all men like that. He hated it. It was dreadful for him and for her. Not sexy for either in the end.
Posted by migrationist on May 23, 2012 at 1:18 PM · Report this
57
"I feel that "yes means yes" tacitly assumes that it's an unrealistic goal to hope that women and girls can learn assertivenes so we'd better teach men that women need to be monitored. They can learn to be assertive. Before I turned 18 I had many many many experiences where I said no, even in very frightening situations, even with drugs/alcohol in my system."

What's ironic is that the YMY crowd is quick to trot out horror stories about how often girls freeze up because they're afraid the guy will continue if they offer up a no. This accomplishes exactly two things; It ignores how easily the same fear would prompt an insincere "yes" (with the follow-up "you must ignore your partner's express stated desires and decide if they're really enthusiastic enough" implicitly infantilizing women), and at the same time discouraging women from seeing their partners as caring people who will respect a frank no.
Posted by ChiTodd on May 23, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
mydriasis 58
@migrationist

1. No I get that it's meant to be "cheeky" or "fun" and lots of people here posted their own versions of how they'd do it or how they've done it or how they've seen it done and they found it to be sexy.

I just don't, that's all.

And for me, I like being the passenger's seat. I like not knowing what they're going to do, and when they're going to do it - that's exciting. I guess you could go so far as to say that for me personally, the absence of checking is sexy, in a way. But that's a hard thing to explain, especially to people who have different attitudes.

2. Again, I mentioned above that I think a YMY policy might maybe help (for young people) but I don't believe that it would really be that helpful in practice for the reasons I mentioned above, as well as other posters.
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 1:47 PM · Report this
pastaefagoli 59
Yes means yes:

"Taking it off here, Boss?"

"Take it off there, Luke."

FUCKING HOT.
Well, I guess if you want to role play prison ditch digging it would be.
Posted by pastaefagoli on May 23, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
60
i think that the comic is good - yes, a little cute and vanilla-pie, but that's the demographic i guess. there is no way i would get into a sexual situation without some discussion (even, "so... do you want to play?") i try not to go anywhere near a new lover without an in-depth discussion around boundaries and risks - what is affectionately referred to as 'the 101'... it's just simple common-sense, how can you even start without that? you have NO WAY of knowing what they like; what they are/are not up for; or even what they think of when they say 'sex', without that discussion. without the info how can you possibly have a good time?? spending the weeks/months/years/whatever while you get to know someone, talking about what turns you on, and where your boundaries are is also a great way to get into their bed in the first place. ;-)
Posted by sappho on May 23, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
61
I think we're drawing out the large gulf between what sort of behavior is reasonable (aka rational) to expect from those around you, versus what sort of behavior is reasonable (aka responsible and mature) to exhibit oneself.

It's reasonable to expect a partner to obey your "No." It is not reasonable to expect your partner to ask for a yes in exactly the right way at exactly the right moment such that you didn't feel pressured to give that yes: that's back to expecting mind-reading, as in 57.

It's reasonable to treat your inexperienced partner, who is just figuring out what they might want sexually and where their lines are and how to communicate them, with a degree of extra care. Check in now and then. Even if you are inexperienced yourself.
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 2:17 PM · Report this
62
@61 In other words, it's hot if my husband throws me up against the wall in an alley, rips off my panties and fucks me right then and there with no condom. (Because he knows quite well I'd love that.)

If we didn't know each other quite so well, he'd be well advised to check for a 'yes' or some enthusiastic body language before proceeding.

Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 2:21 PM · Report this
mydriasis 63
@62

If body language counts as 'yes' then we're getting out of YMY and into common sense.
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Report this
RTam 64
@mydriasis I have a friend that feels like you do, wanting her dates to be aggressive... except when she doesn't want them to be. I could be wrong, but I'm assuming that you don't want every guy you have coffee with to shove his tongue down your throat without warning.

So I posit that even for people like you that prefer unexpected and/or aggressive partners, the first few times together it's still a good idea to ASK if it's okay to kiss/touch/fuck and after a time or two you then give some sort of blanket consent: "Oh, Brad, you don't have to ask! Just grab me and go for it, I LOVE that!" Every couple/triad/group is different, but it's polite and respectful of the person you're with to begin by gaining permission to proceed.

No, it won't stop people from being coerced, but it can end of lot of the "not-rapes" that happen because some men/boys are otherwise uninformed or badly educated and take silence or insecurity as "yes".
Posted by RTam on May 23, 2012 at 2:36 PM · Report this
65
This breaks my heart. Nobody who needed to ask ever did, making either Yes or No an unattained luxury. At least I'm out of it now. Better luck to the rest of you.
Posted by vennominon on May 23, 2012 at 2:37 PM · Report this
66
@63, Of course enthusiastic body language counts as 'yes'. But ambiguous body language doesn't count as yes, the kind that GOY was putting out: "I didn't feel like our relationship was ready for sex, but I went along with it"
Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 2:39 PM · Report this
67
i'd also like to point out that body-language is subculture-specific. and gender-specific. even things like whether someone pushes back = enthusiasm or back-off, and rolling over in bed = 'no sex' or 'just do me honey'.... before getting into what _that_ look or gesture meant. this is a big enough problem, even in my small city, that someone is starting up a workshop/discussion on cross-gender/cross-culture sexual cues and etiquette.
the point is you just can't assume anything.
Posted by sappho on May 23, 2012 at 2:52 PM · Report this
68
@67: Horseshit. In most of those cases, there's plenty of time for the people involved to learn the other person's signals, if they're so inclined. Someone you've known for a while is worlds different from a random.

A re-read of GOY's letter underscores the heart of the problem;

"How can I get her to understand, or at least respect, how I feel if she doesn't understand why this was a big deal for me?"

Trying to shoehorn this into a consent issue ignores the much larger "respect your partner, be a decent human being" issue.
Posted by ChiTodd on May 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM · Report this
69
YMY would have helped me a lot with my first sexual relationship at 18. I went a lot further, a lot faster, than I was comfortable with. I had no idea how to voice the "no" that was running through my head (maybe it sounds silly, but it's true), and the guy I was with was thinking "Well, she'll stop me if she's not comfortable. Hey, she's not stopping me, this is great!"

I definitely don't categorize it as rape, but I did deal with a lot of guilt afterwards. If he'd clearly asked before taking my pants off, or I'd somehow been more assertive, I could have saved myself a lot of worry/pain.
Posted by Rena on May 23, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
70
Agree that checking in constantly is kind of lame, but I have to say being a overly passive partner is even lamer. We should encourage people to see sex as something you DO, not something that just happens to you. Even when I'm not on top or performing oral I expect my partner to give some input as to their preferences and needs with BOTH words and physical cues. Accepting the idea that you can be a passive non-involved partner, who's only responsibilities is saying yes or no to the encounter then just accepting whatever their routine is while keeping a grip on the emergency brake equals epic fail. It makes sex sound like a soda fountain. As for the love of dominance (which I agree can be nice), even subs communicate sometime during the sexual process. So obviously there's ways to maintain the suspense of the next moment without imitating a fleshlight.
Posted by mygash on May 23, 2012 at 4:55 PM · Report this
mydriasis 71
I could be wrong, but I'm assuming that you don't want every guy you have coffee with to shove his tongue down your throat without warning.

No, I don't want that, but I (and most women) know when a guy is about to make a move. As I said above, I have been in situations where people have made moves I wasn't okay with. I said "no". Or moved, away, or pushed the person back as the case may be. 9 times out of 10 that isn't even needed. That's the beauty of body language and paying attention to what's going on.

So I posit that even for people like you that prefer unexpected and/or aggressive partners, the first few times together it's still a good idea to ASK if it's okay to kiss/touch/fuck and after a time or two you then give some sort of blanket consent

Look, if that's what you want, that's fine. But if someone tried to do that the first time (let alone the second time!) I'd find it off-putting and insecure. Luckily it hasn't happened to me yet.

@gash

I prefer nonverbal communication. Nonverbal =/= passive, for the record.
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 5:31 PM · Report this
72
I've been pressured by quite a few guys in my life who would have been thrilled if I'd just kept my mouth shut and let them fuck me. And that's what happened sometimes. Was I able to say no? Certainly I was physically capable of it. Sometimes I did. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, I didn't. Should I have done so when I didn't really want to have sex? Probably, but there are a lot of reasons for a woman to keep her mouth shut and let a guy do what he wants.

I threw myself out of a moving car once because I refused to go somewhere with the person driving, and he declined to stop to allow me to exit safely. Someone who is arguing that 'yes means yes' is a bad idea strikes me as in the same league as that driver. You've decided where you're going, and you don't care if your passenger wants to go there or not. If you find it non-sexy to make sure that your partner is consenting, then please remove yourself from the pool of prospects so I never have to run into another person like you. I've met far too many already.
Posted by Gamebird on May 23, 2012 at 5:35 PM · Report this
73
@69: "If he'd clearly asked before taking my pants off, or I'd somehow been more assertive..."

If you were advising a young girl who reminds you of you, like GOY, one of these would be in her control, and one would not. Best to focus on where she has control.

More generally to the thread, reading the examples I'm becoming convinced that YMY is not helpful. The question needs to be asked at the right time, in the right words, in the right tone... it's superhuman. If your lover is that good, they can mindread and don't need the verbal communication. If you are afraid to say no, then "You want this, right?" is probably not going to elicit an honest response any more than a failure to ask. A firm 'no' would have done so much more than wishing our lovers had done it differently.

(I still think that, with an inexperienced partner, building in a 'how far do you want this to go tonight' pause is considerate. Even if you are also inexperienced. Assuming that everyone around you will do that for you, though, is just not going to work outside of a theoretical space.)
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 6:14 PM · Report this
Noadi 74
What the fuck is with people who can't seem to learn that communication is a good thing. Do I and my partner always get verbal consent before sexy times? No, but we've been together for two years and know each other well. Experience with each other comes with the benefit of knowing what the other enjoys and will be up for most of the time. However when we first got together? We went with enthusiastic consent, we always asked if the other was interested in sex in general before getting it on and before any NEW activity was started.

It's not hard and if saying "do you want sex tonight" is so unsexy to you that it makes you completely lose interest: get over it. I would certainly prefer to make sure someone I'm having sex with is on board and comfortable with everything than to leave them feeling icky or violated. That is just being a considerate human being.
Posted by Noadi http://noadi.net on May 23, 2012 at 6:23 PM · Report this
75
@73, I don't think YMY is a question to be asked and answered.

I think YMY is an attitude, that if you're getting a vibe of uncertainty from your partner, you back off until you're more sure what your partner wants.

And for the less aggressive partner, YMY is an attitude that you take responsibility for figuring out what you want, and communicating it.
Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 6:40 PM · Report this
76
I wish we could hear from GOY 4 years from now. I believe one possibility, if we could, would be that she'd say that she realizes that that relationship wasn't going anywhere anyway. She might say that it had less to do with the too-fast-too-soon sex and more to do with trying to make her first sexual encounter be with someone who had so much serious drama at home that she had to move out. The thing I'm seeing is Miss TFTS (too fast too soon) was feeling pretty powerless, saw someone willing to save her (GOY) and did what drowning people often do. They throw their arms around their rescuer with so much force and desperation that they bring the rescuer down with them.

There's no way of knowing this now, but I speculate that after GOY has a number of excellent sexual experiences, she may find that the real problem with Miss TMTS is that the 2 of them didn't click together anyway. Slowing down to get a positive yes wasn't going to change that.
Posted by Crinoline on May 23, 2012 at 6:49 PM · Report this
77
@71 I agree that nonverbal isn't the same as passive or minimal communication. Still for somethings verbal is best, especially when there's any chance of physical harm (aka anal) and/or risk of miscommunication or presence of inexperience at play.

On the podcast a few months (?) ago a guy was complaining that a chick who had her head pushed down to dick level as a nonverbal cue for oral was "rounding up" the experience to assualt. Now even though she went through with the sexual act she was never the less still deeply offended and hurt afterwards. Which she was kind enough to demonstrate by telling people on campus that she was assualted.

So I think the safetest bet is communicating, even if it's only to tell them up front that you tend to rely on nonverbal.

EricaP brings up a good point. How well you know someone makes a great deal of difference in whether to use more or less communication and what type.
Posted by mygash on May 23, 2012 at 7:03 PM · Report this
78
There seems to be a strange conception among some of the opt-in proponents that sex can just happen by surprise. Oops, he just tripped over my cat and his penis fell into my vagina! Have you guys ever actually had sex? For anything to really happen, from kissing to penetration, requires the actual active participation of the woman from start to finish, from opening lips for kissing to taking clothes off or allowing them to be taken off to physically allowing penetration (since we are not talking about rape here). Active physical participation, like it or not, is consent. It is unfortunate that people give consent against their better judgment, but it happens all the time in all spheres of life. But when we are talking about someone who gives physical consent against their better judgment, why do you think they wouldn't also give verbal consent against their better judgment?
Posted by cockyballsup on May 23, 2012 at 7:22 PM · Report this
79
@78 cockyballsup
They are talking about rape here! You and mydriasis seem to either have no sympathy for young people who are relatively sexually inexperienced, or are just plain shockingly ignorant. Sex looms very large in some people's minds. How can you not know that this is a seriously unnerving thing for some? Congratulations if you're so on top of things that it was never an issue for you. Surprise: many people are at their least rational in sexual situations.
Posted by Mr. J on May 23, 2012 at 7:40 PM · Report this
80
@75: I'd make a distinction. And again, limiting this to one or both partners fairly new to sex and/or each other, because long-term relationships do operate on a different kind of earned trust.

It is good to read and respond to nonverbal cues, even if they are not the ones you're hoping for. It is foolish to assume your partner (as here, a new to you and very inexperienced partner) is going to be good at reading your cues. There was a bit somewhere upthread about teenage boys clumsily failing to read their partners, and, um: Yes. In and out of bed. Teenage girls too, as we see in GOY's letter. They don't have experience. And layering our hopes onto things is pretty human, believing that what we feel in terms of lust or emotional connection must be mirrored.

There exists enough swept away by an experienced partner porn (not just for women; see Dan's made-up letters from straight guys who were turned gay by such an encounter) that ambiguous signals could be very readily taken as consent by a someone who is trying to do the right thing, has their brain clouded by lust, and isn't getting any physical or verbal slow-down cues that they recognize. Scarleteen had a nice list of such cues, but it comes back to: Should you, a teen, read Scarleteen and take its advice to heart? Yes. Should you operate as though your partner has done so? No.

So I agree with you about mindset. But it's not a mindset you can assume in your new partner. Hey, maybe they had bad sex ed and no one sent them the Scarleteen link and they need some guidance.
Posted by IPJ on May 23, 2012 at 7:42 PM · Report this
81
IPJ @80 agree completely.

Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 7:59 PM · Report this
82
78, we're not talking about consent, we're talking about having fun together.

I refer you to ChiTodd @68:
>> Trying to shoehorn this into a consent issue ignores the much larger "respect your partner, be a decent human being" issue.>>
Posted by EricaP on May 23, 2012 at 8:02 PM · Report this
83
"In fact, the ability to say no, isn't "learned" at all. It's unlearned. Especially in girls."

Uh, hold on a second. That is NOT true in all situations. I can clearly remember times when it was a very big deal to even ASK anyone to stop something, let alone act as if it was my right to do so. Girls are heavily, heavily socialized to go along and be agreeable.
Posted by Eirene on May 23, 2012 at 8:09 PM · Report this
mydriasis 84
@83

I think you're confused. "Girls are heavily, heavily socialized to go along and be agreeable" was exactly my point. Baby girls are very good at communicating a nonverbal no. When little girls learn how to speak they are very good at saying no when they don't like something. Then it is socialized out of them. That's what I was implying when I said it's "unlearned".

@ Mr. J

I'm one of the younger posters on here. I was a teenager not too long ago, and as I mentioned above, I remember quite well what it's like to be 16. Did you actually read what I wrote @53? In fact in another post I explicitly said "I care a great deal about other women who do have a hard time with these things, and I'm concerned about their wellbeing" - don't tell me I'm not sympathetic. Plus ignorant? Again, if you read my post you'd see that I alluded to the fact that I've been in the kinds of situations where these issues become very important. I don't like plastering every graphic aspect of my personal history on SL comments but anyone who was paying attention would pick up on the gist. To your last point, at the risk of becoming redundant, I do realize that other people were "less on top of things" as you say, but that doesn't change anything in terms of my issues with the YMY viewpoint.

Honestly, I don't know how you could have actually read my posts and come to the conclusion you did. I'm a little offended, TBH.
Posted by mydriasis on May 23, 2012 at 9:38 PM · Report this
85
@83, I think what mydriasis was trying to get across is that at the age of two, all kids know how to say NO--they say it loudly and frequently. It's over the course of the next ten-twelve years that girls are socialized to acquiesce. And then we turn around and tell them that, in one circumstance, they need to say No.

I can see where this would be very confusing to teenage girls. I can't speak to teenage boys' experience but I imagine they get some conflicting messages as well. Encouraging communication around sex and emotions can only be a good thing.
Posted by clashfan on May 23, 2012 at 9:58 PM · Report this
86
@84--darn my slow typing!
Posted by clashfan on May 23, 2012 at 10:00 PM · Report this
87
@84: Thanks for clarifying, mydriasis. I thought you were talking about girls having to unlearn the good-girl-gatekeeper-legs-crossed stuff in order to say yes to sex.

For me, it's not about assuming that anyone can't learn to be assertive. It's that many, MANY people (including lots of guys in my experience) HAVEN'T yet learned to be assertive, and don't deserve to be treated any worse because they haven't. Also, I wish very much that I'd been brought up with clearer ideas of consent in all situations, not just sexual ones -- I can think of lots of actions of my own that I regret, where even people much older and usually more assertive than I was froze up when I did something inappropriate, and I didn't realize for ages that I'd been a jerk to them.
Posted by Eirene on May 23, 2012 at 10:08 PM · Report this
88
The idea of a yes-means-yes policy, rather than insisting on no-to-mean-no, has been around for nearly 20 years. The campus action referenced in #14 was the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy adopted in 1993 by the student-faculty-staff Community Government at Antioch College. It drew slick scorn and sick rantorums from Garry Wills on down to hairy-palm-snicker-snicker snotasses at the time, but subsequent date rape cases large and small on too many campuses to count have cast the SOPP in a far more positive light. Ironically, the SOPP expired when Antioch sUniversity shut down Antioch College in 2008 and has not been re-enacted since the college was reopened as an independent entity in September 2011. The full saga is for another time and place, but one local note is in order: Antioch University Seattle and the other four Antioch University campuses around the country no longer have any organizational, financial or legal ties to Antioch College.
Posted by antiochian on May 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM · Report this
89
The idea of a yes-means-yes policy, rather than insisting on no-to-mean-no, has been around for nearly 20 years. The campus action referenced in #14 was the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy adopted in 1993 by the student-faculty-staff Community Government at Antioch College. It drew slick scorn and sick rantorums from Garry Wills on down to hairy-palm-snicker-snicker snotasses at the time, but subsequent date rape cases large and small on too many campuses to count have led many hasty critics to reconsider the SOPP in a more positive light. Ironically, the SOPP expired when Antioch University shut down Antioch College in 2008 and was not re-enacted after the college was reopened as an independent entity in September 2011. The full saga is for another time and place, but one local note is in order: Antioch University Seattle and the other four Antioch University campuses around the country no longer have any organizational, financial or legal ties to Antioch College.
Posted by antiochian on May 23, 2012 at 11:23 PM · Report this
90
I could be wrong but I think what the anti-YMY peeps here are saying is that we need to teach people to read their partner's signals better.

Really it should not be that fucking hard to notice your partner is not into whatever you're doing. We shouldn't HAVE to say Yes or No. It should be obvious by how we're reacting!

That said... let me give an example... (warning: heteronormative sex talk coming) of what I think *is* problematic, and I think this has a lot to do with how women are socialized, is often women are not clear when they mean no. If you really don't want to have sex with a guy, you need to say a firm, clear no, and move away. Now some people assume this is obvious. Well no it's not always and I'm going to tell you how...

Many years ago, nearly 20, I was in my late teens and went out of town with my boyfriend and an older friend of mine who was married (hey it's Nebraska, we do that there). We went camping. Her husband had to work so he was home. We had a cabin type thing on a lake. Was awesome. We met some other people there and some drinking and bonfire was going on. Roasted some steaks, potatoes, drank and went swimming at night, that sort of thing.

Her and this one guy hit it off. I mean she was all giggle goofy and not mentioning her marital status. Frankly her husband was a dick so we didn't care. She stays out with this guy and my boyfriend and I head back to bed. We're all sleeping in the SAME ROOM in different beds. I sleep with my guy on one bed, and we wear pajamas because this is Nebraska and people don't get frisky in the same room.

A couple hours later I'm awakened by her and the guy crashing into the room, shhhhhing one another, making out hardcore. When I say hardcore I mean her legs were wrapped around his waist as he was walking. With her tongue down his throat. They collapsed into bed and in short order said they were both too drunk and would just sleep by one another. At this point they both disrobed completely and went to sleep. Cuddling. Naked.

At some point a few hours later I woke to them having very loud noisy aggressive sex. At one point I heard her say "wait. omg wait, no, we can't do this." He quickly replied "oh come on, you know you want it" and she just said "oh god" and the rest was a bunch of moaning, position switching, including her on top, and large orgasms from them both. Lots and lots of extremely explicit "fuck me hard" dirty talk. My boyfriend and I lay in the next bed mortified. I just was not that kind of person then. I mean I'm not super into it now but I'd be more "whatever" and roll over and go to sleep. Then I was mortified.

The next day I woke up to give her the raised eyebrow. I found her in the bathroom sobbing hysterically and a complete wreck. Imagine my surprise when she informed me she was not crying out of guilt but because she had been raped.

Now I had the good sense to not say "oh bullshit!" (tho I wonder now if I should have?) because I just really did not know what to say. But clearly, she absolutely completely felt she'd been raped. I'd known her since we were little girls and she was no actress and quite possibly the worst liar I'd ever met in my entire life. No she was absolutely convinced she'd been raped.

I asked, gingerly, "did you tell him no?" and she said, very tellingly "well, not very well I guess!" And went on to explain she'd been so afraid she just went with it because she was so afraid what might happen if she said no strongly and firmly, and just resigned herself even though she didn't want to. Technically. I mean wtf my guy and I were right there and my guy was HUGE and a bar brawler. We were 5 fucking feet away!

Now that's just one incident. Am I blaming women? No but I am saying we need to be VERY CLEAR. Men (or hey women either!) are not mind readers and if you're moaning and grinding your hips against someone and sleeping naked by them it's pretty reasonable for that person to think you might want it.
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Posted by wendykh on May 24, 2012 at 1:05 AM · Report this
91
@90: "We shouldn't HAVE to say Yes or No. It should be obvious by how we're reacting!"

But if this were true then saying Yes or No wouldn't be a big deal.

Your story of your friend is... It's so troubling to me, as a mom of both a girl and a boy, as someone who cares very deeply about date rape (defined as where 'no' is ignored). When riding on top of someone moaning 'fuck me harder' is characterized the next morning as passive resigned sex you were nonverbally indicating you didn't want. As a woman who does NOT believe women have no agency (and who never had a 'no' argued with, even though I was a shy and timid teen) it's deeply frustrating to see this kind of rewriting of the night before.

So many of these memories seem to be summed up, "If the person with me had acted differently, or if I'd been more assertive..." One of those is within your power to affect.
Posted by IPJ on May 24, 2012 at 5:07 AM · Report this
92 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
93
90- wendykh Thank-you! Thank-you for telling that story. I've mentioned in this column before my own story of the friend who cried rape the morning after. It may be rare, but it does happen, and I've had friends who still believe that it must be rape if she feels it was.

Let me zero in on your one line: "I had the good sense not to say "oh bullshit!" (though I wonder now if I should have)."

In my case, I did as you did. I gingerly danced around the possibility that I didn't think it was rape without coming out with a clear "bullshit." Later, I suggested that therapy was the best option for my friend, but she continued to blame me for her woes because I left open the possibility that I didn't believe her. (I didn't, though I did have my doubts. Unlike you, I wasn't there and was going only by her account of the drama.)

My question is: What happened next? Did your friend suffer any trauma from the rape? Did your friendship with her survive given that you weren't sympathetic to ordeal she'd been through?
Posted by Crinoline on May 24, 2012 at 7:15 AM · Report this
mydriasis 94
@87

I know where you're coming from and appreciate the intent behind the YMY policy, but in order for it to work two things must happen

1. people have to be willing to adopt it (and as you can see it isn't across the board popular)

2. it has to be able to prevent the kind of consent issues created by NMN. I personally don't believe it does, and many other people brought up the fact that the kinds of forces that stop the 'no' from happening would probably make a 'yes' happen as well. Especially since everyone's so keen on talking about super young inexperienced people. To go with the typical straight situation (but it applies across the board, IMO) If you've got a sixteen year old boy who's been taught to check and get a 'yes' - you don't think the fact that he's young and desperate to get it on and very eager and exicited won't come through in the way he asks? You don't think the girl will feel immensely pressured by all the same societal things telling her that if she likes him she should want to make him happy? You don't think there's the same kinds of psychological forces guilting her, telling her she let it get this far and she'd be a tease if she didn't say yes? I think maybe, in some situations, that added opportunity to refuse might help, but I'm not convinced it would made a big difference.

And in my opinion, it shifts the attention away from the real problem at hand, as if to say "young women aren't assertive, so let's just do this instead, and then problem solved". (Yes, there are men who lack assertiveness too, and I'm concerned for them as well, but my understanding is that YMY is mainly addressing the hetero concern above)
Posted by mydriasis on May 24, 2012 at 7:43 AM · Report this
mydriasis 95
@wendy

Saying 'no' can be body language (pushing someone away or moving away) or it can be words. I do think being able to read body language is important (though really, who doesn't understand what being pushed away means), but I wouldn't argue that that's my focus. I think ideally everyone should be assertive enough to stop a situation they aren't happy with (sexual or no). As I said before, we're all born with that ability - it's either socialized out of people or stifled by low self worth.

As for your story...

I have to agree with IPJ and Crinoline. Calling that rape is deeply, deeply troubling to me. I don't believe she was lying to you, I believe she was in denial. There is a big difference between 'I'm going to let you do this to me because I'm afraid of you' and what happened with her. Guilt can make the mind do crazy things - especially when the memory is foggy because you were hammered enough to have sex a couple feet away from two other people. I think she was drunk, and into it, and not thinking about her man. Next day comes around and she becomes so overwhelmed with guilt she goes into denial mode.
Posted by mydriasis on May 24, 2012 at 7:48 AM · Report this
geoz 96
I hope my kids can find advice like yours Dan. Not that I don't offer it.. but I am their dad after all, and have no credibility because of that. I may have to leave the screen up sometime so they can find you on their own.
Posted by geoz on May 24, 2012 at 7:59 AM · Report this
97
I read the notes on YMY. I think it is a great idea. I'd like for it to work. I've done it many times with my partner.

Outcome: It is terrible. It doesn't work.

My partner asked me to do this and, of course I did, multiple times. But it was always so power oriented. Finally I asked her to take on the asking and that way... THAT way, she could be saying what she wants instead of me having to. Well, let me tell you, we tried that once and she got a taste of how awkward and lame that is. The asking, the asking again, the next asking... We have never done that again and she doesnt' ask that of me any more either.

Again... I'd like it to work. It doesn't work for us. The complications of sex ... continue.

Posted by Don't ask... don't tell. on May 24, 2012 at 8:15 AM · Report this
98
@97, I'm intrigued and perturbed by your note. If you have an established partner, haven't you built a shared repertoire of activities that you both generally like, and that work well for your bodies? Things usually get much simpler after two people have had sex a dozen times. I think of YMY and NMN as approaches to fumbling your way through sex with a new person, especially when there's no mutual understanding of whether sex is even on the table.

In any case, YMY shouldn't mean one person has to keep asking. If you're both on board, and know each other well, then each person should be figuring out what he/she wants, and communicating that (with words or body language) to the other person.
Posted by EricaP on May 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM · Report this
geoz 99
Wendy, I can tell another story like that from the "perpetrator's" perspective, having been accused of assault. In mine we both were clothed. She was too vulnerable and I should have been more sensitive to that, but I did kiss her in mutually-consented full-body contact, with mutual grinding. Then, feeling like her vulnerability was too high, I left her dorm room.

The next day I was confronted for assault, her friends giving me the evil eye, shunned, college staff giving me the evil eye and questionning me.

She later confessed, but only to me. She was mad because I hadn't gone further. Oy.

I ask this... if you know, as Wendy knew from 1st hand knowledge, that it was not rape, you have to let that guy know that you know. Being falsely accused is severe victimization of its own and a discredit to the real victims of rape.
Posted by geoz on May 24, 2012 at 9:05 AM · Report this
mydriasis 100
@99

I'm sorry to hear that.
Your point is something I forgot to mention but meant to. "Rape" is not a one-sided term. By defining a situation as "rape", the woman is also defining the man she had sex with (or other acts with) as a "rapist". I think calling the man in wendy's story a "rapist" is completely unfair.
Posted by mydriasis on May 24, 2012 at 9:26 AM · Report this
101
I love this man, as gay and as drunkenly dashed off his advice is.
Posted by FrancesBeanz on May 24, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Report this
102
Re My@94: I agree, it seems that in most cases the question needs to be posed at Twilight-fanfic levels of perfection for someone who doesn't want to say 'no' to suddenly flip their switch to say 'no' in a way that doesn't disappoint their partner at all and ultimately draws the pair closer together.

The two letter writers are young, not sure they're ready for sex yet, and with partners or possible partners who want more than they do. Physically in both cases, emotionally in the first as well. Telling the LWs to apply YMY isn't going to help them. They need to apply NMN and speak up even when it's awkward and their partner might be mad or disappointed and it all gets ruined right now. (Which Dan did, so twenty huzzahs to him.)

It's normal, even at 17, to look back with regrets about things you wish you'd played differently. Standing up for yourself more being a very common one, and not just around sex. I find it infinitely sad to look back with all your regrets cast as things you wish other people had done differently: It gives you no agency over making your future any different, all you can do is wish all the people in the world acted differently.

(Yes, some regrets might be other people hurting you while you were genuinely helpless to affect the outcome. (Again, not sex alone.) But in cases where YMY might have helped, NMN would universally also have done the trick.)
Posted by IPJ on May 24, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
mydriasis 103
@IPJ

Thank you for putting that so well! I couldn't agree more.
Posted by mydriasis on May 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
104
99- Geoz-- Re: Regrets. There are a great many situations where there really is no good outcome. If you go with choice A, and if it turns out badly, it's normal to wish you'd gone with choice B. The same is true the other way around. It takes a lot of maturity and self-knowledge to to get to the point of realizing that the problem was the whole situation, that the real regret is was ever being faced with that set of circumstances and that set of choices.

I hope the woman who accused you falsely got to that place eventually. I hope she realized that anything she did when she was feeling so vulnerable was going to end badly. She would have felt bad if you'd gone further, if you'd let her take the initiative, if you left when you did, if you hadn't seen her that night, if you'd awakened in a gutter, if you'd plunged over a cliff. People who are that vulnerable simply make bad decisions. I also hope that you were eventually able to clear your name. What you went through sounds like a nightmare.

100- Mydriasis-- Thanks for putting into words something I haven't. When my friend all those years ago said she'd been raped, I jumped to the rather reasonable conclusion that she meant our mutual friend was a rapist. I'd guess she didn't see it that way.
Posted by Crinoline on May 24, 2012 at 12:21 PM · Report this
105
In my admittedly limited experience, teenage guys were WAY better about wanting to be sure I was okay with what was happening than the older guys who came on to me. Which totally makes sense. They were my age, similar to me in temperament, and felt a lot of sympathy with me, whereas older guys who go after high school girls tend to be self-centered jerks.

The high school guys who made passes at me thought they might as well try it on, but they were basically expecting a no and they were okay with that. Sometimes I did say no, and in one case I froze up and the guy said gently, "You're not up for that, are you?" and when I shook my head, he just said "That's okay," and went on kissing me. It was incredibly sweet. I bet I remember that better than I would have the probably-crap sex we might otherwise have had.

So, to sum up: I liked it when YMY was used on me; I wished I had used YMY more myself (see 87); and NMN is always there if you really need it.
Posted by Eirene on May 24, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
106
It seems to me like what Yes Means Yes is/should really be about it making everyone responsible for saying "Yes!" when they are actually interested. Then the lack of a "Yes!" would clue their partner into them being uninterested, and doesn't require shy people to say "No!" even in awkward situations. This is different from the constant asking that many people seem to be complaining about, as all it requires the more assertive partner to do is listen for a "Yes!".
I do agree that the best solution is for everyone (including girls and women) to be confident enough in themselves to say "Yes!" and "No!" when appropriate, and to be true to their feelings, but I think that suggesting that a woman (or a man) say "Yes!" when they want it does not have the same anxiety-inducing baggage as saying "No!" when they don't want to.
Posted by The Aqueduct on May 24, 2012 at 1:41 PM · Report this
107
Well, the point is to communicate what you want. I should think that ALSO includes telling people how/when/if you like them to ask you things. But I think people should be trained in verbal skills for when they're needed (even if you never end up using them much in the heat of the sexual moment, but only at other times). The default in our society for communication around sex is so very nonverbal that most people need scaffolding to get to an appropriate level of verbal communication, and a lot of folks never get there at all.
Posted by Eirene on May 24, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
mydriasis 108
"but I think that suggesting that a woman (or a man) say "Yes!" when they want it does not have the same anxiety-inducing baggage as saying "No!" when they don't want to."

I completely disagree! Haha.
I have no anxiety about saying 'no' to something I don't like. But putting the onus on me to constantly verbally reassure my partner that I'm okay with each thing he's doing? Um, no thanks.
Posted by mydriasis on May 24, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
109
@78 Have you guys ever actually had sex? For anything to really happen, from kissing to penetration, requires the actual active participation of the woman from start to finish, from opening lips for kissing to taking clothes off or allowing them to be taken off to physically allowing penetration (since we are not talking about rape here).

I've had plenty of sex and some of it was had without any active participation from me. This was from my husband, who was mightily annoyed about my lack of enthusiasm, but my consent wasn't a deal-breaker for him. As I believed at that time that the only thing that made it rape was if I said no, and since I'd said no once and been forced to have sex anyway, I never bothered to say no again.

"Yes means yes" thwarts these situations:
1. Receiver of sex is too drunk to speak or is passed out.

2. Receiver is too frightened or freezes up.

3. Things go too fast, too soon, and receiver doesn't know how to deal with it. Requiring a 'yes' forces the action to slow down (at least for a moment) and the initiator shows some respect for their partner by soliciting their input.

4. The receiver later tells the initiator they didn't want it. However, the initiator can point out that they asked, CLEARLY, if the receiver wanted [insert sex act here] and the receiver gave an indisputable affirmation.

All of the ambiguous situations that have been mentioned (including the story Wendy related) become unambiguous if the receiving party is required to give clear and unambiguous consent.
Posted by Gamebird on May 24, 2012 at 5:35 PM · Report this
mydriasis 110
@Gamebird.

You don't think "fuck me harder" is clear and unambigious consent???
Posted by mydriasis on May 24, 2012 at 6:05 PM · Report this
111
109: I think your whole illustration of sex as something that has an initiator and a receiver is screwed up.

To take your cases: 1 is resolved by not getting that drunk, or so drunk that you don't remember anything past the third margarita. What if your partner is ALSO too drunk to speak? Or claims he or she was? Or took your slurry mutterings as yes in drunken good intention? How do you prove they didn't hear a yes-sounding thing from you, if you were that far gone? I hate the comparative blood alcohol standard for determining who raped whom in the messy memory of the morning after. And several people have encountered the friend vigorously tearing off someone's clothes who sure as hell seemed to be consenting in aggressive spades and the next day claims to remember not a thing, and doubts they would ever sleep with someone wearing sandals and socks.

2 and 3 are covered by NMN, in control of both parties to initiate this.

4 is fine for being able to say I told you so, but since notarized documents probably weren't involved is going to be just as subject to the vagaries of memory. And all the "Well I said yes because you wanted me to and I was scared of what might happen if I said no and I just didn't feel safe so I said yes" that are implicit in 2 and 3.

My@108: As a shy person, saying no wasn't a problem. It falls squarely in the 'act like a grownup with agency over your life' penumbra. I may reflexively avoid conflict, but sometimes you need to be clear that you aren't just silently and resentfully going along with what someone else wants. (Out of bed, mostly, in real life.) But if I were required to give a loud enthusiastic YES to get my sticker for doing sex right, and that was how my partner could tell he wasn't forcing me? God is that not a realistic standard.

I like 105's summary, that it is nice when you have a partner who pays attention to your reluctance in a compassionate way, it is a good standard to apply oneself with partners, and one needs NMN for covering all those situations where this nice mutual communication is not happening.
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Posted by IPJ on May 24, 2012 at 6:30 PM · Report this
mydriasis 112
@IPJ

Bingo. I do the nonverbal 'yes'ing and no one has had any trouble getting the picture. Just ask my neighbors.
Posted by mydriasis on May 24, 2012 at 6:51 PM · Report this
The Wild Sow 113
Dan, on behalf of all us sexually active people who have friends, and are capable of forming new friendships -- Thank You!
Posted by The Wild Sow on May 24, 2012 at 6:54 PM · Report this
114
So, what, there's a receiver of sex and a giver of sex?

Posted by Hunter78 on May 24, 2012 at 7:33 PM · Report this
115
@ Mydriasis and others who don't like yes means yes:
I think you've missed two things. 1. The proper target audience of a yes means yes campaign is not young women who may or may not lack confidence, it is young men who have too much. Apologies for the gender stereotype but that's the way it works most often. 2. Your personal sex preferences aren't under threat here. This is an effort to make a marginal difference in the lives of a certain proportion of young people. It doesn't mean that all other efforts to prevent rape or sexual coercion will stop.
Posted by Phil H on May 24, 2012 at 9:03 PM · Report this
116
Pardon me for moving beyond the actual content of the letters, but a couple perspectives to add to the assertiveness and enthusiastic consent discussion, namely gender expectations, religion and culture.

1. Been a while, but I certainly remember my teens. After a childhood and adolescence of the religion, it took me a good decade to accept that my sexual desire was a beautiful, healthy thing. There certainly was no not ever any talk by any responsible adult in my environs of learning to be assertive and set boundaries with my sexuality because there wasn't to be even any thought of it until I was married. (And assertive... hell! I was prompted by my folks to apologize to the abusive people in my family for egging them on when I tried to stand up for myself!) Since the minute I hit puberty I realized I not only had a whopper of a sex drive AND was probably a little kinky, well, a bit of the messed up head. There were a few guys I let take the lead and didn't say much, because you know, if I didn't intend it, it wasn't my fault.

2. So oh, goody! I grew out of that! Only to find that several guys hadn't and were a bit squicked out by my enthusiastic consent to and initiation of sex acts, including what I thought was the relatively commonplace oral and the oh so exciting finger in the ass (I *have* asked for permission and been declined on performing both, more than one person, alas...).

3. And let's talk cultural expectations. Last fling across the pond. He was utterly bewildered when I enthusiastically consented to a blow job, asked him how he liked it, etc. What he said and did indicated to me that enthusiastic consent where he is means being a slut and he tested me by having his guy friends hit on me. Women are not supposed to want it...any of it...So on our last tumble, when he initiated something and I gave my vocal NO, he started anyway (because I'm of course supposed to say no but don't really mean it if I'm there in the first place, right?). And that was the end of that.

4. So thank you thank you, Dan and the internet for existing and providing blossoming adolescents (and those of us in a bit fuller bloom) for this awesome validation, education, forum, and public service.
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Posted by Idea Struck on May 24, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Report this
117
@115: "This is an effort to make a marginal difference in the lives of a certain proportion of young people."
-------
And what I am saying is that encouraging people to put responsibility for their sex lives in the hands of others is a very poor idea. Teaching kids that they have a reasonable expectation that every sex partner will ask at the right time in the right way is not going to help. I don't want any girl to conclude that if she's helping a guy take her panties off while thinking maybe it's going too fast, she needs to hope like gangbusters he asks soon.

Every one of the "YMY might have led to a different outcome" cases comes down to "If only my partner had asked at the right moment, or if only I could have been more assertive." The latter is in your control, the former is not. Every one of those "if s/he had asked, or if I had asserted myself" cases would have been solved with the person who was uncomfortable applying NMN. A person who would have a bad reaction to an unprompted No wasn't going to have a good one to a prompted No. People who aspire to be treated like adults damn well better act like they have agency: the vision of women as helpless beings who can't be trusted to know their own minds is not one I'm ever going to get on board with. And I was a cripplingly shy teen. It didn't mean I needed to be treated like a young child.

I've argued strongly all down the thread for mild YMY as an adjunct to NMN for cases in which your partner is inexperienced. Even if you're even more inexperienced. It's a considerate standard to apply in one's own life, absolutely to any inexperienced partners and possibly to any new ones. It's a crippling standard to assume from everyone around you.
Posted by IPJ on May 25, 2012 at 5:20 AM · Report this
mydriasis 118
@115

1. Except you saw the letter he was responding to, right? He didn't mention YMY in response to "So I had sex with this girl and I thought everything was great but now she's saying I pushed things too far! She didn't say no, how was I supposed to know she wasn't into it??" That's why we're talking about YMY in the context we are.

2. Again, we understand that it's an effort to make a difference but it is also a somewhat inherently flawed system for reasons many people discussed above. For example, I said this:

But as many people mentioned, most of the forces that stop her from saying no would still be at play to make her say yes. You can ask for consent in a very domineering or pressure-laden way, and it's just as bad as - maybe even worse than - saying nothing at all.
Posted by mydriasis on May 25, 2012 at 6:10 AM · Report this
119
For everyone in this argument on the relative merits of NMN and YMY and when each one should be applied, go back and read Dan's original answer to GOY. He got it right the first time. His answer was about empowering GOY to make better decisions in the future, not making new policy to govern teen sexual situations in general.

With that in mind, I offer this advice to GOY and anyone who too often makes a choice on the spur of the moment that they end up regretting. This includes situations where the other person might be pressuring you or where you feel pressured when the other person might not actually have known h/she was coming on too strong. It includes sexual situations and the vast number of ordinary situations when we're invited to do something. The advice goes like this: If practicing saying no is too hard, practice saying "I'll get back to you" even when the answer is yes.

Take a totally benign example. A friend has asked if you'd like dinner next week. You'd love to go. You're excited about the invitation. But instead of saying yes, say "that sounds nice, but before I promise to be there, let me check my calendar at home. I'll let you know definitely one way or the other tomorrow." Practice saying maybe to everything you're asked for a month or more.

Then, when the invitation isn't to something you know you want (volunteering to head the committee, dinner with someone you're not sure you like so well), you have confidence and practice saying maybe. You have time to rehearse saying no. When you text back, you say "no thanks."

It's a little different in sexual situations, but the principle is the same. When someone is moving too fast, even when you're pretty sure you want to say yes, say maybe. If the potential for a good sexual relationship is there, it can wait until you've had time to process those feelings, then go at it again.

Remember that this is only an exercise to practice. I'm not suggesting that you should never give plain yes answers for anything from dinner to committee chairs to sex over the course of your life. It's only a something to help people on their way to making snap good decisions.
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Posted by Crinoline on May 25, 2012 at 8:16 AM · Report this
mydriasis 120
@Crin

I think Dan's advice to GOY was good. I just had a criticism of YMY especially in the context of people in her position.

I think your advice is good too. I've never had problems saying no to people (in women-as-"nice" socialization, that makes me a 'bitch') so I can't speak personally but I think it's very reasonable!
Posted by mydriasis on May 25, 2012 at 8:56 AM · Report this
121
I've generally thought that the yes means yes paradigm is most useful as advice for those men (I have never heard a woman choice such a concern, but I suppose it is possible) who evince concern that they will be the victims of a rape or assault accusation after what they believe to be a consensual encounter. You really should not be worried about this if you are taking an appropriate amount of care to make certain that your partner is an active and enthusiastic participant in the proceedings, not just one who has failed to say no. If you care that the people you have sex with are enjoying themselves, it doesn't seem like to much of a burden to check in periodically, whether that is explicit and verbal or more subtle and body language oriented, so long as you are making a honest attempt to suss out your partner's actual feelings, not just claiming that their body was telling you whatever you wanted to hear.
Posted by Nyzeek on May 25, 2012 at 9:13 AM · Report this
122
I get it! Since women can't say no, they'll have to to say yes.
Posted by Hunter78 on May 25, 2012 at 9:30 AM · Report this
123
Nyzeek@121: EXACTLY. And I just don't get how any of this is supposed to be about treating people as helpless creatures who don't know their own minds. It's rape culture that does that, not consent culture. Consent culture is, among many other things, a way OUT of the FEELING as if you were helpless and didn't know your own mind, IF that's a problem you have.

Nor is it about putting responsibility in the hands of others. It's about EXPECTING MORE of your partners (like, you know, civilized behavior). You might as well say that you're being irresponsible to expect your partner to change your kid's diapers, that the only diaper-changing behavior you can control is your own. Um, isn't that a LIMITATION of power, to say you can't have any effect on anyone else or on the broader culture?
Posted by Eirene on May 25, 2012 at 10:11 AM · Report this
124
@123: If I wanted my husband to change more diapers, I communicated this via "Could you change the kid's diaper?" Rather than silently stewing and wishing he would think to ask. One of these hypothetical responses involves using my own agency to try and change what's happening, and one involves thinking at him really hard. As a long-time diaper changer, I highly recommend the first as much more likely to result in one's partner changing the diaper.

The limitation of power is in saying I just have to hope that the broader culture or my partner's behavior changes, rather than trying to affect both via saying what I damn mean.

the FEELING as if you were helpless and didn't know your own mind
If you don't know your own mind, how the hell is people asking you supposed to help? One of the last things I want, as the parent and aunt of both boys and girls, is a society in which it is assumed that the girls don't know their own minds.
Posted by IPJ on May 25, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Report this
125
@121: Re-read 90. How should the guy in question have acted differently under a YMY paradigm?

(Never mind that people who are quick to trot out "blame the victim!" are always the first in line judging what a man should have done differently when the topic turns to false rape accusations.)
Posted by ChiTodd on May 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM · Report this
126
"f I wanted my husband to change more diapers, I communicated this via "Could you change the kid's diaper?" "

Exactly. You acted as if it was expected. Moreover, you probably talked about your husband changing diapers in a way that showed other people that you expected that he would do his share, reinforcing a culture in which that's the norm.

I'm not talking about "thinking at people" or "stewing silently" AT ALL. I don't know where that is coming from. It seems completely backwards that the people who are promoting the ideal of more verbal communication are getting stigmatized as promoting silence and passivity. Similarly, it's backward to say that asking someone what they want is taking away their agency. The hell? It's RESPECTING their agency.

"If you don't know your own mind, how the hell is people asking you supposed to help?"

Um -- a lot more than people NOT asking you? Haven't you ever had a dialogue where you came out of it knowing better what you wanted than you did when the other person first asked you? And I did say "FEELING as if you didn't know your own mind," rather than actually not knowing. I think people generally do know what they want once they clear away the clouds.
Posted by Eirene on May 25, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
127
ChiTodd@125: when the guy first heard "no, we can't do this," he should have stopped and clarified. That seems like a no-brainer to me. However, it sure sounds from your account as though the subsequent sex ended up being consensual. The thing is that NO form of communication is going to keep people from lying. And honestly, I can't see how it could be possible that she was telling the truth, unless she was drunk enough not to remember, in which case she was significantly impaired and true consent wasn't possible.

See http://www.fugitivus.net/2010/04/22/five… for a good discussion of this issue, including: "check out the stats the government puts out about false accusations: women falsely accuse men of rape at the same rate that (surprise!) people falsely accuse other people of any crime. It’s somewhere in the range of 1%-2%."

It's not that it never happens. It's just not different than when someone accuses someone else of stealing their wallet, stabbing them, whatever. There's always the possibility that they could be lying, because people lie sometimes. There's always the possibility that they could be deceiving themselves, because people do that, too. They just don't do it any more often about rape than about anything else. (Indeed, the self-deception may go the other way: I've heard women -- and at least one man -- go through complete contortions to say that what happened to them wasn't rape.)

Posted by Eirene on May 25, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
128
@125 It wasn't my intention to address that story in particular or to suggest that no one has ever been falsely or unfairly accused of rape or sexual assault (in fact, earlier this month, a man was released after serving 5 years for a rape that his accuser now says did not occur--that is a travesty). I merely meant that if you are acting to ensure that your partner is enthusiastic about what is happening between you, you don't really need to worry about being accused, because it is extremely unlikely. If a friends lens me his car, it is possible that he will cause a lot of trouble for me by claiming I stole it, but I don't worry about that possibility, because I am sure that he is actually fine with me driving his car around town. Likewise, I don't worry that my sexual partners will accuse me of assaulting them because I am sure that they are happy about the activities we engage in together.

Maybe the man in that story did everything right, and just happened to find himself in a bad situation through no fault of his own. Certainly the description given does not constitute rape. He probably would have avoided it if he had put on the brakes when she said we can't do this. Yes means yes protects both parties. Based on the story we hard, I don't think he raped her, and I think she was wrong to say that he did, but he could possibly have avoided the accusation if he had been more active in obtaining consent, either bcause they would have stopped or she would have had to be more explicit in saying yes, I want this.
Posted by Nyzeek on May 25, 2012 at 3:51 PM · Report this
129
@109, regarding reason 1. This is not going to make me popular, but I think getting that shitfaced drunk in a non-controlled situation is basically equivalent to consenting to whatever may happen afterwards. Getting drunk is a conscious decision, often taken for the very purpose of losing inhibitions and control. They want to be able to consent to any number of things so they drink. But at the same time they want to evade responsibility for whatever it is they are going to consent to. So I have no sympathy at all for the idea that someone can decide after the fact that it was rape when consent was given under the influence.
Posted by cockyballsup on May 25, 2012 at 4:18 PM · Report this
130
@129: You do need to draw the line between things that you yourself do after getting blotto, and things that are done TO YOU after getting blotto. Going and getting shit-faced is consenting to, at most, passing out under a barstool. (Some people drink because they like the feeling of being drunk, not because they are anticipating doing something regrettable and need an excuse.) It is not consent to being laid out on the pool table and have the rest of the bar have their way with you.

It's perfectly reasonable to say that if someone is passed out drunk, or nearly so -- in other words, in a state where one is so impaired as to be unable to communicate denial of consent -- that person cannot be said to have consented. If they can't even manage to slur out a "No,", they can't slur out a "yes," either.

Also, you do have to make allowances for unintentional drunkenness (alcohol can disappear very effectively in fruity drinks and people can get drunker than they intended) or worse, intentional poisoning by a predator.

However, I think the idea of any impairment whatsoever invalidating consent has been extended beyond the point where it is reasonable. The idea that a person can be actively involved in heavy making out, following someone up to their room under their own power, getting out of their own clothing, and climbing on top, but then regret it the following day and claim that they were too impaired to have good judgment and therefore it was rape is very unfair. For one thing, that person could arbitrarily claim any level of impairment they wanted, after the fact. Short of carrying a breathalyzer around with you to use on your potential hookup, the only person who would know for sure just how shit-faced they got is the one on the inside of their skin. Everybody else has to go by external behavioral cues -- which means that apparently enthusiastic participation has to count for something substantial in the way of establishing consent, alcohol or not.
More...
Posted by avast2006 on May 25, 2012 at 5:22 PM · Report this
131
130: I passionately agree with your last paragraph. Especially the unreasonableness of expecting everyone around you to both accurately judge your exact blood alcohol content, and care. (And have a lower blood alcohol content themselves, so they can make responsible decisions for you both rather than cooperate in doubly bad decisions.)

People regularly get what to an outside observer looks like 'comprehensively refreshed', and the difference between buzzed and won't remember anything past the third margarita is pretty much impossible to judge. In this state they perform unfortunate karaoke, leave drunken protestations of undying love on the voicemails of their exes, and have enthusiastic, under their own power sex with people. All of these being things they might not do sober, but are seen as having consented to do while drunk.

There are cell phone apps in which your phone demands that you solve challenging math problems before it will let you call your ex. There's no way to get your phone to stop you from having sex with someone when you're too drunk for long division, though.
Posted by IPJ on May 25, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
132
129-- I draw a distinction between 2 people getting drunk together and 1 person purposely buying drink after drink for the other with the plan ahead of time getting her to that point of impaired judgment. But essentially I agree with you. I'd even take it a few steps further. From time to time someone has used having had a few too many drinks as an excuse for saying the wrong thing, or giving the wrong impression. My response is always the same: If you can't be responsible for what you say when drunk, then don't drink. No sex, no car wrecks, just someone making idiot comments, insults, maybe explaining that they deserve expensive gifts or that Mother always loved you best. Whatever. If you can't take responsibility for it, don't say it.
Posted by Crinoline on May 25, 2012 at 7:00 PM · Report this
133
Well, drunken sex doesn't necessarily mean so impaired that one couldn't consent. I was basing the possibility of impaired consent on the woman appearing not to remember any details of what had happened the night before. Of course, it's also possible for both parties to be so drunk NEITHER of them can meaningfully consent (though I think typically in that scenario one or both would pass out before they got very far, and sorry, sex with a passed-out person is rape no matter what in my book).

There wouldn't be a prosecutable rape either way if you were both that drunk (again, short of passing out, etc.) and there was no evidence of intent to rape, but it sure would be a stupid, stupid thing to do, and if I'd done it, I would be just as upset with myself as if I'd been indifferent to consent in some other way. (Incidentally, the only time I've ever had sex while shit-faced drunk it was by prior arrangement when sober -- that is, we had agreed both to get drunk and to have sex, before either happened. It wasn't a great idea, turns out, but it wasn't terrifically irresponsible either, especially given that we were old friends.)
Posted by Eirene on May 25, 2012 at 7:07 PM · Report this
Holmes 134
@130, I agree. And I'll take that a step further. I interpret the 'drunk as an excuse' ploy as that person really not being into what we're about to do. If it doesn't sound fun when you're stone cold sober, you're probably not that into it. And not the best playmate either.

Drink, if that's what you like. But before you do, lets get the ground rules established. And I'd like to see some enthusiasm as well.
Posted by Holmes on May 25, 2012 at 8:48 PM · Report this
mydriasis 135
@132

"If you can't be responsible for what you say when drunk, then don't drink."

This is exactly why I gave up drinking around age 18. I had lots of bad experiences, did a lot of stupid stupid things, got myself in multiple dangerous situations, and was a disgusting person. I hated the drunk version of myself. So I gave up drinking.

When I tell people I don't drink I get two responses:

1. "Why??" And then the person trying to convince me that I should drink, just 'more responsibly' (to what end?)

2. "Oh. I should do that."

The second happens more than one might think. In a few years I realized that pot, painkillers, coke, ecstasy - all the uppers, downers, laughers and screamers I loved (unlike alcohol, which made me miserable) didn't put me in those awful situations, or make me that awful person. Every now and again I like to get high, but I avoid alcohol like the plague (except in very very specific contexts).
Posted by mydriasis on May 25, 2012 at 9:43 PM · Report this
136
You're a completely faggot ass insincere douchebag. Look at you, you're a total queer LOL LOL LOL> LIberal homosexual lover............what have you done that hasnt either promoted your liberal ass show or your liberal faggot ass pro gay anti-christian stance?
Posted by beneastman2011 on May 25, 2012 at 11:23 PM · Report this
137
this is for the Everettites out there, there are two churches in Everett that are accepting of LGBTQ and what have you, they are Zion Lutheran Church of Everett and Trinity Lutheran Church of Everett
Posted by vietna.E on May 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM · Report this
138
135- I'm getting off topic here, but let me spin off on the reactions to not drinking. I totally believe that that 2nd response happens often. I get that "should do that" thing a lot, and to the weirdest things. If say that I don't watch daytime television or don't like a particular junk food, if I say that I've been pleased with the mileage on my economy car or that I'm happier answering all my email in the morning, I get the "should do that," and I wonder if I sounded like I was putting anyone down. No, I was just explaining that I don't want oreos and don't know what food network star you're talking about.

On the other hand, for me, wine is a wonderful thing. For all my taking a hard line against people who use being drunk as an excuse, I adore it. I'll drink on purpose before sex because it helps me enjoy it more. I come more easily and let go of small anxieties. That's more when I was younger than now, but I credit the wine with helping me over the anxieties so I can enjoy more without the wine. In non-sexual situations, I like the free-floating feeling alcohol gives me far more than pot's fuzzy dizziness.
Posted by Crinoline on May 26, 2012 at 4:43 AM · Report this
mydriasis 139
@138

Oh yeah, I'm not putting alcohol down. Alcohol affects different people differently. The horrible person I was when I'd drink is not any indication that all people become horrible when they drink.

Some people drink to unwind and let go of anxieties. I have sex to unwind and let go of anxieties. I feel most like myself in sexual situations, way more comfortable, in my element, etc. I prefer sober sex, although I will admit that certain drugs impart a certain something to sex (neither alcohol nor pot make that list for me).

I don't like pot either, so I'm with you there. I've actually gone a longer time without smoking than I have without drinking. Again, this is about how it affects me personally. I don't always have the tightest grip on reality anyway (I'm prone to derealization/jamais-vu/depersonalization/dissociation etc) so when I used to smoke I actually did not understand if reality was real or fictional, whether I was awake or dreaming, or what universe I was in. I didn't like it.
Posted by mydriasis on May 26, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
mydriasis 140
@129

You think being unconscious is consent?
Posted by mydriasis on May 26, 2012 at 8:48 AM · Report this
141
@90/100/104, re rape without a rapist... I think it's possible (not legally, but emotionally)...

Once, I was making out with a guy and fully intended not to have sex. But it was the first time I had made out with a new guy since I had begun having intercourse, and I didn't realize that my body had new expectations that could override my mind. So I had sex, me on top, and afterward I felt raped, by my body, though of course that wasn't his fault. Destroyed that friendship, though.

Another time, a few years ago, I intended to stop at oral, but my body had other plans. Emotionally, that one ended up being fun -- my mind got on board with the sex after my husband came over to assure me it was hot. But it was still a big surprise to me to be reminded that my mind isn't always in charge of my body.

Bottom line: as long as the woman in wendy's story didn't press charges, I can appreciate her feeling raped...by her body. Especially if this was the first time she had made out with a new guy since getting married -- she may have thought she had the self-control of her teenage virgin self, only to find that her lusty married body had different plans.

Obviously, the word 'rape' has legal consequences and shouldn't be used for the feeling that one's body took over, but we don't have much vocabulary for that. So if you hear someone say they were raped, you might try asking them specifically -- are you saying he raped you? Or just that the situation went further than you wanted it to?
Posted by EricaP on May 26, 2012 at 10:03 AM · Report this
mydriasis 142
Erica - may I ask? How old were you when you first have sex? The way you describe the trajectory (virgin teenagers have self control, "lusty" married women do not) is so so foreign to me.
Posted by mydriasis on May 26, 2012 at 10:13 AM · Report this
shw3nn 143
@46 "As a woman I find it offensive that people think I'm unable to assert myself enough to say one fucking syllable, and have to work on the assumption that I can't say no."

But you do seem to want men to expect you to not want to have to say "yes". And work on the assumption that asking you a simple yes/no question will turn you off. If a man is going to make an assumption, why would you want the assumption to be in your favor if this is next sentence is true:

"I care a great deal about other women who do have a hard time with these things, and I'm concerned about their wellbeing, but there has to be a better way. "

All that is being asked of you is that you tolerate being asked for consent. That's the sacrifice(?) that you seem very unwilling to make. Not even that, though. All that would be required of you would be for you to let your partners know ahead of time that you don't want to be asked.

No, YMY wouldn't be a completely bulletproof guarantee against any form of sexual coercion. I don't think that is what it is supposed to be. Sure, a person could ask in a forceful enough way to elicit a "yes". This person clearly doesn't care about your willingness and has no discernible motive for asking at all so I find that situation to be off topic...and unlikely.

I strongly disagree that somebody too timid to stop a partner mid-sexytimes will probably also verbally agree to continue sexytimes if asked, despite not wanting to.
Posted by shw3nn on May 26, 2012 at 10:30 AM · Report this
144
@142, had first intercourse and first orgasm (from masturbation) at 20. Before that, I'd made out and given oral (and received, once, against my will).

No idea how common my experience is. But it exists.

Posted by EricaP on May 26, 2012 at 10:45 AM · Report this
145
Anyway, I think the timing of the lusty body is immaterial to my point: A woman (or man) can be taken by surprise by the strength of her body's sexual desire, and can experience it as external to her own will. (For clarity, "against my will"@144 refers to a time when I was saying no loudly. So not an example of the kind of mind/body dissociation I raised @141.)
Posted by EricaP on May 26, 2012 at 10:53 AM · Report this
mydriasis 146
"Sure, a person could ask in a forceful enough way to elicit a "yes". This person clearly doesn't care about your willingness and has no discernible motive for asking at all so I find that situation to be off topic...and unlikely.

I strongly disagree that somebody too timid to stop a partner mid-sexytimes will probably also verbally agree to continue sexytimes if asked, despite not wanting to."

This is basically the heart of our disagreement. And to the best of my knowledge both of us are working not off of actual research on the subject but our own theories of what is or is not likely based on our own experiences and the experiences of those close to us.

So we're probably just going to have to agree to disagree, I guess.

I will say, however, that those two paragraphs suggest to me that you're missing a lot of nuance.

It's not as simple as some men are straight up rapists who won't take no for an answer and others care 100% about the woman they're with and are eager to stop the second they know she's not completely on board. For example, I wasn't suggesting that he might ask for consent in an intentionally pressure-laden way. I was suggesting that a big reason people don't say no is because they are very aware of the other person's desires and feel obligated to please them for whatever reason. Asking for consent may imply "I won't force you" but it doesn't necessarily say "I'm not emotionally invested in fucking you and I won't get mad, or dickish, or rude, or mean if you stop things. You aren't a tease, or a bitch, or a cunt if you stop things at this point. If you stop things it won't put the future of our relationships/friendship/marriage/etc in danger. etc etc etc."

That second cast of concerns often informs the kinds of women who are too timid to say no and YMY doesn't change that, in my opinion. In the small sliver of subsets where a woman thinks that her "no" will change 'consensual' sex into rape and possibly escalate into violence it MAY help to use YMY in some people's minds.

I have been in those kinds of situations. I said no. I do not regret my decision and I would not regret it if they had gone in a worse direction than they did. And I would point out that they are rare in my experience. I believe the majority of "she didn't say no" situations are about pressure to please or to avoid emotional consequences (a sullen or angry response from the partner, for example). In these cases I do not believe YMY adequately addresses the problem.

Re: "tolerate being asked for consent"

Being asked for explicit verbal consent drastically changes the psychological dynamic of sex for me. As I mentioned above it implies insecurity ("I need reassurance!") and ineptitude ("I can't read body language so I need an explicit confirmation that what I'm doing is okay"). Both of those things are a turnoff. On top of that I find it somewhat personally insulting. If you don't understand how I can be insulted that someone assumes I lack the basic capacity to stand up for myself just because I'm a woman, while also being compassionate towards women who lack assertiveness, then that's a seperate conversation.

Though I did mention that I personally find YMY deeply unsexy (while aknowledging that other people don't seem to mind it at all), my main issues were with its lack of effectiveness and the message I believe it sends to women and girls.
More...
Posted by mydriasis on May 26, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
mydriasis 147
@Erica

Thanks for sharing :)
As someone who has an extremely low tolerance for celibacy I understand what you mean about your body being in control. However, I have never felt 'raped' by my own body. What you wrote made sense to me, in a way. I just haven't had it happen myself.
Posted by mydriasis on May 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
shw3nn 148
@146 I think it's ironic that you thought I missed nuance then presented my position as, essentially, "...some men are straight up rapists who won't take no for an answer and others care 100% about the woman they're with and are eager to stop the second they know she's not completely on board."

I am not talking about rapists. I'm talking about men who don't really care if you are into it or just too timid to say no. That's narcissism but it isn't rape.

In the letter, this girl didn't describe agreeing to have sex because she didn't want her partner to be angry. She describes being too timid to assert herself. She didn't know when or how to express that she didn't want to have sex. A simple question would have provided that opportunity.

I have been in several situations where this was absolutely the case for me. It had never happened to me with sex. It has happened in situations I was new to and not well educated about; situations I felt very unsure of myself in. I did not assert myself but felt very relieved when my opinion was requested.

I've been the asker in similar situations. Just knowing this one person was new to the scenario we were in, I asked how they felt about it and it turned out they were terrified and wanted to back out. They were just going to do it anyway, just to not have to assert that opinion.

Again, these were non sexual situations but this is absolutely a way timid people behave. Not all. Not always. But I absolutely think that is common. And a YMY policy would be a lot of help every time the situation is what I just described.

Re: "Being asked for explicit verbal consent drastically changes the psychological dynamic of sex for me."

Again, you could tell the person ahead of time you don't want to be asked.

"If you don't understand how I can be insulted that someone assumes I lack the basic capacity to stand up for myself just because I'm a woman, while also being compassionate towards women who lack assertiveness, then that's a seperate conversation."

I don't understand how you can have compassion for these women but refuse a way that might help them because it would involve you answering a question. Those two things are not in proportion, to me.

If you have compassion for these women, you agree they exist. That is the only assumption a guy needs to make to ask your consent. Why would you think he's assuming any more than that?
More...
Posted by shw3nn on May 26, 2012 at 12:36 PM · Report this
149
"Being asked for explicit verbal consent drastically changes the psychological dynamic of sex for me. As I mentioned above it implies insecurity ("I need reassurance!") and ineptitude ("I can't read body language so I need an explicit confirmation that what I'm doing is okay"). Both of those things are a turnoff."

See, to me that all sounds like giving up agency on purpose -- being in the passenger seat, as you said earlier. I would find *that* infantilizing. (I realize you don't, having freely chosen it.) I would find it a terrible strain if anyone wanted me to take on the driver's-seat role, too. I prefer give-and-take, cooperation, a kind of mutual creation of an experience. And consent does go both ways -- this conversation has had a whole lot of gender essentialism in it, but even in my bog-standard vanilla-het relationship it's often me initiating, or asking the clarifying questions.

I *don't* think asking necessarily implies any degree of ineptitude or insecurity at all. But even if it *did*, to me sex is where people expose their vulnerabilities: it's not just for showing off their competence and confidence. There would be something almost inhuman to me in a sexual partner who never needed reassurance; indeed the word "reassurance" expresses to me a major part of what people go to sex *for*, emotionally.
Posted by Eirene on May 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Report this
150
shw3nn@148: "I'm talking about men who don't really care if you are into it or just too timid to say no. That's narcissism but it isn't rape."

Sorry, if you truly don't care if there's consent, it IS rape. That's part of the point here.
Posted by Eirene on May 26, 2012 at 1:00 PM · Report this
151
I am getting really annoyed about how everyone assumes it is always the guy who has to ask for consent, and the woman who gives or denies consent.
As letter 2 demonstrates, even young horny guys who are interested in another person might not feel ready for or are uncomfortable with sex or even just specific sexual acts. And some of them are hesitant to say "no" because of lots of reasons.
And as Erica has shown just because one is physically aroused doesn't mean that one's mind is ready for it (just for the people who'll say that it is pretty obvious when guys aren't into it).
Posted by migrationist on May 26, 2012 at 1:14 PM · Report this
152
GOY,

If you had "sex" when you didn't want to, that's called rape or sexual assault. No, not everyone has been there like Dan Savage suggests. It is not normal and it is not OK. I would suggest seeking legal advice and therapy. I hope everything works out.
Posted by LucyA on May 26, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
153
@148 I have been in several situations where this was absolutely the case for me. It had never happened to me with sex. It has happened in situations I was new to and not well educated about; situations I felt very unsure of myself in. I did not assert myself but felt very relieved when my opinion was requested.

I've been the asker in similar situations. Just knowing this one person was new to the scenario we were in, I asked how they felt about it and it turned out they were terrified and wanted to back out. They were just going to do it anyway, just to not have to assert that opinion.

Again, these were non sexual situations but this is absolutely a way timid people behave. Not all. Not always. But I absolutely think that is common.


Now that you mention it, I've seen this many times in a management role or as a team leader as well. The management and leadership training courses hammer into your head over and over how you should ask each person for their buy-in on whatever's going on. Not only are you showing respect to them, but you're giving them the opportunity to speak up, an opportunity that they won't take when there's a skewed power dynamic.

Pretty much every time, between any two people, one is going to be in a more powerful position than the other - more experienced, less vulnerable, more confident of their ability to secure another partner, more determined to get satisfaction, whatever. Requiring each to check in with the other does no harm. (I do not regard 'it's unsexy' or 'it's a turn-off' as harm. Getting one's boat rocked is not nearly as important as coercing someone into sex they don't want.)
Posted by Gamebird on May 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM · Report this
154
141- Erica-- At the time you felt you'd been raped by your own body, had you ever been raped in the conventional sense? By that, I mean had you ever had a stranger overpower you, force your legs apart, and have intercourse with you despite your struggles, your screams for help, and neither your body nor your mind wanting to or enjoying it before, during, or after? I'm wondering what the basis of comparison was when you say you felt "raped."
Posted by Crinoline on May 26, 2012 at 5:28 PM · Report this
155
i find this assumption that one will always know when someone is into you a tad annoying. i think YMY is great because it encourages active communication. just that. i often struggle with the demure femme girls because they don't damn well ask for what they want. and i can't tell the difference between friendly, flirting, and hitting-on. especially in a multi-cultural, multi-sub-cultural environment. i'm constantly missing cues of sexual interest.
#68 and others, obviously live in a relatively mono-cultural environment. in a half hour walk across town i can go from 'normal friendliness - means nothing' to 'outrageous fliting - hard come-on' _for the same behaviour_. unless you are genius with your social cues, you gonna stuff it up sometimes unless we all do the ADULT thing and USE OUR WORDS.
Posted by sappho on May 26, 2012 at 5:52 PM · Report this
156
@154: I'm sure by that point she'd gone up to a guy's place for drinks. And had her opinions taken at face value. And presumably not chosen to be a lesbian.

If y'all feminists are going to rape the word "rape", at least be consistent when you do it.

@155: "you gonna stuff it up sometimes unless we all do the ADULT thing and USE OUR WORDS."

Exactly. Like No.
Posted by ChiTodd on May 26, 2012 at 7:30 PM · Report this
157
@154 I had previously been raped by a friend. Do you have a point?
Posted by EricaP on May 26, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this
mydriasis 158
@148

I think you're completely missing my point.

"In the letter, this girl didn't describe agreeing to have sex because she didn't want her partner to be angry. She describes being too timid to assert herself."

Why would she be too timid to say no? Or to put it another way, why does "no" require assertiveness in this context? In my opinion, because she

1. Wants to please her partner
2. Wants to avoid displeasing her partner
3. Fears her "no" will not be accepted (essentially "if I go along with this, it's not rape, if I say no, it will be" and/or if "I say 'no' this will become violent")

I believe that in cases where the woman does not believe her partner to be a rapist, reasons 1 and 2 are the major deterrents from the big bad "no". YMY may help in the case that the woman is falsely concerned about case 3 (it will hopefully indicate that the person has no intention of forcing her, should she not say 'yes'.) But I believe that the majority of times people are too timid to say no it is because of reasons 1 and 2.

YMY does not address reasons 1 and 2. That is why I believe it's misguided and would have a paltry payoff.

"Again, you could tell the person ahead of time you don't want to be asked."

I could. But I don't have to! (No one has ever asked me for explicit verbal consent to sex) And I like it that way.

Finally...

I have no problem answering questions. As I said, it's not the answering that bothers me, it's the being asked that is a turnoff to me for the reasons I mentioned above.

I agree that timid women (and men) exist. I disagree with your interpretation of how that timidness works, and I don't agree that YMY effectively addresses it for the many reasons I listed above and in other posts.

Your final question baffles me. You're saying I shouldn't be offended if a guy works on the assumption I am unable to assert myself and need his help in order to stop sexual situations I am uncomfortbale with. And the reason I shouldn't be offended is because some women like that do exist. If you don't understand why stereotyping someone based on their gender is offensive, then I can't help you.
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Posted by mydriasis on May 26, 2012 at 10:13 PM · Report this
mydriasis 159
@ Eirene: thank you for your thoughtful post. I tried to reply as best I could.

See, to me that all sounds like giving up agency on purpose -- being in the passenger seat, as you said earlier. I would find *that* infantilizing. (I realize you don't, having freely chosen it.)

Well you kind of hit on the point a bit. I have chosen to 'give up' agency (although I don't see it that way) - but only until something happens that I don't like (as I said before, I have said "no" many the time). This is different than someone assuming I had no agency in the place. Does that make sense?

I would find it a terrible strain if anyone wanted me to take on the driver's-seat role, too.

Then we might not make good bedmates ;). Honestly, the guys I have found myself with over the years are quite happy to have control over the situation. Some people find it a bit of an ego trip, for example.

I prefer give-and-take, cooperation, a kind of mutual creation of an experience. And consent does go both ways -- this conversation has had a whole lot of gender essentialism in it, but even in my bog-standard vanilla-het relationship it's often me initiating, or asking the clarifying questions.

I think most people (including myself) like give-and-take in some capacity. However, I prefer mine nonverbal, as I mentioned above.

I *don't* think asking necessarily implies any degree of ineptitude or insecurity at all. But even if it *did*, to me sex is where people expose their vulnerabilities: it's not just for showing off their competence and confidence. There would be something almost inhuman to me in a sexual partner who never needed reassurance; indeed the word "reassurance" expresses to me a major part of what people go to sex *for*, emotionally.

Some people find having a partner who lets them have control to be "reassuring". Some people find having a confident partner who gets in the drivers seat "reassuring". Some people prefer more literal "reassurance".

If you don't feel that it indicates ineptitude or insecurity, that's fine. But you do understand why I make those associations, yes?

As for vulnerability.... honestly, sex is when I feel least 'vulnerable'. It's always been that way. But I'm probably not typical in that respect.
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Posted by mydriasis on May 26, 2012 at 10:29 PM · Report this
160
@122: Hunter, please go back to your cave and stay there.
Posted by auntie grizelda on May 26, 2012 at 11:08 PM · Report this
161
@158 If I didn't really want to have sex, I might go along with it in an unenthusiastic way. I wouldn't say 'no', for the reasons you list as 1 and 2. But if someone were to ask me, "Are you really into this? Do you want to have sex?" my answer would be honest: "No, not really." It's something I wouldn't say under a variety of circumstances, without prompting.

For you, given the stories you've related, it sounds like you have two sexual experiences:
A. You don't want sex, and you tell them no.
B. You do want sex, and you're very enthusiastic about signaling your consent in a non-verbal manner.

For me, my sexual experiences have a broader range:
A. I don't want sex, and I tell them no.
B. I do want sex, and I'm very enthusiastic about telling them this in all sorts of ways.
C. I don't want sex, but I'll put up with it as part of the cost of the relationship.
D. I don't want sex, but I think that saying no will get me in a lot of trouble, so I just keep my mouth shut and hope it ends fast/we get interrupted before anything serious happens/etc.

In situation C, YMY would be useful, though not really all that big a deal. I'd be putting out because I was GGG, but some guys who discover their partner isn't equally interested are put off by it.

In situation D, though, YMY is critical. I wouldn't lie unless the threat was explicit. A partner who showed me the respect of stopping to check in with me would give me the confidence to say something. And once I'd declined, explicitly, it puts the partner in the difficult situation of fucking someone who said no, or putting on the brakes.

I am exactly the sort of "timid" woman whom this policy would benefit, yet your posts label that sort of person as infantalized, inept, and insecure. Putting aside the insults - let's imagine they are accurate even! - why shouldn't we advocate for a policy that protects people like myself, which would still allow you the freedom to opt-out in advance with your partners?
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Posted by Gamebird on May 26, 2012 at 11:16 PM · Report this
162
157-
When someone uses a word in a radically different way from what it conventionally means, I try to figure out what they mean. I try to figure out if the meaning of the word is changing. If it is, I try to find a new word to mean what the old word used to mean. I try to clear up misunderstandings that way.

So when women started using the word "rape" to mean a sexual experience they agreed to at the time but had misgivings about later, I try to clarify that. I wonder if they have any basis for comparison between the conventional use of the term or the new one they're inventing. That's where my question came from.

I think we're seeing this in the political sphere as well. Lawmakers are trying to make distinctions between the sort of rape where a man breaks into a woman's house when she's asleep, holds a knife to her throat, and forces his penis inside her while she's too terrified to scream and the sort of rape where a 16 year old girl gets so turned on making out with her 20 year old boyfriend that she goes "all the way" when she previously thought they'd stop at petting.
Posted by Crinoline on May 27, 2012 at 5:12 AM · Report this
163
Re 161: In both C and D, YMY would help if your partner does it. It does not give you, personally, any tools that would help in that situation. GOY needs a tool that is under her control, not her partner's; NAI needs something that will help him with Dave that he can control. Asking Dave if he's into this and can it go farther may not be enough. (Maybe it would generate the right conversation, too. I don't know. I just want another tool in NAI's skillset beyond hoping Dave is good at body language and asks in the right way.)

I was timid and shy, especially as a teen. It may have helped that I was a shy high school nerd in the 80s, when what to do with all the guys hitting on my nerdy self wasn't going to be a problem. But once I went to college and it became an issue, saying no verbally and nonverbally was something I never had a problem with. (Nor did anyone ever argue.) So to me, telling shy girls that the standard is to ask (eep!) and for your partner to ask (waiting... gosh I hope (s)he asks soon....) seems like a poor plan.

As a subsidiary adjunct to NMN, I'm fine with YMY. As a replacement, no.
Posted by IPJ on May 27, 2012 at 5:16 AM · Report this
164
162- Following up on my own post.

A man who'd had his car broken into told me he felt like he'd been raped. (The man was a therapist who got paid to help people with depressions and other issues.) I didn't at the time ask him if he'd ever had someone fuck him up the ass against his will and how the 2 experiences compared. I almost wish I had. I imagine that what he was trying to convey is that he something bad happened to him and he'd like the same sort of sympathy and consideration paid to him that women get when they've been raped.

I can see this going places. We could have the sort of rape when people's cars are broken into, the sort of rape when store merchandise is stolen, the sort of rape when people tell jokes that make you uncomfortable, the sort of rape when teenagers are made to do the dishes, the sort of rape when the hot guy you like asks someone else to the prom. There are all sorts of possibilities.
Posted by Crinoline on May 27, 2012 at 5:52 AM · Report this
mydriasis 165
Gamebird, I want to start with this

I am exactly the sort of "timid" woman whom this policy would benefit, yet your posts label that sort of person as infantalized, inept, and insecure. Putting aside the insults -

First of all, I did not insult women who are too timid to say no. "Infantalize" was a term someone else used. "Inept" was a word I used to talk about my perception of the kind of man who needs verbal consent to confirm that his partner is interested (inept at reading body language). I never used those terms to describe timid women.

I did suggest that insecurity can play a role in why women find themselves too timid to say 'no', but I do not consider that to be an insult. I'm sorry if you do.

let's imagine they are accurate even! - why shouldn't we advocate for a policy that protects people like myself, which would still allow you the freedom to opt-out in advance with your partners?

I absolutely would advocate for a policy that helps people such as yourself - at no point have I given even the slightest indication that my opinion is "it's their own fault they're timid, fuck 'em". My main concern is empowering women to say no in situation D, I believe IPJ does so as well. I would definitely support a policy that was helpful for the women who have not learned how to assert themselves, but I don't personally believe YMY is good for that in most cases. However, you did explain why in your opinion it would be. Thanks for explaining your own experiences.

In situation D, though, YMY is critical. I wouldn't lie unless the threat was explicit. A partner who showed me the respect of stopping to check in with me would give me the confidence to say something. And once I'd declined, explicitly, it puts the partner in the difficult situation of fucking someone who said no, or putting on the brakes.

So basically, what you're saying is that YMY would completely take the "concerns 1 and 2" I mentioned earlier out of the picture, or make them unimportant.

I think where we differ in opinion, is in kind of timid person we're talking about here. If you look earlier in the conversation, people were telling me 'okay well maybe YMY isn't appropriate for mature adults, but makes sense for inexperienced teenagers' which is the context I have been applying it in. I think that with teenagers the pressure is still there even if the person asks a (likely somewhat insincere because he or she is young and really eager to have sex) question if he/she is really on board.

I believe you when you say YMY would help you, but I think in most cases it would be unhelpful, and (beating a dead horse) as IPJ suggested I think we really need to be empowering women to speak up for themselves even when it isn't easy or popular. We shouldn't be getting them to sit around with their fingers crossed that they end up with someone indoctrinated with YMY.
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Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 6:36 AM · Report this
166
"D. I don't want sex, but I think that saying no will get me in a lot of trouble, so I just keep my mouth shut and hope it ends fast/we get interrupted before anything serious happens/etc.
------
In situation D, though, YMY is critical. I wouldn't lie unless the threat was explicit. A partner who showed me the respect of stopping to check in with me would give me the confidence to say something. And once I'd declined, explicitly, it puts the partner in the difficult situation of fucking someone who said no, or putting on the brakes."


So you're saying that there are times you put out because you feel threatened by your partner. But if they ask, there's no way you'd feel that there was an implicit pressure any which way.

It may work that way in your head. But when the bodies hit the mattress, I guarantee you'll still have those heavily indoctrinated concerns running around your head. At which point, you'll always think that there's some other way he could've asked, or some other point he could've interjected at, and continually put the locus of power on anyone other than yourself.

Here's a much easier, more effective method that allows you to actually be empowered, rather than turning it into an empty mantra;

>Only fuck people who you're sure trust and respect you enough to slow down/stop when you tell them that you're not comfortable.

>If you don't feel comfortable that someone will respect your expressly stated wishes, don't hop into bed with them.
Posted by ChiTodd on May 27, 2012 at 7:07 AM · Report this
167
>Only fuck people who you're sure trust and respect you enough to slow down/stop when you tell them that you're not comfortable.

>If you don't feel comfortable that someone will respect your expressly stated wishes, don't hop into bed with them.


My ability to predict if someone will slow down/stop is lousy. I don't KNOW they won't stop until they don't stop. Your statement reads a lot like 'the way to avoid being raped by your date is not to date rapists!' It's pat; it's easy; and it shows a complete lack of understanding of the problem.

IPJ got at it earlier in something I thought was understood - YMY is *NOT* primarily targeted at women. It's targeted at men. (And yes, I am fully aware that men can be raped by women, etc. Complain to me about my sexism when the ratio is not so overwhelmingly tilted in the direction of men being perpetrators against men or women, and women being victims of men.) Also, nothing about YMY removes NMN.

Empowering women is fine. I'm all about that. However, we should also be dictating to men what the new social contract is. That new social contract is not that they can get away with having sex with any person who doesn't explicitly refuse them, but that instead they are limited to only having sexual access to those persons who explicitly welcome them.

It's a paradigm shift from the idea of men being sexual opportunists to being sexual partners.
Posted by Gamebird on May 27, 2012 at 7:38 AM · Report this
168
@167: If you meet enough people who don't take your "I'm not comfortable with this/I'm not enjoying myself" for what it is, either you suck at communicating or your sense in partners is way off. Either way, therapy sounds a lot more practical than expecting all men everywhere to coddle you.

(I know it's not PC to say this, but if you find yourself in abusive/borderline cases often enough, you are doing something wrong. You're the kid who's a bully magnet. And the worst thing about tired old miniskirt arguments is that they hide the real, important solution. Getting professional help.)

If you want to change the social contract, stop saying things like "I would've done it if you got me drunk first" an "I'm shy, so I prefer the man to make the first move". Expecting men to make the first move when you want and intuit your feelings when you want is, as well-said upthread, something that happens in twilight fanfic.
Posted by ChiTodd on May 27, 2012 at 8:23 AM · Report this
169
mydriasis@159: "If you don't feel that it indicates ineptitude or insecurity, that's fine. But you do understand why I make those associations, yes?"

Actually, no, I don't. Not without really twisting my head inside out, anyway.

@165"You're saying I shouldn't be offended if a guy works on the assumption I am unable to assert myself and need his help in order to stop sexual situations I am uncomfortbale with."

That wasn't directed to me, but my response is that I simply don't interpret explicit consent that way at all, so your objection seems irrelevant. YMY is valuable because it promotes the idea of listening to your partner and giving them space to speak REGARDLESS of how assertive they are by nature or upbringing. Sure, that ends up benefiting the timid, BY ALLOWING THEM TO BE ASSERTIVE, which is what you said you wanted, no? And it does go both ways (often within a single conversation). Plenty of guys are afraid/ashamed of saying what they want or don't want. Notice that both the original letters concerned SAME-SEX COUPLES, after all, where the male/female socialization divide wasn't even friggin' THERE.

Gamebird@167 re paradigm shift. Yes. So much this. If there's a lack of communication between sexual partners that's causing problems, you don't fix that by tinkering only with the women's side of things -- unless you're only interested in helping lesbians, I guess :-)
Posted by Eirene on May 27, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
170
@169:
"And it does go both ways (often within a single conversation). Plenty of guys are afraid/ashamed of saying what they want or don't want. Notice that both the original letters concerned SAME-SEX COUPLES, after all, where the male/female socialization divide wasn't even friggin' THERE."

Thank you!
Posted by migrationist on May 27, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this
171
ChiTodd@168: "If you want to change the social contract, stop saying things like "I would've done it if you got me drunk first" an "I'm shy, so I prefer the man to make the first move". "

You totally just lost my respect. Gamebird said nothing of the kind, and that's flagrant victim-blaming anyway.

But you gave me an idea. How about we change the social contract to state that someone who is a "bully magnet" or needs "professional help" should be if anything EVEN MORE worthy of protection? Because the social contract is about what decent people do, remember. It's not about deciding what scumbags do.
Posted by Eirene on May 27, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Report this
172
Fair point, Eirene. Abortion doctors should also ask at every step of the way, just to make sure that women are really enthusiastic about going through with it.

Bonus points for making her listen to the heartbeat to give her an effective out-point, and refusing to sedate her because any consent given after that point is null and void.

I get it, though. You expect the empowerment and liberation of women to happen entirely because men do all the heavy lifting.
Posted by ChiTodd on May 27, 2012 at 9:35 AM · Report this
173
@ChiTodd:

Have women really compared sex with you to abortion?
In that case, you might consider that you are doing it wrong!
Posted by migrationist on May 27, 2012 at 9:44 AM · Report this
174
@ChiTodd, I really disagree with the idea of 'bully magnets' doing something wrong -- having been one in highschool for the simple reason, as far as I can tell, that I was (and still am) physically much less muscular than the typical bullies plus I had a much better average score than they did.

I understand you're suggesting that some people may do unwise things that they could reasonably avoid. I'm all in favor of people evaluating their options rationally and not making stupid decisions just because of ideology, believe me. I even have a couple of personal stories on this very topic; I do get the idea that doing this empowers the individual. But the very expression you used does shift the responsibility onto a class of people who are really not doing, as a group, anything wrong (other than being physically weaker and attracting attention for some reason, be it IQ and school results, sexual orientation, skin color, religion, etc.).

@mydriasis, I suspect a lot of 'interaction philosophies' like NMN or YMY end up being necessary only in the sense that people's personalities may make it more difficult for them to do the rational thing -- evaluate the situation they're at now, see the options, and select the best available option. Some people need more help in order to feel sufficiently safe to make a decision rationally at a given moment; other people don't. In principle it's not all that different from being the kind of person who will go with the gang watch a movie s/he doesn't really like (or even positively hates) for fear of what others in the group might think if s/he doesn't go, or being the kind of person who doesn't care about that and just says no if s/he really doesn't like the movie terrible.

All in all, it's better to be the autonomous kind of person who does speak his/her mind and says 'no' or 'yes' when s/he wants to say 'no' or 'yes.' But not everybody is there yet -- either because they're too young and don't have enough experience, or (more probably) because they're not this kind of person, and may never be. YMY and NMN may very well be the Dumbo feather that helps them be strong enough to do what they really want to do.
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Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
175
@173(ChiTodd), you're really comparing apples to oranges here. Sex is a fun activity more easily comparable to eating out with someone, or going to the movies, or to a club, than with no-fun activities that are resorted to only because they will solve some huge problem, like abortions or lung transplants.

It's not a question of asking us men to do all the heavy lifting. It's a question of us noticing that, hey, there is something to lift, and we're supposed to use our hands to help lifting it, too. There is such a thing as unethical behavior with respect to one's (potential) sex partner; trying to avoid this fact is not going to help any gender.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 9:57 AM · Report this
mydriasis 176
siiigh. This is what happens when there's so many threads.

@Gamebird

"However, we should also be dictating to men what the new social contract is. That new social contract is not that they can get away with having sex with any person who doesn't explicitly refuse them, but that instead they are limited to only having sexual access to those persons who explicitly welcome them.

It's a paradigm shift from the idea of men being sexual opportunists to being sexual partners."

Yeah, agree to disagree.

@Eirene

Waiting for someone to give you an easy way to express yourself is not assertiveness. Speaking up only when the stars line up for you to do so is the opposite of assertive. Being assertive, by its very nature means speaking up when it isn't handed to you.

There's a difference between saying that there's a "gender divide" (which I never did) and suggesting that the way girls are socialized plays a role here. Though there are some men who are timid, and that is a legitimate issue, a huge reason things like this happen is because girls (like the LW) are taught to be deferential and please others (of either gender, but especially those they have romantic relationships with), avoid conflict, etc. There's a chance that the LW's friend/partner/whatever she is now might have been immune to this socialization (like yours truly!) but that doesn't mean that gender is irrelevant or that commenting on the gendered nature of this problem is heteronormative (though some people did take it in that direction).
Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 10:09 AM · Report this
mydriasis 177
@ank

Just to be clear - NMN is just a fancy way of saying 'don't rape people'. No one's arguing against NMN.

With regards to YMY it basically comes down to.

1. I am dubious as to whether it would actually help women who lack assertiveness (especially when compared to alternate systems).

2. I know I would not appreciate if I ever encountered that behaviour from a man and I'm very glad that I never have and hopefully never will.
Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Report this
178
Ank: Either women are rational adults who can be trusted to know their own minds, or they are children who need major support structures in place to protect them from themselves. Expecting to have it whichever way is more convenient for you at any given moment is a mark of adolescence. There's a reason we're careful what rights and responsibilities we extend to teenagers.

As far as bullying, while I'm not saying it should be all on the victim, it is worth noticing that some people become victims a lot more often than others. Flip answers like "fight back" or "don't dress like a whore" ignore the very real problem some people have with broadcasting vulnerability in a way that makes them highly attractive to abusers.

Which isn't to say that the victim deserves any blame. That all attaches to the abuser. Only that if it happens often enough, it's probably worth sitting down with a professional and working on.

(And also, because it bears repeating, that simple flip answers are counterproductive.)
Posted by ChiTodd on May 27, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
179
Crinoline @162/164 -- People have used the word "rape" for centuries to mean "an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside." As long as no one is talking about arresting another person for legal rape, I advise chilling out about the use of the word.

Your acquaintance whose car was broken into used reasonable words to express the idea that he felt something offensive had been inside his stuff. A friend of mine once had someone break into and take a shit in her car; she described it similarly and found it very hard to use the car again.

If it will make you feel better, I'm happy to say that I felt that I "violated" myself instead.

In return, I would really appreciate you not erasing the majority of legal rapes, which involve men raping someone they know, not a stranger.
Posted by EricaP on May 27, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Report this
180
@179 By legal rape, above, I mean illegal rape.
Posted by EricaP on May 27, 2012 at 10:39 AM · Report this
181
I use YMY whenever I am courting or in a relationship with a woman because I am mildly autistic and literally cannot read the relevant body language, so I HAVE to ask. (Heh: Mydriasis has never been verbally asked if she wanted sex; I have never had sex with a woman without verbally asking her first.) Having experience with it, I don't think it's realistic to expect heterosexual guys with a choice to use YMY a lot. It's clumsy and it reduces your chances with women, who give you points for guessing what they want correctly and dock you points for asking. Mydriasis' feelings are the rule, not the exception.

(Being shy, I also use the corollary of YMY: "You don't have to ask, but if you don't, the answer's 'no'." This doesn't really improve communication, but, realistically, if you have YMY you also have this.)

I'd like it if women would use YMY. About as likely as me winning a million dollars in the lottery this week.

Note to 167: If you're "dictating terms" to someone, your relationship with them is not a "partnership".
Posted by Old Crow on May 27, 2012 at 10:44 AM · Report this
182
"There is such a thing as unethical behavior with respect to one's (potential) sex partner; trying to avoid this fact is not going to help any gender."

This is where I think we're talking past each other.

Being a good partner involves being sensitive to your partner's needs/wants, a willingness to make their comfort a priority, and letting them know that their opinions will be heard and respected. Nobody argues with that, nobody argues with the campsite rule, and nobody argues with NMN. It's common sense and basic human decency.

Formalizing that by insisting that one partner (inevitably the man) perform check-ins at poorly defined intervals ignores the realities of human communication, does exactly nothing to stop anybody from applying pressure during those check-ins, and like any formalized system is vulnerable to lawyering. At the same time, though, it sends a very real message that women can't/shouldn't be expected to understand and articulate what they really mean. It's another of those utopian-sounding philosophies that fails hard when faced with the reality of human nature.
Posted by ChiTodd on May 27, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Report this
mydriasis 183
@ Erica

"If it will make you feel better, I'm happy to say that I felt that I 'violated' myself instead."

That would make me feel better.

@Old Crow

Thanks for sharing, I wish you all the best. I also agree with your point @167
Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 10:56 AM · Report this
184
@Mydriasis and @ChiTodd:

It's really not only men who should ask. Every teenager, male and female, should. When I was 19, very inexperienced, and drunk, a guy came onto me. I got really into the mood, we went to his car and almost had sex. Since I was the inexperienced one, I thought he wanted it as much as I did. The next day, a common acquaintance told me that I had gone too far for this guy.
A similar thing happened for a couple I know who now have been together for 20 years; when they got together just after highschool, the guy told a friend that they had sex before he felt ready for it. (She apparently did feel ready.)
I think teenage boys are under so much pressure because everyone assumes they want to have sex. If they don't feel ready they are afraid it reflects badly on their masculinity.
The reasons why they are afraid to say no might be different for boys and girls, but they are real for each group.
Posted by migrationist on May 27, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Report this
mydriasis 185
@ migrationist

"Since I was the inexperienced one, I thought he wanted it as much as I did. The next day, a common acquaintance told me that I had gone too far for this guy."

Huh. I've never had that problem.

You said you went too far? The reason I've never needed to ask is because again, I wasn't the one initiating and setting the pace. If someone's taking off my clothes I assume they want them off, for example.
Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
186
@mydriasis:
He started the kissing, I was really into it, and thought we could go much further.

Since he and I were both inexperienced and drunk, we didn't really communicate well. And since he has never talked to me again, and the other guy said what he said, I assume my very enthusiastic response might have turned into too much pressure.

Once the guy has done the very first step (yes, I am sorry, but I am too shy for the very first step), I enjoy initiating, I am good at saying "no", but when the response is not completely enthusiastic, I am not good at distinguishing a) a lazy, but receptive mood, b) GGG-ness, or c) reluctancy.

That could be one reason I enjoy asking: apart from the turn-on I get from asking "Do you want to fuck?", the turn-on I get from the answer "Yes, I want to fuck you", being sure about not going too far for the other one is reassuring for myself.
Posted by migrationist on May 27, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
187
@mydriasis:
"The reason I've never needed to ask is because again, I wasn't the one initiating and setting the pace. If someone's taking off my clothes I assume they want them off, for example."

What do you do if they don't take off your clothes, then? Never get naked?
Posted by migrationist on May 27, 2012 at 11:47 AM · Report this
mydriasis 188
@187

If it ever happens, I'll let you know.
Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Report this
189
167 "It's a paradigm shift from the idea of men being sexual opportunists to being sexual partners."
-------

This wasn't the paradigm. Really. All men were not sexual opportunists up until the past decade or whenever, and the majority of the sex they had was not rape, and the majority of women felt like people with sex partners rather than victims of opportunists. "Sex partner" is not some newly coined term.

When I said no to guys in college, and they listened, I felt like they were treating me as an adult with agency who knew what I wanted. Like a partner: an equal who can interact with you as an equal. I really hate the versions of feminism that cast me as a perpetual victim.

And what Crow said about dictating terms to one's "partner."
Posted by IPJ on May 27, 2012 at 1:31 PM · Report this
190
@mydriasis, way upthread, who wrote:
I don't think any amount of slogans or rules can make up for the core problem that causes women engage in sex acts they aren't comfortable with. We need to address why they do them in the first place.


Indeed. I'd just add that (OK statistical tendencies, but) it's not only women. Despite men's supposedly stronger sexual drives plus testosterone levels plus cultural pressure to be aggressive, it's not infrequent for them to find themselves in such situations (I did, surprisingly [to me] often). Why do people in general (and women in particular) end up going along with sex they don't really want to have, and is there something we can do about that?

My answer thus far in life is: not much other than try to make people know what it is they want or don't want (surprisingly often, it's not all that clear to the person him/herself) and be assertive about it. Other than that, most strategies tend to not work in sufficiently many situations and settings to be really reliable.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 2:03 PM · Report this
191
@177(mydriasis), I think the discussion here is more about whether YMY is to make girls more assertive (which I agree with you on, it probably won't -- if you're only assertive when you're allowed to be assertive, then you're not really being assertive, etc.), or to make boys more conscious of the fact that they shouldn't assume that saying nothing is the same as enthusiastic consent ('girls are supposed to be coy and play difficult, so if there are no red lights go full speed ahead', etc.). With the latter maybe some progress could be made via YMY.

You've said several times, here and in other threads, that you're perfectly capable of making a guy you're not attracted to understand that you're not attracted to him. That's great, and it's a quality I'm certainly trying to give to my daughter. Nothing wrong with that. But it is also true that some guys make wrong assumptions about 'silences' and such that they didn't have to make; they could check, too. I'm not saying they should ask 'may I' at every inch -- that's way too silly for words -- and yes, there's a game to be played here and non-verbal cues and all. But some (I stress: some) guys do seem to get fixated on a certain interpretation of 'what's going on' ('of course she wants it!') and nothing short of a big 'no' thrown at their faces seems to make them revise their working hypothesis.

It's to everybody's interst (guys and girls alike) for everybody to, well, get their 'situation radars' tuned so they become a bit more flexible in their interpretation of what 'she (or he) obviously wants'. And at the same time also to become more assertive and to have no fear of being quite clear about one's unwillingness to continue, no matter how broken-hearted or angry he (or she) might become.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Report this
192
@178(ChiTodd), I don't think there's a single person here in this thread who disagrees with the letter/spirit of what you wrote. We all want to be reasonable, rational people who can know what our minds are in every situation and are able to act rationally so as to achieve our goals or prevent the things we don't want from happening.

But the point is that, even in this day and age, we're not all born equal and aren't treated equally by society. If men and women are both (a) physically imbalanced (men can more often be more threatening to women than women to men) and (b) socialized differently (men are more often taught to 'go and get it' in life, women are more often taught to 'smile and not rock the boat' -- lots of exceptions, of course, but a trend is a trend is a trend), then one misses the point if one simply says it's up to everyone to learn how to defend him/herself and if the rates of success are different for men and women then oh well, you're an individual, take control of your life and make it better. It's true, of course, but then you're ignoring the point at hand, which is that the differences (physical and social) are still there and still tend to (tend to) lead people to different behavioral patterns and different needs in terms of help to overcome said patterns.

Nobody is saying 'treat women like children' or 'treat men like rapists.' There are shy boys who need to learn to be more assertive and there are outrageous women who need to learn to control their aggressiveness, but usually (70% of the time? 80%? 60%?) it's the other way round.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 2:32 PM · Report this
193
179,183-- Violated is a much better word than rape for these instances, but I'm still disturbed by the idea of either of them being used as a reflexive verb. The very notion of violation and rape is transitive.

Saying that one has been violated by one's own body removes one's agency and separates the self into the mind and body at exactly the moment when they're most clearly the same thing. I'm okay with the idea of internal conflict. Most of us experience that from time to time, but I'd find it absurd and even offensive if someone said: "When I walked into the bakery, I only meant to have a cup of coffee and felt violated by my body when I ate an assortment of fruit tart pastries instead."

Or put it another way. Consider a man saying this: "When we started making out, I really only wanted to do some petting, and felt violated my body when she said no, and my penis started thrusting inside her vagina anyway."
Posted by Crinoline on May 27, 2012 at 2:47 PM · Report this
194
@mydriasis & migrationist,

in case you find it interesting, I was once in a situation similar to the one migrationist described, except I was the boy who didn't really want to go too far. In fact I didn't want to go far at all. At that time I was in emotional turmoil because my then-girlfriend had made it clear to me she didn't want to see me anymore and I was in full it's-all-my-fault-how-can-I-change-so-as-to-win-her-back mode. Via a number of circumstances that aren't relevant (and to some extent rather boring) I ended up in bed with another girl, one who started getting frisky, meaning trying to take off my clothes. Given my emotional state, and given also the fact she wasn't my type (i.e., I didn't find her attractive), there was very little chance I'd be able to get it up and do anything . And frankly I wouldn't want anything to happen at that moment (even if I had found her attractive); my mind was elsewhere. I'd have to use some crazy fantasy and close my eyes and... I was tired, it would simply be too much work.

Yet she tried. So I had to stop her. I didn't do anything angry or abrupt (I could have, but I just felt so sad); I simply said no a couple of times, and dismissed her arguments ('it can be a great stress release'), and then started telling her about my own problems. That also killed her mood (this probably works better on women than on men, I admit), and by the end of it she was giving me relationship advice instead of trying to get into my pants. (She was a good person, by the way. I hope she managed to get laid the following day.)
Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 3:01 PM · Report this
195
179, 183--

I do prefer "violated" to "raped" in these instances, but I'm still uncomfortable with either word used as a reflexive verb. Using them as an intransitive without an object removes agency. It reinforces a mind/body divide at the very moment it's most obvious that they're the same thing.

Consider a man saying: "When we started making out, I meant to stop at petting, and when she said no, I felt violated by my body when my penis started thrusting in her vagina." Does that sound as absurd to you as it does to me?

How about the application to any internal conflict or loss of willpower? If a woman goes into a bakery having decided to have only a cup of coffee but eats a variety of fruit tarts instead, would you say she was violated by her body? Is it only a violation if she'd meant to diet and felt some indigestion afterwards, or is it a violation if she enjoyed the pastries and felt fine afterwards?
Posted by Crinoline on May 27, 2012 at 3:08 PM · Report this
196
@179(EricaP), this use of 'rape' is a metaphor (Aristotle's definition of metaphor: the use of a word to mean something it usually doesn't mean). And indeed it's perfectly OK. We use metaphors all the time with all kinds of words, so why not rape?

In principle I agree. Why not?

The problem, however (at least to me), is that rape, besides being a heinous crime and all, has also become emblematic of gender relations (it plays a role in some schools of feminist thought as 'part of the "patriarchy"'s way of defending itself against gender equality', or it is 'part of the mechanism whereby the status quo keeps itself in place', etc.). Outside of academic women's studies, it is also thrown around in all kinds of discussions involving gender, the social role of women, men's and women's ethical positions in society, etc.

Because of that, the word has apparently acquired a power that goes way beyond its lexical definition or the metaphorical uses it can be put to. It has become part of 'gender studies' and part of the liberal/conservative divide. A little bit (though still -- thank god -- not as strongly, by far) like the word 'abortion': it's often difficult to discuss it rationally, because people get too fired up about what it 'really means' in social terms, and about how evil the people on the other side of the divide are.

I wished we could simply consider rape a heinous crime. That would make discussions, on the internet and elsehwere, way simpler.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 3:09 PM · Report this
197
Shoot. I was sure my first post had disappeared so I rewrote. Now there it is. Sorry for the duplication.
Posted by Crinoline on May 27, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
198
@195(Crinoline), all crimes (hell, all actions of all kinds) have gray areas, which is what makes life complicated in a way that no system of laws or customs or culture could ever really solve. I suppose all we can do is tabulate the number of people who would agree that the woman who ate cookies and tarts at the bakery when she only intended to drink coffee was 'violated by her own body' and the number of those who wouldn't. Or the number of people who would apply the word 'rape' to burglary because of how it made them feel, and the number of people who wouldn't.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 27, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
nocutename 199
EricaP, Crinoline, et. al.:
What about "betrayed" as a substitute for either "raped" or "violated" when it is used self-reflexively ("I felt betrayed by my own body" or "I felt as if my body had betrayed me/my mind/my expressed desire/my intentions/my intent/my principles")?

"Violation" is something that happens to you. It can be a synonym for rape or suggest an unwelcome intrusion (this would have been a better choice of words for the man whose car had been broken into, and indeed, I've heard it used that way), but it still would seem impossible to be something that one can do to oneself.

Posted by nocutename on May 27, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
200
@Crinoline, you tell me it was my choice. But your scolding can't change how it felt twenty years ago. If I had raped my friend without mentally deciding to, I would have to accept the legal consequences of my body's actions, just as I would if I fell asleep while driving. But at the time, I didn't understand that I might lose control of my body if I started making out with a guy. If I can alert someone else to the possibility, then I think the use of strong, evocative language is worth it -- maybe I can prevent an actual rape, by letting someone know ahead of time that this loss of control does happen, just as I can warn people not to drink and drive.
Posted by EricaP on May 27, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
mydriasis 201
@Erica

I think what she's suggesting that for some of us, that "strong, evocative language" can be upsetting/triggering/insulting. And for that.... maybe we don't agree that it's worth it. (Especially since I don't think your story is going to prevent someone who wants to rape from raping)
Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
202
@202 I'd be interested in suggestions about language from someone who has experienced the strong dissociation I'm talking about. I've experienced it twice during sex, and once during child birth, and never when I wanted a pastry.

> I don't think your story is going to prevent someone who wants to rape from raping

I'm not addressing people who want to rape. You and Crinoline are saying I'm lying, that I did want to have sex that time. Wrong. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Posted by EricaP on May 27, 2012 at 8:09 PM · Report this
mydriasis 203
I didn't say you were lying.
Posted by mydriasis on May 27, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this
204
then why say I'm hoping to "prevent someone who wants to rape from raping"?
Posted by EricaP on May 27, 2012 at 8:41 PM · Report this
205
"Being asked for explicit verbal consent drastically changes the psychological dynamic of sex for me. As I mentioned above it implies insecurity ("I need reassurance!") and ineptitude ("I can't read body language so I need an explicit confirmation that what I'm doing is okay"). Both of those things are a turnoff. On top of that I find it somewhat personally insulting. If you don't understand how I can be insulted that someone assumes I lack the basic capacity to stand up for myself just because I'm a woman..."

If you insist on interpreting a gesture that is supposed to be for your benefit as the one doing the asking being "insecure" and "need reassurance" or that it equates to assuming you're some sort of weakling who doesn't have the capacity to stand up for yourself, I'd say that you're the one with the attitude problem, not him. If your boyfriend brings you coffee in the morning, does that mean he assumes you're an incompetent cook? That isn't just a chip on your shoulder, it's a whole fucking sawmill.

Honestly, I try to be civil, but sometimes you annoy the fuck out of me.
Posted by avast2006 on May 27, 2012 at 9:38 PM · Report this
206
Oops, kind of blew the metaphor. Trying again:

If your boyfriend asks you if you would like him to bring you coffee this morning, do you think he's insecure and needs reassurance about his coffee-making skills and/or your appreciation thereof? Or, perhaps, do you assume he is implying that he needs to do this for you because you are incapable of making a cup of coffee for yourself?

...or maybe, just maybe, he's trying to do something nice for you?
Posted by avast2006 on May 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM · Report this
207
myrdiasis@176: "Waiting for someone to give you an easy way to express yourself is not assertiveness. Speaking up only when the stars line up for you to do so is the opposite of assertive. Being assertive, by its very nature means speaking up when it isn't handed to you."

Oh, FFS. I never said anyone was waiting around for the stars to line up. I just don't understand where you're getting this stuff. And yeah, I didn't say that was being assertive -- I merely said that being given the chance to speak up for oneself would if anything help one BECOME (not demonstrate one already being) more assertive. Hence it wouldn't be coddling.

I've also said over and over that this isn't something that men do for women. It's about better, healthier, pleasanter communication all the way around. It's what *I* would like to do better myself. And I've seen men have that lack of confidence about communication pretty much just as often as women, though it may be expressed differently.
Posted by Eirene on May 27, 2012 at 10:32 PM · Report this
208
Old Crow, mydriasis, IPJ:

This is what I said, I'm all about that. However, we should also be dictating to men what the new social contract is.

I did not say this in the context of what an individual woman should say to an individual man whom she wants to date. I said it in the context of discussing whether and how we (as humans) should advocate NMN and/or YMY. NMN is the old social contract. YMY is the new social contract being bandied about. We, as humans, as representatives of society, get to have opinions on the current social contract we hold with one another, and we get to voice these opinions, advertise them, teach them in high school sex ed classes, or shout them to incoming freshmen at university rallies. Those are examples of forums where we should be dictating to men what the social contract is.

Not that a given woman is going to unilaterally tell the man she's interested in dating how he will be allowed to behave. (Though I have nothing against sexual negotiations. I think they're wonderful, but very few people use them. I hope we someday make that step, where verbalizing exactly what you want in bed is as tension-free as discussing what you like in a car, or in movies. But I don't know that people will ever be secure enough to do that - it's fraught with vulnerability.)
Posted by Gamebird on May 27, 2012 at 10:33 PM · Report this
209
@171: While I dislike the term "bully magnet", and don't think it applies to situations of adult sexual relationships in the schoolyard violence dynamic implied by those specific words, I do think there is something useful to realize that if you are going through a series of terrible relationships, the one indisputable constant is you. If you keep ending up with awful guys, you are the one picking them. You should look at why that is.

Also, the real bastards out there aren't going to give a shit about YMY. Your whole idea of "they are even more deserving of protection" isn't going to protect them. The decent guys are already treating them decently, and the cads aren't going to change their behavior.
Posted by avast2006 on May 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM · Report this
210
@208, Gamebird:

"Those are examples of forums where we should be dictating to men what the social contract is."

This really troubles me. We (who is "we" btw?) should not "dictate" men what the new social contract is. If there is a need for a new social contract (and I am not sure there is), then people should discuss with each other. A contract is something mutually agreed upon, not dictated by one side to the other.
Posted by migrationist on May 28, 2012 at 12:03 AM · Report this
211
And, @208, as this week's letters demonstrate these issues are also relevant in homosexual relationships because women are not always victims, and men are not only aggressors.
Posted by migrationist on May 28, 2012 at 12:12 AM · Report this
212
199, 200, 201--

I like Nocute's suggestion of "betrayed" as a good word for what we're describing. I don't think one can divorce "rape" from its legal and 2 person associations, the idea that there must be a raper and a rapee.

I do believe it's possible to feel so turned on that one does things in the turned-on state that one wouldn't ordinarily and that one regrets later. I've felt that too. I also agree that it's useful to try to explain to inexperienced people that this may happen. I'm not sure what form the warning would take as it really is a matter of trying to explain the unexplainable, but I believe it's worth a try. I'm also unsure of how useful the whole exercise is for all the reasons being pointed out in this thread.

I'm sure I prefer, and this might be just me, that a guy attempt to convince me to want to have sex with him despite my misgivings by getting me turned on. Better than all that endless wordy argument and convincing I remember from my teens and early 20s.

This might be the crux of the disagreement. I see touching me in a way that gives me enough pleasure that I override my inhibitions and reluctance as a good and beautiful thing. I see rape and everything associated with rape as horrible. I think that if anyone were actually in a rape situation, it would be so horrible that the very least they could do would be to take ordinary steps to say no or to get away from the bad situation.

For that reason, I couldn't imagine someone entwining the good feelings of the sex that comes from getting to the point of wanting to say yes with the bad feelings of not being able to say no (from fear of harm or retribution).

I'm glad for the opportunity to hash out what we mean and what we're saying.
More...
Posted by Crinoline on May 28, 2012 at 6:00 AM · Report this
mydriasis 213
@avast

I understand why you feel that way, but I (and many people, as you can see by the fact that I'm not the only one who raised concerned with YMY) do treat certain aspects of sex a little differently than certain nonsexual aspects. I know admitting sexual and nonsexual situations can feel different is some sort of cardinal sin on SL but I just did it. So sue me.

I think it's amusing you think I have a chip on my shoulder when I say that the way things have worked for me in the past, and will probably work for me in the future is totally fine with me, but I wouldn't appreciate the change for a variety of reasons. Does a chip that only exists in a hypothetical situation even count?

And besides, your metaphor isn't even apt. The point of YMY is that it assumes that you need to be asked in order to establish consent. As someone else said, it is about 'dictating' to people that they must behave in that way. So it's not about "say your boyfriend asked you if you wanted a cup of coffee" its

"say we made it social contract that he has to ask your permission to bring you coffee. And that it would be morally wrong for him to just bring you coffee in the morning without him asking because that's akin to forcing you to drink coffee against your will. The reason we're doing this is because some people will drink coffee they don't even want just because someone brought it to them, instead of saying 'no thanks'."

And no, I wouldn't like that, and neither would he.

To answer your question, if he were to say "hey, do you want a coffee?" that would be a nice thought (and not a problem) but as I said before, I don't view sex and coffee identically. And I can't have coffee anyway.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 6:06 AM · Report this
mydriasis 214
@ Erica

"maybe I can prevent an actual rape, by letting someone know ahead of time that this loss of control does happen, just as I can warn people not to drink and drive."

You were comparing 'preventing an actual rape' to 'warning people not to drink and drive' so I assumed you meant preventing rape by preventing the actions of rapists. I was unclear as to how your story would prevent someone from raping someone else.

I think I must have missed something there. But again... I don't think you're lying?

I think you're a nice lady and I feel bad that you found yourself in a situation where you felt violated. All I said is that I'm uncomfortable with people using the word 'rape' so liberally - but that's not any comment on you, and I'm sorry if you take it to mean I have doubts about your story. I don't.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 6:14 AM · Report this
mydriasis 215
@208

I personally don't like having that message 'dictated' on my behalf, but hey. Agree to disagree.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 6:17 AM · Report this
216
@208: I understood what you meant. I disagreed. I do not interpret the social contract as one which must be dictated to half the population, but not the other half. I always liked Hillary Clinton's take on feminism, that women are human. And so we do not talk about women's rights as a separate and distinct category from human rights. Whenever someone tries to separate things out (leaving out pregnancy and childbirth, which only affect one gender directly) I'm not happy. Whether its the bad old people talking about the rights of man with the understanding that these don't really apply to the special vulnerable class of women, or new bad people talking about how women are less able to speak and think for themselves and thus need special consideration for their perpetual role as victims.

Put another way, if the social contract needs to be dictated to one half of the population, then I can tell right there that it is deeply flawed.

Re 209: I was thinking about the term bully magnet last night, and realized that while I was bullied in middle and high school, it was just in school. Outside groups like summer camp I was just a normal (if still shy and quiet) part of the group. My perception then--that if I could just have changed schools things would probably have been a lot better--now seems very true. Whereas if someone is being bullied in all new situations--where they themselves are the constant--then trying to figure out if they're doing something that plasters "Easy Victim" on their forehead is a practical thought. Leave the blame for the aggression on the aggressor, but maybe the victim would like some practical techniques for being safer in their next new social milieu, rather than just the comfort of moral certainty.

In adult relationships, if you date a string of people who treat you badly, then maybe you need less reassurance from your friends that this is all their fault, and more practical counseling aimed at teaching you some things you can do differently. Not changing where the blame goes, but changing how helpless you feel to do anything other than sit and wait for the next tornado to wipe you out, since the last three weren't your fault, either.
More...
Posted by IPJ on May 28, 2012 at 7:06 AM · Report this
217
@202(EricaP), I think the strong body-mind dissociation you're talking about is experienced every day by every (supposedly) fat person who starts a diet. Or by every smoker who wants to stop smoking. It's actually a frequent experience, and one that they can usually talk about without rape metaphors (nocutename's idea of using 'betrayed by one's body' strikes me as good, for instance).

Not that I personally have anything against using the word 'rape' for that. Languages change, meanings shift, and it affects all kinds of words; that's why Americans now need a dictionary or good comments to fully understand Shakespeare. Still... you know what the problem with evocative language is: the more frequently it is used, the more it bleaches till it hits irrelevance/meaninglessness. (Look how differently evocative the words 'lord' and 'lady' have become in modern English, despite the fact they started out both referring to members of the lower nobility.) And the word 'rape' is already thrown around in all kinds of situations, to make all kinds of points, some of which are so vaguely related to the actual reality of rape...

Again, language change is inevitable. Maybe 'rape' will bleach into meaning 'do something unpleasant to someone'; if so, as Crinoline says, I suppose we'll need some other word to describe the actual crime of (violently) forcing someone into sex against their will. Depending on your personal philosophy, maybe that's no big deal.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 7:08 AM · Report this
218
@Crinoline, much stranger things have happened in the history of words. "Enthusiasm" used to be a religious term (akin to 'trance'; it comes from Greek theos 'god' and described a trance-like state of ecstasy); it has long bleached out of that. The Spanish word trabajo 'work' comes from (Vulgar) Latin tripaliu, a ghastly for of torture via evisceration. Meaning shift does surprising things, and if the community of English speakers starts using 'rape' for any kind of slight or event that makes them feel bad ('the rain got me soaking wet -- it raped me!'), then it is what it will end up meaning.

Having said that, I do feel bad about the associations that the changing meanigns may make in people's minds -- again, because 'rape' (in various meanings) is so often used to argue points about gender relations. Maybe this particular meaning shift is going to take us places we won't like.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 7:23 AM · Report this
219
@mydriasis, I'm wondering if the difference between your view and the view of people like Gamebird, IPJ, EricaP et alii doesn't boil down to different life experiences. People who have never been really mugged may think other people's measures to avoid this danger are exaggerated and verge on paranoia, while those who have been mugged two or three times may think very little is done and people should be at least twice as careful. Same reality, same danger level, but different perceptions/interpretations.

Gamebird would feel better with YMY as a social given because she is the kind of person who would take advantage of an offer to speak up to finally voice her discomfort with a situation. She thinks most timid people are like her. You are the kind of person who would voice your discomfort much more strongly and much earlier; and you think most timid people are not like Gamebird ('if they don't say "no" for fear of displeasing their partner, then for the same reason they'll probably say "yes" if said partners asked anyway', etc.).

In the absence of real statistical data, I don't think there's any reasonable way to say which one of you is correct. My personal experience tends to agree with yours, but I'm only a data point.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 7:32 AM · Report this
220
@219 In the absence of real statistical data, I don't think there's any reasonable way to say which one of you is correct.

Actually, there is real statistical data, but I think it's a matter of whether the people affected by it are considered important. What is it, one in four women are raped in their lifetime? A whole lot more are sexually molested, harassed and threatened? One in four is a lot of people, but that means that three in four live their lives without having been raped. I can imagine that it's pretty easy to be one of those three in four and think that there's something wrong with the victims, to say that it's the victims fault if they happen to run into more than a single bad male, and that this problem of the victim's is something the victims could fix if they'd just try hard enough.

The statistics are there. It just depends on whether you think it's important or worth being concerned about something that only happens to a minority of people. To be honest, it's sort of like how I tend to overlook the male victims of female-perpetrated rape because they're so few compared to the female and male victims of male-perpetrated rape.
Posted by Gamebird on May 28, 2012 at 7:50 AM · Report this
221
I'll leave aside this being one for the file and award a few points:

A point to Ms Erica for a quotation from Shakespeare.

A point to Ms Driasis for being the best manifestation this month of a character of Mrs Woolf's.

A point to Ms Cute for being sufficiently well-read to make a very good guess.

A point to Mr Ank for caring about language.

A point to Mr J for not saying anything in this discussion that would deepen my depression.

And a point to Ms I for understanding the nature of a contract.

In what will probably be a vain attempt to restore the balance, I shall recall something from The Boys in the Band:

"You agreed to your own agreement and then informed me that I agreed to it!"
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 8:06 AM · Report this
mydriasis 222
@ank (219)

I think you were way off the mark with that theory. Also, I've agreed with pretty much everything IPJ says. I don't know why so many people are casting this as me being the only dissenter to YMY.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 8:10 AM · Report this
223
@222, I'm sorry you think so. No, you're not the only YMY dissenter here, but you're clearly the one who spoke more and who presented the more articulate case. So people answer to you.

I also basically agreed with pretty much everything you've said. Still... I guess people do cross-talk.

Judging by what you and Gamebird said, your life stories and experiences do seem to be different. Maybe I'm wrong in seeing a connection between this and your respective opinions, but if there happened to be one this certainly wouldn't be the first time in human history.

My point here is simply that there are guys who need to be more aware of the fact that their opinion about whether or not the girl they're with wants them to do what they're doing may not be correct. It's not that they aren't asking 'are you OK with this?' questions (which can indeed be pretty silly), they aren't even reading the non-verbal cues. It would be better for them and their partners if they became a bit more literate in that fine art.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 8:25 AM · Report this
224
@220(Gamebird), I think you're missing the point. The number of women who are raped (and the 1-in-4 statistic is far from being the general consensus; there is some very good research that disputes it and claims the number is really much inferior to that) are not really relevant to the question mydriasis poses.

If I read her correctly, mydriasis is saying YMY simply wouldn't protect most timid people from being forced into sex they don't really want, because the very reasons that made them remain silent would in most cases make them say 'yes' if their partners asked anyway.

If you want to dispute that, you'd have to show stats as to how successful women are in preventing this from happening (i.e., you'd have to show how many of them were not raped) because of YMY, as compared to the kind of assertivity that mydriasis has.

After all, it may well be that you are a rare bird among timid women in that YMY would work for you, but not for most other timid women -- they don't have to be all like you. And as you (I think, or maybe someone else) pointed out to mydriasis, wanting that a rule became general in a society because it benefits you but not most other people is hardly going to solve any social problems.

Hence the need for statistics. How many timid women would really take the opportunity YMY offers to stop a situation they don't like, and how many would not -- how many would say 'yes' for the same reasons they had so far remained silent? Without this stat, I still can't tell whether you're right, or mydriasis is. Maybe she's projecting her impression of what timid women are like, or maybe you are projecting yours, or maybe both of you are. How can one know?
Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 8:36 AM · Report this
225
221--

Don't I get anything?

An old Yiddish expression I like: "If you're going to do something wrong, at least enjoy it." Can I get a point for that?
Posted by Crinoline on May 28, 2012 at 8:37 AM · Report this
mydriasis 226
@223

I actually think IPJ presented a much better case - which is exactly why people are challenging me instead. Hers was not explicitly muddied by personal preference like mine was.

I openly admitted that my personal preference for the sexual status quo informed my distaste for YMY which offended people in a different way than the other component of my argument (YMY isn't effective).

Yes, my experiences with sex are clearly different than Gamebird's but not necessarily in the sense that I thought you were implying when you said.

"People who have never been really mugged may think other people's measures to avoid this danger are exaggerated and verge on paranoia, while those who have been mugged two or three times may think very little is done and people should be at least twice as careful. Same reality, same danger level, but different perceptions/interpretations."

As someone who engaged in a lot of extremely risky behaviour at a very young age, I'd have to challenge the 'you just haven't dealt with rape and that's why you don't think it's important' message that I felt that analogy implied. If that's not what you meant then I'm sorry.

I think it goes without saying that people's personal experiences paint their perceptions on all issues. Most of my close friends are female and very heavily socialized in the 'nice girl' school. As far as I know "only" one of them has experienced nonconsensual sex. But I see the ways this socialization hurts them every day (especially in the context of relationships) and I care very deeply about this issue. I don't think it's trivial, I don't think it's 'not a big deal', I don't think the people who try to find solutions are paranoid or overreacting. I just don't believe that YMY is an effective tool to change things. Not in theory, and CERTAINLY not in practice considering how I don't see it catching at wildfire no many how many feminists chant it at freshmen.
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Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 8:38 AM · Report this
mydriasis 227
@ Crin

If it makes you feel any better, I'm 95% sure mine is an insult.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 8:39 AM · Report this
mydriasis 228
@Gamebird

I can imagine that it's pretty easy to be one of those three in four and think that there's something wrong with the victims, to say that it's the victims fault if they happen to run into more than a single bad male, and that this problem of the victim's is something the victims could fix if they'd just try hard enough.

Just to be clear - you don't think that is my opinion, do you?

Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 8:44 AM · Report this
229
Oh, and - as the posts crossed - a retroactive point to Ms Bird for the concluding sentence of 220. Not everyone would admit such a point openly. I shall spare the assembled company a quotation from "Rumpole and the Actor Laddie".
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 9:07 AM · Report this
230
On 2nd thought, the quote isn't worth a point unless I give you the original Yiddish:

As me est chazzzer, zol rinnen fun bord.

Now I should get on the score board.
Posted by Crinoline on May 28, 2012 at 9:11 AM · Report this
231
@mydriasis, who wrote:
As someone who engaged in a lot of extremely risky behaviour at a very young age, I'd have to challenge the 'you just haven't dealt with rape and that's why you don't think it's important' message that I felt that analogy implied. If that's not what you meant then I'm sorry.


Indeed it is not what I meant, but I think I see how you thought that: you thought I was saying you were lucky (either by having led a protected life or by simply never having been in the wrong place at the wrong time), when in fact I was trying to say you had been successful with your strategy. What you're doing has worked for you. It's not that you've never been in clear danger of being badly raped, or even never actually badly raped (which I don't know), but you're clearly satisfied with your strategies for dealing with these situations -- no matter how frequent or unfrequent they are/were in your life.

Whereas, I think, Gamebird and a few others are clearly dissatisfied with their strategies -- she thinks adopting YMY or making it generally accepted would improve things for her, and possibly for other timid women as well. I make no claims about absolute numbers of situations in which either you or she felt uncomfortable, but clearly you think things are OK the way they are in your life whereas she thinks some changes in her strategies or in the general attitude of men would be beneficial.

Personally, I'm all in favor of assertiveness, so I think people -- men and women -- should adopt methods more similar to yours than to YMY in order to deal with situations they aren't comfortable with. But since I don't know if most timid women would react the way you described under YMY conditions rather than the way Gamebird says she would, I can't tell if you are right or she is. Maybe YMY would help, maybe it wouldn't. But I do agree that the final goal should be more personal assertiveness so that YMY isn't necessary (and ultimately I think Gamebird would also agree with that, I think she's claimed once that YMY is a way for timid women to develop this assertiveness, like sidewheels on a bike when you're learning to bike).
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Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 9:11 AM · Report this
232
My apologies to Ms Crinoline. I gave you a point yesterday, but I didn't want to mention it because it would be going too far backwards. Yours was actually the original point.
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 9:15 AM · Report this
mydriasis 233
@ Ank

I believe we're mostly on the same page, except just to be extra clear. I think things need to be improved. I don't think things are 'fine' - but

a. YMY would not benefit me

b. I think we should look for other approaches that would benefit ALL women, not just timid women (assertive women can be victims of rape too) and not just the specific subset of timid women who cannot bring themselves to say 'no' to sex they don't want but can so 'no' upon request.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 9:18 AM · Report this
234
@ankylosaur and mydriasis:

I don't think YMY could ever prevent rape. Because the guys (and girls) who are addressed by that aren't rapists. They are the ones who'd be shocked and surprised to find out that their willing partner of the night before hadn't been as willing as they had thought.

Yes, they can cause great harm, but without meaning to. On the other hand, rapists (be it the ones who get off on hurting their victim, or be it the ones who just don't care about the feelings of their "partners") will be bothered by YMY even less than by NMN.
Posted by migrationist on May 28, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
235
Ms Driasis - I have far too high a regard for Mrs Woolf. Perhaps I ought to have specified that it was a major character. Of course, there is no requiring you to have the same taste. If you thought it an insult because I did not specify the character, that was not directed at you at all - I was convinced that Ms Cute could guess, and wanted to give her the opportunity.

I was about to start a post yesterday directed towards post 176, but had to leave. You wrote:

[There's a chance that the LW's friend/partner/whatever she is now might have been immune to this socialization (like yours truly!) but that doesn't mean that gender is irrelevant or that commenting on the gendered nature of this problem is heteronormative (though some people did take it in that direction).]

I was going to agree with everything but the conclusion - it plays so readily if not eagerly into heterocentricity that there's no practical difference. I can live with a disagreement.
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
236
Crinoline@212: "the good feelings of the sex that comes from getting to the point of wanting to say yes"
That time, I never wanted to say yes. I never said yes. I did not enjoy the sex. I never changed my mind. My mind was determined not to have sex, my mind stayed determined not to have sex. I have no idea if my body enjoyed the sex; it certainly didn't orgasm, because at that point I wasn't orgasming without a vibrator around. Can you understand that sleeping (when driving) can happen, without one choosing to do so? It's not a good thing when that happens, when the body makes its own decisions. And yes, we can warn people that they really may fall asleep while driving if they get in the car while sleepy. And we can warn people that they really may end up having sex they really don't want (not just regret later), if they allow themselves to get turned on. And, yes, if the other person also wants to keep it to a light make-out session, they may end up ignoring that person's 'no,' and hence becoming, in legal terms, a rapist of the other person.

my@214 "preventing rape by preventing the actions of rapists."

Yes, exactly. In my scenario, I was lucky that my friend was happy to have sex with me. Since I wasn't in control, my body might just as easily have raped him (had I been able to overpower him). Crinoline was trying to come up with a ridiculous example, but I do think (as in the sad example @184) that it's possible and something to warn against.

Also, to bring this all back to the point of the larger conversation:
I disagree strongly with Crinoline@212 that it's
"a good and beautiful thing" to use one's skill at foreplay to turn on someone you know didn't want sex beforehand, and who will regret the sex later. Legally, that's not rape, but it's horrible. Just like it would be horrible to use a person's bodily hungers to persuade them to override their religious objection to bacon. Or to persuade an alcoholic to have just one drink.

People are weak, and their friends shouldn't try to set their bodies against their minds. That's horrible.
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Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 10:13 AM · Report this
237
Following up myself @236... my reference to 184 suggested that this kind of strong dissociation only happens to women; I didn't mean to say that. I think that a man who intended not to have sex might find himself so turned on that he loses control. Legally, that's no defense if he rapes someone. But if I were his friend, I would listen to his story.
Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 10:22 AM · Report this
238
232-Vennominon-- Go ahead and mention yesterday's point by number. I'm off work today, bored, couldn't find it, and fishing for compliments.

218-anylosaur-- I totally get that words change meaning. Though I never get tired of the subject, I don't think that's entirely what's going on here. In this case, I believe there's an attempt to change the feelings associated with an act by muddying the meanings of the words. Instead of opinions being changed, confusion results. I believe that's why we go running to legal definitions. At least that's something solid to hold on to while we try to figure out what anything means anymore.

I like your expression of bleached out evocative language. Here's another way of putting it: Inflation causes devaluation. It would be easy to make everyone in the U.S. a millionaire by printing money. But then the money would have no value, and people's material goods and comforts would remain the same. It is easy to say that 1:4 children have been sexually abused or that many more situations constitute rape than are really rape, but when you do that, the words lose their meaning, and people conclude that childhood sexual abuse isn't really any big deal, and rape isn't that bad.
Posted by Crinoline on May 28, 2012 at 10:27 AM · Report this
nocutename 239
Okay.
I'm not going to get into the YMY v. NMN and all its attendant brouhaha that mydriasis, IPJ, migrationist, Gamebird, Crinoline, avast206, ankylosaur and others are engaging with.

I need to choose my battles and marshal my strength. I really didn't want to do this, partially because it seems I'm always arguing with EricaP, but the "rape" thread is interfering with my sleep, and I guess I have to jump in.

To begin: EricaP, I don't think you're lying. You had some sort of experience in which you felt that you had no control over what your body did even though what your body did was contrary to what you planned to do or wanted to do. Although to me, that sounds like a woman who intends to only drink coffee and finds she has eaten a lot of pastry, I'll not challenge your own understanding of your own experience, and concede that the sexual experience you are talking about felt significantly different, stronger and more upsetting, that that analogy could ever approach.

But.

Rape is different. And no, ankylosaur, I'm not talking about academic discussions of gender relations.

I know close to a dozen women who've been raped, and I'm not part of a support group or anything. Just lucky I guess. Some of these are date/acquaintance rapes (wherein YMY might have helped in theory, had the rapists cared to respect the wishes of the women they raped, but probably would have been policies as ignored as NMN was by the rapists), and some are violent rapes committed by strangers.

Here's my rape: I was 18, visiting a male friend I'd known for about a year. There was a "real" rapist in the area, composite police sketches of whom were plastered everywhere, and so the policy of my male friends who lived in that apartment was to walk all female guests to their cars and see them safely inside at the conclusion of a visit. We used to say, "Okay, I'm leaving--walk me to my car so I don't get raped and murdered."
I'd come to visit my primary friend, someone I'd known for several years, to do some writing together, but he wasn't home, and so I hung out with his roommate (whom I'd socialized with a lot over the past year) and the roommate's girlfriend. We played cards and listened to records--on vinyl!--and then I asked to be walked to my car. He walked me to my car, and got in the passenger side (which was odd), and started to fondle and kiss me. I said no, forcefully and immediately.

This wasn't a date or a situation in which I had been flirting. And there was no alcohol involved. I tried to suggest he was kidding; I squirmed and moved his hands away. I said things like "stop it." But I was a good girl, and he was my *friend.* This became crucial. I realized that he wasn't going to stop and that I had a decision to make: I could treat this as a "real" rape, that is, scream, and fight as hard as possible, and try to break his nose or gauge his eyes, or I could let him do what he was intent on doing and get out of there. I was thrown by the fact that he was a friend--I couldn't treat him as a violent attacker; I acquiesced. I squeezed my eyes shut and gritted my teeth and waited grimly for him to be finished with it. It hurt. There was no element of fun, or pleasure whatsoever. I felt erased, negated. I felt humiliated. It was clear that what I wanted to happen to me and my body had no authority with him. The rape was the ultimate expression of someone's regarding me as not an equal participant.

It isn't my place or my right to talk of other rapes, like that of my student, raped by a stranger with whom she had been flirting in the parking lot of the bar she and her friends went to to celebrate her 21st birthday, or another of my students, gang-raped by a pack of men as she crossed a (different) college campus at night on her way back to the dorms after studying at the library. She ended up in the hospital, with a shattered pelvis and a skull fracture. Or my friend, raped at 10:00 in the morning in her own home, as her three-year-old watched a video in the next room. Or my daughter, sixteen years old, sleeping in her room (as I slept obliviously in my room), when a stranger broke into our house through her unlocked window, choked her, threatened her with death, and raped and sodomized her.

For the last 2 nights, she has slept in that room, alone again, the first time since November, 2010.

This is rape. You cannot rape yourself. Rape is the negation of a person's autonomy or agency. Rape says, "you don't count; you don't matter."

I'm all for playing with language and redefining words, for reclaiming words like "queer," and 'slut." I'm a believer that a YMY policy might help a few people, and that if people listened to NMN, a fair number of rapes wouldn't happen. But ultimately, rape means that the rapist knows that the victim isn't consenting, and doesn't care. In its most benign sense, it's coercion, but it isn't something which was consented to or initiated by the "rapee" who later had qualms about it.

I'm getting fucking sick and tired of hearing "rape" used to describe regretted sex. If both people (or at least the one penetrated) agreed to the sex or wanted the sex in the moment, it isn't rape.
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Posted by nocutename on May 28, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
nocutename 240
I see that EricaP posted about how she felt and how her body reacted as I was composing my post.
So for what it's worth, EricaP, I will agree that what happened to you was unpleasant in the moment, and not akin with regretted sex. It sounds confusing and upsetting.

But I still wouldn't call it rape.
Posted by nocutename on May 28, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
241
Also, for the record, Crinoline: people historically thought that if a woman displayed arousal, then she wasn't raped. But we've learned that: "A woman's physiological response to sexual contact is involuntary. In some cases, women can become physically aroused, produce natural lubrication, and even experience orgasms against their will during rape" (Wiki)

If you ask someone who is in the middle of orgasming if she wants the sex to continue, her body will probably make her scream yes. Still rape though, if the sex was brought about by force.
Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Report this
242
Oh - I can't believe I left out the most important point of all! In mitigation, the tennis has put me a bit off today.

In fact, I shall give Ms Eirene two points for giving me the idea of periodically tackling problems from the point of view of only trying to help lesbians and any benefit derived by non-lesbians would be a bonus. My qualifications aren't the greatest, but it's worth the experiment.
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 10:41 AM · Report this
243
Ms Crinoline - I believe it was #132.
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Report this
244
nocute, I don't want to compete with your family's history of rape. Yours are worse. But I've been raped twice, and both times the guy thought he was doing me a favor, and probably to this day thinks that I could have enjoyed it if I hadn't been so uptight. So I get "you don't count; you don't matter." And that's how it felt with my body in charge. It felt like I didn't count, like I didn't matter. Believe me or don't. The history of rape is full of people telling others that their rapes weren't really rape.
Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM · Report this
245
@238(Crinoline), what you say here is in part true. But language tends to have repair mechanisms that take care of that; and this, basically, because language, no matter how often it shifts, still has to be useful, i.e., it has to be able to express our thoughts and feelings and to mediate communication. So when certain words (say, rape) bleach so much that they become useless in their original sense, something else -- another word or expression -- jumps in and takes the original meaning of the bleached term (not because words are living beings that can 'jump' -- but because people continue to have communicative needs, and if they still have to talk about real rape then they'll find some way of making clear that this is what they mean, with some new word or expression). Which is why, even though many words don't mean what they used to mean in Shakespeare's times anymore, it is still possible to say the same things people used to say in those days -- except now we use other words.

I do agree that the uses of this particular word -- 'rape' -- are often emotional, and that, in the current socio-political climate (gender, class, etc.), there certainly are groups who are trying to do exactly the kind of emotional manipulation/engineering with this word that you mention. But then again (nothing new under the sun...), this has happened before with other words. In the olden days, when religion was a 'big deal' for society, the meaning of religious terms might conjure up enough emotion to initiate wars ('kill the heretics!'). How much blood was spilled because of religious semantic/lexical questions like the filioque or homoousia vs. homoiousia (is Jesus similar to, or the same as, his Father? etc.)? And yet this passed, and is no longer really important.

The language will change, but always in a way that still allows anything to be said, albeit with different words than before. So I don't care so much about 'rape' changing meaning. But I do care about the people who are consciously using the word 'rape' for non-legitimate purposes (emotional effect, etc.), as opposed to the guy you mentioned whose car had been broken into and who used 'rape' to describe how he felt. I feel uncomfortable about the manipulators and their intentions -- why are they interested in associating certain emotions with certain themes? (cf. those who call abortion doctors 'baby killers'). In the end, it's always other people, not the language, that is doing something to us.
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Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM · Report this
246
@nocutename, who wrote:
Rape is different. And no, ankylosaur, I'm not talking about academic discussions of gender relations.


Neither am I, nocutename. I never did. Some academic groups do, some university action groups do, some politicians do, but I most emphatically don't.

To me, rape is a crime, pure and simple. And one quite worthy of the adjective 'heinous'.

But I believe the contention here is semantic. Since there are heinous situations (like the ones you described) usually referred to as 'rape', is it, or is it not, a good idea to use 'rape' to refer also to other situations, as EricaP did? Or to use it metaphorically for non-rape situations, as Crinoline's male friend did?

My point is, regardless of whether it is 'good' or 'bad', this kind of use happens. Not only with 'rape', but with all kinds of emotion-laden words. People will do that, it will happen, regardless of legal or dictionary definition, so that the word will eventually change its meaning, including also in the dictionary or in law.

This of course does not change the fact that the situation you described is indeed very different from the situation EricaP described.

I think people, will always find some way of expressing the difference between the situation you described and the situation EricaP described. Even if it won't be by means of the word 'rape' anymore, some other way of doing that will be found. That's how words and languages change. As long as there's a communicative need, people find a communicative solution.

So I don't worry so much about the fate of the word rape, and its uses and misuses in Academia and outside of it. I worry much more about the people who want to blurry the difference between the situation you describe and the situation EricaP describes. I worry about their reasons for doing that, and their agendas. Therein lies, I think, the problem.
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Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
247
@244(EricaP), I think the main point is semantic. It turns out that several people here (including apparently nocutename) wouldn't call what happened to you twice 'rape', but something else; but not because they don't think what happened to you wasn't unpleasant or that they want to refuse sympathy for your plight, simply because they think the word 'rape' should be reserved for certain kinds of situations and not others, for certain crimes and not others. I.e., they would (I think) argue that not everything that made you feel like you didn't count, like you didn't matter, deserves to be called rape.

And this is not exclusive to the story of rape. I'm sure one could find similar discussions about all kinds of crimes ('what is "murder"?'), and then you might say the story is full of people telling others that what the murders they witnessed weren't really murders.

It's all just people wondering whether or not some situations are similar enough to deserve the same name, whether calling them the same name is a good or a bad idea. (With me not caring so much what they call each situation, as long as they understand their differences and similarities.)
Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
248
@244(EricaP), correcting a little mistake: in my last-but-one paragraph, '[...] you might say the story is full of...' should be '[...] you might say HISTORY is full of...'. Sorry.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 28, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
249
avast2006@209: "Also, the real bastards out there aren't going to give a shit about YMY. Your whole idea of "they are even more deserving of protection" isn't going to protect them. The decent guys are already treating them decently, and the cads aren't going to change their behavior."

So everything is already as good as it's going to get? No one should change their behavior, because you're either good or bad already? I don't think so. I think sexual communication among nice people with good intentions is mostly broken and we should be working on fixing it.

And I already said as clearly as I could that the social contract is about the expectations of what decent behavior is. I don't expect this stuff to have any effect on "the real bastards" directly. I expect it to have an effect on how people act toward "the real bastards." You can't necessarily stop someone who's bent on rape, but you can sure as fuck teach your kids not to promote rape culture, not to apologize for rapists, etc.

I heard a horrible story a while ago about a man who when he heard that a preschool neighbor of his had been assaulted by a much older girl chuckled about how the little boy was getting an "early start." That man probably wasn't a rapist. The people who heard him say such things and didn't act horrified almost certainly weren't rapists. But they sure as HELL were promoting rape culture. Guys are lucky to get it (even when they're four). That culture was showing up STRONGER than the one that says "don't mess with little kids." Yes, basically decent people ARE helping to put vulnerable folks at even greater risk than they would already be in from "the real bastards."
Posted by Eirene on May 28, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this
250
@208: Individual relationships would be equal because women as a group are dictating to men as a group, not as individuals? Really? In a traditional patriarchy, the rules on relationships are dictated by the authorities, not the individual men in the individual relationships. (If the Catholic Church has real power in a society, contraceptives and abortion are banned by the government consulting with the C.C., not by individual husbands, who have no more choice about it than their wives.) I don't know anyone who considers that to be an example of equal partnerships.

As for YMY, I think YMY is a situationally useful tool that complements NMN nicely, but replacing NMN with YMY would be as foolish as BDSM practicioners deciding that since they negotiated the scene beforehand (YMY) they don't need a safeword (NMN).

I don't think YMY is new: I think it's new jargon for something that's as old as the hills.
Posted by Old Crow on May 28, 2012 at 1:30 PM · Report this
251
I like everything about what Gamebird said *except* the "dictating to men" formulation. Should have said that before.
Posted by Eirene on May 28, 2012 at 2:17 PM · Report this
252
I think the comment thread has pretty much gone willy nilly, since the whole concept of YMY isn't to prevent rape, but to discourage "grey area sex".

There's actually a feminist book on the subject titled "Yes Means Yes" that you can find on scribd for free that I admit I never bothered to finish (my internet sucks). But what I take away from the book and the general message Yes Means Yes, is that the policy isn't JUST about finding out if your partner wants to have sex, but also making sure YOU communicate your desire to engage in such activity strongly. The idea is to make women more assertive by becoming more comfortable asking for and engaging in sex in the first place.

Rape in general is such a more complicated issue, that no single catch phrase could really tackle the complexity of it. Especially since, as nocutename has very bravely pointed out, it can take a wide variety of forms; with some stating the most common is actually marital rape (one text book I had in a college course on deviant psyhcology actually compared marriage to prison in terms of sexual assualt and rape).
Posted by mygash on May 28, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
253
@226 I have trouble understanding this "nice girl" school comment. Or socialized to this and that. In theory it seems to make sense, but somehow I doubt universally adopting a policy of socializing men and women in exactly the same way would actually do any good.

I know this sounds odd, but I'm going to compare it to how I raised to treat the elderly. If I'm somewhere sitting down and there are no seats left, I get up and give them mine. I hold the door for them, I offer to let them go ahead of me in line, I pick something up if I see them drop it, if something is being offered they get first choice & etc. No one would lecture me on how being kind to the elderly is some enormous burden on me, yet if I were to apply any socialized routines to my relationships to men (cooking for them, them holding a door for me & etc) a label must be applied and my position in the culture debate decided regardless of whether I agree with any side. I say this as a self identified feminist who fears not the diaper or the candy thermometer.

Plus, I find women are actually VERY assertive; they just have different ways of expressing it that sometimes get missed by some who aren't careful picking up social cues since they tend to be more subtle. So it seems the real debate should be; do we find a way to encourage people to bone up on their social and nonverbal communication or do we ritualize a way of communicating to avoid misunderstandings?
Posted by mygash on May 28, 2012 at 4:30 PM · Report this
254
@213 Oh, and I believe avast was addressing the fact you suggested any man who didn't trust his ability to read your nonverbal cues and had to resort to verbally asking as "inept" and "insecure", and then the later comment that checking in verbally after the initial consent would be "infantizing" you. Can't remember the exact comment numbers, so excuse me for paraphasing. I hate to bring it up, but the difference between his reply and your rebuttal was rather jarring.
Posted by mygash on May 28, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
255
The idea is not to socialize all kids in exactly the same way. The idea is not to socialize anyone in CRAPPY ways.
Posted by Eirene on May 28, 2012 at 6:07 PM · Report this
mydriasis 256
@gash

I do not self-identify as a feminist and I do not think men and women should be socialized the same way (as you can see from my posts above saying that I like the men-as-aggressors status quo)

But if a woman allows someone to do something to her sexually that makes her uncomfortable solely because she lacks the assertiveness to say no, then I believe that's a problem.

If this happens a great deal, then I believe that's a problem that likely has to be addressed at a societal level. As I said before, people are born with the ability to object. It is socialized out of all of us to a varying degree. I personally believe that the degree this is done with women is excessive.

As for women being VERY assertive, that hasn't been my experience, but noted.

I'm pretty sure I never used the term infantalize, though several others did. I think I skipped the women-as-children metaphor entirely. I just said I found it to be kind of offensive stereotyping.

I found avast's post jarring: "you annoy the fuck out of me", "you have an attitude problem", and the bizarre accusation that I have a "chip on my shoulder". But I think I'm confused about what you mean about the difference between his reply and my rebuttal. Could you explain please?
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 6:07 PM · Report this
mydriasis 257
Thanks Eirene! That's just it. :)
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 6:09 PM · Report this
mydriasis 258
@nocute

I agree with you.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM · Report this
259
@256 I agree with you regarding someone allowing a sexual event to occur by virtue of lack of assertiveness is a problem, but I do not endorse the "status-quo". I also sharply disagree it's because women are socialized to an excessive amount. Men are socialized to an excessive amount as well. I find this focus on women to be half the problem with discussing this issue since it instantly puts the other half of the population on the defensive. Men’s education starts VERY early, for example by age two to hold a crying boy is to "cuddle" him and soften him from manhood. The focus of this and much more IS to make him aggressive in a very specific way. Just as you say you've seen women encouraged to become submissive, I've seen boys pushed into overly aggressive and sexual roles. As an older sister and a cousin to two seven year old twin boys, this deeply troubles me. So no, the status quo disgusts me. And no, I don't care if being a stereotypical man gets you laid more, when I get a kid I'm hugging the hell out of them regardlesss of gender. I kind of wish we taught men to be more self reliant sexually so they wouldn't feel obliged to chase anything with a rack and a skirt.

But what I want most is for our gender to be addressed rationally without becoming the defining characteristic. "Yes, you are (blank), and that means you do have some specific social obligations and that some experiences will by default be alien to you. But what sort of (blank) you are will be defined not just by how you meet society's expectations or how you treat those different from yourself, but also how you respect and love yourself."

As for the difference between avast's comment and your reply; he was taking offense with how you portrayed the way you viewed the man who would use YMY, not your argument against YMY itself as your reply suggested. Now I don't remember how he feels about YMY itself (this comment thread is long). I just know from his comment he saw the use of verbal communication as a demonstration of consideration and that you would suggest such an action (presumably made for your benefit) as a clue they were weak (or as a clue they thought you were weak) as offensive.

The "chip" thing I would liken to the girl who huffs when a guy holds the door open for her (I did that in my teens).

BTW, sorry avast for talking on your behalf without your blessing! I just hate to see people get taken down for something they didn't say.

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Posted by mygash on May 28, 2012 at 7:24 PM · Report this
mydriasis 260
@ gash

WRT: status quo/hugging/etc

Yeah, I have two brothers. I know what you're talking about.

And I agree that men should be socialized differently as well. But I wouldn't take it all the way to 'let's wipe agressiveness out'. But again, this is a personal preference. Some men love aggressive women, some women love aggressive men. Diversity is a beautiful thing, IMHO.

WRT: avast

I did address the main point he was making by way of analogy (he disliked my view of men who need verbal confirmation and thought it was wrong) by saying that what gets me going sexually is not identical to what I like in platonic situations. (Which is why I don't care if someone opens the door for me) If you reread what I wrote you'll see that it's right there. Twice, actually.

Then as an aside I commented on why I felt it wasn't the best analogy to describe my objections to YMY because there are several. I didn't "take him down", jeez.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 7:58 PM · Report this
261
Ms Driasis - Are you drifting into heteronormativity? I hope you don't think that ALL males should be socialized exclusively to be aggressors simply because the majority of women who sleep with men (if it is a majority, which doesn't seem of paramount importance) prefer chauffeured limousine rides. Not to grudge you or anyone a system that works or to insist on a change that favours fewer people, but it is hard enough on my people to have to overcome being socialized towards exclusive heterosexuality without having to undo aggressor-only training. Not that there's any easy answer.

Ms Gash, I was all set to give you a point for your eloquent opening paragraph - and then those last six words. Sorry.
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 8:04 PM · Report this
262
Ah - 260 and 261 crossed.
Posted by vennominon on May 28, 2012 at 8:07 PM · Report this
263
@228 Gamebird said: "I can imagine that it's pretty easy to be one of those three in four and think that there's something wrong with the victims, to say that it's the victims fault if they happen to run into more than a single bad male, and that this problem of the victim's is something the victims could fix if they'd just try hard enough."

Mydraisis said: "Just to be clear - you don't think that is my opinion, do you?"


No, I don't. I believe it was IPJ who had the posts which read to me as thinly or not-so-thinly veiled victim-blaming, with the statements about how if someone had several bad experiences with men, that this indicated a likely fault in the victim, and the victim should get professional assistance or counseling. Said counseling would not be to deal with the fallout and trauma from the bad experiences, but instead to assist the person in not recommitting whatever error was committed that "caused" the bad experiences.

I found that a very offensive suggestion, especially since my pool of men to have interactions with has been very small, and is so is easily skewed by a few bad apples. If I interact intimately with ten men and five of them are bad actors, that might seem to me that an overwhelming number of men are scary and dangerous. However, if someone else interacts with fifty men (including those same ten!) and they only have those five bad actors, then they might feel that by and large men are okay blokes and you just have to keep an eye out for the problems ... but that the problems aren't a big deal.

By the way, thank you for the civil and enlightening conversation.

xxx

Aside to EricaP - What you're describing sounds to me like it's either traumatic dissociation or BDSM subspace. I say 'traumatic dissociation' because in my studies of DID, PTSD, rape and trauma recovery, the dissociation has always been presented as a by-product/reaction to a traumatic event. While the rape-by-your-body sounds like it was traumatic to you, it also sounds like that event itself was the trauma and not anything leading up to it. Unless I'm reading the situations wrong?

But now that you've mentioned it, it occurs to me that the same loss of control is mentioned in BDSM. I had a man tell me that he considered his boyfriend to have raped him because they both agreed there would be no sex that night; they went to the club and he (the man telling me the story) became revved up from being flogged; and the boyfriend took him home and fucked him. Although he eagerly consented in the moment, he ascribed his consent to the endorphins and likened it to being so drunk or stoned that you can't give any informed consent. He said that was the purpose of the carefully negotiated agreement before the play - there would be no sex, because he knew his inhibitions would be shot, his boyfriend knew that, and then his boyfriend took advantage of it. They broke up.

So I wonder - is that a situation more analogous to what you're relating?
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Posted by Gamebird on May 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM · Report this
mydriasis 264
@ Ven

Ah so you saw what I meant with "Some men love aggressive women, some women love aggressive men. Diversity is a beautiful thing, IMHO."
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM · Report this
265
@256: re: "you annoy the fuck out of me" It seemed like you had turned someone trying to do something caring for you into an excuse to deem him seventeen brands of loser and dump him. You are all but saying that trying to be nice is synonymous with feckless sociopathy. That sort of Alice-through-the-looking-glass illogic is what annoyed the fuck out of me.

re: "attitude problem" and "chip on your shoulder": again, taking someone's attempt to actively make sure you are happy with the situation to represent some sort of dismissal of you as a weakling or a demonstration/confession of base ego needs requires you to willfully choose the worst possible interpretation of his actions and character. It makes me think that at best, you don't actually know the difference, and at worst, you are taking your philosophical stand on choosing the worst possible interpretation, whence "attitude problem" and "chip on the shoulder."

@254: it doesn't even have to be about the person not trusting his ability to read your nonverbal cues. Being solicitous of your partner's feelings doesn't need to mean that you think they are weak, nor that you need your ego propped up. It is sufficient that your partner's happiness is important to you. It makes my head explode to think that wanting my partner to be happy reflects poorly on me.

I humbly suggest that there will be more happiness to be found in interpreting a nice gesture on my part to mean that your happiness is important to me than that I think you can't stand up for yourself. I probably should have said it that way in the first place.
Posted by avast2006 on May 28, 2012 at 8:46 PM · Report this
266
I'm lost. Let's get back to dictating to men what the new social contract is.

Posted by Hunter78 on May 28, 2012 at 8:57 PM · Report this
267
@249 Eirene: I was responding to the specfic component of YMY that requires one to do a verbal check-in at each physical escalation. (would you like to hold hands, would you like to kiss, would you like to take off your shirt, et cetera.) I thought that specific activity was unlikely to produce a lot of extra protection in the context of a given encounter. The ones who would use it don't need it, and the ones who do need it won't use it. (Save the small minority who neurologically can't read body cues, but they are probably using it as a tool anyway.)

Regarding the broader social issues -- setting behavioral expectations in general, more societal condemnation of transgressors instead of the current wink-and-a-nod, setting up social narratives that respect people as autonomous beings, etc) I think we are on the same page.
Posted by avast2006 on May 28, 2012 at 9:02 PM · Report this
268
@263 Thank you, that's very helpful. My second rape was much like that, only with passive submission instead of "eager consent."

The event we've been talking about reflected my inexperience with my body. I was very upset that I'd had a penis inside me that I hadn't wanted there. (Only my second penis ever...and no conversation about stds or birth control...) In the fallout, even though I didn't blame him, I hurt my friend and lost that friendship. The whole thing was awful, and, yes, traumatizing.
Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 9:02 PM · Report this
269
@236, EricaP:

The situation I tried to describe @184 was very different to the situation you describe. I didn't feel betrayed by my body or went farther than I intended. Unfortunately, I went further than my partner intended because I was unable to read his clues. I was probably under the impression that if a guy wants to kiss and make out he also wants to have PiV sex.
Posted by migrationist on May 28, 2012 at 9:11 PM · Report this
mydriasis 270
@avast

Again, diversity. I consider it to be a good thing.

Some people think that a person checking in is considerate and attentive and wonderful. Some people think the kind of guy I like is controlling/offputting/etc. Personally, I like it.

To be honest, I don't know why you had such an emotional response to my personal sexual preferences. Why should it matter to you who I dump or why?

1. I've never had a guy do this to me so it's moot
2. If I dumped a guy for that reason, don't you think he'd be better off?

But let's cut to the chase.

You said this: It makes my head explode to think that wanting my partner to be happy reflects poorly on me.

It seems to me, you're taking this personally. Look, if someone here went on about how he/she would hate to sleep with a submissive woman and finds it to be a turnoff when she wants to be in the passenger's seat I'd think "oh hey, I'm clearly not his/her type". I wouldn't try to argue that he/she shouldn't feel that way because it's "illogical" (preferences are seldom logical).

Sorry if that was kind of bitchy. I don't know if there was a better way to put that.

I'm sure you're even less of a fan of me now.
Posted by mydriasis on May 28, 2012 at 9:13 PM · Report this
271
@260 You miss the point and take it to the extreme of the other direction. I'm not calling for the end of agressiveness. Just like I enjoy some stereotypical activities and behaviors, it doesn't bother me a bit to see men enjoy theirs. I want the end of one size fits all thinking. It just seems we're quick to call for a simple fix, when all it takes is finding out were the other stands as an individual on a case by case basis. Even in simple relationships there's multiple avenues for aggression, affection, and all the rest of the emotional spectrum.

I see avast is back and will politely leave you two to it.

@261 Thank you none the less. I often end things on a crass note to relieve tension in discussions of personal ideas, but I get how off putting it can sound. If you met half the crazy women I have (including my mother) who are involved with making the men you care about miserable (here I exclude my father, he totally deserved it) you'd know I was holding back.
Posted by mygash on May 28, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Report this
272
@269, I apologize. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that you raped that guy; only that it is possible for women to rape men, including women in a dissociating state.
Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 11:16 PM · Report this
273
@273, I also didn't mean to suggest that you were dissociating, but you were drunk, and thus your rational mind was not necessarily in complete control of how far the situation went.
Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 11:19 PM · Report this
274
That's to migrationist @269 again, of course.
Posted by EricaP on May 28, 2012 at 11:21 PM · Report this
275
I come from a very polite family--my aunt almost died when her oxygen machine quit in the middle of the night, because she refused to trouble anybody about it until a decent hour--and have a history of light childhood non-family sexual abuse.

I have been conditioned not to make a fuss, is what I'm saying. And the conditioning has worked. Even though I'm aware of it, and it's something I hate about myself, I've been unable to change it.

When my girlfriend wants sex, I never say no. Even if I don't want it, even if I'm tired or sick or in pain. And if she asks me to say "Yes"...I say "Yes". But I don't volunteer it.

So the version of YMY that requires a call and response at every step would do nothing for me, but a partner that actually waited for me to say "Yes!" of my own accord would. But you can't really make a policy that will make people care, can you?
Posted by Pathetic Phallusy on May 29, 2012 at 12:33 AM · Report this
276
I've never before felt a need for a wrap-up before the new column comes out today. For nocute, anything I say sounds weak and stupid, but I'm afraid that ignoring your post in 239 would be worse. For everyone who has been through horrendous sexual experiences involving force, I'm sorry. We live in a world with a lot of pain and misery, and not acknowledging it makes it worse.
Posted by Crinoline on May 29, 2012 at 3:58 AM · Report this
277
Good talk, guys. Good talk.

:P
Posted by Gamebird on May 29, 2012 at 5:01 AM · Report this
278
@263: I would characterize it not as blame the victim, but if I've been a victim, what tools are in my arsenal to try and avoid it in the future? (Beyond 'hope like crazy it doesn't happen'.) Sometimes there are none: I absolutely believe that.

But if you are the victim of the same thing over and over again, then yes, there are probably some cues somewhere that you are missing. If your Uncle Joe loses a bunch of money to a scam artist--and then to a second scam artist, and then a third and fourth--at some point you probably sit Uncle Joe down for a hard talk about spotting these people and being more cautious, come up with a list of signals and cross-checks he needs to apply, try to change how trusting and accommodating he is of people. It doesn't make the scam artists innocent: they're still scum who prey on the vulnerable. It recognizes that trying to change what Uncle Joe is doing is likely to help him more than trying to change all the bad people in the world.

If someone has had only one or two experiences with a partner, and one of those was awful, then it can certainly be bad luck. The five out of ten you give is getting into a reasonable statistical sample. Because of the way bell curves work, if 10% of partners are bad apples then choice by random sampling will put some unfortunate women out on the end with a high proportion of bad partners.

But it is really not unreasonable to ask if the reason you (generic you) wind up with bad partners over and over and over again--especially if they're all exactly the same KIND of bad partner--is that you are somehow picking them. And that is a more complex question not amenable to one-line advice like 'so stand up for yourself' and more to asking whether you're hopeless at reading social cues (a few autistic posters) or are replaying an early bad relationship trying to write a better ending, or a dozen other scenarios that require more effort than 'so pick better people' to change. But they at least require looking at the romantic relationships you wind up in over and over and over again as something somewhat within your control. Say your partner comes home drunk and mean and scary on Saturday. "Horrible Saturday night was his fault, not mine" and "why did I wind up with this guy, exactly?" are not mutually exclusive positions to hold.

More...
Posted by IPJ on May 29, 2012 at 5:14 AM · Report this
mydriasis 279
@IPJ

Thanks again for putting something so well that I have a hard time explaining.

Because victim-blaming is such a problem and most good-hearted people are on the lookout for it, we're all afraid of saying what you just said (even though it's 100% true) because some people take it to mean 'it's your fault'.
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 5:29 AM · Report this
280
@279 Thanks.

There are many times when people can't help being victims, when the advice comes down to "if you had taken the next street over, the texting pickup driver wouldn't have hit you." And even then, I think a normal response can include trying to figure out if there were, for example, signs of erratic driving you didn't weight strongly enough, so you could apply that in the future and feel safer. The closest I ever came to a car accident someone decided to spontaneously drive the wrong way in my lane: had the trees come all the way up to the road at that point, as they did for most of its length, there is nothing I could have done differently beyond choose never to leave the house. Sometimes you are helpless.

If there's a pattern, if you're a victim of the same thing over and over again, then it's worth looking at whether there's something within your control that could change. For kids, often there isn't: that lack of control over your choices is a very real and scary and vulnerable-making part of being a kid.

As a kid I learned to hunker silently if someone took out their bad day by yelling at me. As an adult I recognized that that was not the way I wanted my adult interactions to go, and changed my response. (Gradually, and imperfectly.) That doesn't mean I accepted that it was okay for people to take their bad mood out by yelling at me, or felt that I had done something to make them do it. I accepted that it was something I hated, that it was going to happen from time to time, and that I wanted to deal with it in a way that made me feel less helpless and victimized, more like an independent adult who wouldn't take that crap.
Posted by IPJ on May 29, 2012 at 7:03 AM · Report this
nocutename 281
@Crinoline: Nothing you say is weak or stupid! I appreciate what you bring to the discussion, and thank you for your expression of sympathy/solidarity. The good news is that people heal.

To be clear, I think that rapes happen on a continuum, from being too drunk (or otherwise impared or compromised) to be able to give meaningful consent, through pushy insistence coupled with overly-polite demurral, to violent assaults. They take place between strangers, acquaintances, friends, dates, established partners.

And there is definitely a grey area where consented-to-in-the-moment-but-later-regretted sex and some of those kinds of rapes overlap (especially those involving alcohol or other judgment-impairing or inhibition-lowering substances or conditions such as parties, generally heightened atmosphere, and people who don't know one another well and who may have been flirting).

The problem for me is that while I can agree that a sexual encounter fueled by so much alcohol that true consent is not possible, after which a participant feels violated qualifies as rape (albeit a sort of "rape lite," perhaps), I think that too often people who want to absolve themselves of responsibility for bad choices they made (perhaps while judgment isn't very clear) which they regret later jump on that description.

This not only absolves women (and men who do this, though there are less of them) from taking responsibility for their actions and behavior, but I see it as insulting "true" unambiguous victims of rape, even rapes like mine. (Not me; I'm pretty resilient, and that happened a looooong time ago, but other women who, although not violently raped by a stranger, nevertheless played a less ambiguous role in their rape.) It does this because it suggests that non-violent rapes by acquaintances are somehow results of poor judgment and are just sex agreed to in the moment and regretted after the fact.

I'm not making any sense this morning, and I can't seem to get it any clearer. So I'm sure I've insulted someone, and that wasn't my intent. Apologies.
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Posted by nocutename on May 29, 2012 at 7:20 AM · Report this
282
avast@267: "The ones who would use it don't need it" -- well, there's a lot of stuff I don't NEED exactly, but that sure is nice to have. I don't say everyone needs to talk through every step, or that all of it needs to be verbal. I just went through way too many encounters in my younger days that went nonverbal, nonverbal, nonverbal, nonverbal, OH SHIT WHAT ABOUT CONTRACEPTION THAT MEANS TALKING, oh crap, no, "I really better not, I don't know what I was thinking" [Shit. Zie pressured me.] [Shit. Zie jerked me around.]

Having an expectation that you actually TALK about this stuff and make a decision seems to me to cut through some of the adolescent muddleheadedness and be good practice all around. I also find it really, really empowering and sexy to be able to put things into words, and actually *hearing* that someone really wants you? how is that not just the best thing ever? and that stage where you're both totally tongue-tied feels the *most* awkward and uncomfortable to me, as if both partners were constantly holding themselves back.

Moreover, that general attitude of "the other person's body is theirs, respect it, get permission of some kind if you want to touch it" is something I wish I had been WAY WAY WAY more explicitly taught. Not just to protect myself from unwanted touch (though that would certainly have been useful), but to keep me from acting in an unmannerly fashion toward others. As a fairly extreme introvert, brought up in a not very physical family, I didn't usually touch people much, but when I got into situations where it was, broadly speaking, okay, I didn't have a clear sense of boundaries at all. My original boundaries were much more fear-based rather than respect-based.
Posted by Eirene on May 29, 2012 at 7:49 AM · Report this
283
@278(IPJ), it is a pleasure to see such a well-written variation on something so many people (me included) have tried to say on a number of occasions without being understood.

There is victim-blaming, and there is victim empowering. Some of the things that victims can do to avoid being victims again are most definitely not attempts by advice-givers to shift the blame to them, but attempts to empower them and help them heal by making them see that they are not just at the mercy of chance and luck as to whether or not they'll be victims again. That some people should confuse that with victim-blaming always seemed more than sad to me.

And that, while fully agreeing that there are also situations in which there is nothing you can do.

I wish people weren't so quick with throwing names and assumptions around. It would make discussions much more enjoyable.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 9:02 AM · Report this
284
@nocutename, one of the problems with rape becoming an emblematic word in gender relations is that everybody wants to absolutivize it ('rape is rape is rape!') and immediately jumps to the conclusion that any classification of rape types or any claims about degrees of seriousness is tantamount to supporting victim blaming ('she was asking for it!').

I understand there are sensitive people, often unfairly so -- some people went through horrible experiences, and who can do that without his/her perspective and judgment skills being affected?

Still, I think the only way to solve problems is to consider their causes dispassionately. If gray areas and not-really-rape situations are conflated with rape, I fear not only that the real victims of real rape are being insulted, or that the idea of rape is being cheapened so that it doesn't seem to be a big deal anymore... but that the problem itself is being misunderstood, its causes mythologized rather than researched, and that as a consequence it won't be solved (solved? maybe not even correctly addressed). Like trying to cure cancer with holy water.

Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 9:13 AM · Report this
285
@nocutename, well, I want to cross out that "everyone" in the first paragraph of my last post and replace it with "distressingly many people".
Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Report this
286
"We're not blaming the victims of rape! We're just saying you should be less traumatized than somebody who meets the gold standard of having been raped violently by a complete stranger! Why, having a friend get you drunk enough he can pretend that slurry word coming out of your mouth isn't NO is hardly rape at all, on the continuum. Take some responsibility for your choices, sheesh."

Got it. Mine doesn't count because yours was worse.

Are the comment threads here always this full of...I dunno..."I've had it worse than you" kind of dick-measuring? If so I think I'll just stick to the article in the future.
Posted by survivor on May 29, 2012 at 9:52 AM · Report this
287
Cliff Pervocracy argues fairly persuasively, to my mind, that there is no real gray area between sex and rape, but rather between good and bad sex. And I hate the term "gray area" anyway, because it is so very often used to describe situations that bloody well ARE rape (look at the Roman Polanski case, where just FOR STARTERS a 44-year-old having "sex" with a 13-year-old is BY DEFINITION rape, and it only gets worse from there).

I think there are way too many gray areas IN PEOPLE'S HEADS about what the difference between sex and rape is, when it ought to be far, far more of a bright-line distinction. After all, there is a continuum of money transfers, too, from outright gifts to loans to grudging loans to never-repaid "loans" to overcharging to fraud to blackmail to theft, but we don't seem to over-focus on the "gray areas" of what's theft or blackmail in the same way.
Posted by Eirene on May 29, 2012 at 9:58 AM · Report this
mydriasis 288
@Eirene

If you think "stat rape = rape" doesn't bring up gray areas....
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
289
The new Tunnel's ....name could be "The Geoduct"....in honor of replacing the Via-duct....our good old trusted friend, retired in tact, no earthquake beat it down, Oh ya! operators with machines are taking her to a good spot.....a friend of mine told me he heard that from a seagull in a dream or something.

South Park is on Board and G-Town is up for anything...what say You CapHill?...Ballard? P-Square, let's hear it Aye!

Seattle Rocks, rolls and Oh ya! uh -huh! definitely! go tribe:) (just right of G-Town before Boeing field uh ha! :))))
Posted by cracker on May 29, 2012 at 11:19 AM · Report this
290
@270: I often use "I" and "you" as literary shortcuts. Possibly a bad habit, but I think it makes the prose less convoluted than the kind of gyrations necessary for non-specific actors in hypothetical situations. I use too many words as it is.

Were I in that situation -- and I'm not -- I would find that to be a Catch-22 evaluation by that hypothetical partner. Catch-22s annoy me. (Hypothetical ones annoy me hypothetically. I can be hypothetically annoyed for purposes of discussion.) Better?

I agree that your personal preferences are not very germane to the general discussion. As long as I'm in the mood to be agreeable, I also agree that constant check-ins during an encounter could easily elicit eye-rolls, even face-palms if taken to an extreme. (Though I do think that a laugh and "Yes, yes, already, now shut up and take my shirt off" ought to not spoil the mood that badly, if he takes that and runs with it.) I also agree that going with body language should be sufficient when possible: that leaning in for a kiss at the end of a pleasant evening should be a reasonable way of asking for a kiss, that kissing back, helping out, etc., should be taken as an emphatic Yes. I also agree that the folks who are most likely to need YMY check-ins as a tool are the ones least likely to use it, so I expect it is going to be of limited effectiveness as a campaign. (I'm not talking about the folks who genuinely can't read body social cues, as they are likely using such a thing already.)

I am one agreeable bastard, ain't I?
Posted by avast2006 on May 29, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
291
@my:
usually I'd agree, but 13 and 42 isn't gray anymore
Posted by migrationist on May 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
292
@282: The scenario you present in your first paragraph boils down to poor planning. Which we all do, and is perfectly understandable. I'm just having difficulty grasping how it would be any better to have had that sequence include all the verbal clearances: "Yes, you may kiss me; yes, you may touch me; yes, you may (help me) take my clothes off; yes you may climb in bed with me; OH SHIT, OH SHIT, CONTRACEPTION, WE HAVE TO TALK." Srsly?

The one thing that the expectation of a little discussion adds is that it makes it a more likely that contraception will be discussed at a more appropriate moment -- that is, earlier on, where there is less passion, more clear-headedness, and less embarrassment. Maybe the first clearance ought to consider the ones that follow. If you tell the person, "We're making out, but no sex tonight" that is both permission for what can happen (which sweeps out the need for all the intermediate clearances) and a clear directive on what not to try. If he pushes that boundary, he's being disrespectful; pushing hard enough makes him a rapist.
Posted by avast2006 on May 29, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Report this
mydriasis 293
@ Avast

You definitely are agreeable! Honestly I pretty much agreed with everything you said except where it was a matter of personal preference rather than fact.

I was a little confused by your use of Catch-22, I either misunderstood you or you misused it?
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
mydriasis 294
re contraception:

Honestly, this is so foreign to me.

The first few people I was with I never had conversations about contraception with. Why? Because it goes without saying. You have sex, you use a condom. That's the default. (I was also on the pill but condoms were my birth control every single time. No matter how drunk, no matter how high) It wasn't until later when I was in a long term relationship that the subject of me being on the pill and having sex without a condom came up. We also both got tested.

When I was in highschool I did a project that included a sex-survey. It was an admittedly small sample that found that kids in my highschool were sexually adventurous and used condoms near-universally.

Were you guys unlucky enough to grow up in those American States that teach "abstinence education" or is it some other factor.
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 12:19 PM · Report this
mydriasis 295
@291

I tend to agree with you but the nature of grey areas is that they're black and white on the ends. I just mean that if we're making the decision that something is rape due to the ages of the people and not whether or not they feel they consented (and sometimes they both do), it is a mighty big grey area.
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 12:24 PM · Report this
296
@survivor, who wrote:
Got it. Mine doesn't count because yours was worse.


No. Yours does count. But if mine was worse, this also should mean something. And if we pretend yours and mine were just the same, we're doing a disservice to both of us.

Or do you disagree?
Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Report this
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@Eirene, who wrote:
And I hate the term "gray area" anyway, because it is so very often used to describe situations that bloody well ARE rape (look at the Roman Polanski case, where just FOR STARTERS a 44-year-old having "sex" with a 13-year-old is BY DEFINITION rape, and it only gets worse from there).


This is part of the reason why I keep insisting that it's not words but people who should be blamed for evil.

The fact that some (many?) people may be using the term 'gray area' to manipulate other people or misconstrue situations and generally create more evil in the world does not mean that this is the only use this word has. There is such a thing as 'gray area', not because it's about rape, but because the world is full of continuums (some say the whole universe is a continuous flux) and our human strategy of trying to divide this flux into categories and things works only to a certain extent.

(That's why, for instance, laws tend to become so complicated. There are always so many cases, subcases, sub-subcases, mitigating factors, etc. in everything: crime, duties, obligations, taxes, inheritance, fraud, immigration law, marriage law... Gray areas and confusing circumstances make simple definitions very difficult.)

I don't know Mr Pervocracy's arguments about gray areas in sex, but I can say that there is a very large (and very old) body of philosophical literature about how not only sex, but everything in life, is full of gray areas -- some of it written by some very smart people who came up with some very good arguments. I wonder how he would deal with them.

I certainly agree that there are people who misuse the idea of 'gray areas,' but don't you think that there are people who misuse any ideas -- freedom, capitalism, socialism, equality, terrorism, duty, rights, feminism, etc. -- to advance their personal agendas? 'Gray areas' is hardly an exceptional word in that respect.
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Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
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@291, 295: besides, this is far from being a universal. To the Indians I work with, girls start marrying when they're 10. And one of the favored stereotypical marriage pattern is SD, i.e. sister's daughter (meaning that an 'ideal' marriage pattern, comparable to 'single unrelated opposite-sex people of the same age range' in our society, is between a man and his sister's daughter).

Gray areas in our society may look definitely black and/or white in others, and vice-versa. It's another way in which they are (transculturally) gray.
Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
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@mydriasis @294:

What do you mean? Did no-one ever try to convince you to sex without a condom by saying "Don't worry, I pull it out three times a week; never anything happened!" ?

And no, that wasn't the US, it's Europe.
Posted by migrationist on May 29, 2012 at 1:05 PM · Report this
mydriasis 300
@298

Yup. Although my understanding of Mr. Polanski's case is that he used a date rape drug on the girl? I'm fairly certain that's frowned upon in most cultures that have any concept of rape (even if what he did isn't considered rape).

@299

Oh my no.
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 1:18 PM · Report this
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avast2006@292: "I'm just having difficulty grasping how it would be any better to have had that sequence include all the verbal clearances"

Because you're already talking? already clarifying what you want, and therefore having to think? not letting things slide into that state of total confusion and brain fog? I'm sorry to get exasperated, but I don't see how this is not blindingly obvious. Or did that kind of thing never happen to you when you were a teenager?

If it makes it any easier to understand, this was generally with guys who were themselves extremely inexperienced. None of us was at the stage of carrying condoms around. I was still trying to figure out when I thought premarital sex was okay (I'd pretty well decided I wasn't saving it for marriage, but exactly what I was prepared to do when, well, that wasn't clear).

anklyosaur@298: The point about the Polanski case is that it was open-and-shut an illegal act before you even got to the nasty parts of what he did, yet people still defended it. And a culture that allows marrying off ten-year-olds is in that respect morally deficient. That's about the worst example of "gray area" that you could have used, in my opinion.

There's sometimes a gray area about whether a rape occurred, because you don't know the facts. There's almost never a gray area about whether a given set of facts means that the act was rape. And hard cases make bad law; "gray area" discussions tend to be extremely derailing from the real issues.

Cliff's female, by the way. She used to go by a more obviously feminine name. See pervocracy dot blogspot dot com.
Posted by Eirene on May 29, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Report this
mydriasis 302
@Eirene

Even before I was sexually experienced I knew that I didn't want to get pregnant, or get an STI. I knew that using a condom was the best way to prevent those bad things from happening. Therefore: unprotected sex was a non-option for me. Not exactly rocket science.

And if I had've gone for inexperienced guys (I wanted my first time to be pleasurable and get me off so I went for someone who did have experience thank the lord) and they had've tried to skip the condom I would've said 'uh, hey buddy, you're forgetting something'.
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 2:09 PM · Report this
303
No, it's not rocket science at all. But I wasn't in situations where I was planning to have sex. When I eventually did have intercourse for the first time, it was planned ahead and we did use condoms. It was his first time too, as far as I know, but that didn't mean we didn't know what we were doing well enough to have fun. That's not rocket science either, not with a couple of horny college freshmen.
Posted by Eirene on May 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
304
Just for the record, Polanski's victim testified they they shared a Quaalude, not generally considered a date-rape drug. That would have been pretty normal high-sharing for the time.

On the other hand, there's no question Polanski abused his superior position to have sex with the girl.

She said she was not willing, he said she was. The probation report sided with him. He did a 42 day stint in prison for evaluation. There seemed to be a deal for him to receive probation, but the judge threw that out and was set to go with prison and deportation. At that point Polanski fled the country.

The victim has said he didn't use force and she doesn't want him to go prison.
Posted by Hunter78 on May 29, 2012 at 2:37 PM · Report this
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@301: Did you read the rest of that comment? I basically agree with you.

If you get as far as "OMG, wait, wait, wait" then you did it wrong. If you get as far as "OMG, wait, wait, wait" while granting explicit verbal permission each time there's an escalation in the interaction, you're doing it just about as wrong as is possible. Is this person incapable of predicting 15 minutes into the future, given the current progression of events?

You say you want to get people to think. Great. So do I. Problem is, the person who does it the way I just described ISN'T thinking, they're just reacting.

I'm totally on board with 'talk early, talk often." It makes a lot more sense to lay out the plan for the next hour up front than it does to open those gates one at a time, at ten minute intervals.

Frankly, granting one permission at a time, then stopping at the one where you are uncomfortable proceeding, feels a lot more like leading someone on. Everything seems to be going fine, and then suddenly you are up against a hard limit with no warning? Feels like something went badly wrong. By contrast, if you say up front, "Tonight I'm comfortable with anything up to where we take off clothing" then your partner can hardly say they were taken by surprise when two hours in, you assert that limit.
Posted by avast2006 on May 29, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
306
FYI, Dan, the final 'r' in 'repertoire' is voiced (in French, at least). It's not 'rep.it.wah', it's 'rep.it.wahR'. Or, is this some funny American pronunciation?
Posted by XcentricXplorer on May 29, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
307
Avast,

You're right. But doesn't that rob the thrill of seduction?

Posted by Hunter78 on May 29, 2012 at 3:41 PM · Report this
308
avast2006@305: the whole point is that it WOULDN'T have turned into an "Oh shit" situation if we'd been communicating all along. It would have been much easier and pleasanter and we would have DONE DIFFERENT THINGS. It's not that the behavior would have been all the same with some words on top. Why would you even make that assumption? Why would talking to someone be MORE LIKE "leading them on" than NOT clarifying anything verbally? Is it Opposite Day?

Wait, I think I see how it happened -- you made up a words-on-top scenario and I didn't realize I had never specifically rejected that made-up version in my response. I thought I had written strongly enough to make it clear that I was against your whole reformulation, but maybe not. Still don't see why you made the assumption in the first place, though.

And I keep saying stuff like THIS IS NOT A ONE-WAY STREET, or words to that effect, and I cannot understand why no one seems to hear me saying that. I am not talking about someone asking me a bunch of formulaic questions at intervals and me saying yes or no. I am talking about both people checking in with EACH OTHER and having CONVERSATIONS about that.

I don't have any problem with the idea of a conversation up front at all, but if you don't even KNOW you're getting into this kind of thing to start with, that pretty well precludes it happening THEN.
Posted by Eirene on May 29, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
mydriasis 309
@ Hunter

Ohh. Thanks for the clarification. The way I had heard the story, probably someone said he 'drugged her', so I assumed she was unaware she was taking it. My bad.

@ Avast/Eirene et al

Honestly, this is the thing "okay let's plan in advance what we're doing tonight" or "okay I'm going to check in periodically" none of that sounds fun or sexy or exciting to me. I'm willing to admit that I could be wrong about the effectiveness about YMY (although no one has been especially convincing) but I stand by my personal feeling that it's not a lot of fun. To be clear though, I'm not trying to convince you to feel the same way.

I just count myself lucky that I haven't been with someone who tried to do that.
Posted by mydriasis on May 29, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
310
@307, the thrill of seduction at the level you're (supposedlyu) talking about, like the thrill of surfing with big waves, comes with risks. Go for it, but remember that things may go really bad and that you'll have to face the consequences in case they do.

Or better yet, try smaller waves. The thrill of seduction is not a yes-or-no thing, it's a gradient with varying levels. Some are quite safe, others aren't.

Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 4:20 PM · Report this
311
@300(mydriasis), indeed. Though I think cultures are quite capable of a large latitude of internal explanations and justifications for behaviors that are quite surprising. The Aztecs did have a concept of murder, but clearly it didn't extend to the human sacrifices they carried out to honor their gods. I can't give you the evidence, but I'm pretty sure there may be cultures there with a concept of rape that would still consider it OK to use a date rape drug (they certainly wouldn't call it that, and the justification might go along the lines of 'this drug liberates your inner self; with it, your decision is actually more fully yours than without it', which you might call their specific version of in vino veritas; I'll bet they'd consider certain drugs OK and others not OK, etc. etc. etc. But admittedly I'm just speculating.)
Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
312
@300(mydriasis), in fact, come to think of it, couldn't the whole medieval-early romantic literary tradition of stories about "love philters" ultimately be considered, by today's standards, to be supportive of the use of a kind of date rape drug -- except they didn't see it as that? (I suppose A Midsummer Night's Dream, if seen from this perspective, would not feel at all like a comedy.)
Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 4:31 PM · Report this
313
#307: Well, yes, but I assume that someone who wants the thrill of seduction will prefer body language cues rather than exchanging explicit verbal permisssion, whether throughout the encounter or beforehand.

There's nothing wrong with that method, if you are actually paying close attention and being respectful of your partner's responses.
Posted by avast2006 on May 29, 2012 at 4:35 PM · Report this
314
I really don't want to talk about Polanski any more, shouldn't have brought him up, but giving a 13yo champagne (more than one glass, from her testimony -- I read the whole thing back when, and trust me, it was not a pretty story) plus half a quaalude does pretty well add up to drugging her, though not to the point of insensibility.

mydriasis, like you said, you and I probably shouldn't get it on, but that's okay :-)
Posted by Eirene on May 29, 2012 at 4:43 PM · Report this
315
Eirene @308 "I cannot understand why no one seems to hear me saying that."

I think you're being very clear. Both people should express what they want and what they don't want, unambiguously, and words can be helpful to clarify the non-verbal communication.

Have you considered registering? Some people don't read the unregistered comments, and some people don't take them as seriously. You are a great, strong voice, and I'd love to hear more from you.
Posted by EricaP on May 29, 2012 at 5:17 PM · Report this
316
@Eirene, there are as I see it two main kinds of gray areas:

(a) the ones in which you're yourself not sure what exactly you're dealing with (i.e., the ambiguous situations in which you're not sure what the Right Thing To Do actually is) -- call that an individual-based gray area; and

(b) the ones in which you may very well feel entirely sure about how black or how white the situation is, but other people, not evil people but normal, sane, intelligent people, might entirely disagree with you -- call that social-based gray areas.

The individual-based gray areas show that all systems leak, that it is impossible to come up with an ethical system that does not have points at which it will fail to provide a good, instinctively satisfying solution to a dilemma. There's a long literature on the topic; I won't bore you with it. I'll only say this: on any topic whatsoever (not simply rape -- any topic that involves moral decisions) that you might choose, plus any system you may have for deciding what is right and what is wrong for that topic, I'm pretty sure it would be possible to come up with a plausible, perhaps even everyday situation in which using your system would lead to selecting the 'wrong' (i.e. instinctively not satisfying) course of action. We can try it as an exercise if you're interested.

The case of the culture that allows 10-year-olds to marry is a social-based gray area. You strongly disagree with it (though I must say you don't know all the details; if you did, you might soften your judgment), and all in all I think I agree with you (though not for the same reasons). But the key point is that there are people who disagree (e.g., the married 10-year-old I actually met, who was, as far as I could judge, quite satisfied with her situation), and for legitimate reasons -- not because they're "evil."

There are always people who think they have the 'perfect' moral system, that they 'always' know what is right and what is wrong in every situation, and that anyone who doesn't agree with them is stupid or evil. Such people tend to be self-righteous (Bill O'Reilly jumps to mind) and to automatically dismiss moral dilemmas as 'fantasies' or 'irrelevant' and social/cultural disagreements as 'bad faith' or 'illusions' or 'false beliefs' (or 'primitive cultures' and whatnot).

The fact that such self-righteous people dismiss or ignore the fact that other people of good will and normal intelligence disagree with them -- they don't seem to see a lesson (call it 'intellectual/moral humility') implicit in this fact -- is part of the reason why (I think) we consider words like 'self-righteous' to be negative.

I'm not sure how exactly this unfolded in Mr Polanski's case (I didn't really follow it), but my impression (from the little I've read) is that those who defended him did so on the basis of his work as a director (which is indeed top quality), not because they thought his behavior with that girl was A-OK. So I don't think (please correct me if I'm wrong -- I stress again, I didn't follow the case closely) that people were discussing whether what Mr Polanski did falls within a 'gray area', but rather how bad it really was and what degree of punishment it actually deserved, and whether his obvious artistic talent should or shouldn't count as a mitigating factor.
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Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 5:42 PM · Report this
317
Ankylosaur -- you asked, so yeah, people did say it was a gray area. Whoopi Goldberg said it "wasn't _rape_-rape." Joan Z. Shore said on Huffington Post that the girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, the age of consent in California (wrong, it has been 18 since 1913; sex with a minor is automatically a felony if the child is under 14). Tom Shales said "in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.” Harvey Weinstein called it "a so-called crime." Bernhard-Henri Levy said "Perhaps he had committed a youthful error."

EricaP: thanks for your kind words. I shouldn't have said "no one seems to hear me" when you and some other folks have indeed heard me.
Posted by Eirene on May 29, 2012 at 6:29 PM · Report this
318
Eirene@317 (a beautiful name, by the way -- 'peace' in Greek), then there you have it -- some people would seem to disagree that 13 is 'too young for consent' (though as I understand it she didn't consent, at least not without the wine and drugs -- how do these critics deal with this fact, regardless of what they think about her age?), which would make it a social gray area. How gray will depend on how many people would agree with them. I suspect not very many will, at least not in Western society (just like not very many Western people agreed with the Mormon's polygamic marriages).

I'll join EricaP in claiming you're a very articulate and clear-minded person. Why not register?
Posted by ankylosaur on May 29, 2012 at 6:37 PM · Report this
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@ankylosaur (296)

I was in a car accident after prom and lost my right foot and much of my left leg. Maybe a year or two after that, a friend of mine sent an email complaining that he'd broken his ankle--and then immediately emailed again to apologize for his insensitivity. I laughed. I laughed hard. The fact that I had been hurt worse didn't make his broken ankle hurt any less.

I don't rate pain. I just don't play that game. It's like telling a gay guy he's not entitled to feel oppressed because gays were never slaves, or telling a black dude he's not allowed to feel oppressed because black people were never rounded up into death camps.

Someone, somewhere, has always had it worse than you could ever imagine.
Posted by survivor on May 30, 2012 at 12:49 AM · Report this
320
The people whining that YMY, as a general philosophy and in place with NMN, just wouldn't work, apparently aren't aware that it's not just some untried thing. Lots of spaces already have YMY as a foundational principle: BDSM communities, for instance, and swinger communities. It works, and it makes people responsible for their own desires. The dynamic that mydriasis seems to like so much only works out because in the general population, women are EXPECTED to be passive about consent; in the BDSM community, where YMY is practiced, the responsibility for my own agency (keeping it or giving it up) is properly placed on my own shoulders. If what I want is to give up my agency, as mydriasis wants, I need to claim that fantasy; I need to own it. I can't just allow the general fucked-up-ed-ness of our society to give it to me. The underlying principle in the BDSM community, in which I (and all women) are responsible for communicating our own fantasies, is infinitely preferable, in my opinion, to the status quo, and if it means mydriasis is inconvenienced by having to say out loud "I like it when men don't ask permission", well, too damn bad.

YMY makes the BDSM community safe and, frankly, more equal. All people are equally responsible for the consent issue, whether they are men, women, trans, tops, bottoms, or switches. It would be awesome if YMY was the norm.

Oh, and this idea of asking "can I do this...what about this...?" every 5 seconds is a strawman. That's not at all what YMY is about, nor how it works out in real life.

Sorry I'm a bit snarky, but mydriasis's insistence that she be able to (essentially) sub for men without any communication makes me less safe. Every time she reinforces to some guy that a good top just does stuff without talking about it first, that's one more asshole dom I might run into later who thinks it's okay because isn't that the way this shit works? (And the fact that she would write off from the get-go every single good dom I've ever known because they did the right thing and communicated? grrr.)
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Posted by Bon on July 2, 2012 at 10:53 PM · Report this
321
Bleah. "...(and all women)..." above should, more properly, read "and all people" or "and all bottoms." My gender bias is now out there for all to see. Sorry.
Posted by Bon on July 2, 2012 at 11:06 PM · Report this

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